Lately I've had more contact with those over age 85 than I've ever had in my life. It has been an eye-opening experience in many ways.

This contact has truly given me the utmost respect for all those involved in elder care: family members, nursing-home employees, doctors and nurses — all of them. It takes real patience and, of course, love when dealing with the age group that we all hope to join someday.

Everything changes significantly when dealing with seniors. Take something simple like planning an outing of some sort — shopping, concert, picnic, whatever.

First you must consider what the parking situation will be like where you’re going. Will I be able to drop the person off close while I park? Will there be someone to watch them?

Then you have to gauge how much walking will be involved. Will it be far, will the terrain be difficult, will there be stairs?

Of course, you need to consider temperature as well. It seems people get colder as they age. In their defense, some venues (offices, meeting rooms, stores) are as cold as meat lockers for some reason, so jackets and sweaters are always involved no matter what the actual outdoor or indoor temperature is.

Probably the biggest consideration when traveling with seniors is access to bathroom facilities. Seniors may have to go often, and it may be an involved procedure when they go for all kinds of medical reasons, so this is a prime consideration.

A friend of mine booked a tour bus once and at the last minute the bus company informed us of a one-hour delay. My friend got chewed out royally by a senior who had spent months timing his bathroom procedure for a time that was now off by an hour.

Especially since this change was totally out of my friend’s control, it really hurt to see him get abused like this. That’s why it’s so important to consider bathroom access anytime you are dealing with seniors.

You would think a thermostat is a pretty simple device. There’s a heat-off-cool switch, a temperature control, and a fan control.

Yet I've literally run out of ways to explain how this device works. I've tried everything and I just don't know how to make it any simpler.

Same thing with trying to explain a new cell phone (and I'm not even talking about a smart phone). I guess. when you consider this age group grew up when outhouses were common and radio was state-of-the-art, it’s understandable.

Still, it’s so frustrating for me that I can’t seem to be able to explain the operation of these relatively stone-ax simple devices in an understandable manner. Good thing I didn’t decide to become a teacher. I apparently would have just stunk at it.

Speaking of training a senior, my cousin posted this online: “I should be made a saint for teaching my mother how to use Facebook.”

Next time you see the library offering computer training for seniors, you might want to go in and pat those trainers on the backs. They must have all the patience in the world. I’ve done a lot of training and I know that seeing a bunch of blank stares is never fun.

Now that the internet is ubiquitous, more and more organizations are using web-based contacts for all kinds of thing. This burns me because many, if not most, seniors cannot or will not use a computer.

So now caregivers have to pretend to be the seniors, but that doesn't always work smoothly if it works at all. For example, sometimes you need power of attorney when advocating for someone else.

What’s frustrating is seniors are often alone and isolated. They would so much enjoy receiving the many forms of social contact that the internet provides, like email, pictures, family updates, and more. Until computers become as easy to use as a toaster, that just isn’t going to happen.

Let’s say you have an event where sound is very prominent — a concert or some other kind of show. Seniors often don't have good hearing.

Even those who wear hearing aids may have trouble, because the hearing aid might not work correctly, or the batteries are dead, or they simply forgot to or decided not to wear it that day. Imagine how you’d feel if you couldn’t hear the melody or understand the jokes.

So, before you spend lots of money on show tickets, be sure the people you plan on taking actually have the ability to enjoy it. It will only be a frustrating experience for all of you if they don'’.

Seniors are unfortunately prime victims of all kinds of scammers and crooks, both in person and online. The classic example is a guy with a truck who looks legit, takes a deposit for home improvement like driveway sealing or roofing, and is never seen again.

The few seniors who do manage to get online are prime targets for all kinds of internet scams as well: the classic Nigerian prince who needs some funds to unlock his fortune, a fake contact from the bank or the IRS, etc. I find these kinds of crooks, who prey on our most vulnerable relatives, friends, and neighbors, to be truly despicable and deserving of maximum punishment.

Dietary restrictions are a fact of life for many seniors. They might be sensitive to salt or fat or something else, which means you need to either adjust your cooking or cook something special for them. Sometimes they may have dental issues as well.

Of course, these days more and more people have nut allergies, gluten allergies, and the like, so it’s not only seniors, but it does give you one more thing to think about anytime you are planning a gathering where a meal is involved.

One curious thing I've noticed with seniors is their tendency to repeat the same stories over and over and over again. What’s fascinating about this is each time they tell it, they act like it’s the first time they’re doing it.

When my wife and I meet one of our kid’s new boyfriends or girlfriends, we share the same funny family stories each time, but, once we tell them the first time, that’s it. We don’t repeat the stories each time we see them again.

Could it be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or some other geriatric disease? I hope not because all, and I do mean all, of the seniors I know do this a lot.

It’s to the point where, if there’s one takeaway I hope to receive from my close interactions with seniors, it’s to not repeat the same stories over and over. We'll have to wait and see how that goes.

Note that it’s not all seniors who have these issues. My friend’s dad is 92 and he still hunts, takes care of his own home, drives, has a circle of friends, goes to Florida each year, and makes it a point to fit in a good, long nap each day. Heck, he’s having more fun than I am.

Here in Guilderland, we have lots of senior services with lunches, classes, bus trips, and more. There are senior centers and senior programs all over the place, which is terrific.

The thing is, you have to reach out and take advantage of them. For a number of reasons — some physical, some emotional, some cultural — not all seniors can do that. That’s a real shame because there is no reason why everyone, no matter what their age, shouldn't have some fun now and then.

No matter where I visit seniors — in their homes or in facilities like nursing homes or retirement centers — I can't help but notice the overwhelming predominance of television viewing. I know for some folks this may be the only semi-actual human interaction they have.

This is sad because anything you see on TV is biased from some producer’s or director’s perspective by default. I always advise seniors I meet to get and use a library card.

The library is a grand gift no matter what the age, a place where ideas from many sources — newspapers, books, magazines, and so much more — are freely available to all. Keeping your brain active by actually reading and forming your own opinions — it doesn’t get any better than that.

A curious thing happens whenever I visit a senior in any kind of assisted-living or senior-care facility. I call it “the stare.” It works like this: As you approach the building from the parking lot, you first notice being stared at from behind the shades in the windows (sometimes I even wave to the people who are staring at me).

Then there is usually a crew, often sitting in wheel chairs, at the front door. They seem to have no problem staring you down quite forcefully, like they’ve seen you on a wanted poster or something.

