Saying Goodbye to Luke Skybarker – In Recognition of National Beagle Day April 22

In recognition of National Beagle Day on April 22, and in remembrance of our funny, flop-eared friend Luke Skybarker.  This post was originally written on 11/24/12.


11 years and one week ago today we brought home a flop-eared, six-week old beagle.

Today, after a week of increasingly failing health and a night I don’t soon want to repeat, we buried Luke Skybarker in his favorite outdoors place, our backyard overlooking North Mecklenburg Park.

The story in-between those two sentences is some of what life is all about.

In 2001, as our youngest son Aaron approached his 9th birthday, we heard the words many parents regret: “I’m getting older now; I think I’m ready for more responsibility – like a dog. “

Somehow I equated more responsibility to helping around the house, maybe a neighborhood job to start a college fund. But to Aaron, responsibility = a dog. And being the softy parents that Anita and I are, we agreed. After a little research, we located someone in Lincoln County that had two litters that were just about ready to wean, and we had our pick.

With parental veto power firmly in check, we let Aaron pick a small male, the runt of the litter. There was also a female that Aaron passed over, because his choice “was quiet.”

Not for long.

Shortly after arriving at our house, our new pet demonstrated his “quietness” with the first of countless howls that beagles are known for. And so began the saga of Luke Skybarker as a part of our family.

The name Luke Skybarker is homage to our family’s (well, at least the guys in our family) intense fondness for all things Star Wars. Over the years, we have seen all the movies (on opening night in theaters, then countless times on DVD, and now repeatedly on Disney+), acquired many LEGO sets of SW characters, read dozens of books about the series, and even dressed as SW characters at Halloween. So it’s no surprise that our howling new addition should be given the name Luke Skybarker.

After a short while, though, I was sure we had misnamed him. Due to his adorable cuteness but all puppy-like actions, we soon had a Bark Vader on our hands, because he definitely went over to the dark side.

Luke was actually an interior decorator, though we didn’t know it at first. Over a period of months, he: chewed up our couch legs and fabric; ate the bottom of several strips of wallpaper in the kitchen; chewed up several chair legs; ripped the carpet in several places, and ate big chunks out of the vinyl floor in the kitchen. I guess he operated on the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” philosophy. We tolerated it, and over a period of time we replaced everything. So in a way I guess we owe some thanks to Luke for new hardwood floors, a new kitchen table and chairs, refinished walls in the kitchen, and so on.

It was one of those times when Luke began the first of many trips to a place he had a love/hate relationship with: LakeCross Veterinary Hospital. He met Dr. Donna on his first check-up, demonstrating that dogs can also have the white coat syndrome (and the staff doesn’t even wear white!). After one of his interior decorator attacks, AKA eating carpet, we decided to rip up all the carpet and put in laminate floors in most of the house. Shortly after we finished the project. Luke began acting strangely. He would act like he was in pain but we couldn’t pinpoint anything. At the vet, after a round of tests and examinations, Dr. Donna told us there was nothing physically wrong with Luke, but something was definitely causing his strange behavior. She asked us if we had made any changes in our home routine, and we mentioned the new floor. In her opinion, absent anything else, that was it: Luke was having a nervous reaction to the new floors. Personally I thought he was just missing the extra chew toys, but anyway he soon reverted back to normal.

Back to that responsibility thing – it didn’t last long (like I didn’t know it wouldn’t).  And so I ended up with a new team member in my job (I worked out of a home office by then). As co-workers go, he was great most of the time. He rarely invaded my space (except for those seasons when the early morning sun tracked across my floor; he would follow it until it was no longer possible to soak up the sun). He was content to listen to an occasional rant about work without so much as a bark.  As a sounding board, he always gave a paws up to my project ideas. I never had to worry about what to get him for parties – as long as it was bread, he was happy. I never had to worry about him taking over my job – it would have interfered with his sleep.

