It is Always Nice to Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

My mom always used to say that she liked moving every so often because it helped her to throw stuff away that she wasn’t using.  That is very effective when you move yourself because inevitably you get tired of packing and start to question how badly you need those glasses that have sat on the shelf untouched for 5 years.

It is less effective when someone else does all the packing because you forget how much crap you have.  Fortunately, we had a terrible moving company in the states that didn’t unpack much of anything so now we are going through all of our stuff.

Today I went through a box that I have had for as long as I can remember.  It had stuff from before I was even in kindergarten.  That is more than 30 years ago for those keeping score at home.

It was so much fun to dig through old letters and pictures and projects from school.  I found thank you letters from teachers for gifts I had given them including my favorite teacher Mrs. Woodson.  

There were awards from scouts and church.  A pinewood derby car, trophies, pictures from high school dances, and even a yearbook of sorts from bootcamp.

As I sorted through three decades of memories it reminded me of all the amazing people I have known.  

I wish I had been a better friend to them.  I wish I had stayed in contact with them.  I am so grateful for the impact they had on my life, and at the very least a few funny memories.  

It is amazing how much you can forget in life that you are certain will always be in the front of your mind.  Fortunately, many of those things have simply become a part of who you are and don’t have to be clearly remembered.

We are all the sum total of our experiences and the people we interact with and that is truly an amazing thing.  It was so fun to take a stroll down memory lane today.


A Patch Hanging is a Chance to Remember

Lots of units in the military have all different types of traditions when it comes to saying goodbye to people.  Because this happens so often in the military, it is an important part of building unity and cohesiveness.

In our squadron, the tradition is to have a patch hanging when people leave.  It is an opportunity for anyone who wants to tell funny or inspiring stories about the person who is leaving, and then they take their name patch off their uniform and hang it on the wall where it will hang forever.

It is a great time to laugh and think about all of the great times you had together as a squadron family.  As someone that does not drink alcohol the stories about me were very take but greatly appreciated.

It really sucks that I am having to leave a year earlier than planned, but now that it is here I am ready for the next chapter.  As I hung my patch today it was really weird to be the one standing up there saying goodbye.  

I had some amazing experiences here, and met even more incredible people that influenced me in so many ways.  My life has changed more in these last two years than in any other two years before now, and I am so grateful for these changes.

It is definitely bitter sweet to be saying goodbye, but I will forever be grateful for the memories.

Friends Make Life Worth Living

Do you ever notice how certain days feel like they have a theme?  If not, then maybe you should stop and look at your life a little more closely, because they are there.  As you may have guessed by the title, the theme of today for me was friends.

I was watching an old episode of the wonderful show Boston Legal earlier today (side note: if you haven’t watched it, you definitely should) in which one of the characters says that we all put work before friendship.  While the word ALL is a little off the mark, far too many of us do, despite good intentions to not do so.

I would also add that it is not always work that forces friendship to the backburner but includes life, kids, marriage, hobbies.  It is easy to forget that people are the most important part of life because there is so much other great, and important, stuff out there.

The next thing that struck me related to friends was a video that I saw posted on Facebook.  I am not reposting it here as the subject matter could easily be misconstrued and possibly offend some people, and I never want to do that.  The short version though is that a comedian played a practical joke on a friend that played off of the stereotypes of the race of said friend.  The caption of the video was that only truly good friends could get away with something like this.

After listening to the story the caption was very true.  Were the same story to take place amongst people who were less friendly someone likely would be in jail for at least assault.  Instead, there were great laughs had by the friends as well as the people around them who saw the humor and got involved.

Once I realized that I needed to express my gratitude for friends today, I finally took the time to do something I had been encouraged to do months ago, but just never did because I am full of excuses.  Instead of writing this post, I first sent ten friends a message thanking them for being my friend and sharing some of the good memories we had together.

The list included an ex girlfriend, old coworkers, family members, and friends from high school.  Some of these people I still communicate with semi regularly, but others I go years in between talking to.  Yet each of them have provided value to my life that I appreciate and I wanted to clearly express that.

As I wrote each of those messages, it was an incredible walk down memory lane of the good times we had together.  There were a few sad thoughts of struggles we had faced, but otherwise I spent the last two hours really just smiling and being happy.

I am not someone that has ever really had many close friends.  High school was super hard for me socially, and it never really got better.  Being an introvert I find it hard to connect with people unless I can find common ground quickly, like a love of airplanes.  I know some of my friends laugh when I say I am shy because now that we are friends I never shut up, but it is the truth.

As I looked for a common theme amongst the friends I messaged, I think the one thing that struck me was an ability to feel at ease around them, with one amusing exception at least initially.  They are all people that I grew to feel comfortable with.  I didn’t need to sensor myself or hide how I was really feeling because we understood each other and that because of our differences we provided a more valuable relationship than if we simply agreed about everything.

I would venture to guess that almost none of us express enough gratitude to our friends for the value that they provide to our lives.  The original challenge I was given months ago was to find 5-10 people every day that you can say thank you to for something they contributed to your life.

It may be a friend or it may be an artist that wrote a song or a book that changed your life or helped you to improve.  It didn’t matter so much who it was as that you expressed your gratitude for that person and their contribution to your life.  So rather than ask what you are grateful for, I instead have a challenge for you.

Today, right now, make a list of ten people you can thank for being your friend, and then do it.  Don’t just send a note with only the words thank you, but take a minute to share a favorite memory, or express how they impacted your life for good.  Many of them will have no idea how much of an impact they actually had on you, and I guarantee you will make their day.

The best part is, that you will again be enriched as you relive the great memories you had with those people.  I would say you should then challenge them to do the same, but I think that cheapens the experience.  You shouldn’t do this because I am challenging you, or because anyone else will challenge you, but because you genuinely care about, and appreciate, that person.  If they choose to do the same then even better, but they need to do it because they feel a desire to do so, and not just because they were challenged.

