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A Different Type of Father’s Day

Monday, June 22nd, 2020


How lucky have I been over the years? There isn’t enough paper in the world to list all of the ways I have been blessed with so much good will. However, I can thank both of my parents for every bit of my happiness and the good fortune I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Sometimes I laugh on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when people express their gratitude for their parents. I often wonder if they do the same thing every day of their lives. I would guess that far too many people take their parents’ influence for granted. Although some children don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps, many apples fall directly under the tree — even if they roll a few feet from the base of it. I could never live up to the example my parents set for me, and it would be foolish to pretend their care for me didn’t mold me into who I am today.

I think I saw something on social media today from one of my former classmates, and it said it was the 33rd anniversary of our graduation from high school. Many of you can stop doing the math right now. I’m a month shy of my 51st birthday. Anyhow, before I graduated I chose a quote to put next to my senior picture in the yearbook. It read: College; To some day be as good of a father as my father has been to me.

Well, I accomplished the first goal and finished my undergraduate degree on time. Although I might have gained knowledge in my college career, I don’t feel any smarter for the time I spent in school after my high school days came to an end. When people ask me what I gained from college, I tell them that I learned how to grow up and live on my own. I learned the importance of paying bills, managing my time, balancing daily duties, and finding the time to decompress. Looking back on it, I’m not sure I would have done the same thing if I had to go back in time. I probably would’ve taken up a trade and began my journey into adulthood four years earlier than I did.

Unforgettable Moments in College

While I have an arm’s-length of incredible memories from my time in college, there are a few that stand out above all others. On a Saturday in mid-March one year, I was playing basketball in the bubble at Oneonta State when I saw my mother walk through the door. She was with one of her friends and told me she was just coming to check on me. She had found one of my roommates, and he told her where she could find me. A simple hug and the ability to see my mother’s concern overwhelmed me. It’s something I haven’t forgot since that day, and I will never forget it as long as my mind stays with me.

I hear a lot of people from my parents’ generation talking about what they were doing when John F. Kennedy got assassinated. While the relevance isn’t quite the same, I know many people in my generation who follow sports know where they were when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. I do, too.

My mom had gone away for the weekend to Vermont with her friends to go cross-country skiing with her friends, so my dad decided to come visit me and my friends in Oneonta. He offered to take us to Binghamton to watch the Adirondack Red Wings take on the Binghamton Whalers in an AHL hockey game.

On our way back to Oneonta, the radio was filled with static, but we thought we heard that Mike Tyson had been knocked out. There were five of us in the car, and nobody believed it. We figured it was a “Saturday Night Live” joke or something of that sort. When we neared the campus, we heard it again. With the ferociousness of Tyson in all of his previous fights, it was unfathomable that a no-name had knocked him out. Tyson’s life would never be the same … and a few minutes later, neither would mine.

Dad rolled up to the front door of my Hays Hall dormitory, and my friends unloaded from the car. I sat for a few minutes to talk Dad. I offered him a place to stay in my room, so he could go home the next day. He declined and told me he would be okay to drive home that night. As I grabbed the door handle and started to get out, he cleared is throat and said, “I love you, bud.”

I could see a tear rolling down his face, and it made me react the same way. I told him I loved him and got out of the car. I wished him a safe trip home and stood in the silence of the night in front of the dorm. Tears streamed from my face, and I knew I would have to compose myself before going inside and gathering with my friends. My father never showed much emotion and has always had a hard time with it. I believe that’s all part of growing up during tough times on a farm, where your family depends on you, even when you are a child. It was the first time I ever remember Dad telling me he loved me, and I still think about it daily. I never see a video clip of Mike Tyson without thinking about it. Amazingly, I’m sure he probably doesn’t recall it at all. Sometimes, something incredibly small can stay with a person for an entire lifetime. The small moments should be cherished on your journey through life. Every Father’s Day, I am thankful for that trip to Binghamton on the night Mike Tyson was knocked out for his first professional loss.

Back to the Farm

Dad grew up on a farm. Before he hit double digits, he had more responsibilities than many adults. He wasn’t asked to work on the farm. He was expected to work on the farm. There weren’t any days off, and there weren’t any excuses that were acceptable to keep him from heading to the barn every day before school and then again when he returned from school. Although he was smart, his priority was the farm and his family. He couldn’t put all of his efforts into school. It just wasn’t possible for the time period and the life his family lived.

He always remembered those days and made sure I didn’t have to experience anything like that. He always wanted to play sports and never had the ability to do so because of farm chores. That’s why he made sure I played any sport I wanted to play. He encouraged my growth in anything that interested me. He also wanted me to be educated, but he didn’t force me to go to college. Actually, he never said much about anything I wanted to do. He just wanted me to be happy and have an easier life than he had. He wanted me to carve my own path and follow it to wherever it would take me.

I’ve watched many people travel along the roads of life, and the road my father traveled is always impressive when I dissect it. Although he was president of the Future Farmers of America organization in high school and got accepted at Cobleskill College for agriculture, he chose to go in another direction. Starting a family at 18 and having me, the third child, at 22, he knew he had to find financial stability. He had to leave the farm, and he chose to work at one of the local factories. He worked his way through the ranks and made an incredibly good life for himself. His work ethic that came from all of the hard farm work over the years transferred into his new occupation. There was never a time to slack off, and he always gave 100% in everything he did. I feel fortunate to have inherited some of his work ethic and other qualities. It’s not anything he taught me with words. I watched him from afar and learned that excuses are not valid. If someone asks you to do something, you just do it. If you’re supposed to be at work at 7:00 a.m., there’s no reason to be late. Thanks, Dad, for setting the example you set as I was growing up.

From Dad to Friend

There’s a fine line between being a parent and being a friend. Parents need to establish the rules, and the children needs to follow the rules and learn about boundaries. However, as children become adults, the relationship can change. My relationship definitely changed.

My father’s passions became mine, and my passions became his passions. We have traveled all over the country doing the things that bring us the most happiness. We’ve spent crisp mornings on creek banks in October hauling in salmon. We’ve spent time in raging rainstorms trying to catch up to big bucks. We’ve trekked on snowshoes through blizzards to hunt deer. We’ve driven to Florida and back in a weekend to shoot in an archery tournament. We’ve stood on the top step of the podium to receive world championship awards in different organizations, and we’ve done the same thing in the same organization to receive our national championship awards. We’ve sat in silence and watched sporting events on the TV in the living room. We’ve also sat in the house that Ruth built to watch legendary baseball players start and end their careers. We’ve done all of these things as father and son — and best friends.


I remember the camping trips throughout the summers when I was growing up. I remember the motorcycle rides to go trout fishing in the Adirondacks. I remember paddling canoes across lakes. I remember fishing in bays and outlets for bass. I remember sitting under the bridge in the middle of the night to catch bullhead. I remember that Dad was at every single high school baseball game I ever played in whether it was home or away.

When I think about fatherhood and what it means, I’m not sure I can base it on what my father did for me. I believe he went far beyond what most normal dads do for their sons. He didn’t set a good example for other fathers because not many others could ever do so much for their children and expect absolutely nothing in return. His selflessness has allowed me to climb rugged mountains. I’ve hit the bottom of valleys more than a time or two, and he has always thrown me into his backpack and carried me back to the summit to get a different view. He has helped me refresh my mind and he has given me the tools to build a good life. He has welcomed all of my friends and acquaintances into our family like they are is own children. He has show others how to live a good life and chase their dreams. He has had a significant influence on almost all of my friends. Could anyone ask for more than that out of a dad?


I could go on for days on end about all of my experiences, and it still wouldn’t do them justice. I won the father lottery — and lifetime lottery –and I would rather win that lottery than any mega-millions cash prize that would set me up for life.

Thanks for everything you’ve given so freely over the years, Dad. In some small way, I hope I’ve carried on our family name by learning and listening along the way. Get better soon and keep fighting the fight. We need to fling some more arrows, make fun of Brian for coming back to the tent after emptying his quiver again, and chase whitetails across the Midwest and in the Adirondacks. Let’s get to it.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

The photo above says more than anyone can possibly imagine. Shortly after getting divorced, I had to move in with my parents to get back on my feet. My dog, Theo, had to come along with me. The year was 2007, and I felt as if the world was caving in around me. Actually, it was. I felt like a child, with no direction, again. I had to return to a place of familiarity for constant support. In my case, my mother has given support to me from the day I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic in 1975 until today, as I sit at her kitchen table and try to look after her and my father. In some small way, I’m trying to give back in return for all of the things that have been done for me for the last 50 years.

