Is wiping down the machine working out?

Mostly a pet peeve on this blog, but I’ve got to say something even though I’m sure I’m in the minority.  I’m a morning workout guy.  Sometimes using a variety of machines in the gym, sometimes floundering in the pool.  I know through much trial and error and reading that my battle to stay healthy requires an hour of physical activity as often as I can fall out of bed and get going.  For me if it doesn’t happen first thing in the morning, it won’t happen.  That’s just the way it is–too much happening or that could get in the way as the day goes on, plus I’m usually spent by late afternoon or evening to even consider heading to the gym.  However, as we all know, when is not as important as doing.

For years now I’ve had this running dialogue in my head with hundreds if not thousands of other gym-mates.  It goes something like this…

Me:  Are you actually kidding me with that workout?  You literally took longer to wipe down the damn bike than you spent on it.  Your weight may have actually increased.

Them:  Silence, or possibly a glare my way sensing my disapproval.

Me:  Stop spraying the machine or the towel with that foul smelling antiseptic and just move on.  You don’t have MRSA and you didn’t actually work out hard enough for any residue to be left behind.

Him:  A head tilt my way and a quick glance, but no outward confirmation that he is just actually killing time at the gym.

workout 2

Me:  Ok, you should not be allowed in, ever again.  You talked on your phone for the entire 12 1/2 minutes you were walking on that machine.  It’s wrong and should be against the rules, plus I don’t want to have to turn my iPod up so high that I get migraines later just to not hear your ridiculous conversations about some guy who clearly is not interested in you, probably because you’re a gym-poser.

Her:  Some acknowledgement given that she is lame and really just there to be seen or more to the point; heard.

Me:  You started sweating before you got in your car to drive over.  You look like you just did an Iron Man.  One towel will not correct the pool of body fluids collecting all around you.  You can’t help it obviously, but I think this is why some people have home gyms.  Do us all a favor, save your monthly gym membership and put that towards a home workout center.

Him:  No direct eye contact with anyone because he knows he is Linus from Peanuts, only instead of a dirt cloud following him around everywhere, it’s sweat.

workout 1

Me:  Oh no, not her again.  She actually goes backwards with each stroke.  How can she take up an entire lane and move that slow?  I’ve seen sea turtles move faster.

Her:  She’s underwater most of the time, coming up for air occasionally like a hippo.  She only grudgingly shares her lane and even then it’s painful to swim on either side of her.  Anyone who manages 4 laps in 30 minutes should move over to the kiddie pool and hop up and down with the other blue hairs for 30 minutes.  Her body would appreciate some actual physical activity.


When did this obsession with cleaning up after yourself ascend to the manic levels we have today?  I’m all for not passing on germs, but the skill and execution associated with this constant self-awareness borders on the insane.  It’s like watching a dog or cat constantly licking and cleaning themselves.  At some point it’s just gross.

workout 3

I know this is old school thinking, but working out usually involves sweating and it’s been that way since working out became fashionable.  Are we healthier or just more phobic?  Is it just good manners now and if I don’t do it am I an outcast?  There are towels, Kleenex boxes, spray bottles and antiseptic dispensers everywhere at my gym.  Having worked in hospitals for nearly 30 years it reminds me of walking into one, where unbeknownst to most, the number one side effect is actually getting a hospital-acquired infection.  If hospitals can’t prevent it, how can a gym hope to?  We’re guilty by association, it’s part of the small print…check next time you get a chance.  I’m sure it says something like; “You probably have a really good chance of getting someone else’s germs if you work out here.  Don’t blame us and please wipe up after everything you do so we can say we’re not liable when you do come down with a sore throat or a cold, or worse.”  It’s kind of like all those ridiculous drug commercials we are inundated with that spend 45 seconds of their allotted minute on the horrific side-effects suffered by some small percentage of the study group, including death.

Sometimes a guy just needs to rant. It’s like being an armchair quarterback for your favorite team.  You can’t help yourself, but you still thunder away even though it actually accomplishes nothing other than to clear your mind so you can move on to the next tirade.

Please enjoy your next workout and for the good of our society, wipe up after yourself!!

Wild Man


He was wild looking in a John the Baptist kind of way. Roughly six-one and a cheeseburger shy of 300 pounds he had one eye that wandered off a bit as he talked. He was doing some work on the neighbor’s roof and mine needed similar de-cluttering, so my wife invited him over to talk with me when he was finished. Having fallen off a roof many years ago, she knew my dislike for working up there. It was well intentioned, but led to mistake number one: no real reference or knowledge of this guy.

