Happy, Joyous and “Old”?
On November 18, 1996 I became a grandfather at the ripe, “old” age of 33! Yup, I’ve been a grandfather for 16 years and loving it – It’s the best job in the world! This weekend I’ll have a chance to really feel it. Mia will celebrate her 16th birthday with family, friends and 4 bands at a rock concert in Jacksonville Beach, FL. When she called to tell me the details Mia made sure to let me know I’d probably be spending a lot of time outside – “It’s not really your type of music Pop.” I thanked her for the invitation and assured her Anita and I could find the door if necessary.
It’s times like this that get me to reflect on how really fortunate I am. I remember insisting that I could not extend my business trip in Japan because I wanted to be home for Mia’s birth, then racing home from the airport in Cincinnati to pick up Cindy and heading to the hospital – Rebekah’s water had broke a week early! Also sitting in the hall and hearing her cry for the first time as she was born, then holding her in my arms – she had me!
After Cindy and I divorced I gave serious consideration to leaving Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a nice town but it’s not close to the beach (to SCUBA dive), it’s not close to the mountains (to snow ski) and it’s not close to my family (to celebrate life). I was square in the middle with Mom and Dad on the left coast and Kevin and Kendra and their family’s on the right coast. No one wanted to visit Cincinnati and I couldn’t decide which way to go – west to spend time with my parents and Mother’s siblings or east to enjoy time as an uncle. In the end I made the choice to stay right where I was.
With no blood relation Rebekah was well within her rights to pat me on the head and send me on my way after my divorce from Mia’s grandmother. She chose instead to welcome me into her family and encouraged me to continue taking an active role in Mia’s life. I spent every Sunday afternoon with Mia (and later with her sister Anna as well). Mia was my roller coaster buddy in the spring and fall, my water park buddy in the summer and my ski buddy in the winter. We had 4 to 6 weeks between winter and spring and fall and winter where we discovered new adventures – enjoying and exploring local parks, playing games at Sports Plus, watching movies at my house, flying a kite or launching model rockets, learning to climb trees. If we were in town on a Sunday afternoon we were together.
I also enjoyed additional “privileges”. I was invited to school events, graduations, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, cook outs and so much more. If it involved celebrating with family I received an invitation. Me, the only one who really wasn’t family. Rebekah and her family “adopted” me, opening their homes, their lives and their hearts to welcome me, not just into Mia’s life, but into theirs as well.
As I sit here preparing to pack for the trip to Florida I’m overcome by a sense of gratitude. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve shared with Mia and her family, for the love they extended to me and the opportunity to accept yet one more invitation to celebrate with them. I’m certain the music will be too loud, that I’ll likely not recognize a single song, but I can’t wait to step in and enjoy my role as Mia’s Pop!
Relax into Success
Have you ever had a looming deadline that was approaching fast? One you’ve had plenty of time to address but for some reason you just couldn’t get focused to make the progress you desired? It’s a common situation – work, home or school – they all place expectations on us to deliver, typically by a specific date and time.
I’m not a procrastinator! In school I was the one that started on the project when it was assigned and while working at Procter & Gamble I met new challenges head on. I found myself in a rare situation last week while on vacation with Anita in Pagosa Springs, Colorado – I had entered the Toastmasters International Speech competition and did not have a speech written NOR rehearsed 3 days before the competition.
Anita and I spent 5 days in beautiful Pagosa Springs, situated at an altitude of about 8600 ft in the San Juan Mountains. Pagosa is the home to the largest natural hot springs in the country. After dinner we watched movies and headed to the springs right before they close in the evenings to relax in the pools of warm water (we like the ones that are between 102 – 107F) while enjoying the beautiful winter evenings together.
On our last evening we watched the movie Air Force One before heading to the springs. The final scene in which Harrison Ford is pulled aboard the rescue plane has always been one of my favorites. While relaxing in the Tranquility pool while waiting for Anita I reflected on the message and the speech I’d yet to write. I had a potential title for my speech and wondered if I could fit the learning from the movie into a speech topic.
Anita arrived and my focus changed to enjoying our time together. It had been unseasonably warm during our stay but a big storm was predicted for the following morning – exactly as we’re scheduled to be driving over Wolf Creek pass at 10,876 ft! On our way back to the condo, Anita suggested that we shower and pack the car to get a jump on the drive. We were both anxious to return home so that sounded like a great idea. We left Pagosa at 1:15 AM with the intention of stopping in Alamosa 2 hours away. After reaching Alamosa I was fully awake and proposed that we make a run for Colorado Springs about 3 hours away. Anita agreed and off we drove.
The next section of the drive is flat, with very few cars so the driving was very easy. We were listening to Classic Vinyl on XM radio and my mind returned to Air Force One and my speech. Suddenly the speech became clearer in my head and I started rehearsing it to myself in the car. I went through it once, provided myself some constructive feedback and went through it again. Sure I stored it a few times to chat with Anita or sing a great song, but the combination of a relaxing soak in the hot springs, the relief of getting over the pass before the storm, listening to music I enjoy and pleasant conversations with Anita allowed me to relax myself into a great speech.
I delivered the speech I created in the car at my TV Toastmasters meeting 2 days later and won the competition! I’ll be trying this technique again, relieving my mind of the stress to deliver and relaxing into success. Do you think it’ll work for you as well?
The Path to Greatness
I’ve been working on the web site for the Society of Home Business Owners for months in preparation for a January 1st launch date. The web site integrates a number of different applications together under a single domain name, making integration of the pieces quite complex. To add to the complexity, the source code for the main application is encrypted so that it cannot be viewed or modified.
