Tag: Family (page 1 of 2)

My Year In Review – Numbers

The Bridge

Happy New Year! This is my first post of the year and sadly, my first post in about three and half months. I probably should have written a post saying I was going to take a break for a few months. To do whatever people do when they take breaks. My apologies for not doing that. But, I’m here now.

Like many people, I enjoy taking a moment to reflect on the previous year. A year in review if you will. Not so much a way of dwelling on the past, but as a way of learning and reminding myself that the positive events in my life greatly outnumber the negative events. Always. And for that I am grateful.

So, 2016 by a few numbers that were important to me…

1 – That would be for one year. On January 4th, I celebrated one year of not having a cigarette. I quit for many reasons. My wife. My kids. And selfishly, for me which is what my last year spare time efforts have been geared around: improving my health. So not really a full year in 2016 and more like 362 days but I’ll round it up and say a year.

2 – I had two meals on business trips that were not paid for by the company. The first meal I had was dinner with a wonderful friend and her family. What’s special is that she is a fellow writer and we were meeting in person for the first time after having “met” on the internet. The second meal was with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen since I was 13 years old. It was great to re-connect with him and meet his wonderful wife.

3 – I ran a 5K for Veteran’s Day in November. It was my first organized 5K in many years and my first one running as a non-smoker. I took 3rd place in my age group and my 13-year-old son took 3rd in his age group despite walking his. My wife walked it too.

3.85 – This was my eldest son’s GPA last semester in college. He’s in his second year of college studying to be a physician assistant. There are several classes that tend to weed kids in the program starting their freshman year. I believe this is one way a school maintains their national ranking along with their high percentage of students who pass their respective licensing tests after graduation.  He had gross anatomy last semester. Lecture and lab. Yes, I’m proud of him.

10 – How many Jack Reacher novels I read last year which brings me up to 19 of them. I did much more reading in 2016 than I did writing. I think I needed it.

13 – How many years it took my youngest son to become the tallest person in our family. I’m not sure what happened here but he had an amazing growth spurt this last year. He’s the tall one in the back.

16 – How old my 13-year-old acts. Scary.

21 – I had a surgery on December 21st. It was my first surgery and a huge part of why I focused so much on health in 2016. The surgery had been planned since the day I quit smoking and I was determined to go into it being in the best shape I could possibly be in. I was. I’m so thankful it all went as planned, I’m recovering nicely, and I get to return to work tomorrow.

24 – How many times I have said “Happy New Year” to my wife.

24 – How many tamales I ordered last year for Christmas. Something important to me considering that I live about 2200 miles away from where I grew up. A little bit of the Southwest celebrated here in NY.

40 – How many years in a row I have been working steady. I’ve worked for 43 but the first three years were mostly summer jobs. So, 40 is the number and therefore, how many years I have been paying taxes. I’ve worked steady since I was 16. Why is this relevant? During the heated political climate we’ve experienced here in the states as of late, there has been a level of both arrogance AND stupidity that I have not witnessed in my lifetime. On both sides. I made the mistake of reading one of the “trending” topics in social media one day that led me down a serious of tweets by people, mainly younger college age kids along with a few I would guess to be in their later twenties or early thirties, trying to make an argument that people over a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to vote. This is their world now and older people shouldn’t have a say or voice. That “older” age group included me so I wanted to respond to some of these comments but I didn’t. That would only feed the trolls. But it pissed me off.

I’d like to think that normally I am a “peace, love and light” kind of guy despite my internal ranting and un-politically correct type thought process at times. I’d like to think that age has granted me some sort of calmness and wisdom earned from years of life experiences. That knowledge reminding me to keep my mouth shut. In my mind though, I tweeted a response on the subject that said “I’ve paid taxes for 40 years. I’ve earned that vote. So STFU.” Yes…, no substance and somewhat of an attack and why I kept it to myself. See, even older people can be idiots for a moment and I had only just learned that new acronym. OK… my only words on politics. I promise.

63 – How many pounds I lost last year. That’s three bags of dog food worth. It sure makes running easier. And life.

100 – The company I work at celebrated their 100-year anniversary last year. Specifically, the factory and business itself which has operated under many names over those 100 years. We had a huge celebration event enjoyed by current employees, retirees, and a few local and state politicians. I was amazed at the historical aspect of this and felt blessed to be a part of it with my short ten years of working there.

219 – That’s how many calories are in my favorite beer. That’s not a good thing. This is what happens when one discovers craft beer IPAs.

311 – That’s how many days in a row I logged into My Fitness Pal and tracked my food and exercise during 2016. My last post was about what was going on around 200 Days. I’m at 319 today! Accountability.

