Category Archives: Thoughts

Thoughts that pop into my head. Things that I ponder from time to time.

I wish I was 12

Today, I found myself wishing that I was the age of 12. That was an age when I was still young enough to dream of building a spaceship and going to the moon, yet old enough to not to have to have a summer job, or any job at that point.

My mom and dad took care of me. They made sure that I had food on the table, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. All I had to do was to go to school and do my chores. The world was my oyster, or at least a clam. The future held every possible hope for anything that I wanted to be. Sure we had the Cuban missile crisis and civil defense drills which were scary, but I didn’t focus on these things. I wasn’t old enough to be drafted into the Vietnam war but saw the headlines which were very confusing to a 12 year old. I just focused on my latest science experiment and discovering the wonders of God’s universe.
There were piano lessons, but I enjoyed them. All I had to do was practice, which was easier some times than others. Life just wasn’t that hard up to that point.  Walt Disney was still coming into our homes via the TV each Sunday night. Gilligan’s Island kept us rolling on the floor laughing. Life was easy and good. Life also appeared good, even though there was evil in the world, I was living during a new industrial revolution where anything was possible. They were talking about landing a man on the moon. All America watched as NASA developed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. The inventions that were created to get man on the moon filtered to the commercial market. It seemed that new inventions were popping up daily, amazing all of us.

My life was filled with my chemistry set, microscope, ham radio and model rockets. I was discovering a world of science. We had a small pond in our backyard that held all kinds of microbes that came alive under my Tasco microscope. 

I started experiments to discover the true validity of Listerine. Did it actually kill germs? In my petri dish, with just a couple of tablespoons of Listerine, in open air, it actually started to grow mold. I guess it doesn’t really kill germs like they claim. My chemistry set had a bunch of experiments on little index cards. I always looked for the ones that would blow up or smell awful!

My short wave radio was an amazing thing that at night, the air waves came alive due to the atmosphere being more crisp. The radio waves would bounce off the ionosphere from a far off country. I would hear music and voices in other languages that brought the world a little closer. Building the short wave radio, then putting up a copper wire antenna to catch the radio waves was as much fun as using the radio.

Model rocketry was popular back during the formative years of the space program. I flew almost every model rocket that came out. I wanted bigger and better, often modifying the design so that instead of just one engine, I would use three at the same time to launch bigger rockets. A good percentage of my rockets ended up floating by parachute into the many trees that were in our neighborhood. This didn’t deter me, I just saved up enough money to go and buy another rocket kit to build. After awhile I got tired of launching them vertically and decided to launch them horizontally at the side of the neighbors brick house. This wasn’t as exciting because the parachute never opened and it was over too quick. The cardboard and balsa rocket ended up in a thousand pieces. Back to launching them vertically.

The next couple of years life started getting more complicated. I discovered a species that I wasn’t aware of; they call them ‘girls’. I really hadn’t noticed them too much before, even though I did have a one week crush on one or more during grade school, but I really couldn’t be bothered. At age 13, something strange started to happen to my voice. It had it’s moments when it just had a mind of it’s own, changing pitch for no apparent reason. Then at age 14, my face decided that it wasn’t happy with it’s smooth appearance, it needed to add these little mountains of acne that would cause me to skip school from time to time, embarrassed about my latest zit the size of Mt. Everest. Let’s not forget the good old hormones. Talk about your body having a mind of it’s own. Why would a simple ride to school in the school bus cause the zipper area of your jeans to suddenly shrink? This made getting out of the school bus an awkward endeavor, one where your school
books could cover the awkwardness that was going on in your jeans without your approval.

At age 15, some alien life form, tripled the female population in my world. I was sure that at age 12 there were a lot less of these creatures. Everywhere I turned, these giggling, over matured girls were now a focus, messing up my whole science discovering world. At age 15, these girls looked like they just got an extra dose of growth hormones, leaving us poor boys to wallow in our crackly voices and under developed biceps. 16 was on the horizon with the ever promising drivers license waiting. What the heck was I going to do with a car and a drivers license? I had plenty of ideas, but these ideas seemed to steal more and more of my interests in science. They were competing, even winning over what had brought me delight over these few short years. I was more interested in my ability to impress girls than stay true to what had brought me joy over the past 5 years. It was as if this caveman inside of me was ready to pick up his club, ‘me find woman’, knock her on the noggin’ and drag her back to my cave. I wouldn’t have known what to do with my prize should I had been successful in clubbing one and draggin’ her home.