Well, in that photo above, my mother was helping Theo. He was aging and his time was coming to an end. In 2007, after learning of my divorce, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I had never endured any pain like the pain I was feeling at the time. Unfortunately, looking back on it, I couldn’t focus on anything other than myself. It was hard to get from one day to the next. I didn’t pass the test for giving when I had nothing inside to give. Instead, Mom made sure she bent her ear toward me and listened to my endless babble, all while battling cancer. She offered words of encouragement and held me when I could barely hold on to myself — just as she had done before I could walk. Theo was her rock, and I was her helpless child again. As she had always done, she put her child before herself.

As a child, I never realized how dependent I was on her for good health, both mentally and physically. She supplied me with the things I needed, and I always thought that was just what moms did. I didn’t realize the amount of care, support and unconditional love a great mother gives to her children. I’ve come to realize that the path of a child’s life can be greatly influenced by his mother between childbirth and his 10th birthday. The foundations are set and the small details are instilled. I’m often amazed when I see a successful adult who came out of an environment where there was no support or solid foundation. My life has been made much easier by having a mother who has always understood what being a mom is all about.

These times we are currently experiencing with the coronavirus crisis bring me back to my childhood. She taught me to always wash my hands. She taught me to cover my mouth when I sneezed or coughed. She taught me to be kind to other people. I learned to respect others, even if I don’t agree with their viewpoints. I learned to listen before speaking. I was taught about the value of money and how to manage money when I had it. I learned that working was essential to being able to pay bills and going on vacation. I was taught that I needed to work and not rely on her or my father to have them support me. I learned that I should never use my disease as an excuse to not do something. I learned that good behavior and strong work ethic should be rewarded. I was taught to stick up for myself and believe in my cause. I learned that I should not follow the masses if I feel pressure from others to do so. Instead, I should be a leader and stand up for myself and others when others try to bully people — whether it’s in the workplace or in a casual setting.

My mom taught me to read and use my creative imagination. She never tried to force me in any direction with my career or schoolwork. She sat with me and truly became my inside support system as I shared my highs and lows. Unlike my brother and sister, who call Mom a lot, I prefer to sit with her. I need the closeness that a phone call doesn’t supply. Since she retired, I visit her almost every day after work to sit down and talk. I enjoy the half hour or hour I get as often as I can get it. We might not even talk, but I value the time sitting in the same room with her. These times bring me back to all of the years she pushed me around in the shopping cart when I was young. It also brings me back to all of the times she was my nurse without a nursing degree. She gave me my daily injections and always made sure I followed the plan to stay healthy, things I’ll be forever grateful for.

When I was about 6 years old, she taught me that it was important to dress up for important events. She also showed me that it was ok to just be myself, choosing to bring me shopping with her and allowing me to wear my dirty play pants to the store. She would reward me with a dollar for doing a chore and told me not to waste it. I would save my money to get something that I worked toward. Every now and then, I would ride my bike to the country store a mile from the house and spend my dollar on a pack of baseball cards in hopes of getting one of my favorite Yankees in it. She encouraged me to reward myself for my work.



Over the years, my siblings and I have always joked about which one of us is Mom’s favorite child. Stepping away and looking at it seriously, we are all her favorite. She has watched all of us grow into the children we have become, and she has supported all of us in the way that we need the support.

Recognizing that each child requires different care is a special talent. There are no two people who are molded the same. She has always found what works for each one of us and used that to show her care and love. Nobody could have ever been more successful than her. That is how I know that all of us share a part of being her favorite child. She loves all of us the same and it’s obvious. Well, but then again, we have my cousin Carrie’s thoughts on it:

As I’ve marched through life and made all sorts of mistakes, I consider myself lucky to know that Mom has always supported my decisions. She has allowed me to figure things out in my own way, even when I was a child. She saw the importance of setting up a checking account for me when I was 16 years old and showing me how to balance my checkbook. It’s the little thing that get overlooked by far too many people. Have you every wondered how you learned the basic survival skills? I don’t have to wonder. Mom, I’m thankful for everything you have done for me. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think I’m the luckiest son in the world, and that is because of you. When I see some of my friends struggle, I often wish you could have been their mother. I know you would find a way to help them, and they wouldn’t realize they were struggling. It’s a gift that goes unseen. I hope you realize that today, on your day, my siblings and I are thankful for being raised by the most caring, loving and supportive mother in the world. We could never repay you for the gifts you have given us — the gift of living good lives. Even as a 50-year-old man, I still feel like you’re pushing me around in the shopping car as we go up and down the rows in Zayres and Joy’s department stores. I hope you feel the same.

What Have I Learned During the Last Month?

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

                            

Instead of rambling like I tend to do, I’m going to approach this differently. I’m going to bullet point the things I’ve learned over the last month, from the time I left for New Smyrna Beach, Fla., to care for my mom and dad to today as I sit in the parking lot of the renal center in Saratoga, N.Y., waiting for my father while he is having dialysis. Feel free to share your thoughts. I’m sure there aren’t many people who haven’t learned a few things about themselves since this virus has taken over the world.

