Be Insane

Sometimes thoughts come out of my mouth that cause me to get a funny look from my work colleagues. A few months ago an event occurred that made that statement no exception. 

For a few weeks, I had been trying to arrange a meeting with a new point of contact (POC) with one of my military clients in Washington D.C.  Major Sean McEwen was the new Director for the US Army Soldier for Life Program and was part of the leadership team heading the Army’s efforts to create “Soldiers for Life”.  This effort focuses on improving Soldiers opportunities to gain credentials, career skills, internships, and education as they transition out of the Army.

Due to changing schedules and multiple conflicts, the Major and I had to modify our meeting a variety of times. It was clearly becoming apparent that I might not get to meet him in person while I was in our nation’s capital.

As we were going back and forth on email, I suggested a few times that could work for me; but as an almost afterthought, I also suggested that we “can meet at 05 to do PT” (And for those that aren’t familiar with that term that is “5am to workout”).   I subsequently shared that I have made this offer multiple times over the last ten years and only one other (Army) client had ever taken me up on it.  That is all it took, Major McEwen was in.

And this is where my fellow colleagues at Pearson chimed in and called me insane.

Major McEwen and I shared what color shirts we were wearing, as we had never met in person, and agreed to meet on a dark corner at 5am in Alexandra, VA to run along the Potomac river.

I do have to admit though, I immediately knew I was in trouble when I saw Major McEwen.  He was about 3 inches taller than I am (I am 6’ 1”) and about 20 years younger (let’s just say I might be over 50).  I shared with the Major that I had been doing CrossFit for six years and that while I consider myself in great shape, one of the main reasons people (like me) do CrossFit is so they don’t have to run.  He was not having any of that and said let’s go do 3.5 miles and see how we feel. I was just hoping that I did not die.

The Major ran at a solid pace.  I could certainly keep up, but it was hard (for me, not him) to keep up and talk at the same time.

The good news is that I didn’t die.  We finished strong and only got almost run over by a cyclist once. The 2nd bit of good news is what Major McEwen posted on his LinkedIn profile:

I had my first professional “work out” meeting yesterday. This is typical in the #Army, but my first time while at US Army Soldier for Life with somebody not in the military.

In a 45-minute jog along the Potomac river I was able to learn more than in any other 45-minute meeting I’ve had in the past year. I think this will be a new practice for me, inviting professional contacts out for some PT. It won’t be for everybody, and I’ll surely get a lot of laughs or “no thanks”, but something I think is worth trying a little more often. If nothing else, it gives me an opportunity to share our military culture with someone that may have never had that opportunity.

I didn’t plan it that way, but we were able to talk about work, and get to know one another in an environment that was extremely informal and easy to communicate in.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Major McEwen suggested I follow up with another member of his team to see how we can further support the Army’s efforts.  When I later called Major McEwen’s colleague, and shared how the Major and I had PT, the Major’s colleague said, without hesitation: “I am so in; when can we do PT?”

It may have started as a bit of a joke, but I think I may have started something.  Sometimes it is good to be a bit insane.

Road Forward

After I wrote my post a few weeks ago about “How Are You” I was not sure what to expect or to even write next.  To a large extent the writing was cathartic for me.  As I was thinking through ideas, I had a conversation with a friend this morning.  She shared with me that she had texted an acquaintance on Christmas day to wish him a Merry Christmas and make sure he was OK. She shared that her friend had a hard time being close to people and she wanted to ensure that he knew he was not alone in this world.

I knew that her act of kindness was genuine and that she did something that many people don’t do: she was proactive and reached out without any prompting.

What I found after my recent blog post was that it seemed to resonate and I received feedback from people that I never would have expected.  That is not to say that these were complete strangers.  They were people I knew, but not that I speak to with any kind of frequency. The messages were all positive and many of them were offering to get together and catch up.  All of which were appreciated.

After my conversation with my friend today, I thought more about this post and where I wanted it to go. As I tried to gather my thoughts, I wrote and rewrote much of it a number of times.  I have moved paragraphs up and down, changed tone, changed words, etc etc etc.; Trying to have it all make sense.  But I realized that I was making it more complicated than it needed to. I found that all of what I was reflecting on was a simple idea: Be kind to others

I don’t believe in New Years resolutions.  It is not something that I have ever done, and this certainly is not a New Years post.  But I find myself looking forward to 2019 and seeing what changes I should make and be cognizant of.

