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April 4, 2023

Episode 93: Finding the Light in the Darkness with Steven Crane

In this episode, DJ invited author Steven Crane on the show to discuss his journey to living a life of gratitude and how he flipped the script on occurrences he originally considered to be negative experiences to actually holding a bounty of unseen blessings. Listen in as they discuss the power of gratitude and appreciation in cultivating a positive mindset, and how employing this new mindset will help you achieve stronger relationships and greater success.

Steven Crane is the author of the novel Staring at the Ceiling and more than a million words of advertising copy throughout his professional writing career. His other full-time jobs are husband and father, with other titles situationally including coach, volunteer, foster parent, mentor, and amateur pancake chef. Steven lives in Marietta, GA, with his wife Carie and their two sons. Search “I Can Appreciate That” (@ICATstory) on Facebook to join his Community of Gratitude and connect with Appreciators worldwide.

• [8:39] “Really the gift in all of that is finding a way to connect with other people where eventually your experience has the potential and the power to help other people who are having that experience.”
• [22:59] “Either. Everything is completely random, and nothing matters. Or there's some master plan that you're part of that we're all exactly where we're supposed to be.” 
• [32:05] “There's a lot to be learned in thriving through struggle.”
• [37:31] “What I do for a living is I LIVE… and work becomes a part of what I do. It's not who I am. It's not solely what defines me.”

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DJ Stutz  0:00  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes Podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA. 

You're listening to Episode 93 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Our guest today is Steven Crane, and he's the author of the book, "I Can Appreciate That", which I am currently reading and I highly recommend it. It just brings in such great insights and point of view. Steven is an experienced writer, speaker, consultant, and he has a passion for helping people find meaning and fulfillment in their lives. And in his book, "I Can Appreciate That," he explores the power of gratitude and appreciation in cultivating a positive mindset, building stronger relationships and achieving greater success. His insights and advice have inspired many readers to transform their lives. His other full time jobs are husband and father. And with other titles situationally, including coach, volunteer, foster parent, mentor, and amateur pancake chef. Steven lives in Marietta, Georgia with his wife Carrie, and their two sons, and we are excited to hear from him today. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

If you liked what you hear in today's podcast, be sure to rate and review and tell a friend. And if you do this, I have a special gift for you. I'm going to send you a digital copy of my 5 Days of Kindness workbook for free. This workbook is going to help guide you through five different areas of kindness, and help you to make that a part of your life and your family traditions. On the website of the podcast, You just going to click on the review and then click on leave a review. And it's that easy. Be sure to send me an email, or just sign up for our free newsletter, and I'll make sure that I can get that sent to you. 

When I first met Steven Crane, he seemed like a nice positive guy. He was sincere and interested in connecting with those who spoke with however, the more I listened to him, the more impressed I became. First, I had a hard time believing that the man with whom I spoke, spent most of his life being a negative, glass half empty kind of guy. But who could blame him. He has a very complicated medical history. He's lost several loved ones to cancer. And then there were his career challenges, and a crisis of faith. And although he originally considered these experiences as negatives, he found they were actually holding a bounty of unseen blessings. Responding to a challenge issued by his teenage son, Steven discovered the life changing power of gratitude, and a process for appreciating nearly every situation and relationship. Here's the cool thing is a portion of all the sales of his book, he's donating to support finding a cure to childhood cancer. Let's listen. 

Welcome, everyone. And thank you for choosing to spend the next few minutes here at Imperfect Heroes Podcast. And today I have just a great guest. And I'm so excited to talk to him. In fact, already, I'm planning to have him back to talk about some other subjects. And so he's got some really great things going on in his life. He's an author, he's the parent. And this is Steven Crane. How are you doing, Steven?

Steven Crane  4:14  
Hey, good morning, DJ. Thank you for having me on. Well,

DJ Stutz  4:17  
I'm excited to have you here. So Steven, talk to us a little bit about your book and what you've got going on.

