The 1st Pitch

On Sunday, I had both a life-affirming and a life-changing moment. I went to the Cincinnati Reds game to see a dear friend throw out the 1st pitch. Now, if you’re a sports fan at all, this is a bucket list item for most men. We grow up watching games and fantasize about taking the mound in front of a packed stadium waiting to “bring it” with a strike right across the plate.

Getting to see a friend have this opportunity would have been reason enough to go to the game. The story about the amazing man and his current situation makes it even more substantial. John and I have known each other for several years. Our kids are all around the same age, and we saw each other at school events from elementary school through high school. We were both also adult leaders in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Two of his sons were in the Troop where I was Scoutmaster for a few years and I loved seeing them and getting to spend time with John. On top of our paths crossing at school and scouting, John’s family lives a few blocks away from me. We’d see each other wandering around the streets on neighborhood walks and make sure to catch up every time.

John and I are also connected by two other important facets of our lives. We are both men of faith and we have shared how that is a driver of who we are as humans because it easily melded with our shared profession. You see, John and I are peers who both work in HR.

So, when I received the sobering news in 2022 that my friend had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), I was floored. It was hard for me to come to terms with this because John is one of the most approachable, friendly, encouraging, thoughtful, funny, and loving people I know. To receive the news of having a terminal disease ran contrary to the life that John willingly exudes with all he encounters.

The game on Sunday was to recognize Lou Gehrig Day throughout Major League Baseball. John shared several months ago that he was going to be the person throwing out the 1st pitch on this day. Everyone in the neighborhood who knows the family made plans to make sure they were there to watch and support John. A few weeks ago, John posted that his legs had been weakening as his condition progressed. I was wondering and praying that he’d be healthy enough to complete his dream.

As I entered the stadium with my daughter and family friends, Melanie said,
“There’s Mr. Barlow !!” I looked over and saw Ann and the kids (now adults) all huddled together and John in his wheelchair. I left my crew to go over in the hope of seeing him. I caught Ann’s attention first and gave her a rich hug. I worked over to John and his face lit up, as it does with everyone, when he saw me.

“Steve !! Just a second.” He slowly reached down and folded the footrest up and he stood. His arms spread wide and we embraced deeply and held each other. He leaned back and said, “I love you. You need to know that.”

I told him I loved him too, and how glad I was to see him and be there for the big event. He told me his plan was to shake off the sign that his son Thomas was going to give him before throwing his pitch. I told him that was perfect and I couldn’t wait to see it. John thanked me for coming and even said, “I knew you’d be here.”

I grabbed his hand tightly one more time, walked away, and wept. He didn’t see it and I know he wouldn’t have minded if he did. John has seen me weep often when talking about, or with, people I care for. My daughter knew I was going to be emotional. We went down to our seats and had a first-row view of John.

The stadium announcer gave a warm introduction of John and his family and he eagerly drove his wheelchair up to the top of the pitcher’s mound with two of his three sons. His third son took his place as catcher. The crowd was on their feet cheering with all they had. John stood, bent over to get his sign, shook it off, stood mightily, and threw the pitch. It made its way to home plate and was spot on. The cheers were resounding even louder for him after the pitch !!

He made his way off the field and the first thing he did was hug his wife Ann. He waved to the friends and family who came to see him succeed. The whole scenario couldn’t have been more perfect.

We stayed for the game and the Reds lost to the dreaded Cubs, but that didn’t seem to matter. Being there for my friend did.

John doesn’t know how many more days he’ll have of good health or even life. Honestly, neither do we. We do, however, have the ability to choose how we will face this life for the time we have it. I want to choose life as John has. In the midst of all he’s facing, he is upfront with his faith, present for his family, shares gratitude for every experience he has, and looks for the best in everyone. It’s not a show or an act. It’s who he is.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, today was life-affirming because of the time I had to talk with my dear friend before his adventure. It was also life-changing because it gave me perspective on how life can be full, rich, meaningful, and unapologetically filled with love and joy.

May that be true for anyone who reads this. Embrace life. Embrace each other. Weep at times. Laugh always. Each day has meaning. Make that happen on purpose and take the mound !!

