Getting goose bumps

When I step away from my desk at work, I look out of a corner window, out over a walking trail, picnic tables, and small pond that serves as a calming oasis in a maze of corporate buildings and local roads.


I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been taking more and more advantage of the opportunity to look out over the pond. I’ve been stepping away from my desk and whatever deadline I’m working on, to look out over and reflect on the nature in front of me. I’ve been taken away by the surrounding Sycamore trees and the pond’s restful qualities.

My time spent in thought hasn’t been a complete waste. I’ve been caught up in recent weeks by a small flock of Canadian Geese. They swim across the pond and lazily forage and graze the grass along the shore. They’ll take a zig-zag route, with no rhyme or reason, across the pond and small plot of grass. They seem to have not a care in the world.


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Following Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues of a good life

Benjamin Franklin lived an astounding life. The founding father in his day was a leading author, printer, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat. His resume is so long that I could continue for days.

Franklin’s probably best known today for drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and for his experiments with electricity. The legend though started small.

When Ben Franklin was a young man, he came up with and committed himself to a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues.


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Keeping the wolves at bay

They come when you least expect them. You’re going about your day, you’re responding to an important work email or doing chores around the house, you’re deep in your own thoughts and the next thing you know you look up to see that you’re being chased. There’s five or six of them, running effortlessly, running stride for stride with you.

The keep their distance, but are still close enough to attack. They flash their menacing teeth, jagged and as sharp as switchblades. One false move and they’ll pounce, pulling you to the ground, and slicing you into pieces. You’re at their mercy.


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Finding a Christmas tree bargain

I put my hands in my pocket, stood up tall, and told the salesman to take or leave my final offer. I wasn’t going to go any higher.

My wife and our three kids were hunting for a Christmas tree and off to one side of the small farm, we found the perfect Douglas Fir that we all seemed to like. The salesman muttered something about having to talk with his father, but when he saw that I was already starting to open my car door to leave, he caved in.

“You know, we’ve been busy today, let’s make a deal,” he said. “Let me cut the bottom and get it bound and up on your car.”

Or so I wished. In my head, I stood my ground and made the salesman come to my terms.

In reality, the salesman gave us a price. My wife and I looked at each other with an “oh it’s a little steep look,” but we both wanted to get back home with the tree to get it up in our house and would have caved in right on the spot.


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Funny, I don’t feel old

A marketing manager told the Wall Street Journal recently for a story the newspaper ran on age that he felt old when a Starbucks barista called him “Sir.” A college professor who studies age still found herself taken aback when she got a mailing saying she was eligible for senior discounts.

Hello AARP.

I’ve written before that I don’t pay much attention to age — it’s a number, you can do a few things to slow it down, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it — but there have been a couple of incidents lately where I’ve felt my age. Here’s what I’m talking about:


—When some of the great athletes that I grew up watching in my youth — Magic Johnson, Dan Marino, Wayne Gretzky, and Cal Ripken Jr. to name a few — are considered not just old, but downright ancient.

—When I realize that if I were to run for President, Senator or even or even Representative, no one would be pointing a finger at me and calling me “that young upstart.”

—When I get together with other coworkers for a project kick-off and realize that I’m one of the older members in the room (and I’m not even that old.)

—When I read my phone and notice that I’m looking over my glasses. My daughter does the same thing, but she does it because she’s picked up a bad habit. I do it because I’m getting older, my eyesight is getting worse, and I need new glasses.

—When my coworkers mention some new, trendy app they’ve downloaded on their smartphone and they ask me what new apps I’ve downloaded. Yea, I don’t think Instagram or Facebook are what they had in mind.

So yes, sometimes I feel old, but then there are times when I still feel young, including:


—When I stop at the wine and spirits store on my way home from work to surprise my wife with a nice bottle of wine and I see the store owner — out of the corner of my eye — watching me. I’m pretty sure no one would confuse me as underaged and, dressed in a suit jacket, I doubt he considers me a shoplifting threat. No, it’s all in my mind. All these years later, when I enter a bar or liquor store, I still feel like a little kid sheepishly sneaking into a place I don’t necessarily belong.

—When I’m talking with an intern at my company and he or she asks for career advice: how I got to where I’m at today; my educational background; how I overcame specific challenges, etc. When that happens, I always want to stop the interview to tell them that I’m just like them and have no idea what I want to do with my life or what I want to do when I grow-up.