Steven Crane  4:24  
Yeah. So we are now talking in January of 2023. This journey began for me right as the pandemic was coming over all of us, and I am an advertising writer by trade. And as the world was going into shutdown, my world was slowing down a little bit. But I think God probably had a hand in that because that was right around the time that one of my two children. My oldest son who is 17 now was 15. At the time, he and I were having a conversation and just standard basic parent teenager exchange. And he said something to me, I said something back to him. And his response to me was Tang, why you always had to be so negative about everything, which was one of those things where a lot of times when you're a parent, you can sort of define your kid a little bit and say, you know, well, because I'm the parent or because I said so or whatever. And that question, in particular, that hit me so hard and was so convicting, that kind of just stopped me cold. And I basically said, Wow, I don't know the answer to that question. But I probably need to find it. And so he deserved an answer to that question. I kind of was wanting to know the answer to that question. And so I spent most of 2020, exploring that and writing a series of autobiographical essays that explore episodes in my life that I would probably describe, more or less on face value as negative, and what my response was to those immediately. And what I've learned from them, in hindsight, were, the beauty of that is that I discovered that even in the worst things that have ever happened to me in my life, there are these beautiful, awesome blessings hiding and all of that damage and trauma and challenge, that are gifts. For me moving forward, those experiences become the book, I can appreciate that.

DJ Stutz  6:32  
That is such an important message that even in the hardest times, and I don't want to minimize the hard times that we go through. And all of us have varying levels of what hard times mean. But to keep that in mind that there are still wonders all around us, and that God has his hand in our lives, and that everything is not permanent. The kids are going to get out of their terrible twos, teenagers are going to grow up into adults, you lost a job, but something better winds up coming around the corner. But during that time, it's very difficult when you're looking for a job or whatever. Now it's pretty easy to find a job. But you know, there's a lot of things that are going on in our lives that can be kind of dark and difficult. But there's always wonders to be seen.

Steven Crane  7:31  
Absolutely. And that's sort of the theme from throughout the whole book. And some of those things are, like you alluded to relatively small things like losing a job, or having a terrible season as a youth baseball coach, or small thing. Things are, quote unquote, terrible things like losing a loved one to cancer or having lifelong health challenges. So it's true for the big and small things, that life is a series of challenges. And there's beauty to be found in almost all of them.

DJ Stutz  8:06  
Yeah. But life goes on, doesn't it?

Steven Crane  8:10  
It does. And they say that time heals all wounds. And that is true. But man, it can take an unbelievable amount of time for some of those wounds to heal. But they do you don't ever truly forget or get over some losses. But with time and with Unity, you do learn to process that a different way to finish the grieving process and a certain way to get closure on things. And really the gift and all of that is finding a way to connect with other people where eventually your experience has the potential and the power to help other people who are having that experience. One of the greatest gifts that I got through the process of researching and writing and sharing all these stories, is as people would read some of the stories pretty consistently, the feedback that I would get was along the lines of Wow, the thing that happened to you didn't exactly happen to me. I didn't have the same experience that you had. But let me tell you what happened to me. And it's sort of like this amazing knee to sort of thing where you learn that as alone as you think that you are in your struggles and your grief and your experiences and sometimes in life in general. Yeah, it's so face that you're so much less alone than you imagine that you are. If you put yourself out there, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable. If you share terrible things in your life along with the wonderful things in your life, you'll find that are right there with you. And a lot of times they're willing to get down in the muck with you and walk with you through some of that stuff. That's really all we can do for other people too, is to be willing to get down there with them and share our stories and Help each other?

DJ Stutz  10:01  
Well, and I think too, as we're going through life, and we're going through hard times very often, the answer that helps us move forward, is reaching out to help someone else, finding some kind of service or whatever.

Steven Crane  10:15  
So one of the interesting things that I always like to talk to people about in that vein is the actual definition of the word appreciate. How would you word appreciate?

DJ Stutz  10:28  
That I would think it would, boys, let me edit that out, I would, I would think it would be connected to gratitude, recognizing that someone has gone out of their way, on your behalf. And then, instead of taking that for granted, we're going to take gratitude instead.

