Travels

This past weekend I happened to travel. I’ve come a long way personally when it comes to trips. I used to get very anxious about almost every aspect from finding a place to park at an airport to talking to a desk clerk at a hotel. It’s not rational. I know that. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an uber-extrovert. I easily approach folks and find it energizing to meet strangers and get to know about them. So, the anxiety I experienced while traveling was even more troubling because in every other situation I rarely hesitate to interact with others.

Over the years in my volunteer roles with SHRM, I had to face my anxiety more and more. As I took on larger positions, travel became much more regular. Fortunately, I have a dear friend who was patient with me who taught me how to have confidence during my travels. I learned how to not get overwhelmed and started enjoying the time I had in airports and in new geographic locations. Now, I’m at a much different place because I’ve put in place some simple patterns I follow to keep things in order. You have to understand that this is a giant challenge for me because I tend to be carefree and spontaneous.

Since I’m more at ease with travel, I’ve slipped back into what I normally do – observe others. I’m an avid people watcher !! People fascinate me. I love seeing how everyone is unique in their appearance and their approach to traveling themselves. The vast majority of people have a destination mindset. They will do all they can to get through security quickly and without incident because they don’t want to slow down. Once they’ve cleared this first hurdle, they keep their head down and their pace increases as they dash to their gate. If anything inhibits people, they will audibly huff, groan or sigh. They only care about their destination and everyone else is honestly seen as being in their way.

I get it. I see the anxiety and stress on the faces and in the voices of my fellow travelers. I’m not judging because there are so many factors that can upset your plans. You’re hoping for each moment to go smoothly, and you convince yourself that something will go wrong. Unfortunately, it can. The volume of people who are traveling is only increasing and many of the systems are over capacity or not modernized. Also, not one airport is the same. There is variety in how everything is handled.

Because I know my triggers, I’ve learned to be more patient with other travelers. I’ve also decided to show grace, appreciation and thanks to those who help us along the gauntlet from the parking lot to our final destinations. The employees on the travel side get bombarded with all of the people who are wired and on edge. They deserve to be treated well instead of launched upon. Many of the delays and idiosyncrasies that pop up are out of their control.

This past weekend I noticed a piece of art which captured who I try to be and how I thought I’d travel. I’ve seen it in the past, but it truly caught my eye this time. I’m sure I’ve missed so much in airports, hotels and even the towns I’ve gone to because I was focused on arriving more than enjoying the journey. That’s a shame. It truly is.

I’ve been doing my best to keep my eyes and ears open so I can take in the experience around me far more than worrying about where my gate is. I’ve found that it’s lowered by stress, anxiety and probably my blood pressure. I don’t want to miss the people, sights and interactions that swirl around me. I am now embracing the pace with all of it’s chaos.

It’s a great reminder to use this same approach at home with my wife, at work with my peers and out in public. This week I hope you slow down and calm down. Life is short. We casually say this all the time, but we don’t take steps to do anything about it and savor where we are and who we’re with. Change that today. Our lives can be full and abundant if we embrace the experience during all of our travels as well as our destinations !!

Take It In !!

This past week I celebrated another trip around the sun and became another year older. I find that I now look at each new year as a time to reflect. This is something newer for me and something I wish I would do more. For instance, I have now been alive 30 years longer than my biological father was. That is staggering to me !! I’m fortunate that I am still walking this planet, but sometimes wonder what life would have looked like had he lived as well. I’m sure it would have been completely different and I wouldn’t be writing a weekly blog, just as one example.

My kids and wife are an amazing and significant component in my life. Now that I’m older, I tend not to get any “things” as birthday gifts. I’m grateful that I get time with them far more than any material object. Debbie, my incredible wife, did get me something that will have incredible value – a set of experiences. She got me some tickets to Xavier University basketball games – my fave college basketball team – and some tickets to see part of the “Whose Line is is Anyway?” cast perform an improv comedy show. I can’t wait to go to these events. She made the gift even more meaningful by saying that I can take others with me to some of the games because she knows I’m a massive extrovert.

The reflection that has hit hard this year is this – You need to enjoy the experiences in your life !! Every. Day.

You need to be honest about this. You rarely take in what’s going on around you. We’ve been programmed to stay focused on whatever task is laid out in front of us. This isn’t only related to work. It is how we approach every aspect of our lives. We miss the majority of any event or encounter, and that’s a shame.