Somewhere along the way I had these visions of Luke being like the vet’s dog in “All Things Bright and Beautiful” – where the dog accompanied the vet on drives around town, etc. Early one Saturday morning, Luke accompanied me to the local farmer’s market to buy some veggies. After a fairly quiet time at the market, we left to go back home. Luke was sitting in the front seat of our van – until he dove out the window. Luckily, he had his chain on and we were not going too fast. I grabbed he chain just before it went out the window and hurriedly pulled over to the side of the road. With visions of the dog in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movie in mind, I found a bloody Luke hanging by his collar. He had bounced off the front tire, tearing his right dew claw out and bleeding, but not in a lot of pain. When I came in the house cradling him with blood all over the place, everybody freaked. Off to the vet we went where he was bandaged up and given his own personal “collar of shame” to keep him from bothering the wound. So much for car trips…

Over the years, there would be many more trips to LakeCross. From Dr. Donna to Dr. Kay to Dr. Tom, all the vets and technicians and staff loved to have Luke Skybarker visit. He genuinely seemed to brighten their day, but I still haven’t figured out why. They loved him and fussed over him and gave him treats at every stop of the visit. About a year ago, Dr. Gretchen became our regular vet as much as possible. We began fighting a skin infection that soon became an indicator of Cushing’s Disease. All along the way, Dr. Gretchen tried so much to make Luke comfortable. We actually began to turn the corner with the Cushing’s but unfortunately it was something beyond our control that took Luke. Over the last week, he began having seizures that would cause him to fall over where he was. The X-rays yesterday confirmed the worst: a large mass around his heart and lungs, causing fluid buildup and other issues. Luke came home with us to see if he would last the weekend, but it was a very restless night (because of all our Thanksgiving company, Anita & I were sleeping in the great room sofa bed, and Luke was right at our feet by the fireplace). Several times I thought he slipped away, but it was evident his breathing was becoming more labored and painful. After taking Jason, Jaime and Lucy to the airport, we returned to get Aaron and Amy and headed to LakeCross one last time. As always, the staff could not have been kinder, and Dr. Kay eased Luke from a painful existence to peaceful rest.

We are now in a house that is much too quiet – no toenails clicking along those hardwood floors, no built-in vacuum to get up food spills, no dog alarm when the front doorbell rings, no cold nose on your hands or feet.

We miss Luke, but we will always have the stories…

We discovered early on that you should not come between Luke and his Oreo’s. While fixing lunches for the kids one day, Anita dropped a bag with some Oreos in it. Quicker that I had ever seen him move, Luke grabbed the bag before Anita could pick it up. When she tried to get it from him he snapped at her. From that point on, we were careful about dropping things, but when we did, we let Luke have them (unless it would hurt him, at which point it became a wrestling match with teeth and snarls).

Luke loved his food and would fight for it, but when it came to defending his territory, he was all bark (and howl) and no bite. We always said Luke was one of the pets burglars feared most because they would trip over him in the dark and wake us up. It seems that he saved his most ferocious barks for other dogs who dared walk down “his” sidewalk. He would let them know – loud and long – but never take it past the bark. While he hated other dogs, he loved cats. Most of the neighborhood cats soon realized he was no threat to them and learned to taunt and tease him on walks. Luke was never the wiser.

As other animals go, Luke was a squirrel watcher. Our large kitchen window has a ledge that was just the right height for Luke to rest his chin and watch the squirrels run and play outside. He never barked at them – even when one jumped off the tree by the window and clung to the window screen before scampering away.  They seemed to know it to, because when we would walk out in the back yard, they would run and scamper, but never seemed to fear him. It’s like they knew…

Maybe they know now, too. Luke’s final resting place is in the thick of the trees in our back yard. Overhead, the squirrels run and play.

I think he would have liked that.

Cherishing the Legacy of My Father

Nine years ago this week was the celebration service and burial for my father, H.D. Adams.

As I reflected on his life this week, thoughts came to mind, and those thoughts brought me to words on a digital page, remembrances of him sprinkled in posts over the years.

From 2009, in a planning meeting with a church leadership team:

It was a long travel and office day with lots of “stuff” happening, but it ended on a very positive note from the church leadership team I was meeting with that night.

After over 2 1/2 hours of discussion, a remark was made something like this:

Your company’s information on the website and print say a lot, but your talk here tonight says the most. You may not realize it, but you’ve mentioned the influence of your father at least four times tonight, all in very positive ways. That speaks to your character and integrity, and that comes from a relationship that can’t be taught, but can be caught. That’s the kind of person we want to work with.

