Rounding the Bases

May 4th, 2017

 

 

As spring gradually rolls toward summer, I see a lot of kids on baseball diamonds, girls on softball fields and adults reliving their glory days in recreational softball leagues. No matter where I go, the same memories race to the forefront of my mind. I can see my father wearing his red McCann and Clary shirt while standing on the pitcher’s mound and hurling strike after strike at me and my teammates, since kids were not allowed to pitch at that age.

I can feel the ball striking me squarely in the back during a game on a hot summer day when Mike Ahrens, who was a year older than me, launched the ball toward the plate but lost control of it. The stinging sensation as I tried to pick myself up from the dirt, regain my composure and walk to first base is still within reach, even 38 years later. I was fortunate enough that day to round the bases and score, which now makes me realize that I’ve been lucky to have relatively good health. I’m still rounding the bases, but others who I knew when I was younger have not been so lucky, including Mike. Although Mike and I were never friends, I did share a lot of good memories on the baseball field with his brother, Roger. When I look back on the simple things in life, it’s amazing how certain things stay attached and others disappear. Many home runs are unforgettable and others become a simple swing of the bat that get mixed in with batting practice cuts.

When I got out of college and entered the workforce, I joined the co-ed softball team at work. I figured it would give me something to do during the week. There were only about 70 people who worked in the office, and most of us on the softball team were like family members. Although the games were meaningless, they brought us together. I watched Ruth’s daughter throw dirt in Jim’s son’s eyes, and I saw Ruth discipline her in front of everyone, something that very rarely gets done these days, almost 25 years later. Meanwhile, both of the kids grew up and moved away from this “small town.” They had bigger dreams than all of us who stayed behind. It doesn’t make those children any better or worse than the rest of us. They are just trotting around the bases and taking in the sights and sounds.

I don’t recall getting upset with anyone. It didn’t matter if someone made an error, struck out, hit a home run, popped out to end the game, or even pulled a no-show when we really needed people. Every Tuesday night, Bob Choenier would roll into the beaten down ballpark on his Honda Aspencade with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Matt and Jim would arrive early enough to take some fly balls and get a few swings in before the game started. Jim always swore by his Subaru vehicles, and two and a half decades later, he still drives one. Gary Carter, Jim Patnode, Wendy Duval, Paul Schmiel, Ben Lapham, and a few others whom I’m sure I have forgotten were always on the field having fun. Nothing was bigger than any of us. We would all show up at work the next day and go about our business.

I’m not sure if it was because we were all so much younger, or if time had a way of changing things in a variety of ways. Our business expanded and the ratty, old ball field quickly had stands built around it. People started coming in droves and tore the players in many different directions, but the players kept rounding the bases. A few of  our contributors passed away far too young, but many of us still remain. Some of us headed down different career paths, some of us tried advancing our careers, and others fell in line and accepted the changes of time. Some of us made out better than others, but we are all still the same people. When you’re at the plate, you do everything you can to get around the bases and score. The team that scores the most runs wins…………..right?

Now, I wish I could just stand at home plate and blast home runs over the fence. I don’t want to round the bases. I don’t want to score. At the time, many of us didn’t realize that time doesn’t stand still for anyone or anything. Instead, we felt immortal. Many of our kids were young, some of us didn’t even have kids, and others were becoming grandparents. A few of us had battled health issues, but most of us didn’t have a clue about the beauty of life and the cruelty that can accompany it. We were ignorant to the ways of the world.

When I spoke to Ruth this morning, the topic of that old softball team came up, and I spent the rest of the day thinking about those days. I would race to Johnsburg after work to shoot in a 3-D archery league so I could get back in time for the game. It was the beginning of my target panic, which crippled me for a few years. Eventually, I was able to leap over the demon, and I found myself on the national scene, a place I had never dreamed of going. Although I wish I could go back, I’m extremely thankful for my journey.

When my bat connected with the ball last night, I was overwhelmed with how it felt. I knew the ball had a chance when it began its flight. Unfortunately, the wind held it up, and it hit the fence halfway up. When I began my journey out of the batter’s box, I realized how lucky I am to still be able to do many of things I have always loved doing. It saddens me that a few of the people I wrote about in this piece were not able to enjoy long lives. We never know how long we have, and that is why I pursue the things that make me happy. I might still be in the same office that I was when that ragtag group of co-workers formed that special team, but I have rounded the bases in my own way. I’ve reached for the sky in some areas, but fallen short in others. I’ll still keep chasing dreams, but I’ll never forget the teammates I had on the team that didn’t matter, the people who were around before things became complicated. I thank all of those people for giving me something to remember. When we hit balls in the gap, we always think we can get to second base. Sometimes, though, people never have the opportunity to get to first base. My trip around the bases has been incredible. I’ll keep running as long as possible. Although I enjoy(ed) hitting home runs, I’m now content to do it in my mind so I never have to cross home plate.

 

Where Did the Obsession Start?

February 2nd, 2017

 

Someone tagged me in a post on social media today and asked me to post a picture with a bow. Well, the picture above is the first one that came to mind for a number of reasons. I actually remember the day it was taken like it was last summer.

My mother and father were building a new house for us to live in. It would be close to the house I had spent my whole 4 years of life in, so I knew it wouldn’t be that bad. When the house was completed, my love for archery sprouted. My father set up hay bales to shoot at in the back yard. He taught me how to fling arrows at paper plates. I learned how to steady my aim and concentrate until I was ready to put the arrow in flight.

After releasing my first arrow, the sport of archery was cemented inside my being. I wore a path down in the backyard from walking back and forth to the target to retrieve my arrows. Along the way, my dad and I figured out that the mystical flight of an arrow is something that has no comparisons.

When I went to college, I joined a local archery club and found myself at the club every day. I went there to get away from the pressures associated with college exams and living on my own. Launching arrows brought me into another world, a world where everything was unimportant and carefree.

After graduating from college and returning home, I joined a local fish and game club, where I would participate in my first archery league. I shot at a single spot target the first time I ever shot a scoring round in a Freeman 300 league. I scored a 224…………..a perfect score of 300 was the furthest thing from my mind.

As I continued shooting in the league, I eventually got into the 270s before the first year closed out. The next year I continued improving until I finally shot a 300………..the ever-elusive perfect round, then target panic hit me like a sledgehammer, shattering my confidence. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get the pin to sit in the middle of the target.

After that 300, I went on to crash and burn. I got to the point where I couldn’t finish a 300 round because I shot all of my arrows off the cement floor. I couldn’t even get the pin on the target bale, which brought out the demons. The demons took hold and pushed me to the limit. There were nights that I left without any arrows, but I went and bought more to continue the misery. I wasn’t going to let it win. Unfortunately, not many people remember that part of my journey, but it lives with me every day I walk into an indoor range or onto 3D range.

Finally, Ed Dufour let me borrow a 4-finger Stanislawksi release. I learned how to let my subconscious mind fire the arrows. After minutes, days, hours and months of practice, I gained back my confidence.

When the league rolled around the next winter, I was ready for the challenge. I went on to roll off all 300s in the league, claiming the first-ever 300 average in that league. For the next 13 years, I did the same thing over the course of three three leagues, with my best year resulting in a 10-week average of 300 and 59.4 xs. The only four I shot during that time period was caused my someone accidentally? bumping into me while I was executing a shot.

