Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Do You Need a Vacation?

If we assume the average vacation time for American workers is 14 days, then it might be reasonable to assume many workers could use more vacation time. However, it has been determined the typical male worker does not even use all of the vacation time he's allotted. One figure I read indicates the American workforce forfeits 175 million unused vacation days at the end of the year. That would be some vacation!

American males, in particular, seem to look at vacation time as wasted time. Our work ethic kicks in so much that we are always "on the job" -- whether we're physically there or not. We tend to take our jobs home with us -- either in our briefcases or in our heads. It seems normal in a way, for many of us define ourselves by our work. We are what we do. If we're not doing something work related, we feel strangely disengaged -- not fully who we are. Hence we view a vacation as time away from who we are.

But is vacation time really just wasted time?

A real, recharging kind of vacation happens when one is away from the job -- physically, emotionally and mentally. One premium benefit of vacation time then becomes a rest form the daily pressure and stress of our jobs. Stress is a subtle danger too, often affecting us in ways we don't see or realize. It can impact our health on several levels. Time away from job-related stress allows our body to recover and restore.

Vacation time spent with loved ones also makes memories that can last a lifetime for everyone involved. I'll never forget the camping trips dad took us on, sizzling bacon in a cast-iron skillet, fishing in deep-water mountain lakes, hearing family stories over a campfire at twilight. Those vacations showed us a different side of dad -- one not centered on going to and from work.

I personally have given back vacation hours over the years, but this year I plan on spending some quality time away from the job. I'll be knocking around with my family, relaxing in an exotic location I haven't been to near enough lately -- my own backyard.

How about you? Do you need a vacation? Is there a backyard calling your name?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Memorial Day - 2012

Although designated as a day to remember veterans who have died in service to their country, Memorial Day has become a day to remember all who have died, regardless of their military status or service. This year will be no exception, as I will remember first those who have fallen in battle, then those who have worn the uniform but are no longer with us, and then those who have not served, but who have died.

This Memorial Day I will again reflect on the growing list of names of people who are no longer with us. I can examine my life today and be thankful for their influence and instruction. For among those whom I recall are those who introduced me to the Scriptures; those who taught me right from wrong; those who lived lives worthy to be emulated; those who pointed out my faults; and those who loved me -- warts and all.

Then I thought who will remember me on Memorial Days in the future; what will they remember me for?

Will I be remembered as a man who lived his faith or a man who lost his temper? Will a future generation recall me tenderly, glad I was a part of its past, or will I be recalled in less- than-friendly ways?

Perhaps now is the time to begin building memories those coming after you will recall -- fondly. The best way to build memories is to take time with those you love. Perhaps, not surprisingly, it's not the things you give away, but the time you give away that others remember well and appreciate long after you're gone.

The time you spend playing, sharing stories and letting people experience the real you will last for generations. Make this Memorial Day one that will find you doing things worth remembering with the ones you love.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The driver pulled to the right of the long line of cars backed up at the intersection. She was turning right; they were cruising along a busy, four-lane highway. Now sitting at the front of the line and to the right of a van, she waited for a break in traffic to make her move. With a quick glance to her left, she hit the accelerator and started onto the highway. Three feet into her move was the unforgettable crash of metal into metal. A bus hit her car, spinning it across lanes of traffic, with the bus careening to the right, wrapping itself around a telephone pole. Neither the bus driver nor the car driver saw the other.

As the impact took place before my eyes -- drivers dodging flying glass and car parts, I sat transfixed, paralyzed -- my eyes seeing, but my brain not comprehending. A few moments after the crash took place, a surge of adrenaline kicked in. I quickly exited my car, dialed 911, and checked the condition of the people in the car that had been hit.

The woman was unconscious; her leg was obviously broken.

Reporting her condition to the 911 operator, I went over to the bus. The driver too had a broken leg and was on the verge of passing out. Two of the six passengers had head injuries; these were a mother and her 14-month-old son.

Other witnesses made 911 calls too, each adding more details and confirming the urgency of the situation. Police cars sped to the scene, sirens trumpeting their arrival. Ambulances and EMT personnel did their specialized work, tending to the victims, loading some for their trip to the hospital. This continued for some time.

After a while the wreckage was dealt with; the streets were cleared, and most all the signs of the accident had been gathered up or swept away.

