Monday, June 29, 2015


Cue the processional: Pomp and Circumstance, composed by Sir Edward Elgar. 

I cannot believe how fast the years have gone, it seems like only yesterday I was walking out of the delivery room. With my video camera in my hand, to catch their reaction, I told my Dad and Mother-in-law about the new girl in the family.  Where has the time gone?  According to Debbie, not only is Bec graduating, we are all graduating.  After going to, being involved in and participating within the Paramus school systems for 15 years, it is time for the Zeiler family to close that chapter of not only Bec’s life, but ours as well.

The ceremony was held on the football field, where 2 weeks earlier we did the Relay for Life.  Everyone cheered for their child as they were handed their diplomas (parents love this kind of stuff).  Each year, a small group of parents plans Project Graduation – a supervised event after the graduation held at a top-secret location with top-secret activities.  This year, amongst guesses and rumors that included night hiking, the Lincoln Tunnel and a haunted mansion, the newly graduated arrived in Weehawken to board a yacht around NYC (dancing, casino and dinner).  After midnight, it was back on the buses to the second secret spot, a county beach (Food Trucks, Hula / Fire dancing, Comedian and Hypnotist).  Debbie was part of the planning team and I had the honor of being one of the chaperones.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have been included and witness former high school seniors having a great time at this awesome sendoff, before they venture forth towards the next phase of their lives.  As we pulled back into town, we had seven buses of tired teens with a final great memory of high school.

Here is what I learned from this part of our experience:

  • It is important to enjoy the time you have with your children while they are young. 
  • It is important to enjoy the time you have with your children while they are growing up. 
  • It is important to enjoy the time you have with your children when they are grown up.

Important for you, since the time goes quickly – you only have now to spend with them.  Past time spent is history and time not yet spent is the future.  Time now creates the things you will remember.

Important for them, since the time goes quickly – they only have now to spend with you. Past time spent is history, to teach them how to become the persons that they will develop into; and time not yet spent is the future.  Time now creates the memories they will have of you and the legacy you will one day leave behind.

“Remember, the goal is not to raise great kids; it's to raise kids who become great adults.” ~ Andy Andrews

Cue the recessional: 76 Trombones by Meredith Willson.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why I Relay for Life

Why I Relay for Life.  I saw this on the back of the shirt of one of the organizations that participated last Friday at the Paramus High School’s Relay for Life cancer walk.  Underneath that saying were pictures of the faces of the people they walk for.  My Mom died of cancer – that was almost 19 years ago.  In that time, I have moved to a different house, raised a family, saw my brothers get married and develop their own lives.  I walk in her memory.  For my family, the more current reason for walking, these past 3 years, is my sister-in-law, who has been fighting the fight for years.  Cancer touches us all.  Cancer does not care about race, creed, age or income.  Cancer is an equal opportunity disease that can bring down friend or foe.  This year, a high school sophomore gave the survivor speech.  A HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE!  He found out that he had cancer shortly after last year’s walk, and said that at one point he felt it was easier to just give up.  Today, he is a survivor and once again an active teen.  My sister-in-law, Magda, is pictured with our friend, Rich, also a cancer survivor. They are our team’s survivors (we kid them that they are our “mascots”) and we are extremely happy and proud to have them with us, to share the event and provide inspiration to others.

I have another friend, Bruce, who had been fighting the fight for almost a year.  He was diagnosed last summer with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  This past Tuesday night, after a year fighting, he entered hospice care.  I went, along with our friend, Ed, to visit with him Wednesday night.  An hour after we got home, I received the call telling me that his battle with cancer was over.  This was a good man, a husband, a father, helpful to people and always happy.  No matter who we are, we all know someone that has had this disease or is currently in the trenches fighting.