Over time, even after having major reconstructive shoulder surgery, I’ve been lucky enough to stand on the top of the podium to receive state titles, regional titles, national titles and world titles. Although I will never match what many of my friends have done in this sport, I feel very lucky for the little bit I’ve been blessed with in this archery life.

When shoulder pain began creeping in, shooting became very difficult and some of my mental game went by the wayside along with my body. Although I’ve never returned to that special place of shooting perfect arrows almost every shot, I do have many fantastic memories that started in the yard of my mother and father’s new house back in 1974.

Archery has brought me to places that I never could have imagined. I’ve shot in competitive archery all over the United States, and I’ve traveled to hunt all over the United States and Canada with my bow. Archery is something I love. It’s who I am. I’m calm at the center and live in the soft spot behind the center of the gold.

Although I wish I could have reached my full potential while I was in my prime, life has a way of dealing blows that can’t be understood at the time. Some days when I see many of the guys whom I shared the stakes with while shooting in peer groups who are now making a living in the archery and outdoor industry, I’m a little envious. But I’m still glad that I have the memories. The experiences have allowed me to write for many different publications and shoot at a variety of venues.

I guess I didn’t plan on writing this much, but it kept flowing when I started punching keys. It reminds me of flinging arrows. I can still stand in the yard, just like I did in that picture, and shoot arrow after arrow after arrow for hours on end. I will never get tired of shooting arrows, and I’ll never tire from the daily grind of life.

When the release breaks, and the arrow is sent toward the target, I know it will follow the correct path if I have done everything the right way. I try to follow the same steps for my life. Shooting arrows and walking through life should be one in the same. They should both be fun, enjoyable, relaxing, depressing at times, and incredibly rewarding at other times.

Keep striving to follow the process and all of your arrows will find the gold no matter where your life brings you.

 

   

 

   

  

  

 

A Different Kind of Trip to the Woods

December 7th, 2016

A few days ago, I headed to the woods with Alex Kershaw, an internationally known visual artist from Australia. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. The last time he was in town, we worked from sunup to sundown for a few days, allowing him to gather enough footage for his project that will be released in international art galleries when it is completed.

In my travels, I’ve been around a fair number of very intelligent people. Each person has had unique qualities that sets him or her apart from the others. Alex stands out above all of the people I have met in the past.

I’ve never been around anyone who is so open-minded and objective. He listens, observes and doesn’t cast opinions based on his own thoughts. He takes things at face value. These qualities are so incredibly hard to find in a person that it seems like people like this don’t really exist. Instead, they are fictional characters in fairy tales that are shared with kids while they’re growing up.

As Alex followed me through the snow and down the hill to the place where I intended to sit with him until it got dark, I made sure to show him how to figure out if a deer was a buck or doe by showing him the urine-stained snow. I explained how does urinate behind their tracks and bucks usually urinate in their tracks or slightly ahead of them. This fascinated him ….. and me.

With a few minutes of daylight left, I spotted a doe making its way down the hill toward us. I gently reached behind me and grabbed Alex’s ankle and whispered, “There’s a deer up there.”

The deer fed along the ridge behind us. I could hear another deer, but couldn’t tell where it was standing. I heard a few sticks crack when it was moving, but I couldn’t pinpoint the noise. I whispered to Alex that I knew there was another deer in the vicinity.

Suddenly, the doe snapped her head up and locked onto us. I knew she was going to bolt, so I let Alex know that the fun was about to end. Seconds later, she blew and bolted, and two other deer ran out of the small depression behind her.They quickly disappeared into the brush above us.

We packed our gear and headed up the mountain. He asked a few questions along the way, but we didn’t waste any time getting out of the woods since it was now dark.

He couldn’t figure out how I knew there were other deer in the area when we couldn’t see them. He also didn’t know how I knew that the deer was going to run away.

I never really thought about it, but I realized that I take these things for granted. I’ve spent so much time in the woods that when I’m in a deer’s world, I know how to speak the silent language that is only found among the animals of the forest. I have become so in touch with nature that I am one of the beings that calls the forest home.

While walking out, I realized that I see things that very few people ever experience. I see the woods come alive almost every morning. I watch squirrels wake up in the morning, stretch their legs, and start scurrying from tree to tree to gather food. I watch woodpeckers  fly to their favorite trees to hammer them like a jackhammer tearing cement apart. I look into the gray sky as I hear geese and see them flying south.  I watch their V formation and wonder how they can hold it so steady. I watch owls quietly glide through the air and land on nearby limbs. Their heads turn on a swivel while they ready themselves to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse, which I might have seen crawl out of a stump a few minutes earlier.

Before I head out of the woods, I watch animals fill their bellies on the way to their homes. Deer browse along and mind their own business, and squirrels sometimes compete with them for a few morsels of food. The birds stop making noise, the turkeys fly into their roosting spots, and coyotes begin to howl as they get ready to search for food.

I’m unbelievably thankful that I was introduced to hunting when I was a child. It felt good tonight to be able to give back in a small way. Alex is an incredible man. I’m not sure if he will ever hunt. I suspect that he probably won’t try it, but he has at least experienced a few of the things with me that he never would have otherwise.

Every day in the woods is a gift to me. I enjoy it for what it is. I get to witness the cycle of life, the hunters and the hunted, and the education that is passed on in the silence of the forest. Hunters have a unique bond with nature. When Alex’s art project is released in one of the top art galleries, I’ll be interested to hear what the viewers see when they stand back and take it in. I will be able to learn from a different brand of people, just as a different brand of person learned from me………….a contribution to the cycle of life.t

The End of the Tournament Archery Season

August 15th, 2016

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Well, the time is here again. Twenty-five years ago I began attending the IBO World Championship in August. In some ways it seems like it was just a few years ago, and in others it seems as if it happened in another lifetime.

I’ve had as many ups as downs, but I continue launching arrows toward the scoring ring in hopes of hitting what I’m shooting at. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a person with natural talent. I’ve had to work really hard at the game to achieve any of the limited success that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience during my journey.

One thing has remained constant through the years……………..I’ve met some phenomenal individuals, and I’ve become lifelong friends with many of them. I’m not sure when my desire to compete at a high level really started, but there is one event I can remember for a number of reasons. It was nothing more than an IBO World qualifier put on my Active Bowhunters out near Buffalo, N.Y. I had recently read in 3D Times about a guy named Scott Tozier who had won the IBO Indoor World Championship. I knew he lived in my home state, and I was pretty sure he would be at that tournament. The tournament was listed as a 30-target shoot. Although I thought I was a good shooter, I wanted to see if I could compete against one of the best in the country.

After shooting a few practice arrows at that tournament, I walked to the first target. A downhill turkey at about 37 yards looked back at me when I stood on the stake. Unsure of my yardage, I set my sight and put the arrow directly in the center of the waddle for a 5. Disgusted, I went to the next target. It was a small deer up a small grade on a hill. I shot out the top of the 10 for an 8. Since scoring was 10-8-5 at that time, I went on a run. Over the next 28 targets I shot one 8 on a pretty tough course. I was ecstatic. When I go the results Tozier had won the tournament with a 293, and I came in second with a 291. Although I didn’t know Scott at the time, that one tournament opened my eyes that I had the ability to be as good as one of the best 3D archers in the game. It gave me a desire to push forward.