  • Life can change rapidly. You are not immune
  • Life has no favorites
  • Good health is not guaranteed from one day to the next. Do what you want to do instead of putting things off and waiting til next year — there may not be a tomorrow
  • I wish I had children of my own. Some people might ask why I never had any children. The only response I can give is that the timing was never right, but is the timing ever right for anyone? I’ve always thought, this is my life, and I’m going to spend it doing things I want to do. I never knew if I could give all of my life to a child as my parents have done for me.
  • Finally, all these years later, this last month gave me the ability to answer the question above. I dropped everything in my life in a matter of minutes to get to Florida to be with my mother and father as Dad fought for his life for a week or two. Now, I have a new life, a life in which everything else comes before my own interests. Caring for someone you love and giving everything of yourself is incredibly easy in the sense of giving and taking. I’d much rather give than take, and I never truly knew if that would be the case. Now, I can see why my parents have done everything they’ve done for me over the years. I understand how people give up their own lives for others. Although there are no answers for the reasons why this happened to my father, I’ve found that it has taught me to accept responsibility for loved ones and to give them everything I can possibly give them. I’ll be forever thankful for the opportunity, even though I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish upon every star in the sky that this does not become the new normal over time. We have far too many adventures to finish. If things don’t change, we will find a slightly different approach to accomplish the things we want to do. Archery may take a backseat, and fishing might return. I might go back to my childhood and the many hours casting lines into streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. We will do what we have to do to make the most out of what we have.
  • Nothing is impossible unless you simply don’t try.
  • I don’t miss archery when I don’t participate in it. But if I see a bow and am able to shoot it, I can’t keep my hands off it.
  • A good diet is crucial to keeping your body healthy, but a good diet will not give you a free pass to death’s unpredictability in choosing its victims.
  • The healthcare system is a mess. Don’t take this the wrong way. I am not against insurance companies waiving fees for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, but when I glance at the $3,400 bill I just racked up for Medtronic insulin pump supplies for a 3-month order, I find it appalling. I was born with the disease and diagnosed at 5 years old.  The supplies are my life-support. Without them, I will die. Who can realistically afford that?
  • I work to buy my medical supplies
  • Journalism is atrocious these days. I went to school for Journalism/Communications, and I learned to report without showing any bias toward one side. While looking after my parents, I have watched every news channel out there, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, among a host of others. EVERY one of these providers has a vested interest in how the news shows up in the final report. I can’t tell you how let down I am with the current state of journalism. I watched press conferences from all sorts of people, including the governors of Florida, New York, and Louisiana, the president, the vice-president, and the Speaker of the House. It’s amazing how a two-minute clip is mixed into a 20-second clip just to make the incident being reported on sound totally different than anything that actually took place. They all do it, people. I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re standing on. Give an honest take – not your take.
  • There should be term limits
  • Politicians do not work for the people; they work for themselves. If companies back them, they make big money. Your concerns are the least of their interests. They fight for their own interests — not yours. Wake up and pull the wool out of your eyes — These are the people on both sides.
  • When you’re serving the people, you should work for the people and let your own interests fall to the wayside…..just like caring for loved ones.
  • Elected officials should have the lowest tier of health insurance, so they actually know what the majority of the working class faces.
  • Many people do what they want to do and go about their business with the “that shit won’t happen to me” attitude, then it punches them in the face.
  • The media can control the vast majority of the population
  • Many changes will come in the future in workplaces now that they’ve realized that their employees can work from home and the business doesn’t miss a beat
  • Many middle management jobs will be cut due to companies realizing a lot of those jobs don’t serve a true purpose
  • I’m more productive at home than in the office — fewer disturbances
  • There’s no reason for me to work in an office for the current job I do. I approach it the same way every day, emailing, calling or messaging anyone whom I need to get answers from about different things.
  • Many companies have probably saved a lot of money on their electric bills.
  • Don’t expect anything different from employees while working from home: the slackers will probably slack even more, and the good workers will probably be more productive due to fewer interruptions.
  • If someone is working in their pajamas, you can expect pajama-quality work……………need I say more?
  • Many businesses have suddenly found out that their employees are just like the fast-food employees whom so many people criticize. These businesses could run on their own…….the employees all know how to cook burgers and fries and pour drinks. Once people are taught how to do any job, most businesses can run on their own with minimal leadership. 
  • Fast-food employees and grocery store clerks are heroes right now. Do you still believe they don’t deserve $15 an hour? Would you do what they are doing right now —- for $15 an hour? Well, they’re probably doing it for $10 or less……..think about that next time you roll through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts to get your iced coffee and bagel.
  • Nurses don’t get noticed enough and their services are taken for granted. They grind every day to help people survive. It’s too bad they aren’t recognized ALL the time instead of just now. THANK YOU to every nurse who has ever helped me or just looked after me. Well, except for Paula Needham, who woke me up in the middle of the night to stab me in the ass with a huge needle.  I’ll thank her, too, but she did stab me when I was a younger lad. Fortunately, she was an expert and I never felt a pinch of pain. That’s a great nurse. I appreciate all nurses and doctors every day, not just now.
  • I’m lucky that I don’t suffer from any type of anxiety. This is a horrible time for anxiety-ridden people. Unless you suffer from it, you don’t have a clue what these people go through. Be kind to everyone. You might just save a life by being kind.
  • I’ve never been luckier to have been brought up in the outdoors, where being alone is essential to my well-being.
  • I’m lucky that I truly enjoy my own company. This time period hasn’t been much different than normal for me.
  • When it’s your time, it’s your time, but don’t lend a hand to the reaper.
  • I’ve been all over the country, but I love where I live.
  • Driving is much nicer without a lot of traffic on the roads.
  • Being stuck in a house with people can make relationships stronger — or break them
  • Everyone has a special talent or gift inside. Some people discover it early on, and others never discover it at all. Search and discover your hidden talent.
  • When you have an office at home, it’s easier to work from home.
  • Working from home has cut back on my time in my office to work on other projects. After spending 8 to 9 hours there, it holds me back from returning every night to work on personal things and goals I have set.
  • Working while sitting on the couch or in a recliner will probably lead to poor quality work or make you fall asleep
  • Children and pets don’t understand what “adulting” means.
  • Pets give unconditional love to their people. People should do the same for the ones they love. Don’t hold grudges. People make mistakes and can be forgiven.
  • It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep on uncomfortable couches and beds
  • People are greedy
  • People with nothing usually give more of themselves than people with everything
  • Money doesn’t measure the wealth of a man or a woman.
  • If you were a leader and you made $72,000 a day and you had some employees who made half of that in an entire year, would you be willing to give up a few thousand dollars a day so one or two of your employees could avoid being laid off during this crisis? If you answered yes, you are probably in the minority of actual people who find themselves in this reality………..Let that sink in. 
  • People from the higher social ranks cannot say they can relate to what others from the lower or middle ranks are going through. They don’t have a clue.
  • This is a good time to set goals. Unfortunately, many people just set goals to set goals and have no intention of working toward accomplishing them. If you’re going to talk the talk make sure you walk the walk. Set goals and achieve them.
  • It was time to finally start my novel. The goal I set is to finish the novel I recently started………in case anyone is interested, it’s a murder mystery and is set in the Adirondacks around North Creek.
  • I have an incredible family full of wonderful relatives
  • I wish I could be a kid again
  • If I could, I would go back to 35-40 years old and park myself at that age forever
  • If I could go back in time and start over, I would work in a union or search for a state job.
  • Unions have their place in our country. I understand the reasons why they formed and why many have disappeared. Unions would be beneficial to the American workers in corporate America who are taken advantage of due to severely greedy people. 
  • Our lives are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Make your presence significant in other people’s lives. That will never be forgotten.
  • Leaders should promote the most qualified people. It will only make them look better. It’s too bad so many leaders in corporate America are so insecure.
  • Working from home lets me avoid the stress of going to the bathroom at work to witness things that just make me step back and wonder if I really just saw what I think I did.
  • I fear death because I enjoy life so much.
  • And finally……….the world will be a different place as we pull away from this and put it in the rearview mirror. 

I wanted to use this format for this because all of these things have crossed my mind over the last month. As you can see, it’s confusing to follow at times, but I ‘m guessing many of you have had some of the same thoughts. I’m also certain that many of you will read this and laugh because you know exactly what I’m talking about and it might apply to you. We all know Cheryl Romano will probably avoid wearing her pajamas while working from home from now on. I hope some of you enjoyed this and have a better idea of where someone else’s mind is right now. Life is fleeting……….take full advantage of every second in your life.

The Path

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

  I was less than 5 when my father loaded me into the white car with black trim and drove me to a piece of land on the next road over from where we lived. Although he had never shown much emotion, I sensed the excitement coursing through his veins that day. He pointed at the field that had a few small pine trees in it and said, “We’re going to build a house here.”

  Since 5-year-olds don’t usually comprehend the enormity of life-changing things like that, I smiled and asked if I could play in the field on the hill. He granted me my wish, and I sprinted over rocks and slithered through the tall grass, not knowing that I would learn many facts about life on that same piece of land — a piece that I still return to almost daily.

  A few years after exploring that piece of land, I found myself lying my head on my pillow every night just a short distance down the hill from where Dad had made a path. Although I didn’t walk on it often, I watched from the backyard and wondered what drew him to it every day. Instead of exploring the reasons, I continued throwing rocks into the air and hitting them with sticks that I fetched from the side yard.

  Standing in the driveway, I went through the lineups every night. The visiting Red Sox would begin the game with Jerry Remy leading off, hopefully setting the table for the likes of Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Butch Hobson, Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and Yaz.  If the rock didn’t clear the road in front of the house, it was an out. If it towered over the trees and power lines, it was a home run. Of course, the line shots were singles or doubles and anything else was an out.

  After the Red Sox batted, the Yankees would come to bat. Mickey Rivers would usually lead off with a double down the line. Willie Randolph would follow him and move him over to third on a sac fly or a bunt. Then, the heart of the order would come up, with Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Craig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Bobby Murcer and Oscar Gamble, depending on who was in the starting lineup that day.

  I would stand on the hill and hit one rock after another for hours on end. I never got sick of it and would do it until my hands bled. A state trooper even stopped one day to tell me I had to clean the rocks out of the road. When Mom called me to come in at night, I would glance up the hill and see Dad walking back and forth on his well-used path — the path that led to nowhere. As much as I loved hitting the rocks and participating in Yankees/Sox classics in my driveway, the path beckoned me to explore it, ever so slowly reaching out to me and motioning with an invisible index finger as if to say, “Come this way.”

                                           The Decision to Follow

  As the days passed, I trudged up the hill while Dad walked back and forth on the path. When he would return to the end where I was waiting, I would stand behind him and get lost in the mystique of everything going on around me. The silence was deafening and brought a tremendous sense of peace with it. Lost in time, my mind became quiet. It was completely aware of everything around it, but it was focused — and at peace. 

  Walking down the hill to the house that night, something inside me told me to take the chance. It whispered into my ear, “It’s okay to follow. Stroll down the path and see what’s there.”

  I listened and took a chance. Before I knew it, I was enjoying myself in the backyard. The path wasn’t very long, but my attention span was so short I couldn’t remain focused long enough to walk on it like Dad. I enjoyed feeling the soles of my boots against the barren ground, but it didn’t captivate me enough to make me want to return very often.

                       Returning After Being Away for a Few Years

  As my teen years led me toward the entrance into the adult world, I found myself on that path regularly. I went there to search for answers — answers that I could not find in normal places. The path quickly gave me confidence and inner-strength. My visions about life become much clearer.

  Then, one day, everything came crashing down around me. I brought something up the hill with me without having permission to do so. It was one of my father’s cherished items. While walking back and forth on his path — which had become our path – I broke the item.

  Heartbroken and in tears, I sat in the grass and sobbed. I knew how much this thing meant to my father, and I knew that I had let him down. I had not been responsible, and my parents had always taught me to be responsible for my actions.

  After telling Mom what had happened, I chewed my fingernails off while waiting for Dad to get home. She told me I would have to explain to him what had happened. As soon as I saw him walk through the door, I started crying as I blurted out the story. 

  He never raised his voice or broke his expression. When I finished, he took my head into his chest and told me that everything was going to be okay. He explained that sometimes mistakes happen and we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep from making easily avoidable mistakes. In the background, Mom’s lips creased together as a smile formed on her lips.

                                            Enjoying the Journey

  Many years have passed since those early days on that path. Although I still walk along it now and then, I have made a few of my own. But that original path I walked so many miles on has brought me across the country and allowed me to achieve the highest of highs and experience the lowest of lows.

