led to "forever" by example

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We hear it often, that “chivalry is dead.”  We see the lack of it used amongst millennials and subsequently young women don’t standardize gentlemanliness in dealings with men or when looking for a partner.  However we are not born into courteousness or stocked with manners or created knowing a man should open a woman’s door or that love is truly a verb and takes effort.  These things are taught, they are learned, observed and instilled in children and passed down through elders.  As a mature female, I can say I subconsciously standardized gentlemanliness because I saw how my father treated my mother, how they treated one another, myself, and my siblings.  

My father and mother were always a team, as one, because that is what marriage is and was to them.  To talk of my father is my tacit inclusion of my mother.  One without the other could not have developed me into the woman I am today, thusly my character has shaped the way boys and men have treated me throughout my life. 

 

I recall my little sister recanting a story to my father about a guy picking her up for a date that pulled up in his car and didn’t get out or open the car door for her.  My father said to her very matter-of –factly, “You should have turned around and walked right back in the house.  That should have been the end of it.”  This is the man we grew up with.  

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The man who habitually opened the car door for my mother or drove her places whenever they were traveling together.  The man who taught my brothers to take the trash out at an early age and who were shown “ladies first” was a common courtesy.  These were just commonalities to my father.  He went above and beyond in all that he did.  He adored my mother, treated me like a princess and made all his children feel unique.  He wanted the best life for us all.  
 

God and faith were at the core of our upbringing and something I always knew had to be priority of the man I was to date and eventually marry.  My father and mother not only instilled in us great virtue and value but lead by example.  

 

They defined the, often blurry, line of self-righteousness and maintaining standards and morals. We were given promise rings in junior high school from our parents with the explanation that we belonged to our father and our Father until our hand was taken in marriage.  

 

When I began dating the man that is now my husband and told my dad he could be “the one,” my father’s question to me was “ What does he love about you, because I know what he should love about you?”  It is that type of reinforcement from my father that has taught me what to expect in a great partner, husband, of the father of my future children and men in general.  The man I married is a direct reflection of who my father is and henceforth a reflection of me.

With maturity came greater understanding of character and the foundations that were set before me.  My father is the greatest man I have ever known.  I didn’t always know I would end up marrying a man who shared many traits and characteristics with my father.  He was exceptional, and all that he was did not translate into something I believed could be attained.  It was revelatory when I realized the man I fell in love with, too embodied some of those same exceptional qualities. I am adored, loved by my husband and am able to communicate how I need to be loved.  He is a man of few words but when he speaks, people listen. He is kind and doesn’t play about his God.  Although my husband had his own men in his life who have reared him up in value, he too admires and respects the man my father is and has been to me.  

 I see it passed down through my sister and brothers with their spouses to their children.  My sister began assisting her son at the age of two in holding doors for ladies, telling and showing him “ladies first,” and now at age four it is fun for him and has become part of his character to hold doors, automatic and manual, for men, women and children.  The next time a man comes at my youngest sister incorrect I bet she will check him and he will learn.  It takes one to learn one. Chivalry should never be dead or go out of style because when it does, a little bit of humanity is lost.  Long live the gentlemen.
 

REDEFINING LEGACY

Legacy.

 

Life is a funny thing, especially in the modern world. So many strive for greatness, whether it's in immense wealth, credibility, wanting to create “the next big thing” or going down in history as some sort of trailblazer or visionary. Having this kind of passion is truly a beautiful thing. However, so many of us today almost feel pressured into being a hero for the ages. Leaving behind some sort of vast footprint by achieving the impossible. I’m convinced every human being is meant for greatness, but to what end? Where does your legacy lie? 

 

I believe Legacy shouldn’t be held as such a broad term. 
It's not about having your album hit triple platinum, or winning an Academy Award, the Nobel Peace prize or creating something that could forever change the course of humanity. Now I'm not in anyway attempting to downplay any of those achievements, I just believe your legacy could be something achieved in a more narrow spectrum, something even day by day. Like being a good parent, a faithful partner, an honest son/daughter, a loyal employee, a person devoted to their community, or even a committed mentor. One conversation could forever change the path in someone’s life, thus impacting the lives they touch. To me, that is a Legacy.
    

 

I fled out out west like so many others in pursuit of “the dream” leaving my small hometown in the dust. It was only after years of being away, then returning, that I realized how beautiful the simplicity of life really is, or can be. Upon my last visit, I was able to witness something so grand. Something that we take advantage of in our crazy, everyday lives… the four letter word; Love. How blissfully enlightening it truly is. I believe that human beings are here to express love for one another and to encourage one another.