Over the years, Scott and I became pretty good friends. We became teammates for some indoor and outdoor events as well as for the IBO National Triple Crown in the SPM class. Although neither one of us was as strong in indoor target archery, as a team we were hard to beat. He drove me, and I hope in some ways, I drove him to be better. We both went on to win a lot of things including our indoor state championship, which is always hard to win no matter what class you’re shooting in. Scott went on to win the IBO World a number of times in different classes, including SPM. Unfortunately, my luck always seemed to run in the other direction. Some unbelievable incidents due to equipment failures cost me some really big events. I was able to hold my own and finish at the top of my class in all of the major classes, and I’m probably more proud of that than any other archery accomplishment. If you can win in one class, you have the ability to be at the top of any other class. Scott and I are both living proof of that, so never let anyone tell you that you’re shooting a lesser class if you prefer to shoot one of the ones with closer yardages.

Back to this year…………it all started with Lancaster. As I prepared for it with my buddies George Connors and Chuck Weeden, I was shooting some phenomenal scores with a BHFS set up, which is a pin without any magnification and a short stabilizer. I was regularly averaging in the high 640s. I was ready. When I got to the tournament, it was as if the wheels fell off the bus. I suddenly realized that I was a phenomenal shooter in my own backyard…….probably like the majority of other shooters out there. I needed to work on getting over the hump.

Throughout the spring and summer, I was able to shoot a number of times with Scott, Rick Baker, and Don Doherty. I also got to shoot with some of my longtime friends in New England, friends who have always been good archers, including Bill Romanchick, Dana Harding, Adam Carlise, Mike Lambertson, and many others. They all helped me to improve, and I felt like I was finally gaining ground.

Don and I have become extremely close and as most of you know, we shoot the same class and have a great rivalry. While we both want to win, we both find great satisfaction in the other’s success. Don put on one hell of a shooting display over the course of the IBO National Triple Crown, besting the field by 20 points, which is almost unheard of for the overall in the triple crown. Although I’ve always wanted to win the National Triple Crown and have come so incredibly close a number of times, Don pulled it off on his first trip to all three of the shoots. I was disappointed that I didn’t make a good showing, but then I realized that the next closest guy to me was 20 points behind me —-I shot really well, but my big buddy just put it to me. I was happy for him, just as he would have been happy for me.

Last weekend after the first day of shooting at the IBO World Championship, I felt like I shot really well. I was disappointed when I saw that Don had a rough day. It really wasn’t fair because he had to shoot in some bad weather, but I also knew if anyone had the ability to crawl out of the hole to make a comeback, it would be him, and I always route for my good friends. As we waited for scores to be posted, I knew that Scott and Don were both on the bubble in their respective classes. When they were posted Don had made the cut once again for the second year in a row. I was really glad that we would be able to shoot together in the finals for the second consecutive year. Although I got off to a rough start on the first target the second day by shooting a low 5 on an alligator, I rolled off 13 elevens in the last 18 targets, which put me in 3rd place going into the shoot off.

Unfortunately, Scott didn’t make the cut, but for the battle he’s facing with his hip, I think he did a phenomenal job. If I could shoot like him, I’d be really happy. There aren’t many people who I respect in the shooting arena more than Rick Baker, Don Doherty and Scott Tozier, and I’ve had some pretty close battles with all of them over the years, even though Ricky doesn’t remember a few of ours in Semi-Pro back in the day. Every once in a while I was able to beat one of them, and it made me want to be better. If anyone in New England or New York wants to model their shooting after a good shooter, those three guys are at the top of the book for all styles of archery. A lot of times a shooter will excel in one discipline of archery, but these guys do it in every area. Sometimes I wish I could do what they do, but then I realize we all share our thoughts about the game with each other, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that knowledge.

When it was all said and done yesterday, I finished in 3rd place and Donny climbed from 5th to 4th. Last year we finished back to back, too, so it was only fitting that we did it again this year before Donny decides to go in another direction to try another division. I know he’ll succeed because I’ve shot with enough people over the years to know that he has exactly what it takes to be successful every time he shoots no matter who he shoots against. Just as I rooted him on when we shot together, I will root him on when he chases championships that don’t involve me. I love when my closest friends succeed, even if it’s at my own expense. It only makes me better.

This 3D season might have been the most fun I’ve had since the first day I ever stepped on a range, and that’s because Jon Brown and Bob Gattorna took the initiative to bring the IBO events back to New England and New York. Since I wanted to see it continue in a good direction and try to bring a giant event to the region like the old National Archery Festival in Merrimack, N.H., or one of the Northeast Championship events that used to be held in the Lake George region, I joined the team of IBO directors in New York. I need people in my region to work with me to help us grow the organization. We need to bring as many people to these events as possible. Encourage friends and family to attend and give me idea about what we can do to improve attendance.

The end of the 3D season is a time to realize the accomplishments of others, too. Although I’m sure I will forget a lot of people in this, I’ll give kudos to a few that come to mind as I’m typing this. Congratulations to Brian Kasten for winning the IBO Indoor World Championship this year. I know it was a long time coming, but nobody can ever take that win away from you now — Great job!!

Debra Beaupre congratulations on your New England Championship. You worked really hard to achieve it, and you should be extremely proud of how far you’ve come. I’m glad the PSE bow that JB hooked you up with is working great.

Adam Carlise, I can’t say anything other than what we all saw you do in Lancaster on lifestream was an unforgettable, remarkable performance………..well-done, oh, that arrow was in, too. hahahaha

Jason Kennedy, I’ll never forget the first time I shot with you and when we all learned that your wife has large fingers, but we will keep that between ourselves. Congratulations on a fantastic season that most people would give their right arm to achieve.

Brian Purdy congratulations on your shooting display in Maine. That was one of the best days of 3D shooting that I’ve ever seen. I hope it’s a sign of what’s to come next year.

Austin Jones, you my man, are an inspiration to me. I’m glad our paths crossed. I’m really excited that you won the IBO National Triple Crown and the World Championship. That is one heck of an accomplishment. I hope you continue moving forward and reach all of your new goals. I took the picture below last year before we were even friends. It’s amazing how things work out.

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Jeffrey Paes, thank you for showing me that there are other people like me who battle hidden diseases every day. When I meet people like you, it makes me realize that we are all on the same team. You are an inspiration to me. I wish I could shoot as well as you, but I’ll be sure to practice harder this winter, so I can give you a run for your money. Congratulations on your great year. I hope you had fun at the IBO World Championship. You looked like you were a seasoned pro out there.

Nate Wilhelm, you have the tools to become really good if you decide to set goals. You will have to work for what you want. Those things don’t come without a lot of hard work. Congratulations on your first year of competitive shooting. You had quite a run. I hope you remember it as you get older. Enjoy your first year of college.

Jon Purdy, you have one of the best shots I’ve ever seen. There are many days when I wish I could execute a shot like you do. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments this year. If I’m not mistaken you started by making the cut at the Lancaster Classic and then went on to win three state championships and a shooter of the year title. I can’t wait to see how the next year unfolds for you.

Paul Morgan congratulations on your Massachusetts State Championship. You put on a heck of a performance. I hope you’re able to repeat it again next year. It was simply awesome on that course.

