Older People Drive Slower Because They are the Smart Ones

It’s funny how being told you have a 50/50 chance of living affects how you view life in general. For me, the biggest impact has been on my driving habits. I drive slower.

I always used to complain about slow drivers and inevitably the majority of the people that I was complaining about and giving the evil glare were older at least in appearance. When I say older I mean senior citizens, the people that you perceive as closer to death.  Just stating facts here.

Right up until the day before I went into the hospital I remember both thinking and saying out loud, “You would think old people would be the ones that drove faster, because they has less time left and should be trying to do as much as they can.”

Well, being told you are going to die actually doesn’t make you want to go faster and get more done at all. Your life may flash before your eyes right before you die, but all I want to do at this point is slow down.  I want to relish every moment, every breath, every detail.

The fact is detail fades away the faster you go. Everything becomes a blur, flashes of light and streaks of colors. I have no desire to do that anymore.  I have no desire to go fast and get more done. I just want to go at a pace where every detail sinks in.

Your mom has told me more than once, actually more times than I could ever remember, that my attention to detail sucks. It is the pace that I had a propensity to move at that had a significant impact on it.  I moved at a pace that caused the details to become blurs and flashes.

I think I already may have mentioned that the hardest part of being in the hospital and not being well was missing hockey games.  It wasn’t just missing the hockey games, because even when your mom made it better by Face Timing the games, it wasn’t nearly as great as being there.

I couldn’t see your smile on the ice son when you scored your goals or went to hug your teammates.  I could see the sparkly eyes baby girl, when you inevitably would ask for a treat.  I couldn’t see that look on Mom’s face when she had to run to that late third period in a close game potty break that sometimes was baby girl just being bored more so than having to go.

Now that I am back at the rink, even that nasty hockey smell is awesome. The disappointment in the losses really isn’t all that disappointing. My appreciation for all the work and effort you have gone through to get to where you are son is greater. My appreciation for your mom letting me be by myself to watch the game in the corners while she manages you baby girl is greater.

Lastly, I drive slower.

I appreciate the opportunity that I have to observe the world and see things clearer. I know that I am less likely to have an accident too. I truly appreciate knowing that an accident could take me away from both of you.  While that day will inevitably come, I am definitely not in any hurry to get there.

Black, White or Gray. Which would you choose?

Throughout my life I have always been worried when I don’t know what’s coming next. However, in raising the two of you I have become more comfortable with that because kids are about the most unpredictable things in the world.

And puppies…puppies are unpredictable too.  Your new puppy Remi has reminded me of that. You go 16 years without a puppy and you completely forget how hard they are to deal with. Thankfully your mom is about as good as they get when it comes to dog whisperers.

People refer to things being black and white when they are clear. People, including me, love clarity. A clear direction, clear steps on how to get where you’re going, clear plans to how to overcome obstacles that might come up and a clear finishing point. However, life only has one ultimate finish, death. Even death to some is just another journey’s beginning.

When things are not black and white, people refer to them being gray. The definition of gray is a color between black and white. While I enjoy black and white I know that things truly move forward and I have been happiest in my life in the gray.

The two of you make me happier than anything else in this world. You are the grayest of the gray. I have no idea what you are going to do next much less in your lives. What I know you have is potential.

Gray while uncomfortable is where all potential lies. This is true in almost every aspect of life. I not only hope for you that you become comfortable with the gray, but learn to embrace it and seek it out. Expand your horizons and never embrace clarity.

Seek adventure. Seek to always be better. Be better than you are today, tomorrow and ever day.


 

 

 

Moments I’ll Always Remember

On Monday, April 15, 2013 two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was sitting at my desk on Gonda 1 in the Mayo Clinic when I found out. I spent the next 15 minutes on Twitter, Facebook and Google trying to understand what happened.

On September 11, 2001 I was sitting on the couch in the living room of our townhouse with Caesar sitting on my lap watching the Today Show. They were talking about what appeared to be a fire at the World Trade Center in New York when a “small plane” appeared to hit the other World Trade Center tower. We later found out that it was not a small plane and they were two of four planes that were to be used as weapons by terrorists that day.