Don’t believe me? Tomorrow when you go to work watch how others interact with each other. Greetings are cursory and polite as everyone rushes to what they want to get to. No one seems to notice or care. Conversations are curt, concise and matter of fact. You will hear most people share some personal stories, but to say that both parties are “present” during the interaction would be startling. We feel the invisible push to move on. The vast majority of our daily experiences are more like a series of pass-by movements. There are short pauses in the rush of pass-bys, but they are limited on purpose.

I consider myself someone who consciously makes time to focus on others, and I have to constantly remind myself to be present in conversations. I have to fight the urge to follow distractions which are always tugging at me. I feel this is true with most people. I don’t think that this has to be the case. I know that we have time to be present when we interact with others throughout each experience we have.

Now that Debbie and I are empty nesters, we are doing more activities as a couple. We’re relearning what it’s like to spend time together just as a pair. We aren’t committed to running to this event or another for either of our kids who are now grown. So, we go out to dinner or make dinner together after a full day of work. We’ll go to the gym and also go to a movie in a theater (we’re old school like that.) Whatever we’re doing, I’ve decided that I am going to be present and take in every second we’re together. I don’t want to miss something because I’m yearning to get to the “next thing.”

I want to be like the two young kids I saw at the grocery store this weekend. They had pulled two of the bags you use to put produce in and were throwing them into the air. The bags would puff out and float slowly back and forth toward the floor. The kids would squeal, catch their bag and throw it back into the air. They were exuberant and present in the moment while their mother was trying to get her shopping done. Instead of chiding the kids, she laughed along with them and commented how beautiful the new “toy” they had created was.

The new year is still young. You can change your approach to how you embrace every day, and in turn, every person you meet. Slow down and take it in. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. You’ll be astonished how much more you’ll enjoy life !!

No Words

Sunday night is when I sit down to pen my weekly blog. Usually, the words flow easily and I can put something together relatively quickly.

If you don’t know, I am an extremely positive person 90% of the time. It’s natural and genuine. Honestly, it feels a bit odd to type it out because I don’t mean this in either an arrogant or naive way. I believe in the good in life and in people.

Then, the mass shootings of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio happened this Saturday. Dayton is a mere 25 miles north of my home. These tragedies are always horrible and senseless. So, I am floored by this weekend and the mass loss of life. We often get moved by the horror until something else grabs our attention.

I know that there are millions of people who are continuing to move on and live life well. They may see the news online or through social media, and feel remorse or disbelief. And yet, life continues.

This week, instead of writing about the good in people (which I still firmly believe in), I’m taking a break to reach out to those close to me. I’m being intentional to tell them how much they mean to me, and the impact they make in my life and the lives of others. I can’t take the chance that I’d miss the opportunity to do this. I don’t want to take any day for granted.

For those of you kind enough to read my blog, please know that you matter. Every. Day.

Stand Up and Cheer !!

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’m a fiercely proud alumni of Ohio University !! It’s a phenomenal university that is tucked in the hills of southeast Ohio along the banks of the Hocking River. It has the distinction of being the first university in the State. Those that have attended OU will make sure to let you know that they are NOT from that school in Columbus, Ohio which shall not be named.

I cherish every time I get the chance to visit the campus. It still has the vibe of being a welcoming home for all that pass through. The students oddly look much younger than I remember looking when I attended, but that’s to be expected. After graduating and starting my own career and family, I never thought that either of my kids would attend my alma mater. When it came time to make college visits, I told them both that they would visit OU even if they didn’t attend. My daughter visited first and liked the campus, but didn’t feel the same pull I did when I attended. She attended the University of Indianapolis and earned her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. She did fine !!

When my son was about to graduate high school, we took the trek across the State to visit OU one more time. I made sure to visit the Bagel Street Deli to make sure he had the experience just in case I never would get to again. Josh surprised me by deciding he would attend Ohio University !! To say I was geeked would not cover how I felt.

The new OU Bobcat Alum !!

That was four quick years ago. This weekend I had the distinct pleasure to see my son graduate as an OU Bobcat. I sat in the same gymnasium 33 years earlier wondering what would happen next. As soon as I walked into the Convocation Center, tears streamed down my face. The reason for that had little to do with my alma mater and everything to do with my amazing son.

You see, I hoped that he would have an incredible time like I did when I went to OU. His experience was his own and had its various ups and downs as it should. I didn’t want him to mimic what I did. I just wanted his college experience to be memorable. It was. Josh was not a big fan of high school. He did well but he couldn’t wait to get out. He didn’t enjoy many classes and I was wondering how his next academic adventure would go. I had nothing to be concerned about. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and embraced all facets of learning.