As you get closer, you’re thinking, “Is my zipper open or what?” I don’t know if this is unique to me, and in a way I suppose it’s good that seniors want to know (apparently very much so) who’s coming and going, but it always gives me the creeps to have to go through this every time I make a visit to a senior facility.

One good thing about seniors is they often offer a wealth of knowledge about how things were done in the past. I never tire of hearing good stories (well, maybe after the 50th time), and seniors have plenty of good stories.

You see, kids, there really was a time when there was no internet, cars broke down all the time, there were only three channels on TV, there was no remote, and your phone was only as mobile as the length of its cord. Our parents and grandparents lived through those times and did their best so that we could enjoy everything we do today.

Let’s not turn our backs on these folks, because they certainly deserve our respect, patience, and admiration.

None of us can control the aging process or what it does to our bodies. We’re all delicate creatures that are damaged easily by so many things, both physical and emotional.

Having to face the vagaries of human existence with declining mental and physical powers can’t be fun I’m sure. The only thing we can control is our attitude.

If there is one tip I'd like to give to seniors, it’s to try, no matter how desperate or depressing things may seem, to look on the plus side. Any day when you’re not pushing up daisies is a good day, when you think about it.

The folks who work with seniors daily are real-life heroes. I know the work they do is not always easy. I just hope they have the same patience with me when I need their care.

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Ralph C. Smedley was an education director for the Young Men’s Christian Association when he discovered the need for speech training. In 1924, the program he developed became known as Toastmasters.

Today, Toastmasters International is a global organization devoted to developing leadership and public-speaking skills. All these years later, the program Mr. Smedley invented is still going strong and working wonders.

I first became involved in Toastmasters years ago when I joined a local club. It was a lot of fun because everyone was there to help everyone else and you never knew what someone would decide to speak about.

One lady brought in stunning pictures of her hike through Europe. Another lady spoke about curling, that crazy sport where you sweep the ice with a broom to direct what look like giant bocce balls. I even got to participate in a very spirited debate, which was a lot of fun.

Then my kids got to the age where they needed to be ferried to various after-school activities all the time so I had to give up the program. Lucky for me, I’ve got a little more free time these days so I joined another Toastmasters club and I’m having a great time. Who says you can’t go back again?

Over the years, I’ve read many times that public speaking is the number-one fear for most people, feared even more than death. That’s why a program like Toastmasters is so wonderful.

Everyone in that room is supportive to the max. No one makes fun of you if you’re not perfect. In fact, after any speech or other activity, you are always provided with constructive feedback meant to help you improve for next time. That’s a great thing if you want to learn how to speak better in public.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I have no use for Toastmasters because I’m not a TV star or running for office so what do I care about public speaking?”

The thing, is you may not have to speak in a professional manner, but there are so many other public-speaking opportunities that the average person may encounter: at church, town board meetings, weddings, or funerals.

If you really think about it, you’ll realize that, any time you are speaking to anyone, you are engaged in public speaking, so anything that makes you communicate better has to be a good thing.

Here are a couple of examples of public-speaking failures.

My grandmother chose her son-in-law, my uncle, to give the toast at her fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. So my uncle stands up, raises his glass, says, “Salute,” and sits back down. Even as a kid watching that, I knew there was something missing.

Then I was at a graduation celebration. The speaker spent 15 minutes talking to the graduates, who were sitting behind her on the stage, rather than to the audience. It was like those of us in the audience were witnessing a locker-room pep talk. Both that speaker and my uncle most certainly would have benefited from some Toastmasters training.

Of course, when you start studying public speaking, you do become more tuned in to what speakers do and say. At a cancer survivors’ dinner, the very enthusiastic speaker, a survivor herself, did a wonderful speech that was very well received.

However, several times during the speech she said things like, “As I stand her at this podium” and, “I never would have believed that I’d be here today standing behind this podium.”

If you’re in Toastmasters, you know that when you speak you stand behind the lectern, which itself rests on the podium. After the speech, I tried to think of a nice way to tell the lady this not-so-subtle distinction without looking like a jerk, but in the end I let it go. She’s not the only one who makes this mistake; it happens all the time. So what can you do?

You can go to a Toastmasters’ meeting and just sit there if you want, but it’s much more productive to have a role at the meeting. Some of the roles are speaker, speech evaluator, timer, grammarian, and “ah counter.” This last one requires some explanation.

The role of the ah counter is to listen to each speaker and count each time he or she says some kind of a vocal “crutch,” like ah, um, you know, or some other vocal stumbling block. This is not done to embarrass the speaker.

On the contrary, it’s done because so many people aren’t even aware they’re doing it. It really is a positive thing, yet I spoke to a friend at a party recently and she told me the reason she dropped out of Toastmasters was because she didn’t like having all her “ums” counted.

I felt bad about that, because the feedback is always supposed to be done in a positive and constructive manner. I hope that’s the way it was done with her but I can’t be sure because I wasn’t there.

One of the best things about Toastmasters is the sheer creativity of the speakers. It’s amazing what an otherwise ordinary-looking person can come up with for a speech idea. One young lady at a recent meeting did a speech on pairing wine with food; her speech was as good as anything I’ve ever heard on the subject.

Another spoke of growing up in a different country and struggling just to go to school, often under the threat of starvation, bodily harm, or even rape. I about had tears in my eyes after that one. If you enjoy hearing heartfelt speaking, you will most definitely love Toastmasters.

A really fun thing at a Toastmasters’ meeting is Table Topics. This is where a random subject will be brought up and the speakers will have a minute or two to do a brief speech on the topic. This requires quick thinking and is a great way to keep you on your toes.

Some topics might be “who was your favorite boss and why” or “what was your favorite vacation,” topics that are generic enough that everyone should be able to come up with something interesting. Table Topics are fast and fun, give everyone a very non-threatening way to participate, and are always a highlight of any Toastmasters’ meeting.

As you progress in Toastmasters, you receive various achievements and distinctions. If you complete the speaking and leadership tracks, you can earn your highly coveted Distinguished Toastmaster award. There are folks who earn their DTM and then start the program all over again because they love it so much.

There are also annual speech contests, conventions, and leadership training. I tell you, had I gotten into Toastmasters when I first started working, I’d be a lot higher up in the pecking order than I am now, no doubt about it.

Practicing public speaking and learning how to run meetings and communicate effectively are skills that help you develop into a strong and confident leader. Those skills of course help you in all aspects of life, which is great.

