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Goodbye 2015: What an Incredible Year

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Father’s Day 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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New Attitude

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing But Weeds?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroes

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Throughout my elementary school days my classmates and I were asked a number of times who our heroes were and why we choose them. As my classmates answered I sat back and took it all in. I heard all of the normal stuff such as famous baseball players, football players, ballerinas, actors and actresses, but very rarely did I hear, “My parents!”

From one year to the next I never hesitated with the answer or my reasoning behind it. My parents always provided me with everything I needed to grow up on a good environment. I was always well-fed, clean, rested and well-mannered. I was taught to respect people even when they don’t respect you.

My parents always told me to kill them with kindness. It’s very hard for someone to be mean to another person when the person is smiling. Give it a try sometime and you’ll see how well it works. Depending on the person it will either drive them crazy and make them extremely angry, especially if they harbor a lot of internal anger or it will make them calm down and smile, too. You can find out a lot about a person’s character by examining their reaction.

As I moved from elementary school into high school my parents remained my heroes. Both of them were hard workers and they did everything they could to ensure the happiness of me and my siblings before themselves. They were and still are the perfect models for what parents should be.

All of us kids were taught about the importance of money. We had to earn our own money and hold jobs when we were old enough to work. The three of us got lucky enough to land good jobs right out of the gate and gain ground quickly while working. Before I left for college I made my way into management and stayed there throughout college. I enjoyed what I did because the employees under me liked me, but more than anything they respected me. I ran a loose ship, but when it was time to work I accepted no excuses. I wasn’t a micro-manager as so many unqualified people in management are today. They taste some power and become power mongers without knowing how their actions affect the entire workforce.  When morale begins to spiral out of control the power mongers begin pointing fingers. They blame it on other employees rather than accepting the blame. It’s always easier to blame someone else than to own the problem.

Now, as an adult in my mid-life years, I tend to take it all in and ride the wave. I like to imagine myself as a surfer. I ride the wave without letting is suck me under and pound me into the sand on the ocean floor. Once the wave breaks and the water takes me toward the shore I hop off the board, hit the beach and walk away. It’s a simple way of avoiding the backlash of the waves. The younger version of me would still be out there fighting every wave rather than letting it take me where it wants to. There’s no sense in fighting a battle that can’t be won.

Even now I still have the same heroes as I did 40 years ago and better yet both of those heroes are still alive. I know how fortunate I am, especially when I look around at all of my friends who have all lost parents and siblings alike. My entire family is here and I know how lucky I am. Although I’ve lost all of my grandparents and a few aunts and uncles along the way  the roots of my tree are still planted in the ground around me.

Some days these roots seem like they belong to an unbreakable tree and other days I wonder how much more the trees can take before the big nasty storms blow them over. The weather was calm for many years, but the last few have brought one storm after another. The wind and rain keep pounding and the trees bend but they haven’t broken.

Heroes come and go in life. My heroes have walked beside me for the last 45 years. No matter what happens in the future I’ll always have their characteristics, which have been instilled into my personality for my entire lifetime up to this point. Choose your heroes wisely and do the things you have to do in order to be a child’s hero. Anyone, no matter who you are, can make a difference in someone’s life.

 

Here are my heroes.

 

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Marc Wilson: Goodbye to an awesome teammate

Monday, September 15th, 2014

I’ve been involved with athletics of some sort or another since I was six years old. It all started on a little league field in Hudson Falls, NY and continues today on all sorts of softball fields throughout the area. I’ve always enjoyed being part of a team and the sport played with a bat and ball has piqued my interest more than the others. Although I enjoy playing in adult hockey leagues there’s something about baseball and softball that hold my attention year after year, even as I head toward the half century mark.

Fifteen years ago I was asked to play on a softball team with a lot of guys who where considerably younger than me. At the time I was in my early 30s and most of these guys were in their early 20s. As most people know, the age gap in those years is a little different than the same age gap when you’re in your 40s or 50s. Most 20 somethings haven’t had much in terms of life experience, so they tend to live in a fantasy world where reality hasn’t clicked in yet.