472.5 – That’s how many miles I intentionally walked, hiked, or ran last year. These were miles tracked on Map My Run starting in April of 2016. Which communicates with Map My Fitness which also communicates with my Fitbit.  This stuff all confuses the hell out of me but it seems to all work. Tools.

1000 – That’s how many miles I intend to walk, hike, or run in 2017. Intentional miles or planned exercise as opposed to Fitbit miles. I think it’s doable based on the number of miles I was averaging toward the last part of 2016 before my surgery.

There are several of these challenges one can find on the internet. I signed up for this specific one because half the money the organizer raises from the registration goes to charity and there is a team effort on raising money for charities for each mile walked.

2017 – May your 2017 be filled with light, love, and laughter!

B.

Two Hundred Days

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“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

I think at one time or another, most people have set some sort of goal for themselves. The goal may be social related, health related, intellectual related, or any one of another few dozen subjects. The goal might be a group goal where there is a bit more accountability or it might be personal/private goal. Regardless of the type of goal or the situational circumstances for implementing the goal, I’m going to assume that most people attempt to come up with some sort of plan.

A plan. Most people can develop a plan. Does it have to be a perfect plan? No. It just needs to have an end goal. So we can develop another plan. We all experience plans both on a professional level and on a personal level. Not taking away from anyone’s planning skills but developing the plan is the easy part. Executing the plan is somewhat more difficult and what eludes many of us.

So people, with that theme in mind, this is my attempt at an inspirational and slightly motivational post. If it helps one person. Great.

I woke up Sunday morning and had my coffee with creamer. My wife and I were getting ready to go exercise down near the river. She was going to walk and I was going to run for a while then double back and walk with her. As I logged my drink into an app I use called MyFitnessPal, I was greeted with the following information:

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Two hundred days in a row. I made a plan and executed it, adapting and readjusting as needed.

For whatever reason, last year I gained weight. It’s probably the 4th or 5th time that has happened in my life and each time it has, I go through a short period of losing weight to get back to where I was. It has been somewhat easy for me to do that since I have participated in athletic activity most of my life.  A few years ago that changed for a number of reasons I don’t care to get into and as a result of that, I became the heaviest I had been in years resulting in a number of medical issues, most of which were being attributed to that extra weight.

If you’ve been reading me at all, you know I quit smoking in January of this year and have been on a hiking and walking craze for a while. Two hundred days ago today, I came up with a plan and executed it. It involved changing my eating habits and exercising, which really is not rocket science. Numerous meals throughout the day, increase in metabolism, the right nutrient balance, and get off my ass and exercise like I use to. Yes, I planned on a caloric deficit to do this but I planned to do it in a safe and nutritional way, hence the food and exercise tracking app to support it.

Over that two hundred days I have lost 52 pounds. That’s 52 pounds over 28 weeks. About 1.86 pounds a week. Slow and safe weight loss.To some people that might not seem like a lot and in reality it’s not but try strapping a 50-pound bag of dogfood to your back and see what toll it can take on your body just walking.

The fact that I’m bringing up weight loss as a measure of success is only for a means of what those 52 pounds mean. Those pounds mean my blood pressure has been normal for months now. Those pounds mean clothes I had put away now fit. Those pounds mean my back isn’t hurting everyday like it was. They mean I can walk or run without putting extra stress on an older body that has seen its fair share of abuse over the years. And no I won’t discuss the eighties. They represent hours of sharing in cooking duties to avoid the easy out of getting fast food. They represent hours of lifting weights and miles walked or ran. Those 52 pounds simply mean that I executed the plan. And I was rewarded for it.

A perfect plan? Who the hell knows but I can tell you it’s worked for me and that’s exciting. More importantly, I see excitement in the eyes of my wife, or my kids, or my dogs each time we are going to go do something involving physical activity. Just as importantly, I see excitement in my own eyes when I look in the mirror.

In doing this, I owe my family many thanks for participating in this journey. My wife has her own story and I’m loving watching her write it each day. She’s also shared her Fitbit friends with me. Long story but it makes the journey that much more accountable.

I think the journey has to be unique for each person. What I can tell you though is that it is doable and there are plenty of tools, resources, and people for support. I can also tell you that it gets harder each time to lose weight. My reality is that I will always have to always exercise which really isn’t a bad thing. I will also need to eat healthy foods. I read once that that isn’t such a bad thing either.

Now on to more exciting goals like reading four books this month or get a couple thousand words written this coming weekend.