Rick Baker, you’re shooting skills are unbelievable. I’m glad we finally got to shoot together again this year. I had a great time when we did. Although your trip to my place for a few hours last month probably didn’t seem like much to you, it helped me in a lot of ways, so thanks. Your accomplishments are too many to list here, so just keep it going next year and stay strong and steady. I admire the way your shoot and I value our longtime friendship.

Chuck Weeden, you showed me that you have everything it takes to accomplish the impossible. When you put up a score like the one you put up at Northern Dutchess, you should realize the the sky is the limit. Thank you very much for giving me the desire to shoot again and to help others in the process. You are one of the key reasons why I’ve gotten back on the horse and haven’t fallen off yet.

George Connors, I’m not sure when you decided that you wanted to make sure everyone in the New England archery circuit knew your name, but you accomplished that this year. I’m still speechless from some of your performances. I’m still not even sure how you did what you did, but it was more than impressive. I can’t wait to see what the future brings, and even if it doesn’t every bring anything like this year again, you will always have that one special year. I know it will continue, though. Thank you very much for making me want to help you and driving me to succeed. Thanks for the support that you and Chuck gave me when I was on the road, too. Congratulations on all of your titles from this year, which are too many to name.

Sean Roberts, there’s not many questions about your ability. You can do anything with a bow if you put your mind to it. Just stay strong and steady. With a little more experience on the big state, I think you could make a great showing. Keep working at it. You definitely have everything you need to succeed. Congratulations on your wins this year.

Dana Harding, all of those miles turned out for the best. I was really happy to see you make the cut at the IBO World Championship. Congratulations. There’s nothing like seeing one of us old timers with a chance to win it all. Keep at it!!

Sara Kay and Ed Kay, you guys always seem to find your way to the top of the scoreboard. Congratulations on all of the fantastic finishes this year and last. It’s always good to see women shoot at a high level. It only helps us to introduce more shooters to the game. Good luck on your elk hunt this year.

Bill Romanchick, you put out some jaw-dropping scores this year. I’m glad to see it all coming together for you. There are very few people whom I’ve enjoyed shooting with over the years more than you. You are the man. I couldn’t be more impressed with your shooting. Congratulations on making the cut again this year. You keep giving yourself a chance at the World Title. I root for you every year, and I will continue to do so because it’s really easy to root for a good guy who does the same for you. Thanks for the support over the years.

Dad, thank you for continuing to go with me to all of the shoots as you go into your 70s. I couldn’t have a better partner to travel with, talk to, and shoot with. Thanks for everything. Congratulations on your continued dominance on the 900 round throughout New York and New England. Your reign has been pretty impressive.

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Melanie Gross, congratulations on making the cut at the IBO World Championship. I know you’ve worked hard at it and sometimes it’s an awesome feeling when it all comes together at the right time. I hope you enjoyed the entire weekend and absorbed every minute of Sunday because so few people get to experience making the cut and shooting on the final day. Way to go!!

Jacob Slusarz, you are a freak of nature. I’ve never met anyone your age who is so grounded and appreciates the people in your home area. If you continue shooting we all know you will probably be a regular in the winner’s circle in the pro division. You make it very easy for all of us to root for you every time you go to a tournament. Although it’s hard for me to offer someone of your skill level any advice, I hope you were able to gain a little bit from some of the 3D advice I gave you and what bow to switch back to. On your journey forward stay humble and be a people’s pro. Darrin Christenberry has always been a friend of mine since we shot together in the late ’90s, and he’s no different to me now than he was then. He’s a great one to watch when he’s on the range. Congratulations on your phenomenal year. It was a great building block for you, and I’m sure you will keep climbing the mountain. Congratulations on your finishes in the IBO National Triple Crown as well as all of the indoor stuff.

……..and I save the best for last. Congratulations to Don Doherty for winning the IBO National Triple Crown. I can’t tell you how impressive your showing was in those three tournaments. Although I won the last leg, I felt bad in some ways because I wanted you to sweep the series when I knew the overall was out of reach for me. I’ve seen some good shooting before, but you were in the zone for most of the way. I’ve admired you as an archer and as a person since the day I found out we tied at the Massachusetts State shoot a couple of years ago and I won the tiebreaker. Since that time, I’ve gained more respect for your abilities as a shooter and your character. Thanks for listening to me when I call you up to blab or just chit chat about shooting. Thanks for not getting irritated with me when I bitched for 15 hours on the way from Indiana about ricocheting off the arrow. I appreciate all of your time, honesty and integrity. You have made me a better archer and I’m thankful for that. I’m also glad that we’ve both been able to share some of our greatest moments together. I’m giving you a fist bump right now big buddy.

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So……….until next year………I hope everyone gets even better next year. I apologize to anyone I left out. The ones above are the first ones that came to my mind.

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day 2016

June 19th, 2016

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I’ve seen all the posts all over social media today about people’s fathers. Although this entry will end up there, I’m pretty sure my dad wouldn’t be offended if I didn’t put anything on there at all. I’ve always made it known how I feel and to a lesser extent how much I appreciate everything he has done for me and my family members.

Looking back at my childhood, I never had to search for a role model. I had the perfect role models in both of my parents. They taught me the difference between right and wrong and laid a solid foundation for me to build upon.

Today I sit back and look at the big picture. I’m still not sure how  47 years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It seems like I was 30 years old a few weeks ago. Through it all my two role models have remained the same, and luckily they are both still with me today. They’ve seen me through all the highs and lows, and I’ve been on top of the world at times and in the very depths of despair at other times.

Today is the celebration of father’s day, so it’s only fair that my father gets his props today. I’m not about buying insignificant gifts to say thanks for being a great dad. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think a generic gift really does what so many other people think it does.

Unfortunately, I didn’t write anything for my mom this year, but she was in Europe with my dad on Mother’s Day. Once again, my two role models living a life that so many other people can only dream about. When they were pregnant and married in high school over 50 years ago, I’m pretty sure not many people would have given the relationship much chance of surviving the test of time. Parents of one at 18 and parents of three by the time they were 22.

Two children began giving lessons to their own children before they were old enough to know much about life. It’s amazing how much life experience can give to a person, but my parents figured out as they traveled along the road of adulthood.

My father introduced me to team sports because he never had a chance to play them since he grew up on a dairy farm and spent countless hours in the barn milking cows, in the fields cutting hay, and on a tractor plowing and sewing fields. The farm enabled him to learn how to do everything under the sun. Unfortunately, I never picked up on a lot of those things, but in reality it’s probably because he did everything for me. He showed me how to change tires, brakes and oil even though the dipstick oil event turned into a memory he will never forget. He taught me how to properly mow the lawn, rake the leaves and turn the power off in the fuse box when something needed to be worked on that involved electricity. He taught me how to cast my fishing line in the slow eddies behind rocks in the big rivers to entice big brown trout out of their hiding places. He taught me to find overturned leaves and determine if deer were overturning them while feeding on acorns or beechnuts. He taught me to locate a cluster of rubs in the woods and figure out a plan to see the buck that left them in that place. He taught me to inhale while steadying my aim with a rifle and exhaling as I squeezed the trigger until the shot broke. He introduced me to the stick and string, which has since consumed my life. He showed me some of his hobbies, and I followed in his footsteps and taught him a little bit along the way. I’m sure he never imagined where he and I would travel when he placed a bow in my hands as he was building his home in 1974. I’m sure he never imagined I would have a successful archery career littered with halfway decent accomplishments in amateur ranks as well as semiprofessional ranks. I’ll bet my last dollar that he never imagined we would reach the summit of 11-12,000 foot peaks in the Rockies while chasing elk. I’m sure he didn’t know he would have to pack extra gear to make sure I was okay and my diabetes wouldn’t lead me into the darkness of death. Although I was unconscious at times and it didn’t phase me, I bet he remained calm and steady while bringing me back to life. I’ll never forget when I came home and the red and white Yamaha 80 dirt bike was sitting in the driveway. He taught me how to drive it and let me rip around the fields behind the house. As time moved on, my mother took out a loan to buy me a Honda XL 200, so I could follow my passion of riding off road. She paid the loan every month for a few years just so I could do my own thing.