I was a little taken aback by the comment, but was very flattered. I did not realize that I was referencing my Dad that much, but evidently I was, and it was noticed.

Thanks, Dad, for modeling for me all the right things to do and say – even when I don’t realize I’m doing and saying them!

>From 2010, after a full day of play with my grandson:

Today’s visits to Discovery Place Kids and the park – just part of a busy day – reminded me in some ways of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

My paternal grandfather died before I was born; my maternal grandfather lived in Missouri, so I only saw him about once a year until I was in my late teens. Then he moved into the small apartment next to my house, where he lived for several years until he passed away. Anyway, a lot of my memories are of “Pappy” teaching me guy things: mostly fishing, a little hunting, playing cards. My dad had already done this (except the cards); it was Pappy’s “job” since he had the time to expand on this “guy” knowledge.

My father was still working during my kids’ early years. Even so, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things continued.

So here I am in 2010, a GrandBob (twice) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

Some things do change though: at the end of the day my 2 1/2 year-old grandson Skyped with his two week old cousin (well, pretty much Jack was doing the talking and watching; Lucy was sleeping most of the time). But he did get to see her and wish her a happy birthday (which is pretty astute for a 2 1/2 year-old, but hey, he’s my grandson).

>From 2011, when business travel was a regular occurrence, not a series of Zoom meetings:

Recently I went on a business trip that’s taken me through 5 airports, boarding 5 planes, and taking off and landing 5 times in 4 time zones. Along the way, I waited in lines, looked in a lot of faces, and heard lots of conversations. One conversation in particular stands out – two young women in their early 20s were behind me talking about another person. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but voices in a jet way are quite clear. The comment that stopped me? “Yeah, he’s 35 you know, and that’s like, you know, old.”

At more than two decades past the age of 35, I obviously have a different outlook on life than those two young women. Or do I?

I’m not normally the type that looks at myself in a mirror. But this comment, along with much more positive comments from my colleagues related to a change in hairstyle, made me look in the mirror in the hotel that night. Just who was that looking back at me?

The face I saw was that of my father. Instinctively, I know this was triggered by recent changes in his health. At 84, issues are beginning to arise. Emails indicated a gradual change in demeanor and lifestyle. Unexpected phone calls late at night recount hospital visits that begin bringing a new image to mind.

This morning, I looked long in the mirror and the vision I saw was that of my father, coming into focus like a picture being developed right in front of my eyes.

Thought of another way, however, that familiar face embedded in my mind morphed into my son’s and then into his son’s – my grandson. Like a modern day mashup, those collections of lives lived, and yet to live, offer a considerable span of history. A life in waning years, a life at halftime, a life in early adulthood, and a life just beginning – that’s quite a few faces in the mirror.

It doesn’t take a magic mirror to see the past in your own face, or wonder about the future in the face of your children and grandchildren.

Who knows when you will glance into a mirror and meet a past you hadn’t expected and weren’t ready for, or a future that is yet to come.

Look in the mirror – what do you see?

>From the 2012 eulogy to my father:

My memories of my father span the 54 years of my life – and each memory has a special significance. A father means one thing to a 3-year-old, another to a 13-year-old, and another to a 33-year-old. They are all special.

But today I remember my father in terms of being a grandfather. I am reminded of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

Later on, after marriage and the start of my own family, since my father was still working during my kids’ early years, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things expanded, but he was always reflecting a spirit of giving to others.

So here I am in 2012, finding myself a grandfather – actually, a GrandBob – twice (now, 8 times!) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

The point of all this long discourse: A lot has changed in the decades of grandparenting I’ve been a part of: first as a recipient, then as an observer, and now as a practitioner. But one thing remains the same. 

Grandparents love their grandchildren, and through that love, cherish their children in a different way, as parents, and bearers of a legacy to a new generation.

That’s a legacy I cherish.

Revisiting the Worlds of Star Wars

I’m one of the original Star Wars fans (as in, I saw the first movie as soon as it showed up in Nashville, TN in early June 1977). It was the summer break after my freshman year of college, and I was working the factory line at Aladdin Industries, making Thermos bottles. My first “real” job, according to my father (after working at our family-owned gas station since age 6). Working the second shift, I was able to catch a late showing the day it came out.