B

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Warmth, Light, and More

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There’s something magical about a campfire. The dancing of flames that entertains us for hours in the evening, ending in bright orange and red embers inevitable fade into darkness. The added smell of burning wood to mix with camp coffee and whatever your pleasure might be grilling in the frying pan. The stories told, the confessions, the dreams discussed, the laughter, the tears, or the perceived silence. It all happens around a campfire.

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by a campfire. I have a fire pit in my backyard. You might have a fire pit in yours. I don’t consider that a campfire, although it could be. Set up a tent next to it, or a cot, or roll out a sleeping bag. Now it’s a campfire. Semantics, I know but relevant for this post.

Yes, there is a historic aspect to a campfire as well as a functional purpose but that’s not what’s on my mind this week. A campfire is definitely about warmth and does provide light but it’s the more that has me excited as of late – that more being camping. And the campfire is a centerpiece for camping.

I grew up camping. It’s one of the few memories I have of spending time with my father. We camped all over Southeastern Arizona. When I was older and moved on to the city, that camping moved to the deserts outside of Phoenix and to the high country along the Mogollon Rim near Payson.  I love camping, whether it is in my backyard, ten miles out of town in a high Arizona desert, twenty miles out of town in cactus laced deserts outside of Phoenix, five miles deep along the Highline Trail at the base of the Mogollon Rim, or any number of wooded places near my new home in New York. I love camping in an area that I might have driven to as much as I love camping in an area I might have backpacked in to. I simply love being outdoors.

A younger me backpacking the Highline Trail in AZ

A younger me backpacking the Highline Trail in AZ

When I was asked what I wanted for Father’s Day, I told my family I wanted to go camping. There were ulterior motives to my request of course. Hey, it was MY day. Camping meant hiking, relaxing, reading, and a campfire.

Like anything else people do these days, there are both real and so-called experts at camping. Just like there are experts in reading, writing, walking, running, exercise, cooking, etc., etc., etc. There are those that might suggest it’s not really camping unless… or it’s not really running unless… and so on. Expert advice from know-it-alls, elitists, and purists. Expert advice from the intellectually gifted as well as from the intellectually challenged. There is validity to knowledge and there is also bullshit and we become wiser when we can see the difference.

Want to be a reader? A writer? A walker (TWD excluded)? A runner? Or a camper? In the words of some out of the box thinking, cross functional leveraged synergistic MBA-speak marketing guru: Just Do It. But learn a few things first.

I would suggest that much like other activities, camping is a personal experience where there is no absolute right or wrong way to do it although there are guidelines and safety concerns people should learn about before camping to avoid a miserable experience. Read. There’s no lack of information on how to enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of websites and books available and the helpful information on food, water, fire, first aid, equipment, safety, and camping etiquette are worth knowing.

Per my Father’s Day request, last weekend we went camping. My son brought his girlfriend with us so we were a camping party of five. We opted to stay at a state park in Pennsylvania. It had fairly private campsites, a lake for both swimming and fishing, boat rentals, and miles of challenging trails to hike. Perfect.

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We set up our camp early Friday evening for what would become home for two nights. We are a tent family. With air mattresses, sleeping bags, outdoor chairs, a big cooler, and a Coleman stove for cooking. This hasn’t always been our camping repertoire. There was a time we cooked over the campfire. Now it’s only for s’mores and hotdogs. Sleeping bags have been a constant but we have evolved over the years when it comes to comfort. I can remember sleeping on the ground with no tent as a kid. Then on a mat years later and with a tent. Now, my back aches so when we can, we use an air mattress. I think my wife’s back aches too. Age does that to you. Change is good when there is benefit to it.

Lyman Lake

Lyman Lake

Saturday my wife and I were going to take a hike by ourselves. Walking through the campground on our way to the trail-head, I took time to notice other campers and their method of camping. There was someone sleeping in the back of their pickup, numerous tents, pop-up campers, and camper trailers.

I also might have caught a glimpse into my possible future and it excited me. It was something I’ve never really noticed before, or maybe just haven’t given it much thought. You know, the how I will or could spend those days down the road where I (better) get a government issued check each month and strategic withdrawals from my ailing 401K.

I noticed couples who had camps setup in manner that said they were there for longer than a night. Older couples who obviously didn’t have to return to work on Monday. Some were simple camps while others were more elaborate. All had campers with real beds and shade awnings over the door. I bet their backs ache too. Some had little signs that had their names and where they were from. Some had screened enclosures around their picnic table. Some had carpets outside their camper doors. All had comfy chairs and I swear every time I walked by at least half of them were reading. And they all had campfires.