These to date are two of the most engrained memories that I have in my life. I can remember every detail around those moments, with almost every one of my senses engaged up to the near numb feeling that I experienced throughout my entire body. They are also the worst memories that I have.

Fortunately, I have two equally good memories where the same senses engaged.

The first is when your mother was walking toward me on our wedding day, right up until your Grandpa Marv let go of her at the altar and went in for the kiss. He kissed me and not your mom. She remembers that.

The rest of the ceremony and the day are a blur because of nerves and activity. Most Wisconsin weddings would be a blur because of the drinking, but I had one glass of champagne all day.

The second good memory was when you were born on Friday, July 13, 2007. I remember almost every moment of joy, anticipation and even fear. Right after you were born there was what I thought was a frantic call for help and you weren’t making a peep. It was probably seconds before we heard your voice for the first time, but even today when I think about it, it feels like hours.

There are other memories, some of which I mentioned in previous posts and others I hope to get to in the future, but these are the four most significant.

The four memories where I can recall the tastes, the sounds, exactly what I saw like someone hit record in my brains blue-ray player, the sensation of numbness and tingling all the way to my finger tips in all occasions and finally the smells right down to how stinky Caesar was on September 11, 2001.

I figured out almost immediately what the common link between these memories were. They are the most powerful memories I have that have shown me how precious life and love are.

Life and love are by far the most precious things we have, and we should never take them for granted.

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If You Loose Perspective, Don’t Worry – It Will Find You

Humility has never been one of my stronger traits, but life has a way of making you more humble when you least expect it.

On September 17, 2012 I found myself in the back of an ambulance, my third in my lifetime. The first was when I was freshman in high school where I found myself on the wrong side of a wrestling move by our senior heavyweight. The second was when I had my first panic attack, and with my steady diet of red bull and tobacco at the time everyone had actually figured it was my first heart attack.

The third though is one that I was happiest to be on, especially in retrospect, because things could have gone much worse.

It was a usual drive home from Mayo Clinic, the 66.6 miles door to door that I get to experience every morning and night. I looked down at the clock just before the highway 46 exit and figured I had enough time to pick up my dry cleaning before meeting you at the rink to get you ready for skating practice.

The next thing I recall is being woke up several times, by a guy named Pat. I remember being covered up as they told me they had to cut me out. I remember my hand hurting, my knee hurting, the taste of blood in my mouth and trying to call your mom to tell her I would be late for practice. Then another pause in my memory until I was loaded on to the ambulance.

I remember being cold and warm at the same time and then hearing someone say, “BP 220/100, push another, blah blah blah……” I remember thinking, “What the hell, I thought I had my blood pressure under control.”

Things started getting a bit clearer then, but everything was slowed down. My head started to hurt like hell and my right knee was not far behind on the pain scale for a bit. I remember being rolled off the ambulance into the emergency room at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN. I remember a flurry of doctors, nurses and then you and your mom got there and everything seemed alright from that point on. Memories are pretty fluid from there on out.

I would spend a two nights and three days in the hospital as they helped me manage the pain stemming from my head primarily and somewhat from my knee. I was moved from the ER to the trauma ward so I would not get to see you again until I came home, with the exception of FaceTime. Your mom and your Uncle Sonny were essentially taking shifts so I was rarely alone.

Your Uncle Mike and Aunt Lisa also came to spend some time, and whether it was the pain medication or the fact that I had just received a mega dose of perspective, we had some good talks that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The perspective I got on that day, was on how fragile life could be and how quickly things could change. I like to think that is what prompted me to say some things that needed to be said, and in reality reminded me that I should not wait to say things like that in the future, because you may not get the chance to say them.

Unfortunately, reminders of that come far too often. I have lost my grandparents, the best father-in-law a guy could ever dream of having, seen friends and family struggle with illnesses and seen others close to me loose loved ones as life took its normal course and inexplicable detours.

PERSPECTIVE SUCKS!!!

I wish that I would always be able to keep things in perspective versus having it delivered in such strong messages, but it seemingly happens when you need it most.

My most consistent complaint in life is that there is not enough time to get the things done that I “need” to get done. In reality I should be happy that I have that issue, because it means taken into perspective that I still have time left to do things.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite day of the year, because it isn’t about presents and over-commercialization seems to have not found a way to ruin it yet.

