Over the course of the last three weeks, I have had the privilege of meeting some pretty neat people.
Encouraging words, uplifting notes, and inspired news were communicated in such a way that has lifted the spirits of my wife and I.
Considering this, I thought it proper to let you know a bit more about who I am.
Below, in a scattered frenzy of thoughts, I will Re-Introduce myself.
I am Greek (Dad's side..hence the last name) & Italian ( Mom's side...hence my first). I am a follower of Jesus. (Stay Tuned...) I am happily married to Christen. (Stay Tuned...) I have one dog...Charlie Brown. (He is a Chocolate Lab w/ attachment issues) I am the Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Northminster Presbyterian Church. (New Castle, Pa.) I have two degrees. (Undergrad in Youth Ministry & an M.Div.) I am about to finish up my second master's. (M.S. Organizational Leadership)
I have a superpower: I work, while you sleep.
I like to be outdoors. I really really like Bruce Springsteen. (Stay Tuned...) I am planning on pursing a Doctorate later this year. (Lord Willing!, Donations anyone???!!!)
I am right brained. If you try to structure me or box me in...you and I will not get along.
If you tell me no...that means yes. If you tell me yes...that means...no. Yes, I am one of those types of people you just love to hate Or is it hate to love...
I love to learn. I love to read about the things that I am passionate about.
My desire is to make connections with others... That means with you. Because of this, I value you. Your input. Your comments. Your ideas.
Another aspect that started creeping up in my mind during this whole thing was the fact that I was not teaching.
That may seem weird…but during this whole pregnancy, all I could think about was how much I wanted to teach my child.
The ways of the Lord,
Every Bruce Springsteen song,
Everything a father imagines when thinking of their future with their child.
Ironically, however, it was my newborn son who was doing all of the teaching.
Now before I write this next sentence…it may seem a bit odd. And if I did not go through this trial, I certainly would not understand it.
But the single greatest thing that my son had taught me in his short time here is this.
-He taught me how to feel-
Before this time I was quick to shun people, move on to the next thing, and downplay what people felt.
The greatest gift that people were giving during this time were uplifting words and time spent with Christen and I.
And I learned something from this.
A truly great person seeks to absorb another person's pain.
They come along and find a place where you are hurting and they try their best to take it away from you.
A person who does this is beyond a mere human and is closer to an angel.
Now, I will try to become an angel for someone.
"For he will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways." -Psalm 91:11
As you can imagine, there are seemingly hundreds of lessons that Christen and I have learned through this ordeal. But there are some that just seem to rise to the top.
Below is a lesson on Character.
You know that saying: “Character is not formed during a trial, rather it is on display?”
Well, during those eventful days I watched Christen’s character come out -and it was sparkling. She went from a wife to a mother in a blink of an eye.
She not only cared for me, but as a RN, she literally did the jobs of the nurses at West Penn.
Feeding Anthony, changing him, kissing him back to life, and so on…
There were several occasions where I would watch her hold baby Anthony and close her eyes while standing up…never quitting on her son.
Hours of sleeplessness never shook her from taking care of her boy.
During this time, everyone was amazed at Christen and I.
They continued to comment on how we had acted with grace and dignity toward everyone…especially with one another.
My response to this is that Christen and I did not start that kind of relationship on January the 10th 2011. It was being lived out every day since the day we had met.
We had made a commitment to one another, and that commitment was rooted in loving one another just as Christ has loved His church.
And if you know anything about the way Jesus loves
--then you will know that He was caring, compassionate, graceful, honest, and any other of the greatest qualities that your mind can conjure up at this point.
I have heard it said that the strongest metal goes through the hottest fire.
And believe me when I tell you that the heat dial during this time for us has been turned on to a white heat that melts everything in its path.
Thankfully we lean on stronger arms
The mighty One who continues to sustain us...
"From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
I had a decision to make at this point. Stay with Christen or go with baby Anthony.
We both thought it best to go with baby A.
So me and my mom went up to West Penn.
When we got there, we rushed up to see him -and when we did he was on a cooling pad.
The reason for the pad was to reduce his swelling and to prevent any further damage.
By this time, they had figured out that he had compressed his cord and stopped the blood flow in his little body.
The next day I went and got Christen and we went right back to West Penn.
And it was there we stood with our little angel for the next days.
Family and friends were a constant support for us during this time.
And after finding a little room with a bed at the end of the hall, we now had somewhere to lay our heads.
On the third day the doctors said they did all they can for him and that they were going to take him off of all support.
Because I believe that there is more medicine that just what doctors can do…
We were relying on the other medicines.
The medicine of love that his two parents could give him
AND The medicine of the Lord Jesus.
He was now relying on these two powerful medicines.
Before the doctors took him off of support we had the entire family take a turn holding him.
We wanted him to experience our great family of love.
I have heard throughout my lifetime people saying, “I could not have gotten through this or that without my family/friends/faith”
Now I know now what that means.
Then, they took him off of the ventilators.
When they did this the doctor looked at us in the eyes and said
“You might have 1 minute, 5 minutes, or up to 20”
During this time, which felt like an eternity we waited for our son to pass on.
