Slow Down You Move too Fast

One of my favorite songs is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy” and nothing makes me feel groovier than taking a slow walk Saturday around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. The song goes something like this with apologies for some modifications:

“Slow down you move to fast,

Got to make the Saturday last,

Just kicking down Lady Bird Lake,

Austin is great and feeling groovy.”

Here is a picture I snapped last weekend during my weekly trek.  These turtles sure know how to Slow Down, bask in the sun, and feel groovy.

While the word Groovy may have been out of vogue since the Seventies, slowing down to regroup is still key to a better life.  Even more so in this time of constant noise and nuisance.  Nothing restores the soul and the spirit then a good podcast, a crisp wind and nature all around.

Slowing down is the key to the healthy and happy life.  I seldom miss a Slow Walk Saturday for the following three reasons:

1.  Time to reflect and adjust.  When we are running from one task to the other, there is seldom time to reflect, learn from experiences, and adjust.  I find that when I slow down and quiet my mind that I come up with the answer that I need.  Proof point?  I have been so busy with work and life that I have been having writer’s block.  A few minutes and miles and I had ten new ideas when I had been stuck for at least a week.  Sometimes the best thing when you are struggling for a solution is slow down, quiet your mind and be thankful for the nature all around you. 

2.  Destress and feel blessed.  Nothing stokes compassion and soothes the soul than to experience nature.  It is hard to feel hassled when you see 20 turtles sunning on a log or see a bird take flight.  It is a wonder this world! Our role is to revel and reflect the love of God in his creation.  Not to strive and stifle.  Slowing down makes us thankful for the pauses and pleasures that are in each day!

3.  Listen and learn.  When you are alone with your thoughts and those of a good book, you learn new things about yourself and your place in the world.  I recommend to everyone the library application Libby which provides audio books for free if you have a library card.  I have learned so much while walking and listening from how Changing your Habit can Change Your Life  to  How to be 10% Happier.  Truly my Slowdown Saturdays have made me a better person!

Life is not a sprint. It a slow walk to the better angels of our nature. So, take the time to slow down and feel groovy.

Thinking Our Way into Oblivion

Thinking our way into oblivion,

we forgo faith and embrace fear.

Worried about the future,

we forget each life brings the promise of redemption,

and no AI can match the spark of the soul!

Instead of reveling in life we cling to death,

hugging a tree instead of a child.

Thinking our way into oblivion,

the world may end in a whine instead of a bang,

Unless we love our way back to life!

Let in Snow! 3 Tricks to Stay on Track Despite Travel Woes

Keeping on track with your weight loss journey is tough when traveling under the best circumstances.  It can be doubly so when your plane is delayed or even cancelled on a Friday.  But it does not have to be!  You can stick to your healthy habits with these three tricks.

1. When it snows, find a Skywalk!   Getting stuck overnight in a hotel because of a blizzard can curtail your weekend exercise routine.  I do not know about you but walking on a treadmill just does not get it for me.  I like my walks with some scenery and adventure.  One way to switch it up if you can’t get outside is to find a mall or even an indoor Skywalk.  Last weekend I was stuck in Des Moines, Iowa when my plane was cancelled.  Luckily, I did not have to miss my Saturday Morning walk.  I found an entry to the downtown Skywalk about a block away.  After a brief bout with the sub-zero wind chill, I was soon walking and getting lost in the Skywalk.    It was quite an adventure trying to find my way back through the maze of corridors.  Also, felt a bit like Maxwell Smart with all the automatic opening doors.  When I was finally done, I had five miles in, while braving the cold for only a few minutes.

Des Moines Skywalk

2.  Don’t stress, catch up on your rest!  Missing your flight home due to weather can be stressful if you let it.  But it also can be an opportunity to catch up on your rest.  If you can’t get out of your hotel, catch up on your snooze time.  Most of us are sleep deprived anyway and a few extra hours of rest can do wonders for your metabolism.  On the flipside, overly worrying can lead to stress eating. 