But the event was by no means over. Many lives were changed that day. Those injured will have to endure the pain of their injuries; the drivers will have to deal with the nagging "if only" thoughts that naturally follow such an accident. Mother and baby have a shared experience that will play out for years to come. The other bus passengers will be anxious the next time they board a bus, and I am forever struck by how quickly life can change.

Men, in an instant our lives can be altered -- sometimes completely and forever. Now is the time for the family to hear, "I love you." Now is the time to play catch with the boys or take them fishing or golfing. Now is the time to break out the Bible and read some of it to the family. Now is the time to tell your bride what a difference she makes in your life.

Now is the time. Don't wait for a 911 call.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hi Mom!

You have seen it -- the star athlete stands next to the reporter on the field after the big game; the camera rolls, and the player leans into the microphone to utter those famous words, "Hi, Mom!" Over the years, the phrase, "Hi, Mom!" has become synonymous with those sports figures that have made it into the big time, especially in football.

Perhaps the tradition started when Hall of Fame inductee, Detroit Lions tight end, Charlie Sanders paid tribute to his mother with the words, "Hi, Mom." The phrase was especially moving since his mother had died when he was two years old. He felt it was fitting he recognize his mom, especially as he achieved the highest recognition a pro football player could receive.

Wounded soldiers have been known to ask for their moms. Criminals facing execution have asked for their mother's forgiveness. Little boys seek their mom's comfort when they get hurt. There is a special place in a mom's heart for her son, which is mirrored in the heart of her son.

In a few days we will observe Mother's Day, when we celebrate and honor the important roles mothers play in our society. Anna Jarvis of West Virginia started the holiday in 1908 to pay tribute to mothers, but it wasn't until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson made the holiday official by signing it into law.

Men, it is not too early to purchase a gift that expresses the love you have for your mom. It is also fitting you remember your wife's mom (always a good move) and your wife as well. Some would argue husbands don't need to remember their wives. After all, it is Mother's Day, and she is not your mother. Instead, it is reckoned that you should pay her the homage of being the mother of your children. The role of motherhood is no small thing.

Here's a simple suggestion I'm sure the lion's share of guys reading this already know: call your mom on Mother's Day; visiting her is even better. Let her know you love her. Let her know you care. Moms appreciate it when their sons make time just for them.

Perhaps you can still remember those immortal words spoken by your mother as you left for college or some other significant event in your life, "Call me!"

You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Old School

I am a typical male with a short-attention span, who enjoys many different activities. However, there is one activity that will always rise to the top of the list: grilling food over an open fire. Grilling has become so much a part of me that I purchased a gas grill in order to grill year round in all kinds of weather. Living in a state with four seasons, I've been known to grill in temperatures ranging from negative digits to upper double digits. When it comes to delivering grilled meat, I can definitely relate to the mantra of mail carriers everywhere: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ...." I figure if they can get me my mail no matter what, I can surely grill meat on less-than-perfect days.

Now over the years my gas grill has been updated from the one-burner to the current three-burner, deluxe, stainless-steel machine, complete with a side-burner for any foods falling through the grate. Once I even ran a gas line from the house outdoors, retooling the grill so I could cook with house gas, instead of propane. You guessed it. I'm a professional.

It should come as no surprise then that my passion for outdoor grilling is well-known by my family, nearby neighbors, people strolling past my house, neighborhood dogs, cats, and even other critters. Over the years I've accumulated an impressive arsenal of grill accessories: "executive" tongs for grippin' and flippin' flame-seared meat, specialized thermometers that let you know when you're "in the zone," hand-knit aprons, flame-retardant mitts and, of course, every griller's friend -- a cooler to keep your drink nice and frosty. Recently, however, I was presented with something I have not seen or used in years: a kettle grill designed just for charcoal.

Boy, talk about "old school."

So, in a burst of nostalgia, last weekend I decided it was time for an old-school lesson outdoors. My accessories were simple: a bag of Kingsford® charcoal briquettes, some Ronsonol® lighter fluid, a book of matches and, of course, a carefree spirit of adventure. When the flames hit that magic three-foot level, I recalled immediately the special thrill of old-school grilling.

After the coals turned cherry red, I dropped in some hickory chips, slapped on a couple of succulent 16-ounce T-bones, put the cover back on, and basked in the sweet, sanguine joy that only comes from inhaling the smell of roasting animal meat.

Talk about some good aromas! I can't remember a meal I enjoyed so much.

Just goes to show you, sometimes the old-school way -- though it could take a few more minutes to get there -- might just be the best way to go.

May your grills be hot and your libations not!