Tag Archives: thanks

hear! hear! (the story behind the audiobook)

The Best Advice So Far- hear hear

I still remember the first time as a mentor that I had to turn someone away.

Until then, no matter how many others I was committed to at the time — no matter how strongly I debated with myself that I couldn’t stretch any further — I found a way for “just one more.” But then there it was: the first I’m sorry, I won’t be able to.

As someone who believes in the difference one person can make in the life of another, and who is deeply empathetic, it was like a punch to the gut.

About the same time, years of “kids” I’d mentored, past and present, along with their families, secretly organized an appreciation dinner in my honor. I have to say, not only was I shocked, the timing was uncanny.

As part of the evening’s events, I was given a seat in the middle of the crowd. I remember meeting eyes around the room, one by one. For more than an hour, people spoke word of affirmation or thanks, expressing what I had meant to their lives. Tears welled up (just as they are even now, as I recall the day). Even being a writer, it’s be hard to put to words what that was like.

One young man, Alex, said something that night that has not only stuck with me, but which has changed the course of things thereafter. Alex said…

 

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golden ticket

The Best Advice So Far - golden ticket

I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it’s a golden day …

OK, so the ticket wasn’t golden. It was orange.

And it wasn’t a free ride to the Chocolate Factory. It was a $40 ride to the poorhouse.

I drove up to Boston recently, to take part in a celebration dinner for a graduating class of opticians I’d taught as a guest lecturer back in the fall.

Driving in the city doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s the parking that gets me. I’d only ever been to the location with my best friend, Dib, who drove each time. And even with her knowledge of the area, parking had never been easy. So I’d set out two hours before the event, to give myself more than adequate time to find street parking or a nearby garage.

To my surprise, I found an open spot by a meter, not even a block from the school.

The digital message on the meter informed me that operational hours were 6:00AM to 6:00PM. It was 6:05. Kismet!

Still, ever the conscientious sort, I inquired of a passerby who said he lived in the area. “This meter says it’s only operational until 6:00. Is there any reason you can think of that I shouldn’t park here?” The man assured me that I was good to go.

However, when I returned to the car after the event, there it was: the bright orange ticket, placed under a wiper.

I was aware of my pulse rising, feeling it in my throat, just under my Adam’s apple. I unfolded the citation: Resident Parking Only. $40.

Resident Parking Only? With furrowed brow, I looked both ways along the sidewalk. Nothing to the rear. Ahead, perhaps 30 feet or so, was the metallic back of some kind of sign. I walked to it and read the other side: Metered parking 6:00AM – 6:00PM. Resident Parking Only 6:00PM – 6:00AM.

I’d done my due diligence. I’d even asked a resident. How could I have guessed that a back-to sign way up the sidewalk applied to a metered area … or that the metered parking became resident parking after a certain hour?

Here, I faced a choice …


reverse

The Best Advice So Far - reverse - one yellow rubber ducky swimming the opposite direction in a line of black rubber ducks

We’ve all seen those bumper stickers:

HOW’S MY DRIVING?
555-123-4567

Ever called the number to report that the driver is, in fact, currently driving respectfully and obeying all traffic laws?

After all, the sticker doesn’t say, “Call if I’m driving unsafely or otherwise annoying you.” Yet isn’t that how we tend to read it?

(Yes, I really do think about these things.)

“I want to speak to a manager.”

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”

“I’m going to email your teacher.”

In my experience, these statements are rarely followed by …

“… to let them know what a great job you (or they) are doing.”

It seems to me that perhaps many of us have become naturals when it comes to complaining, while becoming more and more uncomfortable with giving praise where praise is due.

In my last post, where I wrote about crying during a late workout, I mentioned incidentally that there was only one other person in the gym at the time: the overnight employee on duty.

Well, his name is Joe. Let me tell you a bit about him.

If you’ve ever worked the night shift, then you know …


digging out

The Best Advice So Far: digging out — Erik with *yuck* face standing in front of a mountain of plowed snow

Last Saturday, we were told to expect the first “real snow” of the winter season here in New England. Meteorologists predicted 4 – 8 inches. Though not exactly fun, we’ve had worse. Much worse. As the sky turned slate gray and the first flakes began to fall, I settled in to finish writing last week’s post, read a bit … and, of course, nap.

I had plenty of food to get me through until the next day when I’d head out and re-up my stores. In fact, I thought, I might even be able to manage a late-night workout, once this thing fizzles out.

Well, about midnight, I did venture down to brush off the car and head out to the gym.

Only the door didn’t open.