Be Still

Whenever I get the opportunity to speak in front of a room of HR and business professionals, I need to do something to capture their attention. That’s because if given the chance, they’ll be staring at one screen or another. It may be their laptop or their phone. It doesn’t really matter. The pull and allure of each device are so strong that we’ve all become mentally and emotionally attached to them. Sound harsh? It should because it’s what has happened to every person (including me.)

The voices in our heads tell us that we must stay eternally connected because if we don’t, we’re sure to miss something. I’m not being critical just observational. We don’t break away – and honestly don’t want to. When canvassing the presentation attendees each person is burdened because of the busyness they find themselves in. It’s all-encompassing and it seems like there is no exit. Instead of finding a needed respite, we take on more and more tasks and commitments adding to the crushing weight we already carry.

Whenever we do try to step back and rest, we feel guilty and tell ourselves that if we don’t jump back in quickly then “things” won’t get done. We’re not entirely clear what those “things” are, but we are confident they will remain undone. We don’t really know if that’s true or not because we’re not patient enough to find out. It’s a vicious cycle.

Lately, I’ve been more reflective and intentional to not fall into this trap any longer. It’s not that I want to avoid getting things done. Far from it. However, feeling compelled to be on the go constantly isn’t healthy mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. I heard a person recently state that people find that “low-grade exhaustion is the new normal.” That’s encouraging, isn’t it ?? I have a feeling that you can relate to this even while you’re reading this.

What can we do? How can we make time for ourselves to rest and disconnect? What will happen to the myriad of tasks, deadlines, and mountains of work and activity if we dare break our pattern? It’s a two-word answer.

Be Still.

It’s not more complicated than that, but the discipline and faith to make this a reality takes true effort. Whenever you try to move in this direction, the pull to stay entrapped is great. However, once you do accomplish this breakthrough, the benefits are immense. I don’t want to be prescriptive or suggest a step-by-step model that surely will work for each of you. I think this approach is ineffective.

Being still is a cognizant step to breaking your current life pattern with the assurance it will work. You’ll have to trust me that it does. I now take time to be still regularly. I don’t try to fill this space with something else. I just simply take a break to calm myself, focus on the environment and people around me, and relax. Stopping the maddening pace of life gives me peace. I find that having this practice built into my days has actually rejuvenated me.

Now, I have more energy, joy, and time (yes, time) because I refuse to keep running at a breakneck pace. Being still has also cleared my thoughts enough that when the next challenge or conflict is at my doorstep, I’m in a better mental space to address it.

This week break away. This week don’t keep fighting to stay afloat. This week refuse to keep running. This week . . . Be Still.

A Fresh Coat

My wife and I have been fortunate to have lived in the same house since 1991. When we bought it we had been married for just over two years. We stretched quite a bit. It wasn’t a “starter” house but we found the right place at the right time. The family who was selling the house was being transferred to Mexico for work and they had four young kids. The husband was reluctant to sell it to us because we offered less than they were asking but it was as far as we felt we could go and still make house payments . . . and eat.

The wife was awesome !! She told her husband, “We have five days to move to another country with four children and they are the next young couple to get this house. They were like us. Sell it to them.” He did and now 33 years later we’re still here and we’ve grown into the house for sure. We raised our two kids into adults and we’re back to being the couple who owns the house – just a bit older.

As with any house, you always have chances to do projects, updates, remodels and/or repairs. Debbie asked me to paint our garage a little over two years ago and I dragged my feet as long as I could. I knew it would be a massive undertaking because garages are one of the most used areas in a house. We’ve always parked in the garage with our two cars and it houses too many tools and sundry items.

We started clearing out everything and put things out on the driveway. We, of course, found things that had been “lost,” and we also took the opportunity to get rid of items that had not been used for years. Next, came washing 33 years of grime and dirt off the once-white walls. The walls still looked whitish after all of this time. However, the simple action of washing the surfaces with hot water and a rag began the needed transformation. Once the walls were washed, I asked Debbie to help me lay out drop cloths to cover the concrete and asked her to leave me to it.

