It’s Been A While…

A few years ago, I started this blog to capture all that was going on in this head of mine. I wrote almost weekly for about 18 months about my family, current events that interested me, my job, and other odds and ends. I enjoyed using this form of media to express myself, and I found that lots of people read what I wrote. I was honored.

Over the past few years, a lot has changed in my world. My girls have grown a lot. Lydia is in 8th grade, and is training to be a world class pole-vaulter. She cleared 7’6″ the other day – only 8 more feet to go and she could be an Olympian. I’m hoping 4 or 5 more feet gets her a college scholarship of some sort. Ansley is in 6th grade, and has become a well-rounded tween girl – music, sports, school, and talking back are her specialties. Clarissa is in 2nd grade and is always smiling and laughing. She loves soccer and writing and singing and watching her shows. Lydia and Ansley are taller than their mother, Carrie. Clarissa is taller than Lydia and Ansley were when they were 8.

Our pet population has changed. Babe the mini-beagle is our eldest pup. We have Asuna the slightly psychotic cat. And now we have Arlo our “bagle” – beagle/basset hound mix. Arlo is an interesting pup. We rescued him from a lady who rescued him from some shady people who had him in a cardboard box in the back of a pick-up truck. She brought him home and let him live in a barn until she could find a good home for him. He’s slightly stubborn, and he still thinks he lives in a barn from time to time. We also have a beta-fish who no one really takes care of but continues to survive.

The world has changed a lot over the past few years. We have gone from the first black president in our nation’s history in Barack Obama to a president whose most recent claim to fame is starring in The Apprentice. Mr. Donald Trump has turned our country and world on its proverbial ear, and we’re still trying to get our bearings back. His speeches are normally 140 characters and can be found on Twitter. It would be awesome to be a speech writer for Trump. Not much editing involved. Just random streams of thought in 140 character bursts. The Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after over 100 years of futility. Joe Maddon, the Cubs’ manager is the Phil Jackson of Major League Baseball. There’s a new series of Star Wars movies. The next one is called The Last Jedi. Now the world is wondering what that really means especially after Luke Skywalker’s brief appearance at the end of The Force Awakens. The New England Patriots just won their 5th Super Bowl thanks to Tom Brady and Darth Belichick.

Who would have dreamed any of this stuff could happen?

My work life is virtually the same. I still have the same job in the same place. Carrie does too. We still attend the same church. And we still have the 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L I blogged about in April 2013.

We still live in the same house on the same street. We do have some new neighbors who have lots of kids and have recently opened their home to foster kids. They are truly special people. I would like to have more kids, but Carrie says we’re too old for that.

I have 592 Facebook friends. I’m hoping to get to 600 soon, but I’ve become more selective about my friend choices thanks to the election. I can only handle so many political posts, and that’s all Facebook is these days. Political posts and advertisements for companies and products I purchased a long time ago. I miss the days of pictures of people’s kids and constant bragging about how perfect people’s lives are. Today my feed is filled with posts about why Trump is awesome and why Trump is an idiot, and why Obama is the reason Trump is having so many problems. I did enjoy the Obama/Biden meme’s for a little while. Some of them were hilarious.

That’s all for now. Gotta go pick up Lydia from her friend’s house.

She’ll be driving soon.

That’s a scary thought.

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Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

Sometimes we develop emotional attachments to people or things.  These things provide a certain level of emotional and physical comfort.  It was a sad night for me tonight.

My favorite pants are gone and now it’s time to move on.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

I had to say good-bye to an old friend today.  My friend was worn out.  My friend had been part of my life for over 5 years.  We got together once or twice a week during those five years.  My friend went with me to work, to church, to meetings, and on a couple of dates with my wife.  My friend was loyal and provided me with a certain level of comfort that no other friend really had before.

Tonight, I finally had to throw away my favorite pair of pants.  I bought them four years ago at a Jos A. Bank’s store in Concordville, PA – I think.  They were a pair of Tobacco colored Wrinkle Resistant Cotton Twill Pleated Front Pants, size 38 x 32.  They had cuffs at the bottom and a seam in them that allowed them to be folded perfectly after every wash.  No dry cleaner ever had the pleasure of touching these pants.

