Ole Miss

Ole Miss

“People only get what they are willing to fight for.” James Meredith

Exactly fifty-six years ago today, on October 1 1962, despite the resistance of Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett and the solid white establishment, James Meredith became the first African-American student to attend the all-white University of Mississippi in its 116-year-old history.  This required the intervention of the federal government and armed troops – an event that was a flashpoint in the Civil Rights Movement.

There were many powerful forces in place, dating back to slavery, that limited options for black people in the segregated Deep South. Mississippi was the last bastion of the confederacy in 1962, and Ole Miss was its Fort Fisher.  Even the name ‘Ole Miss’ was a term slaves used to refer to the wife of a plantation owner.

The hatred leveled against Meredith for defying the institution of white supremacy was unimaginable.  Racism, white supremacy, and its predecessor slavery, the issues that James Meredith confronted, stand unparalleled as the worst forms of human behavior imaginable. Meredith stated: “We are engaged in a bitter war for the equality of our citizens. The enemy is determined, resourceful, and unprincipled.  There are no rules of war for which he has respect.”

‘Black colleges’ are great institutions that have produced the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison, to name a few. So why did James Meredith leave the warmth, encouragement and security of his environment for the hostile environment at Ole Miss?  Why wasn’t he content to finish his college career at the all-black Jackson State College where he attended from 1960 – 1962? I was curious, so I read his book “A Mission from God – A Memoir and Challenge for America” and I understand a lot more about what motivated this great American.

He writes in his memoir, “My greatest single reason to act is my son.  He is only one year old, and yet I have already spent countless sleepless nights, trying to answer this question of my conscience – when he grows up and sees all of the injustices and learns the illogical justifications upon which they are built, he will ask me, what have you done to correct these conditions?  What will I give as an answer?”

It took repeated attempts by James Meredith, but eventually he won.  Today 23% of the student population at Ole Miss are minorities, and in 2006 Ole Miss erected a statute in his honor.

Now Dance!

Now Dance!

“There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” – Vicki Baum

The other night, my wife, Cheryl and I were hanging out in our living room with our five-year-old granddaughter Violet. Cheryl and I were acting a bit snitty toward each other.  Most of our conflict is related to issues related to neatness and order, where we live on opposite ends of the spectrum like Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple.  However, this and other dissimilarities have not prevented us from living harmoniously together for nearly 45 years.

Violet, sensing the tension between us,  said to us incrementally,

“We need to have a meeting.
It’s about marriage.
Stand up.
Face each other.
Hold hands.
Now dance!”

I don’t know where this wisdom came from, but it was profound and powerful and brought instant obedience from us.

Dancing is not foreign to us. We took East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop lessons for two years so we know how to cut a rug, even if it is literally on our living room rug.  Somehow obeying the wisdom of our five-year-old granddaughter and dancing together broke the impasse between us and brought a sense of levity and joy and whatever the issue du-jour was, it instantly vanished.

Other than being male and female, there are other factors that often cause dissension between us. For example, we are both first borns and have been socialized from infancy to be the center of attention and get our own way.

In addition, we both have strong choleric personalities. Cholerics are dominant and seek to be in control of situations. They are extroverted in the sense that they will meddle in others’ affairs and ‘speak their mind’ if they feel it is necessary, rather than minding their own business. And they can be proud and generally believe that they are right, and have immense stubbornness about admitting their flaws, unless admitting these flaws would make them look better than others (“I’m strong enough to admit I’m wrong, unlike you”).

Cheryl and I have many friends who have walked with us and encouraged us on this marriage journey. Many of them are neither first borns nor choleric, but they have issues too.  Cheryl recently told me that one of our best couple friends were having disagreements about a situation in their lives. I said incredulously, “You mean Tim and Nina (names changed) have disagreements?”  “Of course!” she said.  “Well how about Rob and Dinah?” I responded.  “They are human too”, Cheryl replied.  All of a sudden, I started feeling better about the state of our union.

Dancing can do wonders to release tension between people.  Unless you are Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, it will reveal your shortcomings and make you feel vulnerable.  It also brings unity between two imperfect people and makes the “serious” things between them seem less important as they move and groove together.

Cheryl and I have learned to dance together for 45 years and we manage to work through our issues and grow in love and commitment. I wonder what good could be accomplished for our nation if, for example, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi danced together.