 Now, like when I was younger, I walk the path to achieve internal peace. My mind remains calm when I’m at the beginning of it and remains there until I decide to step aside and focus on other things. I’ve walked on it to combat anger. I’ve gone there to find understanding and reason. I’ve shuffled back and forth in hopes of achieving goals. It has brought many new things and people into my life. Some of these people have become lifelong friends, and others I only knew for a short time. I carved out the path to become my own. We all have a place in this world if we can find our way to it. Start walking now and enjoy the journey on your own path — your feet will bring you to where you belong.



My Induction into the Wall of Distinction

Friday, December 13th, 2019



  I walked into the Hudson Falls High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon a little over a month ago and didn’t know what to expect. Although I was being inducted into the Wall of Distinction, I certainly didn’t feel deserving of the honor, especially when I thought about the thousands of people who have attended the school and gone on to achieve high levels of success across the globe. After all, I’m not a doctor, lawyer, engineer or CEO, I’m just someone who has found a way to follow his passions to many places of notoriety in some of the largest outdoor media outlets in the country.

  I mingled amongst people in the audience before taking my seat in the front row. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, my uncle tapped me on the shoulder and told that a woman in the back of the room was asking if someone could let me know she was looking for me. 

  As I made my way up the aisle, I saw that it was Mrs. Ahrens, my 10th-grade Public Speaking teacher. Her smile washed over me and warmed me from head to toe. She expressed her happiness for me and told me how excited she was that I was being inducted. I was overwhelmed when I saw her. I hadn’t seen her since I had graduated from high school, and I could tell that I had made her day, just as she had made my day.

  After following the National Honor Society students as they led us to our seats on the stage, I hemmed and hawed about winging my speech or reading the one I had written. Not knowing when I was going to be called to the podium, I decided to let it play out in its own time.

  Luckily, I was able to listen to three inductees before being called to the podium. Walking to the microphone, I felt good about everything. Although the recognition was somewhat overwhelming, I felt confident about the speech I was ready to give.

  While speaking, I felt calm and in control telling my story about different teachers and how they made long-lasting impressions on me that have helped me throughout my life. I spoke a little bit about former classmates, my brother, sister, mother and father. The audience was engaged in the speech and gave positive feedback throughout. When I was winding toward the end, I realized that maybe my picture and biography inside the trophy cabinet outside the lunchroom will inspire a student – or two or three – to chase dreams that don’t revolve around their careers or employment.

  My route to the wall has been somewhat different than most of the others, as I have worked a job that has allowed me to pursue a rich life, not one filled with wealth. I changed career paths early and realized that my hobbies were unique and would require a job in which flexibility could help with the traveling and vacation time needed during certain times of the year. Somewhere along the line, I got sucked into corporate America and all of the petty bullshit that goes along with it, including watching people in cliques take care of each other, unqualified people advance through the ranks, people waste time all day in meetings, and the list goes on and on. In the old days, it used to get under my skin. I applied for 20 consecutive jobs and didn’t get one of them, even though I had legitimate experience as long as a football field compared to most of the applicants. The same excuse was always given to me. I became numb to the words, but they still ring through my head: “Well, we have decided to go in another direction,” or “We selected someone who is more qualified.”

  I listened to it time and time again. Finally, it got to the point where I really just had to laugh and realize the ineptitude of the people I was dealing with. They weren’t the Jack Welch’s of business. Instead, they were just riding on the corporate America train that was sitting at the train station in small-town America. You see, small-town America can be great in many ways, but it can eat people alive in others.

  When the curtain was drawn back, and I saw my biography under my picture, I smirked and laughed. Most people would probably be proud of an accomplishment like this one, but I glanced at my parents and felt proud of them. This was for them, not for me. They didn’t give me free handouts along the way, which definitely helped when I experienced the long line of rejections. I was taught from a young age that I needed to work and do the best possible job I could, even if I didn’t respect or like my superiors. My parents reinforced the fact that I should never let any one person affect the quality of my work or my work ethic. I learned the lesson well.

  I have always done my best to produce quality work, no matter what I’m doing. I could be writing poetry, outlining a book, competing in an archery tournament, speaking to students in high schools, giving seminars at outdoor shows or in church functions, or just going to my Monday-Friday job. My work ethic has carried me to the top of the ladder in everything I’ve chosen to pursue…….except in corporate America. That is a head-scratcher to many people I’ve worked with in different organizations. They can’t fathom it, but I tell them that I really don’t mind because life is about making the most out of it and inspiring others to be the best people they can be. 

  Standing back and looking at the new inductees, I realized that I had accomplished another goal: I have made a difference in people’s lives. I could never ask for more than that. I’m glad I attended the Hudson Falls Schools in my younger years. The experiences I gained readied me for the real world, just as I spoke about in my induction speech when I talked about Mr. Foro never having favorites and putting people in positions to succeed if they outworked others. So many teachers prepared me for life, even though I never knew what they were doing at the time. Yes, I did gain more knowledge in math, science, business, history and English, but the real lessons didn’t involve schoolwork. 

  I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey. It might have been a few short words in the cafeteria, or maybe a five-minute conversation at the 20-year reunion, or even a laugh or two during story time in elementary school that settled in my soul and directed me to the places where I’ve found an incredible amount of happiness. 

  I’ve been saying this since I was 30 years old, and I continue to say it today: “If I die tomorrow, you don’t have to worry about a thing because I have lived a complete life. I have done all of the things I’ve wanted to do, and I have allowed myself to become so deeply immersed in the things I’m passionate about. I would never want it any other way. I enjoy life more than anyone I’ve ever met, and it’s not because I make millions of dollars, travel around the world, or hang out with famous people. Instead, I enjoy life because I was fortunate enough to find myself at a young age, recognize who I was and what I needed, and I learned to feed my soul with passions that drove me to succeed. I have chased dreams of following my passions and living a fulfilling life, and those dreams have become reality.” 

  When I tell people that, they look at me like I have two heads and can’t fathom what I’m saying. The conversations I’ve had after sharing my thoughts on the subject make me realize how incredibly lucky I am. I definitely chased the right dreams, not the pipe dreams that bring nothing but money and material belongings. After all, what do those things do for your inner peace and happiness?

  Tonight, just like every night, I feel like the luckiest person on Earth. It’s an unbelievably exhilarating feeling. Immerse yourself in your passions and let everything else become secondary. Your life will become richer than the life of the wealthiest man alive. While that man is ordering off the high-dollar menu after parking his Ferrari in the parking garage, I am trudging through the snow in the darkness. My boots are wet, my socks are crinkled near the toes, and I can feel the sweat trickling down my neck and into the crease of my back. Looking at my watch, I know I still have another mile to get back to my truck. The rain has turned to frozen pellets mixed with snow, but I’ve had the best day I ever could have asked for in the woods. I spent the day with the man who first brought me there when I was 6 years old. Now, he’s 72, and I am 50, and I am still walking on the path less traveled, the path I chose when I decided what I wanted from life.

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The Journey to Finding Myself in the Big Two

Monday, October 7th, 2019

It was a raw, rainy day in November of 1983 when I made my way to the junior high library. I had finished my homework for the day and decided to go to the library during study hall to read outdoor magazines.

When I entered the quiet room, I headed to the magazine rack with nothing on my mind except grabbing the current issues of Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines. I knew the November issue would focus on deer hunting, and I wanted to learn as much as possible so I would be able to show my dad I was ready to go with him on his adventures and prove to him that I had a small bit of my own useful knowledge that I had gained from sources other than him.

As I flipped the pages of Outdoor Life, I saw a hanging pole in front of a tent. The bucks on the pole were beauties, and the guys in the picture looked like rugged woodsmen, men that could survive in the wilderness for days on end.

Reading the article, I quickly learned that the men were from my hometown, and the picture had been taken at their camp in the Adirondack Mountains. Instantly, I longed to one day find myself in one of these mega-giant magazines. Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines were (and still are) the two magazines that every outdoorsman wanted to read throughout the year, but especially during November. If I could ever make my way into them, I would know I had accomplished something. It would be similar to a middle-school basketball player dreaming of being featured in Sports Illustrated, then seeing himself in it when he gets to college or the pros.

I read the magazine for many years after seeing that article, and that article stuck with me since that day. It was a defining moment in my life, something I will never forget. As many people in my era have never forgotten where they were and what they were doing when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas, I have never forgotten the day I read that article.

Amazingly, a few years ago, I was featured in an article about the rut in Outdoor Life, and my dream had come full circle. I still smile when I think about my journey through the years to complete that circle.