Wrinkle-Resistant Cotton Twill Plain Front Pants

I wore them every week at least once a week.  They weren’t very attractive pants.  Baggy, pleated pants with cuffs went out of style a long time ago, but I still wore them.  They were the anti-skinny pants/jeans.  They looked good with a nice plaid shirt or a sweater.  I probably sported a blazer and a nice tie with them once or twice.  I even wore them to work in the yard a few times.

But tonight I had to throw them in the trash.  They were starting to tear around the back pockets.  My boxer shorts were apparently starting to show.  The cuffs were frayed and torn in some places.  There were holes in the legs along the seams at the bottom.  One of the pockets had a hole in it.  These weren’t a pair of pants that I could donate.  They wouldn’t have made it past the clothes sorter at Goodwill.  They would have ended up in a recycle pile or in the trash.  I had to bite the bullet and throw them out once and for all.  I didn’t need someone else to do my dirty work for me.

I’ve tried through the years to acquire another pair that fit the way these pants did.  I have a closet full of various Jos. A. Bank pants that I’ve either purchased at the store here in Spartanburg or online.  You know – the Buy 1, Get 2 Free deals.  I’ve tried other brands too.

Banana Republic – too tight.

Polo – needed to be dry-cleaned; too fancy for an old-fashioned washing machine and dryer.

Chaps – to wrinkly and didn’t fold well after washing.

Izod – wrong shade.

LL Bean – too scratchy.

It’s been a struggle to say the least.  I wear the same size pants today as I did four years ago, and yet I haven’t been able to find a pair of pants that wore like these.

I think all men and women understand where I’m coming from.  We all have that favorite pair of pants or jeans.  We all have that favorite shirt or baseball hat that we just can’t seem to get rid of.  My wife still wears my very old Wofford College t-shirts to sleep in.  I think they’re close to 17 years old.  But they’re her favorite.

Some items hold a special place in our memory.  I still have my first Montreal Canadiens hockey team hat that my granddad gave me when I was a teenager.  I wore that hat to work almost everyday during the summers.  It has faded from its original red to a kind of orange color now. The logo is frayed and the plastic clasp could break at any moment.  It’s dirty and smells horrible, but it still fits me like it did when I was a teenager.  I can’t wash it.  It would probably fall apart.  It’s hard to let go of things like that.

Life is full of interesting twists and turns.  We all enjoy living comfortably.  We all want stability in our home life and our work life.  We all want to feel like what we do is fulfilling on a number of levels – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally.  There are times though when the status quo becomes boring and unfulfilling.  It’s during those times when making a change might be the best way to go.

Sometimes you just have to throw out that old pair of pants and start wearing another pair.

Doing that takes a certain level of courage and resolve.  It also takes support and understanding from friends and loved ones.  Finally, it takes finding the right situation or fit.

As I stood over the trash compactor and threw away my pants tonight, I thought to myself that I could wash them and wear them a few more times.  But as I looked at them again, I realized that it was time to make that change.  They didn’t fit anymore.  It was time to move on.

RIP my favorite pants.  It was a fun ride while it lasted.

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

How do you handle stressful situations?  With so much going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I thought I would share my current method of escape.  Some people exercise.  Some people read.  I’m eating ice cream – and lots of it!

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream.

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”    ― Theodore Roosevelt

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed.  I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.

On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.

On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.

As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being.  Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine.  There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.

Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one.  I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses.  Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.

I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today.  I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall.  And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law.  All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself.  That’s for sure.

On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family.  It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister.  Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.

So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about.  And that’s one of my problems.

I can’t stop thinking!

My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.

On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice – “productive paranoia.”  When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo.  I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge.  I’m always planning for that next step.  I don’t like surprises.  I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people.  According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.

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On the home front, I think about other things.  With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other.  Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week.  I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….

Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations.  I also try to learn from them.  Is it their faith that helps them get through it?  Is it their friends or their family that help them?  Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?

For me, I stop and eat ice cream!

I know.  It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream.  Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream.  Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.

Gigi-Reviews: Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter Ice Cream    Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cake | Haight | FunCheapSFMayfield Dairy Select Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

It’s my way to escape.  It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great.  It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.

When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do.  Others read books or write blogs.  Others like to cry.  Others listen to music.  Others call their friends to vent.  Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.