Age 16 was when life really started getting complicated. I saved up enough money for an old car. Now I needed gas for the car. That meant a job. After school, on Saturdays I worked for gas money and repairs. By then, ‘me find girl’ was my main goal as well as having enough money to buy pizza. I needed more money which meant more hours after school and working on Saturdays. Guess what happened to my chemistry set, ham radio, rockets and microscope? They were put in a box and shoved in the attic. Now my new projects were working on my car, not making it a hot rod, just fixing whatever decided to break that week. When you are 16, you buy the first piece of junk that you can find, then if you are mechanical, you just keep fixing it. I had dreams of creating a hot rod, but when you only
earn $2.50/hr, it does not afford you any cool parts.

Since my parents put me in the first grade at the age of 5, I was a senior in high school when I was 16. This meant that I had a bunch of important decisions to make that my emotions were not ready to make. I was a year and a half younger than most boys in my class and this meant that I was smaller and less mature, not making it any more easier to be self confident in my decision making. College was looming and my grades suffered. I was just a big emotional mess. I wasn’t ready to go to college. I really wasn’t ready for the whole girl thing. I just wanted to go back to watching Walt talk about creating Epcot and dreaming of man landing on the moon, of which by now had happened 4 years earlier. Instead of applying to go to a school in engineering, somehow I got this stupid idea of
majoring in theater. What the heck was I thinking?! Theater? I had been in a little theater production of  ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’. I had played Linus. I did an OK job, but I wasn’t a mousekateer, that was for sure. One play and I was bound for Hollywood? Where the heck was that microscope anyway?

My grades were pretty abysmal, so I ended up going to community college for two years before transferring to Old Dominion University. What did I major in? Piano and Music Therapy. What was I thinking? Sure I was a natural at playing the piano, but having a career in music is a hard life. Having a career as an engineer is a good living, good people to work with and decent hours. Those hormones that I had started to experience at 13, 14 and 15 were ruling and ruining my life. It seemed unfair that God puts these hormones in our innocent bodies. Why can’t they just show up around say age 22, when we are done with college?

After four years of college my parents said, “That’s enough. We paid for four years of college. You have no degree, so the rest is up to you or you can get a job.” I remember that day. It’s like this cloud that I was living in just vanished. The fog lifted and reality was like a 16 wheeler heading straight for me. The realization that it was now all me, hit me like a ton of bricks. Mom and dad were not going to pay for me any longer. The roof over my head, even though it was in great shape now seemed to be leaking over my bed. My parents talked about me living at home long enough to save up money for an apartment, but not forever. An apartment? I hadn’t even thought of living away from home, but that idea took hold of me. Soon, I was looking for a job, any job that would provide me with a real living, not just being a cook or selling radios at Radio Shack. I found a job as a salesman at a local Christian radio station which now afforded me the ability to get an apartment. Before long, I was telling my parents that I had found an apartment and would be moving out in 2 weeks. They tried to tell me that I should try and save up more money, but the thought had been planted within my head and I was bound to be on my own. Where the heck was my microscope? Where was Walt when I needed him? Walt had passed away 8 years ago and I was still trying to get used to the idea of it. I sure did miss him coming on our black and white tv on Sundays. Life was moving too fast. I wasn’t ready for all of this, but my emotions seemed to be pushing me to independence. I found a small one bedroom apartment 7 miles from my parents house. I signed a one years lease. I went to the local thrift store for furniture. I made a dining room table from a big spool and a bed frame from plywood and cork. There was not one matching piece of furniture in my place, but it was my place.

Living on my own was fun at first, the first week, but then having to cook for myself, wash my laundry, work during the day left me little time to dream and consider the questions of the universe. I now had a steady girlfriend and that was stress enough. Eventually I proposed to her and for some stupid reason she said yes which she would later regret. More unnecessary drama in my life. My boss at the time owned a very small home in Portsmouth. He was being transferred and said that I should consider buying his house. The mortgage payment would be the same as my rent payment. There was a first time home buyers loan that allowed me to buy a home with only $500 down. So now, I was a homeowner. My parents only lived 20 minutes away, but going back there to live may as well had been 20 hours away. My simple life with hot food on the table was now a distant memory. I was a homeowner with a yard to mow, my yard, no dad to yell at me to
mow it and rooms to paint. When things broke down, I couldn’t expect my parents to take care of it or even the apartment landlord to fix it. It was all me.