Steven Crane  10:49  
Absolutely. So as I mentioned, at the top, I'm an advertising writer by trade in sort of a word for, and that was coming to this exercise. And I knew that these were going to be stories about appreciation, one of my first instincts was, let's go to the dictionary, and let's see what the actual definition of the word is, so that I can be oriented in the right way. And what was there was also this amazing gift, because there's actually four main definitions of the word appreciate, right? And so on the very most basic level is, if you appreciate something, you can understand that it just simply exists, right? There's, there's a car outside, I can see it, I can appreciate that it's there, right? That's very basic, it doesn't really require a whole lot of us on the next level, is to recognize the value of something, oh, I appreciate that. There's a car out there. And if I needed to go to work, or if I had an emergency, that that's a vehicle for me to be able to do something, right. And then that, that next level is what you're referring to, which is what probably most people's common understanding of the word appreciate is, is gratitude, be able to be grateful for something right. Not only do I know that that car is there, and I understand what its function is, I'm truly grateful for the opportunity that it provides for me to get to where I need to get to and do my jobs and whatever. And the last definition, which is where it's this awesome revelation is to appreciate something is sort of think about the monetary or the real estate sort of definition of that where your property appreciates in value your portfolio appreciate value, it gains value, right? So then you have this amazing sort of pyramid Foundation, where I see it, I get it, I'm grateful for it. And I'm going to grow what I've been given, right. And so that became like this very simple, but powerful framework to look at all of these instances in my life, whether it's being born with birth defects, or losing my sister to cancer, or dark motions, that I wasn't sure whether the right thing or not, you go through like this process of looking at these situations, and you see it, you understand it, you're grateful for it, and then you figure out what I'm supposed to do with it. And it goes back to what we were just talking about second ago about getting down in the muck with other people and helping them sharing our experiences. What am I going to do with that experience, now that I've gotten that and I see what it was worth. Now it's on me to figure out what to do with that what to make of it, how to grow that experience, either for myself, so that I get something greater out of that, or even better for somebody else, so that somebody else can benefit from the value of my experience or can avoid a pothole that I hit or not have to struggle in quite the same way. So that becomes the framework for this whole project. And it actually kind of made it simple because it's a year or so of work. But it really sort of provided the roadmap for where that journey would go.

DJ Stutz  14:04  
And I think too, you can answer this. But I think as you went through the journey, and so you now you're looking for those experiences in your life, you're looking for things that were hard. But here's what happened. That journey itself was probably revelatory in experience, and you coming to understand your life, your connection with God, your connection with humanity, all of those things as you were writing and remembering those things.

Steven Crane  14:36  
Absolutely, really, it became an exercise in relationships. There were people who read that book who have known me my whole life, and you know, some people, my oldest friend in the world, she's not the oldest person I'm friends with our relationship. We've known each other since we were seven years old. And she read that and said, Oh my gosh, I learned things about you that I never knew I Never knew that this was why this happened. I never knew that you knew that person. I never knew why this is why you do that, or why you feel this way about a certain thing, or why this is important to you. And in this weird sort of way, while the book is introducing people, to me, it also, one of the greatest gifts that it gave me was it introduced me, to me, because there were things that I thought myself were like, Oh my gosh, that is why I have this reaction. That is why I parent this way. That is why my relationship with my child is what it is because my relationship with my parents is what it is. Because my relationship with God is what it is. So it became this exercise in understanding relationships. And so in that regard, the book ends up being sort of a love letter to my wife, who is the most amazing person I know, to my children, and to my parents, and sort of in a big sense to God as well. It's very, about relationships.

