Monday, November 13, 2017

Take a Step Back

On one of the live Grateful Dead tapes that I used to have, the band comments that people are crowding too close to the stage.  To have the audience move back and make some general space, the band starts chanting, “1, 2, 3, take a step back.”  This seems to have worked, as there are other live records where they repeated this method.  If you have ever been to a concert with general admissions, as the band is playing and people are really into the music, they seem to gravitate closer to the stage.  They may not be intentionally rushing the stage, but more are drawn to it. They literally have to take a step back.

Basically, I am not an in your face type of person.  I am somewhat reserved, and slow to getting angry…but it does happen (as with most people).  When I get angry, or upset, it is usually after a series of events, a bad day, or someone has already gotten under my skin.  I do not look for confrontation, but sometimes, like my example above, it seems like I am drawn towards it.  That is not to make an excuse, but reality.

What I find is that usually, I get frustrated (instead of angry).  I have learned that people do not always listen, or, maybe better put, hear what they want based on the filters they have in place.  I can say something multiple times, but if my audience does not care, it is not important to them, or, they are completely distracted, they will not hear, no matter how hard I try, what I have to say.  Down the road, when what I have been saying, or in some cases, they have agreed with me, they realize it may affect them directly, they engage by either agreeing or, in many cases, pushing back.  The frustration happens, on my part, when I have put out the effort to communicate, taken steps to move something forward, and engaged other people, when my original audience decides to make a decision based on a single point and without “taking a step back” to look at the bigger picture, or deny they had prior knowledge.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “That’s life…ridin’ high in April, shot down in May…back on top in June…”  We have choices in life, either we let people (that we have no control over) dictate our outcomes, or we (re)direct our paths (things we have control over) to improve the chances of success.  Yes, sometimes we all need to take a step back.  People have short-term memories and forget the conversations they have had – I cannot control that.  People are self-interested and in general are concerned about themselves – I cannot forget that.  Align the path with others interests – I control.  Making sure to include everyone – I control. 

While we can take a step back, reassess the situation, readjust things and redirect our efforts towards our objective, it is important not to lose sight of our objects / goals.  Like any road we travel, there are times where a tree can fall in the way, a speed bump appears out of nowhere or we simply need to refuel.  Taking detours are part of being a driver.  When we fall, we can get up, brush ourselves off and move forward.  I can take a step back, catch my breath and move on.  Occasionally, like the Dead, it is OK to tell others to take a step back. 

Monday, November 6, 2017


Breaking news: Summer is really over in New Jersey!

I cannot believe this as I sit here typing in the beginning of November and this is my thought.  This simple thought was triggered by the fact that this past Sunday was our group’s final official round of golf.  The golf season where we play starts in April and ends in October.  In my mind, this is a warm weather sport, which means that golf season = summer.  Last round of golf = end of summer.  Weird, huh?  When I was young, I remember equating summer with no school and going to camp.  In retrospect, summers are now much longer than the July and August school break (or June to September for college age). 

As I had these thoughts, I began to realize how our perceptions change as we get older.  When I first learned to play golf, it was at Camp Echo Lark, where we had a golf-pro teach us how to play.  Golf was a game that both my grandfathers played, and at the time, the golf pro was about their age (or so it seemed from my point of view).  Since my father did not play, in my mind, golf was for older folks.  Fast-forward about forty years and some of my friends decided to learn the game.  After the first year that they played, I joined the group.  Our tee time has been early on Sunday mornings, so that when we are done, we still have the full afternoon. 

I am not a grandparent, and years younger than the age of my grandparents were when I first learned to play golf.  Truth is, we are up early, doing an outdoor activity, having some laughs and hanging with friends.  It is funny, my brother has played golf, we have friends that have children that play, but my perception did not change until I had the clubs in my hand.  I am not a good player, but I still go out (yes, I had to get over the fear of being a bad player).  I play with an old hand me down set, but I play.  And now, the clubs get put back into the garage for next year, for you see, summer is officially over…this year.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I Still Like Having a Birthday

A friend recently joked, “My next birthday I can move into an adult community…”  I laughed, because in my mind an adult community is where my dad lives in Florida.  Then I stopped laughing.  The person I was talking to is all of one week older than I am.  You know the communities that he was talking about…they go by such names as “55 and older” or “active retirement.”  Hold on – I am not one of them!  I am not thinking about retirement; I am not thinking about an “older” community, I am not that old!  Or, am I? 

Let me see…it might be time to take stock of some facts:

  • My kids are still kids – no, they are young adults
  • I have many more years of work – truth is, using the 32 years since I graduated college, means if this is the midpoint, I will be working until 87 (if so, hoping not out of necessity).
  • My years in the workforce are greater than the age of some of the people they hire at work.
  • I still have a lot of energy – yeah, one thing going for me
  • I still live an active (non-retirement) lifestyle

OK - I have to face the truth that this week I turn 55!  While I am thinking these thoughts, another friend recently commented on how he is beginning a plan to move towards retirement.  I cannot even imagine a time where I no longer get up and go to work.  For me, thinking about retirement would mean not only planning financially (i.e., some type of residual income), but also what I would do to fill my days.  I am neither the person who is fascinated with sitting on a front porch watching the grass grow nor that person sitting in front of the TV.  Fact is, there once was a day when retirement age was 65 (only 10 years away), or 62 for “early” retirement.  I might not think like a millennial, but I still have things to accomplish, goals to achieve, places to visit, adventures to experience and learning to do.