I still remember laying on my belly under an apple tree behind the house. My dad and I were inches apart when the turkey gobbled. My shotgun was pointed forward when I saw the bird coming toward us. Although I knew it was a hen, I could hear my father telling me to wait. Seconds later, I pulled the trigger and celebrated my first wild turkey. It was long before anyone in the area even turkey hunted.

Last fall I sat beside him on the float plane as we waited to take off. Once in the air, we both looked out the windows and took it all in. I’m not sure of his thoughts, but I know I was thankful for the journey that brought us to Newfoundland. It all started when he taught me how to shoot a gun when I was 10 years old, then a bow, and my passion for the outdoors and hunting took off from there. When a son shares the same passion as his father, it’s going to create a lifetime of unbelievable memories —— and it has done exactly that.

When I wrote my books, I dedicated them to my parents. They have supplied me with everything I ever needed to do anything I wanted to do in life. I don’t take it for granted. When my mother called me at work a few years ago in a panic-stricken frame of mind, I knew I might lose my dad. Luckily, he survived the heart attack and gave us more time to enjoy his fatherhood. Sometimes it makes me really angry when he doesn’t follow the doctor’s directions. I’ve always followed the orders since I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1975. I just wonder why he can’t do the same thing. It would probably extend his life, but at 69 years old it’s pretty hard to change a person’s habits.

I could continue writing for the rest of the day, but I have to cut this short because I’m going out to dinner with my heroes. Hopefully, the time together will be a good time to reflect on the meaning of the day and what brings us together.

Thanks dad for always being there, even when I have been less than deserving. Congratulations on your gold medals the last two weeks at the Massachusetts senior games and the New York senior games. It’s really nice to see that you’ve excelled in that arena after carting my ass around the country for all those years and watching me succeed. It’s nice to finally be on the other end of the stick and see the success. I hope you’ve enjoyed your day. I know you’ve probably been outside all day working on something. You might have mowed the fields with the tractor, worked on the deck, messed around with the stones or maybe, just maybe you sat back and relaxed for the day. No matter what happened, this is your day. Happy Father’s Day. I love you dad.

 

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Goodbye 2015: What an Incredible Year

January 6th, 2016

When most years pass, I don’t take much time to reflect on the one being left behind. This year I find that task much more difficult for a variety of reasons. Many things happened this year that qualify it as one of the best years in my life, and I will never forget some of these things.

Far-off dreams became realities. What seemed like an unreachable goal a few years ago suddenly came back into focus. I did things I didn’t think I would ever be able to do, and I shared some incredible moments with friends and family alike. There aren’t many parts of 2015 that I can look back on and dismiss.

Social media gives people a way of telling the world that they can’t wait to leave the previous year behind and begin new adventures with new hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, most people do the same thing every year. They never try to reach their dreams. They stay in the same place and bitch and moan about all of the bad luck that lands in their laps. They wish they were others and talk about some people who they believe have everything.

I’ve always focused on myself. I don’t care what this person or that person does every day. I glance at the posts on social media and never give many of them much thought beyond keeping myself informed about my friends. They may be friends who I see every day or they may be friends who I once shared classes with in high school and haven’t seen since that time. It’s always nice to follow the dreams and accomplishments of others…………even if some of them are not even real.

As 2014 was winding down I set some goals and decided I would put a lot of effort into achieving them. If you set goals and don’t do anything to achieve them, what’s the sense of setting them?

When my friends George and Chuck asked me to go with them to the Lancaster Archery Classic, I didn’t give them an answer for a week or two while I thought about it. I hadn’t attended a national indoor archery tournament since going to the Atlantic City Classic more than 10 years ago. After having reconstructive shoulder surgery, I didn’t know if I could still compete at the national level at an indoor tournament.

After shooting a couple of practice rounds, I decided I would give it a try. Even if I didn’t perform well, I would still be able to see a number of my friends who I hadn’t seen in many years. Some of them have performed at incredible levels in the professional ranks, some have gradually improved, and others still go to shoots to socialize.

When the whistle sounded to approach the line and the voice came over the load speaker, “This is the first scoring end.” I was flooded with a lot of memories. The memories ranged from glorious victories to crushing defeats when I had to sit in a car for a 15-hour ride home. One thing was the same though — my breath became shallow and my nerves aroused all of my senses. I was back on the line at an indoor national event — a place I thought I would never return to.

The first 30 arrows weren’t too bad. I didn’t punch the center of the target out, but I also didn’t put myself in a position where I would have a hard time reaching my goal of making it to the elimination round.

At the halfway point when targets were switched from the top to the bottom, I knew I would have to shoot better in the second half to get to the dance. I settled in and went on a streak. Before it ended I had shot six 33s in a row.

When the scores were posted that night, I was ecstatic to see that I had made it to the elimination round. I made the cut. I still had game. Although, I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked to in my elimination match, I was still satisfied to make it that far. In 2016, hopefully I’ll be able to improve my score and my seeding in the Lancaster Archery Classic.

 

 

The rest of the indoor archery season didn’t treat me as well as that first tournament. A lot of shoulder pain from my reconstructive surgery on it combined with a sub-par mental game kept me from shooting at a high level. Instead of caving in and finding the negatives, I focused on the areas I needed to improve and set out to take care of the problem.

I plodded along through the summer months with one goal in mind — to make the cut at the IBO World Championship. If I could do that, I figured my season would be complete.

In early June I went to the Great Lakes Shootout in Erie, Pa. I wanted to attend it because it would be the last time the second leg of the IBO National Triple Crown would be held there. With so many great memories from that event, I wanted to be a part of the last one held there.

The Great Lakes Shootout was the first national event that I ever attended. Unfortunately, I just missed winning the tournament that year. On the second to last target the spring that held the gate closed in my release broke. The arrow went sailing through the woods and I shot a zero. With a zero I still finished in fifth place with over 850 shooters in the class. If I had hit the target, I would have won the tournament. Over the years I would encounter a handful of situations with extremely similar circumstances that held me back from winning a national event. Every time the only thing that held me back from winning was an equipment failure. I plodded along and took it on the chin………every single time. What could I do? You can’t do anything when a bit of bad luck bites you. If you keep trying and put yourself in the position enough times maybe your luck will turn around one day.

The decades passed and my finishes in Erie were vastly different every time I shot there. Another memorable moment came when I was shooting Semi-pro. When I got to the last stake, a wolverine target stood between me and a good paycheck. At first glance the target appeared to be just shy of 50 yards. After further examination I dialed the sight into 47 yards and executed the shot. It landed dead-center in the 10 ring and I went home with another fifth place finish.