3.  If your late, just meditate.  You do not have to get caught up in the noise and bustle when stuck in an airport.  Most airports have a chapel, lounge or quiet space where you can meditate or pray according to your practice to clear your head.  Here is a guide that can help you out.  https://www.sleepinginairports.net/

One of my favorite places is the chapel at DFW.  But you can also find one of the gates that does not have a flight for an hour.  For just type of these delays, I keep meditation applications Headspace, Calm, and the podcast Christian Meditation on my iPhone.

A plane delay or cancellation does not need to be a reason to go off the wagon.  Use these three tips to keep on track when travel sets you back!

Lessons from Three Mister Rogers: Taking Time to Care

This in the sixth in the Be Good Not Great series.  The purpose of this series is to examine the lives of those people that seek goodness over greatness.   Hopefully the lessons from their lives will inspire us all to eschew worldly greatness to store up the more eternal treasures of love and kindness.   You can read the first of this blog series here:   https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/ .

Most of us are familiar with the Mr. Rogers from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the recent Tom Hank’s movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”.  I have had the uncanny luck to have had three Mister Rogers in my personal neighborhood.    Each of these good men taught me the importance of slowing down to listen, teach and learn.  I still struggle with inculcating this lesson in my daily life.  It is sad to say that in this hurried world the loudest voice is often the last voice.  But it shouldn’t be that way.  To connect with another person’s heart, you must take the time to be quiet and listen; to provide guidance in a patient, introspective way.   The three Mr. Rogers in my life modeled this lesson during my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. 

The Mr. Rogers of my childhood was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Each day after elementary school I would watch his show.   I loved the routine to it.  He would come in through the door with the stop light flashing yellow; a signal to all that it was time to slowdown.  Then he would switch into his sweater and sneakers to impart his daily message of patience and love.  He talked in a slow and quiet manner; a contrast to the Saturday cartoons of the day and even a sharper contrast to the hyperactive shows of today.  He provided me a different sort of male role model; no less masculine but more nurturing.  Something that I needed sometimes since I had a larger than life Father, more akin to Fred Flintstone than Mister Rogers. 

In the wonderful book, “The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers” by Amy Hollingsworth linked here:   , Mr. Rogers explains his talent as ‘The Gift of Going Slow”.  As he explained to Amy in the book: 

“…I’ve never been a kind of hyperactive, runaround kind of person.  I think one of the greatest gifts that we can give anybody is the gift of one more honest adult in that person’s life – whether [the recipient] be a child or an adult. 

And so, for me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.”

Indeed, the gift of slowing down is one that we all should strive to obtain.  Taking time to care for one another and to glean from the introspection the needs of the heart.  Also, slowing down to discern the right path forward.  As this first Mr. Rogers sang in one of his many songs:

“I like to take my time
I mean that when I want to do a thing
I like to take my time and do it right.”

The second Mr. Rogers was someone in my actual neighborhood in Chesterfield Township, Bill Rogers.  Bill was co-coach with my Dad Big D on our little league baseball team Red Sox and worked with my Dad at De Laval.  Mr. Rogers and my Dad made a great coaching team leading us to many wins over our arch nemesis the Black Sox and other teams in our little league division.  They made a good team both coaching and work since they had contrasting styles.  Dad would get in the faces of the umpires, rival coaches, and players.  He could be both inspirational but also intimidating.  In contrast, I learned more how to improve my baseball skill from Mr. Rogers, who had a more patient teaching style.  It may have been a Father/Son thing; but when I wanted to learn the technique to properly field a grounder, I went to Mr. Rogers.  He would take the time to show me to follow the ball into the glove, get to low to the ground and use two hands to secure the ball.   I also had the pleasure to visit Mr. Rogers and his family at their home.  I spent time exploring the woods near their house with Glen and talking to his daughter Mandy and Mrs. Rogers.  I was always struck by the kindness, love and respect of the Rogers’ household.

