Our November has been a fun month. Two main themes emerged from our goings on: Eating and Running. Cindy has been a Girls on the Run (GOTR) coach this fall for Stewart and about 12-14 other girls around her age. This is a pretty great cause – all about building confidence in young ladies through running in an environment where they aren’t constantly competing or having to measure up to boys. It is NOT about winning but instead about finishing. NOT about time or distance but instead about doing your best. NOT about beating others but instead enjoying the journey with others and building each other up in the process. Cindy with her good friend Tracy have put in 9o minutes for two nights a week since September plus preparation of the lesson they spend time on each meeting. They were great coaches. Cindy doesn’t know this, but just watching her do this inspired me – she’s nothing short of amazing. During these meetings the girls also build up their endurance with the culminating point being a local 5k (The Reindeer Romp) where there is not clock and only Girls on the Run girls and their coaches and families. Roughly 1,500 of them at the Rock Hill event! Their GOTR group even had a mascot: Charlie! He attended most of the practices, mostly because his Dad couldn’t get home from work in time to watch him (Bleh!), and decided rather than sit around and watch he’d join in on the running. As a result, he ran the entire Reindeer Romp at the age of 4 and finished! Stewart was running a minimum of 2 nights a week with GOTR and finished the Reindeer Romp with a great effort. She’s so amazing because while running she manages to socialize just as she does when she’s not running. Will made a point of timing his 5k Reindeer Romp (that’s my boy!) and finished with a time of 26 minutes. Let me brag for one moment: I have three awesome kids.
Thanksgiving in Columbus was all about the Panda. There were lots of other great things like great food, good company, the first Thanksgiving in years where my entire family was together and my Aunt Dian and Cousin Shani/Joe and Shelby was down. They also brought their cute dog Maggie who was a fan favorite amongst everyone. Maybe one of the sweetest dogs I’ve been around. But back to this Panda. Charlie and I were out back playing golf and we saw the Panda. Apparently the guy in the Panda suit and his sons who were home from college, wandered out back to see whether a guy in a Panda suit could play golf (he could). When he wandered up to the hole my parents live on my Cousin Joe, the Game Warden (no, the irony was not lost on us), politely asked him to join us inside where we took about 100 pictures of this guy. Sitting at our Thanksgiving table, surrounded by family, etc. It had us laughing for the rest of the day. Not sure how we’ll top it next year. Maybe Albert the Gator pays us a visit? Mickey Mouse? Sir Purr from the Panthers?
Another big event in November, ok early December, was Charlie’s test for his Yellow Belt. He’s diligently worked through all of the White Belt (the first belt) requirements and as the youngest person in the class at this time, he decided he was ready to test. Hand techniques memorized? Check. Count to 10 in Korean? Check. Break some wood with a hammer chop? Check. On the first try? Check! He was as proud of this accomplishment of any so far in his life. He had a big crowd watching him and could bring many to chuckle as he stepped through the class process maybe one half step behind the teacher and class. Did that bother him? Not one bit. He yelled his “Hi-Yahs” as loud as he does as if he was right where he needed to be. The definition of a proud dad is knowing your son is a slight step behind and being as proud as you can because he’s out there doing it on his own and not worrying one bit about anything else. Makes me wonder what happens to us along the way to lose this spirit? We are born with awesome. We should all do everything we can to keep our awesome and not take others.
One final note. I ran a unique race last weekend in Croft State Park near Spartanburg. It was a 24 hour race called the One Epic Run of which I ran for 7 hours and 22 minutes (6 hours 40 minutes of running/moving time) and 35 miles before heading back home for date night. While some may question my priorities, I rarely miss a date night. The unique part here wasn’t the race format or distance but rather the charity that the event was supporting: Eleonore Rocks. This Charity provides rockers to families who have children born with very little time to live on this earth (hours and days). I got weepy at the start of this race hearing about this cause. There are so many wonderful people doing really wonderful things in this world. This was just another example. Trying to bring a little comfort to people who likely have nearly no ability to see comfort in their current situation. I was touched. If you want to learn more check out the link above. Makes me want to do more wonderful things and support those doing wonderful things for others. That. Is. All.
