The Baby Unicorn Has Arrived – Welcome Tino

“No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?”

Elbert Hubbard

We got the text we had been waiting all day for.

“She is dilated 9 centimeters and are looking like it may happen as soon as 8 PM.”

It is 7:15 PM now and we are not only 30 plus minutes away from the hospital, but there are cards, flowers, chocolate covered espresso beans and energy drinks to be bought. Without hesitation we departed the salsa filled bar and headed to the car. With the wind in our hair and the convertible top down, two childhood friends and a self proclaimed best friend set out to be a part of something very special.

This was just not the birth of a child,but a miracle almost four years in the making. Given the struggles and tests to their will and power as a family, this night was to become some much more important than all of us.

As we arrived, just a few moments before the first cry and big announcement, we saw both families, waiting patiently, with the back drop of the Twins game just above. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends all greeted us with smiles and hugs. As we sat and waited, the realization of how each of these lives would change was starting to become a reality. To add more drama to increase our heartbeats even further, we learned of an earlier scare where there was a drop in the heartbeat detected in the baby. Fortunately, the doctors and nurses corrected the concern and the waiting period continued.

The two grandfathers talked about whether he would become a baseball player, golfer, bowler or football star. The grandmothers and friends talked about the pros and cons of breast feeding and apparently the profitability of doing it for other people’s children. We will leave that segment out for the moment. It soon turned to what was about to happen and how each person in the room dealt with a similar situation when they bore their children.

As I watched two generations about to welcome in the third and realized how much the mother to be and I had been through together in the best and worst of times, I felt a relationship with a baby that was yet to leave its mother’s womb.

In a moment, the new father’s sister appeared in the doorway with camera in hand shouting “He’s here”
Like the 3000th hit or the game winning home run of the World Series everyone got up and cheered and hugged and lived out one moment of perfection forever etched in our box of memories. Mother and son were healthy and with a deep push a new life entered this world. It is amazing when you think that something so small and so innocent can have such a penetrating effect on so many people.

Now, seconds, become minutes and minutes eternity as we all waited to greet the little angel into the world and hold him up as we rejoiced not only for his journey, but how his little smile saved us all and made us believe once again in the miracle of life. Many were comforted by the instant gratification of the birth video that was passed around the room. I of course took my leave from the room for a few moments.

The nurse, in her welcoming blue outfit was soon standing in the doorway and we all knew. Then the words we had all waited to hear were vocalized, “You can all go in to see the baby now”. Grandparents first of course and then the rest of us shortly behind. As we all crowded into the room, the dimly lit room became illuminated with smiles all around the bed surrounding the mom and baby comfortable side by side.

Grandpa broke out the bubble gum cigars, as one by one mom received hugs from all her family and friends as dad held his baby boy. He was a natural. The baby just fit right in his arms. As exhausted as he was, given that he was there for almost 14 hours, he still had the energy to smile from cheek to cheek.

One by one, the motherly and fatherly instincts came out in each and every person in that room as they held baby Tino for the first time. With some, an instant connection was made as the eyes met and in one synchronized motion both seemed to smile at one another with an unspoken gesture.

As pictures were taken, conversations happening, hugs being offered and a nurse continuing to maintain some order, my focus remained only on the baby. Almost like a moment of complete focus, I was able to block out all noise and movement to see the perfect face of this newborn. At no other time in our lives are we this close to purity. It is a moment where you have the chance to share in the energy of this newborn and feel more alive than you can imagine.

Soon, we new the evening had to come to an end so the mother, father and child could rest together as one family in each others arms. When they awoke the next morning, they could look at baby’s first sunrise and know this is the first day of the rest of their lives together.

I have witnessed so many global events that have inspired, sporting events that have been deemed modern miracles and gestures that have moved nations, but the truly great miracles of our lifetime bear in the act of creation. Thirteen people stood in a small hospital room sharing in the greatest gift, the most amazing miracle life has to offer. It is a moment we will all remember and cherish.