In the work area, going from one sales job to another, I realized that I was getting into a resume slump. I had to get out of sales. I guess I looked good in a suit and people just assumed I could sell. After being told no thousands of times you learn what to say so that people will say yes. Since I was paying for the roof over my head I had to learn how to make a sale and got pretty good at it even though I hated it. I needed to jump ship quickly for happiness, so I quit my sales job and turned to the sciences. I worked for a coal testing lab and really enjoyed the work, but the pay was abysmal. I had to eat potted meat sandwiches and heat my home with wood just to survive. I lasted a whole year with the science job before I got back into sales where I could afford to live. All of this time, I never told my parents how poor that I was. I froze that winter as heating a house with wood is really a chore. My tiny wood stove was so small that it would go out around 3AM.  I had to set my alarm to wake up and put more wood in it. There were some good things about being on my own. I did learn to sew and mend my own clothes, so it wasn’t all a waste. I did all of my own home repairs because I couldn’t afford to call anyone. I learned a lot. Sometime during all of this, my first wife woke up one morning and decided that she really didn’t like being married and left, never to hear from her again. Eventually I ended up getting two room mates to help with the mortgage since she took her income with her when she left. Where was my damn microscope?!

Eventually, I ended up remarrying and had 4 kids. Suddenly what seemed overnight, I was now a father. I wasn’t just me depending upon me, 5 other people were depending on me. It’s amazing how that affects your decisions and makes you grow up. Day in and day out I played the sales role for a career. More sales jobs, more putting on a suit, until one day I just had it. I had to do something else. I just couldn’t stay in sales. Because of all of the home repairs that I learned to do out of necessity, I started a remodeling company and enjoyed that for years, but it was a hard way to make a living. I really missed the engineering type of guys that I had hung around with when I was young so I tried going back to college to get an engineering degree, but having 4 kids and living off of savings proved too stressful. I lasted about 1 1/2 years and loved every minute of it, but calculus was kicking my butt and money was running out. Life wasn’t easy, that’s for sure.
Somehow I had to return to simpler times.

We bought a house in the country because I wanted to create a version of what I had grown up with, for my kids to experience. We had almost 3 acres to have fun on. The kids had go karts, motorbikes, tree houses and zip lines. We launched rockets and almost got killed building our own rocket engines. We enjoyed the big yard and the kids had friends over all the time to enjoy the go-karts, barn, chickens and all the rest. Even though my children were having fun, life was much more complicated for my kids than when I was growing up. Instead of 3 TV stations, there was now cable, computer games and VHS movies. The media was beginning to flood our homes with drama that as a kid the networks would have never been dreamed of putting on TV. Walt was long gone. There were no Disney endings. Parents were losing control of their children. Rebellion was now the norm. Respect was something that only Tina Turner sang in a song. It was hard raising kids. I didn’t have the answers. Life was out of control. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was now my favorite movie. I seemed to be able to relate to George Bailey. When was Harry Bailey going to come and rescue me? It was my turn to go to college to become an engineer and let Harry take over the savings and loan business. I felt like a teenager inside, but now I had teenagers of my own. When does one feel old enough and wise enough to raise teenagers? I think never. Soon, my teenagers were facing the very same decision that I had to face what seemed only a few years ago, what college to attend and what to major in. This can’t be happening. It was only a couple of years ago that I was in high school contemplating the same exact thing. Where had the years gone?

Fast forward. Now, I’m 59, but inside I still feel like a kid. I feel like Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Big’. At least once per week I tell someone “When I grow up, I want to…..”. I do say it in jest, but sometimes I feel as if I really mean it. I don’t ever want to stop dreaming. I don’t ever want to stop looking for my microscope. I think I remember where I saw it now, it was under the train set and old petri dishes in the back of the attic. Hopefully my parents didn’t throw it away.

A dreamer…..

I have been accused of being a dreamer. I accept that. It’s not that I don’t like reality; really, I do! I just think that when we stop dreaming, we stop the ability to wonder “what if”. Some people call it imagining or brain-storming. I call it purposeful thinking with no boundaries. You see, inside of your head, you have the ability to imagine things beyond our realm of physical limitations, or at least what we think are physical limitations.

A dreamer needs to put his dreams into a more concrete world to make them a reality. If you only dream, yet do not use the present tools in the real world to develop your dreams, well then you are simply a dreamer.

With all of the noise of the world around us and the constant interruption from our personal devices, it’s no wonder that many of us have stopped dreaming. I know that it takes more concentration and a concerted effort on my part to enter that place where I ask God, “What if I did this or that? Does the world need this new idea to be a better place?”

I find it hard to be by myself much of the time. I have gotten into the habit of wanting people around me all of the time, yet that doesn’t do much for those times when I need to be creative, like right now. I can always think of something that I have to do, something that needs fixing, someone that needs calling, something that needs to be viewed or read.

