Sweet Adela…about time I write to you.

For the past three years my focus has been on Jackson.  That took a slight turn on March 14th, 2017.  You entered the world on Pi Day and I am having a hard time not nicknaming you Pi in honor of it.  Let me tell you, you wasted no time in arriving.  You were almost born in the hallways of the hospital.  Why do I suspect you will then be just as fast at everything from here on out.

You are an incredibly happy, incredibly patient and incredibly “give me a little face time here” sort of girl.  You have a smile that can melt my heart in an instant and you are constantly moving.  Nothing anywhere near your reach is safe and believe me we have learned that lesson far too many times already.

You are named after your great great aunt Adele.  The misspelling of your name is deliberate on your parents part as they do not want that heritage confused with the singer Adele who is quite a big deal right now.  Just ask Jackson about “Hello” sometime.  Your namesake was the keeper of the stories and the history of our family.  She never wanted to learn to drive but she rode a motorcycle for her 100th birthday.  She told stories right up to the time of her passing at age 101 though some of them will not be safely repeated much before your 18th birthday.  Adele was a feisty lady with all sorts of spirit.  I know you will live up to her reputation.

Adela, you are loved by everyone but no one more than Jackson.  He cannot let an hour go by without kissing your nose or your forehead and then giving you a squeeze or a hug.  He adores his little sister and is pledged to watch out for you always.  I suspect somewhere down the line you both will have your moments but for now it is all bliss.

Just a little over a month ago, you moved to your new home.  You were born a Madisonian but you are now a resident of Verona where I suspect you will spend most of your youth as you grow into the woman you are to become.

The Arch

We just returned from your first big adventure.  We took a road trip to St. Louis and you came along.  It was unbearably hot and humid but you were a trooper.  No fuss and plenty of smiles.  We saw an incredible museum that I am sure your daddy will want to take you back to for more adventures of your own.  We rode to the top of the Gateway Arch, 630 feet above the city, where you took in the sights from the carrier on your mommy’s chest.  But the big event was the eclipse.  Your Opa and Mimi waited 33 years to see the return of the eclipse and you have started your life in it’s repeat performance.  As we told Jackson, the moon swallowed the sun and for several minutes we were in darkness in the middle of the day.  We all put on special glasses, including you, and we watched the eclipse unfold.  I know you won’t remember this one but perhaps the next one in seven years.  We will retell this story over and over until you might actual feel like you do remember it.  Your great great aunt would be so proud of the story’s telling.  Through all of this, the driving, the sitting in the heat, the hiking to the site, you were a trooper. Never a whimper and never a fuss.

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This is only the first of many stories yet to come, but it was time you had the beginnings of your story written down.  Know this, you and Jackson are both the focus of my attention now and you are both the love of my heart.  I can’t wait to watch you grow and I look forward to many more adventures to come.

Aah…Retirement, the sweet smell of Success

It is week one of my newly acquired retirement.  I feel compelled to let my worriers know, so far so good, and for those of you approaching retirement a few pieces of advice.

First and foremost, don’t over plan.  Everyone wants to know what you are going to do.  Don’t be shy, tell them you don’t know but you will seize every opportunity.  Only in this way can you disconnect gracefully and not create a guilty conscience at day one.  Let life roll towards you now.  Instead of trudging up that hill, tackling each day, let the day come to you.

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My day one, without any intent or knowledge on my part, was the day of the total eclipse.  My daughter Bailey, had planned it several months prior and it never dawned on me that it would be my first full day of retirement.  What an incredible way to start.  We took off on Sunday morning bound for St. Louis with daughters and grandchildren in tow.  Monday we traveled 35 miles south to the center of the path in a little town called Festus, MO.  I would explain the origin of the name but that can be your adventure.  At 1:18 pm the moon and sun reached totality.  No words can explain the emotion but save to say we shared it with about a thousand people.  The cheers from the crowd, followed by the awe as we gazed upon the eclipse was worth all the effort.  We were surrounded in a 360 degree sunset which leaves one stunned and speechless.  Birds were flying crazily to their nests and the insects came suddenly alert with a cacophony of noise.   Two minutes and thirty seconds later it was over.  We had traveled four hundred miles and spent nearly seven hours collectively in our cars to witness a two minute and thirty second event.  To stand there and witness it first hand in the mid day dusk was priceless in every sense of the word.  That evening even my three year old grandson Jackson, was telling his dinner friends all about how the moon swallowed the sun and he saw it!

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Though the picture cannot do it justice, totality and 360 degrees of sunset.

Not bad for day one.  The next two days found me exploring a museum with Jackson and then time spent catching up with a dear friend and his family in a neighboring city.

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Jackson with his body guard, Kathryn, about to enter the high point of this insane structure.  We will title this “no fear” but maybe a little vertigo for Kathryn.