When I was asked to play I gladly accepted. I worked with a few of the guys and the rest of the team was made up of their friends. I’ve always been able to fit in quickly with the people on all of the teams I’ve played with over the years and this team was no different. When I took the field with these guys I had a pretty good feeling we were going to be in for a long season and boy oh boy was I right. Actually it wasn’t a long season……………….it was a long decade. We got lucky and won a game here or there because the opposing team would have to play a game with eight guys, but it was rare. Over the last few years we finally started flirting with winning records.

From those first days there have been a lot of people who have come and gone, but the core group of guys still play today. The very first year I met Marc Wilson. He was a young kid who was full of life. He wasn’t a freakishly athletic specimen, but looking at him from a distance I figured he would probably be one of the guys on the team who could hit for power and drive in runs. After a few games I realized I was wrong. From my observations it appeared that he hadn’t grown into his body yet. Although he had a long way to go before becoming a good softball player he had something that very few people have and it was evident in the first game I played with him. I’ll never forget when he hit a ball down the right field line and headed toward second base with all the speed he could muster up. About halfway there everyone on the field knew he wasn’t going to make it, but he didn’t break stride and launched into a headfirst slide. Dust flew all over and Marc skidded to a stop. I couldn’t help but laugh when it was clearly evident that he hadn’t planned the slide too well. The shortstop stepped off the base and walked a few steps forward to tag Marc on the head. He never made it to the base. I still laugh about it today, especially when I see how far Marc came from that day.

Marc was always a stubborn guy when it game to softball. He would listen to advice, but almost always persisted on doing it HIS way. Kevin would lecture him about where to throw the ball and thankfully that finally stuck in his head the last few years. If a ball was hit to him he was mentally aware of the game around him. In prior years he was always unsure, but he allowed himself to learn from Kevin and listen to him.

When Marc started playing softball he always wanted to be a power hitter. He could never understand how a guy as small as me could repeatedly hit the ball over the fence. He always thought that since he was bigger than me he should be able to hit the ball farther than me. I had to explain to him that the size of a person doesn’t have much to do with how far he can it the ball. My bat speed and transfer of weight contributed to my power.

Eventually Marc found his place and realized his potential. I’ve never played with a right-handed batter who could place the ball so well on the right field line, especially when we needed a big hit. If the game was on the line he was always one of the guys who I wanted at the plate. He became a master at finding a hole between the fielders and did it consistently. Over time he realized he could also hit the ball on the line to left field. Whenever he game up the other teams would always yell, “Good hitter! Can hit it anyplace, but watch right field.” When you get a reputation in softball and all the teams know you it means you’re a good player.

Whenever I listened to the other teams chattering I always thought back to that slide into second base and couldn’t help but laugh to myself. Marc, the guy who was lost in his own body, became the guy who other teams feared and sought after. Along the way he found his place on the field. One year he tried pitching and became one of the most sought after pitchers throughout many different leagues and on tournament teams. If he was a major league pitcher you could say he was a nibbler. He would get two strikes on a batter and start throwing moon balls in hopes of landing one on the plate. He almost always got at least one strikeout per game and that’s good pitching in unlimited arc softball. He was proud of that, too, as he should have been.

About ten years after meeting Marc I got the feeling that in some ways he hadn’t really found himself among people other than his immediate friends. Since he was a good player and an even better guy I asked him to play on one of my teams. I knew these guys would welcome him onto the team as part of the family. As anyone would be, Marc was nervous the first time he played with us, but the nervousness didn’t last long. He went 4-4 that night and pitched a near perfect half a game (since he split time with our normal pitcher) and his contributions were the main reason for our victory.

As one week led into the next Marc became part of the family and one of the top players on the team. He lit it up with his timely hitting and shut down the other team with his half-time pitching role. My friends (who were now his friends) thanked me every day for getting him on the team. In the previous 10 years I hadn’t seen Marc experience anything like it. He went to the bar with us and hung out after the games. We ended up winning the league that year with only two losses. Although we got eliminated in the playoffs the rest of the year was an eye-opening experience for everyone.

Marc played one more year with that team before the league rules changed and you could only play on two teams. Since he had been on the other teams longer he chose to play with them. I was on one of those teams, so I understood what he had to do. I also knew by watching him where his heart was really at. Although he didn’t play on our team he continued to show up for our games and give us support. He remained really close to everyone on the team and came to the bar a few times even though he no longer played with us. After all………….he had become part of the family and our family has strong roots. He was one of us and he knew it. I knew it made him feel good.  When he showed up at the bar he always asked where the team picture was from the year we won the championship. He knew he was in it and he wanted to be in the photo hanging on the wall that said “League Champions” on it. To this day I’m to sure if that photo ever got hung up, but I’ll never forget how important that was to him. It was important to us, too, because without him I’m sure we wouldn’t have won the league.