P. S.  We just signed up for a five-week seminar called CHERISH where we will learn more about how to move beyond loving and respecting our partner to cherishing them.  I need this.

Healthy Mindsets

Healthy Mindsets

Dr. Caroline Leaf is a cognitive neuroscientist, bestselling author, and mental health and mind expert.  In her latest book “Think, Learn, Succeed”, Dr. Leaf describes how different mindsets, through quantum effects, change our brains. Through following the simple steps outlined in her book, you can change your brain and experience a successful life.

I recently purchased the Kindle and Audible versions of the book, and I have literally devoured it day and night.  I have read a number of her books; this one brings together many of the key findings from her 30 plus years of research and clinical practice.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • The Mindset Guide
  • The Gift Profile
  • The Switch On Your Brain 5-Step Learning Process
  • The Science

I obviously can’t cover all these areas in this short post, but I wanted the share some of her quotes regarding mindsets to hopefully whet your appetite to check out this potentially life changing book.

“A mindset is an attitude, or a cluster of thoughts with attached information and emotions that generate a particular perception. They shape how you see and interact with the world. They can catapult you forward, allowing you to achieve your dreams, or put you in reverse drive if you are not careful. A mindset is therefore a significant mental resource and source of power. Your mindsets set your expectation levels, which will either be positive or negative.”

“Every moment of every day, your brain and body are physically reacting and changing in response to the thoughts that run through your mind—your mindsets add “flavor” to your thoughts, making your brain and body work for you or against you. And because you control your mindsets—they are not some preprogrammed function—it’s you that is actually making your brain and body work for you.”

“Understanding how mindsets form and how they change your thinking is a practical and helpful way to understand the power of your mind to change your brain. Mindsets help you see the power of your perceptions while optimizing your thought life by generating the correct perceptions, revealing your inner strength and resilience. The correct mindsets are integral to succeeding in school, work, and life. Your brain responds to your life choices—which are influenced by your mindsets.”

“Just thinking about something can cause your brain to change through the waves of energy that are generated, on a structural level through genetic expression and on a chemical level through the release of neurotransmitters. The power of the mind to change the brain is incredibly exciting and hopeful! Our thoughts can improve our peace, health, vision, fitness, strength, and much more. The ability to think, feel, and choose and build thoughts into mindsets is one of the most powerful things in the universe, because this power is the source of all human creativity and imagination.”

“Your thinking, feeling, and choosing impacts your genetic expression. You switch genes on and off with every thought you have, and every thought you have is a response to the way you see and perceive your life experiences. Research actually shows that only about 5 percent of genetic mutations directly cause health issues. Roughly 95 percent of genes are influenced by life factors and lifestyle choices. Your genetic activity is largely determined by your thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions, which collectively form your mindset.”

“We are wired to think positively with optimism. Your body and brain are finely attuned to your uniqueness and the positivity of your mind. You are essentially wired for love, right down to the genetic level; the more you improve your mental self-care habits, the more your brain and body will respond in positive ways.”

“Our mindsets set the tone for how we approach the events and circumstances of life, which are often out of our control. We are designed to react in a love mindset, which doesn’t always mean things are going to be easy but does mean we can shift into success mode and manage a situation more effectively.”

In the book she defines the following 15 mindsets:

  1. The Thinker Mindset
  2. The Controlled Thinking Mindset
  3. The Words Mindset
  4. The Controlled Emotions Mindset
  5. The Forgiveness Mindset
  6. The Happiness Mindset
  7. The Time Mindset
  8. The Possible Mindset
  9. The Gratitude Mindset
  10. The Community Mindset
  11. The Support Mindset
  12. The Healthy Stress Mindset
  13. The Expectancy Mindset
  14. The Willpower Mindset
  15. The Spiritual Mindset

I usually read 24 books a year, and this one tops my list this year!

A Healthy Society

A Healthy Society

“Liberty and justice for all”

The concept of Healthy Living comes from a teaching that I put together in 1983.  The original teaching had six points:

  1. Spiritual Health
  2. Mental/Emotional Health
  3. Physical Health
  4. Relational Health
  5. Financial Health
  6. A Healthy Society

I changed Financial Health to Fulfilling Our Purpose during my time in graduate school in the mid-90s based on what I learned about personality assessments which help us identify our individual uniqueness. I look at finances as an enabler to fulfill our purpose, and not the end purpose in itself.