DJ Stutz  16:05  
Yeah, and I think that is so important. It's an important way for us to look at it. I think we're losing the art of journaling. of writing down, I have a journal from my oh, gosh, third or fourth grade, and I can't remember a grandfather, who came to this country from Wales in the 1840s. And it's funny because it was like, three calves were born today. Or, you know, I mean, it's very matter of fact, I sold this much feed for this much money, and we plowed this area. And but then too, you'll see because he lost children, you know, back then things happened. And he would say something like, Susie died today at age six. And that would be maybe all it was. And later on I'd find out well, Susie drowned in a creek buy their house. And so you're getting some other pieces to the story. But having that connects me to him almost 200 years ago. I mean, we're looking at 180 years ago, basically, that he came to this country with his wife, and they didn't have any kids yet. They've just been married not long, and they came over. I know that they came in through New Orleans, they didn't come in through New York, their ship went around and they went to New Orleans. And that's how they came to the country. But imagine the things then that our kids could have, as they read as they're adults, and have kids that are driving them nuts. Right. Right. And they're reading about your feelings. And it's like, oh, well, here we are. Or also, it's that connection piece to that humanizes us, to our families, to our kids. And as we're writing, as we're writing, it's that same thing that you were just talking about where you're discovering more about yourself, your discovery, more about those relationships that are around you and your relationship with God.

Steven Crane  18:27  
Absolutely. One of the great gifts that I got out of that was a chance to do exactly that, and go back and look at some of my own family history. And you're right about giving more history to my own children. My boys right now are 15 and 17. And if I handed them a book and said, Here, your dad wrote this year's book, they're not ready for that right now. Right now. 100. think, oh, wow, this is great that I understand you're on a completely different level. That's not going to happen. No. But when they're 25 or 30, you know, if they pick that up and go, Oh, okay, now I get some things in a different way. And the sooner they get to that maybe they'll avoid some of those potholes. But that in their own time, right? So they'll figure that out. But I did exactly that I got a chance to go back and talk to my own parents, you know, who luckily are still here to to see that. And to get the fact that they're still here to get my story. And my love letter to them is this amazing gift to me because I have to give all of that back to them. But I also got to talk to them about you know, tell me more about your story and tell me about your parents and tell it you know who I knew a little bit and grandparents so I never got a chance to meet and all that. And it's it is amazing. My My great grandfather my dad's dad was born in Italy and was part of the Italian presidential police the carbon year Ah, very young man. He, in the line of duty protecting the Italian President killed two mafioso. So your options at that point are stay in Italy. And you're probably not going to live very long, or you run. And so he left his wife and two young children in Italy, and fled to America worked for five or six years to make enough money to bring them over here. And then the first of so they had two children, they had three more children, the first of the three children born in America becomes my grandfather. So already, that's a miracle. Yeah. And then my other, my dad's dad was in he wanted to be a pilot in World War Two, he joined the Air Force. And he was in World War Two on being 16 bombers. And he was not a pilot, he was a flight Navigator, and tail gunner. And so those guys have fairly short life expectancy. The average number of bombing raids that you survived was like, Oh, no. Well, for 14, he flew 36, and was discharged from the military, came home and met my grandmother on a double blind date. And then they have my dad, who is an all star athlete growing up and was an amazing baseball pitcher, his whole life growing up, got a scholarship to go to Western Michigan to play baseball, and was in line to be drafted into the major leagues, when in his junior year of college, he was throwing batting practice at one random day of college baseball practice. And they didn't have the protective l screens, in front of the pitchers back then, one of his teammates hit a ball right back at him, and hit him in the pitching hand and broke a bunch of hip bones in his hand. And he did not continue to pitch. And he left baseball, got a job selling cookware in the mall, and met my mom on a blind date at random selling cookware in the mall and offered to make her dinner as a way of expressing his interest in her they've met. That's how they met. And then my sister and I are born. So you go through all of that. And just like, you know, everybody has not that story, but a story, right? Where then even being here, you and I even talking is made possible, through all these little moments in time that are moments that are matters of seconds and inches, and what could be and what isn't. And so you look at all of that. And there's only two conclusions you can draw from that. Right? Either. Everything is completely random, and nothing matters. Or there's some master plan that you're part of that we're all exactly where we're supposed to be. And sort of nothing matters because there's a master plan, right? You can either embrace that, or you cannot have found that the latter is far more enjoyable. And positive.