When I was coming home from Colorado last week I was in an out of sleep in the backseat. About 24 hours into the trip I got the news. I sat in silence and glanced out the window as we drove by Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. I couldn’t process the news I had just heard. “Marc Wilson died.” How was that possible? Marc was only 35 years old and I played softball with him the night before I left for vacation. I talked to  him at my desk before I left about the games to be played when I returned. He told me how he was going to fix a hitch in his swing. He always tried to get better and I knew he meant what he said.

When I got home I still couldn’t believe the news and then when I got to the softball field on Thursday I expected him to be there even though I had said my goodbyes the day before at the funeral home. He was too good of a guy to go this soon and it hit me pretty hard. I went to the wake early so I could be by myself and deal with it on my own terms. I never expected to say goodbye to a guy 10 years younger than me who I played ball with two to three nights a week over the last 15 years. As one of my friends told me the other day, “God always picks the best flowers first.”

For the people who didn’t know Marc they missed out on a genuine and caring person. Since I wasn’t in Marc’s inner circle I’m not sure how he acted around his closest friends, but I do know that I’ve never been around a more respectful guy. He let his actions speak for his character. In all the years I played ball with him I never once heard him criticize anyone or say anything negative about the game, opponents or an umpire. I made an abundance of errors behind him over the years and he never once rolled his eyes at me or said anything about it. He was the best teammate a player could ask for. If someone made an error he thought it was his job to pick the person up. Although everyone wants to do this very few people are actually capable of getting it done, but he was one of the few.

Marc was a guy of few words around me, but his quick witted humor could make anyone laugh. Marc had a way of quietly spitting out a one-liner in a way that you couldn’t help but smile when you heard it. He was a guy who could make anyone smile without putting any effort into it. Marc was a guy who worked very hard to better himself in whatever he was doing. I saw it in softball because that’s where we shared the most time together. He would go to the batting cage to perfect his stroke. Some days he would go there before the game and then perfectly place the ball onto an empty green spot in the outfield. It was a pleasure to watch. Many days Marc’s work schedule wasn’t too accommodating for softball, so he would take his lunch break to play and then return to work. He went out of his way to make sure he gave everything he had in everything he did. He gave 100% in every at bat and with every pitch he ever threw. I respect him for that because so few people give 100% in anything, let alone a recreational softball league. Marc was a gamer in life.

Marc was never satisfied either. He always tried to get better and studied the game to do the right things to improve himself. One of the things that made me laugh is when people would misspell his name and spell it with a “K”. He would make sure he informed them they messed it up and politely ask them to get it right next time. I enjoyed that because one of my biggest pet peeves is when people spell my last time with an “e”. It was probably just another way that we quietly connected.

I’m glad I got to know Marc, especially after the first season of softball. I feel lucky to have watched him grow up on the softball field as well as in life. I remember asking him a few times in the parking lot where his car was and he told me he was having work done on it and he was driving his mom’s car. I appreciated things like that. He told me on a few occasions how thankful he was that his mom let him use her car. You can learn a lot about a guy by the way he speaks of his mother and that was true with Marc. Marc was a good guy and it showed in many different ways. I’ll miss him on the softball field, but I will also miss the days when he wandered up to my desk in the middle of the afternoon just to talk about this and that. As he found his place on our team a few years back, I hope he finds his place in the new world he is in now. He deserves to be surrounded by great souls just like his own. Rest in peace Marc. We’ll all miss you.

 

 

Accepting Life

Monday, April 14th, 2014

It seems like summer dropped from the sky the last two days without allowing spring to gently slide into place. It appears it won’t last long as a small dose of winter has been forecasted for the next two days. That’s the beauty of living in a place where you’re able to experience the four seasons. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how many people in the world never experience the seasonal changes we encounter every year.  I listen to many people bitch and moan about the weather and I must admit, even I do it on occasion.