That isn’t meant to be harsh or dismissive. We know that I do better painting walls and ceilings while she rocks out with more delicate paintings like trim and doors. I turned on my Bluetooth lava lamp (yes, lava lamp) and opened the 5-gallon bucket of glistening white paint. The first coat took hours and hours and hours and hours. I was painting for almost six hours and I was covered from head to toe with splatters. I had hit my limit and even broke down crying because I was so sore. I was overwhelmed and knew the project wasn’t even half complete. My wife was so supportive even though I had lost my cool and snapped at her. (She’s awesome BTW !!)

After getting a late dinner, I apologized and she encouraged me to finish the garage the next day. The second coat went on much more quickly and smoothly. It only took about four hours to finish. The garage looked amazing, and new and it looked like life was breathed back into it. We reorganized the garage’s contents and we had more room than we ever imagined. All it took was attention and a fresh coat of paint.

It sounds like work, doesn’t it? How many places, departments, policies, procedures, etc. are cluttered, old, worn out, and outdated? We could easily take the steps to make them all current and relevant, but we delay and delay because we convince ourselves they still are somewhat effective. We can live with that.

But, should we? The answer is a resounding NO !! We all have the same opportunity I did with painting the garage. Yes, it was hard work that almost broke me, but it was worth it. The garage is still functioning as a garage. It hasn’t changed dramatically. It finally did get my focus and effort. The hours that were at times taxing were worthwhile as an investment. In fact, we probably won’t have to redo it for another thirty years if we are mindful of its appearance.

There is so much wasted space, systems, and time in our roles and throughout our companies. This week, take a deep breath, get some paint, and give everything a fresh coat.

Just 3 Chords !!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend the Louisiana SHRM State Conference. I relish it when I can spend time with HR peers. It fills my bucket. I also gave two presentations and got to see the good work of other presenters. Conferences are a great time to connect, network, learn, and have fun. We spent so much time laughing while getting to know each other better.

After the conference came to a close, my dear friend Rebecca secured tickets for a real treat. A handful of us who were staying after the conference decided to go see two legendary bands – ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynrd !! I was so geeked because I have been a fan of both bands throughout their long and illustrious careers. The night started by grabbing some incredible Mexican food and decompressing from the successful conference. We gobbled down our food and drinks because Rebecca and I wanted to make sure to catch every moment of the show.

When we made our way to our seats a third band on the bill, Black Stone Cherry, ripped the roof off. This was completely unexpected. I had never heard of them. They destroyed their set and were a mix of southern rock, heavy metal, and a bit of country. ZZ Top quietly took the stage as they sauntered out. Billy Gibbons strummed his first note and they were off !! (I’ll come back to this Texas trio in a sec.) Skynrd was so talented. They played a series of hits and elevated the room as we sang along ending the night with Freebird. The whole night was epic !!

The surprise of the night for me though was ZZ Top. Three musicians made enough noise to literally shake your chest with their sonic mastery. It was astonishing. All of the band members are now in their 70s which is ridiculous. They spoke little but did share the quip – “We’re just three guys with the same three chords.” So simple yet so powerful. They played a mix of their hits along with some deep, deep cuts and I was in heaven. I sang, screamed, and cheered throughout their entire set.

There is magic in threes. This is true for these rock legends just as it is for us professionally. We often talk about the need for mentors in the workplace. I agree. Being a mentor is a great privilege. Helping others learn the ropes so they can succeed in the company has limitless value. There is a watch out for this though because one should not just be a mentor. No one should feel they are so talented that their sole purpose is to have people sit at their feet just to listen to their wisdom.

People who are successful mentors have mentors themselves. That approach puts them in a trio. You shouldn’t mentor others unless you have a mentor. You need the 3 chords in order to make mentoring work effectively. We gather experience over time and there is strength in sharing what we’ve gone through. At the same time, we should never stop learning. Never. There is always something new to learn or glean from others who are your mentors.

This week follow the ZZ Top model for mentoring. They’ve been together playing their unique style for over 50 years. Three guys playing three chords works. It always will !!

To keep the vibe going as you read this, enjoy this deep cut they played live.