DJ Stutz  23:25  
Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think to that there is a plan for us. But we have a choice whether to jump on that plan or not. And the differences in life, when you choose not to jump on that plan is very, you can always get back on though, that's the nice thing, you can always find a way back onto that path, that railroad track that's gonna get you to where you need to go. And, and then there were amazing things that happen when you decide you're willing to do whatever it takes to get you back there. All of a sudden, amazing things will start happening. I've talked about this before, so I won't go into a ton of detail. But there was a point in my life where everything was very, very, very difficult. Who and eventually, what I've came around to was writing what I called in a Joy Journal. And every night I would write some way that I saw God's hand in my life where others showed a kindness to me something positive, that would happen, and I would write that. And it's fun to go back and look at that time in my life that was so dark and see just all of the tender, excuse me, all of the tender, sweet things that were going on. In such a time that was just, sometimes I thought how can I breathe and still live, you know, like, how can I take that next breath? Forget the next step. I'm worried about the breath. And honestly that's what got me through I think that hard time was being able to look and find the goodnesses that are around us. And sometimes it becomes very basic, doesn't it? Where I remember one night, I was sitting there, it had been an especially hard day. And I'm looking at my journal. And I'm ready to close it without writing anything, because I remember feeling like I have nothing good to write about today. And you know how the Spirit speaks to you. And it came in strong and hard. And it was I can remember it. So clearly it was How dare you? Yeah. How dare you. And I had a roof over my head, I had a car that took me to a job that I enjoyed actually just been a rough day at the job. I had healthy kids, all my kids were healthy. I had a husband who loved me. I mean, March will be 45 years that we've been married. And, yeah, I was a child. But now I'm all I remember looking at my husband, Ross and saying, I think we did it. He said was it we actually grow old together. But there were so many things. I had food in the cupboards, I had electricity, I had plumbing, I had all of these other things that are such great blessings in our lives that we tend to take for granted.

Steven Crane  26:24  
Yes to all of that. I mean, it is minder that no matter where you are, no matter what your circumstances are, you can think about how there's somebody that always has it better than you. But there, buddy, who is struggling, just you are, no matter where you find yourself. It's humbling to mind yourself, how much you do have to be thankful for what your blessings are. I was talking to somebody the other day about blessings. And he said something really amazing to me. That was basically like he realized that he had not only everything that he needed, I think we're talking about Christmas presents, right? You have that question? What do you want for Christmas? And he's like, yeah, not only is there nothing that I want, there's nothing that I need. And I find myself in this place where I've got an abundance of blessings. And I prayed about that. And what God told me was to find a way to share those things, right? If you've got an abundance of blessing, if your cup is overflowing, it's time to move that somewhere else, right, it's time to be in giving mode, it's time to figure out where to put the extra because we're not meant to keep all of that for ourselves. All right, right. You can't give from an empty cup. But at the point where your cup is overflowing, it's time to pour it into somebody else.

DJ Stutz  27:52  
I love hearing like the good stories and positive things. And I listen to some of those podcasts and different news stories I'll follow because they're those amazing stories. But every once in a while you hear about what I would now this is all metaphoric, but I would think of the homeless guy that's begging and find someone he has his cup in hand. And there's another guy that doesn't even have a cup. Right. And so he gives him his cup. And whatever little bit is in it, I think it goes back to the widow's mite, in the New Testament that she only gave two cents, where others were giving tons of money. But Christ says that she gave her all that was everything she had. She had nothing left over to take care of her family, her kids herself, whatever. But she gave all that she had. And I just I'm amazed by people who are willing to just make that extra effort and reach out in so many different ways. I've done two episodes with a lady named Natalie Silverstein. And she just started a new podcast, simple acts, big impact or something like that, where she interviews only teenagers who are involved in service in the community and hearing their stories. And I'm amazed by people like that.