And after about 5 minutes he began this pattern… -First he would turn blue. Then he would struggle for air. -He then would return to a beautiful pink color just like any healthy baby. -This went on not for minutes, or hours, but for days…
Because of our little sweetheart fighting to stay with us, the doctors allowed us to take him to our room. There we held him, we loved him, we changed him, and we slept with him.
We tried to do all the things that every parent dreams of doing with their child.
Anthony fought to give us that gift.
After days of living out of bags and spending nights on the hospice floor, baby Anthony finally passed on.
Christen and I assured him each time that he struggled to do what he had to do.
We knew that wherever he was, he was in good hands.
So on January the 19th 10:10 p.m. Baby Anthony went to be with Jesus.
As I type this, I am numb.
People have been saying, “I cannot even imagine what you are going through”
And my advice is please do not.
You or anyone you know should not ever have to experience what Christen and I just did.
At times I felt like if it were possible to bottle up all the pain on the earth
All the sorrow from the depths
And every teardrop that the people on this earth have ever cried
Then and only then would you know
During this trial, a company called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" (www.nowilaymedowntosleep.com) came for free to the hospital to take pictures of baby Anthony and his mommy and daddy. They gave of their time and resources...all for free!
Because Christen and I have been blessed with such wonderful photos of our son (many photos you have seen on my blog are from this company) I would like to help them as they are totallynon-profit.
For the next month, I will donate 25 cents for each and every person that "follows" Working on a Dream. -That means for every 4 people a dollar will be donated. -For every hundred people 25 dollars will be donated.
If we can raise 100 dollars I willmatchthe rest for a total of $200.00.
Please consider this opportunity. I know how much it meant for Christen and I to have these pictures taken and I want this company to be around for any other family too.
But I just stood in my bedroom in my underwear staring at draws and opening and closing everything.
I finally ran out the door and I made sure to break every driving law on earth as I raced to the hospital.
When I made it to Jameson.
There was no one.
Just me out of my mind.
A nurse quickly told me that they were working on Christen and the baby boy.
In all the craziness of the moment I still remember that little fact slipping out of the nurse’s mouth. … We had a boy!
But that excitement was momentary as I listened for a cry.
No crying baby…
At this point, I demanded to know if my wife was OK and what was going on.
Then I heard these words…
Your wife is fine. But your son was born without a heartbeat. The doctor is trying to resuscitate him.
I immediately lost it. And started wailing. My nightmare had begun.
Quickly I called both grandparents to come to the hospital.
And right after that they brought out baby Anthony to start working on him.
(Apparently after a half hour the doctor got his little heart beating)
As I stood over him I was overtaken with emotion. He took all the best of Christen and me.
He had my butt-chin. My nose and eyes. He had Christen’s hair, lips and perfect hands and toes.
…But he was struggling for his life.
The doctors told me that he would be life flighted to West Penn and were uncertain if he would live.
As our families started filing in, they were all overcome with the deepest sorrow.
Finally they had rolled Christen out of the operating room and there she lay.
When I first saw her, I began to really cry and I remember apologizing profusely for not being with her when she went to the hospital.
As she came out of the anesthesia, her first question was “How long is the baby?” I thought that was a funny question after all that she had been through...
But I did not have the heart to tell her about everything that was going on right outside of her room.
When I went back to check up on baby Anthony there were more and more little hoses and plugs in him and they were getting him ready for the helicopter.
After a very short stop by mom’s room - --away they all went.
Part 3...To come.
This story does not start on January the 10th 2011.
It starts much before.
In a place of innocence.
Let me invite you back to at time where sitting by the waters right outside the Rock N Roll hall of fame
where two people on their first date falling in love…
There names are Anthony & Christen.
It was sitting by the rolling waves; I asked Christen what she most wanted out of life
Her answer was short and it was quick, “I want to be a wife and a mother.”
About a year and a half latter, we were married and she became one of those.
As a wife, Christen has been stellar.
I know of no women who has captured their husbands heart like my wife does.
People still ask us how long we have been married.
And when we tell them about 5 years, they usually just remain silent (as they mistake us for newlyweds.)
Fast forward to May 25th 2011.
I walked into the house and there Christen was standing with a huge smile holding a plastic stick with a “plus” sign on it.
She gave it to me and I looked at it and then gave it back to her.
She then explained to me that a “plus” sign meant we were pregnant!
The second part of her dream was now coming true! She was on her way to becoming a mommy.
As the months continued to roll on and her belly started to grow.
We noticed how much the baby was moving around. And I was convinced that the baby would grow up to be a Ninja.
Then, it came time to find out if we were going to have a boy or a girl…we elected not to.
We wanted a surprise!
That meant the baby’s room was going to be green and yellow.
Right away we started removing old unused items from the house to make room for the baby (Christen told me that we were “nesting.”)
I liked that idea, so I started doing more daddy things to get me ready for this big part of our lives.
I assembled the crib, I put together a bathroom vanity, and I erected an armoire.
Honestly, each and very time I would embark on something knew I would get frustrated and I would want to quit…but that is not the kind of dad I was going to be for my child.