First off, thanks Dad for getting the tickets. One of the few examples I have heard of the ANGC lottery system actually producing tickets…and Wednesday Practice Round tickets to boot! While I am thanking people, thanks to mother nature for the perfect spring day we enjoyed in Augusta. This was a unique trip as it is one of the first times in many, many years I can remember doing anything with just my Mom, Dad and brother Tim. A special occasion for us all I think. The four of us met in Augusta yesterday mid-morning and wandered the course, mostly the back 9, eating pimiento cheese sandwiches (still a $1.50), egg salad sandwiches (still a $1.50) and drinking sweet tea, water and pink lemonade. We even saw some golfers playing golf, skipping balls at 16, and chipping/putting to tees where pins will be over the next four days. In addition to a typical practice round, we spend a good amount of time watching the annual par 3 contest. This is a relaxed event where the golfers and some of their families walk a separate and small par 3 course amongst crowds as big as you will see on tournament days. Also unique.
In Augusta-speak, we had a “pleasant spring day amongst the tall pines and southern breezes.” I hope to be able to see Augusta as well as share many more days like this one with my family in the years to come. Now, back to the grindstone. Pictures/slideshow can be found below.
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.
I would describe my weeks since returning from my hike (was that really 7 weeks ago!?!) as weeks filled with lots of shuffle. My oldest son just embarked on his 2nd decade. Can you believe we have a 10 year old? He’s an extraordinary 10 year old. Outside of having his Dad’s stress, he’s got so so much going for him. I couldn’t be prouder of the boy he is. Cindy pulled together a great theme: “Minute to Win It” where the kids did wacky competitions for prizes. It was really fun and pretty cool to see how well they did at these after Cindy and I thought they wouldn’t be able to get any of them done. Kids don’t know quit and rarely let difficulty become an obstacle. We were also amazed that we allowed 8 9-year olds sleep over last year as 5 10-year olds nearly made us flee (disclaimer to parents of these 5 10 year olds or DSS: of course we would never, ever do this.). The best reminder of your age is when your kids have a sleep over.
More shuffle…this time at work. I’ve been with my employer for over 6 years now and never in this time have I see so much voluntary turnover. It might have something to do with watching the amount of involuntary turnover occur around the place. Yes we are publicly downsizing. Yes we are clawing out of what is likely the most tumultuous time the company has ever seen. Yes, like most other very large companies we have our share of issues, inefficiencies, regulation, etc. But this period of time has been prolonged. Maybe half of the 6 years or more have been like this but the one thing that differentiates today from any time during the rest of these 6 years is the rate at which good friends are leaving. Do you look at every departure as one more person taking control or knowing something more than the rest? Or do you look at it as one less potential employee competitor? What impact culturally do these departures have on those remaining? Bright side: invariably it seems great for them and can’t hurt my external network either. This shuffle likely isn’t over but neither is my loyalty. I am trying to influence more fun into the environment – there’s not a ton of that going around corporate America these days…
Our family continues to shuffle constantly. Not in the way of in and out but more like swirling, constantly moving. The kids are busier than ever. What I notice is my oldest kid’s social lives have ratcheted up more than in the past. Several times in the past month I have looked for one of the olders to go hit golf balls or go on a bike ride only to find they are out with their friends. I have a sneaking suspicion this gets worse before it gets better. Will I have to start setting up “dates” with them too? Do we need to start calendaring time? Don’t get me wrong, I like that they have friends…just was hoping every once and a while to be one of them. I have taken control a bit – this weekend Will and I are meeting Dad (Poppy) in the mountains for Will’s first overnight hike. Actually a double-overnight hike. 13 miles total. Should be a good test for Will and me. I hope he loves it – I’d take liking it with the potential to grow into loving it…
Since my extended hike in the Sierra’s in late August I can’t seem to settle my mind to the state that it was in during my hike. While I had lots of time to think, walk and think some more on the hike, it was thinking with clarity. Since being back my head is filled. Cheese-making. Bee-raising. Home wi-fi extending. Front porch flower box making. Work. Family. Cross-training for healthier running. Developing greater positivity. Gratitude. Giving back more than I take. I’m starting to think I might be an idea person. I love the idea. I love obsessing over an idea. I love thinking of other ideas. With the execution of the idea…that’s where I need a push. Or a partner. Or both.
