The Gap

You know, when you sit on a beach chair at the shore, your mind gets baked like your body and you tend to wander as you look at people walking down the beach. That guy with the black socks, and sandals, …..what does he do? Then you think of all the crazy scenarios that run around in your sun baked mind and you laugh. Now there is a young family……wide eyed and full of the future ahead of them…..wonder where they live? The mind thinks of nothing important in a beach chair. As my eyes located our two young life guards, I saw them constantly talking and laughing and I was thinking, ” I wonder what their story is?” ” Are they college room mates working together for the summer?” ” Maybe they are lifelong friends on a summer adventure?” IMG_0938

Then my mind went back to when I was not ready to enter the working world just yet after graduating from college. I said to my dad, ” I want to work at Sugarloaf, Maine this winter as a ski instructor. I will be staying in Bob Irish’s cabin in Stratton, Maine. I want to get the hours and training in so that I can pass my PSIA Certification for Ski Instruction.” My dad looked at me in a funny way and said, ” Don’t make a career out of it.” I could have done that, as many have done and enjoyed their life in the mountains, but I knew this was a need for a specific purpose and that I most likely would not make a career out of it. But, I was sure glad that I went and worked at one of the more premier ski locations in the East. It was cold as hell that winter, but the experience was great and it prepared me to go to Killington and pass my exam. I subsequently made another trip to Tuckerman Ravine and camped and skied with some friends and eventually made my way home straight to Marilyn Young’s party- 15 hours of driving right into her driveway looking pretty much like what you see here. 70019150-SLD-001-0028

A lot of young people take a “Gap Year” to do something they might never get to do if they just pursue their education and take the subsequent job after college. Some quit mid-stream and ” find themselves” when they are perhaps lost in the educational shuffle and need some time off to find their way. Others leave and never come back because college is not for them. I have seen both paths and most of them have worked out best for the person who is willing to take the time off, travel, experience new things, but knowing that someday, they would finish their education or move on to the job that awaits them after college. I really did not have much direction other than the half baked idea that I would go to law school. But that fizzled and the “Gap” at Sugarloaf gave me some perspective of being away on my own, earning a meager living, and working in the resort industry. It was a lot more fun than my summer job in the box factory and it prepared me for something outside of my formal education. I traveled a lot in my 20’s because I was more interested in my outside of work activities than I was with my job of working in my dad’s small company. It was important for me to have this “extracurricular” life because my work life was not all that fulfilling. My dad was understanding but the catalyst for my wanderlust began with my winter in Sugarloaf.

Personally, I think most young people are really not ready to go to college after high school. And if they do go, sometimes there are difficulties or questions that lead to taking the ” Gap”. Questions need to be answered and needs met so I tell young people all the time that if they have a particular passion to do something for a little while outside their prescribed path, they should take the opportunity. You have your whole life to work, have limited vacation time, and then the pressures of family, mortgages, and life in general. You feel better sometimes if you get it out of your system. Some people make a living from their “Gap” passions and if you can do that, you are fortunate indeed. But at the very least, you have had the experience and you can have the pleasure of relating your experiences to your co-workers in the future or your family and friends. To this day, I still tell of my adventures as a young guy in New England and I am happy for it. I am glad that my path took me to Sugarloaf and I am glad the the result of my winter was fruitful in many ways. I should have done more of that.

So, these two in the lifeguard chair have a lot of life to live. They will remember these days for the rest of their lives and when they are sitting in a cube or perhaps in their own business someday, they can look back with fond memories of the laughs at the beach, and the stories from their “Gap” experience. Parents- encourage your kids in all aspects of their development.beachwater Thanks for reading.

College Bound- “Carpe Deium.”


Perhaps one of the most interesting experiences for the 59 year old kid and his wife Janet, has been raising our son Jack. He has been a true blessing in the highest sense of the word and as a strong willed child, he has provided some interesting input and challenges at times in a household where all focus was on his daily needs. We are headed off to Ohio University in Athens tomorrow and as many of you have experienced in this endeavor, there is a lot of anguish, trepidation, but excitement for the years ahead. The experiences that will be available for Jack in an academic setting away from home are wonderful and fulfilling.