The last of the Mister Rogers that taught me the lesson of patience and introspection was my Sunday School teaching partner for over ten years – Roger.  He was called Mister Roger by our middle school students as a sign of respect.  Mister Roger much like my Dad and Mister Rogers as Little League coaches made a great team as Sunday School teachers.  I was always thinking of crazy ways to teach the lessons of Christ through entertainment.  Roger in contrast would use quieter, more spiritual methods that nevertheless captured the teen’s attention.  I still remember with amazement the popularity of his retelling on the Legend of the Candy Cane.  It is really a great children’s story, but I thought it a little young for our rambunctious, middle schooler audience.  In addition, Roger read the book by showing the illustrations in the book by making slides and showing them on a projector.  Nevertheless, the teens were captivated as Roger read the book that relates the Christian symbolism of the candy cane and its meaning for Christmas.  Sometimes the simple, quiet approach works better than one that is flashy.  I learned this powerful lesson from Roger, a truly devout man and Confirmation sponsor to my two middle children.The three Mr. Rogers in my life have taught me the lesson of quiet, patience, and introspection in a world that is often loud and overwhelming.  During the blessed season of Christmas, it is important for all of us to learn the lessons of the three Rogers and take some quiet time to think about the good people that shaped our life.  And especially God’s only son that came to teach us in the stillness of a silent night.  Merry Christmas!

Mediterranean Magic: 5 Ways to Maintain Weight on Vacation

Recently I and my wife went on a ten-day Pilgrimage to religious sites in Israel, Palestine and Italy. While I looked forward to the trip, I was worried about gaining weight. We went on a tour in which each moment of the day was planned to include where and when to eat. Hearing stories of how people gained 10 or more pounds on a tour had me worried. I was used to controlling my eating habits by eating primarily at home and tracking my food intake and timing consistently through the WW application. Having lost over 150 pounds on this regimen and keeping most of it off for 4 years, I was facing the unknown. I did not know what food would be offered nor did I know if I could even spell it to find in the application! Also, I knew the all breakfasts and dinners would be offered buffet style. I had avoided buffets since losing the weight because they always have been my nemesis. I had images of Golden Corral with numerous desserts and heavy American food and I was worried I could not control my eating habits.

Well, I should have rested easier, especially in Israel and Palestine (although Italy still posed problems due to its Pastas).  The buffets at the Israeli hotels in Tel-Aviv, Nazareth and Jerusalem were a lot different than their US counterparts or those on cruise ships.  There were five main distinguishing factors that made the buffets healthier than their US counterparts on the trip:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!  At each hotel there was an abundance of vegetables.  They were fresh and varied.   They also were front and center taking the place of the heavier entrees that are in US buffets.  Another change were vegetables were available for breakfast along with fruit.  For a devoted WW, it was a zero-point heaven and I loaded down with new and varied tastes. I loved the Israeli peppers and pickles that tasted different than those used in the US.

2.  The best Hummus anywhere.  Sorry Greece.  Israeli Hummus is incredible and varied.  In the morning there was about 5 types and the evening 7.  In the US, I can tolerate Hummus, but it is not my favorite.  In Israel, it is a different story!  It tastes so fresh and tasty.  Sorry American Greek restaurants, Israeli hummus it is where it is at!

3.  Kosher food and whole foods.  All the food in the Israeli buffet is Kosher and is prepared to exacting standards.  It is not processed like its US counterparts and you can taste the difference.  In addition, whole foods are bountiful.  Nothing processed.  Indeed, for the first time, I enjoyed a fish cooked whole from the Sea of Galilee (see below).  I was a little nervous but was able to figure out how to eat correctly from a YouTube video!  It was delicious.

St. Peter’s fish from Sea of Galilee

4.  Portion control.  I was really worried about the dessert table, but I should not have been.  Although I enjoyed a desert each meal, I did not have to worry about overindulging.  No large ladles dipped in Apple cobbler or big slices of cake.  The deserts were smaller so you could have a dessert and not be tempted by overindulging.  The only problem on portion control was the coffee.  We had to get up early each day and the coffee cups were small.  Also, for some reason, Israeli’s love instant coffee and seldom could I find brewed coffee.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.

5.  Fish, fish, fish.  I usually do not like fish but here it was varied, plentiful and the main offering.  I even ate fish for breakfast!  Had my first taste of salmon and pickled herring in the morning and it was surprisingly good!

