Mediocre

Been a while folks…I’m still here…with my return from the shadows I’ve got a lesson from my father.

I was going through a lot of decision making this summer and my dad as always was a primary sounding board.

One day though he gave me a nice reminder.

He told me he didn’t care what I was, a coach, a teacher, a writer, sales rep, or anything but he didn’t raise me to be mediocre.

I was always taught that if I’m going to do something I out work everyone else at it. Better to not do something than to not do it well.

That reminder that mediocre isn’t in my genetic make up was the kick in the ass I needed to get back into the fight of life.

So as I write this post between sets in the weight room before I go to teach, I challenge all you not to be mediocre today. Step up to whatever challenges come looking for you today.

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Reflections on Strays

Strays was a heart breaker for me. Everything that could go sideways in the release. Sales have been low. Reviews have been slow. I dislike even looking at the book.

But…

Huge but…

There have been few times in my life I really felt awesome as a writer. It’s mostly self-loathe and whiskey. Decent bit of whiskey. Lotta bit of self loathe. I wrote the second book in a booth at what was the Middlesex diner. They kept my coffee full and my stomach fed. When the release date finally came, the diner was happy to host my release party.

That night people came from far and wide to support me. Many bottles of booze were drank. I read a pseudo sex scene in front of my mom and all of her friends. Luckily my sister, Brother-in-law and nieces had left by then. Three friends I had best manned for were there. A college friend I hadn’t seen in years drove six hours for it. Old room mates. Bosses. Coaches.

Writing is lonely.

That day I was not.

Strays may have disappointed, but the people I have in my life have not.

strays

Whatever you do…just dance

So I normally do lessons from my father. Forgive some latitude as I take it back a generation to my grandfather, Pete senior.

Around a decade ago I had a college social to attend with an out of town significant other. That out of town was Bloomsburg which is where my grandparents lived. Being a starving college kid there were few things better than a home cooked meal from your grandmother so I took the time to go see them for lunch.

While we sat there and I tried to awkwardly explain a college track team social as if it was a high school dance and not a bunch of college kids getting dressed up to drink(which I realize now they likely saw right through) my grandfather seemed relatively uninterested in the story.

But then he leaned over the table and with a stern finger pointed at me said, “whatever you do…”

At this point there’s a number of ways this can go not one of my predictions was right though.

…”just dance. Make sure you dance because if you don’t dance you’re no one.”

Now my grandfather ran his own junkyard his entire life. Like many of his generation a tougher man than I can ever hope to be.

Just dance.

After I brought my jaw up from the floor and listened to him and my gram debate dancing today vs dancing now his attention came back to me.

“Your girl wants you to dance. She wants you to be part of something. If you don’t dance you’re nothing.”

This talk has always stuck with me. And I wish I could say at that moment the light bulb went off and I never sat out another dance the rest of my life. But I’ve sat out a number of dances in my life, a number of experiences, all because I was afraid to be a fool. Worried about how I’d look to others.

The older I’ve got, the more mistakes I’ve made, the wiser I’ve become.

But I understand those words now in my life more than ever. Be in the moment. Be part of life. Be something.

And don’t forget to dance.

Adoptable

I get adopted a lot. It’s a trait that I am very proud of. Sometimes I’m a side show, sometimes I’m a lost puppy, sometimes I’m just really entertaining. But as we move into the Easter holiday I want to say thank you to all the families that have taken me in over the years. My own family is pretty great, but having so many other awesome groups open their houses to me and accept me as one of theirs has been some of the best experiences of my life. So, happy Easter to all my families, blood, water, and otherwise.

You don’t stop til the job is done

Today I wasn’t feeling my run. I had originally planned it to be an off day but a friend gave me Christmas cookies yesterday and well I don’t have Christmas cookies this morning so had to do something about it.

Today’s run sucked. Six miles I didn’t want to do and at times dropped back to a walk. But I don’t stop until the job is done. (Actually writing this on my cool down walk)

That doesn’t just go for workouts and the first time I realized just how instilled Tis was in me was when I started helping other people move.

