5 1/2 Month – Week 3


Blue Hill, Maine-morning view 2/28/18

At three-thirty this morning Sandy brings me a cup of coffee to begin the day. By 4PM, Karl arrives to take us to the airport. The American Eagle flight arrives via DC in Bangor Maine by 12:15 pm. Samantha picks us up and then we head to Mark’s Subaru dealership to pick up a new Outback for our week stay.

We dropped by to see Samantha and Chloe and spent time walking through their newly remodeled home, including the new Barn/Apartment for visitors. This is a beautiful place with a magnificent view of Blue Hill Bay. Mark, my nephew, bought a brand new John Deere tracker and gave it to his wife, Sam, for Valentines Day. He is some romantic guy. Funny thing is there is no need for a tractor here, but, Mark wanted it. That’s the way the Politte’s do things. It’s a hand-me-down family trait.

Wednesday–Sandy and I had a lovely scenic drive up to Belfast, Maine. Belfast is a small little town with an interesting ship making history. Now, it survives,somehow, on Tourist season revenue.

We just learned that our friends, Gerry and Sue, who were supposed to arrive in Bangor today had to cancel their trip due to the nor’easter hitting Philadelphia with 60 mile p/h winds. What a bummer! They were to spend four days with us in Maine. We had planned all kinds of side trips. Sandy has made two crock pot dinners for four. Now, we will have to endure this fantastic place without them.

We are headed to the LL Bean store in Ellsworth. Sunday, we will head to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. We’ve been to these places previously but you cannot get tired of visiting Acadia, Cadillac Mountain.

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Today We Begin a 5 ½ Month Journey, February 8, 2018

As most of the world knows by now, February 23, Sandy and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “most of the world” because this morning Sandy told the grocery clerk in Springfield, Illinois all about our five and half month trip plans. This women, plus over 200 people at the Dorchester, all of our friends and relatives are aware of our anniversary date and plans through July. If each person will tell just one other, well, you know, word travels fast.

We have been considering a variety of travel options for most of the past year. At first, we were planning a trip to Italy and then a Viking Cruise through Germany ending in Amsterdam. Sounds awesome. Maybe next year.

Sandy came up with the idea of subleasing our apartment for a few months so that we could travel the US and then end up in the NW. We could then spend more time with our children and grandchildren who live north of Seattle.  She was tired of being a “Skype Grandma” and wanted to live near the kids for a few months to experience what it’s like to be a real grandma, not one who visits for a few weeks each year and one you can only see via Skype. Of course, that plan would allow me to be a real grandpa too. I’m all in.

Things have worked out well. We have sub-leased for four months through mid-July. We have planned a big SASH BASH 50th Anniversary party for July in Breckenridge, CO. All six kids, wives, husbands, significant others and all ten grandchildren will be there. So, from this day through the return to ST. Louis mid-July, I plan to write a daily blog highlighting some of the adventure.

We will be gone five and half months, 165 days, I believe. And, today is…

Wk1/Day 1: We arrived at Randy and Chris’ summer home in Springfield, Illinois, unloaded our things for a two week stay and relaxed before bed via a Netflix original. The next morning we enjoyed coffee with a spectacular view of Lake Springfield, ten deer passed through the open yard beyond the swimming pool, and at least 100 ducks and geese swam by in the lake. What a wonderful way to begin this journey.

Late morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Charlie Parker’s (must go to place), dinner with Craig at Boone’s Saloon, and on to watch Evan and SHG win a high school basketball game 62-56.

Wk1/continued: Thanks to the generosity of Randy and Chris this beautiful home on Lake Springfield will be home for the next two weeks. Saturday night I broiled steaks and vegetarian k-bobs on the outdoor bar-b-q pit even though it was 20 degrees with an ice storm just beginning. Craig, Nicole, Evan, Ella, Todd and Scarlet enjoyed a meal  and some laughs around the kitchen table set up to serve sixteen (that’s one long table). Todd and Scarlet braved the hot tub as the ice snow pelted down.