Well, a few months ago, Scott Bestul from Field & Stream contacted me, after being referred by Randy Flannery, and asked if he could talk with me about some of my tactics that have led to my success. Instead of feeling like an interview, Scott and I just talked a lot about deer hunting. In all reality, I guess I talked a lot about deer hunting. I’m sure I probably drove Scott crazy by the time we were done, but it felt good to correspond with someone who gets it; someone who could relate to the things I was saying and understood where I was coming from with everything discussed. When we finally finished chatting, I felt like I had a new friend even though I wasn’t sure Scott would be able to use any of the information I gave him. After all, I just talked willy nilly about all sorts of things, with no real rhyme or reason behind any of it. I guess that’s what deer hunting does to me. It puts me in another world and makes adrenaline surge into my bloodstream. After the conversation, I felt like I would be welcome in Scott’s living room, and I can assure you that he is now welcome in mine. My friendship with Randy started in similar fashion, and I’m glad he has thought of me in a number of different situations.

Recently, I saw that the October/November issue of Field & Stream magazine had hit the magazine racks, so I picked one up at the local grocery store and began flipping through it. When I came upon Scott’s article, I smiled to myself when I saw that I was referred to as an expert. In many ways, I wish I was an expert. Deer hunting, especially when you’re after mature deer, seems like it’s the ultimate mental and physical challenge.

As many of you know, I hunt all over the country. I can easily say that I’ve never had what I would define as an easy hunt. Although the article says my home state is Maine, it’s not. I call the Adirondack Mountains in New York my home, and that is where I cut my teeth on deer hunting. I return there every year to try my hand, always hoping to pluck a few good cards out of the deck… but it’s never easy. I love the challenge it brings. It tests my inner fortitude every season. It pushes my mental state to the limit, whether I tag out on the first day of the season or the last. It does the same when I’m in the Midwest on heavily hunted public land. I wish I could consider myself an expert, but it all comes down to the fact that I can usually outwork and outthink others. Hunting is a hobby for me, but I love the work I can put into the hobby.

As I read through the article, I saw that I was included with many great hunters in the industry. When I saw my name next to Mark Drury’s, I felt a sense of pride. He’s one of the most widely recognized TV personalities in the industry and has been in that position for many years. He’s the mad scientist of deer hunting…. yet in my mind, I’m still the seventh grader who is headed to the library to read the deer hunting articles in Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.

Although there are only a few tidbits from me in this article, to be in included with the other guys is humbling. I still see myself as the boy behind his dad while trying to learn as much as possible to be successful on his own in the deer woods.

Looking back at the days I trudged behind my dad, I’m now beginning to realize that all of those lessons, even the silent ones, taught me everything I know about deer hunting — and life.

On Saturday, I sat in my stand and listened to flocks of geese making their way south. Flashing back in time, I could remember a cool, crisp night when I heard one flock after another on that annual migration that still exists today. I could hear deer walking on the ridge above me but never saw them. When Dad came back to pick me up at dark on the way back to the truck, he told me I might want to think about moving onto the flat above my stand. It was a simple lesson, but one in which I learned a great deal. I learned quickly that I always have to adapt to the things going on around me. I can never be satisfied with being stagnant and hoping the deer find their way to me. Instead, I need to react and put myself in the right place at the right time.

I guess I just wanted to express how lucky I feel to have been able to live the life I’ve always dreamed of living. I don’t have much as far as material things go, but I do have an incredibly quiet mind and an unbelievably rich life. I’m also proud to know that I actually passed all of the tests that my dad put in front of me. I’ll never consider myself an expert, because if I did that, then hunting would be just as easy as grocery shopping. If deer had weapons, there wouldn’t be any hunters who would last very long in the woods. We would all be dead. Therefore, there are no experts in the field.

I’m thankful to have been recognized by some of the titans in the outdoor media world. It allows me to realize how lucky I have been on my journey. There are a gazillion guys out there who could easily outdo me in the woods. Somehow, members of the outdoor media found me; I didn’t go looking for them. I’m thankful for the friendships that have been created through these outlets. I will never forget the raw, rainy day I strolled down to the library and imagined being featured in either one of the outdoor magazines. Now, that I’ve seen myself in both of them, it still seems somewhat unbelievable, and it probably always will. I’m just an Adirondacker who has been able to travel across the country hunting with my dad and a few incredibly selfless friends, friends that have made it much easier to succeed. Those guys don’t get nearly enough credit, whether it’s Doug Vaughn, Brian Pino, Josh Morse or a handful of others. They deserve more credit than I do. They are the guys who push me to be better, and they teach me things that help me while I’m in the woods trying to figure the game out every year, for the game never stays the same from day to day, week to week, month to month or year to year. The game is always changing, which is why so few people find regular success. Being able to quickly adapt is what matters most.

Teetering Between Life & Death

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

My roommates were loud and obnoxious, but I stayed behind the closed door to the quad family room and kept my nose in the books. I needed to get in as much studying as possible. My exam was the next day, and I still felt a little shaky about a lot of what would be on it.

Anxiety always smashed me in the face as I prepared for college exams. Unfortunately, the anxiety usually followed me into the classroom, and my eyes would stare at the paper as my mind went completely blank. I could study for hours on end and not gain a thing from the studying. Although I wasn’t cramming on this evening, I had a similar feeling that coursed through my veins. My adrenaline spiked so I could feel my heart rate accelerating.

When that happened, I knew it was time to take a break. I would go to the dining hall on the hill above my dorm and grab a bite to eat before finishing my studying. Knowing what I wanted to eat, I drew the two types of insulin into the syringe and injected it into my upper leg. A quick pinch made me acutely aware that diabetes sometimes requires people to go with the grind and fight each battle when it presents itself.

When I got to the dining hall, I went for the quick and easy food. I had a few pieces of pizza and sat by myself to eat it. Although I wasn’t on any type of schedule, I knew I had to get back to study. Random thoughts raced through my mind, and all of my attention was on the exam I would be taking the next morning.

After finishing my meal and heading back to my room, I knew I had to have enough insulin to compensate for my meal. That’s when I made a critical mistake that would’ve cost me my life if it hadn’t been for my roommate, a guy I never knew before meeting him that first day of my freshman year. We were able to coexist quite nicely, with him doing his thing and me doing my thing. Things worked so well the first year that we decided to be roommates the next year. In that time, he educated himself about diabetes and what to watch for in case I ran into any problems.

A few hours later, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and my head fell gently onto my pillow. The studying had taken its toll, and my body needed the rest.

The Next Morning

I’m not sure how to start this, but I’ll give you a brief history of what happened according to my friends. My roommate got up and went to his first class. I didn’t get up because I didn’t have a class until 10:00 a.m., the class in which I would be taking my exam. When my roommate returned, I was completely unconscious and didn’t respond when he tried waking me up. Now, I’ll let you inside my world as I saw it, felt it and heard it the next morning.

Seeing a handful of nurses and a doctor standing over the bed in the ER, I could sense an organized chaos. My limp body laid on the bed while a part of me floated above it and looked down. Extremely bright lights surrounded me, and I could hear the people talking — actually shouting as I remember.

With my back on the ceiling of the room like I was lying on my belly in mid-air, I watched the people. The doctor shouted, “Get him, Get him again. You’re losing him.”

With that, I saw my body convulse as the paddles jolted my body on the bed. Then, I could hear the people’s voices, but none of the voices said anything that I can remember after that original statement from the doctor. Instead, I could hear a few of my relatives that had died many years earlier. I could hear them as clear as I could when they were alive, but like the other people, I couldn’t grasp what they were saying. Voices I would never forget, voices that belonged to people who were once a part of my life.

All of the commotion lasted only a few seconds before the lights faded and everything went black. It happened in the snap of a finger. I’m not sure if I fell, if someone whacked me on the head with a pan, or if I just got lost in a really deep unconscious state. I will never know.

When I opened my eyes, my parents were sitting next to the bed. They asked me if I knew what was going on. I had been in this situation a time or two in the past, so I knew I was in the hospital due to a low blood sugar problem. I tried processing how they could’ve gotten there so quickly. They lived over two hours away, and I knew I couldn’t have been under for that long.

Living Quietly

For a long time, I never said anything to anyone about what happened in that room in the ER that night. I was scared that nobody would believe me. Would they think I was crazy and want to send me to an insane asylum? Would they think I was must messing with them? Would someone else share a similar experience with me? I didn’t know what to expect but figured I would be better off if I just let it go.

A short time later, I read in a magazine about someone who had an almost identical experience. This allowed me to dive straight in and share my happenings with others. As I began talking about it, people reacted in many different ways, but it was therapeutic for me in a way that is unexplainable. I shared it in print, then I went on to talk about it a few times here and there. Although I never felt totally comfortable with it, I never shied away from it.

