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!
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?
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.
All Sewn Up
Have you ever delayed starting something because you didn’t think you were capable of doing the task?
I had a few sewing projects that I’ve delayed for just that reason – 3 separate tasks that required some stitching to complete:
- Add a Velcro strap to a line cutter I use for SCUBA diving to enable mounting and removal on my harness (this might not mean much if you’re not a diver, but in a tangle emergency underwater quick access to this little piece of equipment would be a live safer).
- Repair a tear in my SCUBA diving hood. A little tear is typically not a problem unless I pull and tug at the hood (which I do to remove it after a long dive).
- Repair a seam in a brand new shirt. Anita and I attended the Beatles tribute concert RAIN. We each purchased a cool shirt to remember (and share) the experience but I’ve never worn mine because my over priced concert shirt had a seam coming apart in the sleeve.
- Repair the pocket for the tension bar of the knee brace I wear exercising. It won’t offer much support if the tension bar on 1 side of the brace is not in the proper position.
I have sewn before so these were not to be my first attempts, but these projects posed some new challenges.
- Sewing REAL clothing! The only sewing I’ve ever done was to repair tears in my SCUBA gear. These repairs never have to look good and are always sealed with neoprene cement to cover any mistakes.
- Difficult fabrics. The knee brace and the line cutter sheath are both made of thick, tough fabric that’s difficult to puncture with a needle (but that needle will easily puncture a misplaced finger).
- Awkward positions. The Velco on the line cutter had to be sewn under the line cutter strap and the seam in my RAIN shirt had to be repaired from the inside. Both repairs were to require discipline and accuracy.
The only way I grow is by trying new things, so I tacked the line cutter first (the one requiring the most new skill – tough fabric and awkward position). To my delight, it was accomplished without rancor, blood or cursing. Then I pulled the RAIN shirt from the closet. It required 2 attempts, but after flipping the shirt right side out it looked GREAT! Now for the knee brace. The fabric was thicker than I anticipated and required the use of a new tool – the thimble! This too was accomplished with ease so I finished by sewing and gluing the tears in my hood.
WOW – I’d done it! I didn’t allow my fear of failure, of trying new things, of living up to others expectations (what would people say if they saw a lame repair on my concert shirt?) , of puncturing my fingers keep me from accomplishing something new, something that I had postponed for many months until I could find someone else to do it right!
How many other things have I yet to start or worse yet haven’t even considered, because of skills or limitation that I perceive to be missing?
I once read that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real – inaccurate or incomplete projections of my past performance into the future.
- Sure I’ve never sewn a real piece of clothing, but I have done numerous repairs on my SCUBA gear.
- I’m good with my hands, I’ve got an intelligent mind and I’ve got the most important thing going for me – a reason!!
A reason, a desire, a goal, an intention turned out to be more powerful than all the false evidence I stacked up against myself. I pressed on and through and now can use the experience to reinforce the image of myself as one who can accept and complete new and unique challenges.
Do you think I’m making too much of a little sewing project? I certainly hope not. Big goals can always be broken down into smaller goals. Small goals are often not simple and require the learning of new skills or the application of existing skills in a new area. Meaning I’m able to achieve my big goals by pressing through the completion of the smaller ones, learning and applying new skills, building and reinforcing confidence and self-esteem.
I’ll accept the challenges for what they are – learning opportunities. I’ll risk a few punctured fingers, a comment or two about the seam in my shirt or anything else that i may perceive to be a risk to make progress one-step at a time toward the realization of who I want to be and what I plan to accomplish.
I’ll not allow fear to paralyze me (for long). Fear is a sign that growth is about to occur, provided I press on through the fear to the prize on the other side!
P.S. The tension bar in my knee brace is visible through the threads of my repair. I put two lines of stitches in my repair but it seems I should have used the nylon line I use for the SCUBA repairs vs. the black thread I used for the t-shirt. When I try new things I have to try them again to improve my performance. If the tension bar pops out of its pocket again, I’ll come prepared with tougher thread and a thimble to add four rows of stitches!
Do you ever find yourself making decisions that are incongruent with who you are and what you want? I recently came very close to making this mistake, but…
I took action on the tight knot in my gut to get me back on track.