This year more than ever I have a lot to be thankful for, which I will get to more in upcoming posts.

However, my list everyday and magnified on my favorite day is my thanks for my family, friends and my health. My life is full just with these three.

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My Silent Teacher

When I wanted to start playing football there was one big issue. My home town of Eden, WI; did not have a team and even know a coach had invited me to play on a team in Fond du Lac, WI. I still had the issue of, how to I get there every day for practice.

By this time my mom and dad were divorced, Dad was running his business and mom was working full time too.

However, Grandma Feyen was coming to clean our house once a week and after listening to me complain about not being able to play because I couldn’t get to practice she said, “Ray will take care of it.”

Ray Feyen, was my Grandpa Feyen and for my whole first year of football he drove the 10 miles from Fond du Lac to pick me up and drive me the 10 miles back to Fond du Lac and some days when dad could not make it from work to pick me up he would make the round trip again.

We spent about 3 months doing that trip together and honestly, I don’t remember a single conversation. I just remember how he listened to talk radio every day and how annoying I thought it was. I’m guessing that is what you will think some day about my talk radio habit.

And even though I lived with Grandma and Grandpa Feyen for a few years later in life, I can honestly only remember two things that came out of Grandpa Feyen’s mouth. One, the fact that he used to call us grandkids, snicklefritzes and the infamous, “Can I get my drink yet?,” when he knew family was coming to visit. Grandma only let him drink when people were visiting in the later years.

I think that it is kind of strange that I remember how much Grandpa B told me, possibly because of the number of times he repeated the same story, but almost nothing about what Grandpa Feyen said.

Even though I don’t remember what he said, I remember several things that he taught me.

I remember being at the farm in the morning and watching him walk to to the barn to start the day.  I remember his striped overalls and hankerchief.  I remember not remembering him ever complaining or looking like he didn’t want to do it.  My memory may be different from others on that last statement but I really think it had an effect on my work ethic.

Although I may complain more than I remember Grandpa complaining, I know that I am responsible to get my work done.

I also remember how Grandpa realized that our regular trips to the Golden Goat to recylce cans were loosing us money and that we should be taking our cans to the recycling center where they paid more per pound of cans.  The only difference is that the cans taken to the recycling center had to be crushed.

He would take our full bags of uncrushed cans from our house in Eden to the farm house and he would crush the cans one by one with a sledge hammer on his work bench.  I swear that each can was crushed to the exact same measurement.

I learned two things from this.  The first is the value of money, your mother may argue that that value alludes me at times, but the fact that Grandpa was willing to invest the time to help us make a few extra dollars meant a lot.  The second is no matter what you are doing that you should take pride in it, even if it means a perfect crush on a can that is bound for a recycling center.

That wasn’t the last lesson I learned from Grandpa around the cans. When we got to the recycling center I realized the bags were put on a scale, weighed and then we threw them into a bin.  The more the bag weighed the more money we made and no one really inspected the bags so why not add some weight to the bags and bingo, more money.

I decided that I was going to add sand to the bags, and then the first bag I added the sand to was gone from Grandpa’s garage with all the other bags the next morning because Grandpa decided to take the cans in for us.

When he got back all I remember is him carrying one bag out of the back of the car, dropping it in the garage, telling us to clean out the sand and that was it. He didn’t get mad at us and never asked why or how it got there.

Then at lunch that day he pointed out the milkhose hanging in the mudroom like the one that he used to smack the cows with to get them to do what he wanted them to do. I don’t remember what he said as much as I knew that from that point forward I would never put sand in our aluminum cans ever again and that I never wanted to find out how a cow felt when it gets hit by that hose.

The lesson; if you make a mistake you are going to fix it yourself and there are consequences for big mistakes.  Not always a milkhose to the backside, but consequences just the same.

The final lesson I learned from Grandpa was the hardest lesson.  Grandma and Grandpa left their farm to move into the city when they were in relatively good health, but what I percieved once they moved was that Grandpa had lost a big part of who he was.  I saw him try to find things to keep himself busy, but he never was quite the same or quite as happy as I remembered him being on the farm.