I knew a paid web site requiring members to login multiple times was unworkable and was able to convince the company that owns the source code for the main application to release the source code I needed to integrate it with the other tools. I’m not a web programmer, but do have experience with programming and took the challenge. It didn’t take me long to determine this task was WAY over my head so I contracted a programmer to provide a solution for me. He “played” with it for almost 6 weeks before finally throwing up his keyboard and telling me he could not complete the project (I’m seeing this a lot).
He provided me with his work in process to pass to another programmer. I took a look and thought “This can’t be too tough, why not give this another go?” That was in SEPTEMBER and this “challenge” has been kicking my you know what ever since. I’ve literally invested 100’s of hours (we’ll discuss how wise this was later) in trying to make it work. Every week I’d get a little closer, providing me hope that completion was just around the corner.
Today the integration is complete and working successfully! There were plenty of low point in the process (yesterday for example) where I was ready to give up and at one point I even got a quote from the vendor that provided me the source code to complete the project – $850 to enhance a solution I only paid $97 to use!
Looking back I’m the first to agree that this was a poor use of my time. My partner and I are in the process of writing not one but two books about working from home, while building a business advisory board to support the members of the Society of Home Business Owners as well as create content for the web site and a monthly newsletter. For those of you that thought “retirement” involved lounging on the beach some place sipping a cool drink – think again!
While completing the web site integration may not have been a smart business choice, it has provided me with even more confidence that I’m able to accomplish EVERYTHING I set my mind to; that I’m only limited by what I ask of myself and visualize in my mind.
It’s freeing to know I can face tough challenges and overcome them with vision, discipline and perseverance. What obstacles have you allowed to block your path to greatness?
As we wrap up Thanksgiving (are all the leftovers gone?), head for the holidays and the start of 2011 it’s a good time to take stock of what I’m grateful for in my life. Certainly I’m grateful for my health, the love of my wife Anita, work that excites and challenges me to be more, a loving family, great friendships, food on the table, a roof over my head, a fabulous country in which to live and so much more.
It’s easy to rattle off a list of stuff for which I’m grateful. I have been blessed with so very much, but after getting past the list, I feel there’s something deeper. Something that has molded me and made we who and what I am today – willingness.
- Willingness to do what’s right.
- Willingness to not say what’s on my mind.
- Willingness to love and to be loved by others.
- Willingness to nurture a relationship with a God of my understanding.
- Willingness to give back what has been so graciously given to me.
- Willingness to get out of myself and to serve others.
- Willingness to open my mind to new possibilities.
- Willingness to listen.
- Willingness to serve.
- Willingness to do what at first seems difficult then becomes comfortable and eventually feels effortless.
- Willingness to ask for help.
- Willingness dream, to imagine what can and will be.
- Willingness to expose myself to you for it’s through sharing who I truly am that I see it reflected back to me.
The things, the people and circumstances can all change (in many cases I pray they do). I used to believe I wanted consistency in my life, to get into a groove and to stay there. Now I realize that the groove is a form of a mini grave. One that buries me from all that life has to offer. For I know that with a willingness to serve, to grow and to care for others I’ll have more blessing than I could ever count.
My wife Anita remained in Georgia after her Grandmother Jewel’s funeral to spend an additional 2 weeks with her 91 year old Grandfather Leon. She’s helping clean, organize and serving as his eyes to read his favorite book to him every night before he goes to bed. Leon’s got technical problems with his rotary dial phone (yes, you read that right) so she got him a cell phone with large numbers that’s hearing aid compatible and ordered a copy of the book to continue reading to him every evening when she returns home.
We’ve been together 9 years (married for eight) and have spent every Christmas in southwest Georgia to be with her Grandparents. She lost her maternal Grandmother (Anne) in March and her husband passed years ago, but her paternal Grandparents have always been a special part of our holidays.
This year will be different. Jewel Thompson was the matriarch of the family, mother of 3, married 4 times at a time when multiple marriages were VERY uncommon. She and Leon celebrated 60 years together!! How many people do you know that can claim that kind of longevity? She was the glue that kept the family together. She passed in her sleep on October 11th.
Leon claims he’s right behind her, but is torn by the difficulties his daughter is experiencing due to the loss of her mother. Leon has an amazing memory and is a fabulous story teller. I know he and Anita sit for hours as he relates experiences from decades past with vivid clarity. He tells one about a dream he recalls from when he was 6 years old!
WOW – I have difficulty recalling what I wore the day before last or how I spent my day last Tuesday!
Intellectually I know death is a natural part of life and that Jewel is enjoying the benefits of life after death. I know that Leon’s time with us is limited, not because he ails physically but because he misses Jewel ever so much. The two of them were a perfect match, and as I understand the story a very unlikely one.
As I rake leaves on these fine fall days in Cincinnati, I can’t help but reflect on the changes that are before us. Not the freeze warning for tonight, the sight of birds flying south for the winter or having to replace my summer clothes with the winter ones, but the true changes that occur in life. Changes that cause us to pause and reflect on what’s important, how and who we spend our time with.
This fall I’ve got a fresh new perspective for my relationship with Anita – over 60 years together! After 60 years of marriage I’ll be 98 and Anita will be 100. Feels like something to live for, to stand for and to be proud of. I won’t be sharing stories of dreams I had when I was 6, but I will be bending my great, great Grandchildren’s ears about how I “retired” from my corporate job of 24 years to start a business during the worst economic times of my life.