If your life is important enough to live, then it’s important enough to record. Others may be very blessed by your words and thoughts.

The digital life

My wife and I decided to paint the bathroom this weekend. Seemed like a rather quick job, except the replacement of the faucets for the vanities. There was wallpaper that had to be removed first. This took more time than we had expected. After removing the wallpaper, there were gouges in the walls which needed to be filled with spackle. We then needed to cut out the seams where the wallpaper seams were in the water closet. We decided to not remove the wallpaper in that small area since it took so long to remove the wallpaper in the main part of the bathroom. We were covering up a taupe color which required two coats of paint and lots of cutting in. We started on Saturday and finished Sunday afternoon. We still have faucets to replace and mirrors to install, but the bulk of it is done. After working with websites and computers for the past 10 years, I have become accustomed to instant changes or at least changes that don’t take a lot of time. Before I got into this whole website business, I would have not thought twice about taking on a huge remodeling project. I would know that it would take a huge investment in time, dust, sweat and tears, but that would not have fazed me a bit. Now, when I take on a remodeling project, I want instant results. I want to take a digital application, run a few lines of code, upload it to the web and see instant results. I tend to want the same when I do any kind of manual work. Am I getting lazy? Am I getting old? I DON’T LIKE IT! I know that it is due to the digital world that I make my living, yet I do not like what it has done to my previous world of nuts, bolts, wood shavings and satisfaction of actual manual work. Do you find yourself in a similar state of mind, that is if your actual vocation involves 0’s and 1’s. Have we become a digital replication of reality? Do we favor digital relationships over real ones? I dare you to ask yourself the question. I know that I have.

Pay attention to detail

When you hear someone use the phrase “pay attention to detail”, one usually thinks of an OCD person, at least I used to. Isn’t it interesting that we have labels that we now place on people who don’t fit our perception of ‘normal’. Anyone that has achieved anything noteworthy most certainly would have had a label placed upon them. People who fit in this category are usually not easy to work with; they upset the status quo for sure. Instead of being able to submit our work to them and go eat lunch, they say, “not good enough, what can you do to make it better?” Damn, there goes lunch. I just want to punch a clock, get the work done, then go have a beer! If you have a boss or fellow worker that “pays attention to detail” and you just want to punch the clock, you better look for a new job. You just want a paycheck? Go work for the government, there are plenty of people there that are little cogs in the big wheel of government that love becoming invisible in the huge machine that the government provides. Enough about those of you that just want a paycheck. I’m here to challenge you. I love old houses; I’m talking houses that are over 100 years old. The “attention to detail” was amazing. The interior trim wasn’t just what we call “Ranch style” trim, which to me means BORING. The trim had detail. It took time to create this molding. Look at the brick work. The modern ranch style house did not look like a house on the ranch. It looks like a box. If it has brickwork, typically it’s just your standard running bond style brick. Pediments and even the use of herringbone style brickwork is rare these days. Look at these Tudor brick chimneys at Hampton Court Palace in the UK.

As you can see, this brickwork has detail.

I just finished watching a documentary on the building of Disneyland. Disneyland was built in one year plus one day, yet the planning and “attention to detail” is amazing. Every attraction, every tree and walkway was put in a certain place by design. Walt was never satisfied with the first set of plans. He wanted those that visited to notice his “attention to detail”. He hired experts in their fields to help him build Disneyland. If he wanted something built and he didn’t know how to do it, he hired others that could help him realize his dream. He wanted his visitors to experience something that was outside of their reality, this is why he had earthen berms built all around his park to shut out the reminder of their normal lives.

Every time we create something new, be it a recipe or a new building, we have the opportunity to take the mundane and transform it into something that we and others will remember because we made sure to “pay attention to detail”.

Good enough isn’t good enough. Good enough gets you nothing extra, it gets you by. It might pay the bills, but is that what you want out of life, just to have enough to pay the bills? If you “pay attention to detail” and create something out of the ordinary, put yourself into it so that it is a reflection of who you are, you will be able to do more than just pay the bills!

Why do we like secret rooms? Is it because it is unexpected? Someone took the time to create something of intrigue, not just another room off of the hall. It took some planning to be able to hide this secret room. The room had to be concealed so that it wasn’t obvious from outside nor inside the house; unless you knew of this room and it’s secret entrance, you would never have know that it was there. It’s a lot easier to build a house without “attention to detail”. Most people are happy with a great room, nice bathroom with an en suite and kitchen with granite countertops and a few rows of stone around the front door. Our ancestors who built these incredible homes found in the older sections of most cities around America would have never been satisfied with what we are satisfied with now.

