Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ready for Granddaddy Duty

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I’ve written before what a joy it is to be a granddaddy. With our oldest grandchild having turned two not long ago, I’ve had two full years of enjoyment. Although two of our three grandchildren live on the West coast, we still try to get to see them all as much as possible; even it means just using the modern wonder of FaceTime.

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I’ve told my wife on more than one occasion that I am just loving these years being grandparents. And becoming a grandparent has prompted me to want to retire sooner than I had originally planned. This way, I can spend more time with grandchildren and traveling to see grandchildren.

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Fortunately one of our granddaughters lives in town so we actually get to see her on a much more regular basis. But not just her, but all three of our grandchildren factored heavily into my decision last winter when I was looking to buy a new car.

I had been exploring a number of different possible cars to buy but I had certain criteria that I knew it had to meet. In addition to the now standard power options, I wanted advanced safety features (e.g., back up camera, blind-spot warning), leather interior, a manual transmission, and a sporty performance. I eventually narrowed it down to a choice between two cars: a Ford Mustang and a Subaru WRX.

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I test drove both and was most satisfied with the transmission and the sporty performance of each of them. But beyond just the higher safety rating of the WRX, its real advantage was it had 4-doors. Recalling back to the day when we had two infants/toddlers in car seats with a 2-door car, I knew I didn’t want to have to go through the extreme contortions necessary to put a child into a car seat in a 2-door car, especially since I would not be as limber as I was over thirty years ago. And while I already had three cars, all of them were 2-door models. So having 4-doors significantly tipped the balance in favor of the WRX.

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After taking delivery of my new car, the next step was to purchase a car seat. My first idea was to get an extra car seat that I would share with my son in his second car (they had a car seat that permanently stayed in their primary 4-door vehicle). But then having to transfer a car seat every time would not make for a fast or easy pick up, especially since his second car was one of my 2-door cars. So I went ahead and bought an additional car seat that could stay in my new car.

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So with 4-door car and car seat in hand, I was ready for granddaddy duty.

And that duty began in earnest this fall when our granddaughter’s parents both started back to college/graduate school. There were several times in their class schedules when they did not have child care. My wife, only working part-time was able to handle some of them. But the one day she had a conflict and could not cover was Wednesday. Fortunately, I was able to arrange an alternate work schedule with my boss that allowed me to be off every Wednesday afternoon.

So on my first Wednesday of granddaddy duty, I left work after lunch and hopped over to my son’s house, a short 5-minute drive from work. Having already had her nap and lunch, we jumped right into playing. We had a good time playing with all of her toys and reading a few books. But after more than an hour, it seemed we needed a change in venue. Since it was way too hot to go outside and play or to go for a walk, I decided to take her to one of our favorite places, the Children’s Museum. And with a car seat equipped 4-door car parked just outside, I knew we could easily make the trip.

We went straight to our favorite play area, a gated section only for children four and under. There she gravitated to some of her favorite toys.

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On this occasion, she took a particular interest in the airway wind pipe where you can insert a scarf or ball and watch it traverse through all the twisted piping and fly out the top.

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We also ran into the wife of one our kid’s best life-long friends who was there with her three boys. It was nice to catch up but also gave me a nice sense of being a parent (now grandparent) chatting with other adults all while our kids were having fun playing.

After two hours, it was time to head home. By the time her parents got back from their classes, I had fed and bathed our granddaughter. She was all ready for a little play time and cuddling with her parents before bedtime. As I walked out the door, I had a great feeling of our time together but also happiness with the knowledge that the next week, we’d get to do this again. In just a week, I’d report back for my granddaddy duty. Maybe if the heat broke, we’d get a chance to go to an outdoor park or even just a walk around the block. Whatever we worked out to do, I was confident it would be a fun granddaddy time together!

A Race?

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This weekend, I participated in my first competitive run in many years—the Cooper Young Festival 4-Miler.

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As best I can tell, this is the last time that I ran in a race—the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 4-miler in 2008. I finished 25th out of 54 participants in my age group so I didn’t have any preconceived notion of winning going into this race considering I was eight years older. My main goal was just to finish since I came down sick with a sinus infection just a week and a half before the race.

In 2008, running a 4-mile race was not too much of a stretch for me since at that time I was running at least 3 miles three to four times per week. But as I have written about my running before, I developed some significant back trouble in 2010 that severely curtailed my running. Since then, at best I run 2.5 miles three times a week but sometimes less.

So when I came down sick, rather than training to build up my endurance over the weeks before the race, I was trying just to recuperate enough to participate.

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So what brought to me to the point of even considering a competitive run again? Well since we bought our mid-town condo, my wife and I have been more frequently taking in the annual Copper-Young festival. It is a really nice outdoor activity where we can welcome in the cooler fall weather while exploring for original art to decorate our home or condo. But the main reason we have gone to the festival more frequently is that we can now walk to it from our condo so we don’t even have to worry about trying to find a place to park our car.

As my wife and I were discussing attending this year’s festival, she mentioned she thought I ought to consider doing the Cooper-Young festival run. While I have considered running in other races since 2008, after 2010, I really had not thought of it. But given that it was a Friday night run, I decided to give it a try.