After the graduation ceremony, my wife and I spent the entire day with Josh enjoying every moment. We made one last stroll up and down Court Street and made sure to buy one more batch of OU apparel. As the rain started to come, we stopped off at Donkey Coffee and Espresso (the coolest coffee house I’ve ever been to !!) It was so cool to sit and talk with the young man who started as an unsure teenager four years earlier. We talked about life, politics, his college memories, and it was obvious that he was ready to step out into the next phase of his life.

The fight song for Ohio University starts out with the lyrics “Stand up and cheer, Cheer loud and long for old Ohio . . .” Today I stand up and cheer for my fellow alum, my fellow Bobcat, my son.

It wouldn’t be an OU post without the Marching 110 – the most exciting band in the land !! Bobcat proud. Bobcat for life !!

The Best Presents . . .

There are two more days until Christmas. There are so many emotions that come to the surface during the holidays. For me it’s an amazing time to reflect on faith as well as being grateful. My best “present” each year is my daughter Melanie because she was born on Christmas Day 25 years ago this coming Tuesday !!

I also know that the holiday season can bring about a ton of mixed emotions that may not all be positive. I ache for those who struggle because there aren’t enough good words to try and help people through what they’re facing. When you have conversations, you want to help so desperately and offer possible solutions. Honestly, most people don’t want solutions, they want your presence.

As we come to the end of another phenomenal year, I am more and more thankful for the people in my life. This ranges from my family to my co-workers to the thousands (not an exaggeration) of HR and business connections that I cherish from SHRM, the global HR community and social media.

I can’t come up with the appropriate words to capture this sentiment of the value of connections. However, I can always rely on one of my favorite philosophers that I grew up with – Bill Watterson. Who’s he? He’s the genius creator of Calvin & Hobbes. So, I want to wish you all a phenomenal Christmas and holiday season and I’m sending you a “best present.”

Thanks for being a connection. Trust me, you matter to me and the lives of others !!

The Best Gift to Give !!

We’re in the midst of the holiday season. You can’t escape the endless string of Christmas music or the many, many television channels completely dedicated to Christmas movies. Every retail location is decorated to the hilt as well. You can’t escape it.

Now, I’m not complaining, and this isn’t a Grinch post railing against the commercialism of the holidays. I enjoy most facets of this season. Most. The one area where I struggle every year is shopping for others. I have never been a list person in any aspect of my life. That isn’t a cry for help and a need for more structure and organization. It’s just a fact. My amazing wife is a list person and it suits her well. So, when she asks for gift ideas for myself or my kids she gets an audible groan.

The whole idea of roaming from store to store and aisle to aisle gives me the shakes !! It’s not the thought of spending too much money on things. It’s because I do so much people watching that I don’t pay attention to the items that could be potential purchases. I’m not “focused” according to my family because they are much more apt to locate, compare and acquire. They can accomplish all of their shopping in a matter of hours. This is true whether they go out to stores or browse various internet sites.

This year I took a new approach. I changed my attitude about shopping and decided to keep an open mind about the experience. Instead of being filled with dread, I was positive because I included a “gift.” The gift was my time. I chose to intentionally be with my wife and enjoy every interaction and encounter. Ironically, this is how I approach most every day outside of the holiday season. Taking a simple shift in MY attitude made an incredible difference !!

For the first time since I can recall, I enjoyed shopping. The lists had beautiful lines running through completed purchases. Debbie and I laughed often and found some surprises outside of the list which filled me with glee. We were even able to get some people watching in. I was patient and kept my wife calm because she doesn’t like large crowds.

You see, giving Debbie my time on purpose meant more to her than anything written down on a list. It was a phenomenal reminder of how powerful giving someone else your time is. As the quote notes, your time is priceless because you can’t get it back !! It goes to the other person and then time moves on.

We all tend to feel that time is fleeting and that we never have enough. That  just isn’t true. We get frustrated because we don’t have enough time for what WE want. Our self-centeredness dominates our daily activities and where we choose to spend our time. I’m not pointing fingers because this affects me as well.

This week, and this holiday season, shift your approach. Give your time to others. This will take more effort than you think it will. It’s not like you can just turn this off and on like a switch. Giving your time to others takes a concerted effort. I’d even recommend that you start looking at how you can give your time to others on a consistent basis throughout the year. Get ahead of the whole New Year’s resolution nonsense that is just around the corner.

Time is something we ALL possess !! Make it your gift.

What You Have . . .

