Bailey

There’s a very cool place that is a five minute drive from my house called Station Road Farm. Many towns have a place like this where you can buy flowers, produce, mulch, pumpkins, etc. It is a popular location because it’s a farm that seems to have been dropped in the middle of a suburb. This has been a favorite shopping option for my family for years. It gave me a chance to keep close to my roots because I grew up on or near a farm for most of my youth, and my kids got to have a quasi-farm experience.

I remember on my relative’s farms that there were always animals. There would be multiple dogs and cats that just seemed to come with the whole environment. So, when we visited Station Road Farm, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the same thing. When my kids were very young, we were making a visit to pick up tomatoes and corn when they were distracted by new kittens roaming around the property. The cashier was very observant and she looked down to my daughter and said, “The kittens are free to a good home. Would you like to take one?” My daughter got those big eyes that kids get when they want something, and she cooed, “Can we Dad?” We didn’t have any pets at home, and I couldn’t say no to those eyes. I said, “If you see one that comes up to you, I’ll think about it.”

As if divine providence was upon her, a small yellow kitten started wrapping itself around and around my daughter’s legs. She squealed and said, “Dad, look !!” We drove back home and picked up my wife and son and brought them back to see the kitten. They loved him too. That was the day Bailey came home with us. We weren’t prepared and had nothing needed to take care of a new pet. So, we made a trip to the store and bought everything we needed – and then some.

That was 14 years ago. He has been a wonderful part of our family who had some very unique qualities. Every night when the kids came home from school, or Debbie and I came home from work, he was at the door to greet us. Every. Night. He also loved playing fetch by chasing a small rainbow striped ball up and down our basement steps forever. Bailey was never a lap cat, but he was ever present. If we were in a room, he was there with us. He always knew where we were and he did his rounds to check on everyone to make sure things were good.

This weekend Bailey passed. We fondly shared stories of his life. There were visits to elementary school for Show & Tell with both kids. Then there was the time of how he survived a thunderstorm when he fell out through a screen on our second floor and stayed on a small strip of the roof soaked and mewing until we pulled him in. He begged at the table and was a fan of lunch meat and licking tuna cans clean. Everyone is biased about having the “best” pet ever, but I would say that Bailey was the best fit for our family. I don’t think there’s any better description that fits him. I’m so thankful he chose to wrap around my daughter’s legs.

I know that I normally write about how to make HR better, but we need to remember that our lives are so much more than our chosen occupation. We have so little actual time truly interacting with people even though we feel it consumes every waking moment of our time at work.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the encounters and interactions you have with people, I challenge you to cherish them instead. People pass in and out of our lives daily. Instead of letting them pass you by, be intentional and connect with them. Who knows, you may be the exact connection they needed at the exact time they needed it.

Value others. Celebrate their lives and the time you have with them. Never take it for granted and be thankful for the time you have.

Thanks Bailey for being a vital member of the Browne family !!

Jay.

This past week I lost a dear friend. His name is Jay.

His passing wasn’t expected. He was driving home after work when debris came through his windshield and killed him instantly. The news was as staggering as the way he passed. It doesn’t seem possible that a peer is gone. Life isn’t supposed to progress this way. We had hoped to grow old together and spend time with our families, children and (hopefully) grandchildren.

Fortunately, I was able to travel out of town to participate in his visitation and funeral service. That meant the world to me because Jay was one of my closest friends on the planet. I was one of the people asked to share at his service and it was the most challenging speech I’ve ever given. I’ve been fortunate to speak in front of thousands of people at a time, and that was easier than this.

When I was putting my remarks together, there were tears mixed with laughter. Jay was one of the smartest people I’ve every known – literally. He was a PhD scientist who did research to try to help cure cancer. He was a model husband and father who loved them with his life, his time and his focus. He only ever said kind and positive things about them. Jay and I could “nerd out” together while enjoying conversations ranging from the genius of Monty Python to the deep meaning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and movies.

Our families literally grew up together through the birth of our kids until now some 20+ years. We’ve laughed together, worshiped together, camped together and shared many other experiences. I saw Jay every week for the 13 years we lived in the same city. His job took him to Illinois and finally Wisconsin, but we never grew apart.