Steven Crane  29:18  
That's awesome. Good for her. Good for them. Yeah.

DJ Stutz  29:22  
Yeah, for sure. And I think too. So how do we bring some of these attitudes into our little ones when we're raising them, and finding that even though things are hard right now, we still have x, y and z. It is

Steven Crane  29:37  
the constant exercise in context of gratitude is there's a lot about context and gratitude and realizing when you do have what you don't have. It's interesting. Our kids grew up in a great neighborhood and the school that they happen to be zoned for was a title one school. We probably lived in one of the nicer neighborhoods zoned for that school. But there were a lot of kids there who didn't free or reduced lunches and a lot of social services. And that school was amazing that school was super diverse and very community oriented. And really, it had to be relied on the community for a lot of support, and for its vibrance, and it was an amazing place for them to have their formative years. And I actually had the blessing of serving on that school's Foundation Board for several years. And it was an interesting challenge trying to get literally, nickel and diming are way to try and figure out like, oh, we need to raise $70,000 for a new playground, because these kids are playing on something that's dangerous and outdated. Okay, how are we going to do that with our limited resources, and you figure out how to build community in those challenging times. And then we moved when my oldest was in transition between middle school, we ended up moving, we only moved like 12 miles. But the new school was a whole different universe. I mean, it was literally, we had our experience from our previous school. And we walked into the new school, and I sort of asked about being involved in the foundation there. And they didn't even need the help, right, they expected people to sort of just write a check, and it will be taken care of, and you walked into the gym, and it was literally sponsored by the local NBA team, you're like, oh, okay, okay, we'll find a different way to help because they don't need the same health and culture shock. And the context shock of that was like, wow, this is 12 miles from where we were, and it's a whole different world. But couldn't be more grateful that my children had six years of formative experience with diversity and community and relative struggle. You know, even though they thrived in that environment, there's a lot to be learned in thriving through struggle, that when you get to a place where you don't have to quite struggle as much, it's still there in them, right? I couldn't be grateful that it's still in there for them as they grow. Right. The only time you actually fail is when you give up and you stop trying, trying to go back to that amazing playground that we did actually get for those kids. And you're staring at having to figure out how to find $70,000, you have no idea where that's going to come from. I can't count the number of times I went out and literally pounded the pavement and just started showing up at local businesses. Hey, here's who I am. Here's what I represent. Here's what we're working on. Here's how you can help. And I probably the success rate on that is, is sort of low, you know, just find lots of people ready to just hand you lots of money. So I heard no, plenty of time. Sure. But the best rate of that was plenty enough. There were plenty of people who were willing to help. And even if you succeeded one out of 10 times, the joy that comes from that, and the eventual blessing that comes from that. Man, I would do it 100 times over, I would hear no 100 times to get that one. Yes. Because you know, it's coming. You just have to find it. You succeed 1% of the time, the joy that probably is greater than the frustration of 99 failures.

DJ Stutz  33:36  
Absolutely, it is. And you know, and we speak about having people in the right place at the right time. And I remember one time we were at a movie theater. And something happened in the movie was running late. And so people were just sitting around, you know, waiting for the moment. And we struck up a conversation with the people who were sitting right behind us, and what do you do, and they were in construction and blah, blah, blah, what do you do, and I told them about my school and some of the things that we were trying to do. I was teaching kindergarten and just how impoverished everything was. And then the movie started. When the movie got over, and we're getting up and ready to go. They kind of grabbed my arm and said, Hey, we both felt really strongly about your story and about the kids and what you're trying to do. They handed me a check for $100 to go buy classroom supplies and some playground toys, just balls. Just basic stuff, you know, jump rocks, and they just handed that and I really felt like there was a reason even that the movie was late and it was irritating at the time. I mean, it's such a third world or first world problem but but it was irritating and yet because of that this great kindness was was shown and made available for our for our kids. And so you know, we have a opportunities to serve even, like I said, with the homeless guy that gives away his cup. They're always opportunities to look around outside of you, and, and seeing what you can do for someone else, if we can instill some of those things into the psyche of our children. There's nothing that we can't accomplish all the ills that we're seeing in the world right now, all of the confusion and the lost souls that are out there. All of those answers can happen if we can just get out of our own brains.