In the grand scheme of life I thoroughly enjoy everything each season brings with it. Now that spring has arrived I’ll enjoy the unpredictability of the day to day temperatures and weather. One day it could be 80 degrees and the next day might be in the high 20s. Spring reminds me a lot of the things we encounter on our journey through life. Our lives could be cruising along on a freeway without a care in the world. Our car windows are down and it seems like we have the pedal on the floor as we put miles and miles behind us.

Suddenly a deer can dash across the road in front of us and everything in our life can be shattered. If we collide with the deer we might end up in the ICU unit in the hospital. We might wreck our car. We might crash into another car and hurt someone else or we might even drift into the sky in search of a new nesting ground. No matter what happens it’s painfully obvious that there are no guarantees in life. Life has no favorites and father time is undefeated.

When I was a child I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was five years old, but I remember very clearly what the doctor said to me at the time. He told if I stayed away from smoking and drinking it would increase my odds of living longer than expected. In the early 70s there wasn’t much known about diabetes. Heck, they hadn’t even developed blood glucose monitors at the time, so it was virtually impossible to see any patterns. I did my four urine tests a day, but urine could sit in the bladder for hours on end and present false readings. The readings might show negative for any glucose in the urine and that was because four hours earlier there was none present. When I was given my set of directions with all the do this and don’t do that items highlighted I made special note of it.

That is the reason why I get so frustrated with some people when they will not change for the betterment of their own health. We only get one life and it is up to us to increase our odds by listening to what the professionals tell us. Last winter when my dad had a heart attack I knew it would be a life-changing experience for him. I know it scared the heck out of him as it did all of us family members. We listened to the doctors when they told us he would have to make a lot of changes and we were ready to help him.

For the first few months everything went well. He stayed away from the stuff on the menu that he wasn’t supposed to indulge in and I felt good about it because I know there are many things I would like to experience, but have always avoided for the benefit of my health. Lately I’d like to pull my hair out when I sit back and watch him from a distance. How can you tell someone you care so much about to stop doing what they’re doing? He passed his stress test in flying colors so he thinks he’s all okay. I just can’t imagine being that ignorant to the real problem, the problem that can’t be seen or felt from the outside until it’s too late. It was minutes from being too late last time, yet that seems to be long forgotten. It’s not forgotten in my mind. I live it every day and the lack of concern and disregard for following a more strict diet that avoids foods that are not good for people who have had heart attacks is alarming. How can someone so smart be so ignorant to the fact that he was given a second chance?

I’m sure this happens to people all over the world, but for me I just wish my own blood could see the things I compromised while growing up and even into today to ensure I could live the longest life possible. I know old habits break hard, but they never break at all if you don’t give them an honest effort. Food tastes good. I get that, but continuing to fill your body with the things that led to first episode isn’t good.

I also know that one person can never help another person unless the other person wants the help. I’ll sit back and keep doing what I do while cruising down this highway. You never know when a deer will bolt out in front of you and at that point I guess it doesn’t matter what precautions you have taken along the way. As hard as it is to watch I believe I have to sit back and let the events unfold in front of me because whether I like it or not I’m pretty sure none of us have a lot of control over how it all ends because our path has been predetermined.

I’ve rambled a little bit tonight. This didn’t go in the direction I had intended. That’s the beauty of writing. Once you start writing you never know where you’re going until you dot the last sentence with a period.

Following My Feet

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I slept in on Saturday morning. I didn’t have enough energy to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn. It seems as if the energy has been drained out of me over the last few weeks.  Earlier in the week I had committed to attending an archery tournament to benefit the Hunt of  Lifetime Organization, so I planned on getting a little extra rest before heading to Plattsburgh in the afternoon.

The ride through the Adirondack Mountains was phenomenal. It’s the time of year when you can see large blocks of ice falling from cliffs as the sun warms them enough to set them free before they crash to the ground. It’s a phenomenon that has a different meaning for each and every person that is able to witness it. It reminds me of life.  No matter where we go or how high we climb we must always return to a base. The base may be our home if we have been on the road for a while or it could even be a trailhead if we have gone for a hike. No matter what or where the base might be it gives us a sense of security and with security comes warmth, not necessarily happiness.