This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving in the States. It is my favorite holiday because it is a chance to step back, reflect and give thanks for all that you have. We kept things low key as my immediate family gathered. It was wonderful to spend time and cook with my wife and two kids (adults). Everyone pitched in as we put our meal together and each person was responsible for a dish. After eating we watched a little football and then a new Christmas movie on Netflix.

The following day we continued our family tradition by putting up Christmas decorations throughout the house as well as lights in the front yard. This time always brings the four of us together and helps us break out of the crazy pace we all seem to follow. The break was needed for all of us.

Now, I know this isn’t “unique” to many situations that happened this past week. Most of the people that I regularly talk to, or hang out with, were fortunate to have similar Thanksgiving gatherings. I was reminded, however, about the power of being thankful for what I have . . . not what I lack.

Too often our days are filled with all that’s “missing” or desired. Few people ever seem content with how life, work and relationships are going. There seems to be a missing component somehow. If someone is grateful, or satisfied, with how things are going, others seem sarcastic, doubtful or challenging. You may even hear someone retort that if you’re not always going after more and more, then you’re actually slipping behind.

To be honest, this negative mindset is exhausting to me. I ache when I hear that people are struggling. I also understand that there are tangible and legitimate mountains that people face every day in regards to all facets of life. I’m not naive. However, I choose to be grateful in the midst of all situations that I face. This runs against the grain of how most people face each day, but I’m good with that.

To help in launching a counter movement to what society has to offer, I choose to encourage others, connect others and let others know that I am thankful for who they are.  This simple approach is daunting because every comment is often met with resistance. The key is to keep moving forward and be persistent. I truly believe that being  genuinely consistent in this approach breaks through in the end.

This week take note of all that you currently have in your life regardless of your circumstances. I’m sure that you’ll find a mix of friends, family and connections all within reach. Tell them that you’re grateful for them and how they impact your life. Don’t let it pass by as an assumption. Make a call. Write a note. Send a text. Whatever it takes, let them know how much they matter to you and others. Who knows? It may be just the spark they needed.

Image from www.sticky-quotes.com 

Vote.

There is always some level of risk when you delve into the world of politics. I’m cool with that because this is a topic that is critical in my opinion. Now, take a deep breath before you read on. This isn’t a post that is for or against any candidate or issue. I don’t know how to do that objectively because everyone has different views, beliefs and affiliations.

One thing I hope we all can agree on is this . . . voting.

I believe in voting so much because I know the power that casting your ballot has. I’ve been able to vote over the past 30+ years and I’ve never missed the opportunity. Not once. It didn’t matter to me if the issues were “insignificant” to most. It was important to me to vote. This included ballots for local school levies (and my kids are grown), emergency services levies, local political offices to be filled, etc. My parents instilled this behavior in me, and they both have been personally active their entire life. In fact, my Mom still works the polls and she just turned 80.

There are a few observations that I do want to mention that I see as obstacles for people participating. The first is the unending negativity that comes at us from every forum, platform and form of media. You never hear what a person can do or desires to do. You only hear how horrible their opposition is. Amazing that we are asked to make choices on who is less awful. If you know me at all, I’m not a negative person and don’t understand it. It takes some time and effort to look past the barrage of crud to see where people and/or issues stand, but it’s worth it to be educated and informed.

Secondly, when people say that they “don’t have the time” I shake my head. Millions of people have no problem voting often for their favorite reality show characters on a variety of shows each week. We can make time to vote for entertainment choices, but not on candidates that may shape policy for years to come. It doesn’t make sense. I know that voting makes us drive out of our way on our normal commute, and that it doesn’t “fit” our regular schedule. However, it’s worth being put out.

I’ve seen local school levies pass by less than ten votes. I’ve seen people get into office more because people chose not to show up to the polls than to actually receive votes. I’d rather see people be active in making a choice than to see someone take office just because voting was inconvenient.

This week I encourage you to go to the polls and choose. I understand that we live in challenging, divergent and even divisive times. One thing you can do to affect this takes only a few minutes.

This week . . . vote.

 

The Box

Today is a very meaningful day for many families. Memorial Day is when we remember those who lost their lives in military service. My biological dad served in the Vietnam War. He was different than many people who were drafted. He voluntarily enlisted in the Army. It was his best option after high school.

My father was a Staff Sargent who went into combat with other men. My mom told me that he didn’t talk about warfare much and she never pressed him to do it. He would share about friends and fellow soldiers who laid down their lives with empathy and sadness. He loved his men, and from what I’ve learned, they had a great relationship with him as well.