The Arch

Threw in a visit to the Gateway Arch.  More vertigo, some claustrophobia and an awe struck Jackson peering through the windows 630 feet up.

It is now day three and I am promising myself to add some routine to my days.  Nothing too big, just activities I can build on.  Oh yes, and the honey do list.  That started this morning and in my opinion I did a bang up job.  This is by no way an invitation to make this a habit but my suspicion is it will become one of the routines.  Well, at least now I have all the time in the world to do it.

I admit it is early, but I think I just might like this gig.  I am feeling that all the effort that went into the journey was worth it and that I am feeling a great sense of success at its end.  If you are close, I hope your first days are just as exciting.  Just remember, don’t chase them, let the days and the weeks and the months and the years all come to you.  And then embrace each one for the gift it is.

Twenty years and one box

As I sit here looking over my office of the last twenty years, I see bookcases full of professional books and file cabinets full of years worth of files and lots of memorabilia filling the room.  And yet when I leave in four short days, I know that what I will take with me, will for the most part fit in a single box.  It is amazing how so much of one’s life can be boiled down to its essence.  When I leave for the last time, I will take with me a couple of these books and most of the memorabilia, but I will also take with me so much more that doesn’t need a box, the memories.

I have worked twenty years building these memories and over the past year I have revisited them countless times through the stories  shared with my clients as I slowly closed this chapter of my career.  What has left me grateful is the affirmation that I had touched so many lives along the way.  I have been with many of my clients for all of the twenty years in this office and for some, many years beyond that while I worked from home.  Through the years I have been privy to many of the events that shaped their lives, graduations, marriages, births and sadly deaths.  To know that I was invited into those events leaves me humbled.  To be thanked for helping my clients navigate their way through them leaves me honored.

It is strange that all of that history can be crammed into one box.  But it is only strange until one realizes it is the “why” we do what we do and not just the “what” we do.  When you look at it from that perspective, you realize that the “why” is what creates that sense of accomplishment and pride in what you did and those memories and emotions need no box to be taken home in.

So as I leave my office for the last time, I will take with me one box of stuff and a heart enriched by the memories of the lives I have been honored to be part of.

The Slow Walk..or the only way to appreciate Madison

I just finished the world’s slowest walk also known as The Madison Farmer’s Market.  The pace was slow in part due to the throngs of people enjoying the chance to shop for the freshest produce to be found but also to the fact that it is the pace of a beautiful Saturday morning in Madison.  For anyone who has not been able to experience it, the Farmer’s Market stands as the center piece of Madison summer Saturday mornings.  The eight blocks surrounding the majestic Capital building are completely filled with all sorts of produce stands.  Mushrooms to Meats, cheeses and cheese curds to cauliflower and cucumbers, fresh bread to fresh cut flowers.  If you can imagine it, you can find it somewhere in those eight aroma filled blocks.  Goats milk anyone?  Maybe some Ostrich jerky.  And did I mention the Capital views and the vista’s down side boulevards to the two largest Madison lakes?  Or the view down State Street with the University and Bascom Hill at its terminus.

I came to Madison in 1977 after spending the first twenty-six years of my life figuring out how to get here.  That fall, I began the next leg of a teaching career that would span twenty-one years and eventually morph into a career in financial planning.  In the ensuing years, I have owned two homes on the eclectic East Side, met my wife and raised two beautiful children.  I am currently enjoying being a part of the raising of two grandchildren and loving the fact that they can grow up here in Madison.  I have sat on the world famous Union Terrace chairs, ridden on all of her bike trails, taken in countless music venues in her parks, restaurants and saloons (sounds so much more inviting than bars), soaked in the culture of Art Fair on the Square, oohed and awed at Rhythm and Booms and cheered on the Muskies, Mad Hatters and eventually the Mallards baseball teams.  I have boated on her lakes, Monona and Mendota, watched water ski shows on her bay, yes that bay, the one with the “dock of it” and rode my bike along their shores.  And on gorgeous fall afternoons I ate savory brats, washed downed with local craft beers and cheered on The Badgers at venerable and historic Camp Randall.

If I sound like a tourism ad it is because one cannot help but fall in love with this city.  The activities it offers are countless.  The culture it supports is woven into its fabric.  The vistas and changing seasons are its own personal art gallery.  From its lakes and parks to its gardens and architecture, there is no shortage of scenery to satisfy any of the senses.

Forty years have passed since I moved in to my little apartment on the South Side of Madison and I have never reconsidered that move.  I guess taking that slow Saturday morning walk around the Square today made me realize and appreciate this city and all it offers.  The crowds just reminded me I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.  Hopefully there will be countless more slow Saturday mornings and my chance to remind my children and grandchildren who have lived in no other place, to never take it for granted.  Take the walk, slow down and enjoy the views.  Madison welcomes you every time.