Last night we were all family….sharing in the first and only official birthday of Tino.
Yes, it was made official as the entire room sang “Happy Birthday” officially calling this day, the day of his birth the one and true birthday.

To Sonni and Sam, the amazingly supportive grandparents, siblings and friends, THANK YOU for letting us into your very private moment. It has been an honor to be and continue to be an important part of your life.

Welcome to the new game of Life: The Planet Earth starring Social Media and ITunes

Listen up Hasbro and Mattel, we have designed the next generation in gaming technology. Put aside your game consoles and wicked 3-D animation and bring it back old school with a taste of the future.

Social Media has officially exploded that even Francis Scott Key would be in awe. By the dawn’s early light we have taken the next step. With Cloud Computing, not only do we have the ability to create the ultimate Big Brother environment, but we can now do it in real time. Welcome to the Real World…Don’t turn around, everyone is watching!!!

“Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world”

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears

The Game of Life was designed to provide children with a simulation of the challenges and rewards of life leading you through a path of academia, career choices, family and wealth. In the end, we retire in comfort and luxury or simple golden years. With each spin, we are presented with financial decisions, life choices and expectations that will lead us to the next square and the next phase in our life.

The new game of Life, is Planet Earth, Social Media is the media allowing all of us around the global to witness and partake in your journey and ITunes is providing the soundtrack. It is the ultimate game.

A simple ten number wheel is no longer your only option. You have all the tools and technology at your disposal to guide you in this life journey.

If you want to be an instant star, use YouTube or Twitter to make yourself a viral sensation.
If you want wealth, start an internet start-up, run a net loss for three years, grow your network to 100 million and then go public or sell it for a cool 1.5 billion.
If you want children, go to Match.com or E-Harmony, find your manufactured match and start a family.
If you want to go to college, transfer a check, log in from your bed in your pajamas and get that education you always dreamed of without ever leaving your house.
Most importantly, document every move you make on Foursquare, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +. Without that, we cannot keep track of the game.

History has a tendency to repeat itself. We must document the journey of the game for future generations to learn. A requirement of this game is a blog. You need one, you must have one, you must let your voice be heard. Without a blog, you are nothing more than 140 characters per action. I hope we were not raised to believe that is our total value in society.

We also have to help critique the world as we explore each turn. Do not forget to update your Yelp and TripAdvisor account. Without criticism, all restaurants and retail outlets would survive.

Now, how can I possibly do all this while I am constantly on the road of life…Duh IPhone or Droid or dare I say Blackberry…Let’s not say that. We are all equipped, thanks to Captain Kirk with a mobile device that allows all this documentation at our fingertips.

Will all this technology give us Cancer?

First, everything gives you cancer. So do not fret about that.
With billions of dollars being funded into Cancer research, a cure for this dreaded disease is now part of the game. You may even be the one to land on that piece and be credited with the ultimate cure.

Did I mention this game is much more difficult than your traditional board game.

I thought I would just pick the green car, spin the wheel and start collecting a salary. Times have changed! Times have changed!

What makes this game so much different than the one we grew up on, is that personal choice is officially eliminated. We don’t have the option of not playing. We are all on the board and all waiting our turn. This is a continuous game, with no winners or losers. Some will become wealthy, some famous, some poor, some ill, but in the end we all want to get to the finish line.

Life is hard, but we love the journey.
Remember, resist temptation, because sometimes what appears to be the greatest things, are just traps along the way.

Just in time for the holiday season, head to Amazon.com or Toys R Us and get your version of Life 2.0…This is not your parents board game.

Baby Alert 2011: Operation Baby Drop

For those of you keeping tabs on the baby alert, we are still awaiting the arrival of the newest edition to Planet Earth and the 12,418th resident of Hugo, Minnesota.