I’ve held 18 different addresses in my life. There’s been a lot of adventures and in that time I got very good at moving. Many of those moves were with my father and usually it was done on our backs(thank you to the friends who shared that burden over the years)

Moving with my dad there wasn’t rest. Rest was when you got to sit in the truck on the drive back to get the next load. You kept your food and liquids there. No pizza or beer breaks. Pick things up put them down repeat until the job was done.

I use to think he was crazy until I started helping others move and would grow impatient at the down time. Most times any more my condition of helping comes with getting to run the operation(likely another thing I picked up from the old man).

But it’s not just the physical. It’s my life. I will fail. I have failed. And I will fail many, many more times. But it’ll never be because I was out worked.

Cool down is coming to a close and there is work to be done so I will wrap this up by saying thanks Dad(since you might be the last religious reader of this blog anyhow) and sorry I wasn’t there for this move. I’ll owe you one.

Breathing 

Last night had a long chat with my eldest sister(a solid touchstone in my existence) and the one thing we pondered was what would we do if we only had five years left to live. After I said mine she pointed out I didn’t mention writing, sadly(happily??) writing is breathing to me. It’s a secondary life function I don’t think of as part of my life, but my life would cease without. So cheers to all of you breathing life to the page today.

Never Use a Urinal in Hostile Territory

It was the eve of my first ‘meet me at the flag pole’ fight, which never came to pass. The flag pole was a local park, and the night before my dad was giving me a few pieces of advice. There are a number of gems in that advice that will likely find their way into other.

The piece I will discuss today was to not use the urinal if I needed to take a leak. I was roughly 12-13 at this point and time and had never given any thought to how vulnerable you are at a urinal. Pants down, hand occupied, back to the world. You’re just asking for a very embarrassing sucker punch.

Though the fight never happened, the lesson remained.

Whether it be a figurative or literal urinal I do my best in life to never expose my back to a threat. You can’t avoid every fight that comes your way, but it goes a lot better when you can see the hit coming.Urinal

Twofer

Today’s lessons from my father contains two of them.

I’ve just got in from watching my former high school compete in a championship swim meet and like it usually does it has me thinking back.

I came out for the team my sophmore year after having quit swimming a few years earlier. I wasn’t good when I quit, and I wasn’t good when I came back. I was lucky to have a coach that admired my work ethic, also gave me the super awesome nickname of Kassabi, and was willing to keep me on the team.

The way swimming works is there are three post season meets. Each one increases the area of competitors and the top times go head to head. This was my first season back and the most impressive thing I had accomplished was not quitting.

I entered the water for what I believed would be my last event of the season and in a little over a minute I would be done with my first season. By some miracle I dropped more time than I had any right to, not just dropping my time, but putting myself ahead of other teammates to give me a chance to go to districts.

So, what does my father have to do with any of this? There are two weeks between Mid-Penns and Districts. You don’t find out until after the first week if you’ve made districts or not. My time was right on the cusp. I would either just make it to districts or not.

My teammates were encouraging assuring me that they thought I would get in. My coach, though pumped for me, kept his expectations realistic. Most years my time wouldn’t have got me into districts. And here is the part where my father comes in.

The first day after Mid-Penns I came home from practice destroyed. I was now swimming with kids who had way more endurance than me. I relayed to my father how positive the team felt about my time, but how I felt I had no right to be there. I was way out of my league.

He told me that I had to stay in the fight and I couldn’t beat myself before the results were in, but I also had to keep in mind that you can’t drive through a red light just because it could turn green. With that in mind I returned to practice, giving everything I had to give as the fast kids lapped the crap out of me, fully embracing the fact that I wouldn’t be there the following week.

The second results were sent to the coaches on a Sunday. When I left practice on Saturday my coach said he would call me one way or the other. I got my phone call and expected coach to tell me that he was sorry, I should be proud of my season, and he’d see me at the banquet. Instead I was told I made the 24th spot of 24 swimmers.