Fill the Potholes

My wife and I ventured this weekend to Indianapolis to visit our daughter. If you’ve been reading my blog for any time, you know we’ve had some adventures in working at her home. It’s only 105 years old !! You honestly wouldn’t know it with all of the sweat equity we’ve put in over the past 1 1/2 years. We enjoy helping her out and it’s fun to get your hands dirty as we continue to make her home come to life.

If you’ve ever watched those HGTV shows, anyone who ever buys a house makes changes. We all have different styles. Something that appealed to the previous homeowner may not fit the current owner. Melanie had been making style changes and repairs to get things updated and put her twist on things. What’s a bit intriguing is she is the 3rd most recent owner. The couple she purchased the home from did more living in the house with very little effort to keep things nice. She has been making alterations to the gentleman who owned the home before that.

He had done a good job. We met him last year and he explained that when he purchased her home it was falling apart. So he basically “flipped” it. One choice he made was contrary to how Melanie had grown up. I love landscaping !! One of the main reasons we purchased our home in 1991 was the lawn, trees, and landscaping. My kids have been working in the yard with me since they were very young. Some of our greatest experiences were spent in the yard and the beds getting them mulched and planting endless perennials.

Melanie’s beds at her home were covered in stone. The beds were either a thick layer of pea gravel or river rock. They didn’t look bad, but it’s not what she wanted. Well, in order to get the beds to where she could add topsoil and mulch, the rocks had to be removed. That may sound easy and on the surface, you’re fooled into thinking it will take just a few hours to remove the stones and prep the beds. It isn’t easy, and it didn’t take just a “few” hours.

My wife and I came to help take on the rock removal and two of her close friends volunteered to jump in as well. Once we started putting the rocks into wheelbarrows, we needed to decide where to place the stones. Did I mention that Indy is full of potholes? Not kidding. It’s a giant problem throughout their city. The alley that runs next to Mel’s house is fraught with them. If you tried to drive down the alley you are fearful your suspension is going to fail.

We saw an opportunity staring right at us. (Please note that our daughter tried to contact the community council and they said they’d look into it. Hmmm.)

So, we filled the potholes. Load after load. We moved hundreds of pounds of stones. Her neighbors came out and thanked her for looking out for them and taking action. It was a great feeling to be in a position to help them.

We started our day hoping to finish moving the stone out of both the front and back yard. You have to have goals !! We quickly realized getting the front yard done would be enough. Six hours later we went to a local brewery to enjoy a few adult beverages and talk about our day.

Once I had a chance to relax and not focus on my aching muscles and joints, I thought that we as HR pros could fill the potholes of those we work with. I’m not suggesting we fix people. I do, however, think we can give people our attention, focus, and effort. The number one need of people at work is to be acknowledged and recognized. Doing that helps mend the potholes they are all experiencing. You see, our time is just like the stones we moved. Giving people small doses of our time intentionally can repair any divots. It helps smooth out their day so they can perform.

This week, make the move and fill your HR wheelbarrow with your time, and then head into the alley. There are potholes waiting to be filled and you are just the right person to do that !!

Totality

I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but the solar eclipse is on Monday, 4/8/24. People around us are geeked !! At my workplace, we’re almost in the path of totality. My hometown is in the path of totality, and there are events planned all day for the 4+ minutes of darkness.

One of my team did a great job setting up a display at the corporate office of Sun Chips, Oreos (like the moon covering the sun), Mini Moon Pies, and Eclipse glasses for people to wear on Monday. I went off book because I wanted to get a pair of tie-dye glasses to wear and commemorate this celestial event.

I think there are lessons we can learn from the eclipse. I’m not talking about “embracing the energy” or that some unexpected spiritual occurrence will take place. The things I’m talking about are around work.

First, it’s quite refreshing to see people rally around a common event !! When people do this, have you noticed that grousing and complaining disappear? Instead, people exude joy, curiosity, and collaboration. It seems natural and people show little resistance.

What if that was the norm in our company culture? How could we take the steps needed where people rallied around the work they did and the people they worked with? What would our days look like if we didn’t focus on weaknesses and what isn’t being “done”? We could foster and develop an environment where people looked forward to getting together. They valued the different perspectives and approaches of their peers. Is it possible ??