Right now, I eat ice cream.  And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.

Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone.  It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline.  I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…).  But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.

It should disappear, right?

Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired.  How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her.  There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind.  Abraham Lincoln.  Moses.  Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines).  All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.

So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place.  If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible.  If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.

For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream.  I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle.  Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.

The Ice Cream Informant: REVIEW: Mayfield Snickerdoodle

 

Sounds awesome to me.  How about you?

If America Had Kings and Queens, Would We Really Care?

If America Had Kings and Queens, Would We Really Care?.

Have you followed the royal birth this week?  Based on the amount of media coverage, you really can’t help it, can you?  How would we feel about a royal birth if America had its own King and Queen?  Let me know what you think.

If America Had Kings and Queens, Would We Really Care?

Over the past couple of days, all forms of media have dedicated countless man hours and resources covering the birth of Kate and William’s first, yet to be named child – The Prince of Cambridge.  I’ve been amazed at the level of attention that this event has received from our American media (although I’m not surprised).

Huffington Post has provided real time updates – noting that today at 9:47 AM (US EST), two pizzas were delivered to the service entrance of St. Mary’s Hospital.  They also noted that after giving birth to a child she deserves to eat anything she wants.  The media also reported that Kate’s parents arrived at the hospital at 10:15 to visit the newborn prince, and Carole was wearing the £335 Orla Kiely ‘Dancing Girls’ tea dress in pebble — a lovely choice to visit her grandson.  I guess that’s some important stuff.

I also learned that a hairdresser was dispatched to the hospital prior to the first appearance by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son.  Finally at 2:12 PM, Kate and William exit St. Mary’s Hospital.  We found out almost immediately that Kate wore a baby blue bespoke polka-dotted Jenny Packham (her favorite!) dress and looked gorgeous.  I’m running to the store right now to get Carrie one of these dresses.

As I have been forced to follow the coverage of the royal birth (mainly because it’s the first thing that pops-up on the AOL home screen), I’ve asked myself how America would really feel about this event if we had our own royal family?  Many Americans have followed the birth of this child as if it’s the most important thing going on in their lives.  The question I ask is: Why?  Why are we drawn to events like these?  Why are we so drawn to celebrities and the lives they lead?  How would we treat events like these if America had its own royal family?  I think I discovered the answer to my question last night.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a business dinner with two gentlemen from the United Kingdom – one from England and one from Scotland.  Over the course of the evening, the subject of the royal birth came-up in conversation – of course.  And it was quite apparent that their level of interest in the royal birth and in the royal family was limited at best.  When it came up, they didn’t even know that the child had been born at 4:24 BST (again from Huffington Post).  Our host knew the details, but our guests really didn’t seem to care.  She seemed puzzled by the situation as she assumed because they were from the UK, they would be drawn to the event like many of us here in America.  In this case, they were not.

And I think I understand why.  The royal family has been part of their everyday lives since they were born.  This is normal stuff.  This is part of their culture.  These guys were around for the birth of Prince William and Harry.  They have lived through multiple royal weddings and divorces and multiple scandals.  Since we Americans don’t have our own royal family, we have chosen to live vicariously through the royals of England.  We are drawn to the pomp and circumstance of the royals.  The traditions, customs and rituals.  The mystery of the life of the Queen and her family.  We, as Americans, are enamored by it.  We have parties to celebrate the weddings, the birth of royal children, the royal polo matches, etc.  Following their lives is an escape from reality.  For many, it’s just entertainment.

Part of me finds a great deal of humor here.  Part of me is saddened by it because there are more important things going on in the world.  Part of me understands the need to escape from reality – to follow the lives of others.  It feeds our dreams.  What child doesn’t want to be a movie star or a princess or a famous singer?  Who doesn’t want to live in a royal castle?  My middle daughter is totally drawn to Taylor Swift.  My oldest daughter loves to watch and listen to Selena Gomez.  Fortunately, neither of my girls like Justin Bieber (thank goodness).

So for those of you that have followed this event from the beginning, I hope they name the baby boy soon so we can all move on with our lives and see other headlines on the AOL home screen.  You would think they would have come up with a short list of names over the past nine months.  I’m thinking George or James.  Those are two royal sounding names.

We should know something soon.  I can’t wait.