I spent much of a few weekends ago trying to comfort my little 12-year-old girl.  A lot of tears were spilled and even more moments of quiet introspection. All around the topic of other girls bullying.

Middle school is hard.  Hard for everyone; from the parents to the kids.  Now having my 3rd child go through this time in their life, I can say in no uncertain terms that it is far harder for girls then for boys.

I am at a bit of a loss as to why. Middle School age girls can be mean; they can be cruel.  I know that my daughter is not perfect, far from it.  As she is growing up, she is pushing her own boundaries, trying to find who she is (and at times driving her parents nuts).  That means a lot of arguments and testing of wills at home.  Rules are not followed and at times she is either sassy or just plain obstinate.  I am sure that she is not always an angel with her friends either.  In other words, I expect she can be mean at times as well.  But I think (and hope) that she realizes that she can be hurtful and soon thereafter regrets it. When she does fight with her friends, she seems to quickly move on from whatever issue caused the rift and all is forgotten.

So why are girls so much harder then boys? Why are they cruel?  The way they are brought up certainly can be part of it, but I don’t think that is the case the majority of the time.  I am starting to wonder if it is their desire to be liked by other girls.  I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have seen what girls do to ensure they are liked and appreciated by other girls. And I am at a loss why they are so different then boys of a similar age.

The best example I have seen recently is watching boys and girls getting ready to go to a friend’s house.  When boys get ready, they will gather some things together, throw them in a bag and head out. Girls on the other hand, will spend an inordinate amount of time choosing what clothes to wear, fixing their hair and making sure their makeup is “perfect”.  Then once they are all done, they will basically do it all over again because to was not as they envisioned it would be.

Do their friends really notice?  I think for boys the answer is easy: no.  But girls are not as clear.  My sense is that no, girls don’t notice as much as they might think.  Sure, they will compliment each other; but will they think less of their friends if they don’t look all jazzed up? No matter how I try and point this out to my daughter, I don’t think they message is heard.

Why is that? My guess is that I am male and a dad and I am so far from cool it is not even funny. In her eyes, I either don’t know or can’t understand.

After our “weekend”, I struggled what to do.  This is not the first time this subject has reared its ugly head.  But I was hoping she would learn how to walk away from these types of girls or how to manage the situation.  But based on the amount of pain, I knew that was not working. So at 7:40am on a Monday, I walked into school (with daughter in tow) and spoke to the 7th grade school counselor. I knew that the school would care as much about this subject as I do.  After spending time with the counselor, walking though what had occurred, I was pleased that my belief was not misplaced.

A plan was put into place with specific actions that needed to occur on both my daughter’s’ part and the counselor.

We shall see how the reminder of this year plays out.  I can only hope that she will learn who her friends truly are.  And realize that success is not how many friends you have but the quality of those friends.

Look at the face above? Who would want to bully someone like that? As a father, I want to guard and protect my baby(ies).  But I also know that this is part of growing up.  No one should have to experience pain.  But unfortunately, I believe that unless you experience this pain, you won’t know how to handle it in the future.

And that is kind of lousy.

18 Years In The Making

I always knew this day would come; but I never knew how much I would long for more time.

For the last 18 years, we have protected, guided and raised James.  But in the next few days, the time will come to let him move onto the next part of his life: College.  James will be attending Saint Anselm College.  It is a great school and one that we (his parents) think is a wonderful fit for him.  But it is also far away: New Hampshire. And while it is in the same time zone, it is a 17 hour drive from home! So I guess it goes without saying that he won’t be coming home to do his laundry.

I know that we are not the first parents to have their kid move far from home, but it is still hard.  Much harder then I thought it would be.

As I thought about these last 18 years, I realized that it has been the little things that made him into the young man he is today.  Yes, those big life lessons are important, but it is how we do things day in and day out as parents that shape and mold our children.  I did not realize it growing up, but as I become an adult, I found that so many of my mannerisms and my tonal inflections in my speech patterns were so similar to my own father.  As James has grown up, I see a lot of me in him.  And that makes me smile and proud to be be called his father.