My oldest boy was home for the weekend and he and wild man had an extended conversation that occurred between our back deck and the neighbor’s roof. I was puttering around the house, but heard snippets of what ending up being a pretty healthy discussion. I did overhear him speaking about Jesus and his commitment and also a bit about his background. My only thought was I hope she wasn’t paying by the hour. I received no verbal warnings however from my son, so I continued on, unaware that my turn was coming.

Later in the afternoon he rang the doorbell. Messy from working, he had gray wisps of hair flying out from beneath a US Open golf hat that were complemented by a large paunch protruding above stubby white legs. It was his eyes however that caused an anxious double-take. Both were large and piercing, one a deep blue-gray, the other even darker and it roamed about at will, like a broken mouse trail on your computer.

Over the next 40 minutes, I was verbally accosted and hammered on until I was forced into a defensive position. He covered the bulk of his life, the ups and downs, previous wives, all the money he’d made (and evidently lost) and interspersed throughout was a constant tie back to Jesus. His knowledge of the bible was impressive and he alternately was moved from tears to near rage.

I feared for what might come out of his mouth next and for what may happen if I interrupted or said no thanks. He trembled as he spoke and I did my best to stay in the moment and be respectful and honor his outpouring. I nodded a lot, said about ten words during the rant and kept praying that someone would call and bail me out. Didn’t happen. In the end we finally negotiated a price for the roof work and he said he’d be back the next day at 0900 to start.

At 0830 the next morning the doorbell rang. He was just as disheveled, just as ready to launch into round 2 of his monologue, but I was prepared this time. Working from home, I legitimately had multiple conference calls and phone appointments already scheduled and was actually on one when we he showed up. With a phone in my hand and Bluetooth in my ear I explained where the tools and hoses were and told him I was on a call and couldn’t talk just yet, but that he was free to get started.

messy gutters

Other than a bathroom break and getting a drink of water, we really didn’t speak for about four hours. This however is where mistake number two happened. He rang the bell. I was again on a call, but put them on hold so I could write him a check and thank him. I’d seen things raining down most of the day and knew he’d been busy.   I started writing and he quickly asked what bank it was. Interesting I thought. I told him and he asked if I had a local bank. I said I did but it was more for moving money around between my wife and kids. He thought about that for maybe 30 seconds and then said I should write the check to his “better half” (which is what he constantly called her). I complied and asked him if everything was finished, cleaned up and put back. He said it was. Because I really was in the middle of some business, I did not walk around the house with him—my biggest mistake.

An hour or so later, I finish up and walk outside to see my clean roof and gutters, only to find the job is about 2/3 finished. The cleanup is sloppy, things are not put away, there is still moss on about 1/3 of the roof, there is a solid 15 feet worth of gutter that is completely overflowing with debris on one end while on the other end the actual downspout is disconnected and laying in the yard. I’m beginning to steam up for having been so stupid as to engage him in the first place with no real reference and then for not stopping to inspect the work.

Character Ugly Gurning Man with steam coming from ears.

Then a real dilemma hits me. The guy scares me on several levels anyway. Do I call him and tell him to come back and finish the job, stop the check or chalk it up to charity and walk away and finish it myself. Another dose of this guy in my face touting his “Christianity” is so unappealing that after speaking with my wife, we decide that it’s not worth another close encounter. I know it doesn’t teach him anything, and yes he did a poor job and got paid the full amount, but then I realized the Jesus I know, talked about this scenario as well.

As a Christian man, I was both enthralled and taken aback by this dude. I’m not an in-your-face kind of guy and so much raw emotion from a stranger caught me off-guard. Now granted, I’m pretty sure after all this that he’s not quite all square in the noggin. But even if he’s a brick or two shy of a full load, where then does grace start and doing the right thing stop? My job is to find a way to grace. His job was to clean my roof and gutters. If the owner of the vineyard wants to pay a full wage to someone who did half the work, that’s his choice right?

In the end I’m not sure if I took the easy way out or somehow blessed this guy by actually listening to him and providing him some income, which is likely pretty important to him and the “better half”. If it were my kids or any of their friends, we’d be having a different conversation, but the thought of another summit with this guy was so tormenting to me, that I opted out.

So what’s the big idea this time? Maybe we should all ask ourselves if we put people off in similar fashion sometimes? My gut was screaming that if Jesus knew how his words and deeds weren’t matching up that he’d be awfully sore with this guy. Then again, Jesus does know and extends his own grace in ways I can’t comprehend. My hope for all of us is that our words and actions match up. That who we are is a combination of these two that tell a good story and hopefully don’t cause others to stumble or step away in fear, but rather to lean in and wonder why there’s something different about us.