The answer is YES !! What’s missing is no one acts as a conductor to bring this to life. This is an incredible opportunity for forward-thinking HR pros to be those conductors. This type of constructive and inviting culture should become our norm and not be as rare as the appearance of a solar eclipse.

What do you say? Are you willing to shift what you do to move your culture in this positive direction? I think we ALL should do our best to make this happen.

Secondly, the moment everyone is anticipating is when the moon completely covers the sun. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands are flocking to try and be in the path of totality. We want to see it first hand. We want to see the sun blocked out from the sky even for a few moments.

We could also provide moments of coverage for others at work. As HR pros, we need to be present, available, and attentive to all of our employees. ALL of them. Instead of letting people get hung out to be criticized or ridiculed, we should provide cover. This rarely happens and instead, we end up picking up the pieces of interactions that went awry. Aren’t you tired of being called on only as an afterthought? When the majority of your HR job is reactionary in nature, you get burned out.

We can see lessons in the world around us that can be applied in the work we do. In fact, those learnings are often far more effective than trying to glean items from webinars, conferences and textbooks. Tomorrow, don your eclipse glasses and look up to enjoy this celestial marvel. Then take the steps to provide cover for your people and improve your culture going forward. Enjoy the eclipse !!

It’s That Time Again . . .

The sun is out and shining magnificently. Blue skies are dotted with wispy clouds moving quickly because it’s so windy. I check my Weather App and the temperature is a chilly 41 degrees (5 degrees Celsius for the global reader). I am wearing three layers – a tie-dye shirt (of course), a hooded sweatshirt, and a windbreaker in the hope of keeping warm. I slip on my yard crocs, get some gloves, and finish my prep by rolling out the yard machine just aching to fulfill its purpose.

I add gas to the tank, check the oil, and make sure the deck is set at the correct height. Before I pull the tow rope to start the mower, I make sure to have my Raycon earbuds securely in place and my Apple watch set on Outdoor Walk for exercise. I choose an episode of a Dateline podcast, hit start on the show, tap my watch, and pull the cord. The mower jumps to life waiting to tackle the vast sea of green ahead.

It’s that time again . . . the season of lawn mowing has begun !!

Our lawn is a feature of our home that I enjoy. Yes, it takes constant work and attention, but I love being outside working on it. I’m still a bit old-fashioned because I have a self-propelled push mower. Now that I’ve passed over into my sixth decade on this planet, I don’t have the same level of energy I did when I made the first cut in 1991. I used to be able to cut the whole yard in 1 and 1/2 hours without a break. In fact, I’d mow the yard and then spend several more hours with landscaping tasks beckoning me.

When I mow now, I take two to three breaks and stretch things out. I still enjoy it and don’t mind slowing down a bit. Being outside gives me a chance to break from the pace of life and enjoy the sites and sounds of nature. It is refreshing and rejuvenating.

As I walk back and forth row after row, I have a chance to let my mind wander and consider how this weekly chore relates to work and HR. You may find that odd, but I think you can tie all we do in life back to the work we get the opportunity to do. Lawn mowing is a lot like how work should be.

First of all, the grass looks better after you make a fresh cut. Ignoring the grass just means that it will grow wildly and look unkempt. If we look at trimming the things that employees don’t need or aren’t necessary, it would give them a chance to grow. The key is getting their work and relationships in shape so they can then stretch and grow through their performance.

Secondly, lawns deserve and need our attention. This is true of our people as well. Employees deserve our attention. They don’t have to report to work or do a good job. They choose to and we lose sight of that. Instead of being grateful for people showing up to perform, we focus on those who drain our souls. It’s not what we should do. The entire lawn gets mowed and EVERY one of your employees should get your time, focus, and attention.

Finally, taking care of your lawn gives you contentment and a feeling of accomplishment. The same can be said of our employees. It is okay to care for others !! Honestly, if you’re not someone who cares, you shouldn’t be in a role responsible for people. I’m not kidding. The workplace is more rich and meaningful when it is filled with people who are passionate and care for each other.