—When our eight-year-old dog Nittany licks my hand when I come home for the evening, excited and happy to see me. It’s hard to feel old when your dog adores you just for being you.

In the end, I come back to my belief that you’re only as old as you think you are.


When all else fails, there’s always Netflix

I’ve been swamped lately. During the week, I’ve been running from meeting to meeting for hours on end, and then on the weekend, I’ve been busy with family obligations. Fortunately, my wife and I will be going away for a long weekend in a few weeks.

Besides the weekend away, I scheduled an extra day off for myself. I’ve been thinking about the best way to use the day. Some people like to spend their free time at the movie theater. I have a good friend who likes to go hunting. Others like to go shopping.

The choices are endless, but I’m down to my top ten:


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Ten things I want to learn

Like most people, when I was young, I learned how to read. A few years later, I learned how to throw a curveball, one decent enough to occasionally fool my friends, but not good enough to get anyone out in a real game. (The one time my coach put me in, I got lit up beyond belief, so I think I’m still working on that one.)

We spend a lifetime learning things. As soon as we come out of the womb, we work to learn everything about our new world. We go from listening and watching to rolling over, crawling, and graduate to talking and one day walking.

We never stop learning. The process is never-ending. For much of my life, I’ve been taking classes to get a grade or learn a subject or a train for a career. With two of my children now in college, I’ve been thinking about the things I still want to learn simply for fun.



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Calming an impatient heart

At the first spot I stopped, an old man clasp his hands together across his chest, casually leaned his head back, and closed his eyes. In the next stop, packed with people nudged up against each other in tiny chairs, the teen next to me bent forward with his headphones on and scrolled through his music playlist.

I had to make a number of stops a couple weeks ago to my local garage to get my car worked on and then to the barbershop and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else seemed to be dealing with “the wait” better than me.

Besides the old man and teenager, two men talked lazily about what they planned for the upcoming weekend and a guy my age whistled a show tune like he had all the time in the world.

And then there was me, my right leg restlessly moving up and down and my eyes bouncing up every few seconds to try to make eye contact to see if it was my turn. I’d sit for a few minutes and then stand-up abruptly to walk to the door to look out the window. I couldn’t go anywhere. My phone was dying and I couldn’t call anyone. Where did I think I was going? Who did I think I was going to call?


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Trashing a good story

The old man’s eyesight was fading and he couldn’t get around well without his walker, but you could usually find him each day on the front porch of the local grille. He’d be dressed in a pair of denim bib overalls and soiled work boots gently rocking back and forth in an old rocking chair. He’d show up late afternoon and within a half hour or so, you’d find a small group of locals circled around him on stools listening intently to his every word.

The man served as a B-17 bombardier during World War II and spent most of his life farming in the small Virginia community and had a lifetime of stories. As a young reporter, new to the area, I came to count on his stories and perspective.


I spent hours listening to him. You’d tell him a story that you thought was of particular interest and he’d come back with three or four better ones. He had a story for every day of the week and two for Sunday. The topic didn’t matter, he’d start talking and I’d be drawn-in immediately to whatever story he was telling.

He told stories about growing up dirt poor and taking care of his six brothers and sisters; how he managed to scrape together enough money for an education; and how “a young hick” like he used to call himself, came to travel to Paris and Rome and still found his way home to his wife and a life as a country farmer.

You’d ask him about his day and he had a way of making something as simple as taking his garbage to the local dump sound like poetry. Fast forward to this week. I was going through some old papers and couldn’t help, but think about the old man. I love a good story, so much so that I hoard them. I have stacks and stacks of stories, some related to my job, others dealing with topics that I want to write about in the future, and still others touching on self-help topics.

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Looking for a quick retort

I have the best of intentions.

It could be someone you run into in the convenience store or someone you see on the street, it doesn’t really matter. They say or do something rude and demeaning. I want to comeback with a one-liner or a quick retort that puts the offending party in their place and takes the tension out of the moment. 

Despite my best of intentions, I’m usually the one left grasping for words. I search for the right ones that will make everything right again, but they seem to run away from me. We’ve all faced these types of situations. Lately, I’ve seen to have my share of these experiences. 

When I do have a comeback or a zinger, it feels more like the proverbial equivalent of the neighborhood tattletale crying out in a whiney voice, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. 


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