Mommy and Daddy are spirited, energized (at least as energized as a nine month expecting mother can be) and gitty as a bubble bee on a spring day. Just two days away from the expected day of arrival and business as usual.

Last evening, I joined three close friends who have known each other since high school over an adult dinner that consisted of great food, conversation, diet coke, coffee and not a drop of alcohol to be found. This was quite an instantaneous reminder of maturity as I gazed at the table. What a refreshing evening to share memories with friends who graciously invited me into their circle many years ago and have not looked back.

Almost three years since the last time this group was able to congregate in a similar setting, we slipped back immediately into our comfort zones. As we sat there, talked about high school, vacations, moments of support and the future, it was comforting and nervous to know that within days, all of our lives will change. For some in a small way and for others, a new stage in life from friend, daughter, and wife to Mother.

Through all the many thoughts that ran through our respective heads, it was a very relaxing dinner with enough laughter to cover us for a long time to come.

We all need moments with our closest friends to remind us how important they are even if our interaction has been limited due to life paths we have chosen.

Typically for a nine month pregnant woman, that would be a full Friday evening, but not for this mother to be. We migrated to a small dive bar in South St. Paul for a little blues jam led by the amazing guitar riffs of the grandfather to be. Seeing his daughter smile and clap as her father plays the tunes that have inspired him to perfect his singing and guitar playing skills was an inspirational tribute to family. As we listened and got a shout out for both mom and grand dad, we finally made our way into the night to return home and wait for the newborn to say “Ok, here I come.” When you think of a typical Friday night of dancing, bars, and haplessly juvenile behavior, I was honored to take in the image of three generations sharing in a family moment with the backdrop of blues and rock in the background.

Another sunrise has come and we continue to wait, living our lives as we normally would, but ready for that phone call or text that will bring us all together once again in the comfort of a hospital and leaving with one more person to add to the dinner table.

More to come….

The Spirit of Jim Morrison Lives in Amy Winehouse

Amy Jade Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)

“They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’
Yes I’ve been bad but when I come back you’ll know know know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab but I won’t go, go, go”

Rehab – Amy Winehouse

Joining the ranks of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin, all iconic musical legends who were taken during the prime of their lives and their influence, Amy Winehouse is dead at the age of 27. Almost an eeriness of the trans-global influence and defining style of music and the age and nature of their deaths. All these artists that penetrated our souls with their own pain brought a sound and integrity to their music that few have or will again. Given the rare talent each possessed and the inner demons they fought, it is almost a Shakespearean tragedy to bear witness to their ultimate demise.

Today, Amy Winehouse was found dead in our London apartment. The cause and circumstances around her death will of course be one of tabloid laureate for weeks to come, but the bottom line is that in the scheme of long term effects on the music industry and how we remember our idols, it will not matter. What will matter is that the music will continue on for generations to come and strangely in the wake of death, her message of life will come through to many troubled youths and adults who are looking for a sign of inner peace.

I am not nor do I pretend to be an authority of Amy Winehouse, but as an appreciator of talented poets who have the ability to write lyrics and music that penetrate deep into our inner psyche and help us find clarity in moments of grey, Amy Winehouse possessed a raw honesty that was needed in the music industry. She opened up her skin and let fans around the world watch her slowly bleed to death.

Amy struggled every day with fame, talent and addition. Did she want to be famous? Perhaps not, but in her intelligence and genius, she was able to shape messages through her lyrics and admit to her fans that she had problems and was trying to deal one day at a time. She gave us answers when we were afraid to ask the questions. She reached those that were most afraid and said “You are not alone”.

It is a painful day for fans around the world, but like every event, we had a way to invoke a rippling reaction. In a time with apathy has become almost a new religion, today’s youth needed a voice. She accepted the responsibilities of the job without accepting compromise. She did not follow a path but created one. Some jumped right on board while others were hesitant to take the risk.