The mowing season here starts in March and goes until November. That’s a long time, but it’s worth every pass of the mower. The lawn responds and flourishes. If you do the things noted, your employees will too !!

I Just Need a Stick !!

Life is complicated. We don’t want it to be but it is. If we had our way, we’d eliminate all of the challenges and obstacles we could. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

One of the areas of our lives that compounds this feeling of endless complications is work. Ironically, the place where we spend the most time during our waking hours is layered, convoluted, and nearly impossible to navigate. An additional impediment is people. Seriously. We are all carrying our own bundle of complexity. If you do the math and try to calculate just how intertwined work is, you’d need to use the following formula.

Take the number of people working in a department + the number of responsibilities they have + the distractions we all experience that keep us from our jobs + the infinite number of interruptions and unknowns and finally add the factor of everyone having different priorities. That comes out to one “normal” day.

It’s no wonder people feel frustrated and stuck. Honestly, it’s also fairly astonishing we get anything done. Thankfully, people have learned how to find a path that works most of the time and we’re good with that. In the midst of all of the activity occurring around us and the activity we’re trying to do, work happens (sort of). There’s another factor that aggravates this situation and all of the great people doing their best to perform. Instead of simplifying the work we have on our plate, we offer solutions which only add and add and add and . . .

I was having lunch this past week with a co-worker and we were talking about how we have people who are sinking in quicksand. Every time they try to address one situation it seems like ten more pop out of nowhere. It’s exponential and never-ending. We started our conversation like many that have happened before when we tried to assess what was happening when my co-worker just stopped. He paused, took a deep breath, and said the most astute thing I’ve heard in ages. “Steve, they just need a stick. They’re sinking and we keep coming up with multiple approaches and potential solutions when all they want is a stick to get them out of the quicksand.”

I sat there stunned. He was on point. It’s astonishing that the simple answers always seem to elude us. We’re as caught up in the many hairballs of work as anyone else. We should come up with the simple option, but we forget that simple is hard. So, here’s a way to offer a stick to our good folks who truly want to do good work.

S – Simplify. We don’t have to continually keep layering work. It takes more discipline to simplify work, but it is worth the time and effort. Strip away steps which pull people further into the weeds.

T – Talk to folks. You need to talk to your people about how they feel and where they feel stuck. Without assessing what they think they’re facing, you’re just going to come up with an approach that will be another burden to handle.

I – Intentionality. We often skirt around the edges of situations instead of being respectfully direct. We fool ourselves into thinking that people will arrive at conclusions if we just hint at what should be done. It has never worked. Be intentional to reach your people.

C- Change. At some point we need to get out of the cul-de-sac of coming up with the next best thing because someone will say, “Well, what if . . .” Change is a constant. Figure out when you’re close enough and then step into the change needed.

K – Keep at it. Work is a continuum and as soon as you get someone unstuck, there is sure to be someone else who has found their pit of quicksand. This is somewhat daunting, but being diligent and agile works against the trap of being stagnant.

This week take a look around and see who’s sinking. When you find them, fight the urge to create the next best system and procedure. Pause. Breathe. Then offer them a stick !!

I Still Haven’t Found . . .

If you didn’t know, I’m a gigantic fan of the band U2. I have been following them since their beginning and have all their music including some rare bootleg CDs. When they first came out it coincided with the end of my high school and the beginning of my university years. Right after I graduated from college, their seminal album The Joshua Tree came out. It was full of hit singles including the hypnotic – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

The lyrics depict someone who continues to search for love, faith, and meaning in their lives. No matter what they attain, they remain in a searching mode. There seems to be an endless yearning that can never be filled. It’s an eerie reflection of the majority of people I know. There never seems to be a plateau or a sense of contentment. That is concerning.

I’m a person who is at peace most of the time. Sure, I experience uncertainty, challenges, frustrations, and disappointments. That doesn’t change my level of contentment. That’s because there are also endless opportunities, people to meet, and adventures to take. I like that life is complicated and unpredictable. You could say that I’m content with the ebbs and flows of what each day brings.