Sunday morning Todd and Scarlet left for St. Louis. The rest of the week was a bummer. Sandy had the flu from Sunday-Thursday. We laid low. Watched a lot of television. Good thing we had Winter Olympics and Netflix Originals to watch.

By Friday we had cabin fever. So, we acted like a Springfield, Illinois tourist. We started with a freezing walk along the lake at Lincoln Memorial Gardens—had the whole place to ourselves. No other visitors on a cold day like this. We got in two miles then headed to the Lincoln Museum. If you haven’t been there we recommend it. This is the best Civil War time period exhibit we have ever seen. After a light lunch at Wm. Van’s coffee shop we walked around the Lincoln family home neighborhood. And then, we wrapped up the day at the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. How’s that for acting like tourist.

Tomorrow we are headed back to St. Louis to meet family for dinner on the Hill as we celebrate my brother Tim’s 60th birthday. That will end week one.

 

 

 

My Grand Plan- God is Still Laughing

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plan will be established” Proverbs 16:3

January 6, 2001 I attended a White House Retreat and wrote this my in notebook. “please help me design, plan and take action to benefit poor and vulnerable people served by Catholic Charities.”

January 2001 was a long time ago. January 2016 I just returned from my 30th White House Retreat. I didn’t know that I had attended 30 retreats until I returned home and was contacted by my friend Gerry Hempstead who stayed there through the fried chicken lunch to learn of this recognition. I left Sunday following the noon mass. I’ve had enough fried chicken to last a lifetime.  If I knew that I was going to receive this recognition I would have left, but with some guilt.

My first White House Retreat was in October 1978. Since then, the rooms have been upgraded significantly, the meals vary but not much, the Chapel and the grounds have remained nearly the same over time but the retreat experience has varied on every occasion. I should acknowledge that the White House grounds have been improved a lot through the years, but the magic of the place is the consistency–the same comforting format each year, the same insistence on silence throughout the day, the same high expectancy placed on a talented Jesuit priest placed there to guide the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

This particular retreat experience was the best in recent memory. Perhaps, this is because I have missed the past two years, January 2013 was my last retreat. I felt the need to go, not because I am holy but because I’m not. In fact, I felt the need to go to a retreat this year, not because of my faith but because of my lack of faith.

When preparing to leave for White House I found an old crucifix given to me long ago. I think it may have belonged to my deceased Uncle Jack. He was such a good Catholic man. The crucifix discovery helped me to realize how long it’s been since I’ve had a good conversation with Jesus. I’ve lost touch.

The purpose of a White House Retreat in my case, in the past, has been to help me  to clarify my thoughts, to cleanse my soul, and to energize my mind and body. This is the one place and the one time of the year when I would slow down from work long enough to hear God whisper in my ear. At times, His words of clarity strengthened my belief. In the dead of silence I felt greater conviction. There is a God and He cares.

This year I have no urgent work needs. I have retired from full time employment seeking only a few consulting projects of interest to me. So, I went to the retreat dedicating it to the needs of other family members. As I focused on their needs, not mine, clear images and thoughts inspired me. I decided to walk with Jesus all weekend. And, therefore, to let Him lead me wherever He wanted to go.

Jesus was born in sometime between 7BC-29AD. He lived to age 36 but was in ministry for little more than 2 years (three Passover’s). Imagine a person, whose father was a common carpenter, who lives in obscurity for 34 years, surfaces to create such an impact on his followers that 2000 years later in central message has survived. And, from twelve initial Disciples, His followers have grown to 2 billion people throughout the world. I am one who has chosen to believe.

A White House Retreat is where you have time to think about life’s most challenging questions. Why did God choose such ordinary people for his first Disciples? Did God create men in his image and likeness or did man create God in his? Is God the Creator or the Observer? If the world is billions of years old why did God wait so long before creating men and women? If God can create a perfectly designed universe why did He create so many imperfect human beings? What is your purpose in life? What does God want of me?