If Toastmasters sounds like something you’d be interested in, just visit Toastmasters.org, put in your ZIP code, and you’ll find a list of local clubs. Some are closed like my current one where only members of an organization can join, but others are open to the public and would gladly welcome visitors.

There are clubs that meet at all different times and places so you can find one that works for you if you’re interested. There is no obligation to join and it’s a lot of fun so I encourage you to check it out if you can.

In these trying times, when it seems like so much of society has devolved into an almost constant us-against-them conflagration, it’s so refreshing to find a group that welcomes anyone who wants to improve their communication and leadership skills.

The fact that it’s so much fun as well is icing on the cake. Thanks to Mr. Smedley for creating such a great program so many years ago, and long live Toastmasters.

 

Lots of folks make New Year’s resolutions, and I'm one of them. I even try to keep them. This year's resolution was to stop swearing. How about that.

I know many of you reading this never swear at all. Good for you. I look up to you. I've even seen my father-in-law bash his finger with a hammer and let out an “aw, shucks” or something similar.

If that had happened to last-year’s me, the string of profanity that ensued would have used up all the special characters on the keyboard. You know, @##%%^^, like that. But no more. I'm really making an effort this year to stop swearing and clean up my language.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I was first exposed to all the Italian swear words (mostly when the relatives came over). Then, as I got into school, I picked up their English counterparts.

The thing about swearing is it’s such a part of the culture. I've heard swearing done so well it's almost like poetry, believe me. But I know just because it’s so common doesn't make it right or even appropriate. That’s why I'm trying hard to make this long-overdue change.

Depending on the media you peruse, your exposure to swearing can basically desensitize you to it. Certain TV shows, as you well know, are full of profanity, but don’t think it’s limited to the “boob tube.”

I read all kinds of books, and I especially like thrillers. For some reason, maybe to make the characters seem more authentic, these books are often filled to the brim with swearing. I guess that’s a reflection on our society, that authors feel the need to make their characters swear to make them seem realistic.

There are so many colorful colloquialisms that feature swearing. It’s fun to use them from time to time. That’s why they are so popular. The challenge is to modify them so they don’t include the swear words, which isn’t always easy.

Say you go to the doctor and you’re really hurting. When the doctor asks how you feel, it can be tempting to say, “It hurts like a %#$#,” especially after you’ve waited over half an hour when you arrived on time.

Better to catch your breath and say something like “Doctor, this really, really hurts.” So there you go. Getting your point across emphatically can be done without swearing.

There used to be a thing for guys about not swearing in mixed company. I always did that and still do.

However, I work in a large office with lots of women and, let me tell you, some of them can swear up a storm. There’s always a little cognitive dissonance when you hear those raw words coming out of a lady’s mouth, but gals can do anything guys can do, right?

One area where swearing is out of control — and everything else is as well, when you think about it — is social media. For some reason, decorum seems to fly out the window when you’re at the keyboard (a lot like behind the wheel).

Why folks who are fine in person behave this way when they are somewhat anonymous online is begging for a dissertation or three hundred. I’ve even had my moments in these arenas, unfortunately, but not many (thank goodness).

Something just sets you off and then you regret it later when you have time to cool off. Taking a deep breath before typing anything you might regret is always the best advice.

I listen to a lot of radio. Virtually every radio show where people can call in is on some kind of a delay, usually seven seconds, to give the host time to “dump” the call.

The FCC has strict rules about profanity of any kind over the public airwaves, which is why this delay is necessary. It always makes for awkward moments when a caller finally gets through but doesn’t realize he should be listening to his phone and not the radio.

No one in radio likes “dead air” and that’s what you get when this happens. Unfortunately, swearing is so common that the seven-second delay won't be going away anytime soon.

I don't listen to a lot of rap music, but I do like a few tunes. I looked for one of them, and there were two versions: an edited version and an “explicit” version.

Thinking the unedited version would be better, I selected that one, and was subjected to an amazing, almost constant, stream of swearing and profanity. As troubling as that may be, in a technical sense, to get that much cursing to line up in a musical way is still interesting.

Nevertheless, I had to switch to the edited one. I mean, I’ve heard it all before but this was just too much in too short a time.

I learned this from our friends at Wikipedia:

— Roughly 80 to 90 words that a person speaks each day (about a half a percent) are swear words.

— Swearing is considered anger management by some;

— Swearing can reduce the effects of physical pain; and

— Some patients who had lost their speaking ability due to brain damage could still swear.

People trying to stop swearing like me can create a “swear jar” where some amount of money is deposited each time swearing occurs. I don't know if I’ll do this, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling with swearing.

Maybe what I’ll do is promise to open the thesaurus every time I think about swearing, in the hope of finding a better alternative. Then again, this could lead me to even more swear words. Oops.

Let’s finish with just one example based on a true story my friend told me: His wife put $100 down on a car and then came back the next day to finish the deal. When it was all done, the wife noticed that in the final price the dealer hadn’t take off the $100 deposit amount.

When she told this to the salesman, his response was, “I was hoping you wouldn't notice that.” Now what would your response be to that statement?

Last year’s me would have used up all the special characters on the keyboard, let me tell you. A better response would be to ask to speak to a manager, not in the hope of getting the salesman fired (no one wants to see anyone lose his job) but in the hope of getting that $100 back and maybe even another $100 for good measure (I mean, the nerve).

Swearing is a fact of life but one that, at least for me, needs to be a lot less prominent. Wish me luck.

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You see them in the waiting areas of banks and car dealerships. There may even be donuts next to them. They’re part of a little oasis of hospitality in an otherwise sterile environment. While this is a noble purpose for sure, pod-based coffee machines are devastating to our environment. Convenient, yes, but at what price?

I read somewhere recently that, by 2050, the weight of plastic in the world's oceans will be greater that the weight of fish. Think about that for a minute. Think about it as well the next time you toss that used coffee pod in the trash. I have and I’m not at all happy about it. There has to be a better way.

You should know that I'm in no way a so-called “tree hugger” environmental activist. I’d never spike a tree or go out on a boat to foil fishermen. Yet I care very much about the environment, as we all should.

We have only one planet for our use and the use of our kids and grandkids and their kids. We should learn how to take care of it. Dumping millions of used coffee pods in the oceans every year just because they are convenient is not showing respect for dear old Mother Earth at all.

You can see why pod-based coffee machines are popular in waiting areas. So easy to manage. Pop in a pod, press a button, and you’re done.

