Workshop

The bees set up shop under a piece of plywood on the side of our home. At first I thought it was just a swarm that would move through quickly enough. As they lingered, I got curious and found them hard at work.

I don’t love the idea of a beehive so close to the house. My first inclination was to get rid of it. But we decided to wait and see what would happen and, so far so good.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: they don’t mind having me around. They go about their business and I go about mine.

They value family, hard work and making a contribution to something that is much, much larger than themselves. If I can play a small part in supporting that value system, I will only be the better for it.


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Grandpa’s Onions

At grandpa’s house, when you want onion rings with your hamburger, you start by walking out to the garden and pulling one from the ground.

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The best kind of vacation – the best kind of break – is one that reminds you of the clarifying power of elemental, fundamental things.

The adventure of a road trip, even one you’ve taken many times before; visits with friends and family, in the care of their welcoming hands; grandparents and their rich histories, familiar and distant all at once; eating what has most recently been growing in the garden (and frying it to a perfect golden brown!); and being out of your element just enough to notice how easily being in your element has become.

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Just Because

When the highlight of your family outing is a full-group admiration of the mesmerizing qualities of large floating bubbles; and when that admiration turns into a spontaneous chase to capture, propel and pop those bubbles, all the while encouraging their maker to make another good batch, you remember the genius of children who don’t think too hard about ‘why’ but revel instead in this moment, just because.

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DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

A Week of Thanks: Day 7

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful for my family even though they agree that in the fictional scenario in which we are prevented from ever leaving our home again because of a cloud of toxic gas that has settled over our town, and must now rely only on a mysterious underground infrastructure that provides daily supplies of food; that in the ensuing claustrophobic conditions, complicated by the lack of electricity or WiFi, that sooner or later would make us all itch with a little bit of crazy and lead us to contemplate and plan on getting rid of one or more members to preserve the sanity of the remaining members…I would be the first to go.

I brought this on myself. First, because I’m the one who brought it up in a weird after dinner conversation early in our present vacation. And second, because I’m the one who moves within the family universe with the most dramatic orbit; from composed and serious, even melancholy, to genuinely connective and intentional, to animated exuberance that becomes silly (funny!) and annoying. It can be a lot to take and it makes my relegation to the toxic wasteland of our town an understandable, if hurtful, decision.

I am a lucky man, well-loved and provided the chance to love and care for an extraordinary group of people. If my orbit is wide and unpredictable, Theresa’s is consistent and reliable. She tempers my extremes with straight talk and practicality and I’m pretty sure I have helped to unlock some of her goofiness. More than that, I just like to be with her (and she with me, though the fictional scenario results are concerning); she’s exceedingly creative, full of ideas and is the most generous and well-respected person I know.

We brought three pretty great humans into the world and I am still processing how different they are from one another and how eerily familiar they seem as they evolve into beings wholly their own. It’s really fun to watch. Also scary. And heartbreaking, too. Like when they go to college or otherwise prove their independence. I feel exceedingly proud of them and also unworthy because the true task of fatherhood often feels like too tall an order to fill. But then again, so do the callings of work, marriage and friendship. And, now that they’ve agreed that I’m first to go, maybe I don’t need to worry as much about all of that!

Finally, ‘family’ is ill-defined if I only mention these four fine people. My mom is the epitome of the spirit of youth and will never stop fighting for the joy that sensibility brings her. My five older siblings are each a loving presence in my life. I am grateful for what each has taught me and for how our adult relationships continue to form and grow. And Theresa’s family I consider as my own. They have only ever been welcoming and generous to me, connections now over 28 years in the making.

It’s easy to be thankful for my family. They keep my feet on the ground so that I can more easily reach my head…my dreams, my aspirations… into the sky. And though they seem a bit too willing to sacrifice me for their personal sanity and survival, at least I am clear on their intentions and can get to work building that subterranean man-cave I’ve been dreaming about.

Anything for my family!


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

12 Words

We celebrated a life today. It was a remembrance worthy of the life she lived. It was whole, real, fully formed and fully experienced. It was gut wrenching.

A father was humble. Sons were true. Sisters were emphatic. A niece was clear, and brave: “I was better when I was with her.”

When we honor the dead it is easy to forget that they needed us as much as we needed them. I know that she would be first in line to proclaim that as true.

I couldn’t stop thinking about these five statements, these twelve words.

I love you. “You saw me, heard me and understood me. You made me something I didn’t know I could be. My heart is broken and it will keep on breaking. And I will go on.”

Please forgive me. “I hurt you. I could have done more. I’m sorry.”

I forgive you. “You were human. You did your best. And you were human.”

Thank you. “You changed everything for me. You made a difference. You mattered. You always will.”

Goodbye. “I will never forget you. Impossible. Never.”

{For Paul}


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

“No, my name is David.”

A knock at the door yesterday. I was upstairs and my wife was on the phone so we ignored it. But with a quick glance my wife noticed that the woman left a note for us.

I retrieved the note, a request on the back of her business card to “Please call me.” On the front of the card: Child Welfare Services, County of San Diego. Confused and curious, I walked out to the street to see if she was still nearby and, sure enough, I saw a woman driving out of our neighborhood.

I flashed the card as she passed by, taking a chance that it was her. She stopped right away, got out of the car and came over to talk with me.

With no introduction and no buildup she simply stated that “There has been a complaint about the welfare of your children. I cannot tell you who filed the complaint but the nature of it is that your home is not well-kept and that your children are often left home without supervision.”

You could have pushed me over with a feather.

I said, “That’s impossible…this must be a joke.”

But you know what I was really thinking?

“Yeah, this summer we’ve let the house get away from us a little bit. Those piles we need to sort through are still there. That garage clean-up is never ending. At least the dishes are done…that much I know.”

And then, this:

“Well, sure…don’t most people leave their teenage kids home alone? At least once in a while? Yes, they are young teenagers but they are more than mature enough to hang out for a few hours on their own.”

And then, this:

“Who in the world said this about us? Who would possibly think that about us? I can think of three families right now whose homes are kept in worse shape than ours.”

All in about three seconds.

And she said, “I know this can be very hard to hear. And I’m not overly concerned at this point but it is something I needed to follow-up on.”

I said, “No, really….this is a mistake. Are you sure you have the right house?”

And she confirmed the address. Our address.

And then she added, “And you are Steve?”

“No, my name is David.”

“Oh. This happens sometimes. I’m sorry about that. Do you know a ‘Steve’ in this neighborhood?”

I said, “I’m not thinking straight right now. Please give me a second.”

My heart was racing. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed by the suggestion that the assertion was real and that it was made by someone who knew us.

But why would I even for a second doubt what I know to be true? How could I entertain even the slightest impulse that our lifestyle and parenting choices had descended to the level of government intervention?

I guess it’s because we’ve worked hard to create a living/working/learning/playing environment that is loving, positive, productive and inviting. Every day? Of course not! Most days, most of the time. And I don’t want to lose even a tiny piece. I only want to make it stronger and any suggestion to the contrary, that I or we may fail to do so? Well, there’s some defensiveness in there…some perfectionism, too.

An awkward mistake turned into a good reminder. I have a wonderful marriage and a terrific family. We have our struggles, just like everyone else. In the grand scheme of things those struggles, those problems, are small…very small. And there are many around us whose problems are big and scary and that’s painful to realize. Humbling, too.

So, a little more empathy today and a lot more gratitude. Also, a renewed commitment to get that garage cleaned up before my mother calls in another complaint!


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.