We are going camping  again this month. For three nights this time. I’m going to practice for that day when I have a sign at my camp that has our name and where we are from.

A campfire is just tinder, kindling, and firewood. On fire of course. Warmth, light, and so much more.

View from camp

View from camp

B

All photos courtesy of me

Walk This Way

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“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

Like many families, we try and incorporate exercise and fitness into our daily lives. Daily might be a lofty goal, bi-daily might be a bit more realistic. We’ve been going to the gym twice a week for a nice balance of cardio and strength training and we also enjoy taking a walk in the evenings. Usually that walk includes three dogs and at least two of us leading them up the road behind our house then back down the road. I say up the road because it is literally up. As in uphill. The dogs love it and we get in about thirty minutes of exercise. We take in beautiful scenery and keep a running count of deer we see each evening.

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Road behind my house

We have a river that runs through town. Although known for great fishing, the river also has a hiking trail along one side of it that starts near a park and extends for miles toward the Pennsylvania border. I’ve found that I use this river quite often in my writing.

The Park

The Park

For walking and/or running, I have an app on my phone that tracks both distance and route in addition to letting me know how many calories I’ve burned. This is important and is the decision maker on whether or not I have a beer with dinner. Last weekend, we drove in to town and did a short walk along the trail and ended up with a little over 2 miles of walking.  Having the day off on Monday, we returned and ended up walking down to a bridge and back and found we had walked 3.44 miles. Although I’ve both ran and walked this distance before, it was a first for my wife. Her first 5K.

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I’ve always enjoyed walking and/or hiking. There are times when I have done this on my own, enjoying the solitude while allowing my mind to both relax or wander off in thought. There are other times where I have enjoyed the company and conversation of being accompanied on a walk.

Yesterday, my wife and I decided to drive into town. Out intent was to walk another 5K along the trail. We were also celebrating my not having had a cigarette in six months. We ended up walking 7.4 miles. Technically her first 10K and then some. Mine too. I earned enough calories to drink two beers last night.

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The simplicity of walking. Something I’ve done for my entire life yet feel like I’m doing it again for the first time each time we take a walk.

B

Photo’s are all courtesy of me… my attempt at cell phone photography

 

 

 

An Affair of Sorts

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Something Different This Way Comes

Two weeks ago started off like any other week. Off to work on Monday after a relaxing weekend that included checking out a vacant old farmhouse we’d noticed a few weeks earlier while out driving around country roads. There was information on one of the windows designating the home as a Fannie Mae property and gave contact information which I jotted down and followed up on once we got home. We made arrangements to see the home and property on Wednesday.

Although I saw the home and property as having potential for the cheap price, my wife was seeing the amount of work it would take to get the place up to code. She was right and we abandoned further thought on the house. That house anyway. We wondered what type of other homes were available in the county so we jumped online and started looking.

It’s not that we aren’t happy with our own place. We live out in the country along a mildly traveled county road about six miles out of town. We have a few neighbors nearby, almost an acre of land, and we have beautiful woods all around us. Sounds wonderful to most people and it really is. Our house just needs some minor upgrades and a little TLC on the normal wear and tear a house goes through. The lazy part of us thought there might be something better available. Something with more land and less things wrong.

We found a property online that was a similar distance out of town but on the northeast side. Not much different landscape than where we are now, which is mainly wooded hills, country roads and hollows, but the property had more land. A lot more land. My wife was off work on Friday so I took a half day off and we made arrangements with the same realtor from Wednesday night to view the property at 1:45.

That’s when our adventure began.

Almost Off the Grid

Fifty plus acres with a cabin and a pond the listing said. Not only a great hunting camp but a place to take the family for a getaway the listing said. Living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, sleeping loft, wired for a generator, and a wood burning stove the listing said. A covered front porch with a wonderful view of the pond and hills the listing said. Paradise.

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We met the real estate agent at the bottom of a dirt road that would lead us up a hill. We followed her up the road through very thick woods. There were two small clearings along the rough dirt road, both with homes on them. The first one looked like squatters lived there and  the second, somewhat nicer, was near near the gate to the property we were going to see. The gate was guarded by a dog that must have belonged to the owners of the that house.The realtor got out, unlocked the gate, and we all drove through avoiding the dog that was still barking too loudly and acting as though he wanted to bite the tires. We drove forward about two hundred or so yards then hung a left and drove down a grass road canopied by trees to the cul-de-sac that might be ours someday. Actually, scratch that. Cul-de-sac is not a country property term.

Cabin

Let’s take a closer look.