Yet I heard a woman justify their use in her home because she didn’t have time to clean out a regular coffee machine. I'm sure she works hard and has a full plate to deal with but, if your life is so busy you don’t have time to clean out a coffee machine, then you are doing something wrong. Really.

I discussed the used-coffee-pod problem with my engineer son-in-law, and he explained to me that they are probably made of special plastic because the water gets so hot. That was interesting, so I called one of the companies that makes these coffee pods.

The company wouldn’t confirm the reason for the plastic used in the pods but did say the company was aware of concerns with pod disposal and promised me that by 2018 it would be changing them to a recyclable material. I suppose that’s good news but that means millions if not billions more will wind up in the ocean until then. Bummer.

There was a post in the zoo that is Facebook the other day that offered tips on what to do with used coffee pods. Like many Facebook posts, it was a “clickbait” thing where, instead of just pointing you to an article or list, you had to click and click and suffer through all kinds of junk advertising to get to the information.

I didn’t have the stomach for that – I never do – but it at least got me thinking about what can be done with used coffee pods. Gardeners can use them for seed starters; they already have a water drain hole. Magicians can use them for sleight-of-hand tricks. Handymen can organize small amounts of hardware. I'm saving mine to make a big stacked, artistic display (think modern art).

Of course, to reuse the pods, you have to get the coffee grounds out of them. This is a messy procedure you do over an open garbage can. It’s not pleasant but if it keeps even a few of these little buggers out of the oceans I can deal with it. If you’re a gardener, save the grounds for your compost.

To be fair, many of these pod-based coffee machines allow you to substitute a special, reusable pod where you can add your own ground coffee. That’s great but, if you are going to use ground coffee anyway, why not just get a regular coffee machine or percolator?

In my case, I’m using a machine my son no longer had a need for, and we have a lot of pods we’ve gotten on sale. I’m not happy with it, but at least I’m keeping the machine itself out of the landfill. Better than nothing.

When you start thinking this way, you can drive yourself crazy. If you go to the landfill, look at the big pile and see what people throw out.

In the old days, so much of this stuff would have been repaired. Today, that’s often not possible because of cost (a replacement product is so cheap) or design (many products are assembled in a way that precludes repair). It’s very frustrating to live in such a throwaway society. It's not right, but what can you do? (Save your used coffee pods for one thing.).

It’s the same thing when I make a very rare visit to a fast-food restaurant. Look at the amount of paper and plastic left over after a typical meal of burger, fries, and a shake. It’s unbelievable. Multiply that by millions and then think of the tremendous load this puts on the waste-management stream. I'm not asking McDonald’s and Burger King to stock fine china, but there has to be a better way.

It’s great that banks and car dealerships think so highly of their customers that they want to provide free coffee for them. I just wish there was a way to do it that was easier on the environment.

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Where I work they sponsored a Green Commuting Day recently. The idea was to take an environmentally friendly way to work.

I ride a motorcycle that gets close to 50 miles per gallon to work whenever I can, but in the spirit of the event, I chose to ride my bicycle for the 10-mile commute each way that day. The only thing greener than a bicycle is walking. Maybe someday I’ll allow myself three hours to try it but not this year, haha.

At 6 a.m. I made sure the bicycle’s tires had enough air, strapped on my bag, put on my helmet and shades and, just like that, I was off.

It was cool that morning, but I knew from past experience all I’d need to wear on top was a t-shirt. A ten-mile ride is nothing for an experienced bicyclist, but for me, I knew I’d work up a good sweat by the time I got to the office. That’s why I brought a bag containing a change of clothes along. There’s a shower where I work but I hoped that wouldn't be necessary — hopefully, I wouldn’t be pedaling that hard.

The first part of my route took me through the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Every morning during the work week I either drive my truck or ride my motorcycle through there. The contrast in doing it on a bicycle was surreal.

First of all, going slowly you can much better appreciate the beauty of nature. The lush greens and earthy browns of the sleepy forest combined with the early rising sun have timeless beauty. The amazing thing was hearing the singing of the many different species of birds that live there.

As I slowly pedaled through the winding curves I imagined that this symphony of nature was being performed just for me. The thought came that once we humans finally finish ourselves off if we manage to leave any kind of habitable planet at all, the insects, birds, and other wildlife will do just fine without us. Kind of morbidly pragmatic, I know, but this is the tenor of the time we live in.

When you are walking or riding a bicycle on a quiet road and a car passes at 10 miles an hour (or more) over the limit you realize what a violent and shocking event that really is. The shoulders on the roads around here, if they even exist, are not all that wide. Being that close to 5,000 pounds of speeding metal, glass, and rubber is quite disconcerting, to say the least.

The commemorative T-shirt I was given for Green Commuting Day shows two arrows with the words “3 foot, please,” asking for at least that much space from passing cars. Wouldn’t it be nice, as the Beach Boys famously sang.

From the Pine Bush, I soon found myself heading east on Washington Avenue Extension. This busy four-lane road has really wide shoulders, which is great. The bad thing is there is a lot of detritus and debris there. You never notice it when you’re flying by on a motorcycle or in a car, but on a bicycle it’s all there for your endless fascination and enjoyment. Here are the items I saw:

— car parts of all kinds (belts, hoses, reflectors, mufflers);

— all kinds of cans, bottles, and fast-food bags and wrappers;

— clothes, including T-shirts, sweats, and a bra;

— pennies;

— sunglasses;

— dead animals, including a large, smashed turtle;

— lumber; and

— broken glass.

Most of this stuff I've seen before, but how do you wind up with your bra on the side of the road? I must not be going to the right parties anymore.

When riding a bicycle on a busy road like this, the name of the game is constantly trying to anticipate what the car and truck drivers are going to do. I installed a little mirror on my left handlebar and it’s so handy I’ll never ride a bicycle without one again. Seeing what’s coming up behind you is so valuable. It’s still kind of nerve-wracking when a lot of cars are flying by, but it’s manageable if you always pay attention and stay as far to the right as you can.

The thing that never fails to amaze me when walking or bicycling on roads that we normally drive on is how much work the vehicle is really doing for you. There are inclines that you have no idea are even there until you walk or bicycle them. The engines in our vehicles take all the physicality out of getting around.

Now you might ask yourself, is that worth all the pollution, the depletion of our finite resources, the traffic, and the accidents? We have structured our society so that a vehicle is, in most cases, just about mandatory.

However, I heard that in Sweden you can bicycle everywhere on dedicated paths, and then in the winter, you can even ski to work! I like that a lot, I really do. Can you imagine how much fitter we’d all be if it really was convenient and safe to ride bicycles or ski all over the place?