My dad fought in the battle of Da Nang and was wounded. The day before the battle, Agent Orange was used to clear the foliage. His unit was the one that went in first to any conflict. After he was shot, he couldn’t be removed from the field of battle for 24 hours. So, he lied motionless with a massive wound to his neck and was exposed to the residue of the chemicals laid down earlier. Shortly after the battle, my dad developed cancer. He had non hodgkin’s lymphoma and he died a few short months later. That was 1968 and I was four years old.

Please understand that I’m not upset. I am very proud of my father and that he served his country. Do I wish I could have had him grow old with me and see what has happened over the past 50 years? Of course. However, I believe that life happens the way it was designed. I’m fortunate that he fell in love with my mom and that I was born. He helped give me life. That never goes away.

A few weeks ago I was home visiting my parents (my mom got remarried to my dad and he’s awesome !! They’ve been going on 42 years of marriage themselves.) They’re getting to the stage of life where they’re parsing out things to my brother and I to make sure that they stay in the family. My mom said, “I have a box of your dad’s things that I want  you to have.” I wasn’t sure what that meant. She told me it was back in the den and I retrieved a fire proof box that was packed full. I was anxious to see what was inside, but waited until I returned home.

When I couldn’t wait any longer, I carefully opened the box. Inside was more information and memories of my father than I had ever known. There are military records, pictures, and patches from his military uniforms. I had some patches from him in the past that sit in a shadow box in my family room.

There was one other treasure in the box. There were hand written letters that my dad wrote to my mom when he was away from her. They were simple and full of love. It was like hearing his voice. They were conversational and poignant. Tears streamed down my face as I took in every word. Fifty years later I was sitting together in my house with my dad.

On Memorial Day, remember and be thankful. We are all able to enjoy the lives we have today because there are those who served and sacrificed. This box reminded me of the gift of my father’s life who is still touching others long after he has gone.

I hope that I can live my life in a way that honors who he was and what he did. Have a great Memorial Day !!

Doctor, Doctor !!

This past weekend my amazing daughter accomplished something 21 years in the making !! (if you start from Kindergarten) She earned her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from the University of Indianapolis. To say that my wife and I are proud would be a gross understatement.

I know there are many families who are celebrating the graduations of their children from high schools and colleges all over the world. It’s a milestone that still gives me chills to see people reach any level of education. There are countless hours of studying, research papers, projects and presentations. Each one seems daunting at the time they’re due for both the student and their parents. So, I want to wish a hearty congratulations for everyone celebrating graduations this Spring and Summer. Make sure to enjoy them.

Now, back to my daughter Melanie . . .

There were 52 people in her class who earned their Doctorate this weekend, and they are all part of the inaugural doctoral class at UIndy. There were many proud parents, spouses, partners, children and extended family. It was wonderful because we don’t have enough times in our days where there is only positive energy. You didn’t hear one complaint. Instead, you could hear an audible sigh of relief from everyone involved.

We have been so fortunate over the academic portion of Melanie’s life. She has been at the top of her class ever since she began school. She never faltered and pressed herself to succeed. My wife and I expected both of our kids to perform, but left it to them to do the work and get the results they’ve earned. She continued excelling throughout high school, undergraduate and throughout her graduate studies. She ended up with a 3.93 GPA out of 4.00 in her doctoral program. (I know, slacker. She left .07 on the table !!)

More than any academic achievement, we’re proud of who our daughter is as a young woman. She is someone who has a strong faith and a heart for others. She has served people in many different arenas around the world including Ghana and many inner cities throughout the U.S. She attracts others like a magnet and is a close friend to many. You’ll find her to be selfless and yet self-aware and confident. She’s also fiercely funny and a joy to be around. My wife and I often heard from teachers, friends and their families how much they enjoy having Melanie around.

Remember how I said I was proud ??

We’re most impressed by what a great human Melanie has become. She is positive and does her best to bring life and light to all she encounters. You can’t ask much more than that from your children.

Now, like all of those other graduates, she steps out to take her next step. The difference this time is that she won’t be going to another school. She’ll soon be sitting for her boards and then will enter the workforce somewhere. I’m geeked that she’ll be in a field where she’s taking care of humans because that is what she was made to do.

There were many tears shed and they glistened on my face at every event I attended. It’s hard to believe that 24 plus years ago I held this beautiful little girl born on Christmas Day. And, from now on, I get to call her Dr.

I can assure you it will never get old !!