The road forward in our lives is not always clear and it is certainly is not straightforward. Each of us has hard days; and occasionally, we all have hard times.  It is in these hard times that we need to know who we can reach out to.  Who can we count on, who will support us and who will be kind.  No one likes to complain, but sometimes we need to know who to look to for support. 

Over this past year of changes for myself, I have come to discover who are “my people”.  Those people that were kind and caring.  Those who looked out for me, called and checked in without prompting.  I also wonder though, whose “person” am I?  Do I check in with enough frequency with people that I care about?

The answer is no, I already know that answer.  My excuse is like everyone else’s.  Life gets in the way; three kids, work, travel, etc etc etc.  I clearly need to do better.  That does not mean that I need to make dramatic changes.  But when I have a few extra minutes, why don’t I send a text or make a quick call? Those small acts may make a big difference to someone I care out.

I don’t know what, if any, exchanges occurred when my friend sent her text messages on Christmas.  But I can bet it made someone smile.

More smiles and more kindness in 2019 is a nice goal to have for sure.

How Are You?

I have not written (and posted) much over this past year and to be honest, I have missed it.   I can give you 100 reasons why I stopped writing, but reflecting on it, it was probably due to my mental state having gone through a divorce.  Any reasons beyond that are simply a subset of that issue. 

As I decided to jump back into writing, I thought about where to start. What do I say and what do I share.  The one thing that continues to come up in my mind is the question I am asked often: “How are you?”. It is a question that I hate, despise and understand all at the same time.  The person asking the question seemingly cares enough to ask, but many times, does not want to hear the real answer. When we hear that question, we all know that the expectation is a one word short answer like good, fine or great. Or perhaps a brief funny sentence such as “I’m on the green side of the grass”.

We give these answers to protect our privacy and ourselves many times. Only a few people, that truly know us, or care enough about us, get close to the real answer. 

So how am I?  After 23 years of being married, I am today, a single, divorced middle-aged man living in suburban Atlanta. I have two dogs (who I love), three kids (who I love more), and a 4,500 sq. ft home sitting on two acres of land.  

While parts of that may sound wonderful (house, dogs and kids), it is not what I wanted or expected in life. I thought the word “wife”would be part of that sentence forever. It seems as though I was wrong. When the divorce process started, I did not want to make that change.  I didn’t think our marriage was unsalvageable. While I knew it was not perfect, the glass was certainly half full, in my opinion, and I thought we were both working on it to make it better. But the ideas that we all have do not always work out as planned or thought out.

What I struggle with today is not looking back, but looking forward. After a year of transition, getting used to the new normal, it can still be a challenge.  Being alone in the house, wanting to share your day with someone, those moments can be lonely.  But the part that is starting to show through is that I now have an open path that I can make my own. I can decide how best to move forward. What do I want the house to look like, what pictures to put on the wall. I can try and find new things to be passionate about. Obviously the kids are still the #1 priority (sorry puppies), but that does not mean that the entire universe needs to focus just on them (sorry kids).  I also need to focus on me.

None of it comes together overnight, and not all of it will be easy. But it is up to me to ensure that the glass is and remains half full or better. I am not sure I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know it is there.  And that is a step in the right direction.

So next time you see me, if you don’t want to know the full answer of how I am, just say something along the lines of “it is good to see you”.  That will make us both happy.

Shoe Horn

The other day, as I was putting on a pair of dress shoes using my grandfather’s shoe horn, I became aware of the life lessons  that were involved in that action. It had never occurred to me, but how many little things had I learned from my father that were passed down to him, and that, in turn, I had passed down to my own children.

I know that perhaps a shoe horn is a silly example of “life lessons”.  But it is one of those little things that someone taught us how to make life a bit easier and preserve those things that through such actions. After 20 years of being a Dad, I have come to realize that parenting is not about big actions or important moments.  But it is about the small, inconsequential, things that we share with our children and that were shared with us growing up. Little things like, how to sweep the floor, how to put on a tie, changing a tire on the car, when to say please and thank you and yes, how to use a shoe horn.