When I got to work, I locked the bike up at one of the many racks provided. Then at my desk, I made the decision not to change into my clean clothes. I was a little bit sweaty and I had to ride back home anyway so why bother? The bright, day-glo commemorative T-shirt I was wearing would be a good advertisement for Green Commuting Day. Maybe next year more of my co-workers will participate. Another benefit of not changing out of sweaty riding clothes is it’s a great way to keep meetings short, haha.

When the work day ended, I began the ride home, and that’s when the trouble started. The ride into work had been very pleasant and enjoyable. The ride home was without a doubt the worst bicycle ride of my entire life.

First, it was late in the day, so there was much more traffic. Then there was the heat, which was very, very hot for May (a day after setting a record of 95 degrees). Lastly, I had a 20 to 25 mile an hour headwind in my face for virtually the entire ride home (due west and I’m told this is the way it is all the time). Not only was this headwind terrible to pedal into, for much of the ride it smelled like skunk. If this ride sounds terrible, believe me, it was. When I got home I was just about wiped out.

Green Commuting Day is a great way to encourage finding energy efficient ways to get to work. I’m glad I participated and I hope it happens every year. Any time a vote comes up for more funding for public transportation or bike lanes, I’m there. I hope you are too.

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One time when I worked for a savings bank, I had to drive “Mrs. K,” a bank vice president, to an event. She was mature, prim, proper, and well dressed all the time, but that didn't stop me from tuning the car radio to my favorite rock station.

Just then, the classic rock instrumental anthem “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band came on, and Mrs. K said something I've never forgotten: “I don't really like rock music, but this I like.” She was a good egg.

In case you’ve never had the pleasure, “Jessica,” a staple on rock radio stations, is a seminal Allman Brothers tune from 1973. It's so ingrained in our culture that, even if you don't know it by name, once you hear it you'll almost certainly recognize it. It features Dicky Betts on guitar, and was named after his daughter.

Being that “Jessica” is so wonderful and well known — a true “national heirloom” according to the Wall Street Journal — every time I meet someone named Jessica I always ask her if she’s heard it. Nurses, dental assistants, waitresses — once I meet a Jessica, I pop the question, as it were, and just about every time I'm looked at like I have two heads. Sigh. Is this what getting older is like?

These Jessicas that I query are usually in their twenties, just like my own two daughters. That means their parents are around my age. Conceivably the parents know the song “Jessica,” at the very least. Maybe they didn't name their kid after the song but still.

If you are my age and know the song and then name your daughter the same name, you think you'd at least tell her about it. Then again, even though “Jessica” is basically an American standard at this point not everyone likes rock music. Still, once even people who don't like rock, like Mrs. K, hear “Jessica,” they immediately like it. It's that kind of song. You can't not like it.

I try not to be all wrapped up in my phone all day like everyone else, believe me, but the other day when a young nurse named Jessica claimed she'd never heard the song I whipped out my phone and pulled it up on Spotify. Just like that in the doctor's office we're all groovin' to the Allman Brothers.

Of course, once she heard, it she recognized it. I would hope that all the Jessicas in the world would be just thrilled to share their name with such a beautiful tune.

The funny thing is, if I try to hum the tune, it only makes it worse. The melody is very distinct, and I think I can hum it, but my musician wife looks at me cross-eyed when I do it. How frustrating is it to hear something so clearly in your head — I mean, I must have heard “Jessica” hundreds of times — and yet I can't even come close to it by humming. That's pretty sad.

This doesn't happen to me only with the song “Jessica.” I was so shocked that my brilliant engineer son-in-law had never heard of “Mr. Ed,” the classic TV show about a talking horse, that I bought him the box set. Now, whenever I visit my daughter, we put on an episode and I can't stop laughing.

But it's not only “Mr. Ed.” If I added up all the great shows the so-called “generation Xers” have never heard of (“Laugh In,” “Hee Haw,” “Get Smart,” and so many more) I'd go broke buying box sets.

Have you ever heard a World War II veteran talk about dancing with his honey to Big Band music? Think about a guy sitting in a wheelchair or holding a cane, waxing poetic about something that you have no way to relate to. I know this happens.

Well, I was lucky to get a free subscription to satellite radio when I got my new truck and they have a ’40s channel. Let me tell you, Big Band music is some wonderful music. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa — it's really, really great.

To have come back from the war and found yourself in a big dance hall, having a blast with your best girl must have been something. I'm glad our many veterans got to enjoy it back then and still have those memories now.

If you've never heard the song “Jessica” — and especially if your name is Jessica — do yourself a favor and have a listen. You'll be glad you did.

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Any time I get a chance to go to a museum, I take it. While not artistic myself, I do enjoy seeing all kinds of creative things, like paintings, sculptures, dioramas, and more.

This often puts me in the position of defending some kind of art to someone who may not get it (think so-called “modern art”). My philosophy is simple: If it makes you feel good when you look at it, then it is good. Still, even I have to admit there are some really crazy things in the world of art.

One time we went to MASSMoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), a truly wonderful place where you never know what you will encounter. They once had a car hanging from the ceiling.

Right as we got in, I noticed a stepladder with an open can of paint and a wet paintbrush on the little fold-out shelf. I thought that was a little odd but I figured that the maintenance guy was on his break.

After we’d toured the museum, we passed by that stepladder again and it was only then that I realized that it was actually “art.” How about that.

This is like the exhibition I read about where the garbage on the floor — empty coffee cups, McDonald’s wrappers, and the like — was art as well. The janitor got reprimanded when he tried to sweep it up.

True story: A 91-year-old woman wound up inadvertently vandalizing a $116,000 piece of art. The piece, hanging on the wall of a museum, looked like an empty crossword puzzle. Alongside it was a sign that said, simply, “Insert Words.” So that's what she did.

The management decided not to press charges because “she didn't mean any harm.” Very similar to the stepladder I saw at MassMOCA. Is it art or isn't it? Who knows?

This is where it gets hard to defend modern art. Does that mean the mess in my garage is art? Or the overstuffed closet, the sink full of dirty dishes? Using my rule — does it make you feel good when you look at it — I'd have to say no.

But then you look at something else and you have to think twice. Again at MASSMoCA, there was a display on the wall of just the bottoms of the typical brown bag you’d pack your lunch in. Doesn't sound like much but the way they were arranged was quite attractive, so there you go. I never would have thought to do that but it really did work.