At the end of my ten-day vacation, I had only gained .2 lbs. while still eating dessert each day.  I think I would have lost wait if the entire trip was in Israel, but we also traveled to Italy for 3 days.  I cannot resist Gelato and pasta.  Also, an Italian cappuccino blows is cheaper than the US and is about 10 times better.  Still, gaining only .2 lbs. while indulging in the Gelato’s for three days is quite a coup!

Be Good to Your Family: John Walton

This is the fifth of my Be Good Not Great blog series.  The idea for the series came to me in a dream of my Grandpop in the original blog: https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/  and  a related poem: https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/08/01/be-good-not-great-poem/.  In this series, I tell stories of people that fulfilled God’s purpose of being good while foregoing worldly greatness. 

To date, the series has included only real people with whom I have directly interacted.  In this blog I focus on a person that I have interacted with since the seventies, but only through TV– John, the father on “The Waltons”.

For those not familiar with the series, “The Waltons”   ran for 9 years in the 70’s and early 80’s with specials continuing into the 2000’s.  It covers the trials and tribulations of an extended of family of 11 (John, his family, and John’s parents) living through the depression and World War II in the backwoods of Virginia.    The Waltons make it through those hard years of poverty and personal tragedy with their souls intact largely due to the sacrifices of John and his wife Olivia (who is equally deserving of being the subject of this blog). 

One of my favorite episodes of the series clearly demonstrates John’s focus on being good while foregoing opportunities for wealth and fame.  In the episode, John is uncharacteristically anxious and short with others.  His high school reunion is approaching and one of his fellow classmates want him to organize the reunion.  The classmate came to John because back in high school he and his classmate Grover where always vying for the lead position in the class.  Grover went on to Washington to lead an agency in the Roosevelt administration, while John stayed on Walton’s Mountain eking out a living for his family.  John becomes even more anxious when the person who was supposed to host the reunion cannot and John’s wife Olivia  agrees to host the reunion at the Walton home.

When the seemingly successful guests arrive, they all have problems.  Grover, for instance is having marital problems and his wife does not attend the reunion.  Another one of his classmates, a rich car salesman, has kids who act spoiled and misbehave throughout the reunion.  In contrast, the Walton children are the epitome of hospitality and work together to make the reunion a success. 

The show ends with what I considered the greatest quote from the show and one that highlights the difference between being good not great.  Grover, John’s former high school rival says the following: 

“Six years in grade school, five years in high school-everything I ever ran for, I was always running against the same Johnny Walton… The greatest day of my life was when I beat John Walton out for senior class president. I don’t think he ever lost any sleep over it. Now I’m an ambitious man – some would say successful; probably it’s all John’s fault. I was always running; he was always going past me at a walk. And here it is, 25 years later-here I am, and there’s John. Then look at me… and some of you… still running, still wearing ourselves to a frazzle for all sorts of things that John Walton has accumulated while he was out walking – a happy home, a fine wife and children. We’re sitting here well fed at John’s table, and I’m still boy enough to be graveled at the sight of him. ‘John – the boy most likely to succeed.’ Well, he’s the boy who did.”

This ending always gets me because it shows the choices a parent makes for his family.  There are so many episodes where John demonstrates his love for family over that of money of fame.  Here are three examples:

In one of the later episodes, John demonstrates his ability to organize competing, local sawmills in Virginia to deliver a large order for a rich government contractor.  Noting his ability, the contractor offers John the role of Vice President of lumber operations.  This job holds the promise of wealth, travel and a fine home.  The only issue is John would have to uproot his family.  He declines the role for the lesser opportunity of running a co-op in his hometown for a lot less money and prestige. 