Faster is not always better, it’s just faster. Just because you can get away with the minimum doesn’t mean that you should. The way I look at it, if you put little into this life, just to get by, you will get little out of this life. If you put a $1 bill into a change machine, do you expect to get out 5 quarters?  No, you get out of it what you put into it. Life is the same way.

If you want an extraordinary life, you need to put in an extraordinary amount of effort. So, the next time that you are tempted to just put in the minimum, why not “pay attention to detail”!

Evolution of a dream

What makes a dream a reality? How does a dream either evolve into a reality or vaporizes into a puff of smoke? Every dream, not the kind we have during our sleep, but the kind of dreams that we want to be a reality, I believe go through these natural progressions. First,  there is the what if stage. This requires quiet contemplation time for the dream to form and take shape. Dreaming is a learned art, it’s not something that comes naturally. It takes time, just like anything else. A dream can be compared to the creation of a child in a mother’s womb. It is born out of passion, but after this, it takes nurturing and a close attention to what the mother eats and how she keeps care of herself while this new person is developing. Your dream has to be carefully cared for. At this stage, it is very fragile. You may not want to share your dream with those that are not apt to agree with your dream.Dreams_walt Slowly, your dream then turns into an idea. How do you take your dream, turned idea, into a reality? This is the thing about dreams, there is no one way to make them a reality, but there are helpful things that you can do to help them marinade. This idea is something that you can start to write down. I encourage you to also draw pictures and color them to make your idea more vivid. it’s been shown that colorful pictures make more of an impression on us than plain text. To make your dream a reality, you need to nurture it, like a seedling, fertilizing it with research and steps that each day, give you more information than you had the day before. There will be road blocks, but don’t give up, these road blocks are only routes that will not lead you to your dream. It took Rocket Chemical Company 40 attempts to get the Water Dispersing formula worked out, 40 dead ends, but they eventually found the right route to success, hence WD-40. The great thing about dreams is that it gives us something to strive for. If you make some progress on your dream everyday, you will be one step closer to realizing it. By continuing to work on your dream, you will gain momentum and no matter what anyone says, what may have originally, while your dream was in it’s infancy, squashed it, now nothing can keep you from reaching it. Your dream may take on a new shape as you research it and devote time to it, but one thing is sure, your dream will eventually lead you to great things, all the result of taking the time to say to yourself, “what if”.  

Purposeful living

What is it to live a purposeful life; better yet, what does it mean to live a purposeless life? I think that to live a purposeless life is to ignore what you know that you are good at, your God given talents, those things that make you smile while you are landing that jump, planing that board, finishing that painting or just about anything that you can imagine. We have all been given gifts and talents in some area of our lives. To ignore using these talents and to just exist is truly a waste of what we have been given. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable of a man that entrusted talents to three servants. You know the story, the two invested the talents and multiplied them for their master, the one simply buried the talent in the ground and gave it back to his master. Are you burying your talent, only to give it back? “No, that’s OK, I don’t want it, here, you can have it back.” If you don’t want it, do you think you will receive anything else in exchange?sailboat-1 What you have been given is not by accident, what you do with it is a big deal. What you don’t do with it is an even bigger deal. Can you imagine a ship in the ocean without a rudder? Without a rudder it would either sail in circles or be blown by the wind wherever the wind is blowing. Purposeful living is sailing a ship with a rudder. You have a course, or at least you have a general direction of where you want to go. If you don’t have a purpose, then you will be blown by other people’s emotions and drama, whatever wind is prevailing at the time. Another analogy is either being a magnet or being a piece of steel. Purposeful living is a magnet that draws others to your purpose. They want to be a part of what you are doing. Purposeless living is being a piece of steel, drawn to whatever magnet is close by, not having any magnetism of your own. We all have magnets within us that draw us north, to that place that bring fulfillment and peace in our lives. For me, Christ is my true north, giving me the ability to know how to utilize that magnet that is planted within me to give purpose to my life; but that’s not all, He expects me to use what He planted within me to bring meaning and purpose to myself and others around me. When we don’t have a sense of direction, it’s easy to get sucked into the drama of others lives. If you are sailing a ship, you have to keep an eye on either the compass or a spot on the other shore to sail to. You can’t take your eyes off of it or you will end up either lost or miles downwind from your intended destination. You don’t have the time to watch the drama in the dingy floating next to you. You know that you have a destination and the dingy holds just enough of a distraction to get you off course. This doesn’t mean that if the dingy is sinking you don’t pause to help out, but you don’t put out your anchor and live there, you get them on their way and pick up where you left off. Some have a purpose that is in the limelight more than others, yet that doesn’t make them more important, just a different purpose and a different destination. You have your own specific destination, to sail to where others are intended to go, only makes getting back to your destination take longer. With all of the social media, it’s easy to read and view all of the squawking seagulls trying to bring attention to themselves, yet again, this is just a distraction. I dare you to live your own purposeful life and to not check your Facebook status every 10 minutes, being pushed by the wind of who likes your post and who doesn’t. Your life is more important than that. Let the 99% of people live by the opinion of others, you live guided by your purpose. I dare you to set sail for that purpose you were created for or do you want to continue to live your life based upon a daily opinion poll? The choice is yours.