Could we have figured out how to do these things ourselves?  Most probably yes. But we, along with those before us, tried to have us learn from the traveled road to help us become better at living life.

Taken each of the above by it’s own, these are important things to know.  But when we were asked to help load the dishwasher, did our parents think “this is an important lesson”?  I doubt it.  They wanted us to participate in the house or do things that at some point were shared with them. And back to that shoe horn, was it meant to be a lesson?   There was no magic, no special sauce. Just a “hey, try this…”

Now that I am (gulp) over 50, do I know when my Dad shared with me how to put on dress shoes?  Nope, not a clue.  Do I remember telling my boys how and when to do the same?  Still no.  But as I sat there that day putting on my shoes, I realized all of the history that was involved in that action. I don’t even know how I ended up with my grandfather’s shoe horn.  I have no doubt that my grandfather would think it was silly for me to not only use his shoe horn, but to sit here and write about it.  And that is what makes it special. That a small trivial item could help create such a strong memory.

Cocktail Conversations

Talking.  It is not something we seem to do much anymore.  Yes, of course, we speak to each other, but we don’t have conversations with people.  Today, we seem to listen to respond, rather then listening to learn.  And for me that is sad.

Last month, I finished a book by Larry Tye about Bobbie Kennedy.  It was not only a fascinating read, but it a book that allowed me to better understand the growth and changes of a man that I have always admired.

One of the intriguing things I learned was that Kennedy had what he called “Intellectual Dinners”.  These dinners were attended by a people that held a variety of views from a disparate way of life and socioeconomic backgrounds.  During these conversations, RFK listened to viewpoints that helped him grow in his thinking and approach, that in later years shaped who he was and what he believed in.

With the divisiveness of our country today, it gave me the idea that no mater what we think and believe in, we need to do a better in understanding different thoughts, ideas and perspectives. And if I may say so, we all can broaden our thinking a little.

So with this in mind, we (my wonderful wife and I) invited 15 people to join us for what we called ‘Cocktail Conversations”.  Each of our guests came from a different background and viewpoint. A number had grown up in other countries. Some spoke two or three languages. Some were liberal, some were conservative. White, black, brown. All had one thing in common: they were smart and willing to listen to opposing thoughts.  In total, we covered 4 continents, 5 counties and 7 languages.

We didn’t ask people to come in black tie, as Bobby did; but we did ask that they wear business attire. Nor did we do a dinner.  Each guest simply brought an appetizer, we supplied refreshments (ie: wine and soda), and we sat comfortably in our living room.

While I knew we could not recreate what Kennedy started in the early 1960s, I did think we could have a conversation about areas that touched each of us.  With Bobby Kennedy in mind, the topic for the evening was “Poverty in America”.

I set some ground rules:

  • You have two ears for a reason, listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Be respectful, and don’t interrupt each other.
  • This was not about who was running for President.

As the evening was approaching, my wife asked me what my goal was for that night. To be honest I didn’t have a specific one.  I was simply hopeful that hearing other points of view would allow us to broaden our understanding and serve those in the community that needed it most.

So was it a success? I think so. The best measure was when I glanced at my watch and saw that three hours had passed when it seemed like it has only been 20 minutes.

After the evening was over, I had three takeaways:

  1. I should had invited people that had been or are currently “poor”
  2. I should have included friends that held firm beliefs further from either side of center
  3.  15 guests is a good number, 40 would have been too big

We plan on hosting another evening after the new year and can only hope that it will be as successful as this one was. The topic? Good question!  As I think through each area that would be interesting, I quickly see how they all lead to or from poverty. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I am leaning toward a topic of “Incarceration“. I can see how that topic, and how we determine justice, affects us all.

I do hope that RFK is smiling down on all of us as we remember him and draw from his actions to try and better the world that we live in today.

If I can be so bold, I would  encourage each of you to think about hosting your own Cocktail Conversations. I think you will find it is a fascinating experience and one that will surprise you with the results an what you will learn. 