One of the key attributes of a good father is being humble enough to accept the sacrifice of your children.  In another one of my favorite episodes, John and Olivia use all their emergency money to buy their son John-Boy, a new suit for college.  The whole family participates in the joyful event.  John is proud that he can provide clothes for his son to fit in with the wealthier students not on scholarship.  Then the family’s milking cow Chance dies and John is humbled since he does not have the money to replace it.  John Boy takes it upon himself to sell back his suit to pay for a new cow.  This action shows the goodness of his father John in two ways.  First, John-boy is following the example of sacrifice he has seen modeled by his father.  Second, John is humble enough after initial reluctance to accept the money.  John does what needs to be done even though it eats him up inside to provide his son this simple gift.  

In the last example, a developer comes to Walton’s Mountain and notes the beauty of the nature and a hot spring on the mountain.  FDR with his affinity for Hot Springs has raised the demand for these resorts and the developer offers John a lot of money for the mountain and his home.  He at first contemplates selling the land and moving the family but decides against moving the family, especially his parents from the home.  This episode clearly illustrates the sacrifices many sons and daughters make to care for their parents in their older years.  A good father indeed must first be a good son.

I could list at least another 20 episodes of the basic goodness of John Walton and his love for family.  Caring for your family and your spouse is what a marriage is all about!  A good parent thinks of their family first and career second.  Money and fame disappear, but a love of a good parent lives on! So, when facing a decision, let’s be like John and focus on what’s good for the family, rather than what is great for you!

6 Wellness Lessons From The Waltons

My favorite show of all time is The Waltons for many reasons. I always love stories that tear at your heartstrings and The Waltons is the penultimate show in that catalog. In its 9 years on Television, it tackled such weighty topics as a death of a beloved Grandpa, the loss of a spouse, the breaking up and then reunion of a family after a fire, and a myriad of other topics that we all deal with daily. Through it all, the Waltons showed the power of kindness and the unconditional love of a family for one another.

That is why this weekend, when I got sick and tired of the current bickering of our national family, I binged watched the Waltons.  I did it initially to improve my mental wellness.  I wanted to remember what good old American values looked like and how people used to be able to focus on their commonalties instead of differences.  After watching a few episodes, I realized that the lessons of the Waltons are not just good for your soul, but for overall wellness.  The Waltons are fit, well (but not overly) fed, love the outdoors, well rested and self-aware.   They are a walking, talking commercial for wellness.  Here are six reasons why:

1.  Love of the Outdoors and respect for Nature.  The Waltons spent a good part of their days outdoors.  Whether they were walking to school, climbing the mountain named after them, or fishing with Yancey Tucker, they had a healthy respect and love for nature.  Breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying the sunshine, the Waltons were never in need of a Vitamin D shot or a few rounds in the gym. Grandpa perhaps said it best,  “You can’t own a Mountain, any more than you can own an Ocean or a piece of Sky.  You hold it in trust.  You live on it, you take life from it, and once your dead, you rest in it.”  The Waltons drew life and health from the mountain and in so doing held their land in a sacred trust.

2.  Spend time as a family.  Wellness is not all about physical fitness.  It also includes loving someone and having them love you in return.   The Waltons never tired of spending time with one another.  They drew strength from each other.  Picking each other up when they were down.  John Boy was right when he said,  “I’ve done an awful lot of thinking of what makes this family work, and I think it’s because there’s enough love to go around and some to spare.” Let’s all spare some love!

3.  Eat fresh food in moderate portions.  Another key to wellness is eating fresh food and in moderation.  On almost each episode, there is at least one scene with the family gathered around the table eating what they had grown or caught.  Also, with so many people in the family, it was hard not to eat in moderation.  And when you did, you always had Grandma there to make sure you did not eat too much.  Note this conversation between Grandpa and Grandma.  Grandpa:  “I could do another sandwich”  Grandma Walton:  “You’re the one at this table who could do a little starving.” Grandpa  “Esther, we have got to keep our strength up!”  Grandma: “Strength? I think you just get weak carrying all that around”.  We all need that inner Grandma keeping us from eating too much!

4.  Love your work, but find time for rest and play.  The Waltons worked hard and enjoyed their work.  They enjoyed their craft and the satisfaction of creating something with their hands.  As John  Boy Walton said,  “One of the things that I find distressing about life today is that people don’t really seem to enjoy their work anymore. When I was growing up on Waltons Mountain my father and my grandfather loved their work and they instilled a respect for work in each of us.”   