This past weekend I woke up early in the morning and drove up to hang out with my daughter. No agenda. No plan. We both love coffee shops and she took me to one I’ve been wanting to try. It’s a one-minute drive from her house. It was wonderful !! We enjoyed coffee, pastries, and unhurried conversation. After that, we ventured to visit the NCAA Museum in downtown Indianapolis. It was fun and we even got to check out our vertical leap !! (Let’s just say we didn’t set records.)

We then went to check out cool shops in the Fountain Square neighborhood including a sweet vinyl record store. Lunch was still on the horizon and she took me to a diner known for its sublime, greasy double cheeseburgers !! The decor was straight from the 1950’s and they still only accept cash payments. As we enjoyed our burgers, we people watched and listened to the murmur of great interactions at the other tables throughout the restaurant. To help digest our massive intake, we decided to walk around another neighborhood which happened to have another vinyl store !!

As if this wasn’t enough to fill our day, Melanie took me to a local brewery where we enjoyed an adult beverage. One half of the establishment was a bar/restaurant and the other half was where you could throw axes for fun !! We love checking out craft beer options and I found a gem by getting a Circus Peanut flavored brew. It was amazing. We were winding down and we decided to head back to her place just to hang out and watch some college basketball.

On the surface, there’s nothing overly unique about our day. However, how cool is it that my daughter still likes to just hang out with her dad? How wonderful is it that we had time just to talk about life and see how each other are doing? Playing together, walking for miles, stepping in and out of local shops and exploring off the beaten path locations. Nothing planned. Everything gained.

You see, the reason I’ve found what I’m looking for is that I cherish the time I have with other people. You never know what’s going to happen or be discussed. Each interaction is a chance to learn something new or work through a situation. It’s all in how you frame life. I’m content and still eager to see what lies ahead.

How about you ??

For some inspiration as you reflect, here’s the incredible song to get you started.

Opposites

My wife and I are almost completely opposite people. We’ve known this since the first time we met. It’s almost hard to quantify that we came together because I’m an extreme extrovert and she’s a rational introvert. We were volunteers with Young Friends of the Zoo at the Cincinnati Zoo. I came to one meeting and volunteered to chair the group’s annual fundraiser. It didn’t seem too out of reach. The other volunteers were both grateful someone stepped up and shocked that I would ask to lead after just attending one meeting.

I tried to meet every. single. person at each monthly meeting to get to know them and encourage them to join in to pull off the fundraiser – The Beastly Ball. It was a costume party that happened around Halloween each year. My future wife was so put off by my overtness, she walked around the perimeter of the meeting space to avoid me.

As volunteers, we met offsite at a warehouse to design, create and build the massive decorations and sets for the ball. We transformed an empty industrial space into an Egyptian tomb. One evening as I was walking around to each group of people to thank them for coming and pitching in, Debbie stopped me and asked me what I was doing over the weekend. I replied, “Nothing.” She quickly asked, “Want to do ‘nothing’ together?” I was so startled that she took this bold step, and I was intrigued. I said, “That would be great.” It was the best decision I’ve ever made over 36 years ago !! (BTW – Our first date was going to see the epic movie – The Princess Bride.)

Fast forward to the present day . . .

Just recently Debbie had a total knee replacement. Everything went well and she’s been recovering magnificently. As one who cherishes abiding by the rules and valuing structure, she’s the perfect patient. Now that things have been progressing, we took advice from our daughter who’s an Occupational Therapist to go mall walking. We’re also old enough now that mall walking isn’t out of the norm !!

Debbie went walking a few times during the day while I was at work. She asked me to start walking with her, and I needed to have a way to be more consistent in making sure I stayed healthy. I was geeked to join in. I went a few times on my own to get the feel for it.

The first time we went to the mall as a couple we entered through the set of double doors and were set to go – she started walking to the right and I went to the left. We took a few steps and paused. She said, “I like to go this way,” showing the path she had followed the few times she went without me. I explained that I was following the path I liked. We shrugged our shoulders and then commenced to walk in opposite directions. It fits us perfectly.

I share this because if we truly want to value diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging then we need to come to terms that none of us are the same. And, we shouldn’t be. It’s okay to be opposites and still be connected to each other on purpose. So, embrace your uniqueness and be cool with who you are AND who others are. It works !!