When I started this group, I dropped the sixth item because I wanted to focus on the individual aspects of health rather than societal aspects.  However, I want to address the broader picture from time to time.

Some men and woman have died on foreign battlefields to help preserve our liberty and justice.  Others such as Martin Luther King died in our homeland to help implement liberty and justice for all people.

Here is an excerpt from his historic speech delivered 55 years ago today on August 28, 1963:

“I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama — with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be plain and the crooked places will be made straight, “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brother-hood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.  And this will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire; let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York; let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania; let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado; let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia; let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee; let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.””

Life is a Fartlek

Life is a Fartlek

Steve Prefontaine was an iconic road racer in the 1970’s. His death in a May 1975 car crash is one of the great tragedies in the history of American sports, and the bravura performance that was his life created an inspirational cottage industry that’s going strong four decades later. Every mildly serious American runner has, at some point, encountered it. “Without Limits” is a great movie depicting his life and tenacity as a runner.  Two of his most iconic quotes are:

“The only good pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.”

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

To Pre, as he was affectionately known, life was a sprint.  It had to be.

The saying “Life is a marathon not a sprint” is only partially true.  Life generally plays out in long slow strides.  However, there are sprints in life like meeting a boss’ deadline and generally staying on top of family activities, especially if you have young children.  But I agree that life is mostly a marathon with sprints interjected here and there along the course.  That’s why I think a better metaphor for life is a “fartlek”.  Unless you are a competitive runner, you might not be familiar with this awful sounding word, so here is the Wikipedia definition:

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. Fartlek runs are a very simple form of a long-distance run. Fartlek training “is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.

The other thing you need to know about a fartlek is that it is meant to be fun as in its definition (speed PLAY).  It is meant to break up the monotony of a L-O-N-G run by interjecting periodic bursts of accelerated energy.  It is kind of like life, isn’t it?

There are fast trackers such as Pre who zoomed through life both on and off the race course.  Tragically, Prefontaine didn’t live to see his 25th birthday.  Neither did actor James Dean, also a fast tracker who is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement who also tragically died in a car accident in September 1955.  None of us knows when we will breathe our last breath, and sometimes we live like we are running against time.

For much of my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I was living a race against time to grow up and move on with life. And I did.  Especially in the area of raising my children. I got married at 21, had two daughters by the time I was 24, and before I knew it life ran by me and I was an empty nester at 43.  I was there, but I often blew by the simple everyday experiences of life, and I was too uptight about insignificant things.

At 66, I have slowed way down especially in regards to my family.  I cherish each and every moment I have with my now five-year-old granddaughter, and for whatever growing up experiences I blew by the first time around, I am learning to slow down and savor each moment I have with her.  Like helping her learn to ride her new Butterfly bike.

Sometimes I wish that life wasn’t so busy and complex, but the only place to totally avoid busyness and complexity is the grave, and that’s not where I want to be.

The following is a great article from Experience Life titled “What’s the Rush”. Its main thesis is, “Even when there’s a lot to do, it’s still possible to stop racing through life.”

https://experiencelife.com/article/whats-the-rush/

And the song “Slow Down” by Nichole Nordeman says it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcNB_EUao8

Enjoy the fartlek!

bike

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

Vacate: to take a respite or a time of respite from something
Respite: an interval of rest or relief

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy (George and Ira Gershwin)

Winter is when I really vacate and take a respite from the brutal Minnesota cold and ice.  My wife and I with our granddaughter and sometimes one or both of our daughters go somewhere warm where there are a lot of beaches and chill out (or should I say un-chill out) for a week.

The past four years though I have used my summer vacations to do some hard outdoor work.  In 2015 I took my first trip to the Boundary Waters.  In 2016 I did trail restoration in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area of Montana.  Last year I did a week-long bike trip (the kind you pedal) in North Dakota.  This year I was originally planning to through hike the Appalachian Trail, but I downsized this to a four-day backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).  No problem – this should be easy peasy.

