Monday, August 31, 2015

Where Has All This “Stuff” Come From?

Did you ever take a step back and look at the things that fill your homes?  I am afraid to do this.  Honestly.  I feel that if I took stock of the “stuff” in my house (and, I guess, my life), the posted picture of me at the Cliffs of Moher would have the rocks replaced by “stuff” (yes, you can substitute any word there that might be more appropriate).  My basement had a flood two years ago…I still have the piles of “stuff” with no homes and for some reason, even though I avoid that part of the room, the mounds have continued to grow.  In my case, as far as I know, there is no tectonic plate movement in my basement. I feel like Pigpen from Peanuts…every level in my house, the garage, the attic, and the kids rooms (their “stuff”); “stuff” seems to follow me wherever I go.

For the three weeks in Dublin, I lived out of a hotel room.  Yes, that would be a lifestyle I can get used to.  Walk downstairs in the morning and enjoy a breakfast buffet.  Someone straightens my room for me.  Fresh, clean towels provided daily.  Laundry folded and delivered to the room, whether I am there or not.  All of this, and I survived with just the needed amount of clothes, mobile devices and a laptop.  From a materialistic point of view, all I missed was my piano.  If I wanted something that enhanced what I had or was hungry, just walk outside and go to the supermarket nearby or to one of the stores, which were plentiful.  Life was great.  So why, when I am at home, do I need all of this “stuff”?

Some “stuff” is from different parts of my life, like:
  • Cassette tapes (long gone are the 8 tracks), mostly Grateful Dead shows, which I can easily listen to online 
  • VHS tapes, mostly Disney and other movies we wanted to share with our girls when they were young, which I can easily watch on demand, on my computer or TV
  • Books, both from school and for pleasure, mostly to fill a library room one-day (like I need a whole room for more “stuff”), which I can easily read electronically and take up no space
  • Paper / bills / documents sitting in piles to be filed, mostly as a record for tax purposes, which I can easily scan and store electronically and catalog more efficiently
  • “Heirlooms” from my parent’s house to pass on to Gab and Bec, which we neither use nor display and my kids probably won’t want.   
Maybe I was a pirate in a past life, because I know there has to be a treasure hidden under some of our “stuff”.  The truth is, I probably do not need all of this “stuff”.  The solution?   Once the girls are off to school, Debbie and I will start the process of thinning out our “stuff”. 

How do you handle your “stuff”?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sláinte! Is Éireannach Mé!

Cheers! I am Irish!  Yes, it is good to go away and play the ultimate tourist.  It is even better when you can walk away from your time abroad and say the at you gained / learned something from the experience.  This is part of the fun of traveling.  When we were in London, the concierge recommended that we use the underground and travel around like Londoners.  Great recommendation!  By the end of the day, we were able to get around and felt like part of the city.  The same followed through in Dublin.  Yes, we took tours, et cetera, and they were great resources as they all told of the vast history of Ireland.  I learned that while there has been an “Ireland” for over a thousand years, it has only been a “proper” country since 1922.  These are a people from Celtic origin, invaded by Normans, heavily influenced by the Vikings and subjugated by the English.  Did you know that at one time there were over 150 kingdoms in this land the size of Indiana?

On a more specific level, we went to see a storyteller one night.  As a member of Toastmasters International, I brought my interest in speaking with me.  She spoke for quite a long time, telling stories pulling from Ireland’s history, their folklore and general life.  It ends up that storytelling is part of the Irish culture.  There are many nights spent in front of the fire (or at a local pub) with friends and family taking turns telling their stories.  Where in the States, storytelling is something that few people are good at, here it is something that everyone is encourage to do.

I was not the only one to learn something about / from this rich culture, here are the thoughts of my fellow travelers…

Gab’s Weekly Thoughts:

I have always loved to travel because I can get to experience other cultures.  As you may know, I am very into music.  One of the great things about music is how you can find it anywhere.  Something that we learned about was how families make a point to share stories and songs with one another.  It is nice to know that there are some places that are still learning and teaching songs by rote (aurally), especially since today, many people only listen to iTunes or the radio.  After reading this, go share a story or song that you learned from someone else to keep this tradition alive!

Bec’s Weekly Thoughts:
One thing that I have always loved to do was travel. I love traveling so much that I have decided to major in travel-tourism and hospitality management, hoping that I will someday find a job where I get to travel. Going to Ireland and London and helping to plan out each day definitely reassured me that I have chosen the right major for me. Going to Ireland was one of the best experiences and I cannot wait to see where as life takes me.