Grandpa seemed to loose a little bit more of himself every day and I remember watching him struggle to get the bread he always dunked into his coffee into his mouth before it fell apart.  I saw him fail more times than I would like to remember.

I don’t know if Grandpa would have lived longer or had more quality of life if they never left the farm, but I do think he would have been happier.  He never said that to me, at least that I can remember, but that is what I think.

What I do know is that I will always seek to ensure my life is full and I will hold on tight to those things that keep me happy.

I will also endeavor to lead as much by example as well as my Grandpa Feyen did.

 

A Top Ten List: Leadership Direction

One of the things I love about the life I have lived, the jobs I have had, the career path that I have followed and the sports that I have played is that I have been exposed to some great leaders. I have also been exposed to some not so great leaders.

This top ten list is my perspective on the ten pieces of direction that come to mind first when I think about the direction these leaders have given me.

Fail Fast, Fix Faster

  • I go back and forth on how much I buy into this. Failure is not something I really think one should pride themselves on. On the other hand being able to recognize failure and fixing that failure quickly is something I think is respectable. Then there is the fact that fear of failure holds too many people back from execution and doing nothing is not something I think anyone should be proud of or have the guts to accept a paycheck for.

He Who Hesitates, Get’s Ass Kicked

  • Every aspect of life and business seems to move at a faster pace almost every day. Hesitation is dangerous.

Be Patient

  • With everything in life moving so fast patience is becoming a valuable asset, especially when applied in the correct situations. It’s not one of my personal strengths, but something I do desire to have more of.

Execute

  • The greatest plans, ideas and intentions are worthless without execution.

Learn From Your Mistakes

  • I really do believe that this is something that you can use in all walks of life. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and expect that you will make your own. As long as you learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them you can go a long way. I also feel that if you embrace learning from your mistakes that you will be less fearful of making mistakes in the first place and you will value your mistakes instead of regretting them.

Don’t F**k Up

  • There are levels of failure and mistakes that you just can’t recover from or fix, that would probably be defined as a f**k up. You really want to avoid those if you can.

Decomplexify

  • This concept was first known to me as and probably most commonly known as the kiss principle, keep it simple stupid. Decomplexifying is an art form that seeks to get maximum results with the least amount of effort or planning. The masters of decomplexification are the most valuable assets to any business and just good people to have around when it comes to making the best out of a less than ideal situation.

Trust Your Instincts

  • If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust.

Never Say You’re Sorry

  • ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE ADVICE!!!!! If you f**k up, make a mistake, fail or just do wrong by someone never be afraid to admit that you were wrong and never hesitate to say I am sorry. If you find yourself apologizing too much you might want to exhibit some patience and figure out why that is the case.

Focus on People

  • ABSOLUTELY THE BEST ADVICE!!!! The most complex, simple statement. Very simply I do believe there is no purpose in life without others. Even in individual sports you need to show respect for your coaches and competitors, in team sports you need to have other people. In business, people are the foundation of all organizations and customers are people.

Perception is Reality

The person who I am is not the person you think I am.

That pretty much says it all, but it’s a fact of life that I believe.

Trying to align perception and reality is a tiring task. So, I have chosen to focus my energy as much as I can on being me and not trying to shape who others think that is.

I am 6’2″ and weigh close to 300 pounds, I have a loud speaking voice and when I believe in something strongly I will hold that belief until someone convinces me it is wrong.

That gets interpreted by some as me being an arrogant bully. That’s their perception and they have the right to believe that.

I was told by my first professional mentor that if you’re not trying to eliminate the need for your job or the job’s of the people on your team, you’re probably not doing the right thing. The ideal outcome is that if you work that way that you will increase you and your team’s value to the organization through the ability of your team to contribute incrementally to the organization.

The less than ideal outcome is that you end up eliminating your own job or your team’s jobs. Unfortunately that might be what happens, but it doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do.

This gets interpreted by some as me not having respect for the work they do or the value they currently bring. I have spent a ton of hours explaining to people that is not the case and that the intent is to increase their value constantly.

Not everyone sees that and some don’t want that because they are happy doing what they currently do.

I’ll continue to invest the time explaining that to people because I care. Regardless of what I say, some people’s perception of me will never change.