Today

I’ve thought about that day many times since it happened. The 30-year anniversary of it is coming up in a week or two. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, but I always remember it like it happened last night. It opened my mind to possibilities that many people will never experience. I feel fortunate for the way everything went down and how it worked out. I’m thankful that my roommate knew what to do to save my life. I think I love life more than anyone I know, at least anyone to whom I have spoken with over the years. I love everything it has to offer. Yes, there are some downs with all of the ups, but the challenges along the way are what mold each and every one of us. I wake up every day and can’t wait to live every second of it to the fullest. Everyone says I should slow down and not always be on the go. I don’t like living in the slow lane. I’m only going to be here so long, and I want to take advantage of the time I’m given. The next time I begin to float into bright light and see my lifeless body below me, I might not be able to come back and tell my story to others. That is why I will be on the road again this weekend making more memories with my friends and family.

Bohemian Rhapsody: A Look Back in Time

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

  Not knowing what to expect, I sat down last week to watch the movie about Queen. If any of you think this is a movie review, you are in the wrong place. Instead, the movie brought me back to a time in my life that became vividly clear as one scene rolled into the next. I could see sights, smell aromas and hear noises.

  It was the early ‘90s, and I had recently completed my undergraduate studies. I was working two jobs, not knowing what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Then, my world was turned upside down when my mom sat me down and informed me that she was going to have a major surgery. After being filled in on the risks, I tried ignoring the many thoughts running through my brain and did so for the next few weeks. 

  When my brother walked through the front door of my parents’ home a few days before the scheduled surgery, I suddenly became aware of the depth of what we were facing: moving on in our lives without my mother there to experience our ups and downs and comfort us along the way.

   The surgery would take a full day and not many of the same type had ever been done. The long list of complications associated with it were mind-numbing, especially the one that generically shows up at the end of any precautionary warnings that people are handed before they go under the knife. I had been informed enough about this surgery to know that the last thing on the sheet of paper was an actual reality with this surgery. I could only hope and pray that things would work out in our favor, but I had also learned that when it’s our time, it’s our time. There’s no stopping it, and in this game of life, nobody gets out alive, even though some will last much longer than others while trying to navigate inside the walls of the maze.

  So why did the movie about Queen and Freddie Mercury bring so many emotions to the forefront for me? Well, my brother had come home a few times prior to my mom having surgery, and during his trips, he had brought many different friends with him, friends who had a unique way of dressing. They wore flashy sport coats and unique hats, almost emblematic of the things seen on Michael Jackson’s videos and in Prince’s performances. These people – and my brother – seemed different, like they were living on the edge, in a world that hadn’t become socially acceptable yet. Maybe, just maybe, they were changing with the times and I hadn’t caught up yet to what was happening in the fashion world.

  Although my brother had dated a very nice girl before he left for college in Montana, I now suspected that something was different. My brother seemed to mix well with his new friends, and some of the friends seemed feminine.

  It was in the low ‘80s the day my mother got operated on. I made sure I didn’t have to work so I could be there while the doctors tried performing a miracle. Sitting in the waiting room, my palms began sweating and my breathing became choppy and shallow. I needed to get out of the sterile building and allow my eyes to take in the bright blue sky. 

  Watching my brother, I sensed that he needed the same thing. He clenched his hands together and cracked his knuckles before reaching behind his head and locking his hands together around the back of his neck and extending his head up and back while rolling his shoulders. He tapped his left toe against his right toe and pushed them into the floor and pushed his heels into the air. I could see the tension in his calves when he held the pose for a few seconds before dropping his heels back onto the tiled floor. His fidgeting made me concerned that there was something beyond my mother that was worrying him.

   When he asked me to walk out of Albany Med and go to Washington Park to sit down for a bit, I accepted his offer. My inner-self had made it clear that I couldn’t do a damn thing in that waiting room – except wait. I could wait outside in the fresh air just as easily I could wait in the stale, dull waiting room, where sickness and death were permeating through the walls and down the halls

  As we made our way down the narrow sidewalk toward the park, he began talking. Although he wasn’t really feeling me out, I don’t think the words that were coming out of his mouth were exactly as he wanted to put them. He seemed in tune with the ways of the world and knew a lot about the phenomenon that was creeping across America – AIDS. People had been dying, including some of his friends, and he seemed lost in a world filled with people who were running scared from gay men. People, in their stereotypical fashion, believed that AIDS could jump off these men and find a new home in others’ bodies. At that point, the odds were not good for anyone diagnosed with the disease, and most people knew that a positive diagnosis was a death sentence.

  After making our way to a bench in front of the pond in the park, we silently observed the ducks in the water. Five ducklings followed their mother in single file, some sticking their heads into the water to retrieve unlucky minnows for a meal. The V that formed behind them gave me a gentle reminder that as quiet as it seemed, another creature’s world was being rocked by the tiny movement of water cast aside as the ducks continued swimming toward the fountain, just as my world had quickly begun to experience something that could be compared to thunderous waves crashing against an ocean dike.

  The few minutes of silence was deafening. Although I couldn’t hear my brother’s thoughts, I could see them racing around the track inside his mind, not knowing how to free themselves from captivity. Then, as clear as the blue sky above us, I listened to his voice as words began to flow like the rays of sunlight finding their way through the leaf-covered trees across the pond.

  Within minutes, I came to learn that the wait was eating at him like a pack of hyenas devouring a freshly fallen gazelle that was battling to stay alive. The tone of his voice never changed when he told me his nerves were shot from waiting for the results to a “test.” Although he never told me the name of the test, I was certain that it wasn’t the last civil service examination that had been given a few weeks earlier. 

  With numerous people, including famous actors, musicians, and some of his friends, falling like flies, he was waiting for the results from the same test that had told many of them a story they never expected to hear. After all, the disease came on in full force, and the players had minimal to no chance of survival. I realized that he needed to share his thoughts with someone. At the time, it probably seemed safe to share them with his youngest sibling, so I sat quietly and listened.

  After the brief exchange, we got up and made our way to the waiting room. As we walked up the hill along the side of the street, we shared a few laughs and truly enjoyed the rays of sunshine that could be seen in every direction. The dark shadows from the large buildings kept us hidden, but they couldn’t hold us back. I gently patted my brother on the back and said, “Everything is going to be okay.” 

  I’m not sure if I was trying to convince myself, him or the unknown presence in the sky above us when I spoke. I was talking to anything that would hear me, and I was praying with everything I had that my mother would come through the operation. Not only was that weighing on my mind, now I had to worry about my brother. I loved him, and it didn’t matter if he was straight, gay, bi, yellow, purple, black or red: he was my brother, my only brother. 

  After that day, we never spoke about what happened. As the years passed, it seemed like the moment in time that I experienced with him was a dreamlike image that found its way into my thoughts every now and then out of nowhere. Although I still worried about him, I came to learn during that week that when it’s your time, it’s your time. There’s nothing you can do about it when the time comes. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, and it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you happen to be. Death has no favorites, and nobody survives the game of life: there will be no last man standing.

  Now, almost 30 years later, “Bohemian Rhapsody” found it’s way onto my television, and I was thrown back to this time.  Along the way, I had almost forgotten the battle my brother faced in one of the scariest times in the United States. The younger generation probably doesn’t have a clue about it, or if tit does, it certainly will never grasp the fear and paranoia that spread across the heartland, from the big cities to the mountains. People were afraid to touch anyone who might be carrying the AIDS disease. Maybe I was ignorant to the ways of the world, but I always looked at my brother as my brother, and I’ll be forever thankful that he survived the scare. I was always sad for him, knowing that he had lost many close friends and even a few iconic people he looked up to, including Freddie Mercury.

  I’m not sure why I wrote any of this when I sat down, other than it’s the first thing that found its way into my mind. I’ve always respected my brother. I would do anything to be as smart as him, and I’ve always been fascinated by his intelligence. There are very few things in this world that he doesn’t know something about. He also has more historical knowledge stored in his brain than most people could comprehend. When he was chosen as one of the top students in the “Who’s Who of American High School Students,” they picked the right person. Although he’s a family member and I might be somewhat biased, I haven’t met many people who can compare to him.  I have always admired the variety of people he knows and speaks to on a daily basis. His circle of friends and acquaintances never ceases to amaze me.

  Now, we have drastically different lifestyles than we did when we were growing up, but each of us has found our place in this world, and we have flowed down the river of life just like the water that trickles down tiny streams, finds its way into rivers and eventually mixes in with water from all over the world when its journey begins again in the ocean. 

  My mother still looks over both of us as if we are still young children. She has survived the test of time, and both of us couldn’t be happier about that. We never could have asked for a better mother, a mother who gave so much of herself to make sure we found our way on the paths we chose to follow. She never discouraged either one of us, and she has always given us confidence and reassurance that we are doing the right thing. She let us make mistakes and learn from them, even if she knows she should step in and warn us of what might happen.  It has always been obvious how proud she is of both of us, and that pride can carry a person a long way, especially when you know your existence means the world to the one who gave you life.

