Posts Tagged Missouri
The year was 1978. The Vietnam era was still wrapping up, Elvis fans were still mourning and I, at the tender age of 2 was about to be uprooted from the rural suburbs of Detroit. My dad decided to enlist in the US Navy even against the advice of his loved ones. Turns out, it very well could have been one of the best
decisions he ever made.
Over the course of my childhood, through circumstances dictated by the government or in some cases, family health, I made 8 different cities my home. I never had problems finding friends; leaving them each time proved to be a difficult task however. I was in many different elementary and middle schools but somehow I was fortunate enough to spend all four years in one high school. My brother was not so lucky and ended up in 3 different high schools spread out between Wisconsin, California, and Mississippi. This geographical game of life seemed to be perilous at times. Looking back though I see that it was merely another brick in the culmination of my constructive personality. I experienced different cultures, traditions and education, all in one country but vastly different. When I was in the 5th grade, square dancing was a requirement in the curriculum. Trust me, I couldn’t make that up. I lived through the great Hurricane Hugo of 1989. I spent summers on 8 Mile – yes, *that* 8 Mile. I’ve traded clothing with Russians – yes, in Russia. I’ve driven close to 200mph on multiple drag strips around the country. I made my first television commercial by the time I was 7. I’ve fired a 5″ 54cal Mark 45 gun off the fantail of the USS David R Ray in the middle of the Pacific and have the 3 foot long shell casing to prove it. I’ve had more surgeries from the neck up, than most people have visited a doctor at all.
Here we are in 2011, and I’m living in the Gateway to the West with 2 of the most beautiful and wonderful kids that God has put on this earth. January 11th will mark the 8th anniversary of my residence in this state. You may not give much acknowledgement to that, however for me, it is a great accomplishment. I am now proud to call Missouri my home state because it is officially the longest I’ve lived anywhere for a single period in my life. That may not hold true forever, but for now I’m going to embrace it. My life is wonderful. I have family that loves me. I have a humble home to call my own. I have a career that is growing and challenges me daily; I work with brilliant minds. My friends are of a flavor no man has ever known – they constantly amaze me with their zest, their compassion and their call to honor.
Maybe you live in Missouri; maybe you’ve lived here your entire life and see things differently. I encourage you to put on new glasses and view your home as not just the place where you squat at night, but your origin of sanctification. I encourage you to find that spirit of happiness that maybe you’ve lost because things have just been “the same” too long. Many of us spend our lives looking for that magical person or adventurous spot that will justify our very existence and fortify our quest, but often times, the very thing we’re looking for is the very thing we’re running from. Love yourself.
It was never in my life plan to become a humanitarian or philanthropist. I generally keep myself concerned with my kids, where we live, that we have food on the table and that I have a job to support those things. There’s no time to think about other people or their needs. It’s easier just to write a check and say, “Here, go get what you need”. Right? I know I’m right, because millions of Americans do it every day. Not because we’re lazy – well, maybe some of us – but because there’s a social acceptance of selfish behavior. Selfish behavior. Seems so harsh when you say it like that doesn’t it? That’s what it is though; when you think of no one but yourself, and put aside simple tasks to help others because it’s not convenient for you, that’s selfish behavior.
Allow me to preface this blog by saying, I am among the masses. I in no way point the blame finger toward anyone in particular but am merely making an observation based on my own experience of an epiphany I had today while doing volunteer work for the United Way (sponsored by my employer SAVVIS, Inc.). You see, I volunteered to spend a day working with deaf children and completing some maintenance tasks around the campus at St. Joseph’s Institute For The Deaf. When asked about this opportunity, I was given a long list of very noble and worthy charitable organizations of which I could spend a day working. I chose the institute though, for obvious reasons. Yes, I’m deaf. Not the kind of deaf you’re thinking of where sign language is used, but I do have a profound hearing loss (can not hear below 95dB level) that requires me to wear 2 very powerful BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids. Without them, I’m useless as tits on a boar hog.
Going in this morning, I conjured up an emotion worthy of the visit and pumped my chest out as if to warrant the over prideful attitude I was conveying. “Hey look at me. I’m a do-gooder. I’m being charitable and giving to those in need.”
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
As my group of coworkers and I stood at the front of the cafeteria, waiting to serve breakfast to these audibly challenged youngsters, they began to walk in..and it hit me. All of the sudden. These were children with deafness and hearing loss JUST LIKE ME! Except, I’m an adult. I’ve had 34 years to get used to this. I’ve had 34 years to overcome the daily pain of not being able to enjoy the simple sounds of rain drops on the glass or the dog’s nails chattering on the hard wood floor as she walks. Sure, with the help of aids, I can hear many of those sounds and I can recognize them now. But what if you’ve NEVER heard what an airplane sounds like as it passes over by. What if you never heard the sound of water raging through a stream. I was one of these children, a long time ago. But I didn’t have modern technology. I had my family, my mom and my dad, supporting me, taking me to every single doctor they could to get me treated. I so badly wanted to wrap my arms around each and every one of these children and let them know, “It’s going to be ok. It will be hard some days and you’ll often want to cry. It’s ok though. Cry. But push through that pain and that frustration, and realize that you can be whoever you want to be. One day, you’ll be an adult, and you’ll be living in mainstream America just like any other citizen in this country. You CAN overcome this!”