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We gathered in front of the cabin and soaked in the surrounding area.  There was a pond directly in front of the cabin and I already had purchased a comfy chair in my mind for the front porch. Or maybe it was a porch swing. We noticed three deer peeking through some cover in the woods beyond the pond.  We continued our three hundred and sixty degree view from in front of the cabin. There were two small shed looking buildings about thirty yards away and an outdoor grill similar to what you might find at a park.

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The realtor had moved on to unlock the cabin door after we all stepped onto the porch. We walked into the cabin first and instantly fell in love. There were wooden walls everywhere and stained beams overhead. There was a small kitchen to the right with a breakfast bar. A living room to the left with a large wood burning stove in the corner. There were two very small bedrooms, and a ladder to a sleeping loft above the two bedrooms. Six hundred square feet. I’ve lived in apartments larger than that in my younger years. But, size didn’t matter here. Our current home is about eighteen hundred square feet and our bedroom is four hundred square feet with a covered porch off the back. And a deck. None of that mattered at the moment.  We had already built on additional footage in our minds and added another bedroom. We were now looking at this cabin like we were going to move into it. As in permanently. My wife and I were absolutely sold on the cabin as a home.

Well, almost.

We then started noticing little things.  There was no refrigerator. There was a stove, run off a propane tank outside of the cabin.  And the sink had no running water. That was because the barrel outside that collected rain water and runoff from the gutter happened to be empty and that is what supplied water to the cabin. No running water. Wait a minute. No running water. And where is the bathroom? Or refrigerator?

The two sheds outside? Yes, one was an outhouse. The other a shed was for wood and a generator. The generator was not a secondary option for power. It was the option. There was no septic system, no electricity, and no running water. Maybe not sold now.

We walked back outside and down passe our SUV and stared at the pond. A beautiful pond that had been stocked with fish.

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We walked back up to the porch and took it all in. My focus again back to the pond and the surrounding woods and the hills beyond that. And then the realtor spoke and mentioned something about envisioning a writer sitting here on the porch working on his or her next story. Wait, what? A writer? I’m a writer, and yes, I see it too and thankfully, or so I thought, so did my wife. Back to sold. We might even be able to enjoy the seventeen year cicada invasion from this porch.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh how I wish.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but I’ll do my best.

A Ride, Dinner, Home Depot, and More Wandering

We took some paperwork from the realtor, thanked her again, and with visions of our potential new home clouding our normal 20/20 vision, we got in our vehicle and slowly turned around glancing quickly to the pond on our right and quickly back over to our left to look at our cabin one last time. Our potential new home.

No septic system, no water, and no electricity. No problem.

We estimated the distance from the cabin down the grass road before we hung a right to head back down hill. Two hundred yards I guessed. Then another two hundred yards to the gate and the still barking dog and a pole with power I now noticed. So four hundred yards post to non-existing post near cabin and another fifty to get power to house. Four hundred fifty yards.

We had’t even made it down the dirt road to the county road when words started flying between my wife and I.  It was 2:45 and we had been at the property for an hour. We were discussing downsizing. All our stuff would not fit in a small cabin. We’d have to store some of it and get rid of some of it. Mental note to get a price on a storage unit. After our tires came into contact with pavement, my wife suggested a trip to Home Depot. To dream. Get prices. Why not I thought. We had no obligations the rest of the day with our youngest  at orchestra camp. Not band camp, orchestra camp. As for our eldest, he was at home reading and can fend for himself, you know, being a college boy and all.

We decided to head to a Home Depot in a small city about thirty miles away.

During the first few miles we decided we could live with a generator short term. We could do laundry in town at the laundromat. We could get by with an outhouse during the summer. And we could fill that large drum with water. This could work. We could even put up an outdoor shower. Who would see us anyway?

A septic system, water, and electricity. Alright, maybe a problem but workable. At least through summer and most of fall.

We’d have to build a bathroom and have room for a refrigerator. The bedroom adjacent to the kitchen could be a bathroom. The boys could just sleep in the loft. Our oldest is only here during the summer and breaks anyway right? We’d get a small refrigerator to start. A dorm style one. My wife added that to our list for Home Depot.

During the drive, she started searching for prices on her phone. First, was a septic system. She found prices varied from $2,500 to $7,500. She also searched for prices on putting in a well.  The realtor mentioned a couple of natural springs on the property, not that I would know how to tap water from there. But, there is a pond so there must be water. Well prices could be around $10,000. We also have friends who have had this done so it can’t be rocket science but we could assume the worst of course. You know, for budgetary purposes. We’ll figure $20,000 to be safe for septic and water.