Don’t get me wrong; I like all this outdoor stuff, but it was a lot of work.  Carrying canoes and portaging through chest high water.  It was fun, but it was hard.  Hiking three miles to the trail work site each day, swinging a pick ax for five hours then hiking back three miles to base camp was grueling work too.  You can read about last year’s bike trip in my post “Lessons from a Penguin”

https://wordpress.com/post/healthylive.blog/170

Training for my “wimpy” four-day hike went well.  I was right there with everyone in my group for our two 8-10-mile training hikes.  So off we went to the SHT to do the real thing.  However, when the actual hike occurred, the newly formed bunion on my left foot was in full alarm mode.  Also, the section of the SHT was extremely rocky and rooty which jarred my reconstructed knee more than I was comfortable with.  So, after lagging behind everyone during the first day I told the group that I think it would be best if I stayed back at camp and met up with them three days later.  This proved to be a good decision because the terrain didn’t get any easier.

So, I broke camp the next day after the rest of the group was long gone and settled by the Onion River where I re-purposed my trip to be a predominantly restful experience (as in vacate and respite).  I did get in a total of 14 miles of easy hiking too, but I mainly hung out by the Onion River camp site and read a great book that I brought along on the trip just in case I had a minute or two to relax.  As it turned out, I had multiple hours to relax, so I read the entire book, “The Evidential Power of Beauty.”  The author is a Catholic priest who has an enormous grasp of science as well.  In the book he details the intricacies and wonders of the universe, nature and the atomic world.  Not a bad read under the stars in the beautiful North-woods of Minnesota!

Next year I am taking a respite from my active summer vacating to participate in the 50th year commemoration of the Woodstock Music Festival.   Yes, I was at the original one!  I don’t know what 70-year-old hippies are capable of, but I wouldn’t underestimate them from doing something crazy. I just hope that it doesn’t involve mud this time around.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from my summer vacation reading:

“The physical exploits of animals dim some of the athletic accomplishments of our world-class sports figures.  An ant can lift 50 times its weight, and a bee can draw a load, on small wheels, 300 times its weight.  A flea can jump 350 times its own length, and an Oriental rat flea can jump 600 times an hour for three days without stopping.  A tiny midge can beat its wings 133,000 times a minute.  In relation to their size, fleas are the bounciest jumpers in the world.  Some can reach a height of over a foot in a single jump.  In jumping 130 times its own height, a flea subjects itself to a force of 200 gravities.  Many fleas can jump non-stop for hours or even days on end. At the other end of the spectrum we have the elephant, a monument of strength.  With 40,000 muscles in its trunk alone (70 times the number each of us humans have) it can pull down a tree and yet delicately pick up a pin.  Though it may not be at the top of our list of favorite animals, the rhinoceros beetle belongs to the family of the earth’s strongest animals from the point of view of relative size.   One was found to be capable of supporting 850 times its own weight on its back.”

Amazing!

 

 

 

The Enemy of Perfection

The Enemy of Perfection

There is a famous perceptual illusion in which the brain switches between seeing a young girl and an old woman.  An anonymous German postcard from 1888 depicts the image in its earliest known form (io9.gizmodo.com/the-worlds-most-famous-and-ambiguous-illusion-1646895274).  A single drawing can contain more than one ‘image’ within it, depending on how you look at it.  The same is true of the title of this post.  How do you see perfection?

According to Webster’s, the definition of perfection is:

1 :  the quality or state of being perfect: such as :  freedom from fault or defect :  flawlessness :  maturity :  the quality or state of being saintly

2 :  an exemplification of supreme excellence :  an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

3 :  the act or process of perfecting

Perfection by definition is a great thing.  But people can spend a lot of time and effort trying to attain it without ever being satisfied with the daily progress they make in their lives. As Dr. Phil often says, “How’s that working for you?” Probably not too well.  I prefer Francesca Battistelli’s perspective on perfection in her song “Free To Be Me”:

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
And on my own I’m so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me

So how do you see perfection, as a friend or a foe? Trying to attain perfection can wear you down.  It’s like by running on a spinning wheel that has no satisfying end.  I came across an excellent article related to perfectionism and the positive shame cycle: (www.nextstagerecovery.com/2015/11/17/perfectionism-and-shame-two-sides-of-one-coin/).  The article contrasts misplaced perfectionism with healthy striving to make improvements.