One artist you probably have heard of is the late Thomas Kinkaid. Not long ago, he took the art world by storm with his quaint, homey pictures of little log cabins or rustic houses nestled by babbling brooks or at the base of snowy mountains. He even had a chain of stores — there was one in Albany — where artists trained by him would put the finishing touches on his original canvases that you could buy.

I remember reading interviews with people who bought his work, and it all came down to the fact that, when you looked at one of his paintings, you knew exactly what you were looking at. It didn't have to be explained to you before you could appreciate it. No one wants to feel stupid, especially when simply looking at a picture. Which brings up my all-time favorite art story.

I had roped my friend who is not a fan of modern art into a visit to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Manhattan. We were having a good time looking at everything until we came upon a very large, white, square painting.

For all intents and purposes, it was just a large canvas painted white. In effect, it looked like the starting point for a picture; certainly not like an actual finished work. The straw that broke the camel’s back was in the write-up on the little card that described the painting.

“Without doubt,” the card said, “this is by far the greatest work of this artist's career.

Upon reading that my buddy had enough and we had to leave. How can you defend something like that?

In the book “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. one of the characters finds himself in a similar situation, having to defend a painting that consists of nothing more than a white rectangle with an orange stripe running down the middle. In the book, the patrons of the art gallery are getting ready to riot, as they feel they've been ripped off by the artist.

Then it’s explained to them that the white part represents mankind, and the stripe represents all the conflict in the world (I'm simplifying greatly but this is the gist of it). When it’s explained to them this way, they all sigh, “Oh, now we get it,” and everyone is happy again.

Vonnegut, the true genius that he was, nailed it perfectly, though I wonder if even he could have explained the symbolism of the garbage on the floor that is supposedly art.

Recently, I finally had the chance to research that plain white picture at MoMA where my friend, upon seeing it, made us walk out of the museum. Turns out it’s by a very famous artist called Barnett Newman.

The painting in question is part of his “The Stations of the Cross” series, and is truly considered his masterpiece. He subtitled this series “Why have you forsaken me?” — a reference, of course, to Jesus Christ’s last words.

Now, just like in the Vonnegut book, after hearing it explained that way, don't you feel a little different about that plain white square? Maybe the plain whiteness of it symbolizes there is nothing left but for Jesus to return to God the Father for all of humankind's salvation.

When you look at it like that — or when someone tells you to look at it like that — even a plain old white square can be hauntingly, almost painfully, moving. It sure makes it much more interesting, at the very least.

So that’s the never-ending conundrum with modern art. One day, I was walking in a glass-enclosed hallway, having just gotten a cup of coffee. Outside the wind was blowing fiercely, such that some random garbage, like straws, newspaper pages, and coffee-cup lids, was blowing in a swirling, circular pattern, around and around and around.

It reminded me of seeing smiling kids’ faces on a merry-go-round as they happily go around and around. Yes, it was just random items blowing in the wind but it was truly one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. If it makes you feel good, it is good.

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When my oldest daughter lived with us, it was not uncommon to see her doing homework on the computer while listening to music and having about 10 instant-messaging windows open at the same time. This is known as “multi-tasking,” and, while this amount of sensory input would make my head explode, it must have worked for her as she went on to get a Ph.D. in applied mathematics

Still, I have my own multi-tasking that I’d like to tell you about. It allows me to get my physical and spiritual development done at the same time. Now that I can handle.

It starts on Sunday morning when I leave my house and start out walking. The good thing about walking then is there are not many cars out. This is great because where I'm walking in Guilderland there are no sidewalks, so you're either in the street or on someone’s lawn, which is still kind of weird to me.

I mean, I grew up in Brooklyn and I always assumed sidewalks were part of the program but I guess I was wrong. Actually, on some parts of my walk there is an angled asphalt buffer; it's about a foot wide and slanted at about 25 degrees. Walking on that slope is something because you want to stay vertical but now your ankles are all keeled over, resulting in an odd kind of a limp. It still beats being in the street or on the front lawn.

You see all kinds of things when you walk in suburbia — golf balls, beer cans, doggie doodoo, and fast-food waste of all kinds. Littering always makes me sad and I don't know why there is just so much of it.

At least every now and then, I find a good washer or bolt or something else I can use back in the workshop. The other day, I found two small pumpkins that now grace my front step. Where these pumpkins came from in January is a mystery but who cares. Their vibrant orange color makes me think of spring.

So a brisk walk on a Sunday morning is how I take care of my physical development. The spiritual part comes when I get to my destination, which is Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church on Western Avenue in Guilderland.

You know you're there because Pastor Stewart Pattison is always out in the parking lot, directing traffic and greeting people with a firm handshake or a big hug, with his wavy hair blowing wildly in the wind. I've been to a lot of churches over the years but Pastor Stewart is the only minister I've ever known to call the parking lot his own. Since his parking lot is kind of small, his masterful traffic directing really helps. Now that's going above and beyond for sure.

Before I tell you why I like Pastor Stewart so much, let me tell you about a couple of incidents that happened to me not too long ago. There are many ways to get the word out about Jesus, some worse than others. This particular one happened at another church on a beautiful spring Sunday morning.

Imagine perfect weather, with lots of lush, green grass and colorful flowers blooming. There are well-dressed men and nicely coiffed women. The children have their Sunday-best outfits on, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining so brightly that the door at the back of the church is open so that the wonder of God's creation can come in.

Just then, when you couldn't feel any more spirit of rebirth and hope, the reader says, and I quote: "Before we begin, let's just get one thing straight — if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, you are going straight to hell." With that, all the air went out of the room and the moment was ruined. Ouch.

At another church, I remarked to the pastor how wonderful the music was. He literally yelled at me: "You don't go to church for the music!"

I just read the other day the Capital District has one of the lowest church attendance rates of anywhere in the state. You'd think that pastor would have been happy I was there for whatever reason, wouldn't you? No one likes getting yelled at, in church especially.

This is why I like Pastor Stewart so much. He never "glooms and dooms" you; conversely, he's not a Joel Osteen type where you just want to wipe that annoying perpetual smile off his face. Rather, with Pastor Stewart, you get the feeling that he's on a long journey, and he's just allowing us to come along for the ride with him.

We all have ups and downs, "warts and all" as they say, and, as you listen to him week after week, you get the feeling that he has concerns and problems that trouble him, just like the rest of us. His basic message is to try to genuinely be a good person, a person of God and love, while letting the love of Christ be in your heart at all times. Nothing wrong with that.