 

Being able to witness true love is something that you cannot experience through text, or even the movies. Witnessing two humans infatuated with each other, is nothing shy of marvelous. Knowing that they have each others back, that they will fight for each other and believe in one another. Love is not just a spoken word, it is a word of action.  After all, all living things are meant to survive and pro-create, right?
    

I challenge all of you today (myself included), to truly focus on who you want to be in this world.  Not with menial flash and flair, but with spirit. What can you do to positively impact another life? Could you seek out those in need of you? Whether it’s a request for a humble opinion, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or even just some simple insight. I challenge you today to ask yourself, 
What is your legacy?
 

TIME WELL SPENT

There is one thing, above all else, that I always do my best not to waste. Time. 

When someone speaks to me, they are not just giving me their energy, and information and voice. 
They are giving me their time. 
Each day we are given only 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. So when someone decides to spend any of those minutes with me, in any way, I do my best to give them my full attention, and listen to what they are saying. They deserve that. By investing that part of their day in me I feel it is, to put it simply, the only respectable thing to do, and I would hope that others would do the same for me. It is the very corner stone of communication, not just letting the information pass through my ears, but trying to actively listen to whatever is coming my way. When you truly listen to someone you get a sense of more than just what they say, but why they’ve said it, and where they may be coming from. Even better, if you don’t understand it, you can ask. You can learn about people by ways of true communication and thereby earn yourself the most beautiful of all knowledge. Perspective. 

 

Ironically this same point is brought up by Wesley Snipes in the (awesome) movie “White Men Can’t Jump” there's a big difference between listening to somebody, and hearing them. The movie offers a view into the change that something as simple as perspective can make in how we view others lives, as well as our own. 

 

We hear people talk all day long. We hear other conversations going on around us, we hear the sounds of traffic and construction. We hear life, all day, every day. But how often do we listen?

 

“Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning.”

source: http://www.d.umn.edu/kmc/student/loon/acad/strat/ss_hearing.html

 

 

We’ve found ourselves living in a time where the constant overstimulation of our brains, from more and more easily accessible outside sources, has allowed us to separate from each other as individuals. We seem to want constantly to be heard, but without the necessity of being listened to. We ask only that our voice is one of the chorus, while forgetting the goal of a chorus is to speak as one. So that no single individual voice may be distinctly heard. 

 

Are we pushing so hard to become a part of the chorus that in turn we’re losing, not only the power of our own voices, but the power to listen to others as well? So many opinions striking out of synch but at each other, hidden behind screens and never having to truly listen to another opinion. No perspective is offered or accepted. It becomes short form actions and responses in 140 characters or less. If you don’t like it, swipe past it. Not only do we not need to listen, if we choose to we don’t even have to hear.                                                                                              

We are more able to connect with each other than at any time in human history, and yet if you look around yourself you’ll see kids with headphones in at dinner while parents check their phones for updates. Groups of friends walking together and none experiencing each other nor the world around them. Just headphones drowning out the boredom of the surrounding world. Are we allowing the overstimulation of our senses by our screens to desensitize us to the simple beauty of communication that surrounds us? The constant torrent of information overwhelms even the most diligent amongst us from time to time, until we remember to set the screen down and look to the source of all the opinions. Other people. 

 

There is something that other people do that screens can never do. They give us time. Our screens can only take it. 

Now I am certainly not ignoring the beautiful advances and advantages that technology has afforded us by way of connection services like Skype, FaceTime, video messaging and many others. But I am offering the perspective of moderation. Allowing us to look up and step away from the screen. To engage in one on one conversations. To look into someones eyes and exchange with them the one thing you can’t get back once you give it… your time. 

BEFORE I ASKED FOR HER HAND...

Before dating Jasmin, my now fiancé, I was nervous.  She is a gregarious individual and very beautiful! She has this presence about her that just draws people in.  It made me wonder and inquire as to why none of the other guys in my circle were pursuing her.  I knew that I would have to become a better man to have a chance with her.  I could see she had been able to take hold of many things in her character and her walk with God I admired deeply. Therefore if I was going to want to lead this woman one day, I had some serious work to do! I know that everyone has their own baggage, but for me dating and the possibility of marrying a woman was more complicated than the average guy’s. My baggage included my homosexual past.  Although my past is not something I’m ashamed of because I serve a God of the impossible, I knew it would take a special person to be willing to love me beyond it; to see it as simply a time in my life that I had to go through and that it no longer is the life I was choosing nor wanted to live. 