Perfectionism:

  • Setting standards beyond reach and reason
  • Never being satisfied by anything less than perfection
  • Becoming depressed when faced with failure or disappointment
  • Being preoccupied with fears of failure and disapproval
  • Seeing mistakes as evidence of unworthiness
  • Becoming overly defensive when criticized

Healthy Striving:

  • Setting standards that are high but within reach
  • Enjoying process as well as outcome
  • Bouncing back quickly from failure or disappointment
  • Keeping normal anxiety and fear of failure within bounds
  • Seeing mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning
  • Reacting positively to helpful criticism

These are three areas in my life where I have learned to curb perfectionism:

I need to be comfortable with the fact that I am going to offend some people.  The only way to avoid offending people is to withdraw from people altogether.  I don’t purposely try to offend people; it just comes naturally to me.  I know that before the day is through I am probably going to offend someone.  I hope that it is not you. The closer you come to me, you are going to see my dents, and the closer I come to you, I am probably going to knock a dent in you.  This is particularly true of close family members.  A good practice is to be quick to apologize when you recognize that you are wrong. Hopefully, you will learn something through this process.

Another area I deal with is being comfortable with limited knowledge.  You want me on your Trivial Pursuit team for the topics of 1960’s Rock Music, and the Bible.  In other matters, my knowledge level is not as comprehensive.  Even in my areas of expertise, I still have a lot to learn.  I recently completed a kinesiology class.  Entering the class, my goal was to ace every quiz and project.  A lot of this information was new to me, so by week two, I had already fallen from grace.  I am getting more comfortable recognizing that I don’t know everything about everything.  Learning is a lifelong task, so enjoy the process. Guys, this includes being willing to ask for driving directions.

I have observed another perfectionist tendency in me that I am calling “savior syndrome.”  This is when I try too hard to heal the hurts or fix the broken situations in others.  It is good to be caring, but pushing it too far is both harmful and unfruitful for me and for the person I am trying to help.  We are complex human beings, and we don’t always understand what motivates us. However, we can only bring healing to others if we are operating out of a place of health within ourselves.

To sum it up: Not everyone is going to like me; I don’t know everything, and I can’t fix every problem – and that’s OK.

A good rule to follow then is to strive for excellence, not perfection. The Greek word for “perfect” is “teleios.” It has the same prefix as telescope or telephone, meaning: “far off, at a distance”. It refers to an end goal, result, consummation, or completing a cycle.  Perhaps the richness of the Greek language gives us a better long-term perspective of what the process of perfection is.

Financial Health

Financial Health

Managing finances is a very personal issue, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody.  Realizing that, I wanted to share 10 practical tips for how I have managed my finances over the years.  If any of these work for you, great; if not, I hope that you will come up with your own solutions for making your finances work better for you.