He really tries hard to share his joy and optimism with everyone. In this shallow, short-attention-span age we live in, I think he does a great job about sharing the message in as nonjudgmental a way as possible. Now if we can only get him a comb!

After the service a lot of the church folks try to get me to spoil my lunch with all kinds of sweets and all that stuff. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I let my beautiful wife Charlotte — she's the organist — drive me home.

But on a good day, I turn down the snacks and the ride and walk back home, getting some more much needed low-impact exercise to finish out my productive morning of physical and spiritual development. Nothing has more bang for the buck physically than the simple act of walking. Combine that with one of Pastor Stewart's well crafted and uplifting sermons and I'm good to go every time.

I'm not normally a fan of multi-tasking. I can barely do one thing at a time well so why try for anything more? Still, walking to church has been very good for me. I just hope my one leg doesn't wind up shorter than the other one from all that walking on the slanted asphalt shoulder.

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If you watch or play sports, you know that injuries are inevitable. When you hear that an athlete is having surgery and will be out for a while, you just accept it and move on because it happens so often.

I never thought much about this until I had surgery recently. Let me tell you, when it’s you that is under the knife, you realize that there is nothing at all routine about surgery.

In my case, I had to be at the hospital at the ungodly hour of 5:45 a.m. for an early morning surgical procedure. Thankfully, I had my lovely wife to escort me.

I can’t imagine doing something like this on my own, though I know some are forced to and that’s too bad. After some shaving on my body and then some artistry with a magic marker, I was hooked up to an IV and rolled into the operating room.

The last thing I remember is noticing how really big the light was over the operating table. I was imagining how having a light that big over my garage workbench would make it so much easier to rebuild carburetors when the next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room. It was like time travel, for real.

After I was awake for a while, the surgeon came in and told me everything had been a success. This was a routine outpatient procedure and it had gone as smoothly as she had promised. Then she asked me how I felt.

“Well,” I said, giving it some careful thought, “I feel like I’m here and my head is on the other side of the room.”

With that, I was admitted for an overnight stay after all. The thing is, this was the first time I have ever been sedated completely, and I just don’t do well on drugs.

I know some people take drugs to escape reality, but I have enough trouble with reality as it is and drugs only make it worse. When I say that, I’m not even kidding. It really felt like my head was no longer attached to my body, if you can believe that.

I looked forward very much to that overnight stay in the hospital. The food was bland but I was just happy to have anything.

The real problem came with trying to sleep. At first I couldn’t doze off, so I just did lap after lap around the recovery ward, trailing my IV like a pet on a leash.

When I finally did manage to go to sleep, a nurse would come in and tell me she needed to take my “vitals” — pulse, temperature, etc. Then I’d go back to sleep and two hours later the same thing. I was awakened at least three times during the night by nurses making these checks over and over.

How are you supposed to get any rest like this? I guess it’s their subtle way of making sure you don’t get too comfortable so you won’t want to extend your stay.

When I was finally ready to check out the next day, I was pushed in a wheelchair to the curb where my wife was waiting with the car. What’s funny about that is: Why bother with the wheelchair, since once you get out you're on your own, you know? I'd rather have practiced the long walk to the car just to get ready for the recovery, so to speak, but everyone gets the ceremonial wheelchair exit ride, it seems.

With my surgery, I was told to do absolutely nothing, nada, zip, for one whole week. You’d think that would be easy, but I'm not the kind of guy that likes to be waited on or to sit still for too long. I hated to have my family do some of the things I normally do around the house, but there was no way around it.

If you've had surgery, you know what I mean. You feel like a real bump on a log just sitting there all day. It’s terrible. I can’t imagine what pro athletes do when they’re laid up for months at a time.

My surgeon told me I’d have some pain in the first week after the surgery. OK, I guess that’s to be expected. Day one after the surgery was fine. I must have had some pain meds left in me.

Day two and day three were so bad I actually called her up to ask if she had left her scalpel inside of me. Yes, it was that bad. On the one-to-10 scale, where one is getting tickled with a feather and 10 is death, this was a solid seven, close to an eight. I mean I was almost in tears.

Apparently this is par for the course when recovering from surgery. Who knew? So, whenever someone is recovering from an operation, be sure to give them some slack. I would never, never have believed how painful the recovery was if I didn’t experience it firsthand.

In fact, my wife has unfortunately had to have several surgeries. Each time, when the procedure was completed, the doctor would come and find me in the waiting room, slap me on the back, and tell me how great she did. Had I known those times how painful the recovery would be, I would have taken much more time off from work to tend to her. Oh well, you live and you learn (if you're lucky).

With a whole week of nothing to do, you’d think that would be a great time to catch up on movies, TV, reading, and music. The thing is, when you don’t feel good, none of that is really appealing in the way it normally is. You try to get into something but you just can’t do it.

I remember, in the last years of my dear departed mother’s life, asking her to do all sorts of things. I’d get so frustrated when she’d more often than not say no. But she hadn’t felt good for a long time, and now I can fully understand her reluctance to do anything. When you don’t feel good, it's hard if not impossible to get excited about anything. Totally understandable.

After the week was over, I could start walking and lifting things again, but only very light things. I'm not a huge muscled guy, but so many of the things I normally do — rotating car tires, shoveling snow, general work around the house — actually require lifting quite a bit of weight. You don’t realize it until you can’t do it for a while. Heck, even a gallon of milk weighs seven pounds and that was too much. I felt totally useless during that week. Not good.

It’s been six weeks since my surgery and only now am I allowed to start exercising again. Even so, I was told to start slowly and work back into it gradually.

It’s really hard to do that of course, but when you get that wince of pain it kind of forces you to slow down whether you want to or not. I can’t wait until I’m totally pain free and get back to my prior lifestyle.

Like Joni Mitchell sings, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Amen sister.

One time a friend told about getting injured playing volleyball. “I tore my rotator cuff. I have to keep my arm in a sling. I'm going to need surgery and miss the rest of the tournament. It’s terrible.”

My other friend then said, “It could have been worse.”

The first friend says, “How could it possibly be worse?”

The second one replies, “It could have happened to me.”

Surgery is no picnic. The next time your favorite ball player, friend, or relative goes under the knife, be aware that it’s just the beginning of a potentially long and painful recovery process.

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One of the most common icebreakers at a party is to ask a person what he does for a living. As I inch closer and closer to retirement, I find myself reflecting on work more and more. Our occupations and career choices so define us.