Credit: runforecaster.com

Credit: runforecaster.com

Going back to even my earliest competitive running days, after finishing an evening race, I always enjoyed, a complimentary cold beer. While I still didn’t have any qualms about downing a beer after an 8 AM run, it just never seemed right drinking a beer (or two) at 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning. It just sort of messed up my whole day’s schedule. So having a beer at the end of my day rather than the beginning was one aspect of this evening race that I was looking forward to.

With the advantage of having the condo, my plan was to go there after work, and then walk over to the race. This way I didn’t even have to find parking for my car before the race, an often time harrowing experience when running late and you find many more people than you thought were participating. And then after the race, I could walk back to the condo and get a shower avoiding the undesirable task of having to drive home in sweaty clothes. So I donned my running garb and headed over for the run.

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It felt good to know that I was walking over to get some really good exercise.

In previous runs without timing chips, I would typically try to get towards the front of the starting line just to get a more accurate time for my run even though I knew I was not a top competitor. But this time my goal was just to finish the whole race without having to stop and walk part of the way. With this objective in mind, it didn’t matter where I started so I had no shame in lining up in the 9:00 to 11:00 minute pace group to avoid having so many people pass me (the worst is when a runner and his dog pass me).

While thinking about the run ahead, I looked around for familiar faces. Even though it had been almost 10 years since I had run a race, I figured I might recognize a face or two. I didn’t. But this was my time to run this race and it was a large crowd of about 2,200 runners.

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As we waited for the countdown clock to wind down to zero, I felt that old familiar dual sensation of excitement about the run ahead but also anxiousness for the race to begin. And then we were off! Walking due to the large crowd. It took me almost two minutes to get through the chute at the starting line where the timing chip on my running bib would register my start.

Once I was able to start running, my next task was to work into a comfortable pace and then get away from the crowd. As I did, I found that I was actually passing other runners. Maybe I was going too fast. In the two weeks prior to the race, I had been able to run a total of three times, none longer than 2.5 miles. I needed to be careful if I was going to finish this 4-mile race.

Since I didn’t have a watch, there was no way to know how close I was getting to the first mile marker and as the sunlight was disappearing quickly on the shaded streets, I couldn’t see the clock on my Fitbit either. When we finally reached the first marker, someone asked the time and was told 7:11. Wow if that was right, I had just run the first mile in about 9 minutes. Way too fast!

I tried to slow down some to conserve my legs. As we made our way towards the 2-mile marker, it was all along residential side streets of the Cooper Young neighborhood. I was amazed and touched by all the residents who were out on the street, high-fiving us and cheering us on—all complete strangers. Many residents were playing loud music or showing motivational movies like Rocky and some were offering their own water, beer, Jello shots and even fireball whisky shots. A few had their sprinklers turned on as it still felt in the 90s.

When I ran under the 2-Mile banner, I could tell that I was starting to hit a wall. My body was sensing based on my running experience this year that I should be close to finishing my run. But I was only half way through. So I had to kick in my psychological motivation. I pictured I was running holding my daughter’s hand and we were encouraging each other on, just like we did in the first race she and I ever ran together over 20 years ago (a 3-miler).

As we turned the corner to make our way back towards Cooper, I was met by the harvest moon rising. This then made me think of my son-in-law, an astronomer, and I pictured him cheering us on too.

Each time we zigzagged back and forth, I realized that there was a slight incline in the road up to and down from Cooper, just enough to make it a bit more challenging. It was on one of these uphill runs that I first started thinking about stopping and walking for a while. So I made my next goal just to reach the 3-mile marker.

It seemed to take forever to reach it but once I did, I started thinking that if I stopped now, I would just have to run another 4-mile run just to prove to myself that I could still run that far. Then the scientist in me kicked in and said, yea, but you’re already 75% through this one and if you stop now, you will have to start all over again.

After one more zag back to Cooper, the finish line was in sight and I knew I could do it. In years past, I would sprint to the finish. But not now, I simply maintained my pace. This was partly motivated by the fact that I didn’t see anyone in my age group that I would be passing anyway.

And finally I made it! Without stopping. It was with great relief that I crossed the finish line and headed for the beer table to enjoy some Memphis Made beer, brewed special for the event—Mile 5 Golden Ale—along with some fruit and pizza for dinner (this was going to be a two banana night to stave off the leg cramps). As I cooled down and replenished my body, it was with the knowledge that my daughter and son-in-law had helped me finish this race, even though neither of them knew I was even running.

When I made it back to the condo, I found that I had almost 19,000 steps on my Fitbit. Not bad given that I only had 6,500 steps when I left the condo to walk to the race.

The next day, I checked the race results and found for my gender and age group that I had finished 20th out of 39 finishers—middle of the pack just like eight years ago. But what was even more amazing was that I had run the four miles in 41:44 for a pace of 10:26 per mile. The last time I was able to time myself was several years ago when I ran 2.5 miles on a treadmill at 6 miles per hour (a 10:00 pace in an air-conditioned gym). To mark this occasion, I took a celebratory photo of me in my well-earned t-shirt…

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…and started thinking, I just might have to do this again, only with better training!

