Day 97: My Friend, The Kid [52PWM]

Do you have a friend who, when you look back at how you grew as friends, you realize how unlikely it is that you grew to be such close friends?  I do.  I consider him one of my best friends, certainly the best friend I have from my youth/high school days.


Stomping grounds from back in the day.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how Jeremy and I first met.  Nor could I tell you why I refer to him as “Kid”.  In fact, I probably couldn’t tell you much about my early friendship with him.  I just know that, as my high school experience progressed, Jeremy was always a good friend.

We shared a lot of common passions: basketball, movies, PlayStation.  We competed in everything.  More often than not, Jeremy whalloped me on the court.  I still maintain that I could out-thread a movie projector faster.  And we were dead even on Jet Moto 2, provided I had the right racer.  We both worked at the local movie theater, and after graduation, Jeremy stuck around town and took courses at the community college.  He was promoted to the general manager of the theater, which led to shenanigans on slow, midwinter weeknights whenever I was home on break.

Yet more stomping grounds.

Yet more stomping grounds.

For a while, I guess my fears for Jeremy were that he might fall into the common trap of small town America: get a decent job, work, stay your whole life.  I knew this wasn’t what he wanted, but I didn’t know how to encourage him to get out.  For several years, I chewed on that, wondering how or what I could do to encourage him to get away.  So imagine my surprise when he informed me that he was joining the Army!  I drove back to party with him and one other friend shortly before he deployed to Iraq, and then my family and I prayed for his safety for the years in-between until he was out.  Thankfully, he was discharged safely and has finished his college degree in Iowa.

To this day, we don’t see each other near as much as I would like.  Jeremy is one of the few people who knows me best.  He was the signor on the marriage certificate for my wife and I.  My kids will frequently ask if he can come visit.  He was one of three guys who I made the trip with for my 30th birthday weekend.   I wish we could hang out more often, but life circumstances being what they are, we have to content ourselves with phone calls every few months and a visit or two per year.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, for the time being, that will have to suffice.  And it does.  I may not always know what is going on in his day-to-day life, nor he mine, but that doesn’t change the fact that I cherish our friendship immensely.

In case you didn't know, this is what a movie theater projector looks like these days.  Pretty sure I could still own this bad boy.

In case you didn’t know, this is what a movie theater projector looks like these days. Pretty sure I could still own this bad boy.

And I have no doubt that, given the opportunity, we’d still race to see who could thread a movie onto a projector faster.  And I would probably win.  Probably.

Day 92: One Quarter In


keep-calm-and-check-progress-5So now that I am one-quarter of the way through this year, I took the opportunity to revisit some of my goals to see where I stand…

Physically:  I’ve been able to get a workout in every single day.  Some days, that workout consists of 50 pushups as I get ready to crawl into bed.  Some days it’s a full, heavy weight session at the gym.  But I’ve done some sort of muscle punishing workout every single day.  I’ve seen some results, too.  Nothing too tremendous, but enough that I’m happy with my progress.


Day 4


Day 89

No, I’m probably never going to be huge.  I resigned myself to that my senior year of high school.  Nor do I want to, as my wife claims she doesn’t like overly muscular dudes.  So that’s good.  But I am happy with my results so far.


I’ve completed a number of books so far, but I’m slightly behind pace.  I realize that, but I’m not freaking out too badly by that, because when I get into a fiction book, I usually devour it.


I’m pleased with my progress.  I’ve made a desk, learned to identify a lot of birds (which reminds me, we’ve seen our first robin in the yard), and I’m progressing towards my first belt in karate.


Again, pleased with where I am.  I’m slightly off pace, but that will all change as rugby season comes into full swing this spring.  I run a lot during the spring and fall seasons.  So anywhere that I am behind, I will make it up very soon.  In addition, we’ve got our first adventure race of the season coming up in two weekends.  I’m excited to be running with my wife.  Also, I love my Vibram Five Fingers.

People Who Matter:
I’m a little behind on this, but several upcoming posts include more than one person, so I will be back to pace very shortly.

So that’s it.  A brief look at the first quarter.  I’m sure I could be more in depth, but none of this matters to you.  What really matters here is you.  Is this inspiring you to do something better?  Does it help you continue on a path you’ve wanted to walk?  In the end, that’s what I hope to do…inspire you.


As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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Day 77: The Man Who Taught Me the Double Windsor [52PWM]

This is a continuation of my 52 People Who Matter to Me series.  The first few were family and were in somewhat of an order; from here on out there is no order because they are all important to me in different ways, and I can not begin to quantify one over another.  I will only use first names when discussing these folks because I know that privacy is important to some.  In some cases I may only use an initial, and in a select few, I might not even use that.