I Believe

A friend recently posted a things he wanted to share with people.  Nothing specific per se, just random thoughts.  But it got me thinking; what do I believe in?  As I thought about it, a list started to develop in my mind and I thought I would share as well:

  1. I believe in being happy
  2. I believe you should have good friends and not just more friends (less is more)
  3. I believe that fanaticism is never a good thing.  In anything: Politics, religion, diets etc
  4. I believe you need to listen to those we disagree with more
  5. I believe we need to listen to learn, not just to respond
  6. I believe it is ok to eat a Big Mac once a month.  (Just don’t do it every week)
  7. I believe in being polite
  8. I believe everyone needs some alone time each day
  9. I believe that you should work out at least 3 times a week.  While I love Crossfit, it isn’t for everyone.  Pick something you love and do it (3 times a week)
  10. I believe everyone needs to own a dog.
  11. I believe saying Sir or Ma’am is not just a southern thing
  12. I believe that my wife is an awesome dentist
  13. I believe that you should never dress like a slob
  14. I believe that being silly occasionally is a good thing
  15. I believe you should keep in touch with old friends
  16. I believe you should call (not text) those friends
  17. I believe a glass of wine does the soul good
  18. I believe sunrises are far better then sunsets
  19. I believe it is ok to kiss your kids good night, even if they are 20
  20. I believe that we, as a society, have an obligation to protect those who are less fortunate
  21. I believe you should thank your server each time they visit your table.
  22. I believe in Santa
  23. I believe you should be nice to people
  24. I believe you should read a newspaper every day
  25. I believe that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the greatest writers ever
  26. Don’t Smoke (anything)
  27. I believe grocery store coffee can be just as good as any fancy store coffee
  28. I believe you don’t need to wear socks every day
  29. I believe 1-2 hours of TV a day is more then enough
  30. I believe we all need more “Date Nights”
  31. I believe in taking financial risks
  32. I believe you should only buy lottery tickets when you have some extra cash in your pocket that you won’t miss.
  33. I believe afternoon naps are awesome
  34. I believe that God had only one son.  But he visited three times and was called by different names each time: Jesus, Allah and Buddha
  35. I believe that black and white movies were some of the best
  36. I believe that you should show up early for work and leave late
  37. I  believe you should not burn bridges even if you don’t like  your current job.
  38. I believe you should do what you say you are going to do
  39. I believe if you borrow money (even if it is 73 cents), you should pay it back
  40. I believe if you don’t know something it is ok to admit it
  41. I believe George Washington was our greatest president ever
  42. I believe kids should “earn their keep”, no matter how much, or little, you earn
  43. I believe a little bit of hard work is good for everyone
  44. I believe in being reasonable
  45. I believe it is ok to be wrong
  46. I believe you should vote for the best person, not just for the person who is in your “party”
  47. I believe that Frida Kahlo was one of the greatest artists ever
  48. I believe that I have more things to say, but should stop for now.

What do you believe in?


This is my Adopted Child

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended a weekend seminar with about 15 other couples. At the beginning of the weekend, people around the room introduced themselves and shared a bit about their family.  Of all of the couples in the room, three of them shared that they had adopted children.  How do I know this? They told everyone.  As they shared their names, where they were from, they also said “and we have an adopted child from….”

You might be saying to yourself, “why is this an issue? Perhaps this was a weekend about children.” Well, this was not a seminar about adoption; Nor was it about children.  I sat there in amazement about why did they feel the need to share this? Why did it matter?

I am not one to judge, but this made me think. Why did so many of the couples have the need to share such details.  Why was it important that they let us know they had a child who was not biological theirs. If you know our family, you may know that one of our 3 kids are adopted; But you also may not know that.  It is not something that we “announce” or share with people on a regular basis. The simple fact is that we have three children;  Not 2 children and one adopted.

To some degree, we are fortunate in that our “adopted” child looks like they fit in (see above pic). Unless you know, I don’t think you would take notice or give it a 2nd thought.

If you are caucasian, and let’s say you adopt a child from Asia, sure, people might be able to figure it out.  But do you have to announce that this is your “adopted” child? Regardless if they look like you or not, why would you ever say something like that?

I am not trying to be holier than thou, but I have seen people introduce their children, with the child standing right there, saying “this is my adopted child from….”.  I stand there with my mouth agape.  Granted, there are always two sides to every story and why people do what they do.  But why oh why do they do this?  How do you think it makes the child feel?

I don’t know everything, not by a long shot, but aren’t they just your child?


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.

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!