Interesting other notes…fall in Fort Mill is spectacular. Every maple on our street as far as you can see if fire red/orange. Shutterfly is moving their East Coast HQ to Fort Mill and adding a call center. I’m on week 6 of doing P90X Plyometrics and Ab videos – I actually feel stronger. Stewart’s presenting stuff in her 2nd grade class – so fun to watch (see pic below). Adventure Guides has started back up – 60+ dads; 120 total registered. 20% growth from last year. Pretty neat to see Dads and kids camping together. I’m starting to consider a few running events after taking July, August, September largely off from races with calf issues. Might run the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte as an expensive training marathon and then build up to run the 1st annual 50k race in the ASC Greenway.
We are only one day removed from our week at Sea Pines at Hilton Head Island and already I want to go back. I know we work so we can go on great vacations and enjoy time with family but isn’t there a way to go on vacations with family for 48 weeks a year and work for four? Hilton Head has become our favorite place to enjoy time at the beach. The weather this year was absolutely perfect too! Highs in the low to mid 80s with nearly no humidity and a light breeze made for great bike riding (minus the crash by Cindy on day 2), beach sitting, outdoor eating, etc. We enjoyed time at both South Beach with the magician and singers and Harbor Town with the breakfast, park and lighthouse. The house this year worked great for our family with a nice pool and screened porch. The hit of the trip had to be the beach tent. Sturdy enough to put up each day and leave for the day while offering the thing I like to have the most while at the beach – shade. Odd, I know. It easily extended our beach time by several hours each day. The tent take-down each day also brought us back to the beach at my favorite time of the day – the evening/dusk hours.
Next year maybe the same house, but likely one backing up to water. The South Beach proximity was a good fit for us. Maybe 2 weeks next year?? Crazy talk I know. We like it that much.
It flew by! It was fun! We didn’t travel – like I hardly left our street in a car! We had lots of great food! The kids were lost in a myriad of toys! Tons of family! And…wait for it…it SNOWED! What a great Christmas season we had. After hitting the break-even point for our fake tree experiment, and finally selling the fake tree after 3 unsuccessful yard sales attempts, we purchased a real tree! The smell was worth the small hassle (dang needles!) and general fire hazard that comes with an actual tree. All of our immediate family came to visit and outside of getting shut out on Christmas Eve for the Christmas Mass it was just about a perfect few days. The traditional Christmas Day puzzle was unveiled and took 5 adults 3 days and 4 hours to wrestle to completion. We had at least 5 consecutive meals with homemade desserts!
It was a special holiday season for us and we hope you enjoy the videos and slideshow (believe it or not I narrowed it down to only the top 1/3 of our pictures – sorry).
This year, like last we are fortunate enough to be able to go on not one, but TWO beach trips! Just like last year we zoomed out of town within a day or two of the kids last day of school and headed for what is becoming one of our favorite beach spots: Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island (HHI). Here we were joined again by my parents, my brother Tim and my niece Emma. The house was pretty great with plenty of room for the 9 of us, the pool/hot tub out back was pretty great and our proximity to the beach was also pretty great. This house (41 Wagon Lane?) was about a 1/4 mile from the beach, 1.5 miles from both Harbor Town and the South Beach Marina area which made for some nice bike rides with the kids…with the exception of the ONE bike ride where Stewart crashed TWO times. The first she was plowed into by an out of control 10 year old (literally out of control – he was a new bike rider) and the second was her attempt to block her brother’s passing move with her arm and leg while riding…not the move a 5 year old with less than 6 months of riding experience has in her bag of tricks (yet). Cindy and I can definitely see HHI as a place where we spend more beach time. At minimum an annual beach trip here with the family is in order. Check out some of our pics of the trip below as well as a few shots of my Father’s Day festivities!