Whether I was a chicken or it was charity is secondary to how I treated him. I hope it was with grace.


That’s what I do, not who I am…

Who are you, words only

How many conversations do you have every week and someone asks you what do you do? It’s a normal and ordinary part of the introductory process we all tend to go through. Until we get to know each other it’s far less intrusive to ask what someone does versus their political or social leanings or how they feel about the crisis du jour our media stirs up constantly.  Not many lead with…So Mike, nice to meet you, now give me your interpretation of the events transpiring in the Middle East?

And while this may seem like Captain Obvious, I cringe sometimes at the way we tend to link our profession to our calling in life. Sure there are those who seamlessly combine the what with the who, and in fact I feel blessed to be associated with several, but clearly that doesn’t seem to be the majority.

A recent example from my travels exemplifies this. I’m in a meeting with multiple department heads and one of the guys can’t stop making comments about the nature of sales people. It was one sweeping generalization and sly comment after another. I’ve heard most of these remarks over the past 30 years, but to say it grated on me would be an understatement.  I didn’t feel the need to call out his outdated aircraft carrier of a tie, cheesy moustache or his relatively low position amongst the assembled heads of state.   Making sure we knew our place seemed to be his raison d’etre that day.  I left thinking, now who is that guy, really?  Why the big chip?

Lion King who are you

As an Air Force brat I was raised with a bit more emphasis on respect, as in everyone deserves it until proven otherwise. Sales people are an easy target, I get it. Too many used car salesman jokes still floating around and the pervasive thought that we’re all only it for the money. For the record, I don’t know many who aren’t in it for the money.  The number of us clocking 40-60 hours/week for free is still pretty small I’m betting. We all need to live, eat and raise our families. Of course I’m in it for the money, but when it comes to doing my job, I hope I’m in it for much, much more.

We have to be in it collectively for more than the money, don’t we? Although studies still show that most people really dislike what they do for a living. Many I’m sure stay in dead-end jobs that suck the life out of them because the thought of leaving and losing that income or possibly moving to a different position but not really being any better off is frustrating at best, life-changing at worst.


Since it’s clearly been established that having lots of money doesn’t necessarily make one happy, how do we even determine if there is a disconnect between what you do and who you are—deep down? Something I love about the change in our culture in the past couple of decades is the transparency with which the younger generations go about their business. Regardless of what they do, social media has given them an outlet, an avenue to declare I’m more than what I do! Look, here on You Tube or my Facebook page or Twitter account or any other social channel–see who I really am and what I really care about.

I’m convinced that we’ve politically-corrected ourselves into a corner in corporate America. We have to be so tolerant, so universal and accepting in our thinking, so desperately aware of everyone else’s feelings, sacred cows and experiences that we end up either internalizing all thoughts and creativity or come unglued and spew them around like fur balls in a catfight. How do we walk the fine line that separates the flamboyant, disrespectful, over-the-top, “if I want your opinion I’ll give it to you”, work partner from the laid back, never too up or down, takes it all in, speaks when spoken to, you don’t know me well enough and vice versa–so I’ll keep my opinion to myself thank you, associate?

Your presence

Neither extreme seems tolerable long term, but since everybody’s version of what’s right or wrong with our society is not just permissible but encouraged and defended, how do we clear a path to people’s hearts and desires? How do we bridge the gap between what one does versus who one is?

At our core we all have a deep desire to love and be loved. Surely it starts there. None of us wants to do life alone. Most of us are hurting from one thing or another and need someone to bear that pain with. Life’s tough on a good day and whether you love or hate your job can add or subtract from that fact, but if you’re in a position where your job is not really reflective of who you are (or want to be), then where is your outlet?  Do you even need or want one?  Or, do you already combine the who your are with the what you do in such a way that people do see you as authentic and steady?

Cat vs Lion who are you

So what’s the big takeaway on this one? I don’t know really, I just know that I run across way too many people in my travels who seem like they are one step away from a meltdown. Everything is life altering, has end of the world connotations and the ability to keep a perspective on life seems eternally clouded.

My take is how can it be possible to universally combine who I am with what I do, unless the underlying theme or mission of your life is to somehow make a difference in those around you?  I know plenty of people who always seem on top, joyful and just plain happy to be upright another day. I’m sure you do too. Why is that? What makes them tick? What is the source of their selflessness? Always deflecting praise, always giving credit to others, always willing to help regardless of how it may put them out.