I had the honor of sitting with some amazing children this morning. We spoke of our likes and dislikes. We spoke about my daughters and our pets. I asked them about their favorite things, like colors and music and activities. My heart felt so at peace and at home with these children. They all pointed at my aids and wanted to know, “Mr. Dave, why do you have implants?” Many of these children have cochlear implants and they look very similar to hearing aids. I was so proud to tell my story to them. I was proud to tell them what I’ve been through and how my life completely rocks in spite of my deafness. Their faces lit up, like bright beams of sun, all with the hope I believe I filled them with.
Through the rest of the day, I worked along side my coworkers cleaning windows, moving trash, picking up wood scraps and moving them, pulling weeds and spreading mulch. Each time as I would walk through the halls, one of those children from that first class would see me, and they’d get this giant smile on their face and wave at me. I of course reciprocated with a wave and smile.
What did I learn today? I learned something that my old friend and pastor Jeff Mannel taught me years ago. God didn’t put me on this planet to suffer with deafness. No, he put me on this planet to live with deafness so that I could endure the pain, overcome the frustration and one day help others do the same. My mom always told me there was nothing different about me compared to other kids, except that I was more special. She was right. I am special. And so are you. You have something in your heart, your life, your past, that you can use to help change the lives of others in a positive way. There is no reward for being born free of anguish, but out of suffering endured, you can help others live free of anguish.
I remember being a kid and always wanting my Dad to be a speaker for Career Day at school. I was proud of the fact that he was in the Navy and made a career out of it. Unfortunately, he was gone and out to see a lot. I don’t blame him; that’s the nature of the beast.
A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter’s counselor at school spoke with me and asked if I’d be interested in speaking at Career Day. At first, I felt immature and inexperienced, but I realized that I was able to do this. I’ve been in my field for 7 years now, and I think I’m qualified to talk to elementary school students about the perils of IT. I agreed to do it.
Today was the day of doom. It started off with an introduction to the Smart Board; which was a little embarrassing since the IT guy had no clue how to operate it. Eventually I decided against it since we ran out of time. I was scheduled for 4 classes to come in and listen to my presentation. I came prepared with 5-6 bullet point items, a poster board with some pictures, a router and an HP DL360 server. I was provided lunch by the faculty and staff, but quite honestly, I was looking forward to the cafeteria food. Today was taco salad. I was hoping they were having the rectangular pizza so I could dip it in ketchup; mmmm good. My daughter’s class was the last one to come in and turned out to be the least talkative. I had a hard time getting my daughter to shut up and an even harder time to get the other kids in her class to talk and ask questions.
I opened each class presentation the same way though. “Hi I’m Mr. Mills and I run the Internet.”
I have recently become enthralled with geocaching due largely to @mdhugo’s influence. We’ve never gone hunting together, but after I saw that he was into it, I did some researching and decided to try it out. My first adventure was with my kids and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I purchased the Geocaching app from the iTunes store for $10. It was well worth the investment as it allows you to not only view all geocaches near your current location (or search by zip code) but it lets you view all the logs, tips/hints, and even record that you found it. The iPhone GPS is hit or miss but is generally accurate within about 10 feet. It hasn’t proven to be a problem until today.
My friend @tgrossner and I had talked on Saturday about going out hunting. He too purchased the iPhone app. We met at the QT in Wentzville near Hwy 61 and Hwy A. He jumped into @vikversa and off we went. Our first 2 caches were relatively easy and kept us within the Wentzville area. The 2nd one, Tim even spotted as we drove up to the site. As we sat and looked for our 3rd cache, we decided on one that was about 2.5 miles away in Lake St. Louis. It was near a park but not close to a road so we figured it might be a little bit harder.
We got to the general vicinity, parked the car, and walked our way toward the marker. As we came to a line of woods, we realized there was still another 200 feet or so before we reached the marker. There was a small clearing that appeared to resemble a trail so we took it. About 100 feet in, we took a trek off the path and began thrashing through the brush. It became quickly apparent that the level of difficulty that the owner of this cache ranked it as (2 on a 1-5 scale) was grossly misjudged. Up until now, neither of us had bothered to look at the logs or description.
A creek creeped up on us and the solution to crossing it wasn’t easily seen. I found a log that went across it. I stepped out on it with one foot to test it’s stability. It bounced and the opposite side barely rest on another tree coming out of the ground. Tim didn’t find it to be safe but I decided to try it anyways. As I put all my weight on my right leg to jump across, the log broke and fell to the water…along with me. There I am soaking wet up my legs from splashing into the creek and Tim’s laughing his butt off…naturally. I would have laughed too. The log was now in a more stable position for him to take a lunging step off of to get to the other side.
According to our iPhones, we were virtually on top of the cache. After my last geocaching outing, I had decided that since the iPhone 3G I have lacks a fully functional compass, I brought an analog one. This ended up being a worthwhile forethought, but didn’t ultimately help us find it. Tim and I searched for nearly 45 minutes within a 50-60 feet radius. I also brought my 3-bulb LED flashlight, which also was very helpful, but again ultimately didn’t help us find the cache.
We stared into the deep woods and scratched our heads. At one point, we eventually went through the logs and description of the cache and discovered that in the last 3 years, only 2 people had actually found this one. Again, the difficulty was grossly misjudged. The owner did state that he had to rehide the cache because some kids had vandalized it. Our thoughts are that it may have happened again. We’d get to a point where the app said we were 5 feet away…after a few seconds the coordinates would update and suddenly we’re 36 feet away.
Eventually, our patience wore thin and we just gave up. Had I been alone, I may have kept looking but it was getting dark and there was little progress. If I ever spring for an actual handheld GPS unit, then I may go back and try it again. I intend on logging our experience as well with the owner. I’ll feel alot better if the owner goes back to find that it’s not there. At least then our failure would be justified.