I am, however, at the point where deep down, it would be nice to one day reach the point when money is no object, I can travel when I want, volunteer when and where I want, be an inspiration to my descendants, help others and continue to live a meaningful life.  In truth, as I get older, I still want to make that childhood desire to live to be 100.  Over the last couple of years, I have changed some aspects of my life to be healthier, which should give me more time on this planet. 

So then, what will I do for my birthday / what is my goal for the upcoming year?  My goal, on this birthday, is to learn a new instrument, which I just purchased – the banjo (see picture).  This is an instrument I have always been curious about (the other instrument is the harp, but too big) and decided after being in Nashville that is it was time to give it a go.  While I can play a little bit on the guitar and read music, this 5-string instrument is not played like a guitar and has its own way of music writing method.  It will be fun posting updates (and easier on the eyes than my fitness updates were) during the next year.  Maybe, just maybe, instead of shocking your eyes, I can thrill your ears!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Last Undergrad Parents’ Weekend

“Can you come for Parents’ Weekend?” we heard Bec ask on a recent phone call. 

“I thought that you didn’t want us to come up this year,” I responded.

“Of course I do!”

While one of the rare times I was flicking through the television channels, I stopped and saw someone comment to his child (as best as I can remember it), “My life up to this point has been to keep you safe.  I have to remember that now that you are grown up, that particular job has ended.”  That sentiment captured how I felt about Bec’s Parents’ Weekend, and the same approach with Gab.  I no longer assume that they wanted us to visit, even though we always have GREAT times together.  So, of course, we were going…changing the plans we had to spend valuable time together as a family is a priority for us.

Debbie and I seem to be at a point in life where we are constantly busy.  I feel that, at times, I am trying to maximize the things that I am involved with, have little down time and work on planning ahead (i.e., fill our calendars in advance).  I remember a time in life where we could think of something we wanted to do, then go and do it.  Now, it is not unusual to have weekends scheduled 4 to 6 weeks in advance – it is crazy!  Nevertheless, when the girls want to get together, it is amazing how quickly that calendar frees up!

This Parents’ Weekend we did something for the first time – Debbie and I slept at Bec’s place.  It was exciting; Debbie got anew queen-sized blow up mattress for the event.  I got home from work (love those days when the commute is greater than 2 hours!  That is a topic for a different day), packed up, loaded the dogs into the car (yes, they got to go too) and off we went.  This was truly a family weekend.  Being the fall season, Bec scouted out a single activity for us – a local corn maze.  We love going to corn mazes, getting lost, and then finding our way out.  More times than not, we have been “ushered out” somewhere near closing time.  This year, the maze chosen was eight square acres, with high, thick corn growth.  We knew we were going to have a hard time.  As we set out, we realized that we had a secret weapon – two corn maze-sniffing dogs!  Who’d a thought?!?  Lucy Lou led the first leg and Sadie the second.  We whooped it up and did much celebrating once the dogs got us through safe and sound.  And the celebration continued as Bec pointed out that this was Lucy Lou’s birthday weekend (and 7 years as a Zeiler).
Come late Sunday, it was time to leave.  Yes, we left later than we should have; yes, we had a longer than needed goodbye; yes, it was almost midnight when I got to bed.  Would I do it all over again? YES!  Yeah for Parents’ Weekend, even if we did not participate in any school event.  We have been fortunate to spend time as a family – yet, now is the long stretch until we are all together again…the end of November, when I we can be thankful for our family coming back together.

Monday, October 16, 2017

On 26 Years of Marriage

Someone once asked, “What is the secret to a successful marriage?”  I do not remember if I answered immediately or not; but I am sure I realized that it is not one secret action to make it so.  I have known Debbie for 28+ years and at the end of the week, we will be married 26 years.  At this point, it is hard to recall a time in my adult life without her.  Yes, occasionally something will come up in conversation from the gap between college and meeting Debbie, but not often.  I am quite OK with my entire adult life being fully intertwined with Debbie.

As my anniversary approaches, it is a good time to reflect upon our lives together and, in a way, answer the question I was asked.  For me, I find that our successful includes, but is not limited to:

  • Being able to have shared experiences
  • Best travel partner
  • Raising children together
  • Supporting each other in bad times
  • Supporting each other in good times
  • Working together when faced with difficult decisions
  • Realizing that sometimes the sum of the parts is better / stronger than the individual parts
  • We are a team that works together
  • Love helps a lot, but is not the only thing
  • Spending time with my best friend
  • We are always there for each other
  • Having a shoulder to cry on, when needed
  • Realizing that we are different
  • Being able to share with each other, no matter how trivial it might be
  • Getting instant feedback
  • Knowing that sometimes we can do things separately
  • Appreciating each other’s activities
  • Creating memories together
  • Knowing that when we come home, we have each other and we are not alone
  • Looking forward to many more happy years ahead

Is marriage easy?  Like anything else, as the old adage goes, you get out what you put in.  Whenever you have someone else involved, you have to be considerate of them, include them in your activities and help support them.  That does take work and effort…at times.  After 26 fantastic years together, these types of things have become part of what we do; and it is not always fun and games.  When rough patches hit, we face them and we do that together.  As Debbie has said to me, “we are a team,” and I, personally, could not have asked for a better teammate!