Actually security too often feeds upon happiness and without stepping outside of ourselves we sometimes never have the ability to see the full effect that security has on us. We might find security with our jobs, hobbies, or partners. No matter where we find it we learn to accept things because we’re afraid to welcome change into our lives. Without knowing it we become stagnant and let life dictate to us what we will become and where we will go. If we have outside activities to draw us away from the security of everyday life it usually brings a lot of happiness to our lives, but if we don’t we can be doomed without any possibility of escaping from it.

While I have been a victim of security over the years I’ve also made sure to find things away from my security blanket to help me grow and become the person I want to become. I’ve set goals and made a plan to achieve them. In doing so I ventured into unknown areas and welcomed the obstacles I encountered along the way. When I stumbled upon blocked roads I simply put the blinker on and took a detour. Although there was no mapped out route I did my best to find a way through the places I had never seen.

When I returned to familiar roads I was secure once again. Security in a few areas of my life have been challenged recently and I find myself scrambling for other options. Scrambling can cause chaos and chaos can lead to panic. I’m thankful for being a laid back person. I tend to sit back and tackle things when I’m confronted with them rather than worry about things that haven’t happened yet.

Since security seems to be slowly disappearing in one area of my life I’m going to have to run my hands along the forest floor and grab a handful of leaves. I’ll toss a few into the wind and watch them disappear into thin air as the air currents carry them off the mountain. Just as a leaf doesn’t have the ability to predict its travel route neither do I, but I do have ideas and dreams to chase. Although my feet are gently carrying me across the dirt I’m sure they’ll lead me to the place I belong as long as I start walking in the right direction and don’t turn around until I arrive.

Spring: Chasing New Life

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

It appears that Spring has finally sprung. I’m sure we’ll still get some chilly weather, but I’m pretty sure the brutal cold has passed. In the last few days the snow has begun to melt at a rapid pace and I couldn’t be happier about it. With everything we do there always comes a point where we need a change of pace. It might be from a job, a hobby, or even a routine. Too much of the same thing can become stale and focus is lost.

That is the reason why competitors need to take a break from competing whether it’s in individual or team sports. Too much of the same thing leads to mental exhaustion. Once the mental fatigue sets in the desire to compete can quickly be lost. Every year when I used to compete in archery I was always happy to see September. I knew I had a solid three months of limited shooting. I could unwind at that time and approach it with a new and fresh outlook in January.

It has taken me all winter to find my shot in archery. I think I’ve finally found it now that the indoor shooting is coming to an end. Although I would have liked it to happen sooner I can’t complain because some people never truly find their shot just as many people never find their true purpose in life. For the vast majority of people their purpose escapes them. There have been times when I’ve looked in the mirror and thought I had it all figured out. I’ve never really felt lost on my journey with the exception of the agony I experienced during a painful divorce. Looking back at it I can easily say that the divorce led me to things I never thought much about other than in passing. When I sunk to the bottom of the barrel I dug and clawed my way out of the darkness to find a new light. The new light was lit when I began writing my first book and the candle burnt brightly for the next few years as I knocked that one off and wrote another one.

Now that I have two books behind me I seem to have fallen into another dark and gloomy barrel. I’m stuck in the monotony of a daily grind where I encounter the same thing over and over. My mind has raced from one thought to the next, but it always brings me back to archery and writing. It doesn’t take much common sense to figure out that I’m passionate about these things. I’ve been trying to see a future in them, but the road is not clear quite yet. I’ve had a number of brilliant ideas pop into my melon, but I always find myself questioning if these wonderful ideas can get me to the end of the rainbow.

That’s a question that nobody can answer. It’s a question that many people have faced while pursuing their own goals in life. It’s the reason why risk takers have no fear. They go all in with hopes of making it big. I’m sure failure crosses their mind, but it doesn’t stay there and prod them. Thoughts of success must outweigh the thoughts about failure. If I look at the target and fear missing I’m programming my mind to miss and the misses will come more readily than if I look at the target and expect to shoot the center out of it.

I’m at the point where the daily routine needs to be changed. One of my readers recently sent me a note saying he had reached this point, too, so he quit his job. I applaud him for doing something he believes will bring him a quieter mind and more internal peace. We all need to remember that although money makes things easier for most of us, it doesn’t bring us genuine happiness. We have to pursue the things we are passionate about and give it everything we have to ensure we can stay on that path…………………….spring is here and it’s time to experience new life.