June 2013


Hiking

As we were riding along in my truck on our way to go hiking, my oldest daughter proclaimed that she felt like she was going to throw up… within 20 seconds, she threw up. Fortunately there was a towel in the back seat where my dog was riding earlier and she had the wherewithal to direct the contents of her stomach in that direction. I pulled over at the next stop (which happened to be a Burger King) and she gagged on the grass while patrons enjoyed their breakfast.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in the mountains and I had a picnic and hike planned for the family. Reluctant to throw in the towel (figuratively… I actually threw away the towel), I went inside to get her a drink… and one for her little sister who, in her words, was feeling “a little left out”. We loaded back up into the truck and proceeded toward our trail (with an empty Burger King bag… just in case).

We were heading to an area we had never been to before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. It was amazing. We drove deep into some very dense woods on a gravel/dirt road that followed a beautiful mountain stream for miles. We discovered dozens of incredible campsites and found a great spot for our picnic. My sick little trooper still wasn’t feeling great, but she was willing to give the hike a shot.

The trail was outstanding – one of the best I’ve ever been on east of the Rockies. It was actually a portion of the Appalachian Trail – a 2,100 mile trial that extends from North Georgia to Maine. After walking the famed trail for a while, I turned perpendicular to it and walked across. Now I can say that I have hiked the entire width of the Appalachian Trail.

My youngest was fully in hiking mode… actually running much of the trail (mental note, stop and get sugary drinks before our next hike). Olivia, while plainly not back to herself, seemed to be doing a little better. At the end of the trail were a beautiful waterfall and some huge boulders that we all climbed on.

The girls had a blast. By this time, Olivia was smiling, running, and chasing butterflies. This ended up being one of if not the best hike we have taken as an entire family and we would have missed the experience if we had given up when Olivia got sick earlier. Now I know… sometimes the right thing to do is turn the car around and try again later, but sometimes we miss out on life’s greatest joys because we give up too soon.

There will be no posting next week because the girls will be trying out their legs on the mountains of Colorado. I think we’ll need a lot of soft drinks.

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nestLast week was a blur. I met my family on the side of a mountain in Tennessee (literally) and turned the kids over to them for their annual week at Nana and Granddaddy’s. My wife and I were looking forward to a week without kids and had lots of plans. Looking back, I guess we did get to do a lot – we had two nice dinners (one on our anniversary), watched a movie, and spent an evening on the boat – but it seems like the week flew by and was over before we had fully realized it had begun… Nana’s perspective may be somewhat different.

Having kids really makes you appreciate the little things – watching the news… getting into the car without having to make sure that everyone went potty, is appropriately dressed, has Blankie and Bunny, is buckled in, and has something to occupy them… working out without scheduling 30 minutes for your spouse to cover for you… eating a meal in front of the TV while watching Seinfeld… not spending an hour every night going through a bathing, tooth-brushing, book reading, tucking in routine… not explaining “why” everything known to man is the way it is – these are all things that you take for granted when you don’t have kids and appreciate during a brief respite.

Then again, these are the things that parents also kind of miss during that respite. That’s the odd thing about parenting – one of the biggest frustrations and greatest challenges is that you are always needed… but it is when you are no longer needed that you look back longingly on the days that you were.

That’s one of the reasons why I really appreciate having the kids spend a week at Nana and Granddaddy’s. Yes, it gives Sara and me a much needed break, but it also opens our eyes to what a wonder gift our children are… perhaps we would have an even better appreciation if they spent two weeks away. Not sure if Nana will go for that one.

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I am going back to my hometown this weekend for my 20-year high school reunion.  It’s hard to believe that two decades have passed since I walked up on the stage to accept my diploma.  Here’s what I’ve learned over that time:

  • Your education never stops – I’m currently working on my second master’s degree and am enrolled in college… again, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  The informal education of life is just beginning when you’re eighteen years-old and I would imagine it doesn’t stop until you do.  While there may not be grades, the stakes are high and failure to learn can result in much worse things than a bad GPA.
  • It’s not all about making as much money as you can.  Sure it’s nice to be financially secure, but it’s not worth it do something you despise to make more cash.  Find work that you enjoy!
  • It’s not all about your career.  Yes, your career is important, but some of the greatest things you will do are completely unrelated to it.
  • Kids make everything more difficult… but once you have them, you cannot bear the thought of life without them.
  • Invest now and don’t stop… retirement savings, health & fitness, education… anything that requires a small sacrifice now for greater delayed gratification is worth it.
  • Gas will approach $4 per gallon, but people will complain about that and actually pay in excess of a dollar for a 16-ounce bottle of water at the same store.  That’s over $8 for a gallon for water… wish I knew that twenty years ago!
  • Time will go by remarkably fast and it will never come back.  Don’t waste it.
  • Most of what you worry about in high school will not matter a few years down the road… the same probably applies to what I’m worrying about now.
  • Doing the right thing can be hard.  Regretting a poor decision is harder.
  • Reflecting back on the past 20 years reveals how little I knew then.  I’m now old enough to realize how little I know now relative to where I will be 20 years from now.
  • Don’t worry.  Music will get much better than it was in 1993… and Marky Mark is actually a pretty decent actor.
  • And the Number 1 thing I’ve learned… 38 years-old is still young!  At least that’s what you’ll tell yourself in 20 years.

Hammer

I’m a firm believer that someone should make Garanimals for adults.  That way I would know not to mix the giraffe with the lion and avoid the “are you really going to wear that” looks from my wife.  Of course, matching clothes is just part of the challenge… you also have know what is in style.  That’s why I have a fashion consultant who buys all my clothes and advises me on my selections – my wife.

After getting dressed for work a few weeks ago, I ran some shoes by my fashion consultant because I had not worn them in some time and thought they were a little questionable.  I walked out of the closet and asked, “Are these shoes ok?”

She had a contemplative look as she stared at the shoes for several seconds.  “Hmmmm….”

This confused me because usually if something is questionable enough for me to ask what she thinks, it immediately goes to Goodwill.  This time; however, I seemed to stump her.

“Well, they’re not great but don’t get rid of them.  I think those are coming back in style,” she said nonchalantly.

Those words were like a dagger.  So I’ve kept a pair of shoes for so long they’ve gone out of style and come back in???  I did the math.  She bought me those shoes when we moved to New York, which was 2002.  It is now 2013.  The shoes were eleven years old… if they were a kid, they’d be going into the 6th grade and they’re not even close to the oldest clothes I still own.

Then the practicality side of me kicked in.  Here’s a pair of shoes that are in good shape and, according to my wife, may be coming back in style.  Had I gotten rid of them when they were unfashionable, I’d have one less pair of shoes in my rotation.  How many other things have I gotten rid of that could now be of use?

That’s the problem with fashion – it’s too fashionable… and it’s not just clothes.  Home decorations, diets, political beliefs, exercise programs, and even life purposes are prone to falling in and out of fashion. 

That’s why I take the same approach with all of these – don’t go for fashion, go for quality.  It doesn’t matter if it is a pair of shoes, a piece of furniture, or a life principle; here are three questions I ask when choosing:

  • What’s it made of?  Look for good raw materials.
  • How’s it put together?  Get the best quality you can afford.
  • Will this still have a place in my wardrobe/home/life ten years from now?

 

Quality and longevity trump fashion any day.