Each year, the Relay for Life event starts with speeches and a roll call of the survivors present.  This year, they called up over 100 survivors, an increase from the 80-something they had last year.  “See, I told them that I would deliver 100 survivors this year” was the statement made.  Good news – we have many more survivors this year.  Bad news – that many more people had to fight the fight this year.  However, I guess at the end of the day, that is why we Relay.  We Relay to raise money for research so that the number of survivors can increase each year, until we reach the day when we no longer have to fear the word cancer and what it stands for.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lessons Learned Jumping from a Plane

 “I jumped from a plane!” reverberated in my head in the days following last week’s jump.  The emotions, the impact and the high from the experience remained within me.  I finally have the time to really reflect on the events and realized the lessons to take away.  Without knowing it, jumping from an airplane is like running a project:
  1. Planning:
    The jump was clearly for Gab’s 20th birthday, something that she had wanted to do.  Along with our friend, James, Debbie and I started the planning process sometime around November.  In planning for the jump, the first step was finding the correct place.  After some research by the seasoned jumper (James), he chose Skydive the Ranch in Upstate New York.  We would go in June, when the weather would be good and James would be visiting from Australia.  Then we decided to make this a weekend event, so that we would have a Sunday as a backup (good to have a contingency plan) for bad weather.  Debbie and I chose a bed and breakfast, called Bernetta's Place , a wonderful place in Wallkill, NY.  The planning phase was complete.  The “project” kickoff meeting? Gab’s birthday!

  1. Identifying the Risks:
    The basic risk – Jump out of a plane at 13,500 feet + hitting the ground at warp speed = No More Wayne.  That is putting it simply.  When we got to the Ranch, we saw a video with Bill Booth, inventor of the 3-ring jump harness and innovator of tandem jumping.  He told us EVERYTHING that can go wrong.  During the presentation, there was a wailing sound peppered with, “OMG’s” and “I’m gonna cry.”  Yes, Debbie was in the room with us.  Gab and I signed the required documents to say we understood the risks and any mistakes were our fault.
3.       Highlighting the Benefits – this is why we do this:
a.       We get to jump SAFELY from a plane
b.      Great bonding experience
c.    Stepping out of our comfort zones

4.       Development (mindset):
Very important on any project that one has in front of them.  If this was software we are talking about, you would have to make sure that you understood the programming language, reviewed the specs and then began the work.  In jumping, you have to:
a.       Get into the right mindset. 
b.      Be 100% open to doing this. 
c.       Excited about stepping out of your comfort zone and having a new experience.

5.       Training
a.       First Time Jumpers – This is a simple tandem jump, which related to Gab, workmates Annie and Ramona and myself.  Tandem jumpers need to be “handled” the entire time, starting with being suited up.  We learn what will happen, how we are attached to the instructor, how to move from the bench to the plane door, jump, free fall and glide to a safe landing.  Time = 15 minutes, then you are ready to jump.
b.      Recertification – This is for someone that has had jumping experience, but has let his or her license lapse after many years of inactivity.  Our friend Clint had to spend a few hours reviewing the process with someone and staring at maps so that he could locate where to land.  Time = 3 to 4 hours, plus jumping with an instructor and 60 days to apply for license and 1 additional jump.
c.       Certified jumper – This is for someone with a license and an up-to-date jump log book.  James just smiled, used the lingo, then suited up.  Time = 10 minutes (to suit up), then jump.

6.       Implementation
a.       Testing

Before you bring a project live you have to do testing (quality assurance, user acceptance testing).  Harness was checked at least three times before climbing on the plane.  On the plane, the instructor I was with checked my equipment before attaching us together.  Then he went through a test of the equipment with me.  There were at least two more checks before the door to the plane opened.

b.      Go-live

The neat thing about live is that you can script out the steps required to bring the project live.  No difference here.  There goes Gab jumping out of the door.  Follow the script:
                                                               i.      Scoot forward on the bench
                                                             ii.      Squat down and duck walk to the door and have toes outside the plane.
Weird, I notice the gray, industrial carpeting that looks like it starting to
       separate from the plane floor.
                                                            iii.      Thumbs up to camera man
                                                           iv.        Head back, rock forward, rock backwards, rock forward out of the plane
                                                             v.        Feet back, wait for tap on shoulders, arms straight out.
                                                           vi.      “Cause I’m free, free falling” (courtesy of Tom Petty)
                                                          vii.      Shoot opens, glide gently to the earth
                                                        viii.      Feet up, land, kiss the ground below my feet