I mean, I could retire right now, but I'm just not ready to answer the “What do you do for a living?” question with the words, “I'm retired.” At least not just yet.

I started working at age 14, delivering the Long Island Press in my Brooklyn neighborhood on my bicycle after school. The thought that someone would pay me to do anything was mind blowing at the time.

It really did make quite an impression, as I've been working non-stop ever since then except for a two-week vacation once a year and a day or two off now and then. That's 43 years working and still going strong.

My next job was working in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant that was located next to a big hospital. I was to keep hospital visitors from parking in the restaurant's parking lot. Let me tell you, I took my life into my own hands with that job. Fortunately, the restaurant changed owners and I got to work inside after that. That's probably why I'm still alive today.

The restaurant was Nathans, of Coney Island hotdog-eating-contest fame, and every now and then I’d put on a giant hotdog shaped “Mr. Frankie Man” costume and stand outside waving at passing cars and people.

The costume was huge, heavy, and hot as hell inside. The eye holes were in the middle of the hot dog, which had to rise at least four feet over my head. It was very disorienting in there, to say the least. When I wore it, I'd get cursed at, spit on, and even little kids would try to knock me over just for the fun of it. Still, it was part of the job and I was just glad to be getting paid to do anything.

I would advise any teenager to take a minimum wage job for a year or two. The lessons you will learn about hard work, showing up on time, and dealing with the public are priceless.

I know there's a movement now to make fast-food jobs have a living wage. No matter, I would advise working there and moving onward and upward if possible, but since fast food is so prevalent in our society maybe it could be considered a career for some (especially if you move up into management). All I know is I was glad to get out of that business so I could stop coming home smelling like grease.

Then I got a job with a big savings bank, first as a teller, then as a traveling branch auditor, and finally moving into EDP (Electronic Data Processing) Auditing. I had computer training in high school that was somewhat rare at the time, which is how I was able to get promoted. I still use those skills every day. Auditing bank processing on a mainframe IBM computer would prove to be great work experience.

The bank liked me so much it decided to pay for my continuing education, so I would work all day in midtown and then go downtown to Pace University two or three nights a week until I got my bachelor’s degree. Surprisingly, once I got my degree, the bank refused to give me an actual IT (Information Technology) job.

The bank argued that, if it hired me in IT, I'd get a year of experience and then leave. So I had no choice but to leave right then. Very strange — the bank got virtually no return on its substantial education investment in me — but it is what it is.

Around this time, I was also working part-time with a guy doing hardwood floor sanding and cleaning. He liked me for two reasons: 1) I showed up and 2) I worked. He claimed that, believe it or not, finding someone who could do these two things consistently was extremely difficult.

I left that job because I was already working full-time and going to school, but I often wonder what would have happened if he and I had continued to build that business up. Who knows, maybe I would have been retired and moved on to something else a long time ago.

From the savings bank, I wound up working for a very large commercial bank in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. By that time, I had passed the test for entry-level computer programmer with New York State. I could have taken the job in the World Trade Center or in Albany.

Since the pay was nowhere near enough to get an apartment in the city, I decided to move to Albany, get a year’s experience, and then go back to the city for the big bucks.

When I told one of my female co-workers at the commercial bank that I was leaving for a job in Albany, she said, “It's so boring up there, you'll be back here in six months, guaranteed.”

What actually happened was I rented an apartment in Rotterdam, got engaged to the landlady not long after, and I've been here ever since. How about that? And no, I don't have to pay rent anymore.

I often think about what would have happened if I'd taken the job in the World Trade Center and just lived at home until I got enough raises to move out on my own. Many of my co-workers died there on that awful day, Sept. 11, 2001. Very sobering to think of that.

What a stupid and senseless way for so many totally innocent people to die. I could have easily been one of them.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about work from working first for myself, then in the private sector, and now in the public sector:

— If you are supposed to show up on time, then show up on time. I'm so big on this that I show up extra early just to make sure I'm there on time;

— If you are going to do something, then do it as best you can, not just because you are getting paid but because it reflects on you;

— Be especially thankful that someone finds you desirable enough that he or she willing to pay you good money for your services. Never take this for granted. There are plenty of folks with fancy framed degrees from very good schools who can’t find work;

— Don't be bummed out when Monday morning comes around and you have to get up and go to work. Be thankful that you have a job to go to;

— Realize that organizations are made of people, and people have all different personalities, likes and dislikes, good days and bad days, etc. There is always stress when people are involved (that’s why I love working with computers so much). You can only control what you can control. Don’t let it get to you; and

— No matter what job you have, the only constant is change, so make sure to keep learning as much as you can. It's the only way to stay relevant.

During the election, you heard the word “jobs” so often you probably got as sick of it as I did. I mean, just look around you. Jobs are all over. There are endless driveways to seal, decks to be built, houses to be painted, cars to be washed, lawns to be mowed, etc.

If you want to work, you can find work. It may not be the work you really want, but we don’t all get to be supermodels or 787 pilots or CEOs, but you have to start somewhere.

You are so lucky that you live in a country where you really can start from nothing and rise as far as your perseverance can take you. Work hard, work often, and things will look up eventually. That’s why, no matter what anyone says, there is no need to make America great again. It always has been great and will continue to be great as long as we keep working hard and innovating.

Remember the landlady that I wound up marrying? When I first met her, she was a single mother with not one but five, count ‘em, five, jobs. Everyone thinks I married her because she’s beautiful, intelligent, and the most caring person in the world, but her work ethic impressed me to no end 30 years ago and she's still going strong (although she’s now down to “just” three jobs).

When they coined the phrase “Protestant work ethic,” I’m pretty sure they had her in mind. I love to read and I always feel guilty sitting in my comfy chair enjoying a book at the end of a long day while she’s still flitting around the house doing a dozen things (but I do it anyway).

We naturally think of getting paid to work but don’t underestimate the power and satisfaction of volunteer work. Go into any church or club and look at what the volunteers are doing; it'll blow you away.

I've edited several club newsletters over the years, and I always got a rush when my copy came in the mail. Even though I put it together on the computer, seeing the physical copy it in my mailbox always gave me a thrill.

There's nothing like volunteering, if you haven't done it, you should try it. Really. I'm certain you'll get much more out of it than you put into it like I always do. I only wish I had time to volunteer more. Maybe when I finally do retire.

Work defines us in so many ways. When to end a working career and move on to the next phase is an important decision we all must make at some point. If I look tired when you see me next it’s because I've been up late thinking about it.

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