The first time I saw it, I knew it was a game changer in so many ways. The next day, I came back and “watched” it with my eyes closed, just to listen to the music. A long-time lover of classical music, I was building a classical record library courtesy of a Columbia Music classical record subscription (remember those?). 

Then I watched it five more times in the next week. And saw it again in theaters over the years. And bought it on VHS – then DVD, finally on Blu Ray. And I’ve watched it a bunch (cue eye roll by the wife) on Disney+ since November 2019.

The love of Star Wars runs deep in my family, from me to my children to my grandchildren. I have a 10-year old granddaughter I would put up against anyone in Star Wars trivia.

Oddly enough, though, I’ve only read two books with Star Wars stories. Those happened to be the first two, “Star Wars” and “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,” both written by Alan Dean Foster (even though the first had George Lucas’ name on the cover), which I bought when they came out. And in the 44 years since…

Nada.

Of the hundreds of books available in the Star Wars universe, I’ve really only read those two. Which, given my family fandom, love of movies in general, and Star Wars fascination, is unusual.

To say nothing of my love of reading in general.

That changed this week, with the book “Light of the Jedi.” I preordered it for my Star Wars-loving, book-collecting son when it came out January 5. At the time, I told him I was also putting it on reserve at my library, and would read it when it came in so we could talk about it.

Which it did yesterday.

And which I’m now reading…

Saying Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

In the all-too brief period from December 11, 2020, to January 2, 2021, my mother-in-law Mary Grey Randolph went from living at home with a full-time caregiver to the hospital for surgery back to home for recovery, and then back to the hospital briefly, before moving to hospice care for two days, before passing on 1/2/21.

We shared a birthdate, and she often joked and wondered if I would ever catch up with her – and oh, by the way, she was planning on living to be 100.

Though she didn’t quite make it to her 100th birthday, she was living in her 100th year, so she gets full credit for that!

Mimmie, as she was affectionally known to our family, was the last of her generation in our extended family. Her husband passed away in 2015.

They were the Greatest Generation.

Much more than the titles of the great books by Tom Brokaw, Doc and Mary Grey nevertheless were the Greatest Generation, the likes of one which we have not seen since, and are likely not to see again – at least for awhile.

Mary Grey’s long life was marked by devotion to her God and church; love and nourishing her family; and compassion for others.

Mary Grey and W.L. “Doc” Randolph were married in 1943, lived apart for most of the war years, and began their family life in Goodlettsville, TN following the end of WW II.

Her vocational career included office management and bookkeeping responsibilities in several companies for over five decades. After retirement, her full-time occupation was keeping Doc in line, and as beloved “Mimmie” to her grandchildren.

Mary Grey was a long-time member at her church, and was involved in many activities and responsibilities over the years.

She and Doc, along with four other couples, personified friendship, care, and affection through the Sunday Night Bunch, which gathered weekly for over six decades.

She was devoted to her large family, and always took joy in hosting family gatherings from a single grandchild to dozens of family members for all occasions.

To me, that’s a pretty good definition of “greatest.”

The G.I. Generation, born 1901-1924, developed a special and good-kid reputation as the beneficiaries of new playgrounds, scouting clubs, vitamins, and child-labor restrictions. They came of age with the sharpest rise in schooling ever recorded. As young adults, their uniformed corps patiently endured the depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a mid-life subsidized by the G.I. Bill, the build gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged missile gaps, and launched moon rockets. Their unprecedented grip on the presidency began with a New Frontier, a Great Society, and Model Cities, but wore down through Vietnam, Watergate, deficits, and problems with “the vision thing.” As senior citizens, they safeguarded their own “entitlements” but had little influence over culture and values. Representatives of this generation include John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and Walter Cronkite.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, Generations

The event that not only named my in-laws’ generation, but shaped their character as young adults, was World War II. As recounted by Tom Brokaw, “There may never be again be a time when all the layers of our complex society are so completely absorbed in a monumental challenge as they were during WW II.”

Everyone had a role; everyone understood that the successful outcome of the war was critical to the continuing evolution of political and personal freedom.

