Monday, August 23, 2010

2 Years, 8 Months, 30 Days

November 2007 was the last time we went on vacation. Actually, it can be more accurately described as a babymoon since my wife was 5 months pregnant. At the time, we assumed this vacation would be our last for awhile. Because I had finally finished graduate school (and vacations can be less than relaxing with a newborn), it was a good time to start saving for our future. We never thought, however, that our next vacation would be almost 3 years later.

Vacations were never a priority for my childhood. We rarely just went away to experience a new place. I do remember visiting family friends in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. However, most of our summer vacations consisted of traveling to my sister’s softball tournaments across the country.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate peaceful (even restful) vacations that allow for time away from the stresses of life. It doesn’t even matter where I spend my time - I could enjoy a vacation in my own house. But, since my son was born, my wife and I have really tried to let our son experience the world – to let him know that life exists outside of New Jersey. Even if he doesn’t fully grasp our time together on vacation, we were still making memories as a family. We will remember his excitement as he witnessed things for the first time.

However, it became difficult to balance the need/desire for a vacation and the uncertainty of working for a fledgling company. It was never the “right time” to go on a vacation when in the background there was a constant looming fear of unemployment. And then finally, when my company officially went under, providing for our basic necessities became a much higher priority than taking a vacation.

But, after a year of unemployment, I came to the realization that there will never be the “right time” to take vacation. My son, at almost 2.5, had never been on vacation. As his parents, we owe him the opportunity to witness the world and participate in life outside of our home. Furthermore, it was important for me to give my wife the opportunity to enjoy time as a family. As the only working parent for a grant funded non-profit, her days are often spent trying to solidify her professional future in an uncertain economy. While, I’m off daily with my son enjoying our adventures, she’s working diligently at home only getting to enjoy her time with my son and I in short snippets. Thus, it was important for me to let us spend time together, uninterrupted.

The challenge for us became finding an affordable vacation on a one-income household. Combining our desire for peace with our need to explore, we decided to rent a house on a lake in the Poconos. It was a perfect vacation spot to spend some quality time as a family, including our dogs. It was a simple vacation that allowed my son to explore nature, make his first s’mores on a campfire, and learn how to row a canoe. It was too short, as most vacations are, but we made life-long memories and have a ton of pictures to remember them by (614 pictures, to be exact!).


Saturday, August 14, 2010

I opportunity for change.

I want to thank my wife again for her inspiring words. In such a fragile economy, it’s easy to lose perspective and look at life negatively. It often becomes a downward spiral that we continue to feed – consciously or subconsciously.

Negativity is promoted everywhere. It’s evident in Facebook and Twitter status updates. The newspaper and nightly news broadcast horrifying stories. Commercials condition us to believe that we will get every disease unless we consult a physician about a new drug.

Even some of our most popular television shows are shrouded in negativity. These shows are so interesting to us because collectively we identify with the deeply flawed characters. Who doesn’t have a stressful life, or work-related problems, or not enough money? We even build up our real-life heroes into immortal role models, watch as they crumble under scandal, and then root for second chances. Why? Because we identify with their humanity. But, does “humanity” need to be synonymous with negativity?

I want to heed my wife’s words and put them into action – to really try to change the collective perception that life is a constant uphill battle.

I once read that the most powerful word anyone can say is the word “I”. Simply put, no person in the world can say the word “I” for you.

I am stressed.
I underachieve.
I am not wealthy enough.
I am not smart enough.

I probably use some of these phrases daily. But, why should I allow myself to feel that way? In reality, what I choose to put my emphasis on is what I am. If I say these things, I become these things.

If I want to change my reality and ultimately my perception of life, there’s a simple solution. I am committing to following the word “I” with something positive…always. This simple change can adjust my mindset:

I am motivated.
I am a loving husband and father.
I can help people.
I am happy.

If I can make this one simple change, even if I force it at first, I can create a better reality for myself and my family.


My sister recently sent me an article by Kristin Armstrong, a noted runner and author. As she was finishing up a hard run while training, she was struggling to get up that one last steep hill. As she was climbing that hill, she thought about all those people who don’t have the ability or opportunity to run that hill. Her change in attitude about the hill resulted in a shift in her overall perception. Instead of thinking, I have to run up that hill, she decided to think, “I get to run up that hill”. It’s a simple one word change, but it’s a dramatic shift in perception. She tried to apply her new mantra to everything in her life. She even passed it along to her peers.

We all have things we have to do. I have to wake up early with my son. I have to take my dogs for walk. I have to eat healthier. Kristin Armstrong’s point is simple. If we view life as an opportunity, we can create a more positive reality.

This behavior is contagious. At a recent race, Kristin noticed people wearing t-shirts that read:

I get to run today.

Once we change our habits that enable and empower negativity, we can replace those practices with productive ones. In a day, a week, a month, it can become commonplace – our new mantra.

Like those runners, as I think about my metaphorical t-shirt, it would read:

I get to be with my son today.

I implore every single person who is reading these words to leave a comment and tell me what your t-shirt would say. It won’t take much time and it doesn’t take much effort. Even if you think this is an exercise in futility, we can still carve out, at the very least, our own positive nook in this very tiny section of the world. So, tell me...what would your t-shirt say?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A One Year Perspective: Making a Living on Unemployment

By Trish at Hungry Dog Heaven

I’ve attempted to write this blog entry a dozen times. But these feeling and thoughts have been hard to put into words.

I’m overwhelmed by the constant churning of my brain and heart. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life – about what I want and what I need - about my legacy and my purpose. I want to be happy. I want to continue doing work about which I can be proud and that gives me opportunities to impact the world. I want to make a difference. I don’t want to be happy at the expense of someone else and I don’t want to succeed if by doing so I have to compromise my beliefs. I want to always stand up for what I think is right and take the road less traveled. I want to, at the end of my days, be proud of my decisions and have few regrets. I want my life to have mattered.

But, I feel like people are always waiting for opportunities to do things – waiting for nicer weather, more money, more time, etc. “I’ll do that when….”, or, “I can’t wait until…” But, while we’re doing all of this waiting, the world keeps going! Every time the sun sets, it takes with it our opportunities for that day. We cannot get them back.

We want our lives to be different, but are too complacent to work for change. We’ve been so conditioned to just accept our circumstances that we sometimes feel paralyzed to create a better reality. We want to be happy, but continue to look at life so negatively. Sometimes life seems to be stacking the cards against us. But, as long as we’re still here, can’t we shift our perspective to see the good in the bad? Of course, sometimes we’ll have to squint to see a grain of good, but it’s there – I promise you.

It has been a year today, August 11th, since my husband was originally laid off. Had we spent the past year waiting for our luck to take a turn, or being overwhelmed with self-pity, we would have missed out on life. But I feel like this past year has given us the gift to think about the life we want. The challenge is in finding the road to our happiness. Not the happiness that others define, but ours.

I am slightly flustered. I feel like one life is not enough to do it all. But…I know that my first step is to do something and to appreciate my opportunity to do it – to live intentionally and take small steps to make life, not waste it.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update for the Diaper Drive

We are just a few days away from our play date/diaper drive. The response so far has been tremendous. People from across the country have asked to send diapers.

We are so proud to be volunteering for The National Latina Health Network and Huggies Every Little Bottom campaign. It's exciting to help both organizations give a voice to this great (and overlooked) cause! Thank you to everyone who is helping. It will make a tremendous difference.

We are really looking forward to seeing all of you. If you would like to come, it's not too late. To receive the evite, send me an email at:

See you on Saturday!