Isn’t that what it was all about for Jim, Jimi, Kurt, Janis and Amy. It was about fucking the establishment of compromise and etching a legacy. All these poets were innovators who were flawed. Flawed not by their addictions, but by a world that so needed them, and thus they perished under the pressure. They didn’t want to be leaders, but they were forced into a role because they were granted the destiny to invoke change in a world desperate for it.

Goodbye Amy Winehouse and thank you for letting us see the world through your eyes, even for a short period of time.

Happy Birthday Cat Stevens…Thank you for inspiring us with your words of peace and love

“I’ve been crying lately
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating?
Why can’t we live in bliss?”

Peace Train – Cat Stevens

On this, the 63rd anniversary of the birth of Cat Stevens, we look back on a life of music and inspiration.

Born Steven Georgiou in Marylebone, London, England, Cat would extend his love for music with influences that included Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Biff Rose (who played on his first album), Leo Kottke and Paul Simon. He also wanted to emulate great composers including Ira Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Beginning in coffee shops and pubs, Stevens would play and shine as local on lookers absorbed his sound

In 1969, Stevens contracted tuberculosis where he became close to death. Later on after several months of recovery, Stevens was quoted as saying “to go from the show business environment and find you are in hospital, getting injections day in and day out, and people around you are dying, it certainly changes your perspective. I got down to thinking about myself. It seemed almost as if I had my eyes shut.” After this episode his took up meditation, yoga and metaphysics and began a personal transformation.

In 1976, Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, CA. During this incident, he found himself shouting “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.” He claims that moments after saying that a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. It was this second affair with death that he began to really seek spiritual truth.

He formally converted to the Islamic religion on December 23, 1977.

He would go on to marry and start a family and leave the music recording industry for 28 years. He has returned and through all the trials and tribulations of his life, he has allowed us to come along his journey through his music.

To Cat Stevens, we say Happy Birthday, Thank you and to continue to seek peace within yourself and around the world.

Enjoy this mix of great Cat Stevens Music:

Cat Stevens Birthday Mix

With Cisco and Borders, 27,500 job eliminations announced today…Rut Row!

Currently, the number of unemployed persons (14.1 million) and the unemployment rate (9.2 percent) stand at an alarming position. Since March, 2011, the number of unemployed persons has increased
by 545,000, and the unemployment rate has risen by 0.4 percentage point. The eligible labor force stands at 153.4 million potential.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (9.1 percent), adult women
(8.0 percent), teenagers (24.5 percent), whites (8.1 percent), blacks (16.2 percent), and Hispanics (11.6
percent) showed little or no change in June. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.8 percent, not seasonally
adjusted.

Statistic provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

What does all this mean given the announcement today that Cisco will be closing a plant and reducing their global workforce by 16% (6,500 Employees) and Borders will be liquidating leaving over 11,000 unemployed?

There are major and minor workforce reduction announcements almost daily. Why point out these two? First, the numbers are very significant as 27,500 will be fazed out of the workforce, but more importantly is the extremity of the types of workers.

On the Cisco end, many of the roles being eliminated are technology focused skilled labor with niche specialty systems, development and integration training. On the Borders side, most of the affected are hourly retail specialists. When we look at the age breakdown and the teenage unemployment numbers at nearly 25%, we have to factor in that Borders has relied on the use of younger book sellers to meet the customer needs at the individual store level.

Adding onto the dangers of this slap in the face of an already bruised global economy, is that several analysts believe this is not the end for Cisco. This round of layoffs and plant closing may be the start of more to come.

With the end of Borders on the horizon, are we seeing a trend in the print/brick and mortars market that will continue to decline as the online and digital print market comes further into its own? A valid question with significant evidence leading to technology destroying the written word. Then again if we read our history books carefully, the underdog, in many memorable moments, has risen to the occasion to declare victory.