The nation was infused with a sense of purpose and patriotism. Political leaders, the popular culture, advertising, newspapers, and radio cheered on the war effort once the fighting began. For many young men and women, that call to duty and the constant reminders of its importance in their lives and to the whole country marked their lives during the war and long after.

As I have written about a great deal on this site, I believe that our generations revolve in cycles. Interestingly, the premier researchers in this field, William Strauss and Neil Howe, believed that the generation that will most closely mimic the Greatest Generation in life events and achievements, is the Millennial generation.

The Millennials, those born 1982-2004, are the new “Greatest Generation” – not in name but in deed?

We face a much different type of “battle” today; one not against a named nation or group of nations, but against ourselves.

This cartoon, taken from decades of display on Mimmie’s fridge door, reflects both her life and attitude.

When two different groups view our objectives with a short-sighted and selfish nature, no one will be happy and we will both become quickly frustrated. We will tug and strain, and ultimately fail.

But if we come together and reason, give of ourselves and give up our selfish motives, we will succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

May it be so with the Millennials (Mimmie’s grandchildren), as it was with her Greatest Generation.

Mary Grey Randolph, 1921-2021

My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother in 2018. They may not be physically present with me, but who I am was shaped by their influence, and they impact me every day. My mother-in-law, aged 99, still lives at her home of 65+years (with a caretaker). Additionally, this cohort, as their generation moves into their twilight years, still controls a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead outside of their numbers.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) My wife and I are late Baby Boomers. Born in the latter 50s, we are a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, two daughters-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Z (born after 2001) Just now entering teenage years and early adulthood, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my six grandchildren, and it is important to me! So far, technology is the hallmark of this group, which is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones and social media as a daily part of life. They’re growing up amid the promise of technological innovation – but also in the environment of economic uncertainty, a sharp decrease in well-defined and reliable career paths, increasing political divides, and the effect of decades of repressed racial tensions. Consequently, when compared to their predecessors, this group is both more cautious and more anxious.

There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. Led by the thoughts of William Strauss and Neil Howe published in the late 1990s, this idea of “cycles” is getting more attention now that their predictions of today’s Millennial cohort are proving to be on target more often than not. That will definitely be my radar in the future!

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the first born in the above generations of my family, thus 27gen.

The next five years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society.

The last time we were all together in one place – Walt Disney World, September 2016.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Sunday 8/9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice Syntopical Reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For the last several months, that topic has been accelerating a three-year-old project: “Hospitality in the Home.” My current tower shelves of syntopical reading in the topic is at just under 200 books – and I’ve still actively researching the subject, and discovering new authors and books!

In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books formed the basis of a month-long emphasis at Auxano entitled “Building Bridges to Your Neighbors.” The content produced by this reading includes two emails, two feature articles, a webinar, an eBook, and countless social media posts – PLUS launching a new website, First Place Hospitality.

Here’s a partial view of those books; this is one of two towers; another couple of dozen or so books are on a nearby file cabinet:

In addition to this special project, another ongoing syntopical project of sorts is SUMS Remix.

Issue #161, shipping next week, is the most recent one, published every two weeks over the last six years. Those 161 issues represent 482 books. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by church leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and 3 ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately. You can find out more and purchase an annual subscription to SUMS Remix here.

With an issue published every two weeks, a two-week production cycle, and a two-week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on at least 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are at least 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience development and consultations, other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading in include restaurants, food, and related areas; the psychology behind our bias; the development of U.S. culture from the 1600s through today; and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

The Love-Hate Confessions of a Horizontal Organizer

or, the domino effect in action.

courtesy Jeffrey Pioquinto CC 90412460@N00

courtesy Jeffrey Pioquinto CC 90412460@N00

A few years ago, my wife and I replaced our antique brass bed with a new bed. That led to a minor redecorating of our bedroom, which led to a major effort to simplify life in our house. As parents of four, but on the verge of being empty nesters, we decided to reduce our furniture footprint, change our room use around, and redecorate our house.