  I’m glad that “Bohemian Rhapsody” brought me back to that summer day when my world could’ve easily caved in and the sinkhole could’ve swallowed me. Instead, we all learned a lot about each other, and we have never stopped learning. Change is constant, and we cannot predict what might happen from minute to minute, day to day, week to week, month to month, or year to year. That’s why we should all enjoy every day for what it is: another day to be ourselves and enjoy the life we have been granted. You don’t get a second chance so go create your own music and sing your own songs. You might just be amazed where the trail will lead you if your willing to take a chance and follow it when it appears brushed in and hard to see.

An Archer’s Journey: An Eye Opening Hour…1:8

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

 

This past week was a blur. I had far too many irons in the fire. Having to get my presentation ready for the Big East Outdoor Show made things on the archery end a little difficult. On Tuesday afternoon, I made my way to the physical therapist’s office for the first time in about six years.

Since my therapist is always concerned about my progression as an archer, he knows how to give me the proper guidance to rehab injuries the right way to get me where I need to go with the bow and arrow. It made me feel pretty good when he looked at my reports from the orthopedic surgeon and told me that he thought he could have me right back on the right track in a short amount of time. Of course, it would be up to me as to how fast the recovery comes along, as I will have to stick to the plan and do the necessary exercises.

When I was at work on Tuesday, I listened to Episode #206 of the Wired to Hunt podcast:

Wired To Hunt Podcast #206: Taking Control Of Your Archery Future and Target Panic with Joel Turner

 

Everyone should give this a listen. I’m pretty sure that many of you will greatly benefit from this, as I know I did. For many years, I thought was doing the right thing when I focused on my process. I always talked my way through the shot and when I got to certain steps, I consciously told myself what to do next. This became a problem at different times because my conscious mind went into overload, especially indoors when I felt a little bit of pressure.

A call the monster the Evil Monkey. The Evil monkey sits on my shoulder and talks nonstop. All of my friends know about the Evil Monkey. When I come off the range, some of my friends tell me that they had a lot of monkey chatter going on. This is when your mind won’t shut off while you’re trying to shoot. The mind runs wild from the time you draw the bow and runs right through the entire shot. That cute little pet monkey on your left shoulder can — at times — turn into a raging gorilla.When the monkey chatter starts, it overtakes your mind.

After listening to this podcast and applying what was said, I couldn’t believe how easy it became to shut my entire mind off by occupying the conscious mind with the perfect thoughts, thoughts that do not interfere with my shot routine. After listening, I also think that some great shooters don’t have to worry about things like this, however, many shooters like us Joes need to focus extremely hard on that stuff. Each person reacts to things differently. Finding your own process to follow is extremely important. I’m excited about this new chapter I’m going to begin working on. I have a great feeling that the way I will focus on the process going into the future will make me become more consistent and help with my nerves, which sometimes come out when the raging gorilla begins punching my brain.

As long as we’re on that topic, I’d like to give a shout out to my buddy Andy Bush, who shot 59 xs at the New York State Classic to win that event. I met Andy three years ago at the IBO World when I was lucky enough to have him in my group. Although he struggled a little bit that day, I could easily tell that he had great potential. His shot looked pretty clean, and I really liked him as a person. To see him come out with that win made me feel pretty good. He obviously had the pet monkey on his shoulder today and not the raging gorilla. Great job, Andy.

After listening to the podcast, I began working on my new process. I shot a couple of 660 rounds. I shot a 638 on one of them but felt like I executed a lot better than the score indicated. I also shot a 628, and the execution that night felt even better. I seem to be having a little problem with the arrows missing out the left side, barely. I think it might be from not trusting myself to move the sight. I shot a 447 in league this week. I ended up going back to my 35′ 3D and hunting bow, which makes me feel the most comfortable. I felt pretty good about the scores I shot with my 3D setup and small arrows. Hopefully, I keep progressing in the right direction. Here’s one of my rounds…….the very last end.

This week I’ve been fielding a few questions from people about a variety of questions. It made me think back on a day in the early 2000s. Although I had been doing well, I felt like I had suddenly hit a brick wall. I was performing like Jeff Hopkins on my personal 3D range, then I’d head to the national tournaments and fall well short of my capabilities, you know……..I’m Roger Staubach in my own backyard. I like the way my buddy Chuck Weeden put its, “I’m Chuck Beaubouef in my basement Nerves were making me come unraveled, something I’ve battled for many years. Sometimes I’ve beaten the beast, but the beast still rears its ugly head from time to time.

When I knew I needed to do something to calm my nerves and allow me to relax while shooting, I began searching all over the internet for different things I could do. Finally, I settled on a few of them. I signed up for meditation classes and Tai chi classes. I knew Tai chi was very similar to archery in the ways that mattered the most. I also figured that the meditation would help me to have a clear mind.

After going to meditation classes for a week, I stayed after one of them finished and told the instructor about the issues I was having at national events. I asked him for any advice he could give me since I was headed to the ASA Pro-am in Battlecreek, Michigan, the next week. He looked at me and said, “Do this: after every shot, get a little bit behind the group, and focus solely on your breathing. Do this every single shot of the tournament and see what happens.”

I had nothing to lose………….so I gave it  whirl. When the scores were totaled after the first day, I couldn’t believe that I was sitting at the top of the pack. I knew the next day would be really tough, but I went in with the same plan as the first day. I could feel my nerves, but I stayed to myself and focused on my breathing. The little bit of meditation that I had done in the classes was already beginning to work. I was finally able to clear my mind. Evil Monkey quietly slid down my arm and walked into the forest around the targets. He blended into all of my surroundings. Evil Monkey disappeared for those two days. When I walked off the range at the end of the second day, everyone was patting me on the back and congratulating me. They all thought that I had won the event, but my buddy Johnny had snuck up from a few groups behind me and got the victory. I was happy for him, and I was ecstatic about my progress. I shot to the best of my ability that day……….I simply got beat, and I didn’t beat myself. That was an incredibly feeling.

After that day I continued to meditate. I got to the point where I could do it easily, and shooting became much easier with a quiet mind. Along the way, I got off track and stopped doing it, even though I encouraged others to do it. I’ve realized recently that I need to start doing it again. It helps you in every aspect of your life. My buddy Chuck Weeden can vouch for it. I told him he needed to try it. His entire family noticed the difference, then he went on to shoot he highest score in a tournament shortly thereafter. That’s how I knew that this little thing that might take only 5-8 minutes a day has great effects. I challenge everyone reading this to attempt to meditate for seven solid minutes. See what happens and let me know. You can google how to meditate. It’s not a hard thing to learn the basics and what you need to do. You will be amazed at how incredibly hard it is to have a quiet mind. If you can get to the point where your mind is quiet for even 30 seconds when you try it that first time, I will be really impressed and might even give you a prize. Try this exercise and let me know what happens.

Okay, enough of all of that. It’s time give my archer of the week profile. This week it goes to Mark Meyers.

I’ve known Mark for a very long time. Mark has always reminded me a little of myself. He kind of blends into the backdrop and watches stuff around him. He’s one of the most observant people you will ever meet and one of the best people you will ever know. Although I’ve helped a lot of people along the way, I always send people to see Mark when they get to a place where I think they need more than what I can offer. One of the best things about Mark is that he’s never satisfied. He wants to offer people the best of everything. Although he’s a very successful coach, he even sees other coaches, like Mike Price, who he respects a great deal, to help him with his own shooting. Between those two coaching minds, I’m sure they can figure a lot of things out. If you ever want to advance your game, both of these guys are great choices.

Anyhow, back to Mark. He used to always be in the hunt at every type of tournament he attended. Eventually, he decided to focus more on bettering other archers and spending less time on his own game. Amazingly, when he does shoot, he still shoots well. He made the cut at the IBO World a few years ago and had a great showing. Yesterday, when he made a post about Jacob Slusarz, his student, I could see his pride. But his pride wasn’t for anything he did, rather, it was for Jacob’s win. Mark has helped many people become better archers. I’m extremely fortunate that he lives in my area and I can call him a friend. I know I can be a pain the ass at times, but he’s always willing to listen to me and give advice. A few years ago, he even watched me at the Lancaster Classic when the camera was on me for an extended period of time. He told me to call him when I got home because he saw something I might be interested in learning more about. I respect that about Mark. He knows I would never be insulted because he’s just trying to make be better. I feel fortunate to have his eyes on me, as well as Mike’s help from this winter. Between the two of them, I’m hoping to improve as time moves forward.  Mark also represents Darton Archery. I know that Ted appreciates everything he does, but until you actually see what he does, it’s hard to imagine. If you see Mark on the 3D range in New England or New York this summer, make sure to say hello and ask him any questions you can about the Darton bows or coaching. He’s extremely knowledgable about a lot of things. After conversing with him, you’ll feel a little smarter on your way home.

