After two years of patiently waiting, we are finally back in the air headed to a tropical island. The last time on a plane to anywhere, we were returning from another island trip on March 13th, 2020. A day before the world shut down! Several cancelled trips later, we finally feel safe enough, relative term, to get back on with our traveling.  Greece and Panama were put on hold, but there’s still time.

I will celebrate another birthday while on the island and though it makes me sad to leave another year behind me,  I am optimistic that there are enough left to get through my bucket list.

Life is a journey and I am trying to make sure I don’t treat it like a race. I have promised myself so many times that I will slow down.  Maybe, if nothing else came from the pandemic, it was that life is too short for one to race to the finish line. The two years of spacing ourselves out may have served to remind us to do the same with our lives.

I titled this the way I did because finally I get it. I am more prepared than ever to savor my life and to finally be on my way once more. 

Let Them Soar

Watching the Olympics this past week, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the athletes’ personal stories. One in particular stuck with me. The athlete was an alpine skier and as the story went, his parents had him on his first set of skis before he could walk. They of course had been professional skiers and wanted their son to have every chance to become one as well.

It is said we live vicariously through our children. In some cases this means having them grow up just like us, same goals, same passions. In some cases, we want them to succeed where we failed. In either case, the parent is projecting their expectations unto the child. Don’t misread this, I will be the first to tell you that without expectations, their is no roadmap to success. Expectations create our goals. The question is whose expectations should they be?

When we realize we are about to have a child, we hope for three very basic things. We hope that our child will be born with ten toes and ten fingers, meaning healthy. Good health will give them that head start. The second hope is that they will grow up to be independent, free thinking individuals, able to make the important life decisions they will inevitably face. Our third hope is that they will be successful, and here the seed of expectations is planted. Every parent describes success in their terms. One parent will hope that their child will some day become President of the United States, another the next Warren Buffet, yet another a professional athlete, maybe even an Olympian. Whether it is the arts, athletics, business, or politics, we can’t help but start to set expectations. The problem here is that these expectations are ours when they need to be theirs.

I am as guilty as the next person. The minute my daughter picked up a golf club,

I expected to one day see her in the US Open. The second my youngest daughter grabbed a microphone, I just knew she would be the next Shania Twain. I couldn’t even wait to buy her that first guitar. It is next to impossible to not set these expectations for our children. After all, it is born out of our love for them. But if we truly love them, is it living up to our expectations that matters.

Let’s go back to my Olympians. I don’t believe that when that toddler was set upon his first set of skis that he expected to be one day screaming down a mountain in China seeking a gold medal. I suspect that somewhere along the way, it might have become a dream of his. Somewhere that dream developed into a dedication to improving his skills as a skier. Through hard work and determination, his dream became an expectation. But that expectation was the product of a dream and it was his expectation. He earned the right to that expectation.

As parents we need to understand the difference between expectation and a dream. Our expectations for our children, if improperly placed may just be the worst thing we can do for them. We need to let them discover their passions independently and then we need to let them dream. Let their dreams become their expectations. Only then will we get to watch them have the success we had hoped for.

We have a role in our child’s future, and that role is to be their supporter, their nurturer, their biggest fan. If we let them dream their dreams, if we let them soar, who knows, they just may become an Olympian.

The Life of Riley

Ah retirement, or at least the concept of it. Now a days no one really retires. We just become a different kind of busy. I chose volunteering, someone else might pick a part time job, which by the way is what a lot of volunteering turns into these days. It started out as promising to show up a few days a week, but as they figured out how smart all that experience seem to make you coupled with an insane work ethic, and well, there you have it. “I’m sort of retired” becomes your standard reply to “What are you doing these days?”

For me, I was always only sort of retired. I jumped into volunteering for a nonprofit almost immediately after turning in my retirement notice. That was coupled with my seeming inability to walk away from a seasonal teaching job that had consumed the last twenty years of my career and has now morphed into it’s fifth last year of doing it. I am trying to determine if they are that desperate or I am that good, pretty sure it’s desperation. Either way, I have been cajoled into contracting a year at a time for the last five years. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, a very long tunnel. I am slowing down and finding other things to occupy my time. I am in short heading towards the “actually, pretty much, retired” phase.

So what do retired people really do with all that time. The answer is a little of this and a little of that. When truly enjoying the art of retirement, you can actually answer the question “What are you doing today?” with “Nothing.” If reminded that you did that yesterday, just reply “But I wasn’t finished.” On those days when all I have scheduled is nothing, my day starts when I wake up. Follow that up with a couple slow savored cups of coffee, a perusing of the newspaper, including a few puzzles, and then a discussion about what’s for lunch while discussing what’s for dinner.

Alright, I exaggerate. Retirement, other than our Covid-19 quarantine period when the previous statement was pretty accurate, HAS been the life of Riley. I have traveled, albeit for the most part by car, to several of my bucket list destinations. (for reference see a few of my blogs, “The Call of the Road”, “Steel City”, “We’ve Reached Atlanta”) I even got out west for a ski trip with several friends half my age, I think they felt a need for adult supervision and truthfully, their selection might have been poorly thought out. The body may be old but someone needs to explain that to my head and heart.

I think that the best part of retirement has to be the lack of a hard and fast time frame. You get to go to bed when you want to and if you feel like it, get up in time for sunrise or sleep in if you don’t. When traveling, unless you have those required boarding times hanging over your head, you can take your time. You can even stay a few days longer or just stop to visit old friends along the way. You will get home when you are ready to be home. The freedom of not having to look at your watch to be sure you are where you have to be when you need to be, is freeing. My watch is used more to see how many steps I got in than to tell me the time of day. My activity choices now revolve around whether it’s light outside or dark.

Case in point. Today is one of those glorious nothing on my schedule days. I have found time to savor my coffee, listen to some music, do a little fiction reading, get my Valentine’s obligation done, and even write this piece. My only questionable act so far, I reserve the right for one or two more, was to take a walk around the block. Why is that questionable? It is five degrees outside and that might be tolerable for a polar bear, but there’s also the infamous windchill making it feel like seven below. I am going to tell you that the difference is negligible since five degrees is cold, period. But, it was necessary, or so says my doctor who has prescribed it. Did she know it was going to be this cold and why wasn’t she out walking with me? I guess she was hanging out at the emergency room waiting for them to bring me in frozen. But the good news is that this too shall pass. A week from today, my wife and I will be headed to much warmer climes where we will replace today’s ice under our feet with white sand and surf. I think I can already feel it oozing up between my toes.

Ah, the Life of Riley.