After a few trips to Goodwill to donate furniture, we had a working kitchen with plenty of space for 3 chefs at a time, a home office tucked away to one side, and an island for casual eating for 3. The family room acquired a new media center, much smaller than the previous one. The built-in book shelves were cleaned up, organized, and looked great. Free standing bookshelves were rearranged and relocated. New furniture was chosen and delivered to create a simple, clean look. The original dining room – our computer room and my office for 9 years – was returned to a dining room furnished with art from several Charleston trips. One of the front bedrooms – our daughter’s – became known as the Disney Princess room, decorated with Disney art and a Lego Disney Castle, all just waiting for our three granddaughters to visit. The other front bedroom became a mini-den, with two recliners and a small table with a large monitor for a temporary-as-neededed workstation. The entire downstairs ceilings were stripped of that awful popcorn ceiling and painted. All of the downstairs rooms were painted in shades of grey. My office was relocated upstairs to what was originally a bedroom for two of our sons, and also fulfills a guest bedroom role.

Therein lies the problem.

I’m a reader, researcher, writer, and editor for Auxano’s Vision Room. My title is Vision Room Curator, which is a really cool title, but functionally I read, research, and write – a lot of all three. Which involves books – lots of them (even in the digital reader age). And project files (I’m trying to go digital, but it’s taking awhile). More books, as in book towers – one for each year of SUMS Remix. And visual learning objects – lots of Disney items including a Sorcerer Mickey hat and Mickey hands; gas station memorabilia; Starbucks cups and barista training materials; pirate gear and props, etc. – all related to projects I’m currently working on. Then there’s special family photos, challenge coins and patches of my Air Force son’s career, and did I mention books?

My name is Bob, and I’m a horizontal organizer.

I like the things I am working on spread out on a surface in front of me, where they can beckon me to continue working on them. Efficiency experts and time management gurus live in a world of vertical file management and a digital, paperless world, but me – not so much.

As a horizontal organizer, I am at a situational disadvantage. The whole world is set up to help keep vertically organized people on top of things. On the other hand, all my work is on top of things – my desk(s), the tops of filing cabinets, bookshelves, the nearby futon (I’m getting better, Anita – I really am!), and the floor.

As you have no doubt heard, a messy desk spread thick with paper and stacked high with books is the sign of a genius at work.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

The relocation of my office from the main level of our home to the second floor has had many benefits, not the least of which is increased domestic tranquility – a phrase not exclusively limited to governmental issues by any means. Because of my tendencies towards horizontal organization – actually, more like a full-out embrace – my working office is out of sight, but not out of mind – the office must also remain a guest room (but give me a couple hours notice, please, to ahem – rearrange things).

I’m sure I’ve got some resources somewhere around here on how to accomplish both…

Now – where did I put that book?

Special thanks to my youngest son Aaron, who in his senior year in college pointed me to the book The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry. After he bought the book, read it, and wrote a paper on procrastination the day it was due, he gave it to me to read.

Through it, I was introduced to the concept of horizontal organization. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Structured Procrastination, To-Do Lists, Procrastination as Perfectionism, and other strategies for the serial procrastinator.

In the meantime…

Recently, I became aware of another book with a similar topic: Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me. Author Andrew Santella explores a diverse group of individuals, from Charles Darwin to Leonardo Da Vinci to Frank Lloyd Wright, to ask why so many of our greatest inventors, artists, and scientists have led double lives as committed procrastinators. Here’s a couple of quotes:

In the process of trying to avoid one task, I was in fact completing many other tasks. Even procrastinators can become task-oriented, when the task they are oriented to is procrastinating.

Procrastination is really a kind of time travel, an attempt to manipulate time by transferring activities from the concrete past to an abstract future.

Indeed.

Make Your 2nd Half of Marriage a Time of Incredible Fulfillment

The second half of your marriage (when the kids leave home, and/or when you are helping with your own parent’s lifestyle decisions) can be a time of incredible fulfillment, no matter what challenges you previously faced.

It can be a time of learning about each other and about God’s long-term plans for your marriage. And a time of building together – sharing dreams, making commitments, and working towards a more satisfying union.

Having just celebrated my 38th anniversary on December 8, I sought out resources to help answer this question:

How can we make the second half of our marriage even better than the first?