I have frequently pondered this last question. At times, it  has seemed obvious when God was actually involved in my life. Good things that came my way I attributed to Him.  He had answered my  prayer. I choose to believe it happens. At other times I felt disconnected. I was trying to accomplish all of my goals all by myself. I left Him on the sidelines. Things didn’t work out too well.

I enter this day with gratitude and with confidence that God will answer my prayers. My sons and daughters will seek and find what they are looking for…my wife will continue to be amazing. I will continue the journey with Jesus at my side.

 

 

Mark is one of a kind, so are You

1776 Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal – Thomas Jefferson

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only purpose in life” Robert Lewis Stevenson

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“To thy own self be true” Shakespeare

My son in law, Mark, is a carpenter, electrician, plumber, painter, fence builder, ocean faring boat Captain, salmon and crab fisherman, professional photographer, film developer, frame maker, gardener, landscaper, farmer, outdoorsman, land owner, developer, forester, hiker, environmentalist, political activist, swimmer, deep sea diver, sailor, travel enthusiast, travel advisor, tree expert, truck driver, bike rider, electronics wiz, avid reader, excellent cook, candlestick maker, soap maker, movie critic, stock investor, philanthropist, and most importantly, he is a good father and husband.

I admire Mark for his diversity, his curiosity, his commitment to be good at what he does to the point of excellence in many things. I appreciate his enthusiasm and interest in so many things and his zest for life that allows him to embrace many occupations, hobbies and personal activities. Mark is indeed a unique individual. And, so are you.

Read the quotes of Jefferson, Stevenson, Emerson and Shakespeare above. Do not attempt to be Mark or anyone else for that matter. Admire the characteristics and traits of others that you like because you may be able to learn many things from that observation. But, do not try to copy the life of another–not your father, not your mother, not your brother, not your sister, not that of your closet friend.

Your life is uniquely yours too live. And, its not where you have been in the past, but rather, where you are going that counts most. Decide for yourself the measuring stick that will be used to evaluate your life. Decide the criteria that you admire most in others that you will use to judge yourself. Its your words and actions today and tomorrow that will define your future.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank among those timid souls who neither enjoyed not suffered much, because they lived in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

15 States, 3 Provinces, 4750 miles in 23 days

Last year we traveled for 8 weeks, 56 straight days, more than 7,500 miles by car, and more miles by train, plane, bus and van. I documented the trip day by day. I didn’t think I would ever do that again. But, here I am. This time it’s a shorter trip, 23 days, all by car, but so interesting and wonderful that we have to record it for our memories. If I don’t, I will forget it all, or least significant parts, by next Monday. That’s the way the minds works these days.

August 7- 9am, we are on the road anxious to arrive at our Indiannapolis destination. I invited ourselves to visit our  friends Ted and Julie Bates. They were gracious hosts allowing us to spend the night on their beautiful new downsized home, 5000+ square feet,  located on a man-made lake. Julie prepared a scrumptious meal, salmon, asparagus  and mashed potatoes. Yummy!  In the evening we attended a Beatles consert at a local park. There must of been 10,000 people on the hillside in lawn chairs, blankets, carting baskets of wine and food. We had all the best, prepared by Julie, of course. The look like and sound like Beatles band provided nostalgic entertainment . Great night with good friends. Thanks Ted and Julie. Hey, Ted, how are you doing in our weight loss challenge?

August 8- this was an adventurous day with a slight mis-hap. We were traveling at 70 miles per hour following a semi-trailer truck when all of sudden a huge truck tire shows up in the middle of the road. We drive straight over it, shredding the tire to pieces and the car didn’t flinch. My Subaru Legacy was so steady that I kept driving despite Sandy’s suggestion that we pull over to check for damage. A few miles more, 40 minutes later, I stop for gas and then make a car damage assessment. More damage than expected. I call my insurance company to file a claim. I also call my nephew, Mark Politte. He owns Stanley Subaru in Ellsworth Maine. This is where I bought the car. I tell Mark I’m coming up to Ellsworth needing more than a free oil change.