But when the Waltons were done work, they found time for relaxation. As the good Lord ordained, they rested on the seventh day. We should all follow these words from John Boy’s journal: “Sunday afternoon on Walton’s Mountain was a time of quiet contemplation We took it easy or else worked at a slower pace and enjoyed a brief respite from the cares that beset us during the week. After we came home from church and had dinner, we permitted ourselves the luxury of play and relaxation”. Find time for play after working at what you love!

5.  Get plenty of rest after saying goodnight to loved ones.  Everyone who loves The Waltons knows where I am going with this one.  One of the two keys to wellness is to get plenty of rest and never, ever go to bed angry at a loved one.  No matter how much Jim Bob irritated Mary Ellen or John Boy struggled to write his next chapter, they always ended the night with Goodnight Jim Bob, Good Night Mary Ellen, and, of course, Good Night John Boy. 

6.  Listen and be Thankful.  The two greatest keys to wellness is being thankful for what you have and to listen and be mindful of the beauty around you.   It is amazing the lessons that you can learn when you stop and listen to the wonder of nature.  As John Boy wrote in his journal, “ I think if we learned to listen, we could hear all kinds of miracles.”  Truer words have never been written.   You and this whole world that God has wrought is a miracle speaking to our hearts!  Stop and take time to listen.

Be A Good Neighbor: TM

This is the fourth blog of the Be Good, Not Great series.  The initial idea for the blog series came to me in a dream about my Grandpop and resulted in a poem and a blog in less then an hour.  Read it hear. https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/

The series focuses on people that strive for goodness over greatness; who eschew money, wealth and fame to care for other people.

I still remember the first day at the first home my wife and I owned as if it were yesterday.  We moved into an established community in our then sleepy, now rapidly growing town.  The house was 70’s vintage and we were excited but a little daunted. 

We got the home for a good price.  But it did come with some things that we needed to fix.  The most urgent being a large bump in the sidewalk that led to our door.  The bump was due to a tree root that grew under one of the sidewalk panels.  It was a hazard especially for my wife who was pregnant with our second child and our 4-year-old.   I was ready to fulfill my duties as a husband, father and new home owner.

I had managed to lift the sidewalk a bit and was trying my best to cut off a portion with a small axe I had.  I was not making any headway and was sweating buckets.  When out walks a wiry, 60ish year old man with silver hair, from next door.

I stopped my work for a moment and greeted him.  he introduced himself and said, “I am TM your neighbor and son you looked like you could use some help!”  I said, “Hi Tim.  I am doing ok, but it is sure good to meet you”.    Which was wrong on two accounts. 

First because of his Texas twang, I called him Tim instead of TM.  This part was ok because he thought he heard TM due to my Jersey roots. Second, I was not Ok.  I had worked for an hour and made hardly a dent on the root.

After 15 minutes, TM returned with his own axe and said “Don, please let me help you out.  I have been doing this for awhile and we can knock it out together.”  Even though I was embarrassed I relented.  And I was glad I did.  TM immediately made more headway in 10 minutes then I had done in the last hour and a half.  When it was my turn to spell him, he let me use his axe and technique.  We got the root out and sidewalk level in less than 40 minutes together.  It was the start of a great friendship and mentorship.

TM was the perfect example of seeking goodness over greatness.  Born and bred in Leander, he moved to Cedar Park during its infancy to run one of the Cedar Yards for which the city was named. He was a great mentor, devoted husband for 68 years, loving father and a devout church goer.  You can read more about TM here. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/austin-tx/thomas-pearson-7060600

There are four lessons from the life of TM to follow as we strive for goodness:

  1. Be a Good Neighbor.  The help with the tree root was just the first example of TM being neighborly. He was always there with a ready hand and a kind smile to help my wife and I with our expanding young family.  With both of us working, we did not always have time to keep the yard up.  When he saw us struggling, TM would take the time to mow the side of our yard closest to him or water some of plants when we did not get to it.  He also helped us with some ideas on landscaping and brought over some vegetables from his garden.  We in return tried to help him out, but never could match his generosity.
  2. Be a Good Family Man. TM was a devoted husband and father.  His only daughter was confined to a wheel chair after she was in an accident.   He and his wife helped care for her.  To make things easier, his daughter and her husband lived with TM.  TM had a specially outfitted van and helped with the medical visits and care.  He was always cheerful and willing to help. I also never saw a harsh word exchanged between the two couples despite the stress of living under the same roof. 
  3. Be a Good Mentor. TM was also always ready to pass the lessons of fatherhood to me.  One conversation stands out.  I was playing soccer with my son in our backyard and we were getting loud.  My son kicked the ball and it sailed into TM’s garden.  Instead of a harsh word, he handed over the soccer ball with a smile.  I told him I was sorry and asked him if we were bothering him by being too rowdy.  TM said, “You do get a bit loud, Don. but I know what you ae doing and you need to play with your son.  It is what they remember and how they learn so have at it!”  I try to remember that lesson when the two boys that are our new neighbors kick a soccer ball against our car.
  4. Take care of your community.  TM also reached out to the larger community.  His yard was an example to the whole community.  He also put on the best Christmas light show for many years.  Showing pride in your home and community inspires the same in your neighbors.   TM also sang and played guitar at his church.  He used his talents to the joy and betterment of those around him and the world is better for it.

We moved to a new home about a mile away in 2007.  Up to the end of our time next door, TM remained a good neighbor and friend.  Even helping us with fixing up the house for sale. Unfortunately, I did not follow his good example.  I got caught up with work and growing family and despite living only a mile or two away from him, we did not go to see him that often.  When he passed in 2016, I did not know until quite a bit later.  This is something I will always regret.

Robert Frost writes in his famous poem “Mending Wall” see full at this link https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44266/mending-wall:

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.”

I now know what does not love a wall.  It is not elves, it is God and his love.  Be like TM and not me!  Break down the walls of cell phones, work, and a busy life.  Take a sledgehammer to that wall, much like TM took an axe to that tree root and make time for your neighbor.  And above all, love your neighbor as yourself!

March Back to Fitness!

Back in my Army and West Point days, I never thought of marching and carrying a ruck in fitness terms.  It was a necessity.  What you carried on your back is what you brought into combat.   The more you put in, the more you were weighed down.  The less you put in, the more you ran the risk of being ill-prepared.  

Recently, however, I realized the fitness benefits of rucking for civilians.  I started carrying a weighted ruck in preparation for the Shadow West Point March back that happened last week.  The March Back coincides with the annual 13-mile march back of the United States Military Academy’s Plebe Class at the conclusion of summer Cadet Basic Training.  I and about 15  fellow members of the West Point Society of Central Texas finished the march last week. The March included loaded Rucksacks and the Texas Heat!   See the picture below.  The Weather Channel even filmed a piece about us! I will let you know when it comes out. 

Vets  Marching for Fitness

Rucking has many benefits and is my latest fitness obsession.  There is even a community of Veterans that go on rucking events.  It is called GoRuck and raises money for Veterans dealing with PTSD.  I am currently training for the next major event near Austin.

Here are the five major benefits of Rucking:

  1.  Low Impact.  Unlike running that puts stress on your joints, rucking is low impact especially if you pack your ruck correctly.
  2. Burns Calories.  It burns 3 times the calories that walking does (even more in Texas heat).
  3. Carry your Hydration.  A ruck provides a convenient compartment to store water and remain hydrate.  I fill up the bladder from my Camelback in my ruck.  It adds weight and prevents me from passing out int the Texas heat!
  4. Low Cost.  I bought my rucksack for less than 40 dollars on Amazon.  There is no need to get a specialized rucksack unless you want to.  To weight it down, I just evenly distributed 5 lbs. weights that I already had in pouches. 
  5. Fun and social.  I loved marching with fellow members of the Long Grey Line and being out in nature. 

Marching with a ruck is not just for the military.  Pick up your ruck, lace up your shoes and march back to health!