Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Vacation State of Mind!



A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
"A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking."
 -- Earl Wilson (American Journalist: 1907-1987)
A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/earlwilson384618.html?src=t_vacation

Through the whole of my career life the one thing that I have always held sacred was my earned vacation. I have met many (who shall remain nameless because they know who they are) who have sadly forfeited their vacations, or even worse, worked the entire time they were "off". Let me clarify the definition of vacation as any time off work that is used for the sole and expressed purpose of recharging one's soul enriching batteries. It has nothing to do with exotic places visited, but rather, the conscientious moving of your life into a neutral destination to find and enjoy peace. It can be enjoyed anywhere and at anytime that one makes themselves available.

Toiling continually without rest is a sure prescription for a shorter existence. Today, the majority of the world lives in abject poverty, working tirelessly just to live a subsistence life. Imagine just how much any one of these people would relish even a short period of "vacation"? Yet, many Americans with the means and the access to vacation take such a benefit for granted or let finite portions of time simply expire; Qué lástima (what a shame)!

"The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations."
 -- Adam Smith

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
-- Matthew 11:28 (NKJV) 

 
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Regret to Inform You...



"One doesn't recognize the really important moments in one's life until it's too late." 
-- Agatha Christie

The older I get, the more thankful I become for every additional day that I am alive and for the people, places, and things that make my life a richer experience. Getting to where I am today has not come without the loss of friends and family; both literally and figuratively. It is "oh so easy" and futile to look back and harbor regrets. Worse yet is to look forward and expect regrets. Look back and see regrets as lessons learned rather than as a place to live until your last day or as a place to revisit in your future. 

There are three things that will eat away at a person's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; and I am not talking about the US Declaration of Independence:
  1. Anger
  2. Regret
  3. Inability to forgive
For many, the road of life is littered with the wreckage of these life sucking things! Sadly, the young are destined to take these same well traveled roads, regardless of the wise counsel of those who have traveled them previously. At 18, I knew everything. At 30, I started to have real doubts about my "genius". At 60, I am a humbled philosopher with so much more to learn.

Today, I implore you to not fail to recognize the REALLY important moments in your life. "Carpe Diem - Seize the Day!"



 
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wanderlust and a Thirst for Local Knowledge

One Woman's Quest for her CTA (the acronym more traveled) -


Today, Brooke received her official certificate of designation as an official Houston CTA. For those unfamiliar, a CTA is a Certified Tourism Ambassador. I have lived here in Houston for nearly 38 years and Brooke knows more about her adopted city than I will probably ever know. Congratulations Brooke! 

Each day now, Brooke will start several conversations with the seemingly innocuous, "Did you know ___________ about Houston?" Or, "I do not think you know just how significant <insert year> was to the history of Houston?" Which of course I do not know of such significance, but regardless, I act impressed and amazed by her fountain of information. My former most popular response to her, "Yes dear!" has been replaced by the famous phrase coined by the late Johnny Carson, "I did not know that?"


When you are an AirBnB Super Host this certification comes in quite handy when asked uncommon questions like, "Where is the closest grocery store?" or, "Is the water safe to drink?" Seriously, we actually get that question quite frequently and I always quickly hide my Scooby Doo look for fear of offending a guest. Now, if this was <insert year>, that would be an excellent question to ask.

All joking aside, the vast amount of things that Brooke knows about Houston is mind-boggling. She is versed and knowledgeable in truly interesting historical facts that have changed the attitudes (towards Houston) in the minds of nearly every guest that we have had the privilege to host. Houston is richer for her enthusiasm for this great city.



Brooke Candelaria - Houston CTA
Are you curious about any Houston detail? Ask Brooke! Rumor has it that she has taught Alexa and Siri everything they know! She would make the Allen brothers proud. For more information check out VisitHouston.com


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cancer is a Dirty Word



Houston's world famous MD Anderson Cancer Center uses a great double entendre in all of its marketing. In fact, "Making Cancer History"® is a registered trademark; a powerful message in 3 simple words! Three words that nary a single person would oppose. MD Anderson is doing extraordinary leading-edge research with one simple mission - end cancer, everywhere.

I do not know a single person unaffected by cancer. As of this writing, I am pleased to report that I have reached age 60 without personally having cancer of any kind, but I have seen more than my fair share of death to friends or family. The past 2 years alone has left me with great sadness coupled with tremendous gratitude for the miracle of  remission in a few. 

One of the definitions for "remission" from Dictionary.com: a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease.

Troubling for me is the temporary part. Truthfully, life itself is only temporary. I am encouraged by some of the latest cancer treatments that are delivering a "permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of cancer"; if only until one's designated and predetermined hour of death due to other causes.

Over the past several days the world has heard of US Senator John McCain's diagnosis of brain cancer; a form considered to be very aggressive. This is discouraging news indeed, especially for those personally connected to Senator McCain. Today, I will stand in prayer for Senator McCain and his family, but also for the thousands of those who are afflicted with cancer and are not famous, except as courageous heroes to their own family and friends.

Thank you MD Anderson for your continued fight to make cancer history!
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pitch This!



"The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers." - Earl Weaver

When it comes to sports, my wife Brooke fits into the "see it live and in person" category. Don't get me wrong, she is not really interested in the game -- she just loves the social experience that comes along with being taken out to the ballgame. And these are the rare times that she will actually eat a hot dog (means I am allowed one as well).