Moonlight shone blue across the surface of deep, deep snow. (We were later to find that the official reading was 16 inches.)

Crap.

Still, determined, I tromped back up the stairs, got out of my workout clothes, slid some old jeans on over sweatpants and donned a hoodie under my overcoat. Then I headed out to show that snow who was boss.

Things had wound down to little more than brittle flurries. That was thanks to the fact that, as my phone alerted me, it was now 2°F — too cold for much new snow to form.

I grabbed the shovel and became aware as I looked around that the drifts on the porch weren’t the worst of it by a long shot. I cleared the porch but couldn’t tell where the platform I was standing on ended and where the steps began. As I shuffled toward the invisible edge, I had that feeling of wading out too far into the ocean and taking that first step that drops into the abyss.

I plunged downward and was suddenly knee-deep in the stuff. It was abundantly clear that I’d be going nowhere tonight.

I slogged toward the car. As the frigid wind howled, I assessed. There’d be no place to shovel the snow other than into the hedgerow. Just too deep to throw it anywhere else.

I’ll be honest: the “hearty New Englander” in me began to crack. We were barraged the winter before last with a freak series of unrelenting blizzards that lasted months and dumped a total of over 11 feet of snow, and I felt the edges of PTSD tapping on the frosted glass of my resolve. Despite the gloves I wore, pain was already shooting through freezing fingers. And no amount of sniffling was now enough to stem the flow of snot from my nose.

It was not only deep, it was heavy. The snow brush bowed as I ran it across the hood of the car, sending vibrations up my arm (my hand itself being numb) that I knew meant beneath the smothering snow, the car was also encased in ice. Then that first swipe was interrupted as the Lincoln ornament snapped off and catapulted somewhere into the bushes, lost (sorry, Mom).

I’m not sure if I started crying at that point, since my eyes were already stinging and watering furiously …

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fallen: remembered

Note: September 11, 2015

Typically, I publish a brand new post each Friday. I enjoy the challenge, honesty and real-time engagement of writing new posts each week and sharing them with you. However, I felt this week warranted a first for me. While I certainly find occasions to share previous posts again, I’ve never reblogged the same post twice. But after having reread this post from exactly four years ago today, I was moved deeply again – in familiar ways, but also in new ones. It allowed me to refocus, to see with crystal clarity some things that had become a bit blurry around the edges. I felt there was no additional sentiment or perspective I could add at this moment that would better capture what I felt and wrote those four years past; and so it is that I share it with you again today.

We remember.


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not fair

life is not fair: big fish in small bowl, little fish in big bowl

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane lately where this blog is concerned. I love when I re-read a post from years back and have forgotten that I’d even written it, allowing me to read it in a whole new light. I love it even more when I laugh or cringe at all the right parts, wondering what’s going to happen in the story (which is saying something, seeing that I’ve lived all of these stories).

One of my earliest posts, which subsequently developed into three early and integral parts of my book, The Best Advice So Far, came from Carlotta, my friend (and my dear friends’ mom) who passed away many years ago. She left three key pieces of advice that have been mainstays in my own life, and which I’ve passed along countless times since. This post will mean all the more if you take a moment to read that earlier post first (it was one of my shorter posts), because understanding who Carlotta was will add even more depth to the wisdom she passed on.

Here is one of Carlotta’s pieces of advice, as she penned it:

Life is never fair. If you expect it to be, you'll always be unhappy.

And this is how the advice appears in The Best Advice So Far:

The Best Advice So Far: The sooner you realize that life is not fair, the happier you will be.

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sweet somethings

how to compliment, sweet somethings, boy whispering to grandmother

It’s somewhat alarming to me how many social kindnesses are rapidly going the way of the dodo. But the effect of a simple and sincere compliment is still as profound as ever. If you’ve gotten out of practice, getting ready to give a compliment may very well make the back of your neck go all tingly. Take that as an indicator of the positive power in what you are about to do. (And isn’t it wonderful how alive that *zing* makes you feel?)

Maybe you’re a leader who is committed to honing your skills as far as praising and encouraging those around you on a regular basis.

Maybe you want to know how to compliment a girl or guy you like. (Note: If you’re looking for self-serving pick-up lines, I’m afraid you’ll need to visit a different kind of blog.)

Perhaps you’ve been really wanting to show your appreciation for a family member, but it feels foreign and a little weird.

Or maybe you just aren’t sure how to compliment anyone at all in a way that will be well received.

Well, this one’s for you. Here are some guidelines for how to compliment others with class and maximum effectiveness:

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