So I pressed on and completed each task in anticipation of reminding the little one of how much I loved him/her when they would walk past one of those 3 items…
One of the funny things Christen and I would do is after each and every holiday; we would remind ourselves that this was our last being just the two of us.
We didn’t know what to expect when the little one came.
How much would our lives be disrupted?
Would mom ever trust dad to change, feed, hold, bath, or stroll the baby alone? :)
We decided that whatever happened we would look at our new life as an adventure…
And on Monday, January 10th that adventure started.
It started with an abrupt phone message from Christen’s doctor.
“Anthony, get to the hospital, I have to perform an emergency C-Section on Christen!"
When I got that message…my mind and my heart stood as still as the black night.
Micheal Stanier, in his book "Do more great work" says that there are 3 types of work that you will encounter in your life. They are as follows...
1. Bad Work: This type of work is a waste of time, energy, and resources. If you find yourself in a job where all you do is this type of work, then you need a switch or a serious talk with your employer.
2. Good Work: This kind of work is useful and productive. You like to do it and you most likely do it well. A healthy organization asks you to spend most of your time performing tasks that relate to this arena. You know when you are doing this type of work because you feel energized and interested in what you are doing.
3. Great Work: This is what WE all want more of. This work is very meaningful to you and you do it from your heart. No amount of extrinsic (outside motivators) can spur you to do this type of work...because this
work just flows from you. Sadly, most folks do not get the opportunity at their workplace to do great work. Which oftentimes leads to demotivated workers.
*Something to learn from the above if you are an employer or if you are a leader of any sort (from CEO to house mom) is to find ways for your people to do MORE GREAT WORK. The reason is because when people are engaged in the things that they love they will perform at a higher level.
Just watch the video clip below and see how this man has found his passion/Great Work:
A middle aged smart person yelled, "If I read anymore of this...my brain will explode because of all the good information."
Some women commented, "Wowsers!"(I think that means she liked it)
A younger adult exclaimed, "Anthony uses today's traditional teaching methods but with today's cool lingo."
A person in a business suit muttered under his breathe, "I got a job promotion simply by reading Anthony's blog last weekend."
Anthony's English teacher wrote, "When I read Anthony's blog, I find it filled with grammar, syntax and spelling errors, but because of his writing genius I cannot help myself...I am a follower!"
OK, I know the above is mostly made up to make you laugh, but things have been going quite well. With the number of "followers" growing and the increase of page views, 2011 has been a great year! Remember that if you decide to follow W.O.A.D. you will get insight on leadership & theology AND help out a great charity!
As always, your comments & suggestions are welcome!
Stephen Covey, in his fantastic book, First things First, teaches an important lesson about time management. Click on the video above to find out what it is. I bet you will never look at rocks the same again!
Ownership Begins With Loyalty:
Loyalty is always a two-way street. You cannot command loyalty; you have to earn it. If you are compassionate and generous, your people are much more likely to be loyal to you.
Trust Is the Glue in a Culture of Ownership:
Great cultures require great trust all the way around. The absence of trust is like a tax on your business. When you trust people to act in the best interest of the company and place long-term loyalty ahead of short-term profit, you can create a sustainable and unrivaled source of competitive advantage. Why? Because your people will know that you are not self-serving and have their best interests in mind. This is the type of work place that you and I want to work for...
It is no wonder then, that Jesus Christ has more followers on this earth than any other person or group. Read this awesome quote by Napoleon Bonaparte about Him...
"I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world
there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius?
Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him."
With all the talk of leadership these days I thought I would post something from a great educator, Robert Greenleaf. Below, he summarizes what he believes is the essence of servant-leadership. Enjoy!
"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply differentfrom one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.
The best test, and difficult to administer, is:
Do those served grow as persons?
Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society?
Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?"
Something that I also can't believe is how I had to watch Carson Daly bring in the New Year. I mean, how in the world did they land on this guy...especially to replace Bob Hope? Are you serious? I remember talking to my mom on New Years and she actually asked me when Mr. Rogers son started hosting TV shows. This is what forced my hand to rant so early in 2011...
I get the idea from watching Carson that he was born on the corner of "Sleepy Street" and "Drone Avenue" and in a tool shed.
I swear, if Carson is even thinking about becoming the "new" Bob Hope he should have thought about that 43 tattoos ago. This guy is seriously confused. Is he a Rocker or is he Emo? Come to think of it...he is a bad mixture of both...which would make him Remo.
Seriously, last time I saw Carson was when I was up around 3 a.m. and he was running a late late late night show. And I am pretty sure that he was interviewing Count Dracula too. And for everyone that was thrown off by his black button down trench coat...don't. This guy is woefully lame. I actually remember thinking to myself that my old brown shoe would be more entertaining than this guy during the New Years festivities.
Now before everyone gets all defensive...just take a big deep breath. I am not saying I hate the guy or anything, I am just saying that I like him a lot more when I have sleepless nights.
Let me conclude by saying that Carson Daly should have been named Carson Nightly...As in I do not want to see him unless it is very very late at NIGHTLY.