My mother Sally was the victim of a horrible accident years ago. My brother Kevin, my sister Kendra and I made the pilgrimage to the hospital to be by her side. She was heavily sedated and doesn’t even remember the time we spent together, but the experience had a lasting impact on me. Let’s bring the family together to celebrate happy times vs. sitting at the side of a hospital bed wondering if the next family member needed another ice chip to moisten their mouth.
I designated myself the family cruise director and began planning group vacations. Anita and I are blessed to own Time Share point with Wyndham and used the points to schedule celebrations for the family at select destinations. In 2004 we enjoyed our first celebration on Edisto Island, SC. When we weren’t hiding in the bathroom for the tornado warnings from hurricane Frances, we enjoyed time together playing on the beach, swimming in the pools, playing games, building puzzles and cooking meals.
In 2006 we headed to Florida to enjoy a beachfront property in Pompano Beach. The weather was beautiful and the time together was precious. It’s a wonderful pleasure to participate in life through the experiences of the Barron/Guidry kids. In 2007 Anita and I went to Disney with extended family (my granddaughters Mia and Anna and their family). Then in 2009, the Barron/Guidry clan reunited for a week on the mountain in Massanutten, VA. What a fabulous week canoeing on the Shenandoah River, enjoying the water park, racing go carts, hiking in the rain and watching movies.
I’ve come to realize that life’s about sharing experiences with those we love; participating in life and the lives of others; using life’s collective experiences to grow together.
So, exactly why was I even considering NOT attending my nephew Will’s first communion in Richmond?
- Well you see, I never really received an invitation. It was Mom that told me that she would be in VA and asked if it would be possible for Anita and I to come.
- I am preparing to >retire early from my 24 year career at Procter & Gamble so shouldn’t I start acting like someone without a steady paycheck?
- Airfare to Richmond is expensive and driving takes 9 hours each way so I’d have to take a few vacation days to make it work.
I called Mom to break the bad news just as she arrived in Richmond. She was with my sister-in-law Tina on their way to pick up the kids from school. Mom never asked if I was planning to come. She sensed my decision and respected that my reasons were important.
I attended a meeting that evening and on the way back home I got that feeling one gets when they’re making a poor choice. You know that knot in your stomach that isn’t due to lack of food but due entirely to lack of perspective. Fortunately, I’ve felt that knot before and was willing to act upon it. I entered the door at home and asked Anita if she wanted to go to Richmond for the weekend. She was scheduled to work in the morning and did not see a way to clear her schedule after the store had already closed.
Then an interesting thing happened. Kevin called to return a phone call I had made to him on a different topic a few days earlier. After discussing the topic at hand, I asked if they had room to add me to the guests for the weekend and at 9:20 PM I was committed to leaving 12 hours later to enjoy the family celebration for Will’s first communion!
Will’s 8 years old and graciously allowed me to sleep in his room for the weekend (his bed was a bit short but the bubbling of the fish tank provided a nice lullaby). On Saturday he showed me the light sabers he and his sister Grace had built at camp last year. The construction technique was crude but functional. The light sabers had to be disassembled and a wire taped to the battery to illuminate them. I asked if he considered upgrading his saber to include a switch. He did not know it was possible and requested how it might be done. I grabbed my laptop and we researched parts online. We found a local Radio Shack and added it to our list of destinations for the afternoon. We found everything needed to perform the upgrade and after returning from purchasing Will a new shirt for his first communion, we spent the rest of the afternoon gluing, soldering and drilling to upgrade both his Grace’s light sabers.
I’ve spent enough time with kids to understand the appeal of the light saber will fade, but the experience of the upgrade will remain FOREVER. Those few hours that Will and I spent creating something together and then reapplying our learning’s to Grace’s light saber (she was camping with the Junior Girl Scouts for the weekend) were worth ten 9 hour commutes. Our time together was special, memorable AND it allowed us to give to Grace (she was thrilled to see the results of the upgrade).
I must be reminded (sometimes frequently) of what’s really important. Sometimes I make choices that are incongruent with who I am or what I want to become, but…
If I’m willing to listen to that knot in my stomach AND take action, I can get back on track to enjoy life changing experiences.
P.S. Will enjoyed his first communion and the party afterward gave me the opportunity to spend an hour with Mom while walking the family dog Dasher. Thanx God for setting me straight on the importance of staying true to myself!