Traveling is fun and so is learning from where you visit.  As our friend James pointed out to me, at the Gaelic Football Semi-finals yesterday, for him, he learns a lot about the people and their culture by how they act their sporting events.  We each have our own way that we can relate and should take the time and effort to do so.  It is a big world filled with many wonderful people and places.
It was good craic!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I Have Left The Country

I have had the opportunity over the past 20 years, through work, to travel.  I have made trips to Latin / South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.  You might say that I have gotten around.  Contrary to popular belief, business travel is not like going on vacation.  Many times, I have seen a location in terms of where I am staying, where I work and where I eat.  There have been a few times where I spent an extra day, or squeezed in an hour to do something touristy.  Working on location is good – a chance to work face-to-face and be more productive than attempting to coordinate time to work together (especially in different time zones).  Sometimes, I have traveled alone and while I have found good places to eat, I spent dinnertime alone in the company of a book, then retiring to my hotel room to spend more time alone.  Sometimes, I have traveled with someone else from work; it is good to have someone to eat and hang out with, but, in the end, at the end of the day, there is just Wayne, alone in his hotel room.  I realize at these times how much I miss my family.

As I planned my current business trip to Dublin, I would be away from home for over 2 weeks – a long time.  Every time that I travel, Bec has asked if she could come along.  It did not matter to her that she would have to skip school; she just wanted to go.  Debbie mentioned that maybe this time it could be a good time to “tag along”, with school out for the summer, Gab being finished with her summer job and a last chance to do something fun as a family before both girls leave for college.  For the second time in 20 years, I would have this special chance to bring Debbie, Gab and Bec with me, for at least part of the time on my current trip.  Taking a few vacation days up front, here was a golden opportunity to be together on an adventure abroad! 

There is something special about being out of the country, no responsibilities, no pressures and being able to go and experience life.  These last ten days have been GREAT!  Even while I am working, it is a wonderful feeling to “come home” to my family.  I am so happy we did this.  This morning, I said goodbye to Debbie and the girls, as they head home.  Tonight, when I go back to my hotel room, I will once again be alone and will once again miss my family.  This trip, however, I will have the warm memories of spending the preceding days with them.

The bottom line, we have to make the experiences that become good memories for our family and ourselves.  Our times together are precious and should be valued.  That means taking the time off from all of our obligations to do things together, whether at home or abroad.   Please feel free to share your experiences / thoughts…

Monday, August 10, 2015

Are You Connected?

Monday through Friday, I commute from my home in New Jersey to work in lower Manhattan.  I travel with my iPad, usually using the Kindle app to read.  OK, sometimes, as a change of pace, I work on a 550 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes, I people watch.  On a crowded subway, people watching can be a challenge, as you do not want to seem like that creepy person caught staring at somebody else.  I began to notice that a significant amount of people have headphones on.  As I walked from the “E” train to my office, there were many people wearing their headphones, or walking and texting.    As I walked through the office, I noticed a significant amount of people sitting, working and still with the headphones on.  I am not even sure if I have a pair of headphones!

People today, and primarily Millennials, seem to always want to be “connected.”  I do not mean like the people between the millennial generation and the baby boomers where connected means using your PC, laptop or iPad to remain connected with the world at large.  This group lives on their phones and portable devices.  My own kids, which fall on the Millennial / Generation Z cusp (yes, I am using an astrology term) are the same – iPhone in hand, iPod in the ready and the laptop in tow. 

I must confess – many years ago, I tried listening to music while walking from the Port Authority to the office when we were in mid-town.  All other sounds were blocked out.  I did this twice and came to the conclusion that I felt uncomfortable not hearing the “normal” sounds that surrounded me.  I like hearing the ambient sounds, I like knowing what is going on around me and I like hearing what is going on in the office.  Call me old fashioned, but I still like being connected to the world I am navigating through with all my senses taking in the scenery around me.  The challenge to you, dear reader, is to unplug yourself, put down the device, smell the roses and enjoy the world around us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Just Signed a New Contract!

I knew that the time was coming and I could not believe it was here.  There it was in front me, all I needed was to put the ink to the paper.  Of course, this would mean a change.  I know I have talked and written about change, the benefits of change and peoples’ aversion to change.  How would I now react when in the same position?  All of a sudden, the conversation started up in my head, not quite like Pinto in Animal House, but enough to give pause to what I was going to do.

“Do it!  Do it!”
“I do not know if I can, I am so comfortable and it is easier to keep things the same.”
“Wait, aren’t you the one that writes about the benefits of change?  And deals with change at work?”
“Yes, I am guilty on both counts there.”
“So, Mr. Hypocrite, what’s the big deal about making a change?”
“Change, even for someone that promotes change, does not always come easy.”
“Ah, you’re full of hot air, like them politicians.”

So here I am, on the ready.  I remember my Dad saying I tended towards not liking to make changes when I was younger.  Am I, when it comes to me?  I mean, it has been years without a change.  Take a deep breath, Wayne. 

Does this make sense?  “Yes.” 

Have the conditions in my life changed over the past few years?  “Yes.”

Do I really feel good about this?  “Yes.” 

OK, I am going for it.  I sign my name and after about 12 years, I was going to make the change.  I felt giddy, like a little kid.  I know that I made the right decision.  After leasing four Camry’s, I am switching to a Prius!  Change, after all, is good!