I attended the 2015 tournament to send it off in style. When I arrived it was raining. I knew I had to finish the shoot in one day, so I packed the umbrella in my gear and headed onto the range. It was a long and grueling day, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I probably should have broken it up into two days, but my traveling companions had to be home that night.

When I came off the range that night, I knew I shot well but a few equipment problems cost me about 10 points. I didn’t finish in fifth place at this tournament, but the seventh place finish was still in the top 10. In all the years I shot there, I was able to finish in the top 10 a number of times and did so in three different classes.

By the time I got to the IBO World Championship in early August, I felt prepared both mentally and physically. I had shot about the same scores the entire summer no matter what tournament I participated in.

After the first day, I was on top of the leader board. I figured if I shot my game the next day, I would have a good chance at making the cut. When the scores were posted the second day I was glad to see that I was going to be shooting on the final day. Instead of putting any pressure on myself, I decided to just shoot my arrows and see where they landed.

That morning I never shot an arrow on the practice butt beyond 2o yards. I concentrated on making good shots. Most of my practice shots were taken at the 10-yard butt.

As I made my way from one target to the next, I didn’t pay attention to what anyone else was doing. I didn’t know if I was winning, losing, getting crushed, or blowing everyone away. I really had no idea. I just focused on making good shots and remaining calm.

I only experienced one hiccup on the last day. When the last arrow was launched from my bow, I felt relieved. The summer of hard work was over. The guys with the cards would add them up and I would be told where I finished in the shoot out.

I felt a weird sense of accomplishment when I found out I had won. It had been a long time coming. I deserved it. There were many years when I shot much better and came out on the short end of the stick. As I’ve gotten older, my skills have deteriorated. The recovery from shoulder surgery was nothing short of amazing after thinking I would never shoot a bow again. That fact more than anything is what made me appreciate this win more than anything I’ve won in the past and I’ve won a lot of prestigious events along the trail.

Shortly after the IBO World Championship I packed my bags and headed to the backcountry of Newfoundland for my first moose hunt. After hunting elk for 20-plus years, I’ve never really dreamed of hunting moose.

After we threw our equipment in the luggage area behind the seat, we quickly got into the float plane and the plane was zipping across the water. My heart missed a few beats when the pontoons lifted off the water and the engine launched us into the sky. Within a few minutes any signs of civilization were behind us. I could see miles and miles of lakes, ponds, streams, and bogs. A half hour later we were being greeted at the dock by the cook and four guides.

I went to Newfoundland with no expectations. By the middle of the week the guides were getting a little nervous when none of the hunters had filled their tags. I didn’t care because I was enjoying every minute of the adventure. The killing of a moose wasn’t on the top of my list of things to do. I’d say I’m probably different than 95% of the hunters who go there. I didn’t really care as long as I could a true feeling for what moose hunting was like.

We shared camp with Dale and Cindy from Pennsylvania and Brad from Connecticut. Since we all had different backgrounds, it was a pleasant surprise to find that we enjoyed each other’s company the entire week. We actually had a fantastic time by sharing stories and talking about life in the process.

Dale finally broke the ice on Wednesday when he put a nice moose on the ground shortly after daybreak with one shot. Before taking care of the animal, he and his guide returned to the lodge to ask his wife to take some pictures. She gladly accepted and they spent the rest of the morning taking care of things.

The next morning was absolutely gorgeous. Although it wasn’t cold, the temperature dropped enough to make it feel a little chilly. I knew the moose would move…………and they did.

Shortly after getting to the top of the hill behind camp, we spotted a few bulls in the distance. As we stayed there to glass, we spotted a good one on the edge of the timber below us. Since the bull was cruising across a bog, we didn’t waste any time crashing through the timber to get in front of it. When we broke out of the timber, we couldn’t figure out where the bull had gone. It was nowhere in sight, so we snuck onto the next knob and peered into the forest on the edge of the lake. We still didn’t spot anything so Duane told me to take a knee and wait as he raked his axe up and down on a spruce tree to sound like a bull rubbing its antlers.

Instantly, I could hear the moose thrashing its antlers on the trees in front of me.  A few seconds later all I could see were the antlers coming toward me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the body of the animal.

When the bull couldn’t locate another moose on the knob, it started to get a little nervous. A quick grunt and a race to the timber make me realize my opportunity was quickly fading. Running to the top of the knob on my right, I prepared for a shot in case the bull ran across the bog on the other side of the timber.

That’s when I saw it galloping like a thoroughbred racehorse. I led it a little and squeezed the trigger. As I ejected the casing, the distinct smell of burnt gunpowder stuck to the inside of my nose and Duane’s voice could be heard over the ringing in my ears.

“What a shot buddy! I’ve never seen anything like that. He went straight down. Let’s go have a look my boy.”

When I stood over the animal, I was in awe. Moose are amazing animals. The size of it was almost intimidating. I looked at the sky, said a quick prayer, and closed my eyes to take it all in.

My father killed his first moose about an hour later on another part of the lake. Getting them out of the woods was an awesome experience. I figured it would be harder than packing elk out, but in reality it couldn’t even compare. I had no problem with the moose and that was a direct result of the elevation. I’ve always been able to carry a lot of weight on my back, but out West it’s a lot harder when you don’t have as much air going into your lungs to breathe.

About a month after returning from Newfoundland, I packed my bags again and headed to the Midwest for a three-week stay. I’ve always lived for deer hunting and going to places where big bucks roam is something I long for the entire year. Although I love shooting in archery tournaments, there is nothing that can compare to being in a tree stand on a nice, frosty morning when the animals come to life and begin their daily routines. You never know what you might see. I’ve seen some amazing things along the way.

The first week was brutally hot. The mornings weren’t too bad, but the afternoons made us not want to do a thing due to the heat and humidity associated with the 80 degree thermometer readings.

Since we had never been on this public ground, we resisted the urge to lay around camp and waste time. We crawled through briars, trudged up steep bluffs, waded through creeks and streams, walked through swamps, weaved in and out of corn fields, and wandered all through thick CRP fields in search of any sign that might lead us to a big buck.

When the weather finally broke, we felt good about our chances. One of the places I found with my friend Brian looked as if we could get lucky if we returned to it. So, that’s what we did early in the second week.

Two hours into the sit I spotted a big buck cruising through some brush. It hopped a fence and started toward me before getting a little nervous and veering off in another direction. After a quick grunt to stop it, my arrow was on its way. It found its mark and as they say…………….the rest is history. From there I headed further West where I was able to capitalize on another opportunity.

The visible results don’t always portray the true story. People have a tendency to look at pictures and think the hunting was phenomenal, which it wasn’t. It was probably some of the hardest hunting I’ve experienced in the Midwest, but I learned a lot from the experience. Hopefully I can use the lessons to help me in the future.

When my eyes closed on the last night of 2015, I was happy. My life is good. I’m mentally at piece and feel good about where I’m at. I’m not sure if 2015 could qualify as my best year because every day I’m alive is probably the best day, but I can say that some of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced happened in that 365-day period.

I was able to compete at the national level again in both indoor and outdoor events. Instead of participating, I was actually near the top again. It was more rewarding than most people could ever imagine. I went to Newfoundland and got to experience moose hunting with my father. Heading toward 50-years old, it’s hard to know how many more adventures we will share together. He might outlive me or I might outlive him. Either way you can never take away all of the memories I have from all of the things I’ve participated in.