The greatest thing I can share about Jay is that he made an eternal impact on my life. Now that he’s gone, I feel that impact even more. Jay literally took in every aspect of life. He didn’t miss a thing. He was very observant and it was a joy to be with him on hikes out on a trail because you’d experience the fullness of nature instead of hurrying to get your number of steps in.

Jay also did this with the people in his life. He never missed a person and made sure to get to know you and interact with you. Ironically, he was a quiet, humble man who would meet you with ease versus bravado. He listened to your stories and laughed often !!

His life is a reminder and an example for me and for others. In today’s world everyone seems to be consumed with politics and taking sides or the misadventures of celebrities we will probably never meet in person. I would challenge you to get out of these constant distractions and look at the people you encounter every. day.

That is where we can leave a mark. You see, you leave an impact every time to you interact with others. You just need to choose if that will be a positive impact or a negative one. Either way, it will happen. I choose to be like Jay and pour into the lives of all the people who cross my path. Intentionally meeting them and seeing who they are and what their life is like. It matters.

One of the final experiences I had in person with Jay that left an impact on us both was seeing U2 live in Chicago at Soldier’s Field with two more best friends. We took in every note and sang every lyric. It was another lifelong memory as every one was with Jay. He loved U2 just as we all did, and still do.

I’ll leave you with one of their songs, Grace, which has a lyric which says “Grace finds goodness in everything.”

That was Jay. I loved my friend and miss him immensely. I know we’ll see each other again some day, and it will be just as wonderful as it has been for all these years.

Dads.

I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.

In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.

Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.

My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .

Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.

This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.

When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.

Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.

Now to today . . .

As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .

Kids and Tree

My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.

This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.

Happy Father’s Day to one and all !!

 

 

Mom.

In very early 1964 on an Army base in Nuremberg, Germany (West Germany at the time), a young woman became a mother for the first time. The challenge was that her son was one month premature. The doctor’s reassured her and did everything they could to take care of this newborn. He spent time in an incubator, but eventually became healthy enough to head home.

As if this wasn’t enough, her young husband had volunteered to serve in the Army and he was about to take one of four tours to Vietnam to fight for his country. After the young family returned to the States, the young mother had a second son in Columbus, Georgia. Soon after this, her husband who served as a Staff Sergeant fell ill. He battled the best he could, but cancer won and left her with a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old.

She returned back to her small rural hometown, Luckey, Ohio (yes it is a place !!) and went to college while she held a full-time job. She earned her Bachelor’s in Education and became a teacher in a vocational school. She later earned her Master’s Degree and worked 30+ years teaching students to become Administrative Assistants. She remarried after being a widow nine years and she will be celebrating her 40th anniversary with this great man in June 2016.

She always encouraged her two sons to do their best and expected them to excel. She was always positive and wanted both of them to succeed. Throughout her life she has focused on others in her church, her community and in her school. Whenever, she meets anyone she gives them her full attention, and is genuinely interested in who they are and what they are sharing. Quick to laugh as well as shed an emotional tear, you know that she is fully invested in you. Most of the time that ends up in deeply warm hugs when she sees you and when she leaves.

Her two sons have been very blessed and fortunate as well. One is a doctor who now serves as an executive in a large healthcare system in Tennessee, and her other son is an executive for a regional pizzeria working in Human Resources !! She welcomed two amazing women when they chose to get married (25+ years both) and she still is enamored with her five grandchildren who are now all young adults.

Just this weekend, she saw her granddaughter, who earned her B.S. in Psychology as a summa cum laude, become a college graduate. Being the consummate Mom, she brought snacks of monster cookies and trail mix that she made which she gave her granddaughter, her grandson and their parents. Each paper lunch bag had their names on them (of course), and she took enough pictures to fill a photo album !!

MomBy now, I hope you know this is my mother, Connie. She has left an indelible legacy on me and her family that will last eternally. She’s honestly the type of person that never talks about herself only others. However, when you get a chance to talk to the people whose lives she has touched, you only hear about her.

It’s odd to me that we only set aside one day a year for Mothers. Moms don’t get days off and they deserve our appreciation every day of the year. I am so fortunate to be from a family that is full of positivity, faith and selflessness. It’s been a great model to learn from and, hopefully, share with others in my life.

Over the years there have been far more hugs than tears. Far more lasting memories than struggles. And, far more love, joy and stories that will never fade. She continues to be someone who deeply touches everyone she encounters naturally.

Thanks mom.

#7Songs – Thunder !!