Jassy Day

Every year, January 23rd is a special day in our house.  That is the day we celebrate “Jassy Day“.  In other words, January 23rd is the day when Jasmine became our daughter.  In the past I have shared the story about how Jas came into our life; but when I started to think about what to write this year, I was unsure what I should say.  As I thought about my quandary, I asked Jasmine what I should do; she looked at me and then simply asked me to move out of my chair.  She proceeded to sit down and start to type.  I had no idea what she was doing or what she was going to say; but I let her go.

Below are her thoughts, straight out of her head and unedited (ok, maybe I fixed a few spelling mistakes).  She shared with me after she wrote this that she wants people to know about her and what is important to her. I can’t disagree, and truth be told, I don’t think I need to write anything else, she seems to have covered the key areas.

Here are Jas’ words:

“Jasmine has a power inside that comes out and shoots me with it and the power is called love.  We first got Jasmine when she was about 4, we found her in a little abandoned boat. So we grabbed her and thought, wow, what a cuttey pie, let’s adopt her.

In my world January 23, is the day she came to spend the rest of her life with us and became our daughter.  Jasmine loves so many things, she likes Christmas, Valentines day, blow pops, dogs, cats and Jasmine loves going to her hometown.  Jasmine enjoys it when we go out to the movies or watches them at home with the family. She enjoys a good laugh. Jasmine gets along well with her brother Will, she enjoys a good laugh from her brother James, and she enjoys hanging out with her dog Tesla. Jasmine and Tesla get along great; she will never let anything separate their love from each other.

Jasmines favorite place to go is to her hometown Chicago and to California to see her Grandparents. She loves hanging out with her family members, she loves going to Disneyland with them, going to the park, and also just having a fun relaxing time. She enjoys hanging out with her two cousins Daniel and Betsy; they also give her a good laugh.

Jasmine has her own signature moto. Her main quote is LAUGHING MAKES U LIVE BETTER\her favorite ice cream is MOOSE TRACK\and last but not least her fav sport  is CHEER and DANCE

Jasmine really wants to be a cheerleader and a professional ballet dancer, mostly every day she will get her tights and leotard on and practice dance moves and dances in point shoes. She feels special when she wears point shoes, she even practices with her toes when she is just in boots or tennis shoes. She always says that dance is the most fantastic thing there is, besides my family of course……”

Happy Jassy Day everyone!

One Percent Change

As I was first starting my career, I had heard of a philosophy that my employer had: “Make small incremental changes.  Don’t just look for the big ideas.  Think small and be effective.”

That philosophy was called 1% Change. Simply put, she thought that if we look for ideas that are easy to implement, inexpensive, and done without a large effort (in time and resources) we could make a significant difference long term.

It took a number of years to sink in, but I realized that she was right.  Too many times, I (and many other people I was around) looked for the next big idea rather than what they could do today and gain from.  Yes, big ideas are important, and yes, big ideas need to happen.  But not every idea has to be big. Sometimes simple is simply better.

If you own or run a business, what can you do today to make a difference in your revenue or expenses? Not big, but small; and when I say small, I mean it.  Like 1% small.   Back in 2002 I owned a real estate investing company; My business partner and I did well but were always looking how we could do better. Our offices were located on the 2nd floor of  a retail strip center and we had almost no walk in traffic.  Our offices were located in that center for our convenance only.  To be honest, I am not sure who came up with the idea, but we decided to spend $5,700 on an exterior awning. The design was created, a vendor chosen and within 2 weeks or so, we had an awning.

Within a few days of installation, we started to see an increase in calls to our offices and we had 1 to 2 people knocking at our door each day.  That idea led to a solid increase in opportunity for us almost immediately, and in the end, more revenue.  That awning taught me to think small and to think consistently.