We weren’t fifteen miles into our drive and we had tentatively solved two problems, or at least had an idea of a plan. Septic system and water would be the most important. Electric could wait provided we got a generator. We decided to have dinner first and I would get online and come up with an estimate for power. Both a short term plan and long term plan.

During the remainder of the drive we added on a larger bedroom and expanded the kitchen. We also changed the bathroom to a laundry room and added on a bathroom to that. This would expand the back of the cabin and the left side where there was already a deck. It’s only money right?

We reached Applebees, ordered our meals and drinks, and started looking into the long term plan for power. I found out quickly it’s done by feet and not yards so my four hundred fifty yards now became one thousand three hundred fifty feet. It also became anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 depending which site I wanted to believe. I wanted it to be the cheaper site of course.

Maybe power from the grid would have to wait until year two. 57a5f094-d358-46df-9266-6d33da0c0f69_1000After dinner, we went to Home Depot. We started on the far left side of the store that conveniently had generators. Perfect. I grabbed a worksheet that helped calculate how much generator we would need, started a new note on my phone, and entered a model, size, and price. We then found a mini frig somewhere between a dorm frig and a normal frig and entered a price. We continued this exercise on each aisle looking and writing down prices for: vanity combos, vanity mirrors, faucets, shower heads, shower stalls and tub, toilet, and an electric water heater. As we progressed along each aisle, I also noticed our tone was changing. We were not only pricing these items for the cabin but making comments regarding how nice our current bathroom would look with a new vanity combo and mirror, or how nice it would be to add a storm door with a slide down window revealing a screen to the door on our porch.

By the time we got through the doors, storm doors, building supplies, and deck material, we were now pricing things for current projects we have talked about doing to our home.  Quick math said the additional money we would have to spend to do all these things for a new property would be foolish. Fun but foolish, and not part of my ten plus years to retirement plan. I won’t even get to the discussion on how we only have two vehicles out of four that could have made it up the hill to the cabin. We’d have to get rid of the Fusion and small truck and get another 4WD. More money, more money.

Our ride home from home depot had a different tone than the ride there. What were we thinking? We talked about it and brought up the idea of looking at houses in town. Close to people. Real neighbors. After an orchestra performance for my youngest on Saturday, we spent the remainder of the day looking at houses. For this, we included the kids. We did the same thing on Sunday. There were some beautiful houses within walking distance to my youngest son’s school and downtown. Some nicer than ours and some about the same. But with each house, we were finding we’d have to add a deck, or a fence for our dogs, or this or that. Still, this exploring was both fun and emotionally draining at the same time.

Not surprisingly, by Sunday evening we ended up right back where we started: our home, with all her faults and beauty and familiarity. I think we’ll put some effort into her this summer. I still have a supply list and prices on my phone.

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Our Home

 Photos courtesy of me, Pixabay, and Home Depot

 

 

 

 

If We Were Having Coffee #14 – 8 ½ Months

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer your today. I have a breakfast blend, a butter toffee, a house blend (somewhat dark), and a caramel pecan roll flavored coffee. For creamers, I have French Vanilla and Italian Sweet Crème. I’m going with the house blend and Italian Sweet Crème. Let’s head out to the back porch and enjoy the morning shade. It’s uncharacteristically cold out this May morning and the forecast rumor is snow but coffee will surely warm us.

I haven’t had a coffee share post in a few months, instead opting to read a few each weekend. Since my thoughts today are related to a coffee share post 8 ½ months ago, I though it only appropriate to drop by this venue for today’s post.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how lost I felt 8 ½ months ago after saying goodbye to my oldest son when we dropped him off at college. At the time, I was bouncing back and forth between how excited I was for him and selfishly wallowing in the sad reality that is just one recurring stage of parenting; continually letting your child go.

Through this forum, I had received many kind words of support, both from people who have been there before and from those going through the same thing. It helped and I am forever grateful.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it wasn’t all that bad. We had daily texts and were able to see him numerous times over the last 8 ½ months. There were school breaks, weekend shopping trips, and a few times we drove down just to take him out to eat. There was the occasional phone call or FaceTime. It worked. One hundred and twenty miles away was not that far. We survived. And grew. All of us.

We picked him up at school Friday May 6th. He was both excited to come home for the summer and sad to leave a new friend who would not be returning next semester. We moved him down there in our car and moved him back home in a new SUV. He asked if it was “ours” which tells me everything is the same despite being different.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we got his grades a few days ago. I could brag. Really, I could. Suffice it to say I am proud of him along with all he accomplished and figured out his first year in college.