  1. My daughters always wore the best clothing growing up, but not one item was purchased from a retail store. My wife is a master garage saler, and always found Guess jeans and Espirit clothing and other items for a fraction of the cost at garage sales. We have picked up all sorts of household items at a fraction of the cost at garage sales and thrift stores.
  2. I use credit cards for convenience and cash back; never for accumulating debt. In fact, I have only made one interest payment on a credit card in my entire life.  Our washing machine broke down in New York, and I purchased a new one with my credit card.  I couldn’t pay the full bill when I got it, but I paid it off the following month.  Too many people sink their hard earned money into costly interest payments. I can’t think of too many things I am willing to buy on credit besides a house, car, education, and starting a business.
  3. I was fortunate to work for companies that provided employee stock purchase options. I have used company stock as a savings account, and sold stock whenever I needed to make a major purchase.  This has enabled me to pay cash for my last three cars, vinyl siding for my house, my daughter’s esthetician school, my personal training school, and it is currently providing my retirement income through the end of the year while I prepare to transition to a new career.  Speaking of cars, I generally keep them past 100K miles.  My 2003 Ford Taurus has been exceptional.  It currently has 148K miles, and I am hoping that it lasts to 200K without any major repairs.
  4. Spending comes down to priorities and choices about what is most important to you. For example, I don’t skimp on healthy food, supplements and quality athletic gear and apparel. One area we have skimped on is furniture.  We have gotten by with used furniture most of our marriage.  We didn’t buy our first new bedroom set until our 30th anniversary.  Initially I was thinking about working a few more years in order to buy a second house in Florida. As I thought about it more, I realized that I really didn’t want or need to own a second house.  For my purposes, renting a house for a week or two in the winter is all I need.
  5. I put the maximum amount into my retirement 401K and IRA accounts for the past 25 years. When I retired in May, I had reached my goal savings amount.  My only mistake was that I should have started saving 20 years earlier and I would have had twice the amount saved.  Since I probably won’t live till I’m 200, I guess I can live with this mistake.  That is, at my planned rate of withdrawal, the money I have saved should last another 30+ years with some left over for my children.  My wife and I don’t have a great interest in travelling during retirement, so this will help our retirement income last longer.
  6. Another mistake I made was buying and selling too many houses. I made minimum gains early on, but overall I lost a ton in real estate.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have purchased one house, and stuck with it.  I did atone for my mistakes when I purchased our house in Eden Prairie in 1993.  I got a 30 year mortgage, but through making extra principle payments, I was able to pay off the mortgage in 10 years, and I have not had a mortgage payment since 2003.
  7. I also made the mistake of not finishing college directly out of high school. I attended a technical school in my 20’s to learn computer programming, but I had other interests and responsibilities, got married early and had children at a young age, so it wasn’t until my late 30’s that I finally had the time and interest to complete my B. A. degree.  However, I was a motivated learner at this time in my life, and I went on to complete my M. A. degree three years later in 1995.  I would not recommend delaying college to young people, but my approach did have one major financial advantage; my employer paid for all my bachelor’s and master’s courses which saved me tens of thousands of dollars.
  8. We have managed our spending in order to live within our means. We eat out, but not excessively.  I prefer making my own healthy meals anyway.  We have taken great vacations to Germany, Spain, Israel, India, The Caribbean, Mexico and I have been to all 50 states.  My wife and I have taken two cruises, and we took our children to Disney World twice.  At times, we have had to cut back, but I always took time off work to enjoy life.  I like to take two out of town vacations a year.  Sometimes it is not a matter of where you go and how much you spend to get there, but how you go in terms of your mindset, and who you are with.  I am planning a special vacation for our 50th wedding anniversary in 2023.
  9. Just for the record, most of my income has come through work. We received a very minimum inheritance when my in-laws passed away in 1995.  This was a nice financial bump that impacted us for about two years, but it certainly was not a game changer for us.  Most of our family income has come from my earnings.  I have been very fortunate to have had steady work for the past 40 years. My wife has worked part time on and off over the years as a cake decorator, clown, decorative painter and other assorted jobs.  It has been my privilege to support her over the years as she has given her time to volunteer work, helping others, and caring for our daughters and granddaughter.
  10. I have always practiced tithing; that is giving 10% of my earnings to God’s work. This might seem counterintuitive, but working hard, yet ultimately trusting God with my finances has sure worked for me.  God provides.  Beyond tithing, the principle, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” has definitely proven true in my life and has produced a “givers high” whenever I have practiced this behavior.

Here are 10 additional words of wisdom related to money from wiser minds than mine:

  1. I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. –Steve Martin
  2. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore. –Yogi Berra
  3. You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you. –Maya Angelou
  4. Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant. –P.T. Barnum
  5. Money often costs too much. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  6. Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it. –Benjamin Franklin
  7. Every financial worry you want to banish and financial dream you want to achieve comes from taking tiny steps today that put you on a path toward your goals. — Suze Orman
  8. Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. –Henry David Thoreau
  9. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. –Winston Churchill
  10. If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life. –Billy Graham

Lessons From a Penguin

Lessons From a Penguin

I learned a few lessons on my recent bike trip in North Dakota that I want to share with you.  As you will see, some lessons were more painful than others.

On my last training ride on the Cannon Valley Trail, the web site said it was 20 miles one way, but my odometer said it was 30.  It looked like 30; it felt like 30, and I wanted it to be 30, but I was wrong.  When facts point in one direction, and your opinion points in the opposite direction, you would be wise to yield to the facts.

According to the map, the first rest stop on Day 1 of my bike trip was 18 miles away.  However, when I arrived there my odometer said it was 30.  I know multiples of 10 kilometers, so I came to the stark realization that my computer was set to kilometers rather than miles.  My myopic eyes did not see that the default setting for my computer was kilometers.  So all of my training was in kilometers, not miles, and my longest ride was 40 miles rather than 66.  I train meticulously and carefully for runs, so this was not something I am used to. No need to panic though, because my general fitness level should compensate for my lack of cycle training.  Life goes on, and so does the ride.