Air Travel, Hotel Living & Speaking Spanish

Earlier this week, I  took my last fight of 2014 (Thank goodness it is for fun and not work!).  As that trip comes closer, a few thoughts come to mind:

I travel a lot; Maybe not as much as everyone, but if I were to guess, more than 97% of the rest of America. Delta tells me that I have done about 100,000 in this year alone.  As you read that last sentence, you will most likely fall into one of two groups: “Wow, look at all of the free trips you can take” or “Bummer, you missed Diamond”.  For me, it just means I get to board first, sit closer to the front and will have overhead space for my carry ons.

In reality, there really are only two groups that are happy with that number above:  Delta Airlines and Hilton Hotels (my family is not even close to being in the top 10 of “happy groups”).  When I travel, I am as loyal as I can be. I certainly won’t do it to my detriment or if the price is way out of whack.  But, like most people, I want to get points, earn status and have the opportunity to enjoy life (with my “upgrades”) and of course, with my family.  Since the first frequent flyer program was put into place in 1972, it has been a huge success to not only the travel industry, but also to the traveler. Of course, Delta and Hilton want me to use their services 100% of the time, and by offering these inceptives it sure doesn’t hurt. So I will take what I can get when I travel.

But truth be told, for me after all of these years of traveling, I just want to get home.  Yes, I like the perks, I love the upgrades, but I like sleeping in my own bed next to my wife and kissing my children goodnight more.

For a number of years, I used to fly into the Rochester NY airport fairly frequently.  I always caught the last flight of the day out of Atlanta so I could start my day bright and early and try to get as much in as I could.

Flying Time

I always knew that with three kids, time would run together and I would be an official carpool parent for an extended period of time.  When my oldest son, James, was first born, people said time would fly by and I would be surprised at how fast it occurred.  I thought to myself, like every parent does: “How can 18 years fly by?”.  Well I am here to tell you it does!

I am sitting here with just a few months left before James heads off to college.  We don’t know where he will end up, but we have a 1 in 7 guess based on the applications that he has submitted. It is hard to think how difficult these next few months will be knowing that my little boy will be moving out and going someplace where I can’t see him every day. The house will seem different with him not being around and causing some sort of ruckus and the daily routines will certainly change.

As I think about the upcoming transition, I have realized a few things.  First, it really has dawned on me that it has been the small things that have been important and not the big life events.  Of course a number of examples come to mind, but best example, I can share is a tradition that started when James was first born.  Almost every night, since James was a little boy, I have kissed him (and his siblings) good night. For those nights that I was traveling and not at home, I would call home at exactly 8:30 to say good night.  It didn’t matter where I was in the world and what time it was for me, if it was 8:30 for him, I would be on the phone saying good night and asking about his day.  I have never found anyone: a client, employee or boss that didn’t appreciate the ritual and effort in being there for my kids. There were times it was a hard goal to accomplish and I had to ask my wife for help. Most of those times were when we lived in California and I was in Europe or Africa.  The time difference made it so that she had to call and wake me up from a sound sleep.  I can’t say I was very coherent, but at least I got to hear his voice.

As he got older, it became easier to either miss a kiss good night or a call home. I realized recently that I was not living up to the promise I made to him those many years ago. I am not sure what promoted me to start making sure that I kissed them goodnight every night again, but I think I just missed doing it and restarted what should have never ended.  

Kids and Water

With the end of summer, comes reflection on these past few months.  I am not sure what it is, but kids love water and these last few summers, for my kids, have been all about water.  To be honest, as a parent, I love the fact that they do.  To say that there is something magical about kids and water is a bit melodramatic.  But every time I see my kids and playing in the water, or any one else’s kids for that mater, I smile.

As my kids grow, they are willing to try and do things that they would have been hesitant to do just a few years ago. Sometimes it makes my stomach turn when I see them do things that could cause them to get hurt.  But, I guess that is all about growing up.

Hartwell_Water-2 Hartwell_Water-1
Even when we are out on the water just “hanging”, it seems to be a special time. So here is to next summer.  And a thanks to my kids for making memories for your parents.  Can’t wait until next year!