Steven Crane  35:38  
Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting. One of the things that I caught in what you just shared, was somebody asking, what do you do? Right? That is, that's probably one of the best icebreaker questions of all time, you know, you're sitting on a plane next to somebody or you're waiting on the line with somebody or whatever. What do you do? And so that is almost always meant to ask, what is your job? You know, what do you do for a living, right? And so I had this really interesting career sort of arc, where I knew what I wanted to do when I was 12. I went to school specifically for that, I got a degree in that, I got a job doing that. And all I've ever done is be an advertising writer. And I figured I'd work my whole career in advertising agencies or in house somewhere or whatever. And somewhere along the line, you run a natural course where what you think it's going to be, is, maybe not, it doesn't turn out that way, right? It's not all it's cracked up to be, or an industry changes or whatever. And at a certain point, it is, it's not feeding you anymore. All right. And so what what do you do for a lot of people becomes synonymous with Who are you and they get lost in their jobs. And they think that what they do is who they are, and you become sort of a slave to what you do. Now, when people ask me that, I've kind of gotten out of that rat race a little bit and escaped, and I'm a freelance writer who gets to make far more decisions about what work I take on and how I spend my time. So when somebody asks me, What do you do for a living? I try to answer that question with I live, right. What I do for a living is I live and work becomes a part of what I do. It's not, it's not who I am. It's not solely what defines me, I take care of my marriage, I take care of my kids, I take care of my community, I try, you know, I tried to be a good friend and a good husband and a good father and I live, right, try to appreciate what's around me every sense of that word. And I spend some time writing every now and then people. That's, you know, and unfortunate that, you know, my wife has a great job that allows me that flexibility as well. But yeah, what do you do for a living? I live?

DJ Stutz  38:13  
Yeah, what a great attitude. I think, in fact, we just I did a, I keep going back to the shows, we just did a show on mom guilt, and how working moms are doing that. And sometimes I think you're right, we do fall into that. I'm defined by what I do to earn money. And then I feel like I should be over here doing this other thing. But I'm compelled by two conflicting pieces. And I love that idea, though. I live, you know, what do you do? I live, I move forward. I build relationships, I change diapers. I do all these important things. And then I think the next question is, what does that bring you?

Steven Crane  39:03  
Right? And so a point of clarification, I hope that that doesn't come across as Cavalier at all, because I know that there are a lot of people who do not, who absolutely are. Their job is a function of their circumstances, and they have to work 80 hours a week, whether that's, you know, one, job two, three jobs, whatever. And I just to be clear, I could not be more profoundly aware of how blessed I am to have reached the place where through a combination of hard work and luck and fortune and blessings and relationships, whatever, that my circumstances allow me to live in such a way but yeah, it's it's something that you know, my hope for everybody would be that they would have that blessing whether it's through great blessing and advancement through their jobs or some people that their goals unreal. sickly, and they live well beyond their means. And we all can do a reality check there about what we actually need. And that helps you live more intentionally when you're not trying to afford things that you don't really need to be affording. Anyway. All right, so I hope process Cavalier. But yeah, it is a mindfulness that I try to live in about just work having a tropic place in perspective.

DJ Stutz  40:25  
Yeah, exactly. We work for those kids, or to help support with a spouse, you know, we're teaming together on the money front. But I think if you really look at it as, why am I doing this? Why am I going into the coal mines and doing this horrible, awful job that is highly dangerous? Why am I, the guy that is doing a job that might not be considered as well, that might be considered as tough work, dirty work, you know, all of that kind of stuff. And it may not be the job of their dreams, maybe it is, maybe they find joy in that, and good for them, right? Good for them. But even if it isn't the job of your dreams, and maybe it isn't something that you find satisfaction of doing, but you find satisfaction in putting clothes on the backs of your kids and, and that they're eating and that they're going to school. And so you switch your joy center, to what does this job bring me? What opportunities are now available? Maybe I have I have to work two or three, you know, for what, whatever circumstances as to why I have to do that. Because it varies so much. But doing this is bringing me opportunities. And here they are. And recognizing that again, going back to that gratitude piece, right? Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. So Steven, talk to us a little bit on how people can get your book and maybe reach out to you.