I can’t imagine 2016 being as satisfying, but then again I never imagined doing all of the things I did in 2015. It goes to show you that you can never predict the future. You can set goals and strive to achieve them. If you don’t reach them, you need to know that you gave it everything you had and you just came up short. Sometimes we don’t get to the top of the mountain. It’s those times that test your mental fortitude. Mine has been tested time and time again over the years. I will rest easier now that I’ve accomplished a few things I’ve always dreamed about. In the meantime, I will set new goals and look forward to the peaks and valleys of the upcoming year.

 

 

 

Father’s Day 2015

June 21st, 2015
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Social media is buzzing today with tributes to fathers across America. Pictures ranging from childhood well into the latter stages of life dance across the pages with every click of the mouse. Some people celebrate the lives of their fathers who have passed and others enjoy a few special moments with the men responsible for giving them life. Still, others send heartfelt thanks from out of town.

Yesterday I spent the day with my father shooting in the New Hampshire IBO State Championship. We’ve attended the tournament many times over the last 15 years, but one thing has remained constant. Through the aging process I’m still my father’s boy. In all reality I feel no different than I did when I walked off the little league field at 6-years old when I suffered my first crushing playoff defeat. After receiving a life-lesson about winning and losing he promised to take me trout fishing the next day and that’s what he did.

He filled his backpack with goodies for our trip and made sure he had everything he would need to take care of his son who suffered from Type 1 diabetes. At the end of the day we headed out of the woods with our daily limit of trout. Teaching me the laws of nature he fried them up when we got home. Anything we take from nature should not be wasted.

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Throughout little league I was fortunate enough to make every all-star team until those years came to an end. At 13-years old I played in a league called the Senior League. This was my introduction to politics. The coaches played the kids in the clique, including their own kids. The starters weren’t based on talent, rather favoritism.

I wanted to quit midway through the season, but my dad told me I had to finish what I started. I learned the lesson of never giving in to unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes in life you will come across things you have absolutely no control over and these are the times when you must stay the course. Instead of letting other people determine your actions you have to swallow your pride and understand things will come full circle at some point in time.

At the end of the season he encouraged me to get away from baseball for a little while and think about playing again in high-school. Since I loved the game I followed his advice.

When I arrived on the big stage of varsity baseball in my junior year I was glad I listened to his advice. The coach wasn’t overwhelmed by pressure from parents. He kicked a few kids off the team for smoking and he didn’t play the favorites from little league. Actually, the “superstars” from little league had disappeared from the game. I was granted with an opportunity to wear the Tigers uniform and it made me proud.

The Foothills Council was always one of the toughest councils to win. In my senior year our team won the council. Now, 28 years later, I believe that was the last time the Tigers won the council. I guess it’s the little things that we sometimes hold close to our hearts. The things that go unnoticed can bring a sense of pride. I’d never feel it if it wasn’t for my dad, so I must thank him for that as well as a myriad of other things. He got awarded the best fan of any parent from my teammates, too. He never missed a game. Even if he had to come from work he would get to the game and return to work when it ended. Many parents get involved in all of the politics. He never said much. Instead, he came to support me whether I stunk the joint up or seemed like an all-star for a few seconds every once in a while. The support never wavered. Just as it existed back then it still exists today in all of my endeavors, whether it’s authoring books, writing stories for magazines, playing adult hockey, playing softball or shooting in archery tournaments. The support has been strong and steady. Nobody could ever ask for more.

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Next to senior pictures in my high-school yearbook there was an option to have a quote listed. For my quote I wrote: College; To one day become as good of a father as my father has been to me.

Unfortunately I never had children, so I missed out on that opportunity. They say everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure if I ever could have matched my father’s parenting skills and for that matter I’m pretty sure very few fathers can actually compare to him when it comes right down to it.

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Then, there was the time in college when he spent the night with me in my dorm room. He was 40 years old. Some of my friends couldn’t believe he was my father because they had siblings almost as old as him. When the fire alarm rang at 2 o’clock in the morning we had to file outside. Wrapped in a blanket he made his way outside and asked me what the hell he was going to do. I told him to drop in line and walk back in like he was a student, so that’s what he did. It was awesome. I’ve never forgotten the little things.

One night when my mom had gone out with her friends he drove down to see me at college. He took me and my friends to Binghamton to watch the Adirondack Red Wings play the Binghamton Whalers. On the ride back to campus we learned with disbelief that Mike Tyson had been knocked out by Buster Douglas. The most feared and unbeatable man on the planet had been knocked out. I still remember where I was because the news was so unbelievable. From there Tyson’s career spiraled downhill, mostly because he lost the person who gave him guidance and support while keeping him grounded.

Anyhow, on that night after my friends climbed out of the car I told him he could stay with me, but he decided he would just head home. When I looked at him he said to me, “I love you bud.” Shocked, I couldn’t believe he said it because I had never heard him say it. I knew he loved me, but the actual words stunned me. I told him I loved him and got out of the car. Just as Tyson had been knocked out my father told me he loved me. Sometimes things seem so insignificant, but in reality they are things that stick with us for the rest of our lives.

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Since the college days we’ve become inseparable. I’m not sure whether we’re more like brothers or best friends. We’ve traveled all across the country shooting archery tournaments and hunting. We’ve sat in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium as well as right behind the wall in left field. We’ve shared some incredible moments along the way. Many days I think I’m living in a dream and I never want to wake up. Life is so good I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to fully enjoy it.

A few months back one of my classmates from Hudson Falls asked a question on Facebook that made me sit back and reflect before attempting to answer it in my own mind. Although I can’t quote the exact wording it was something along these lines: When did you realize you were an adult and no longer your parents little child?

I thought about it and realized that I still feel like my parents little boy. Although I’m on the downhill slope to 50 I still feel today like I’m 12 years old. When I have a bad performance in archery I hear the confidence in his voice even if I can’t find it in my own head. If I miss an elk or a deer he always has an answer. If I don’t know how to do something he always knows how to do it. If I’m looking for something, he knows where it is.

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How lucky am I to have both of my parents alive and together? I don’t take a day for granted and that’s why I’ll continue being the little kid with brown eyes who always searched for answers when I asked why this, why that, why, why, why.

Today’s the day to say thank you. Thank you dad for having such an impact on my life. Thanks for picking me up when I was down and being quiet when you knew I didn’t want to talk. Thanks for giving me the chance to do things that others have only dreamed about. Thanks for making me such a big part of your life and giving up things that you might have rather done along the way to make sure I was happy. I never could have asked for more.

 

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New Attitude

February 2nd, 2015

Every year my mother gets me an inspirational book for Christmas. While all of the books don’t revolve around the same topics they do have similar themes. The book I got this past year was a little different than most of the others. This book has a blank red cover and inside you can find a fortune for every day of the year.

Today’s fortune reads, “New underwear —-New attitude!”

In four words it sums up what we’re faced with every morning when we roll out of bed. While many people like to complain many others decide to address the new day with a new attitude. The best way to approach it is when you get your clothes ready for the day. When you slip on your underwear after hopping out of the shower it’s a perfect time to take action. If you’ve been miserable, angry, sad, tired or a combination of other emotions everything can be changed, but it’s up to you.