A different habit

Reality tv is NOT reality. Do you really want to be a Kardashian? Get a “real” life. If you don’t want to be one of the masses with an ordinary life, going to an ordinary job living in an ordinary city, then you have to do something to be different. Your friends predictable habits will get you predictable results. YOU have to do something different to change your current life every day. YOU have to work later, work harder, think outside of the dull square box if you want a meaningful life. Sure, going to the pub, the club, the typical places your friends go is fun, but if you go there too much, you will have the typical life. Life doesn’t just happen to you. YOU have to fight against the current, or end up with results that people who go with the flow end up with. It’s up to you. Don’t look for your “big break”, you will be waiting forever. YOU need to chart a course for that new land, that one that is waiting to be discovered.

Olympic Dreams

The light in the room was blinding. Where was it coming from? I pulled the covers back over my head. Slowly, the grogginess started to clear as I remembered that the night before, the forecast had called for snow. I threw back the covers and jumped to the floor. All of our hard work was now going to pay off. Two months earlier, the leaves on the trees had just started to turn their golden hue as fall had arrived. Coming home from school, the crisp fall air caused me to zip up my jacket. It was a reminder of what was to come, every school kid’s winter dream; a snow day! I loved winter. I loved snow. Nine months earlier, the 1968 Winter Olympics had been aired. It was the first year that the Olympics had been broadcast in color; a treat for those of us that had climbed the social TV ladder to acquire a color TV. The Olympics that year featured Peggy Flemming winning the gold medal for figure skating. Jean-Claude Killy won the downhill skiing even. Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, from the Soviet Union had defended their pairs figure skating gold medal from four years earlier, from whom later, as an adult, my wife and I were able to meet and take a few figure skating lessons from. The highlight for me wasn’t watching figure skating or skiing, it was the bobsled events. I dreamed of using our neighborhood hill to create a bobsled track. I envisioned us sledding down the hill, going into a steep banked curve, the G forces pushing us deep into the slats of our sled. It would be great to experience something like that! As I walked home from school that day, I tried to think of who I could enlist for a project like this. Let’s see, there was Chris, Jim and my brother Drew. Surely they had watched the bobsled events from the previous winter Olympics. I called up my buddy Jim and told him my idea. “This will be the coolest track in the neighborhood if we all pitch in and build it before the first snow!” I told Jim. He was on board. Next came Chris and my brother. I would have to convince my brother first since Chris was my brother’s friend. “You want to build a what?” Drew said. “I want to build a bobsled track. Don’t you remember watching the winter Olympics and how fast those guys were going? We can build something like that on the hill in the woods!” Drew was used to my wild and lame brained ideas. He knew that somehow I would get him in trouble as well as make him do the dirty work. Somehow I convinced him to enlist as well as talk his buddy Chris into helping with our monumental task. School seemed to drag on that first day of construction. Didn’t my teachers know that I had more important things to do? Who needed to know how to bisect a circle with a compass anyway? All I needed was  a couple of shovels, rakes and hoes, along with weeks of sweat and achy muscles. The first day of construction, we all met at the top of the hill. Now was the time to share my vision of how to turn this ordinary hill into an Olympic grade bobsled track. As we stood at the top of the hill, I explained the design. “We will have the starting point here next to this dogwood tree. After you push off from the starting blocks, you will point your sled to the right of the track. We will need a banked curve on the right to keep us from running into that big tree over there, then after the first turn we will run down the hill, gaining speed, pointed right for the center of those two sycamore trees. There is just enough room between those two trees for a sled to fit. We will build up dirt on both sides, right before you get to the trees to create a chute. It will guide you right in between both sycamores and shoot you out the back. Our only problem is that after you exit the trees, there is a ditch, so we will have to build a bridge over the ditch in order to keep going.” Chris, Jim and my brother looked at each other. “You have got to be kidding.” Jim said. “That will take forever!” “It won’t take that long if we all help. Think of how fun it will be! Everyone will want to come over and sled down our hill.” I said. “Yeah, I guess it would be fun.” Drew said. It didn’t take too much to get everyone excited as I took them through what the experience would be, that first run down the hill. We worked on that hill every chance we got, moving dirt, building banked turns, removing rocks and roots that would ruin our beloved track. I had never worked so hard and shoveled so much dirt in my life. If my dad had wanted me to hoe his garden, I would have feigned a cramp within an hour, but this was different; this was the creation of a neighborhood sensation! Building the bridge across the ditch proved to be a challenge as none of us owned a Skilsaw. We found a couple of old wooden pallets which proved the perfect width for a sled. We found a couple of 2×4’s that we used to span the ditch and fastened the two pallets to the top. Scrounging around the neighborhood, we found some more wood to fill in the gaps on the pallets. We packed the top of the pallets with dirt and smoothed the transition between each bank and our crudely built bridge. Weeks turned into months as we worked on our track. Each week that passed, the temperature dropped a few degrees at a time. We exchanged our fall jackets for winter coats as the promise of snow kept us on task. As January rolled around, we would listen to the weather forecast, hoping for snow. Back in the 60’s, the weathermen were about as accurate as they are now, only 