Before we actually began dating I knew Jasmin would be my wife. In a room full of people and loud conversations, it felt as though we were the only ones there.  She was able to captivate me in a way that made me want to pursue her seriously. After dating for about 5 months  then taking time apart for almost a year, it was during that time apart I became completely confident I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Before we actually even dated I knew she would be my wife. In a room full of people and loud conversation, I felt as though we were the only ones there.
— Michael J. Peterson

I prayed as I always do when big decisions or life changes are about to happen. I said “God if this isn’t for me shut it down and close the door.” Once the decision is made God will then use life to mold you into who you need to be for that person. And that’s just what He did.  I reached a point where I realized my next life lessons resided within this woman. That she would teach me things; I had never known and bring my character to new heights. I grew tired of our goodbyes and returning home to my roommates. I actually really love my roommates because they are all my brothers in Christ. I just wanted to wake up next to my best friend so much so it hurt. It was time to take the next step that would begin our lives together, as one.  The choice was never whether or not she was the one but when we would have a solid enough foundation to take that leap of faith into marriage.


We all reach a crossroads in our romantic relationships that can be extremely touchy and sensitive. We come to a place where we have to decide if it's better to continue on and deepen the relationship or move on. If you are at that place as a man, it is your responsibility to lead the woman you're with. You must sit down and consider your life and most importantly if you are willing to continue on with or without them.  Indecision is still a decision. I decided I wanted to share the rest of my life, happy, sad, good and bad with Jasmin. 

If you are at that place as a man it is your responsibility to lead this woman. You must sit down and consider your life and most importantly if you are willing to continue on without them.
— Michael J. Peterson

 Do not allow divorce statistics, your upbringing or even your closest friends and family to deter you from committing to the woman you love and whom loves you. Love is not a feeling, but a decision to commit and persevere. The world needs more men who are willing to commit with integrity and character. 

FINDING BEAUTY IN DIVERSITY

One Sunday morning my dear friend and I stopped at a small establishment to get a bite to eat. We found our way to a table and began flipping through the menu. I happen to notice a very chiseled gentleman walking toward us, his white shirt casually tucked into the waistline of the black slacks. Upon approach, he began to speak. "Welcome gentlemen, can I start you off with anything? Something to drink?" I noticed his strong accent and had to ask, "We're ready to order, and excuse me for asking...where are you from?" He replied, "It's no problem, I am from Moscow." I expressed my vast appreciation to him for sharing that with me, he took our orders and went on his way.

We then sat in silence for a few moments. I began gazing across the room in a very whimsical state, listening to the conversation's, the laughs, children etc., in complete awe. Something had come over me. I began to resonate, I'm of Irish descent, my best friend sitting across from me is of Haitian descent,  born in Austria. There is a Spanish couple at the table next to us, an interracial French couple at the door waiting to be seated, and our order is being taken by a fine gentleman from Russia. Reality had one again, shown its face.  

"I began gazing across the room in a very whimsical state, listening to the conversation's, the laughs, children etc., in complete awe."

So many people in just one small area, so many stories from so many different walks of life. Bloodlines tracing from all over the globe. I have now become overwhelmed with pure joy. Our stories are what make us incredible, our stories are what unify us, our stories are what make us... beautiful. 

I don't really care for the phrase "taking it for granted" because from the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep we are taking things for granted. However, this is something that so many are unappreciative of.

"Our stories are what make us incredible, our stories are what unify us, our stories are what make us... beautiful."

We live in a world that strives for "acceptance" when in reality, everything that makes you different, everything that makes you stand out is what makes you beautiful. We must be encouraged, and encourage one another to support our heritage, our culture, our diversity. It is such things that make human beings so eccentric, and to me just incredible.

THE QUESTION

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We are conditioned, since the early days of our youth, to figure out what our purpose in life is going to be. Hidden in a seemingly simple question asked by nearly every adult to nearly every child they meet. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”. 

Sometimes this question is met with “I don’t know..”, but more often than not it is met with something truly special. It is met with imagination. That question use to open up doors in my mind that I didn’t even know existed, because inside of a question like that lies possibility. Something like that asks you to look out into all of the opportunity that exists in a world that's just beginning to form. As children we aren’t concerned with what we are going to “one day” become. We can become anything. We know, instinctually, that there are no limits on us. In one moment we are astronauts, superheroes, scientists, and professional athletes all in the making. From moment to moment we change and grow because nobody has told us that we can’t. 

But then there comes a day when someone finally does. Someone tells you your dreams are too high, or that you aren’t capable of something, and when that happens, there is a world shift. Suddenly the possibilities begin to find limits. The expanse of the universe seems to creep in and walls come up defining what we are going to be capable of. All too often it is the very people and institutions that should be propelling us forward that hold us back. Standardized testing in schools to decide if you are “smart”. Parents or peers deciding that your future could not possibly be brighter than theirs. The limits others have placed on themselves begin to become our own, further and further defining ourselves by those we are surrounded by.  

