If I had a Nickel
If I had a nickel for everytime someone asked me what I do during the summer, I would surely be able to afford a Caribbean Cruise. I am finishing my 27th year in education, and as the summer months approach friends, acquaintances, strangers, and Facebook followers inquire what I do with my three months off each year – I only wish.
I explain that those three months are not much different than the other nine except there is so much more to do in the summer than throughout the regular school year. It seems that in my early days there was some “down” time, but those days are long gone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do take some time off to rejuvenate and reflect before the new year begins, but nowhere near 3 months.
That is the beauty of working in education where there’s a new year with new faces and the kind of excitement that can only penetrate the hallways of a school. It is kind of like the smell of a new car. What’s not to like about that?
While I have the luxury of a built-in “new” start each August, the same can happen for us any day we choose. We are creatures of habit and fall in patterns waiting for the next vacation to take time to reflect; Christmas to reach out to a loved one; New Year’s to start a diet. All the while, our precious days pass us by while our lives are on autopilot. If we are not careful, we will “wish” our lives away.
Each New Year, millions of us set New Year’s resolution, and as you probably know, very few sticks with it. Year in and year out, we set those resolutions. I think resolutions are a great idea. However, I suggest that if you break your resolution that it is OK to start again. Consider that you had a goal to start working out, but after the first week, you only went to the gym once. Most would stop there and admit failure. Einstein once said, “I am not smarter, I just stick with the problem longer.” The key to forming a new habit; and ultimately a lifestyle change is consistency.
So if you fall off the wagon with your workout regiment, start over. If necessary, start over again and again. Even if you start over 52 times that means that you went to the gym 52 times in a year. When’s that last time you made that happen? Perhaps it’s not the goal you started with, but you have created consistency and are well on your way to realizing the change you desired.
We don’t have to wait. We can choose to start fresh right now, in an hour or tomorrow – we can even select all three if we want. You see, the perfect time is now. Instead of waiting for the New Year to “reset’ a resolution, or waiting for a Monday, waiting until school ends, waiting until after the holidays, waiting until the time is perfect to call, I want to encourage you to set that goal or pick up the phone right now. You’ll be glad you did.
Monday Calls and Mother’s Day
It took me nearly five years to break the habit of the Monday call after mom passed. I would pick up the phone, let it ring and then remember.
For years, every Monday I would call my mom on the way home from work. It was my routine and one that I sometimes dreaded. Mom was not always the most positive person, if you knew her, you knew that she was a bit of a hypochondriac. Something was usually bothering her – a sore knee, aching back, or a headache. We would chat about this or that for an hour or so. She looked forward to these calls and although she was a bit of an “Eeyore,” she always made a point to let me know how proud she was of me.
Mom left this world way to early. I remember as a young child that mom had a fear of cancer, and rightfully so. She lost her dad from the terrible disease when he was just 53. That was in 1968 way before the advancements we now see in healthcare. Although considering how cancer continues to devastate lives in 2018, I wonder how far we have advanced. Her fear was real, and sadly that fear became a reality in 2005.
Mom went to the doctor for a stomach issue and later that day learned that she had a mass in her stomach about the size of a volleyball – it was cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the next day to remove the lump. The doctors were cautiously optimistic and the following 48 hours were encouraging. After a kiss and “I love you” I left mom around 5 pm to get home to the kiddos. She was in good spirits and said she felt as good as she had in a long time. I got a call at six the next morning to inform me that mom passed just a few minutes earlier. Complications from the surgery took their toll and efforts to revive her proved futile.
I don’t pick up the phone to call mom anymore, but I do think about her often especially around her birthday and Mother’s Day.
As we get older, we begin to value and appreciate time. Perhaps it’s experience, priorities or realizing our mortality. But, a time comes when we wish we could have one more day, an hour or even a minute with a loved one. What I would give for just one more Monday call with mom. One more opportunity to hear her lament about her headache and ultimately end the call by telling me how proud she was of me.
Regardless of how old we get, we want our parents to be proud of us. What you may not have considered is that our parents want us to be proud of them too. Those words “I am proud of you” are right up there with “I love you,” and need to be heard at every age.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner. I want to encourage you to make it extra special by telling your mom you’re proud of her. If you’ve lost your mom, then tell your wife or friend. There’s a mom in everyone’s life. If you have a strained relationship, I want to challenge you to blink first. Remember the game we played as kids where we stared at each other and the first one to blink “lost” the game. Well, the first one to blink in a strained relationship “wins.” Blink first by saying, “I am sorry,” “I love you,” or “I am proud of you.” We only have so many Mondays to make the call.
April Fool’s Day 2013 was like no other April Fool’s Day. It was on this day our dog, Lucky was born. Or we think he was born, because we don’t actually know the exact day he was born. However, after the series of events that led him to become a part of our family, we felt April Fool’s day was, and still is, the appropriate day to celebrate his birthday. Now don’t get me wrong we love this dog. He is a beautiful, sweet, fun-loving black lab, but he is a bit of a pain in the backside.
You see we were not in the market for a new dog. In fact, the last thing we wanted to bring to our new home, just months after getting married, was a puppy. Still yet, Lucky had a story that was too much for us to ignore.
It all started when we went to a friend’s house for dinner. Shortly after arriving, our friend’s daughter, Jenna, appeared with a very tiny and frail black bundle of fur. She cried as she told us the story of seeing a burlap sack being thrown out of a pickup truck on a rural dirt road not far from their home earlier that evening. As she drove by the bag she saw movement and tucked away inside was Lucky. Our friends explained that there was no way this puppy could stay with them. After all, they had three dogs, two teenagers, and a cat. We sympathized with them thinking of our own hectic lives. We had kids in sports, an old and cranky wiener dog, and heavy workloads – not nearly the type of lifestyle conducive to properly care for a PUPPY. Yet, after a glass of wine and promises still to be kept by my son, we decided this puppy was meant to be part of our family.
On the way home that evening we decided to name him Lucky. Wasn’t it lucky that Jenna had seen him get thrown out of the truck? He most likely wouldn’t have survived the night if she hadn’t decided to bring him home, and ultimately we decided to adopt him. Now if that is not lucky, then I don’t know what is.
Well, I would suggest that Lucky coming home with us wasn’t luck at all. In fact, I don’t believe in the magical theory of luck that can transform a situation or help you win the lottery. If I were to define luck, it would be “preparation meeting opportunity.”
When you think about how Lucky’s life was transformed that evening, it was based upon a series of decisions that several people made. Jenna was compelled to stop, check out the bag, and bring the puppy home. We ultimately decided to make him part of our family. Nothing magical, perhaps emotional, but not magical.
Why is it that some people seem to get all the breaks and others always seem to have a black cloud following them? Do the ones that catch all the breaks, just get lucky? Not likely. People that live this charmed life capture opportunities when they come their way.
When you are presented with opportunities, you must be ready to act. Too often we are either fearful, ill-equipped or indecisive. When you know what you want, have prepared, and act with conviction, you create your own luck.