I’ve really enjoyed participating in the 7Songs blog series. To be candid, it’s impossible to get it down to seven single songs. I’m sure you could make a list like this fairly easily using different eras of music, different genres of artists and a myriad of different filters to compile a “best of” list.

The item that pulled all of these songs together for me can be summed up in one word – passion !! I am passionate about my choices and most people are very passionate about music. You may love one type of music and absolutely despise another. If you bring that up, you are sure to get arguments from others because they will defend their faves as well.

For me, there is only one band that embodies passion for me because every time they strike a chord on the guitar or belt out a crushing vocal, they bring it !!

#7 – Thunderstruck by AC/DC

Let's RockYou can’t help but banging your head and throwing your hands in the air the minute an AC/DC song starts. Thunderstruck epitomizes the essence of this
Aussie power group !! They made a career of songs built on three chords. Even though it’s “simple” music, they make arenas erupt.

I had been a fan of AC/DC for years when Thunderstruck came out. They had been making rock anthems for years before MTV had videos. So, I also got to SEE them perform this, and I couldn’t contain myself. The riff that Angus Young starts deftly moving up and down the frets of his guitar hooks you instantly. It’s something that would turn into a performance tied to HR down the road.

When I was chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the theme was HR Rocks !! (double exclamation points included) For those of you who know me double exclamation points are the norm when I write (even texts and e-mails) because they epitomize passion.

As chair, I pulled my committee aside and showed them my vision of the opening of the conference. I wanted a stage with a catwalk, flashing lights and Thunderstruck blaring overhead. I actually bought an Angus Young costume and dressed up like him to take the stage and loudly welcome everyone to the event.

When I did this, the attendees all had drum sticks that they could pound together to bring the noise to a triumphant crescendo !! By the time I reached the mic to yell out “Hello, Sandusky !! Are you ready to rock ??!!” they were already geeked to get the show started.

Passion is something that we too often suppress when it is something we should express. Being tentative may be safer, but it leads to regret because you miss out on what you wanted to do. I learned long ago what it felt like to work in an environment that sucked the soul out of you. When I left that company, I vowed that my passions would never be suppressed again. . . . And they haven’t since !!

So, I encourage you to get the entire AC/DC catalog. It’s great to rip off the lid of the day and just flat rock !!! Find your 7Songs and keep them on a playlist to remind you that you were created to be vibrant, creative people. It’s who you’re supposed to be.

Let me help you get started – hands in air, head banging, cue the riff . . .

#7Songs – Release Your Inner Nerd !!

I am a nerd. There’s no doubt about it and it’s who I’ve been all of my life. In school I never was one of the “cool” kids. I was in Show Choir, Physics Club, Chemistry Club, Student Council, etc. Like many of the folks I know, I was involved in as many activities as I could find because these were my social outlets.

The odd thing about being a nerd is that people don’t expect you to do things outside of the box that they put you in. You see, I was also a very good athlete as well as a musician and student. People desperately want people to fit inside their filters and stereotypes because if you don’t it’s unpredictable and that’s unnerving.

Another thing that you don’t think of when you’re younger and nerdy is that you’ll “grow into it” later in life. The teenage years are awkward enough without having to carry a moniker of Geek with you. Relationships are challenging because teens (like adults) want to run around with packs of people who are just like them. You aren’t supposed to cross lines.

It’s no wonder that when I saw a “nerd” be a rock n’ roll artist, I was drawn to him which brings me to my next song.

#6 – Veronica by Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello was unlike anyone I ever had seen in music before and no one made music like he did. When he burst onto the scene, he looked like a Buddy Holly remake, but he was far from anyone who played rockabilly.

Elvis CostelloHis tight suits, coiffed hair and HUGE black glasses were outstanding. You could tell by listening to his songs that he was a lyricist. One, in my opinion, that is unmatched in the music industry !! I think I have every song he’s recorded, and this song just hits a note every time I hear it.

Like most of his music, Veronica, tells a story. The video is dead on with the song by showing Elvis visit an elderly woman in a nursing home. She fondly remembers the past, but is slowly forgetting the present and even her name. It’s something that perfectly frames a moment in time.

Being able to write like that is a gift. No one who “looks” at Elvis Costello expects him to be someone who is enshrined in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Ironically, very little of his music ever has had radio play and the general Top 40 public who follow the next great passing trend would hardly recognize him.