If the David and Goliath theory should happen to fail us, we must rely on the oldest adage in all of humanity: Survival of the fittest. Yes, the truly strong will prevail. There are several truths that we must accept:

1. The world population will continue to grow.
2. Competition will force companies to drive down operations and overhead costs and thus lean workforces.
3. Specialization of skills and effective branding will be essential elements in our resume folder.
4. As an employee, we will continuously be challenged, observed and scrutinized for there are a great many waiting in the wings to take our slot.
5. The fittest in the employment world is a combination of many elements including but not limited to: academics, experience, technical skills, soft skills, networking, validation, growth/advancement, risk and visibility
6. Fear is good! We should look at each day of employment as if it could be our last and harness that fear to force us to excel.
7. Believe in the reward system. It does work. Strong work performance will be rewarded.

Where does that leave us? Very simple: Cisco and Borders announced 27,500 job eliminations today.

Just when I thought we were getting somewhere, the media has to bring us down.

Who is winning in this employment cluster fuck? Simple Apple, LinkedIn, Facebook, Zynga and a group of former Wall Street Executive Wizards that inhaled more money than Harry Potter.

There is hope. There is always hope. Without hope we would never have had the musical genius of Hanson or the Spice Girls and witnessed the rise of Earnest and Pee Wee. We live in a world where the unthinkable becomes a reality and the unimaginable is lived out on American Idol.

Chaos and sensationalism are being poured down our throats by the media and we are swallowing it up whole.
We need to this put our own lives in perspective and the bottom line is that it is just about perspective.

You are talented and skilled and have demonstrated the ability to be a great asset to the workforce.
We are in the low end of a cyclical life cycle. It will rise again and we will look back fondly on how this made us stronger.

Now as I conclude, I want to be clear that today’s news is troubling and it will have an adverse affect on thousands of individuals and families and it will have a ripple affect on others but, if you are in this situation or fear you will be soon, know there are tools out there to make you stronger.

There are not hard to find. Just ask. In times of need, it is remarkable how the generosity of others shine.

Let your fear out, but use it for good to find the heart to be a better you.

It’s all about family….

Yesterday was Aunt Kathy’s surprise 60th birthday party. She isn’t by blood my aunt, but as I have come to know her, she has in a way become one. I am part of an undocumented adoption into another family where I enjoy all the holiday festivities and they treat me with all the respect and disrespect of family.

For the event, the roles were divided from cooking to decorations to photography and all the calls were made. The only part left for chance was whether anyone would blow the surprise. Lucky for all of us, Kathy was surprised, not only by the event, the magic show and gifts, but all the friends and family that traveled to Clear Lake, Wisconsin to spend the afternoon celebrating her life.

Let us see if we can break down a visual for you. Two very noticeably pregnant women only weeks away from birth, a table of four children between 5 and 15 playing UNO, a number of sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents and family picking up in loud conversation from every corner of the house as if they had not seen each other in years. As the afternoon progressed, more moved from the table to the couch to engage in the traditional “I’m full, I need a nap” ritual.

The afternoon would not be complete without magic, gifts and talk of being on the boat and going to the cabin. For those of you that do not know the Midwest, everyone says “The” boat and “The” cabin as if they are the only ones that have one. As I watched three generations coming together from diverse backgrounds to celebrate life, it dawned on me that no matter where I travel and how far I go, family is always the one constant. They are the one element of your life that you know will always be there in the darkest of hours or the height of celebration. It isn’t an act of selfishness or need, but an open door of comfort. As we tackle the daily challenges and face paths we must take, we think of those few people that we know care about us for nothing more than who we are. That is and will always be family.

What sets family aside from friends and other loved ones is that they will set you free as a bird or shelter you from a storm. The only reward they ask is to show love and be there. Family is not restricted by distance, age, lifestyle, wealth or religion. They are void of all prejudice and unconditional in their commitment to you.

Sometimes you need the reminder of a loud room filled with laughter, sharing, hugs, pictures and memories to see who the most important people in your life are.

To my family, both blood and non-blood, thank you for always being there.