50% of the time were their forecasts spot on. The chance of snow seemed to only bring rain. Our hill was waiting. Our track was ready. Our sleds were waxed and poised for action. When was it going to snow? This morning was different. That light that was pouring into my room was from the glistening snow crystals that had fallen the night before. As my feet hit the floor, I peered through the window to see a thick blanket of fresh fallen snow. Our wait was over. I threw on my clothes and headed down the stairs. “Looks like you have a snow day.” my mom said. “You bet, I’m going sledding on our bobsled track!” I said. “Your what?” she replied. Ignoring her question, I put on my rubber boots, gloves and my hooded coat. Out on the porch lay my sled, poised for action. I knew that my brother would head to the hill as soon as he realized what was waiting for him as he awoke from his slumber, as well as Jim and Chris. The snow was deep. Since it was the first snow of the season, it was a little wet which would make packing down the snow on the track much easier. Trudging through the snow, I dragged my sled and saw that Jim was coming down the road with his sled in tow. I have to admit that there were butterflies in my stomach as I climbed the hill with my sled. All of our hard work was now going to be paying off. As Jim arrived I told him, “We will need to pack down the snow so that the track will be fast. Let’s use these pieces of plywood. One of us can sit on the plywood and slide down the hill, packing the snow as we go.” Performing this task was an arduous one, as none of us wanted to take the time to do this. We wanted to take a run on our track, but knew that if we didn’t do this first, the runners of the sled would dig too deep into the snow and our track would not last but a few runs. After about an hour or so, we had finished packing down the snow, adding extra snow to the turns and putting a thick layer of snow on our bridge. It was time. The first run of the day was about to begin. Who would go first? We had all worked so hard to prepare the hill for this day. We decided to flip a coin. I took off my gloves and searched my pockets for left over lunch money. I found a nickle. “Hey, how are we going to flip a coin for all four of us?” Chris asked. “Good question.” Drew said. Before I could think of an answer, Jim was on his sled, already heading down the hill. “Hey!” we all yelled. Before we could protest, Jim was already down the hill, headed for the first banked curve on the right of the course. He barely kept his sled from going over the edge as he came out of the curve heading for the straightaway. He was going at a pretty fast clip, too fast it looked, as he dug his toes into the snow to slow himself down before heading between the Sycamore trees. His right hip hit one of the trees to which you could hear him yell with pain, but there was no time to rub it as he was speeding out of the chute, headed for the bridge. His left runner of the sled veered off of the bridge and before he knew what was happening, he lost control and the sled went over the edge of the bridge, into the icy water below. Splash! “Crap!” he yelled as he lay sideways in the ditch, the cold water finding it’s way into his pants. “I’m going home!” he complained as he dragged his sled behind him like a fallen warrior drags his sword on the ground after losing a battle. “Serves him right.” I thought as I watched him waddle home, only imagining how cold his legs must be. We stood at the top of the hill watching Jim head home. “This was your idea, so I think that you should go first.” said Chris, pointing to me. “OK!” I exclaimed. This was the moment I had dreamed of. I lined up my sled in the starting position at the top of the hill, slid the sled back and forwards, imitating what I had seen the Olympic bobsled team do and tried to settle my nerves, having seen what Jim’s first run had resulted in. One, two, three, go! My chest hit the wooden slats of the sled as I cleared the ridge of the hill. Aiming my sled at the first curve, I made sure to not repeat Jim’s handling of this banked turn. I kept the sled in the middle of the curve, feeling the G forces try and pull me off of the sled. I hung on tight as I shot out of the turn and headed down the straight-a-way picking up more speed than I dared. I wasn’t about to slow down now. The two Sycamore trees were coming up fast; at this speed I had to be in the dead center of the track or I would have hit one of the trees with too much force not to be injured seriously. The packed dirt that we had used to guide the sled into the chute was now covered in snow. The sled was being guided into the chute. The wet snow had now started to turn into ice in this area and the sled zipped through the trees and shot out the back of the chute before I could even realize it. Before I knew it, the bridge was right in front of me. I had to keep the runners on the bridge if I didn’t want to end up the same way that Jim did. I tightened my grip and leaned just enough in order to keep the sled in the middle of our make-shift bridge. The bridge shook as the sled skimmed over the water below. I had made it. The bridge was behind me. I glided onto the flat area and into softer snow as the sled slowed down enough for me to dig my toes into the snow to act as a brake. It was over, the waiting, the work and now the prize. I let out a holler that echoed through the woods. “That was AWESOME!” I don’t remember who was next. I just remember that if I hadn’t of moved, I would have been hit by either my brother or Chris who had just finished their first run. News of our bobsled track had gone through the neighborhood and anyone that had a sled or anything closely resembling one was taking a run down our bobsled track. It was a great feeling knowing that I had been part of creating something that so many were now enjoying. As the days elapsed, the snow slowly melted and our bobsled track went the way of most Olympic venues. Our bobsled track turned into a BMX bike racing course. The bridge we had created slowly rotted and had to be removed. Eventually, the lot where the hill was located was sold to a builder who built a house and we were no longer allowed to use the hill for sledding. It’s been many decades since that first snowy morning, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Even now, I get excited at the very first snowflake of winter.