The Man Who Taught Me the Double Windsor

I first met Tom while working at a movie theater in high school.  I was a recent promotee to assistant manager, and Tom was one of the other three assistant managers.  Of all the employees, Tom was the one who seemingly didn’t fit in.  Most of us were high school or college students, with a few young “adults”.  Tom was in his mid 40’s.  We lived in town, Tom commuted from 45+ miles away.  We were single kids with thoughts preoccupied by the opposite sex.  Tom was happily married with two kids.  We worked part time to earn money.  I don’t think Tom needed the job.  I never really knew the particulars, but I knew Tom was friends with the owners of the theater, and I believe they brought him in to teach us how to really do our jobs.  He was good at that, because he did the job well.

This man could be a bit of a hard ass when it came to some of the employees.  At first, I thought he just didn’t like to have fun.  He was always making sure we completed our tasks before goofing off.  He didn’t let us slouch around or take frequent breaks.  When he was on duty, it was all about the job.  Of course, looking back, I realize why.  We were in a service industry, and what I failed to realize at the time was that I wasn’t just doing a job, I was giving people an experience.

Tom understood this.  He understood that our laziness could ruin a night.

Imagine saving your cash from a few paychecks  and looking forward to taking your sweetheart to the newest blockbuster movie.  We all know that a trip to the theater is not cheap, and I lived in rural farm country Iowa, where money didn’t exactly flow freely.  Now imagine that the kid taking your order is not paying attention to you, but instead is laughing it up with his buddies while he half-asses your popcorn and candy.  He doesn’t treat you with a smile as he gives you your change.  Next, the usher taking your tickets doesn’t look you in the eye nor direct you to which screen your movie is playing on.  And finally, imagine arriving at your seat only to find the floor littered with empty candy boxes, spilled soda and popcorn.

Not your idea of a great time at the movies, is it?

Unfortunately, I would have to raise my hand if asked if I ever could have let that happen.

I was hesitant about working with Tom at first.  I was 17, knew it all, and I’d have sworn there was no way some 45 year old farmer knew more about working in a theater than I did.  After hearing about his first few shifts from some of the other employees, I expected him to be yelling and screaming half of the time, a veritable Nurse Ratched in slacks.

Instead, I met a soft-spoken, hard-working, diligent, gray haired gentleman who simply insisted we do our jobs when it was time.  Between shows, the bathrooms were to be checked and candy was to be stocked while the floor was swept and vacuumed.  Popcorn was to be made and soda nozzles cleaned before we served our first patron.  When all of this was done, we were free to do whatever we wanted, provided it was out of sight.  (Most of the employees were students, so homework was frequently done whenever the lobby was empty, especially on school nights).  Tom didn’t yell or scream.  He just walked over and reminded us that the cups weren’t stacked, the trash wasn’t emptied, or the printer wasn’t restocked.  Frequently, it was while he was carrying an armful of candy or sweeping the floor: he preferred to lead by example.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”
-Kevin Stirtz

Within a few months, I noticed two things.  One, there was a turnover of employees from the “old guard”.  I guess some folks didn’t like having to actually work while they were working.  Two, we became more efficient, and there was more free time throughout the shift.  When you focused and worked, the work took care of itself quickly.

I didn’t work by myself all that often with Tom.  We were both duty managers and, as such, had different shifts.  But during the winter, when business was slow, people took whatever shifts they could, and I was no exception.  We did work several nights together, just the two of us.  And it was on those nights that I came to respect Tom immensely.  Tom was extremely intelligent, a very loving family man and devoted father, and the man didn’t know how to slow down or quit (much like my father).  Tom also laughed easily when the work was done, and wasn’t afraid to talk about hard work and loyalty.

Tom also taught me how to tie a double windsor knot on a necktie.  We were discussing job interviews and suits one day when he whipped out a tie and asked me how I tied mine.  My father had taught me a single windsor, and being a young man, I’d never asked for any other instruction.  But Tom insisted that the double windsor looked more professional.  Over the ensuing hour, I practiced the knot he showed me until I felt I had it down.  The next day, I tied it in the mirror a dozen times.  Within a week, it was my go-to knot.  To this day, I use it almost exclusively.


I’m remiss to say that I’m not sure where Tom is now.  After heading off for my final year of college, we kept in touch a few times.  I invited Tom to my first wedding.  I don’t know when the last time was that I spoke to him.  I hope that his kids are excelling in school now and the family is getting on well.   Wherever he is, I have no doubt he is working hard.  It might behoove his coworkers to learn a thing or two from him. I know that my work ethic today was certainly defined by what I learned from my father, but Tom is among the next few who have also had significant influence on me.

