Christmas 2012 – Gifts of Giving

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Our Christmas was pretty dang amazing this year and I think the two biggest contributing factors were a) a focus on giving to those in need and b) not trying to coordinate for all scenarios. The giving part. In December I was fortunate enough to spend time volunteering in three separate places and for two of these my family was able to join in and feel how good it feels to help others. We made meals together with some close family friends at Friendship Trays/Meals on Wheels. The kids loved it! They worked the line loading the trays and also helped deliver the food to the elderly and shut-in folks. Lots of great lines like “I wish I could make these folks meals everyday”and “what happens if these meals aren’t made for them?”

We also spent time with our Adventure Guides group making nearly 500 sandwiches for the Urban Ministry of Charlotte. Same kind of questions but with statements like “I’ve already made more sandwiches for others than I have for myself. In my entire life!” My kids have challenged me to find ways to give back to our community at least once a month – I’m up for this challenge! Next up: Hyaet meal-sharing with my running buddies and their families.

In addition to giving our time to the community Cindy and I worked hard to over-communicate our plans and opportunities to share time without pushing commitment upon others who are juggling plans and decisions of their own. We found it to be quite freeing to only plan our time vs the time of others (imagine that!) and almost felt like we spent more quality time with those we care about than we did when we over planned and under communicated.

Christmas the holiday itself was pretty great. The only twist this year was we didn’t travel further than Pineville, NC (next town over) and it really made a difference. Christmas Eve has never been more relaxing. After our annual “walk-thru” at Church (this is where we show up 40 minutes ahead of Mass starting only to find standing room only – with 3 kids this is a non-starter so we walk on through), we headed home to spend the late afternoon and evening watching Santa drive by on the fire truck, hanging with family that dropped by and slowly prepping for the real Santa. The coolest this year was seeing Charlie get it fully. So. Much. Fun. It was a great Christmas season.

Click here for a slideshow of our Christmas Holiday (sorry for the volume)

Click here for a view of all of our pics on Flickr

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The Next 40

 

I’m 17 days into my 41st year on this planet and I’m here to say that all the cliches (e.g. it is all downhill from here, if my second 40 years flash by as fast as my first…) don’t apply.  I feel good.  Hopeful.  Maybe even slightly more mature…on second thought, maybe not so much on the last one.  I like to think that with the happiness my family brings to me, some continued focus on exercise and healthy-living and a little luck that I’ve got a chance at looking at the 40 years ahead as my next 40 vs. my last 40.  Things that excite me about 40:

  • My wife gets better looking with every year – sadly for her she won’t be able to write the same about me in 53 days.
  • My kids seem to still like me – that could mean lots more fun to come.
  • I’ve moved into a new age group with running – my only fear is the 40-44 year old age group is the new 35-39.  I ran a 13k this morning finished 6th overall and 3rd in my age group with a 39 year old in the top 5 as well.
  • My taste in music seems to improve with every year.  I no longer listen to White Lion or Stryper – that’s progress, right?
  • My parents were a young set of 40 year olds – I like to think I’m following in their footsteps.
  • Perspective – each year I realize more and more that it isn’t about stuff and acquisition but rather relationships, humility and experiences.

In fact the only real concern I have with the aging process and hitting milestones is the overall speed in which the occurs.  Breathing more deeply, appreciating these breaths more and reducing entitlement and wants in favor of laughing, sharing and giving are areas I continue to want to work to improve.  It has been an amazing 40 years of which I am very proud.  If the NEXT 40 offer even half as much as the first then I’m sure to be saying the same about my 80 year mark.

My birthday was themed around one of my bigger personal experiences (kids, marriage aside) in my first 40 years – the Appalachian Trail.  Cindy framed one of my favorite pictures that I took at age 25 while hiking the Harpers Ferry, WV to Bear Mountain, NY section of the Appalachian Trail and coincidentally my parents sent me an Appalachian Trail book with one of the most thoughtful notes I’ve received.  All good.  I’m very fortunate.

There’s lots to write about in the coming days.  The holidays, giving back, my scorecard on my 2012 New Year’s resolutions and what’s in store for 2013 for me.  Yup – geek alert.  For now, I leave you with a few pictures.  “This is 40.”

Enjoy a few pictures from my birthday here.