We often hear, “you can be anything you want to be.”  
And just as often are told, intentionally or otherwise, “this is what you’re capable of being." 
But that's not how the universe is set up.  
We as human beings have devised methods to try our best to define intellect, or creativity, or potential but the reality is that these things are undefinable. They are ever changing and growing, just as we are. They are fluid and elusive and spectacular and though we know they exist, much like the non-physical mind or the very souls we seek to satisfy we may never be able to prove it.  

And in the midst of all of this growth and change in each of our lives there is always that question which grows with us, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.  
It changes and grows as well, maybe not for the better, “What are you going to do when you grow up?" & “What kind of man are you going to be?” & eventually “What are you gonna do with your life?”. These existential inquisitions can be wildly overwhelming and end up pushing us into careers and relationships we don’t want just to keep us from being less than the status quo. We give up our individuality to keep us from feeling left out and alone. As a young man you view women through a lens that society has handed you which is too commonly the same lens that tells you to want whatever everyone else wants. Depending on your upbringing men and women are given a place in society, and we are told not to buck that system. That it works and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. This mentality is forced upon us to keep us, without question, in line. To keep us in a place that has been decided for us, so that we teach our children the same things we were taught. To keep us from feeling alone, or rather original, we are implanted into the system that is already in place. If we act properly and do and say the right things then we become part of the whole. We are no longer alone. 

But we are alone, and it is nothing to be scared of. You, alone, are in charge of planning your destiny. You, alone, hold the power to change your entire world. My mom use to say to me “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” But make no mistake that it does. Your universe is created every day by the things YOU do. Not others. You are in control of your life, your actions, your responses to the stimuli that come into your life everyday. Each of us chooses how we think and act and where we push ourselves forward. Not over others, but for ourselves the best we can. We decide how to be the best men and women possible each day every time we make a decision. It’s with that knowledge and hope that we wake up every day full of possibility again. Knowing we are capable of anything is how we decide what we are going to be and do. Just like when we were children we should rise with unabashed imagination and reach into the furthest recesses of our minds to search for, and hopefully one day find, the answer to that question that's been asked of us too many times to count. But this time there is a difference, now we hold the power to both the question and the answer. So I dare you to ask yourself the last version of the eternal question, and to challenge yourself to truly dive into the honest depths of your passions. 
“What kind of man do I want to be?" 

ME & MY GIRLS

I met my incredible wife, about 7 years ago. The attraction to each other was powerful, and there were fireworks.  We laughed every moment we spent together. We were carefree and very quickly became closely connected.  

She is a devoted mother. At that time, the girls were ages 3 and 7. She doted over them, they were her world, and her number one job was to keep them happy, healthy, and safe. So these three, they were a package deal. All or nothing, and I knew I would need to share the same passion for their well being if this was ever going to go any further. 

So the day came. Anxiously, I stood on the doorstep of their home that day. My mind was racing with questions:  What are they going to think of me? What do I even know about young girls? What am I going to say? Will they accept me? Am I ready for this? I have no clue what I am doing, so what am I doing here? Chest pounding, I rang the doorbell. The door pulled away, beaming smiles, and big, innocent brown eyes looked up at me. 

My heart was full as I met my beautiful new family. 

Slowly, we became one unit. My wife trusted me with her babies and these young girls had me wrapped around their fingers. Whatever I could do to make sure that they had everything they wanted, I did. However, to become a strong father figure to these girls I had to gain their respect. I came in from the outside, a stranger, so in order to gain their respect, I treated them as real people, and afforded them a safe place to voice their opinions. Too, I was consistently expressing my love to them and their mother through actions – not just words. And, it meant following through on what I promised to do. It takes tremendous effort raising these young girls so that they grow up to be powerful, independent young women.  The external forces of peer pressure, and misguided societal norms, threaten to derail these efforts daily. The internal pressure must always be more powerful, more resilient, and must persevere.  

We don’t see each other as separate in any way. The fact that I am not their biological father makes no difference to any of us. They have such a healthy view of blended families – the more love the better.

Looking back, I realize that becoming a father was never something I thought much about. It wasn’t something in my ‘life plan’.  It was however, meant to be, and as a result, I have grown 10-fold as a man. I have learned to be patient - patient with myself and, ultimately, patient for the results. It can be a daunting task at times, but so worth it.

The joy in watching them grow is breathtaking.  Physically, mentally and emotionally, they are powerhouses. They give of themselves freely, but are mindful as to whom they choose to spend their time with. They are driven to succeed, yet pull others among with them rather than trample them over.  

They make my wife and I proud every day.