David and Claudia Arp’s book “The Second Half of Marriage” has provided a lot of helpful guidance in starting out on the journey of the second half of marriage. Yesterday, I posted four strategies they outline in their book. Here, in their own words, are the final four:

  1. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse. Now is a great time to deepen your friendship with each other and stretch your boundaries to prevent boredom. Think of ways to put more fun in your marriage.
  2. Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship. Many people assume that as people grow older they lose interest in sex, but our survey results suggest otherwise. The quality of your love life is not so much a matter of performance as it is an integral part of the relationship. Take care of your health and renew romance even while acknowledging the inevitable changes that come with aging.
  3. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children. Release your children, then reconnect with them on an adult level. At the same time, your relationship with your parents may need a little altering, too. The effort you expend in forging better relationships with loved ones on both ends of the generational seesaw is well worth it.
  4. Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage. Research indicates that most people, as they age and consider death, become more religious because they think more about what it all means. Why not consider this time of transition as an opportunity to talk more openly and regularly about your relationship with Christ: what it means, why it matters, and what it means for your marriage? Take time to serve others, too, and pass along some of the wisdom you have gained.

In addition to the wealth of material in the book, the Arps provide additional resources through their Marriage Alive website.


And now for the whole picture of our wedding party – December 8, 1979, at First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville, TN.

It’s day 13,882 for Anita and me – and our journey together continues!

How to Make a Great Second Half of Marriage

Happy Anniversary, Anita!

How can you make the second half of your marriage better than the first?

That question is always in the back of our mind as Anita and I celebrate our 38th anniversary today, December 8, 2017. Loosely defined, the second half of marriage comes when your kids have left home; it may also be marked by decisions a couple is making about their parent’s health and lifestyle.

We’ve got both.

I found a great resource to help begin charting this journey: David and Claudia Arp’s wonderful book The Second Half of Marriage. In their own words, here are the first four (of eight) strategies that will help every long-term couple make the most of their marriage:

  1. Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best. Are you willing to let go of unmet expectations and unrealistic dreams? Or your mate’s little irritating habits that don’t seem to be disappearing? Giving up lost dreams and overlooking each other’s imperfections are positive steps toward forgiving past hurts and moving on in your marriage.
  2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child-focused. The tendency, once the kids leave, is to focus on new activities rather than on each other, but these activities can keep you from crafting a more intimate relationship. Try to focus more time and attention on your spouse.
  3. Maintain effective communication that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys and concerns. Sometimes what worked when the kids were home doesn’t work as well now that the kids are gone. After all, you always had the children to talk about. Now that it’s just the two of you, you might need to upgrade your communication skills.
  4. Use anger and conflict creatively to build your relationship. With the kids gone, many couples find that issues they assumed were resolved resurface. Certain negative patterns of interaction that developed over the years can be deadly for an empty-nest marriage. Learn how to deal with issues and process anger in ways that build your relationship.

Tomorrow, the other four strategies from “The Second Half of Marriage”, as well as some other resources and ideas.

But in the meantime, I have the most beautiful bride ever:

She still is!

13,881 days and counting!!

 

 

Celebrate Freedom

I have always loved history. Not many accounting majors have a minor in US History; the same goes for a Masters in Administration and Communication with a minor in Baptist History. But of all the history periods, I think the American Revolution is my favorite.

This time of the year – approaching July 4th – is a time to read the Declaration of Independence, sections of the Federalist Papers, and Common Sense.

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For me, Independence Day now carries a different meaning.

My son is in the Air Force. He’s been deployed twice in the last three years.

While my father and father-in-law served in WWII and the years afterwards, and several cousins were in Viet Nam, somehow it’s all very personal now.

America celebrates 241 years as a nation this July 4th, even though the independence we celebrate was not settled for another seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the many years since we have gone through a devastating civil war, numerous regional wars, two World Wars, a Cold War, and are continuing a global war on terror that has no end in sight.

It seems that to have peace you must have war.

I pray for my son every day, for safety as he performs his duty. I know that he has been trained and prepared to do his best, and give his all, for his family and his country. While it is a sacrifice he is prepared to make daily, I hope he never has to.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women have made that sacrifice since 1776, and continue to do so to this day.

So when you celebrate freedom this July 4th, never forget the price others have paid.