As you look at your clean underwear keep in mind it’s a clean day your slipping into as well. If you have goals to reach make it a priority to take the necessary steps in order to reach them. A negative attitude will not help you achieve what you’re setting out to accomplish. Starting the day like that would be like wearing your dirty underwear from the day before. Although you can do that it’s usually a better idea to start off with a fresh pair each and every day.

It’s easy to get in a rut and stay there. We need to accept change in our lives and welcome it. If you avoid change there’s not much opportunity to go in a different direction. It will be like you’re following a road to nowhere. Traveling on the road isn’t such a bad thing.  It gets boring at times, but it’s all a matter of comfort. Safety is found between the white lines on both sides of the road. It’s those dirt roads that throw a wrench into the system. There are no lines to keep us centered. Sometimes the dirt roads don’t even have road signs to tell us what they’re named. Instead, it’s like a magical mystery tour when we start down them. There’s always a possibility we could get lost, but there’s also a possibility that we might come across a few things that lead us in a direction we never imagined. It’s all about exploring.

Exploration requires risk. The risk is no greater than changing your underwear every day. You don’t have to change them, but it will probably be beneficial to you for a variety of reasons if you do change them. If you’re on a path of uncertainty don’t be afraid to put the blinker on and turn onto an unfamiliar road. Take that turn, go to the store, buy yourself a new pack of underwear and see what’s out there. Your new attitude will go quite nicely with your new underwear. Every morning presents you with a new opportunity.

Nothing But Weeds?

January 29th, 2015

“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds” Gordon B. Hinckley

Sit back and give that quote some thought. Once it processes it should make a lot of sense. When I was a child the grass grew like wild fire on the flat spot at the top of the hill behind the house. My father began to clear it and before long it was a beautiful baseball field. I played baseball throughout my younger years and that field was a crucial part in the development of my game. The imaginary fence was highlighted by tall grass, which wasn’t mowed in order to make it clear that any ball that reached it in the air was considered a home run.

Time moved on and before long I was buried in books. The college years passed quickly and the days of yesteryear presented me with a gentle reminder that weeds will bloom if you don’t take care of the diamond. One thing led to the next and before I knew it the baseball field on top of the hill disappeared. One weed turned into two and then the whole field was taken over by the invasive plants. My father had stopped mowing it after I quit playing baseball. The beautiful diamond was now nothing more than a cardboard square. It hurt, but I realized the events that had transpired reflected the changes of life.

After I graduated from college I returned home. Playing baseball had long since faded out of my life, but shooting archery became my passion. I could stand for hours in the lawn and shoot one arrow after another. The arrows glided effortlessly toward the target. More often than not they found their way to the center of it, which brought me a lot of joy and happiness. Archery allowed me to grow. It centered my mind and brought me inner peace. I found a passion that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It has allowed me to travel all over the country shooting in tournaments. I’ve also been lucky enough to go bow hunting from the Northeast to the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains. Archery became my life.

In order to improve I needed a good practice range. The diamond below the weeds still existed. It required a lot of work, but the diamond reappeared and a new archery range was built. Once again the weeds were gone. To keep the weeds from growing I put in a lot of work. I started shooting local tournaments before feeling comfortable enough to head to some regional tournaments. After tasting success at the regional championships and state championships I decided to jump into the big pond. Since I had become a big fish in a small pond I wanted to see if I could swim with the big boys who ruled the depths of the water. After finishing in fifth place at my first national event I knew I could compete on that level and the diamond remained.

Now, almost 20 years later, the diamond still exists. The hard work has kept the weeds from growing. Not only has my hard work helped, but my father’s hard work has brought him a record that still stands in the National Senior Games. All of his practice allowed him to shoot the third highest score ever recorded in his age bracket.

No matter what we choose to do in life hard work is necessary if we want to be successful. The weeds might not make their presence known for a while, but gradually they’ll take over and run rampant. Once they settle in the beauty of our work fades away and the hard work is forgotten.

Diamonds are forever. Don’t let the weeds overtake their beauty.

Destiny

January 28th, 2015

I’m sitting here looking at the calendar. There are only a few more days left in January. A month ago many people made resolutions for the coming year and I’m sure the vast majority of those resolutions have already found a hiding place. I’m not sure why people do it every year. Maybe it makes them feel better for a few minutes, hours or days. Some might stick it out and make wholesale changes while others never came up with plans to achieve their fabricated resolutions. With all of that being said I guess that’s why this quote shows up on my calendar for the month of January: “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”

What does that mean to you? Every time I read it I’m confronted with a variety of thoughts. Unfortunately none of the thoughts remain consistent. Sometimes I think I get it and other times I feel as if I’m grasping at a leaf blowing through the sky on a windy fall day.

We’ve all made choices that have led us down different paths. When I examine the quote tonight it reminds me that we will meet our destiny no matter where we go. Although we can make choices that bring us in and out of happiness we can’t control what will ultimately happen to us.

I could go to the store tonight and find myself in the hospital after hitting some black ice. I could see someone at the store who I haven’t seen in 20 years. I could pick up a hitchhiker only to find out he is a veteran of the United States military who is searching for his family.

No matter what the circumstance things happen to us based on timing. Timing is everything or nothing all at once. A matter of five seconds can be the difference between life and death. A matter of minutes might keep you from meeting the most influential person of your lifetime. A day or two might keep you from getting swept away in a tornado.

Very rarely do people think about timing and the effects it has had on everyone around them. We are all in the position we are in because of perfect timing or maybe not so perfect timing. If my mother hadn’t become pregnant in 1965 there’s no guarantee my parents would have gotten married or decided to have two more children. My parents were kids and they were going to start having kids. It was taboo back in those days to have children out of wedlock, but my grandmother took my mom and my father in and allowed them to start a family. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for everything that transpired after my mother and father found out they were going to have a baby.

I’m sure it was a scary time. I’m sure they probably thought of alternative plans, but they stuck it out and gave it  their best. As with any marriage there have been ups and downs, but they have succeeded at becoming the best parents any child could ever ask for. Their destiny was to raise a healthy and loving family they could be proud of. The original road they were traveling on probably had no children crossing signs on it, but their destiny was to erect the signs and watch them disappear over time as their children became adults.

As I sat in the church today for the funeral of a very well-liked young man it was another situation where timing led to his destiny. For a reason nobody will ever understand it was his time. He might have been here to enlighten all of the people he touched. It might have been his job to show people how to love unconditionally. He might have been here to show us that nothing lasts forever. No matter what the case there’s no way anyone could have stopped it. Although we all want to go back in time and hope for a different outcome we can’t do that. Instead, we have to accept the pain from the tragedy and find a way to help others get through it. We have to put our hands on their shoulders. We have to squeeze them tight. We have to tell them we love them. We have to use our strength to help others deal with the pain that will take a lifetime to subside. Maybe he was put here to show people it’s okay to help others.

None of these questions will ever be answered. That’s why we have to find strength in others. Don’t take people for granted. Life is fragile and it can be taken from any one of us at any time. Do the things you enjoy and include the people you love. You can love them as a partner, a sibling, a parent or just a friend. It’s okay to love a lot of people. The most loving people usually find the best support.

As you pick the roads you will travel realize that no matter which ones you choose there will never be a wrong choice. All roads lead someplace and the one you’re on is meant to take you where you’re supposed to be. Always enjoy the ride and everything will happen as it’s supposed to happen.