I suppose I should have expected nothing less. In the meantime, we are going to enjoy the next 3 ½ months.

Until next time…

B

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Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part-Time Monster

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay and my son

Do, or do not. There is no try.

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“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

For anyone seeking inspirational guidance or motivation, there is no shortage of information out there to help an individual or group pursue a desirable goal or achievement. That information may come in the form of famous quotes, one liners from movies, written works, slogans, or music. There is also no shortage of individuals or groups willing to offer guidance and/or motivation. They might be professionals (speakers, authors, educators, etc.) who receive a fee for their actions or they might be family members or friends seeking nothing more than the enjoyment of helping or watching someone succeed. Those same friends or acquaintances might even be on the same journey or endeavor. Your running club, the gang at the gym, your writer’s group, or your classmates. There is also a third person offering guidance or help. Yourself. Wait, that’s the first person. And yes, that’s my attempt at writer humor.

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“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” – Thoreau

I’m thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. I have numerous friends at any given time trying to elevate their lives and I am always respectful and supportive because at any given time, I am usually trying to do the same. Currently, I’m writing, refocused on my health, and recently agreed to pursue a professional certification at work. The writing has no end goal other than finish, then start the next, then finish, and repeat. The focus on health is for no other reason than I want to be around for some time. The certification is another story. I don’t need the certification. I have many years of experience, a degree, and have always taken on more responsibility than originally asked. I’m at that stage of my career that is comfortable and secure provided I perform and remain relevant. Due to some added job responsibilities, I felt I needed to study up on some new things as well as refresh my memory on others and in doing so, was offered an opportunity to take a course leading to certification. I have plenty of motivational sources for writing and my health but the certification effort will be solo and with that, so will my motivational source. No worries there.

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I’m also thinking motivational speak this weekend because I am trying to be there for my son. Last August we were dropping him off at college and here it is already finals week. His first year of college is almost over with and I have been sending him short texts offering words of encouragement as he crams for finals. That is probably all I can do at this point. He’s endured hours of motivational speak from both me and my wife. I say motivational since most of it was meant to be encouraging but some of it was more facts of life type speech. I won’t call them lectures. More of a life talk and that is always harder but my wife and I have not wanted to sugarcoat anything with our kids.

Fifty percent of the kids he graduated with last June that are going to college, will not finish. At his orientation for college last year, the staff let us know that approximately twenty percent of the freshman class would not return for their sophomore year for a number of reasons. Facts of life. Through research of our own, along with what my son has learned this year from others, there are certain classes in the program he is in that will weed out students from continuing in the program. After next week he will have completed four of them. There is another critical one next semester but I’m confident he will do OK. He is on an academic scholarship that demands a certain GPA be maintained in addition to being in a program that demands a specific GPA be maintained for all classes taken related to the program. My son is well aware of this and well aware of the consequences should he not meet those requirements. The program GPA is what it is and there is nothing mom and dad can do about that one. The financial scholarships are what they are and cover a good portion of his costs. The rest is being paid by student loans and Mom and Dad. We’ve made it clear that we will not make up the difference should he lose his scholarship. This is a partnership in my mind between the school, the government, my son, and my wife and me and there are expectations for each vested party. One of those Dad things I say to him all the time is there is no practice life. This is it and what you do or don’t do counts. Or maybe I’m repeating something I heard in a movie or song, or something I read or some other life lesson I try to share hoping he makes the connection and seriousness of it all. That and reminding him to enjoy himself and make memories in the same conversation. It all seems to be a contradiction of sorts.

My son gets all this. He budgets and balances his time. He reaches out for help if he needs it and he crams when he has to. That impresses me. No safe zone, no sugarcoat, no bullshit. He is realizing something now that takes others years to even conceptualize. His hard work in high school only gave him the opportunity he has now in college. Nothing more. The rest is up to him and only him and that demands more hard work.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes or passages I could share with him this weekend. Most of them I have already shared. My personal favorite is something many attribute to Nelson Mandela but is actually a passage from a book by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” 

In classic tasteless fashion, as can be so prevalent in my household at times, I opted for words of encouragement that were not so profound but still offered some motivational insight:

“Time to nut up or shut up.” – Tallahassee

Photos courtesy of Pixabay and GoErie

 

 

 

‘Tis The Season?

The poetry of earth is never dead.”  – John Keats

As we begin our yearly routine of flirting with open windows, moving cushions back to our patio furniture, grocery shopping with grill friendly meals on our list, and all the other yearly activities associated with the welcoming of spring, I’m sad to see winter go.  I thought about this last night as we are a few weeks into our nightly walks up the hill and back.