Some people know me for the person who I think I am.

I think I am a physically big individual with a metaphorically big heart who cares a lot about what other people think.

I really want people to be happy.

I like to debate, but hate to argue.

I am driven to make everything I touch better.

I love my family and friends first, my work is a distant second and myself a close third.

So maybe who I think I am is who you think I am, but I never percieve that to be the case in anyone.

That may be my unfortunate reality.

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Diets and Excercise are BS

Remember that above all I believe that all people are different, that not everything will work the same for everyone. Also, while I walk the halls today with some of the greatest doctors in the world, I am definitely not one of them.

I do believe however as the topic states that diets and exercise are absolutely without a doubt bullspit.

When I was a junior in high school I was by far in the best shape of my life. At the peak of my physical fitness I weighed 275 pounds, could bench press 525 pounds, squatted over 1,200 pounds, could slam dunk a basketball and ran a 4.89 40-yard dash. However, my progress was stopped in its tracks by a torn ACL, MCL and LCL in my left knee.

By my senior year of football I had got most of my upper body strength back, but my legs were never the same. By the end of my senior year of football I was down under 250 pounds and ran one more 40 under 5 seconds at a recruiting trip at Northern Michigan.

I heard the same from every one of the coaches that recruited me though, I was an offensive lineman and I needed to get my weight to 300 plus. I ultimately got up to 320 by my first day on the field at St. Cloud State University in St Cloud, MN. The third day on the field, before I even got to wear shoulder pads in college I got my knee rolled over, tore my ACL and I was out of football for good. Subsequently I gave up working out for the most part too and would not see under 300 pounds on the scale for over 20 years.

At my worst I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds, I once saw the scale register 479 and at that point pretty much avoided scales unless I was in a doctor’s office, which eventually became a regular occurrence. I found myself diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, chronic back pain and chronic joint pain. In November of 2008 I was taking 13 pills a day for all my ailments.

It was also in November of 2008 that I started working at Mayo Clinic. When I interviewed I was wearing a size 58 inch waist pants and was somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds. Shortly after starting I took a health assessment and there was something that prompted me to say I wanted help, and that help came in a phone call from a disease management nurse. Her name was Bonnie.

Little by little she helped me make better choices. She encouraged me to go to my doctor on a regular basis. She encouraged me to start eating better breakfasts. She encouraged me to monitor my blood sugars. She encouraged me to see a dietician and then a doctor specializing in diets by the name of Dr Donald Hensrud. Dr Hensrud encouraged me to by a bigger salad bowl.

Bonnie encouraged me to make better choices at lunch and then at dinner. Bonnie got me to take the clothes and boxes off the treadmill and go for a walk. I still remember it like it was yesterday; 0 incline, 3.0 mph, 30 minutes. I was sweating like crazy, my heart was pounding, my feet and my back hurt; but I got back to it two days later and every other day for a while. Eventually it was every day and eventually the treadmill at home couldn’t get to an incline or speed that were challenging for me without feeling like it was going to break.

Eventually salads were more frequently served at the dinner table and I still remember the day you told me at the age of two that your favorite food was a salad. Mine is still vanilla ice cream with almost equal parts crunchy peanut butter, and I know your tastes have evolved past your statement that salads were your favorite food.

Today as I write this I fit in a size 42 inch waist pair of pants and I take two pills a day. I am getting ready to run a half marathon memorial day weekend and will do four triathlons followed by a late fall half marathon this year. You love talking about Buffalo, that’s where I tried and failed at my first triathlon, but I went on to finish two more last year and can’t wait to kick that courses butt in Buffalo, MN this year.

You might have just read that thinking, why does my dad feel diets and exercise are bullspit because they sure seem to have made a difference in his life.

It’s very simple, I failed at diets and exercise, but I finally succeeded when I chose to live life right.

I chose to make better food choices part of what I do, and part of who I am.

It’s not a diet, it’s not a journey, it’s living right.

I chose to make swimming, running and biking part of what I do to take care of myself, to live to see you live your life as long as I possibly can.

I failed at diets, I started and stopped exercising. I will not willingly stop living and I chose to live life right.

To be continued……

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