The mornings were cool, so I would wear my windbreaker in the morning, and take it off as the temperature rose during the day.  On the first day I tried to put my windbreaker in my rear bike bag, but it wouldn’t fit, so as I do in running, I tied it around my waist.  However, several miles down the road the draw string got caught in the wheel which tore my windbreaker.  Fortunately, this didn’t occur on a steep downhill with a semi going the other way which could have been disastrous.  Later that day I noticed a second zipper on my bag.  When I opened it, lo and behold, it created another 50% of available space in the bag.  Had I paid attention to the details of my bag, my trusty windbreaker would still be with me today.  My windbreaker had served me well for 25 years, so I gave it a proper burial in my garbage can when I returned home.

If these two gaffs didn’t cause the experienced cyclist to roll their eyes in disbelief, this next gaff certainly will.  This was the most costly of my lessons learned on this trip.  I know that I am not the fastest of cyclists, and I was far from being the most experienced rider.  I called my wife after the first day of the tour and told her that everybody was passing me on the road.  She said, “Maybe you will be the ‘Penguin of Cycling’.”  She was referring to John Bingham (aka The Penguin) who wrote the Penguin Chronicles column for Runner’s World Magazine for many years, and wrote the book, “No Need For Speed” where he chronicled the joys of finishing a race in the back of the pack. The only difference between John and me though was that John loved running, and I was not liking biking.

Day 4 was our longest ride – 80 miles.  I gave some thought to extending this ride into a century (100 miles), but it was not in the cards for me that day.  It was a cold rainy day, with portions of the trip on a gravel road, and a strong headwind for more than 20 miles.  It was a tough day as it was, and I made it more difficult than it had to be through my neglect.  As usual, everyone was passing me.  I started earlier than most, and those who slept in an hour or two later than me easily overtook me as the day wore on.

After 70 miles, I was spent.  I pulled into the rest stop and mentioned to the bike tech that I think that my day is done.  I said, “Maybe if I had narrower tires I could ride faster.”  He said, “It shouldn’t matter if your tires are properly inflated.”  “Oh oh, let’s check.” Proper tire pressure lets your bike roll quickly and ride smoothly.  My tires were at 50 psi when they should have been at 90 psi!  They felt full; they looked full, but the fact was that I had been riding on under-inflated tires for the first 250 miles of this trip.  When I compared my miles per hour before my tires were filled to after they were filled, I had been riding the entire trip at about 70% efficiency.  In other words, I had put in a century’s effort to achieve 70 miles so far that day!

After I left the rest stop, it was with great joy that I was able to say for the first time on the trip, “On your left.”  My next day’s ride was better, but the extra unnecessary effort had taken its toll, and I decided that I needed a day off on Friday.  So I finished the tour with 330 miles rather than 400.  However, if I compute the additional effort expended during the first 250 miles, I completed about 440 miles of effort.  As financial advisor Dave Ramsey says, I paid a 10% “stupid tax” for failing to check my tire pressure.

I like cycling, but I don’t love it.  I had hoped that cycling might replace distance running as an outdoor activity for me, but I don’t think so.  I prefer having both feet on the ground, so I will stick to walking.  I might do an occasional 40-mile bike trip on a Saturday morning on one of our great FLAT Twin Cities bike paths with a midway stop over at a coffee shop.  That is more to my liking than these multi-day bike trips.

I spent the entire week without my iPod, so with all the pent up music energy in me, here is a musical rendition of some of the highlights (and lowlights) of my bike trip. Besides, what else is there to think about when you are riding eight to ten hours a day?

LIFE IS A HIGHWAY

WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN.  IT’S TOO LATE.  IT’S TOO LATE TO TURN BACK NOW.  KEEP ON PUSHING. PUSH IT BABY.  PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT. I GOTTA TRY.

RAIN! RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD.  It’s getting WINDY.  It’s BREEZIN’. A HARD RAIN’S A-GONNA FALL. It’s STORMY WEATHER.  I am one of the RIDERS OF THE STORM. I’m RUNNING AGAINST THE WIND, but I MADE IT THROUGH THE RAIN.

This isn’t VENTURA HIGHWAY or ROUTE 66; it’s more like THE HIGHWAY TO HELL. The LONG WINDING ROAD is LEADING ME HOME.  I feel like a TIN MAN riding A HORSE WITH NO NAME. I’m RUNNING ON EMPTY, but HOLD ON, I’M COMING.