August 9- we ended our day yesterday, in Grantsville, Maryland. This is a small mountainside village community. Nice clean lodging accommodations and a buffet dinner at some Mennonite/German restuarant. Our destination today is Willmington, Delaware. We have a picnic style lunch at a neat little park outside of the main town square. Delaware was on my buckit list. This is my 50th State visited! Mission accomplished. Without much fanfare we spend the next few hours driving on to the Jersey Shore. We visit Long Beach, Ship Bottom and Beach Haven before deciding we can’t afford to stay on the beach. $279 per night is beyond our comfort level. The Holiday Inn – few miles from shore is just fine.

August 10- we show up at the door steps of the Sobecki’s new home at Little Egg Harbor. John and Ginny have retired in this very nice community. The home is a perfect size for two people who will occasionally get a daughter with grandchild for a visit. After John shows us around town we end up at Panini Bay for a delightful meal and a great view. John and Ginny seem to be super satisfied in retirement. We are so happy that we stopped to see them. It was definitely worth doing. Good people , good friends.

By 1:30pm we were on the highway battling traffic through NJ, NY and then Connecticutt. Finally, we arrive at our destination, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We get lucky, as we often do by exiting randomly and locating a Public House. What a great place to stay. The quaint restuarant had a marvelous setting and the food was sensational. Best of all Sandy discovered she was caring a discount coupon book with a $59.99 offer from Public House. Sandy was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I didn’t care about the discount but I was more than happy with the great meal and ambiance.

August 11-16 we arrived in Blue Hill, Maine by 3pm to do some grocery shopping before showing up at Mary’s house in time for Evan’s birthday party. Evan is a 5’11” fifteen year old grandchild. His sister’s Olivia and Ella and my son and daughter-in-law, Craig and Nicole are visitng the Politte family for a one week vacation. We show up, as a surprise to Evan, but I dont think he was surprised at all.

On Wednesday my car goes to Stanley Subaru for evaluation. The underbelly looks like I drove over a huge truck tire. Black marks everywhere! The accident cracked the catalytic converter (whatever that is) and tore up the front and back fender gards. Fortunately, Mark was able to get me on the priority list at the local body shop. They had everthing fixed up by Saturday morning so we could continue the trip.

We had a great time with Craig’s family and Mark, Samantha, Madison, Ben and Chloe. Too many great dinners and laughs to document here. Sandy’s sister Mary owns a beautiful home in Blue Hill on the ocean bay. We shared the home with Craig, Niclole and the kids, making this the most affordable part of our trip. Thanks to Mary.

Saturday we had a day trip to Acadia National Park with lunch in Bar Harbor. We’ve been there before but these places are defintely worth a second visit. With better plannng and more time we could have done a few hikes in Acadia.

August 16- we leave Maine with Canada on our minds. We were driving through a small town of Amherst when Sandy spots a B&B. It so happens, this place has been open for two weeks! We find it. It was fantastic. If you’re ever in Amherst, Nova Sotia look up the Apothic Inn. We recommend it.

August 17- we are headed to Halifax to spend the day and night. We ended up spending two hours on the waterfront and changed our minds, pushed on to Lunenberg. But first, we stop at Malone Bay for a brief walk and lunch at Mug Anchor pub, 17 beers on tap, and great seafood chowder. That night we discover the Boscawin Inn B&B. This was another great place to stay. Originally the place was a private home built by the govenor in 1875. Today it is a fantastic B&B over-seeing this quintessential little town of Lunenberg. If you are headed to Nova Scotia we recommend the Boscawin Inn and Salt Shaker Deli for lunch or dinner.

August 18- another random act, we decide to go to Prince Edward Island. Its only a few hours away. We cross an enormous bridge and then tour the central part of PEI before finding our B&B. This place was off the beaten track, in the middle of farm land with a distant view of the ocean. We were two-hundred yards away from the ocean but we did take a short walk to enjoy the sight, the smell and the gentle breeze of the ocean. By the way, breakfast was scruptious!

August 19- after paying $45.50 bridge fee to get off the Island we have a long drive day through New Brunswick to River DuLoop, just outside Quebec.