 

An Archer’s Journey: Frustration 1:7

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Now that it’s staying light later into the day, it makes me want to go outside and shoot my bow. Unfortunately, this weather is making that all but impossible, at least to do it comfortably. I made the dreaded trip to the orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday morning. When I made the appointment for my shoulder about six years ago, it was much different. I knew that something was seriously wrong. The elbow issue hasn’t struck me like the shoulder issue did. Instead, the elbow issue has been a nagging injury. It has never felt like anything too serious, but I also know I can’t let it go. I needed to ease my mind.

The visit went about like I had expected it would go. When I injured the elbow last summer, I never really took the time to let it heal. In hindsight, my choice wasn’t the best thing that I did last year. I gritted through the rest of the summer and added insult to injury. Although my shooting went extremely well, the pain never subsided. On many days, I could barely hold the bow steady while aiming.

I let the elbow rest for the three fall months when I spent the majority of my time in the woods, and it was relatively okay for the first few weeks of shooting indoors. Now, I know that the issues I’ve been facing are the result of a former injury and the loss of strength in my arm, which affected the area from my elbow to my wrist. I’m going to start physical therapy for it on Tuesday and take it from there. My mind feels pretty relieved.

After I found out that I couldn’t damage it by shooting, I headed to the range to gut it out. I’ve always been one of those guys who needs to shoot arrows to stay fresh. I can’t pick a bow up after not having shot and shoot well. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it goes.

Although I didn’t spray arrows all over the place, I definitely wasn’t too excited. I spent Friday night working on feeling my shot. I’m not sure why, but I can’t find it. It feels like it jumped off the side of the boat while I was drifting around without any paddles.

Things improved a little today. I have my 3D arrows shooting okay out of my 3D bow. Although the arrows are small, I shot a round to see how they were working. The round definitely wasn’t anything spectacular. I ended up with a 444 and not many Xs. I took it as a plus since I haven’t shot at all in a few weeks. Looking at the target, my first two bullseyes had most of the arrows in the 10-ring. The final bullseye that I shot didn’t look so good, and I’m not sure if it’s because I was tiring out. All in all, none of the arrows missed the 10-ring by very much. Something about the bow felt a little bit off, so I went home and started trying to figure things out.

I took the 29′ module out of one of my bows and put the 28.5 back in it. That was definitely a good start. I also put four twists in the string of my other bow to suck it up a little bit. Afterward, I went outside and shot both bows at 40 yards. I was impressed with the groups I shot, and I even broke a few arrows. The bow I changed the module in felt much better than the other one. I think the reason is that the back wall is rock solid with no give to it at all. I think that feel is important for me right now, as I’m trying to determine what draw length is going to allow me to perform at my highest level. I’m shooting 57 lbs on both bows, and that poundage seems to be comfortable.

Throughout most of the winter, I’ve been looking after Logan, my buddy Aron Stevenson’s kid, on Friday nights at league. He’s been working on some things, and I’ve been a silent private eye in the background. Like most seasoned archers, he got stuck on the score thing and started getting irritated when he wasn’t putting all of his arrows in the middle from 20 yards. Meanwhile, for his age group, he should be shooting from 10 yards. The little guy is competitive but almost too competitive.

We all know what that attitude can breed. Sometimes it can make us try too hard and other times it makes it hard to get the pin up into the middle. I had to convince him that where that arrow landed didn’t matter. This was a chore! All of you should remember this lesson, too. Don’t try too hard and put so much pressure on yourselves to score well. Do all the little things the right way and the good score will just appear on your scorecard.

That’s when his mom had to step in and give him a little speech about shooting to have fun and not taking all of the enjoyment out of by getting upset about a score that didn’t live up to his expectations. As the weeks have passed, he has gotten a lot better. He has been asking me to watch his shot and critique it. His shot has been looking fantastic the last few weeks. The only problem he’s been having is pulling through the click on his release at times.

When we approach the target to score his arrows, he tells me that his pin wasn’t anywhere near the middle when it went off, and there’s no way the arrow should be in the white. That’s when I had to tell him a story, a story I’ll share with all of you because I’m sure many of you have run into the same issue along the way.

Have you ever shot those shots that had no business being in the middle? Well, I have, and I know exactly why some, not all, end up in the middle. Many years ago, I attended a shooting class with Alexander Kirillov from PSE, and he put a laser on my bow. I couldn’t see where the laser was hitting, but I knew he had it set up so the movement could be recorded on a target a few lanes away.

He told me to shoot five of the best shots I could shoot. When I drew the first arrow, my legs began to shake, and my upper body joined the party. After shooting all five arrows, I couldn’t believe that they were all inside out Xs on a 5-spot target. I walked over to my father and said, “I don’t even want to see the video.” He responded, “I think you’re going to be surprised.”

I knew that I had seen the dot in the blue ring two times, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how those two arrows got in the middle. Well, as he was going through the videos and showing how different people held on the target, I was amazed at what some people did while executing their shots.

Then, he got to my video. He told everyone to watch closely because he couldn’t believe how steady I held the bow. When I saw it, I was amazed. Instantly, I saw why all of the arrows were inside out Xs. The two times I thought I saw the dot fall into the blue ring, it actually just barely hit the bottom of the X before bouncing back up toward the center. As nervous as I was while he was filming me shooting, I couldn’t believe my pin stayed that still on the target.

When the class ended, the coach asked if he could see me in private in one of the back rooms. I gladly obliged, and I’ll never forget what happened. He pointed his index finger at me, and said, “Listen closely. I have some advice for you.”

Then, he grabbed my left ear before latching onto my right ear with his other hand. He said, “Do you feel these?”

I responded, “Yes.”

He said, “You must learn to work on what is between the two of them. If you do that, you can compete with anyone.”

It’s something I have never forgotten. So to make a long story short, I told Logan that he was probably seeing his sight pin in a different place than where it actually was when the bow went off. He was unsure of what I was saying, and I could tell that he was trying to process it…………..just as I had tried to process everything I saw on the video that day.

Is it confidence that helps us shoot well? You be the judge.

The weekend after attending that class with Alexander Kirillov, I shot in the annual Guan Ho Ha Vegas tournament. Like any tournament I had participated in, I was pretty nervous at different times throughout the tournament. I had shots that were pounding out the center and had no idea how the arrows were finding their way to the middle. But I really did know how they were getting there, even though I didn’t want to acknowledge it. The same thing was happening that happened when I was being filmed, and I just trusted my shot. Trusting your shot when you think the pin is dancing all over the map makes shooting much easier. Over the years, I’ve become a master at trying to over aim. I’ve also become a master at letting my conscious mind talk to me throughout my shot process, which slows everything down and makes every shot a battle. When I peeled the target off the cardboard at that Guan Ho Ha shoot and tallied the score, I had shot 41 super Xs, and I knew it was because of the confidence I brought with me. It’s amazing what can happen if we allow ourselves to trust our shot.

 

This week’s shooter highlight goes to my longtime New England shooting buddy Rick Baker.

 

I’m not sure when it was when I first met Rick, but it was a long time ago. It could have been at one of the old Budweiser shoots in Merrimack, NH, back in the day, or it could have even been at one of the New Hampshire state shoots or one of the IBO Northeast Triple Crown shoots. Anyhow, none of that matters.

In my opinion, Rick is the best all around shooter in New England. Many guys are fantastic shooters at one thing. Some are great 3D shooters; some are great indoor target archers; some are great field archers; and others are great outdoor target archers. Rick is always at or near the top of every venue he performs in. When I shoot with him, he always seems to make it look easy. Going back 20 to 25 years, I feel like he has always pushed me to be better. I think we have a pretty even record if we go back across the years. We both never get too high or too low, and we shoot our bows because we love to shoot arrows. I know that it helps both of us to deal with personal stress.

There are two things in Rick’s career that I will never forget. The first one is when he smoked the field in the qualifying round of the IBO World at Snowshoe. He was basically unstoppable. Unfortunately, he did a little too much celebrating the night the qualifying wrapped up. The next morning didn’t treat him so well, and he paid the price for it. I don’t look at the final day, though, because I have to excuse it due to the unforeseen circumstances of the night before. If I remember right, I think Rick thought he had won the tournament. He didn’t realize that he had to shoot the next day until it was too late. Any way you look at it, he put on an incredible shooting display.

I also remember him going arrow for arrow in a shootoff at the Lancaster Classic while hundreds of other archers stood on the line watching. I probably would have come undone, but he stood there like he always does and just kept on shooting. I’ve always been amazed by his ability to hold the bow steady under pressure. If I could transfer anyone’s nerves into my own body, I would probably take Rick’s. It seems like he never gets too wound up about anything. I think that’s probably why I shoot well with him when we shoot together. Although, I can’t prove that by any of last year’s performances when we shot together.

I’m always appreciative of his advice, and I’m thankful that we met back in the heyday of 3D archery in New England.

 

Until next week ——————-> shoot straight.