No fairy tale ending here. I swam at districts, dropped more time, didn’t score points, but all in all had a pretty good first season for what I expected to do.

Here is the second part. After meets and games there is always a gaggle of parents raining praise on their kids. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Parents being positive is great. I just had a more honest dialogue with my father. Strengths and weaknesses, that type of stuff, so our conversations happened at home.

I always knew where to find my father in the stands. Ever since I was a kid he would always go top row to the left side of the complex. He was coming in from a business trip that day and wasn’t sure he would be able to make it to the meet in time to see me swim. I hadn’t found him before the race, but after the race I looked up to the area I expected him to be and he was there. He gave me a thumbs up, I returned a nod.

I’m sure we talked about my season as a whole and how I felt I did and things I should work on before the next season. I’m sure we talked about a lot of things. But the two things I will remember is he made it to my race, and the thumbs up. A dozen years later I don’t remember my time or what place I finished in, but I remember the thumbs up. Actions will stick with a person forever.

 

P.S. Congrats to all swimmers who had awesome races this weekend at Mid-Penns.

Hold Your Line

Hold Your Line

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“Indiana-rural-road”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indiana-rural-road.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Indiana-rural-road.jpg

My dad has competed in a number of marathons, triathlons, and one Iron Man. When I was a kid I would ride my bike with him while he went for his runs. At the time we lived in Bloomsburg, PA which is smack dab between nothing and empty. The photo above shows what a well lined road in Bloomsburg would look like.

For those of you who don’t know you are supposed to run toward traffic and ride a bike with traffic. What this meant was my dad and I should have been traveling in opposite directions, but instead we traveled with traffic. (This might have been so I didn’t get spooked when a car came at me, but I am not sure)

Dad would always post himself in a position so that a car would have to hit him first. If the road was wide he’d beside me, about a stride behind so I could just see him if I didn’t turn my head. On more narrow roads he would set up directly behind me.

On the narrow roads it was crucial that I held my line. I couldn’t waiver or I’d end up in the berm, or worse, traffic. Neither of these were safe for a six-year-old on his hand me down girls bike that had been spray painted blue. It didn’t matter what was coming toward me, or what I saw in the woods, or whatever I was day dreaming about, I had to hold my line.

The cars that would be coming at me were a full lane away. That didn’t stop me from watching them until they passed, which would cause me to drift off my line. When this happened my directional velocity would be corrected by an equal and opposite force, which got me back on my line. Through classical conditioning I learned that no matter what happens you always hold your line.

As another round of unsuccessful job hunting comes to a close, I have to remind myself that I already have my career. I am a writer, that is my line, and I have to hold that no matter what.

 

If You Work Harder, You’ll Go Farther

Path_through_the_trees,_Pilgrim_Hot_Springs

My dad has an undergrad degree in Criminal Justice.

He started out as a security guard at a power plant. From there he ended up working for Pennsylvania Power and Light. I’m not exactly sure how he ended up in sales, but he did. The next change took him to a AMP. After AMP he made the change from selling electricity to selling technology. (As he has always told me it doesn’t matter what you are selling, sales are sales)

His start with tech was at IBM(At this point he also acquired an M.B.A). From he went to Oracle, Oracle to Primavera, then the most impressive leap. In his 50’s he was hired at Google. When I would make the trek to visit him and hang out with his coworkers I was the same age as his sales team. I am pretty sure my dad might have been the oldest man in the building. He has since returned to IBM for a slower pace of life.

My dad has always amazed me by how hard he works. To be hired by Google. A company that you are an old man in if you are over the age of 25 my dad was able to get hired by, and then continued to succeed. He’s able to do this because he is a competitor. He will never be outdone. If someone else works for eight hours he’ll go nine. He never slows down and never lets up.

It is never enough to want something, or to work for something. You have to be willing to outwork and outlast everyone. Put in more hours. More effort. Give yourself fully to your cause.

You must work harder and longer if you want to go farther.