August 20 After an uneventful day we end up in Quebec City for brunch at an outside resturant. Then, we walked this beautiful french speaking European-like city. In the afternoon we drive on toard Montreal. Our plan was to have dinner at Saint Gabriel, my favorite resturant, discovered when I was marketing director for the St. Louis Blues.The NHL held annual meeting there following each season. So, I was in Montreal every June from 1978-83. This plan never materialized because we ended up in a huge traffic jam caused by a burning car stuck in the tunnel leading to downtown Montreal. We got off the highway spendng the night in Bouschville, Quebec, Province.

August 21- beautiful weather for a walk up and down the cobble stone steeets in Old Montreal. We found Saint Gabriel’s despite the resturant change of names. It;s now called Bergi on Saint Gabriel street. The ambiance looks the same. The restuarant wasn’t open at 10am when we were there but the owner allowed us in for a nostaligic visit. We went to a French speaking 12:30pm mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral before lunch and more sight seeing.

August 22 – we are approaching the United States border and we have $32 Canadian and $1.50 American money in our pockets. We spend most of the Canadian money on gas at the last city in Canada before crossing. I figure I can get cash at an ATM in Port Huron. As we are getting our Passports ready for the crossing we notice that first we have to pay a $3.50 toll. As we are approaching the toll gate we frantically search for change. This so funny but I can’t capture it properly. Just imagine Sandy and I holding up traffic trying to explain that we have NO MONEY. We dont have $3.50 even if we combine all left over change Canadian and American. Finally, the frustrated gate keeper takes what we have and waves us through to the United States. We keep re-telling that very funny story. i showed the guy my empty wallet. Sandy says, “I found two pennies, will that help?” The gate keepers expression on his face was priceless.

August 23- after spending the night in a very forgettable,Travelodge, we decided to drive to our location in Douglas, Michigan. The plan was to meet some of Sandy”s family at a rental house from the 24th-31st. We arrive Sunday night in a rain storm and found the keys to the house. The accomodations are good. We have rented a 4 bedroom house with a great view of Lake Michigan.

August 24-30 – we had a great time hanging out with Tom and Sallee, Nancy, Mary, Jack and CeCe, Katie and Mimi-Mimi. I think we saw all you can see in Saugatuck, Douglas, South Haven and Holland, Michigan. Sunsets were cool or non-existent because of clouds. Good restuarants all over. Tom and I had our favorite, M&M’s. We had three breakfasts and one dinner at a place most people would drive by. The outside looks like a place to avoid. The food and the service was outstanding.

August 30 – on we go to Springfield, Illinois to have dinner with Craig and Nicole and visit with our grankids. These are the same family members that we just saw in Blue Hill, Maine. This time we are in thier comfortable home and dinner at a wonderful Italian restuarant….best bartender and hostess/waitress I have ever seen at any restuarant.

August 31- we are back  home, watching a Cardinal game. Enjoying our15th floor view- over-looking Forest Park. Back to the routine we enjoy and the friends that we look forward to seeing soon. Safely home and very grateful.

Carpe Diem!

 

 

 

 

Take Your Own Good Advice

I have been blessed in life to be one of those people who is frequently called upon to provide mentorship for another person who happens to be unemployed, underemployed, or in struggling through a difficult time in their life. I call this a “blessing” because I consider it an honor that someone who knows me would refer a friend or acquaintance to me knowing there is high likelihood that I would be happy to meet a stranger under the assumption that my advice or my suggestions may be of value.

When asked, I always say yes. Often, my advice or my referral leads to nothing more than another step in a necessary process. Seldom does my connection lead to a meaningful job offer. But, I meet with these new contacts nonetheless with the hope and belief that my gesture of friendship, being respectful, by showing that I care, offering some suggestion may be worthwhile even in a small way.

Former head football coach and now NFL commentator makes this point very distinctly. “I follow three rules- Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people that you care.” Lou Holtz

My advice to others usually follows the same advice I give to my children. Don’t let other people tell you what success looks like. Get in touch with your own values. Spend time to identify your talents and skills. More importantly, identify what’s in your heart. When you are all by yourself, what advice do you give yourself?