So Tom, wherever you are today, I want to let you know that I still know how to tie my tie “properly”.  And when it’s time to work, I work.


Day 54: [52PWM]: #5 – The Man I Learned From

Part of my 52 People Who Matter to Me series

I contemplated naming this one “The Man I Look More and More Like Everyday”, but I’m not so sure that gray hair and receding hairlines should be the subtitle of my post.


Seriously, that’s a manly beard.

They say we wind up emulating our parents as we grow.  For me, it’s eerily true.  I have wound up working in the same field, playing many of the same sports, sounding like and joking like my father.  I find no shame in that.  My father and I have a great relationship.  For the most part, it’s always been that way.  I don’t recall much rebellious angst against my father growing up (neither parent for that matter), and he has always been available whenever I needed advice or counsel.

There were many years that my father spent his time coaching my football teams.  Most vividly I recall a season where we did not win a single game.  This was 6th grade-ish.  We played many teams closely, taking the eventual champions to the wire, but always came up on the short end of the scoreboard.  Following the season, he had custom jerseys printed up for all of the players that simply said “PRIDE”.  He wanted all of us to know that we had done something we could be proud of.  Not a “Oh Johnny, I’m so glad you were on the field, here’s your blue ribbon” something to be proud of, but an actual “You fought every battle hard and strong, and you damn sure bled on that field” kind of proud.  That’s always been his motto: give it your all.


As I mentioned before, I currently work in the same field as my father.  More to the point, my current business territory overlaps a territory he worked 25-30 years ago.  He’s a legend in the industry, and remembered by many of my current customers.  I frequently get questions on his health (“good”), whereabouts (“Up North”) and retirement status (“never”).  He is fondly remembered as one of the nicest, most genuine, and hard working salesmen they’ve ever met.  One of the lines I hear most often from people who’ve worked with him is that he’s forgotten more about our line of work than most men will ever learn.  Talk about pressure to live up to!

The thing is, he continues to build his legacy.  He’s facing the big 6-0 this year, and shows no desire to retire.  He recently faced a stretch of nearly two years where he was out on his own doing consulting and short-term contract work.  The man could have filed for benefits, but instead chose to continue doing what he loved, paying for his own travel and lodging in order to stay current and relevant.  Furthermore, on the days and weekends when he was home, he chose to work the 80 acre plot of land they own: felling trees, clearing brush, planting trees.  He’s one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known.  The man has no off switch.


In the end, I can say that I am proud to remind people of my father, even when it’s said about my cheesy jokes.  There are few men I would wish to emulate in some fashion in my life, but Dad is certainly one of them.

Thanks, Dad.  Love you.

Day 39, [52PWM] #3&4 – The sibs

[52PWM] = 52 People Who Matter to Me


I love these guys.

This is my brother and sister, a few other very important people in my life.  We grew up very close together.  My family moved often and I never really put down roots.  My father’s job kept us transferring every two or three years, so the only constant friends I developed were my siblings.

I’m the oldest of the three.  Two years separate myself and my sister, and two more are between her and my brother.  We were, and still are, extremely close.  I’ve spent more nights discussing life, the finer points of euchre, and all manner of trivia from A to Z with these two than anyone but my wife.


When I was going through my divorce, the first two people to hop on a plane and come visit me in New Zealand were these two.  In fact, the picture above was taken the night before the three of us jumped out of an airplane.  We spent a week with no plans except a car with a full tank of gas and a map of the South Island.  To this day, some of my best memories not featuring my wife and kids are from that week.

We share a lot of similar interests, including our love of participating in sports.  My brother is the most gifted athletically of the three of us, with my sister a close second.  All three of us played multiple sports growing up, in high school, and in college, and all three of us will compete to this very day given a ball, time and space.  We also generally dominate in Trivial Pursuit, and if you add my wife in the mix, we’re nearly unbeatable in Team Trivia.


We’ve been known to do some crazy things when we put our heads together, and I’m sure my parents, wife, and several other family members would say that’s happened more than they’d care to admit.   Many times, my sister played the role of caretaker while my brother and I caused havoc, but not always.  In fact, the two of them share a set of scars from a particularly violent game of ice hockey in which I sat out.

Alongside those scars, there were broken bones, jammed fingers, hair pullings, black eyes and not a few scrapes and bruises.  However, there were infinitely more laughs, crazy haircuts, goofy faces, Christmas mornings and memories, all of which outweigh any of the bad times.

I’d love to say that all they’ve done is copied their big brother their entire lives, but truth is, I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me.  There’s a very likely chance that I wouldn’t be here today were it not for these two.  For that, and for so much more, I want them to know that they’re very important to me.

Crazy ugly pictures and all.