He’s recorded with legends of the music industry and often has an eclectic mix of artists who back him up. It’s outstanding that he’s never veered from being the original nerd that he always has been. He’s never fallen to the narrow path and formula that record companies force on their artists.

I dig Elvis because I believe in living out my inner nerd as well. So, how about you? Are you trying to “fit in” with the folks who want you to blend in with everyone around you so there’s no visible identity or distinction? Break with the crowd and let that inner nerd out !! You’ll be glad you did.

 

#7Songs – What rules ??

I’m not one to have many regrets about life. It’s been absolutely amazing so far and I’m looking forward to what will happen in the future !! However, everyone has a “I wonder what my life would be if” thought every once in awhile.

I’ve always thought it would have been great to live in the UK !! If I could even narrow that down, I’d live there during my teenage years which happen to have been in the late 70’s because I would have been present during the birth of Punk Rock. I didn’t really listen to punk bands until I heard more of them in college, but once I did one band clearly stood out and stuck – The Clash.

To me they defined the genre and never settled for the status quo. Most people know their two most popular songs, Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are phenomenal, but I think one song stands out above the rest in their impressive catalog.

#5 – White Man in Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
Clash LogoThis song has incredible lyrics where Joe Strummer, the front man of the group. questions the other punk rock artists of the time and insinuates that they’re selling out. This epitomizes who The Clash were. They questioned the establishment and self-centeredness of their own generation. They set their own path and didn’t look back. If you had to describe their approach you’d say “what rules” ??

I’m someone who has always looked at life from a slightly different angle. I enjoy running contrary to what people expect. It’s also how I’ve approached HR. I have chosen to do something completely radical . . . . and be positive about people !! You wouldn’t think that this is “punk rock” enough, but it truly is. We’re bombarded with negativity almost every moment of every day. It takes a concerted effort to not bend to the will of others, or the trend that is easy to fall into.

I make sure to listen to The Clash as least once a day to remind me that you can redefine the norms and status quo. This song is a great place to start because once you hear it you won’t get it out of your head, and you’ll be yearning for more.

I hope by sharing this, you step out and question the status quo a bit more than you do now. So, let’s get you started !!

 

#7Songs – Poems

I remember when my high school friend, Jamie Miller, drove up to the Mello Creme donut store where we used to hang out. As he rolled his window down music I had never heard emanated from his tape deck. He was geeked and said, “Steve, have you listened to The Wall¬†yet?”

“What? What’s The Wall ??”

“It’s simply the BEST album I’ve ever heard !! It’s by Pink Floyd. Dude you have to get this. It’s freakin’ incredible.”

He then sped out and drove off. I was intrigued and I saved up my money because this was a double album. I didn’t want to get the cassette tape, I wanted the vinyl. After I bought the set, I consumed it. I listened to the entire thing over and over.

When the movie came out, I was one of the first to see it on the big screen and it blew my mind. I had never seen anything like it. During college I hosted an annual movie night where we’d play the best VHS tapes of the day with two exceptions. Every year we included Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Wall. My friends and I could sing every single word of the movie and never miss. This brings me to song #4 . . .

#4 – Nobody Home by Pink Floyd

Nobody Home Pink FloydIf you haven’t listened to a Pink Floyd album, then you’re missing out on the layers upon layers of sound, movement and lyrics. You’ll hear little phrases dropped in odd places, and this song captures them all. It also caught my attention because of the opening line that is lightly screamed before the song truly begins.

“I’ve got a little black book with me poems in !!”

You see, I’ve been an aspiring writer for most of my life. I have poetry that I wrote through high school and college. They captured my deepest thoughts and feelings and were a way to get things out. I kept them to myself and filled a few journals with them. Writing has a powerful way of allowing you to stretch, communicate and create.

Pink Floyd did this with this song, and honestly with all of their music !! (in my opinion) The lyrics of Nobody Home are more free flowing with little rhyming. I love it because it tells a story with random thoughts that are running through the mind of the main character of the rock opera.

I have that happen often. Random thoughts are just trying to come together and be expressed. I’ve been writing poems each week for years now as part of my HR network, so I still have the opportunity to create. I think people would enjoy what they do in their lives more if they took the time to be creative. I hope to take this up a level and compose a book. We’ll have to see. I think when I take the time to put it together, this will be playing in the background !!