Recently contemplating as I drive to work, ride my mountain bike on the trails, and sit by my fireplace, I think back to when we first brought Jack home and his “tricks” on the living room floor. My mind is flooded with images of sandboxes, teaching him to ride a bike and the turnaround in Malone’s driveway. Taking him hiking, teaching him to ski, how to throw a baseball, how to bat, what pitches to take and what to leave. The Jersey Shore, Vail, Tahoe, Utah. The basketball years appear in my mind with AAU and school – the tournament travel, the practices( never missed), and the games -wins and heartbreaking losses. X-Box, girlfriends, our times as a family in the foundation of our church. It has been a blur and at 19 years old, he is ready to go and we look forward to his success in a new environment. We will miss him, but Athens is not that far away and we are always here for him and look forward to seeing him on his breaks and on the parents weekends. But this is his time,not ours and the transition will be an interesting time for Janet and me as well as for Jack.

This is nothing new for a lot of people who have raised children and see them off to school or a new job. But it is a new experience for me, and I have felt in the last few years that I have been running out of time. Time to be together, time to impart what little wisdom I can offer, and time to establish a good relationship with my son. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and have my bladder placed squarely behind my eyeballs. I am an open person and what you see is what you get. Jack is a little different as the strong willed child and his demeanor with me is sometimes not what I had envisioned as a father and son. We do have unconditional love for each other and that being the bottom line, I can deal with the fact that we are truly different people……….and that’s ok.

Dr. Terry Thomas, in a message delivered in our church this past weekend, stated very eloquently that you are not justified by the opinions of others or by your children. If you are seeking approval from them, or validation, justification, or whatever you require, or want to feel better about yourself, you are barking up the wrong tree. God is the source of justification, not what we do. He loves us warts and all, and understands that as parents, we do the best that we can for our children and as we transition in sending them off, we can sit back and see the fruits of our labor and the exciting possibilities of higher education under His care.

Janet and I have taken the opportunities to relay to Jack our experiences in college. The fun times, the pitfalls of getting behind in the first semester, and the ultimate end game of studying hard and getting the “skin.” The “skin” and good grades gets the good job, but the larger advantage to higher education in my mind, is that the college experience takes the burrs off. It polishes you, it teaches you how to relate to other people, how to study, how to execute a plan. College is not for everyone, but for those who choose to attend the college of their choice, the end results give memories that last a lifetime and friends who remain in your life forever. We have said it all to Jack and now is the time as we drive down I-79 tomorrow and into the Buckeye State, to take a breather, let go, hug him and wish him the very best that Ohio University has to offer. Being the opportunistic guy that I am, I have found all the great trails to ride and my wife and I are finding the best restaurants and points of interest so that when we do visit, we can enjoy seeing Jack grow and when he needs some space, we can enjoy Athens ourselves. As we drive back, we will also begin to focus on each other. The one constant is that Janet and I are a team. We were together at the beginning of our marriage and will continue to be there as a team in this time when new oportunities will arise for us.

As a hovering parent of an only child, I must admit that I have been dreading this day since Jack’s freshman year in high school. But as the process of college has ensued, I am trying to look at it as the natural progression that all of us go through as we mature from childhood to adulthood. I can’t control any more and the process of “letting go” is a new experience for the 59 year old kid. I joke about the fact that I may age chronologically, but never mature. So as I see the process with Jack, maybe we both can mature together? My wife will appreciate it. Wish us well,pray for us if you like, and thanks for reading.