Adventures of an Almost 50 Year Old

A friend recently made a comment that I never seem to grow up.  I am not sure if that was a compliment, criticism, or maybe some jealousy.  Though, he may have a valid point. Afterwards, I thought about his comment, and I guess I do seem to live a life on the edge or at least do things that most people never would even think about doing.

This year was no exception.

20 years ago, I had returned to the US after walking off of Kilimanjaro. My first stop was at the apartment of my future wife. I am sure I looked like hell, I had not shaved or cut my hair in forever (yes I did bath). I don’t know if she knew it then, but she knows now: I like to do things off the beaten trail. The same friend who told me I don’t grow up  (this same friend is who introduced me to my wife), asked why I do these things. I put my head down, thought about it, and looked at him and said, “I want to do things people only dream of and don’t actually do“.  He said he appreciated my candor; I laughed.

I love climbing, I love going high on a mountain.  But with kids and that silly thing called a job, I had stopped climbing.  I knew I was getting restless, so after a long period, I decided I need to determine if I still “had it”.  I wanted to try some glacier climbing on Mount Rainer as a prep to see if I could do Mount Denali.  I looked at the best groups to help me reach my goal and chose RMI Guides.  


Unfortunately, the trip did not exactly go accordingly to plan.  Two months before I was to leave, I was told that I had two hernias and needed to have surgery. However silly it sounds, that did not deter me.  My surgeon convinced me that I could still climb and wait until after I got off the mountain to have the surgery.  And that become the plan.

First Shave

There are a number of “firsts” in everyones life.  First date, first plane ride, first words. For young men, there is also a first shave.  I don’t remember how old I was when I started shaving, maybe 13 or 14; but I do remember when my father showed me how to do it.  He first shaved himself, then he walked me through the steps and showed me what to do and more importantly, what not to do.

I am not sure why that memory has stuck with me for so long, but it has.  As my boys grew up, I knew the time would come for me to show them what my father had taught me so many years ago.

With our oldest son James, it went exactly as I had thought it would.  James and I both noticed that it was “time” and I showed him the how-tos of shaving that my father had taught me so many years ago.  When the same time arrived for our 2nd son, William, it was a far different story.  When I pointed out his facial hair to him, he didn’t ask me to show him how to shave, he asked his older brother.

I was not upset, far from it.  I was more surprised than anything.

What happened next is a memory I shall not forget.  I think the pictures below speak for themselves.

My 2¢ on Crossfit

My wife was on my case about my “growing stomach”, and to make matters worse, and even my friends even were pointing it out. I knew I had to do something to get back in shape, but what was the question.  It’s not that I was horribly fat, but at 6’ 1”, I was getting close to 200 pounds and that was the heaviest I had ever been. No matter how many times, I told myself I had to do something, I wasn’t doing anything about it and kept making excuses because of a “lack of time”. I hated tradition gyms, hated running (thanks to a high school track coach), and I knew I had to be motivated by someone to get my butt in gear on a regular basis.  Simply put: I knew I knew I could not do it alone.

Like most of us, my youth was filled with sports and activities.  I had always considered myself an athlete, but as life moved on, I stopped being active and grew to watch my kids being the athletes.

In early 2013 I saw my age creeping to 49 and I started looking hard at what I should do.  I didn’t know much, if anything, about Crossfit.  While I had heard about it, I didn’t know anyone who had actually participated in it.  Every once in a while I would drive home a different way and kept passing a sign for a Crossfit gym (or Box as they are called).  And then one day, I saw a Facebook post by a friend of a friend who had joined a local Box and loved it.  And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Like every other typical guy, I did 30 seconds of research and decided what was best for me and called Crossfit North Alpharetta (CFNA).  I booked an introduction class and waited to begin the path to the new and improved me. The following Saturday, I met with Heather, one of the owners of CFNA; she shared with us what Crossfit was about and what we should expect.  She discussed the natural movements of each workout, the Olympic lifting, cardio and diet as well.  She then put us through a “light workout”.

I just about died.