Would Have Turned 90!

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This year, my mom and dad both would have turned 90 on their birthdays, Mom this week and Dad in mid-October. While I could not find a single definition in numbers of years for a “ripe old age,” with both my parents having been born in 1926, I would certainly consider 90 a ripe old age. Sadly, neither of my parents lived past their 70s. But interestingly, the number of people reaching the age of 90 and above has been increasing over the last 30 years.

In 2011, the US Census reported that between 1980 and 2010, the number of people 90 and older as a percentage of the older population (age 65 and older), increased from 2.8 percent to 4.7 percent and by 2050 it is expected to reach 10 percent. While it’s nice to know we have an “official” definition for “old” (65, an age I haven’t reached yet!), it is even nicer to learn that my chances of living to be 90are projected to double between now and when I would actually turn 90.

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As I have been recently working with a financial planner to project income and expenses during retirement, the idea of budgeting into our nineties to ensure my wife and I did not outlive our money seemed far-fetched. But maybe not so much now.

So what if my parents had lived to reach 90, what major life events would they have witnessed?

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Well for one, they would have lived to see all of their grandchildren grow up and graduate from college and in some cases graduate school or medical school as well.

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They would have been witness to many of those grandkids getting married…

Credit: Amy Dale Photography

Credit: Amy Dale Photography

…and five of those grandkids starting their own families bringing eight great-grandchildren into the world.

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They would even have been able to help celebrate first birthdays with some of those great-grandkids as well.

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And they would have been able to observe my wife and I celebrate our 25th, 30th, and 35th wedding anniversaries while marking their own 55th, 60th, and 65th wedding anniversaries.

But neither of my parents lived to see their 90s so all of these events they missed. However, their legacy still lives on.

Assembly Inn overlooking Lake Susan

Assembly Inn overlooking Lake Susan

They left all of their descendants with a love for a very special place, Montreat, which I have written about recently.

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They left all of their descendants with a love for family, as witnessed by my siblings annual get together—SibSab—as well as our Bro Go.

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And what list of my parent’s legacies wouldn’t be complete without our love for “Nanny’s brownies,” lovingly prepared by our niece recently for our June family trip to Montreat.

So this year, rather than watching our parents blow out a big “90” candle on their birthday cakes, we’ll mark the actual dates reflecting on a lifetime of wonderful, loving memories.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all of them.

Happy Birthday to you both!

My 60th Birthday

It was with significant trepidation that I approached my birthday this year since I would be turning 60. In all my previous birthdays when I marked the beginning of a new decade, I had not had such mixed emotions. But now that it is well past my birthday and I have had a while to be 60, it doesn’t seem so bad.

First, I don’t feel 60. I received one humorous birthday note that highlights this point: “You don’t look a day over 59, well maybe a day.” While I had advanced a year in age on my birthday, I was really only a day older than I was the day before. And since turning 60, it has been the rare occasion that I have even thought about being 60. But when I do, it still hits me a little to see the number in my mind’s eye.

Second, I actually had a really nice birthday. Following in my mother’s tradition, I celebrated it for over a week.

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For the first time this year, I took the day off from work. My brother actually does this every year on his birthday and treats himself to a day of fun. I don’t know why I’ve never done this before but I will definitely do it again in the future.

Another exciting aspect of my birthday was that my new car came in and I picked it up on my birthday.

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My wife had to work that day so my daughter and grandson who were in town from CA dropped me off at the dealership to pick it up. When I got out of the car, my grandson who is not yet two told me to: “Have a good time granddaddy.” This was so sweet and I did in fact have a good time, picking it up and getting to drive it home.

Then I got to spend the rest of the day with my daughter and grandson.

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We played and took a walk together.

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That night, my in-town granddaughter came over for dinner with her parents. We talked about eating out but thought it would be easier and probably more enjoyable for everyone (grandparents, parents, and grandkids alike) to grill out steaks at home, my second favorite food (after hamburgers). After dinner, I opened presents and cards and enjoyed a birthday pecan pie.

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It was a fun filled day to spend with family marking my sexagenarian milestone.

Then a week later when my oldest son, daughter-in-law and newest granddaughter came in town, we celebrated again. As my mother would do around her birthday, it was another dinner party, this time barbeque followed by a Key Lime pie. For my birthday, my wife had already given me two wonderful service gifts: a lawn cutting service for the summer and a pressure washing of the pool deck and wooden deck (items that had been on my To Do list all spring). For this second birthday celebration, my wife additionally surprised me with the miniature ball chair I had been wanting.

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This was an item that I had been admiring for some time on my trips to Amsterdam but just hadn’t been willing to spend the money for.

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This one joins a collection that also includes a miniature Barcelona chair.

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But third, the greatest gift of all was that I got to spend it with all my three children, their spouses, and all three of my grandchildren. My wife had sweetly worked out the details for my oldest son and daughter to come to Memphis with their families to help me celebrate turning 60.

So I did hit the BIG 6-0 this year but I did it surrounded by all my loving family. What better way to celebrate a birthday!