 

#7Songs – Thank You

Have you ever taken a personality assessment? As an HR practitioner, I’ve taken a ton of them. I enjoy doing it and the outcome is the same every time. I’m a fierce extrovert !! I don’t even come close to the median of any extroversion scale. It’s honestly how I’ve been ever since I was very young. There are more challenges to being extroverted than you would think. One of those is finding someone who will deal with you and how you’re wired.

Meet my wife. She’s taken those same assessments and we are exactly the opposite. I wouldn’t call her a “fierce” introvert at all. I’d categorize her as a sound and grounded introvert which I find to be perfection. She caught my attention over a quarter of a century ago when she went way outside her comfort zone and asked me out !! Honestly, she took the first step to bring us together, and I’ve been thankful ever since.

Song #3 – Thank You by Led Zeppelin

I’ve always consider Led Zeppelin the quintessential rock band. There are few acts that I would classify as legendary, but Zeppelin qualifies. Many people are familiar with their hits, but few take in their whole catalog. One of the facets of the majority of my music collection is that I tend to own an artist’s entire catalog of albums. You run the risk of finding a few clunkers when you do this, but you also get to see the entire spectrum of their work.

My favorite song of theirs came from Led Zeppelin II – their second album. It’s a beautiful love song that you wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t reflect the massive, driving rock laced with ¬†incredible vocals, lead guitar and crushing drums that capture the essence of Led Zeppelin.

Thank You ZeppelinIt’s my favorite because the lyrics of the song describe the love I have for my wife. She’s the one person on the planet who accepts me for who I am. That makes her the best partner I could have ever asked for. Now, mind you, I love her for who she is as well. We fill in the gaps in each other’s strengths and that makes for an incredible bond. When I was fortunate enough to have Debbie say “Yes” and agree to marry me, I asked her if we could have this song be our first dance.

She loved the song, but felt that Led Zeppelin may be a bit of a stretch for those that came to our wedding. I reluctantly succumbed, and we ended up using a love song from 1989 – the year we wed. The Zeppelin song has lasted just like our marriage, and it will last forever. Here’s why. Take a look at these lyrics and then click on the video and enjoy !!

“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When the mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”

 

#7Songs – Not Bad at All !!

College is a time when you “grow up.” It was my first time away from home for any extended period of time and I was the only person from my town to attend Ohio University. I went there not knowing a single person. Now, you need to know that I graduated in a high school class of 73 people, and just joined a university that had 17,000 people attending at that time !! I suffered a major culture shock, but fell in love with everything the school had to offer.

JC Penney StereoMy sophomore year, I became a Resident Assistant (an RA). I was practicing HR even back then but didn’t know it. As an RA, you get a single room which meant you had a room that normally held two students all to yourself. I saved up money and purchased a JC Penney MCS Stereo System !!

It “looked” cool, but it wasn’t. Several students in the dorm had massive stereo systems with components, equalizers, woofers, etc. They could shake the building when they were turned on. Almost every day you could hear the low hum of systems just waiting to blast out music.

I started my album collection in college and EVERY Friday I would come back from classes and a full week and pull out an EP to play this song . . .

#2 – Bad (Live) by U2 from Wide Awake in America

Almost everyone has a band that they can say defined their generation and U2 is that band for me. I know that they are a group that people either adore or don’t. There really isn’t a middle ground.

I saw this song performed on a HBO special in the dorm late one night from one of their concerts and I was transfixed. I had never seen someone sing so passionately. Bono was dripping in sweat and the crowd hung on every word he sang. The Edge played the guitar in a way I had never heard before and Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton provided the solid drums and bass to keep things incredibly tight.

After a full week it felt cleansing to pull this EP out of it’s sleeve and gently put the vinyl on my stereo. I played it so incredibly loud that I could hear nothing else. As the RA, I was supposed to keep things “in line”, but I wasn’t much of a rule follower even back then. I saw U2 as a group that was changing music and I saw myself in them because I too was changing and wanted to see things change even more.

I would absolutely love to meet the band someday (another bucket list item). I continue to love everything they do, and my interest in them only grew from the time I had this EP. After I served as the chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the committee was gracious enough to get me a signed copy of their Joshua Tree album. I’d like to think that I’d thank them for providing that release every Friday.

In fact, I think I’ll go dust off that EP and slap it on my turntable once again . . .