I’m no expert in any of this other than the best place to learn is to go the source more often. In this case it may mean we need to step out of our comfort zone a little and actually talk to more of these people and find out what makes them tick. Otherwise we run the risk of being hounded by a simple question…who am I really?

Harry potter who are you

Moving sucks

Moving sucks,

While not really part of the ongoing theme of stories from my travels, I feel led to relate some recent experiences while moving to our new place.

For those of you who have ever moved, you already understand the pain we’ve been through.  Without a doubt, it ranks right up there with double digit tuition increases annually and trying to figure out your EOB on your healthcare statements.  All can cause the stoutest of men to buckle a bit.

This time we moved less than 10 miles from where we’d been renting for the past couple of years since moving back to the Pacific NW from Chicago (yes that’s 3 moves since 2010 for those keeping track).

Under the best of circumstances moving is acknowledged as a top 3 stressor in any marriage.  Just the thought of having to consolidate, purge, Goodwill or just plain toss your accumulated treasures (i.e. junk) is enough to stop most sane people in their tracks.  It’s uncanny how much crap we accumulate over our married lives.  Our garage looks like an episode of Hoarders exploded inside.

grandview garage

Sure we downsized by about 30% in overall space and it is my fervent desire that this is the last house for which I’ll ever have to sign my name 200 times, but we didn’t cut our payload by 30%!  Plus, I got writer’s cramp from all the paperwork—and I like to write!  The difference between buying our first house in 1985 and this one was an obscene amount of collateral material flying back and forth by fax, scan and email for probably five months.  The residual effect of what happened in 2008 will be felt for a very long time, so much risk mitigation and CYA in triplicate, what a shame.

I find however, that each time I move I lose a small part of myself in the process.  Memories, experiences and just a general feeling of emptiness always accompanies these periods in my life.  Being an Air Force brat, you’d think I’d be used to it since all told; this was my 17th move in 54 years.  That’s once every 3 years.  Funny, one of the main reasons I didn’t want to join the Air Force was that I didn’t want to keep moving so much at someone else’s whim.  Hmmmmm, that didn’t work out like I thought.

But part of me doesn’t like all this change, part of me wants to keep things the way they were or are or should be.  I want my kids to stay small sometimes, right up until I get to keep being a parent and coaching them on the next phase of their lives.  I want to get rid of all the junk right up until I look through tubs of school and art work, trophies or medals, and various keepsakes and I find myself yearning for something long gone.

Something about moving brings out the best and worst in me.  I love all the friends that came to help and haul our crap from point A to point B.  I love the excitement of a new place, a better location and view, but I don’t really like the disruption in my life; all the forms to change, people and businesses to notify, crap to pack and unpack—again.

grandview view

Two weeks into the new place, I’m so glad we’re here, but I’m mostly just so glad it’s over.  I don’t want to do that again.  I’m a homebody at my core, I like predictability and consistency.  I take calculated risks.  I don’t just pack up and go, probably to my own detriment.  Maybe I should do more of that?  My comfort zone is just that, mine.  Everyone’s is different and since I travel so much in the rest of my life, this area of my existence is important to me.  I need my man cave, my workbench, to know where the spices and dishes are and all this moving is messing with my mojo.

I pray it’s all past now, just the final few boxes to work through and pictures to hang (or toss).  I’m beginning to fall into my routine that includes walking to town, meeting new neighbors, sweeping pine needles daily and many more things that I’m sure I don’t even know yet.

It’s all good.  Even the kid that walked into our garage, while we were upstairs watching a game, and stole my bike didn’t’ throw me too far off my groove.  Especially since they caught him and returned my bike later that same evening.  I’m reinvigorated and looking forward to many, many years in our new place with friends and family coming and going as always.


Being content in good times and trying times is a quality I will continue to pursue.  Kind of like growing old gracefully.  Some are incredibly adept and handle life transitions like becoming empty-nesters with so much ease and grace, others fight it all the way and aren’t prepared for these next chapters.

So what’s the big idea?  Embrace and plan for the changes in your life, whether it’s moving, aging, a wedding, a new job, delayed retirement, kids boomeranging back or looking for work or a grandchild.  Don’t act like you didn’t know these things were going to happen.  Each decision we make spins something; a change, some shift in direction or an unintended consequence.  It’s never all smooth but no one said it was going to be.  Prepare yourself for the “moves” in your life, for they will come, like it or not and how we handle them is the true measure of our heart.