OK – made up that last part, but was happy to see Gab safe and sound and looking happy.  My wife, like the users I have at work, was happy that the execution went as planned and to have her family back safe on the ground. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stepping Out Into the Unknown

On June 3, 1965, Ed White became the first American to leave a spacecraft and “walk in space” which he later stated was the most comfortable part of the mission (source:  Talk about stepping out into the unknown!  While he was not the first person to walk in space (the cosmonauts had done this 3 months earlier), the American experience did not exist prior to the planning and preparation of the Gemini 4 mission.  When originally talking about this journey, I am sure that it took a “leap of faith” (pun intended) to have the confidence to accomplish this major step in our space program.

How often in our own lives, do we actually step out into the unknown?  I mean, how often do we take on a new challenge, one that we hope will be successful and we need to plan accordingly?  Yes, I know that we can listen to the news, or read in the newspapers or online about people that think they have the super powers to do something the rest of the human race would deem as stupid.  For reference, you can look up the Darwin Awards.  What if you had the chance, were provided a safe environment, with proper planning and preparation, to take on something that most people would avoid for lack of understanding and preparation?

I do not consider myself an overly courageous person.  I like living.  I will do little to jeopardize that; I plan to be on this planet as long as I can, with the goal of reaching a three-digit age.  I did not bungee jump, even when the opportunity was in front of me.  Fear of dying was a strong de-motivator, even though the attraction was COMPLETELY SAFE.  However, this past Saturday, I stepped out into the unknown!

Head back. Rock forward.  Rock back. Rock forward.  The familiar hard surface below my feet was gone.  I saw the sky as I rolled and then the ground far below.  I HAD JUST JUMPED OUT OF A MOVING PLANE!  “Oh my,” said the tiny voice in my head.  No thought followed, as there was no more yesterdays and no more tomorrows, only NOW.  I felt the tapping on my shoulders to let go of the harness and extend my arms forward – I was parallel to the ground.  I saw the video guy float before me, facing me and I remembered to smile.  This was not a dream - I WAS FLYING!  OK, to be exact, I was falling from 13,500 feet towards the Earth.  Weird, I have no sensation of time or speed, so the sense of falling did not register.  All I heard was the massive sound of the wind passing my ears.  I see the ground, I see the sky, and I notice the mountains and the river.  Then I am perpendicular to the Earth, floating gently downward, a chance to really notice the green ground and enjoy the view.  “Feet up,” said the instructor.  A few seconds later, we slid safely on the grass.  I found Gab, who had jumped out of the plane right before me with our friend (and skydiver), James (who was in free fall next to Gab), wearing a smile as large as the one I was wearing.  Then we met up with Debbie who was very happy to have her husband and daughter back on the ground with her.
 15 – 20 minutes flight up, 1-minute freefall, 5 minutes floating.  Was I nervous beforehand…a little.  Was I excited beforehand…very much.  Was I happy for the opportunity…extremely.  Afterwards, we were told that less than 1% of the population has ever jumped from a plane. Would I do this again…maybe.  I had a chance to “step” out into unknown, survived to write about it and thankful for the opportunity.  We jumped as part of Gab’s birthday present, and joined by some friends that jumped or watched.  It was a great day and a great experience.

If you had told me years ago that I would willingly step out of a plane, I would have thought you were nuts.  Sometimes, you never know what to expect, or how you will feel when you step outside of your comfort zone.  With proper planning (minimizing the risk), you can surprise yourself with a fantastic, positive experience.  Keep that in mind the next time you have a chance, in a safe environment to step out into the unknown…