The Snow Day

IMG00117-20100116-1123photo Do you remember when you were a kid in school and the weather forecast began telling tales of impending snowstorms? First it was a watch, then a warning, and then the big heavy flakes started to fall and the snow began piling up in the yard, and on the street. You started to hear about school closings and you wondered and watched if your school name would come up on that little moving line at the bottom of your TV set. You went to bed hoping and praying that your school would have the sense to call a snow day because of the hazards that heavy snow could do to kids standing at the bus stop, and getting to school. Heaven forbid you would ever be stuck at school. From your knees you said, “Please God, let my school be closed tomorrow.” ” I want a snow day.” Your parents watched the news and got the scoop often after you went to bed and they greeted you in the morning with the most fantastic news. ” No school today kids.” ” It is a snow day and they called school off for the day.” You jumped out of bed with glee and couldn’t wait to get your winter gear on with your boots, grab your sled, pan, or whatever, and you rocketed out of the door to the neighborhood for a day of fun on the local hill in the snow. Man, they were great days and if you have kids today, or grandkids, you still live those marvelous hours of watching the weather and hoping for your kids, that they call school off……….for a snow day.

When you live in a winter environment you get used to the snow and the cold, and snow days are like gold because they not only mean no school, but in my case as a kid and as in the case of the Hasley kids seen above, it was the signal for a parent to blow off work and pack you in the car to take you skiing. The Hasley boys went this past week with their uncle and left the school days long behind in the rear view mirror as they rocketed towards the mountains. Smiles on their faces and facing a perfect day of powder on the slopes and ……no school. Funny how the roads are impassible to school kids and buses but ok for a trip to the mountains. When I was a kid, we couldn’t wait for Bob Rose to call us and tell us to be ready in 10 minutes. We would all pile in the car for a day which was a bonus to the weekend trips that were the norm with Bob Rose at the helm.

Fast forward to high school for me, and I was given permission to drive my mother’s 1964 Buick Special to ski. My folks were pretty lenient and trusting because they seemed pretty confident in my abilities to drive especially when my dad loaded sand bags into the trunk and had installed some pretty hefty snow tires on the rear wheels. In those days it was all rear wheel drive and it was important to have some weight in the trunk. I piled the skis down the middle of the seats along with my sister’s gear and whoever else I could pile into the yellow Buick and off we went oftentimes to a harrowing drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike up into the snow covered roads of the Laurel Highlands. Parents today are so protective including me, but my folks always said, “Drive safely and come back in one piece.” Snow days were awesome because there was no question that my mom’s “Ski Bus” would be utilized for the day by all of us teenagers. It was real interesting one day when the convertible roof would not go back up. Why we put it down in the first place was pretty stupid, but pelting our friends with snowballs from the seats of the convertible was pretty amusing. That particular ride back on the Turnpike was pretty cold and we had a fair accumulation of snow on the floor and the seats. My dad was not too thrilled. But he got the roof fixed and off we went on the next…………snow day.

We always seemed to make the most of those cancelled school days. Either the skiing was first and foremost, or we just went sledding or tobogganing. When I was real young, I remember my dad building an ice rink on the back patio. He took two by fours and some plastic sheeting and made a rink and filled it to the brim with water. It would freeze and my dad would always test the ice before we could skate so that we didn’t sink through and cut the plastic. Once we got the green light, we skated every night after school and on the snow days, he would help us shovel the rink and the neighbor kids all came in droves to the McCloskey Ice Palace. Even my mother tried a few times and we have her recorded on a Super 8 film skating head first into the back wall of the house. My mom was a great mother, cook, wife and nurturer. But she was far from an athlete. Her skating skills were sketchy and she skied a grand total of two feet before she fell on her head and told us to take the damn things off. But they were great parents and seemed to revel in the fun of the winter especially ………the snow days.

Those teenage days of driving the yellow Buick taught me to drive in the winter and my current days of driving a four wheel drive almost feel like cheating. I learned how to feather and pump the brakes, control a slide and not panic, and know how fast was ok and how fast was dangerous. But snow conditions never keep me from skiing and even today as the 59 year old kid, I revel in the days when the doom and gloomers tell us how bad the weather is going to be. I take it all in stride and like the Hasley boys, I can’t wait to get to the slopes and enjoy those first tracks. The Jeep has taken over for the long gone ’64 Buick but those memories of all of us piled in the car headed to the slopes will always be cherished. Thanks Mom and Dad for the opportunities. I know you are looking down from the heavens,and shaking your head and saying,” He’s still crazy.” “I hope he comes back in one piece.” Thanks for reading.