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.

I don’t know much about being a Dad.  I have had some practice over the years, but so much of what I did was a guess.  Based on how I saw my parents do things and how I saw people I knew and respected raise their own children.  But it was still a guess. I think we have done well, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we have done the best we could. Our children, James included, have done and seen things that allowed them to understand how fortunate they are. That education matters.  That heath matters. That family matters.

I will admit I am probably as scared for the future as he is.  I have tried not to cry in front of him (I have failed at that), but I have let him know how proud we are of him.  Each one of my three children has something special in them.  For James, I believe, he has the opportunity to change the world. He has those qualities that, if he chooses, he can become a leader and effect people in a positive way.  It won’t happen overnight and it won’t occur without effort.  But he has it in him if he choses to do so.

When it is time to say good bye next week, I have no doubt that I will cry agin.  They will not be tears of concern, but more of sadness that I won’t see his smile each morning; That I won’t be able to kiss his cheek every day. He has been raised to know right from wrong, he has a good head on his shoulders.  I know he will do well but I will still worry about him.  I will want to know he is tucked into bed safe and sound each night. I know that I will see hm again soon, but this is a change that happened too fast.  He is my buddy, he is my mini-me. He is my baby.

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!

Hartwell_Sunset

 

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.  

Rainier-72

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.

The World Cup is Over! Now What do I do?

The idea come up two years ago; the planning started last year.  And it all came together this June.

I always told my boys growing up that they could play any sport they wanted, as long as it was soccer.  Now, I am sure you think I am joking.  And maybe I am a little, but truth be told, that is the sport that I had always loved wanted them to pursue.  Soccer to me is A Beautiful Game:  It is a game that is filled with camaraderie, fitness, personal growth and maturity. It makes you think, it makes you stronger, it makes you a better person.

Both of my boys have played the game since they were four.  There is an argument that today they know more about the game and love it more than I do;  And that brings a smile to my face.

As the boys where getting older, they wanted to see a World Cup game in person.  Now for those of you that are unfamiliar with the World Cup, it is a 30 day event that is held every four years between countries.  For a country to qualify, it they must go through a series of matches against other countries over the period of two years. At the end of that period, 32 countries qualify to play.  In other words, those countries that play in the World Cup are the best of the best.  And that is what my boys wanted to see.

To make this happen, we needed to plan; we needed to save money (it was going to be expensive), figure out what cities to see, how to find a place to stay  and more than anything: we needed to hope that we could get tickets. Tickets this year were distributed by FIFA (The governing body for soccer) by a lottery.  You put your name in a hat and hoped it got pulled. We had a lot of hope, but we also needed luck.

So rather then put the cart before the horse and arrange for plane tickets and a place to stay, we put our names in for the lottery and waited.

And Waited….