Growing up in the southwest, the seasons were blurred. Although the desert has a beauty of its own any time of year, I don’t think I ever had a real appreciation for seasons like I do now living in the northeast. Maybe I just never noticed Arizona seasons. Or maybe I’ve just grown and would have a newfound appreciation should I ever find myself living there again.

But here, in the now, I am enjoying seasons. All of them. Including winter.

Each year I listen to so many people complain about the cold or the snow. Maybe it’s still novel to me but I embrace it. Yes, there is a beauty to snow but there is also a beauty to everything it brings. The beauty of a cardinal and how it stands out against a backdrop of snow. I never saw a cardinal in Arizona. I take that back, I did. On the football field.

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Winter is the welcome sound of chickadees when I take the dogs out to do their business in the yard. Winter is warmth from a fire or heater. Or maybe a kitchen after baking seasonal deserts.  Winter is the flashing lights spraying my bedroom ceiling at 5:30 in the morning, immediately followed by a beeping alarm as the snow plow  backs up in front of my house. Winter is family and cabin fever, binge reading and binge television series watching. Winter is extra blankets, extra clothes, extra time for the car to warm up. Winter is the hope for a snow day that I never get at work but my kids happily except when we get the pre-alarm, recorded call from their school (which still makes me wonder which school official is getting up at 4:00 to decide this). Winter is Christmas songs, cheesy Hallmark movies, and the twinkle of lights seen in three different rooms as they make bank shots off a mirror in the middle of our living room.  Winter is so much. And I’ll miss it.

But now we have spring and I’m excited all over again, like I will be in summer, and of course in the fall. This excitement never ends and with each new season I find one more sound, or one more memory association to file away with that season.

‘Tis the season? ‘Tis always the season.

Grasshoppers and crickets. Keats was on to something.

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photos courtesy of me and Pixabay

 

If We Were Having Coffee #12 – The Write Place

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a Kona blend. Since many of you don’t drink coffee, I also have tea. What kind of tea you ask? The kind you drop into a cup and pour steaming hot water over. I need to learn more about tea. As for me, I’ll have a dark roast with pumpkin spice creamer since it feels more like an October morning than it does a September morning.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we got to see my son last week for his birthday. We traveled to see him at his college, took him shopping, and then went out to dinner. We brought him home for the weekend since we had a three day weekend. Coming home with us was a last minute decision on his part but he wanted to get back to school on Sunday afternoon versus Monday so he’d have a day and a half to study. We also took his girlfriend with us. When he first got home and went upstairs to his bedroom, he came down and complained that his room was a mess. My wife reminded him that he left it that way but she still felt bad.

He got to spend a little time with us, time with his girlfriend, and time with some of his friends. We took him back Sunday afternoon, along with a few supplies he needed and got to see what his dorm room looked like after a few weeks on his own. His desk area looked academic, as did his dorm mate’s. The rest of the room was organized with the exception of their beds. Apparently college students don’t make beds. I helped unpack the few supplies we got him and my wife made his bed. He walked us downstairs and we played a quick game of pool, hugged goodbye and my wife and I were home by 5:30. I think that is the first time I have ever played pool with my son. I enjoyed it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Monday was a lazy day for me. I wrote a post then read a book the remainder of the day. Not so for my wife. She also had Tuesday and Wednesday off and had decided she was going to clean upstairs. We have two bedrooms upstairs, one being my son’s and the other being used as my wife’s “woman cave” for scrap-booking and crafts. There is also a small landing outside the two bedroom doors that has been filled with junk for years it seems. I seldom go up there. Her mom came over to help and I graciously stayed out of their way (hid is more like it).

Although my youngest has hinted that he wanted to move upstairs, we want to leave things the way they are. I think it’s important that my oldest has his room to come home to on breaks and summers. He’s dealing with enough change.

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, my wife was very excited to show me upstairs. My son’s room was immaculate, her scrap-booking/craft room was organized, and the landing was clear with one exception – it had my son’s desk. Really it’s my desk that I gave him a few years ago to give him an area to do homework in his room. The right place. It helped him develop good study habits.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my family has been very supportive of my writing. I haven’t had a designated writing place or an office like I’ve had in other homes we’ve had over the years. I’ve been writing while sitting in a recliner, sitting at the kitchen table, sitting at the dining room table, or sitting outside on our deck.

My wife’s gift to me Tuesday evening was a spot to write. The right place. The write place.

I freaking love it!

B

My Desk

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

I Wish I Knew Then …

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I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.

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* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,

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