Bigger than you!

A dream has to be bigger than yourself in order for it to be worth achieving. If you have a dream, but already know the hows and whens of what is necessary to achieve your dream, then the dream isn’t big enough. There needs to be a bit of “how am I going to get from here to there” in your dream. The unknown is what drives us. Sure, we can play it safe, and look back on our life that we played it safe, and wish that we had of taken a few calculated risks. When the US decided to go to the moon, do you think that we knew everything about space travel, or what the surface of the moon was exactly composed of? Sure, we had a good idea, but we didn’t know everything. Now, the US has decided that putting a man on Mars isn’t a good investment, but the return on our money can’t be measured in dollars and cents. There were so many fringe benefits that the moon shot accomplished for America. There was a generation of kids that were taught to believe that any one of them could become an astronaut. Before the space program, every boy wanted to be a fireman; now every boy wanted to ride a rocket! The Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of today were the same kids that watched Neil Armstrong walk on the lunar surface. It was the American dream to push further than we had ever gone that stimulated the imaginations of young boys and girls that later launched so many of our tech industries today. We were taught to dream. Today, it seems as if we all want to play it safe. We want security, in a world of uncertainty. We want guarantees in a time of unknown resolutions. If you take the road that is traveled by the masses, don’t expect to receive the results of those that dare to dream. Walt Disney used to have a phrase that he used, “Plus it”. It was rather simple, but what he meant was, “Don’t just settle for what you did, what CAN you do to make it perfect?” There was a guy that had quite an imagination. His brother Roy had to find ways to make Walt’s dreams become a reality. Walt was the idea guy and Roy was the money guy. Whatever your dream is, it involves money to be sure. You can’t let money get in your way. You can begin small, most everyone did. Do you think that Bill Gates started with 100 programmers and a 10,000 square foot building? No, he pretty much started in his bedroom, like most of us dreamers do. The difference between them and others; they started. They didn’t just think of an idea and do nothing. They started, they began, they said, “What if”. Make a promise to yourself today to never be afraid to dream, nor ever to think that there are too many obstacles in the way to realize your dream. We all want to see what you can do!

Be passionate about what you do

Life is too short to spend 8 hours or more per day of your waking 16 hours working at a job you hate. Ok, so you can’t just quit and then seek your ideal job; you have responsibilities, possibly a family to support. The way I look at it, you can either breathe some excitement into your current job or start searching your soul for what would be that ideal job where you would actually look forward to going to work each day. Some of us have avocations that bring fulfillment to our lives, but is it enough to offset the 8 hr. routine? It’s never too late to do some research on a possible career change. Read up on things that interest you and people who have turned these interests into careers.