Mother’s Day 

For many women (and families) Mother’s Day is a heartbreaking occasion. For others, it’s a day of joy. In our household, I think it’s a mix of both. 

That photo is from the weekend our son Josiah was diagnosed with brain cancer. That Sunday, he was baptized in his hospital bed. So many people from our lives showed up, the crowd spilled out into the hallway, with people lining up to visit.

It was Mother’s Day 2009. 

This Mother’s Day, Josiah is still with us and is doing very well. He still has cancer, but has been off chemotherapy for several years. A check-up MRI is scheduled for this week, but assuming there’s no growth, then he’ll be back to being a first-grader and playing with his younger brother and sister. 

Through it all, I’m reminded daily how amazingly strong and caring my wife Merri is. She’s the best partner I could ask for in life, and my children are incredibly blessed to call her Mama. 

That doesn’t mean today is easy. The anniversary of Josiah’s story beginning is always hard. 

Pain and joy are often intermingled in life, but in those moments, there’s potential for grace. I hope you all can experience that today as we have.

On doing your own thing →

Earlier this year, a friend (and former coworker) of mine named Zac jumped off the ledge into his dream of opening a men’s boutique:

If you told me on January 1, 2015 that my year would consist of opening a store, running a brand, going to NYC, and going into debt I would have made a bet—and ended up going more in debt. If you told me that on December 31, 2015 that it would all be over, I would think you were the ghost of Christmas future that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

His post is all about what he’s learned (and lost) through the experience. Although Zac and I’s companies are very different, there’s a lot in this post that resonates with me, and will for anyone doing their own thing.

Documentary Films 101 →

Mark Hackett — hey, brother! — writing about what he has learned in making films about Sudan:

If there’s one thing every human being in the world has in common, it is our collective love of stories and storytelling. The world’s most ancient texts are filled with sweeping stories of early civilization. Today, we can’t get enough of big-budget films, post-apocalyptic books, and real-life stories of ordinary people becoming heroes. We’re wired to come together around those who who create, write, and show.

A good documentary film does a lot more than simply provide the facts. A good documentary film will also provide a story. An excellent documentary film will have you so riveted to the story that you barely even realize you are learning a lot about the social issue the filmmaker wants you to focus on.

So, how do you tell a good story?

Whole-Ass One Thing 

While I worked part-time at my previous gig most of July, today marked the start of my first week working for myself.

While I didn’t get caught up on my to do list, it was great knowing that tomorrow morning, I’ll drive to the office space I share with my brother, record a podcast and jump right back into my projects. I’ll do all of this, during the working day, without stealing time from a J-O-B job.

It’s profoundly surreal, but incredibly freeing, to be focused on my writing and podcasting full-time. There’s still lots to work out with budgets and time management and extra things I could take on, but it’s all under the category of my work. That’s what makes it so much fun, despite the unknowns.

On NBC’s genius show Parks and Rec, Ron Swanson gives some great advice about splitting time and attention to Leslie Knope:

Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.

I’m in, Ron. Let’s do this.

Six years and about a billion miles 

As I’ve written about before, I have a very real strong tie to locations in my memory. Even as a child, nothing would trigger nostalgia like a place.

While I didn’t share it here, I’ve spent most of the year in and out doctor’s offices after a period of spending several nights a week throwing up and losing a bunch of weight. I’ve embarked on a gluten-free and diary-free diet, which has helped greatly, slowly clearing up all of my symptoms.

Of course, before arriving at this answer, I underwent a handful of diagnostic tests at a hospital about 15 minutes from our house. It’s the hospital where both of our sons were born, and where we went after losing a pregnancy in the fall of 2013. I remembered and thought about those events while parking, but as I was being walked down the hallway, the nurse and I passed the ultrasound suite where Josiah’s tumor was first discovered:

The day before, a routine checkup had ended in a conversation of “drive to the hospital. Don’t stop to go home, don’t stop for lunch. There will be doctors waiting for you in the ER.” Needless to say, we were shaken, but not until an MRI and that conversation on that creaky plastic couch at Lebonheur Children’s Hospital did we know the full extent of just how bad things were.

That checkup was six years ago today.

Before we drove across town to the ER, I had a few minutes to step into the lobby and get in touch some people. I called our parents and siblings, whom met us at Lebonheur. I texted my boss something vague, but that day would be the last day I worked for a month.

While May 8 will always be burned into my family’s collective DNA, Josiah’s disease doesn’t rule our lives day to day, like it once did. It’s been four years since Josiah stopped chemo, and just last week, had an MRI that shows his brain tumor remains stable. It’s still there — he’ll never be “in remission” — but it hasn’t grown. He’s finishing up kindergarten and, for the most part, is a normal six year old.

None of that seemed possible while sitting in that little room.

The years have been hard, and the mileage has been harder, but we’re intact. I never thought we’d get this far. The truth is that Josiah lives on the edge of what his doctors know about his disease. Any day, any MRI, any seizure could throw us back into the trenches. Living with that weight is hard, but we’re learning how to manage it.

I don’t know how many more miles are on this road. I don’t know this story ends, but for now, I’m trying to treasure every moment I can with Josiah and his siblings.

That Pale Blue Dot 

On Saturday, one of the most iconic images of all time turned 25 years old.

On February 14, 1990, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft took a photo of the solar system, capturing Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Earth — which showed up as the “pale blue dot” in the brown band on the right side of the photo.

The photo — taken 3,720 million miles away from Earth — puts us in our place in a way that is beautiful and haunting. All of our knowledge, all of our passion, all of our shit, all of our everything is just a few pixels across.

It reminds me that, really, we are quite small, and I think it’s okay to be reminded of that every once in a while.

‘If you’re lying, I’ll f—-ing kill you’ →

My brother, writing about his trip this past summer to South Sudan:

Most documentary films coming out of war zones are created by veteran videographers and producers who have a rare skill for capturing incredible stories while cheating death time and time again. Not us. Sure, we have a ton of talent as a team, but we’re still learning how to navigate situations like the one above. We’re not the heavily tattooed, cigarette-smoking, bulletproof vest-wearing journalists depicted in Hollywood films.

We’re a bunch of guys in our 20s who grew up in white, middle-class suburbia. Just being honest. The only reason we travelled half a world away when we didn’t have to is because our friends in Sudan asked us for help.

36 →

Brett Terpstra has written one of the most amazing things I’ve read online in a long, long time. Happy birthday, bud.

Optimism →

Melinda Gates, to Stanford’s 2014 graduates:

Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better – that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.

Read the whole thing, then save it to read it again later. The world is a better place for having Bill and Melinda Gates in it.

Jordan’s Story 

On Saturday, a friend of mine jumped out of a plane to raise money for my brother’s non-profit, Operation Broken Silence which works to bring peace and justice to Sudan. While it was a blast to help film and edit this video, the back-breaking work of using media to share the stories of the people of Sudan, who are being bombed and starved by their own government is expensive, difficult and more dangerous than jumping out of a plane on a Saturday afternoon. You can help fund Operation Broken Silence’s work by donating here.