Nearly 2 years ago we witnessed Mike Fiers of the Houston Astros throw a no-hitter at Minute Maid Park. It was amazing to actually see one of only 296 no-hitters that have so far been pitched. For me, I love baseball above all else because every single pitch thrown is strategic. What combination of pitches does a particular pitcher throw and what kind of pitch is a batter most likely to hit, etc., etc. After the no-hitter, I decided that it was time for me to teach Brooke about the holy trinity of pitching no-no nevers
  • Never allow the inning lead-off hitter to get on base
  • Never allow an opposing pitcher to reach base and especially by being walked
  • Never allow a base runner to steal home
In the beginning Brooke seemed genuinely interested in learning these interesting facts and why they are actually important in the strategy of every baseball game played. That was until last night when I eagerly asked her if she remembered the holy trinity of pitching no-no nevers? She said, "Sure!":
  1. Never allow any hitter to score a touchdown with a grand slam
  2. Never disrespect an opposing pitcher especially one with a "wicked" slider
  3. Never start a land war in Asia 
Funny gal that one. Alas, it's a work in progress. Perhaps she will seriously share my enthusiasm for the game someday? Better yet, maybe she will let me get the chili dog next time. Play Ball!



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Monday, July 17, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way Through IBM - Retirement




"If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?" - Tuco the Ugly

I was 43 years old when I joined IBM back in July 2000. Having already worked full-time for 25 years I had worked only 1 job exceeding 5 years of continuous employment. You see, I get bored easily and so my singular goal when I walked into IBM on July 31, 2000 was to stay at least 5 years before seeking my next "green pasture". To turn the words and paraphrase an old adage, retirement was the rest of my career history.


 Simply put, as I progressed through my nearly 17 year career at IBM, I realized that there was profound truth in the immortal words spoken by Tuco the Ugly in, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". In large part, I was truly blessed to be able to retire at age 60 thanks to the grace of God and my employment at IBM. In that time I worked 8 different jobs, traveled the world nearly 3 million miles through the air, lived briefly in Dubai and in Brazil, and most importantly, met literally thousands of wonderful, exceptionally talented people that made the journey both bearable and worthwhile. In the end, I chose my retirement early because I was "killing" myself working. Frankly, I was not curing cancer, nor any other significantly noble pursuit. 

Tuco the Ugly
In most of the world outside of America I have seen first-hand (especially in Italy, Spain and Portugal) that people work to live, while most Americans live to work. These differences are diametrically opposed to one another and provide a compelling argument for your evaluation and thoughtful consideration for personal change. I have now learned that life is meant to be full of meaningful experiences versus the acquisition of stuff. Life IS short and the older one gets, the shorter the runway of life stretches (thank you Captain Obvious!).

Reality Check: Sadly, I know the truth is that a large majority of Americans (all humans really) cannot retire now, nor maybe ever. But I do know this, it is never too late to change one's trajectory if one truly desires a different path. Today, may I implore you to:

  • Protect first yourself and your family's health and well being
  • Help those in need, starting with yourself
  • STOP living to and for work
  • Remember that NO job should EVER be your first priority
  • Fervently plan for YOUR better future including retirement before death
  • Want less, need less - Give more, love more
“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” 
-- Vernon Howard (1918)  


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Portugal By Any Other Name Would Be "Maravilhoso"

“I've got two places I like to be. Portugal is one.” -- Cliff Richard
  
Castello Alfama as seen from the Topo Restaurant


It is quite simple really, no matter what locations you may have on your travel "bucket list", Portugal should be moved up. After our trip there this month (July 2017), we would argue that Portugal should be in your top 4. Why an oddly unexpected yet even number 4? Combined together, Brooke and I have visited over 100 countries and our undisputed top 4 include 1) Italy, 2) Czech Republic, 3) England and, 4) Portugal.

Portugal is truly "Maravilhoso" (Portuguese for Wonderful). It possesses ALL of the required components to assure an amazing and satisfying vacation, sabbatical, last minute getaway, or even, future retirement destination.

  • Affordability in accommodations, transportation, food, and visitor activities
Panorama of our $60 per night flat in Lisbon
  •  Great food including worldwide cuisines (seafood is the biggest star) 


 

  • Fabulous weather
  • A full spectrum of experiences (all in a small package) including, beaches, mountains, lakes, forests, camping, biking, hiking and touring


  • Medieval history everywhere - monuments, castles, palaces, churches, museums, parks, plazas, ports     
 




As a nice bonus, my daughter Tahni (who currently lives in Brussels, Belgium) joined us in the beautiful city of Porto. She loves Porto and was an amazing tour guide for our 4 days there.


 A few random pictures from our trip:







Sadly, we witnessed the circle of life while in Porto. A few days before our arrival these two baby seagulls were born in their nest, which was directly outside the hallway window in our flat. Both eventually fell to their deaths 3 stories below before we departed. The mother seagull was very sad and actually "cried" over her loss for several days. Not the best ending to a wonderful trip, but a unavoidable fact of life.


Obrigado (Thanks) Portugal! In the paraphrased words of both Gen. MacArthur and Arnold Schwarzenegger, "We'll be BACK!"


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