THIS IS IT.  ALL I NEED IS THE AIR THAT I BREATHE to PUMP IT UP.  I’m ON THE ROAD AGAIN, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS.  NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW.  I can RIDE LIKE THE WIND.  I’m SAILING. SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR.

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKIN’.   I’M WALKIN’.  I WALK THE LINE.  I WALK LIKE A MAN.  When THE THRILL IS GONE, IT’S OVER. BUT IT’S ALRIGHT.  IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE.

penguin

Running My Race

Running My Race

I have run races like nobody else in history.  Believe me; this is true.  I am not referring to my speed, as I was a middle of the pack runner in my prime, and somewhat slower as I aged into my 50’s.  But I had a unique way of selecting which races to run.  I raced by the numbers, and ultimately, I completed an 18-year racing journey (1989 – 2007) with the most pristine numbers in racing history.

I had planned to run 100 races: 40 half marathons, 30 10K’s, 20 marathons, and 10 25K’s.  My plans changed slightly as you will see below, but this is just the beginning of the intricate number scheme that I devised over the years.

I wrote an article for Runner’s World after I completed my 100th race.  My daughter affectionately told me that if Runner’s World doesn’t publish your article, you should try Psychology Today.

At this point you might be asking yourself “Where is this headed?”, or “What’s in this for me?”  I do hope that you enjoy where this is headed, because I think that it will be worth your while to read this story to the end because I believe that there is a golden nugget waiting for you at the finish line.

I had a lot of fun during this process, and I ran races throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona.  I also planned annual destination marathons that took me to some pretty exotic locations (Chicago IL, Philadelphia PA, Seattle WA, Appleton WI, Sacramento CA, Jacksonville FL, and Albany NY).  Albany was my New York marathon, and my Waterloo.  As I died somewhere on the course around mile 20 in 1999, I vowed that this would be my final marathon, and I would stop at 15. This was painful for me as I rarely give up on a goal, but there was another pain consuming my body at the time that motivated this decision.  However, I made a deal with myself that I would substitute five ten-mile races instead of the five additional marathons I had planned to run.  This was my ram in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that saved my hide, and my numbers.

As destiny would have it, I took a job transfer and moved to Phoenix in 2003 where I rekindled my interest in running.  Running is a great way to meet people in a new city, so I joined a running group, and cranked out another 20 half marathons in the next four years to give me even more stellar numbers at 120 than I had at 100.  My new running friends, who I am still close to on Facebook, supported me in my insanity.

After I finished my 120th race in 2007, my wife and friends threw a party for me, and I retired from racing.  This held up for nearly ten years.  We moved back to Minnesota in 2008, and shortly thereafter I gave up running entirely due to issues with my right knee originating from a sports injury that I suffered when I was 15.  So racing was definitely out of the question.  Or was it?  I told you that I had completed 120 races; this is not entirely true.  I actually had completed only 119 races.  In 1996 I dropped out of the Twin Cities Marathon past the 25K mark, and I had counted this as one of my 25Ks for the past 20 years.  This is the only race in my career that I did not complete.

I felt increasingly uneasy about this, and I decided that I needed to expunge the 1996 TCM DNF from my record by completing another legitimate 25K.  I, of course, chose a race that was in accord with my number scheme, so I completed the Surf the Murf 25K in Savage, MN in October 2016, this time as a walker, rather than a runner.

OK, so I am now ready to reveal my numbers.  Can I have a drum roll please?  I have completed 60 half-marathons, 30 10Ks, 15 marathons, 10 25Ks and 5 ten milers.  I have completed exactly 70 distinct races in exactly 60 cities, in exactly 10 states.  Of the distinct races I have run more than once, I ran 5 races 5 times, 5 races 4 times, 5 races 3 times, and 5 races twice.  I have everything documented in an Excel spreadsheet.

Believe me, this was hard to concoct and harder to accomplish.  It sometimes took years of planning which city to go to and which race to run over an 18-year period.  Rain, freezing temperatures, or oppressive heat, I was on the race course whenever and wherever I needed to be.  And believe it or not, this was a lot of fun for me, and it motivated me to keep going over those years.

I promised you a golden nugget at the finish line.  So here it is.  I don’t know what motivates you on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual or lifetime basis to accomplish whatever personal goals you have. Whatever it is, just go for it!  Be creative, be true to your goals, keep at it, and have fun doing it!

Philadelphia