Steven Crane  42:00  
Yeah, absolutely. So how to get the book is pretty simple. It's a primarily available on And everywhere that you get print and eBooks it's called, I can appreciate that. So you can search for by title on Google, Amazon, lots of different places, and you'll find it, we also have what we call a community of gratitude. So if you search, I can appreciate that on Facebook, or Instagram or Twitter, he'll find communities there where you can connect with other folks who are trying to be part of appreciation nation, right, trying to grow community around being grateful for stuff. So we're pretty easy to find. And one of the thing I would love to mention is that in the true spirit of appreciation, one of the bigger challenges that we've had, or that I've had personally is I've had more than my share of experiences with loved ones being affected by cancer. And so in the spirit of appreciation, every copy of the book that sold generates a donation to an organization called cure childhood cancer, and of a young man who was profoundly inspirational to myself and my family members, like Bosman. And so yeah, we are trying to do a little bit of good. So in sharing those stories of appreciation and pass it down the line, that fun, just celebrated raising over a million dollars. Our efforts are so tiny drop in that bucket. But that fam that group of families has officially raised over a million dollars for childhood cancer research. And it's our honor and blessing to be part of that in some small way.

DJ Stutz  43:43  
What an amazing thing. I'm so glad you mentioned it. So I always end with the same question of my guests. And so I am wondering, how would you describe a successful parent?

Steven Crane  43:58  
A, maybe the best that you can do as a parent is to be present, to have a realistic expectation of what that role entails and to be full of time, and grace and kindness. It's kind of cheesy, but there's a saying that love is spelled ti me and just being there for your children. Again, the flexibility that I have for a job. I sometimes joke that I'm a glorified house husband because my wife says an awesome job. But it has allowed me to be hyper present for them. We both are, it's more atypical for a father, right. And so I have a blessing. I'm home all the time school calls, it's usually me. You know, I've coached both of them baseball for 10 years growing up and you know, had awesome experiences there. We've been blessed to be involved in foster care, which I think it will We'll probably talk about at length later. Yeah. So children, children are everywhere in our world. And it's such a joy. And it's about time, it's about being there for, for all of it for the good stuff, and for the bad stuff. And when you're there, just being there goes a long way, the confidence that your children take from them.

DJ Stutz  45:24  
I love it. And I think you're exactly right. So thank you so much. And even we will obviously talk later, you've got another story that is very important for people to hear, and a great idea that I hope, maybe can take a root and fly as we talk about the most needy of our kids, kids in foster care. So until the next time we talk it just thank you for being here.

Steven Crane  45:50  
My pleasure. Thanks for the time.

DJ Stutz  45:55  
Be sure to check the show notes to find Steve's information. And we also have a link to where you can get his book, and then hit the follow button to make sure you are getting in on the amazing episodes we have each week. 

And next week's guest is Debbie Essling. I know you know, raising kids is just expensive. But Debbie has the knowledge and insight to help us make plans and understand how to make the finances work. So check it out and see. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting!

Transcribed by

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Steven R Crane


Steven Crane is the author of the novel Staring at the Ceiling and more than a million words of advertising copy throughout his professional writing career. His other full-time jobs are husband and father, with other titles situationally including coach, volunteer, foster parent, mentor, and amateur pancake chef. Steven lives in Marietta, GA, with his wife Carie and their two sons. Search “I Can Appreciate That” (@ICATstory) on Facebook to join his Community of Gratitude and connect with Appreciators worldwide.