Great friends are awesome, but we far too often neglect our friends expecting them to “still be on the bookshelf” when we want to pick them back up for another chapter of life.  While many times this inevitably happens, I implore you to take the time to instead maintain a close connection and you will both be enriched by the experience.

This won’t be reality with everyone, as not everyone is a “bosom friend”, to steal Anne Shirley’s favorite term,  but the places where we put forth the most effort will reap the most real benefits.  That is why today I am grateful for good friends that bring meaning to our lives.

Now go tell your friends how much they matter to you.

Different Cultures are Fascinating

One of the best parts about living in Japan has been all of the amazing cultures that I have been able to experience during my time here.  The Japanese culture itself has been incredible to learn about, but that is just the start.

I have been able to work with people from Japan, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Phillipines.  On top of that, I have gotten to visist Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Nepal, Indonesia, and Guam.  I realize Guam is part of the US, but it does have its quirks.

This is not an attampt at a humble brag as much as it is an idea of the many different cultures I have gotten to experience.  They all have different foods, languages, religions, historical sites, and the list goes on.  

If I’m being honest there is a decent chance I never would have visited Asia had I not actually lived here, and what a loss to my life that would have been.  It has not all been tulips and rose petals here, in fact it has been quite the opposite, but it has been an eye opening experience.  

Most of us Americans have no idea just how great we have it.  Even those living in poverty in the US have it better than billions of people in Southeast Asia.  Yet many of the people here are very pleasant and welcoming.  

We loud boisterous Americans could learn a lot from the humble demeanor of these cultures.  Many of them are very tied to family.  They all sacrifice so much to take care of each other and to just get through.

Every time I visit one of these developing nations, I am in shock at how far behind the rest of the world is.  They live such basic lives, and most have so little to live for.  But not only do many of them live, they thrive.   

Not usually financially, but in the areas of kindness and openness that they personify, there are few equals in the world, with maybe the exception of the Africans I met in Europe.  They are the kindest, most open minded individuals I have ever know.

There is so much we could learn from each other if we would simply try to understand the other side.  If you consistenyly do that, you will find a peace and joy that cannot be masked, which is why I am grateful for different cultures.

What are you grateful for?

Saying Goodbye

I realize this is usually something people absolutely dread.  I even know a few people that refuse to say those words.  While those situations where these words are applicable are never fun, there is something to be grateful for.  

The way I see it, if you dread saying goodbye, that means you care about the person.  It means you made a connection and you valued their presence.

It may mean that they were a great worker or simply a great friend, but whatever the case may be, their leaving is going to leave a void in your life.

I have had times where I really wasn’t too sad about leaving, and as I look back that is actually a much sadder situation.  To have spent any significant amount of time somewhere and not be sad about leaving means that there were no great connections.  

People are the best part of life so what a shame if we missed out on an opportunity to connect with people in a new area.

As a military member saying goodbye is a regular occurrence, though it doesn’t make it any easier.  But what it does is make you grateful for all of the amazing people you get to meet.  That’s why tonight I am grateful for saying goodbye.

What are you grateful for?

Good People

I feel like I talk in this general vein a lot on here, but I also feel like it cannot be overstated.  With all of the crap that is going on in the world, and all the terrible things people do to each other, we can never have too much talk about good people.  The awesome thing is, they are everywhere.

I’m sure many of you can relate, but in the last week I have had multiple friends pick me up and drop me off as I got repair work done on my car.  I was invited to a friend’s for dinner because not only did they want to help get me out of the house, but they enjoy my company, and the chili was amazing.  I have been given three meals worth of food.  I have had great conversations about fun things.  I had a friend buy me a donut.

I know all of these are little things, but something else that I also can’t say too much, is that it is the little things that matter most.  We will never be able to do great things if we don’t take the time to do the little things.  

That is what makes good people so valuable.  They are not perfect, and they don’t do things for recognition, but they do the little things because that is just how you should treat people. 

I realize I have been somewhat vague in this post rather than calling out individuals, who definitely deserve credit, but I am just letting my heart run with it tonight.  

If you aren’t a good person then stop being a loser and fix it.  If you are a good person I thank you for your your efforts, and tonight I am thankful for you.

What are you thankful for?

My Neighbor Linda

I got home from the gym tonight only to realize that I was out of milk, and that the store would be closed before I could get back to the other side of base.  Since I actually need milk I bit the bullet and drove over to the gas station to by some.  Since it was getting later and I didn’t want to cook I took advantage of the Subway in the gas station.

Upon arriving home, and before I could even get out of my car, I heard someone say, “Did you eat dinner yet?”  This was my wonderful neighbor Linda, and when I came around the back of my car she was standing there in her apron staring at me with some concern in her eyes.

Linda has been my kids’ psuedo-grandma while we have been in Japan.  She spoils them with treats whenever they ask, and she is incapable of telling my little Hannah no.  She is also a fantastic cook, and even mows my lawn because she says she finds it therapeutic and that I better not take that away from her.

In response to her question I held up my Subway bag to which she responded with rolled eyes.  She then proceeded to go back into her house and return with BBQ pulled pork and rolls for me to eat for dinner or lunch, or whenever I wanted.  About a week ago she showed up at my house with a mint chocolate chip ice cream pie.

While I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, it is so comforting to know that there is someone else looking out for me since my wife is not around to do so.  She really is the sweetest lady in the whole world, and our family’s life will be a little less happy without her in it.

She will never see this post since she doesn’t use social media, but that does not make my gratitude for her any less sincere.  She has been a blessing of unbelievable value for me and my family, and that is why today I am grateful for my amazing neighbor Linda.

What are you grateful for?