Making money is a good thing. Making lots of money is better. But, making lots of money is a shallow motivator for many people like me. Human Resource research says money is seldom the number one motivator for most people. Doing work that matters is more important. Doing work that benefits others is far more important.

Martin Luther King Jr. is credited with this quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Today, I challenge myself to listen to my heart, make a decision that’s best for myself and for my family. Trust, with confidence, that whatever decision I make it will be the right decision because my good attitude about this decision will make it right.

I am so fortunate to have this opportunity before me. I am blessed with the freedom to choose, the right to make a choice, and the courage to know in advance that good things will come from this choice, based upon past experiences. Of all blessings to pass on to others this may be of the greatest value. Thank you God for the faith to pursue challenges and to expect positive outcomes.

No e-mail messages. No appointments. Now what?

Monday morning I turned on my computer, opened my email to find this message: You have no mail. No Appointments. Please enjoy your day. I thought to myself, “I’ve never seen that message before, now what”?

As many know, I retired from full time employment effective June 30, 2014. So as I write, I am less than 30 days into this new adventure….this new exciting time of my life. This is a time of life that many people long for….they plan for it for years. They can’t wait until the day comes when they can say adios, sleep late, start the day with a cross word puzzle and no place to go. No more meetings. No more evening events. No more working weekends. Life is short, don’t waste it all at work. Right?

Truthfully, I don’t know what I’m doing right now. Have I retired? Am I on sabbatical? Is this just a weird dream? I have been working full time or part time for the past fifty-two consecutive years. A year ago Sandy and I decided that this would be my last year of full time employment. She and I wanted more time for to see our children, grandchildren and personal travel. I informed my employer and went back to a busy work life. Then, surprise surprise, a full year had passed, my retirement day arrived and I said goodbye.

As the final days of employment approached, we established our “when Dan retires plan” which covers the first 100 days. The plan includes 70 days of travel. We’ve been to Perdido Key, Florida with the family. It was great. This month, I play golf two days a week. We walk and work out every day. We have dinner with friends. We watched all of the World Cup soccer games and Cardinal baseball games.  We live the life of leisure. So, why do I question this way of life?

This may sound odd to some people but, I enjoyed my work. I consider myself blessed to have had interesting, challenging work opportunities for most of my adult life. I have invested myself greatly of mind and physical energy in setting goals, achieving goals, working long hours…always trying to accomplish something worthwhile. Now, as I suspected, I miss it.

At the same time, honestly, the day to day– no e-mail messages, no appointments, nothing special going on–this lifestyle is pretty enjoyable at the moment. We are planning a 60 day trip by car, boat, air and train that will take us out through North Dakota, to Glacier National Park in Montana, then Alberta, Canada, on to the Cascades in Western Washington, to Mazama in Eastern Washington, to Vancouver BC, from there to an Alaska cruise ending in Anchorage. Shortly thereafter we will get back in the car for the coastal drive down through Oregon and Northern California. After we see the California red woods we’ll head in the direction of Colorado before driving home. We expect to be in Saint Louis by October….just in time to see the Cardinals in another World Series, Missouri University defend their reputation in the SEC, SLU Billiken basketball, and exciting multi-media events in Nine Network’s Public Media Commons.

So, what happens after the trip? What happens in October? Do I go back to Nine Network and contribute in some way? Do I join a consulting firm? Or, a marketing firm? Do I become a self-employed consultant? Should I invest time and money in a start up? Do I decide to retire for good? Maybe we live on the West coast for half of the year? I ponder all of these as possibilities.

Something nags at me and constantly resurfaces in the back of my mind because I know this to be true….“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” Albert Einstein

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

So we pray…

Saint Theresa’s Prayer

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing,
dance, praise and love.
_____________________

“We sanctify all we are grateful for”

– Anthony DeMello SJ

Each morning when I wake, often my first thought is “thank you.” I am grateful for my family, my friends, my opportunities….what comes next?