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Here's To Great Things In 2021...

Well, it’s that day again.

You know, the one where some think everyone is getting a fresh start, all the previous problems have been washed away with the old year, and now on Day 1 of 2021, we take that first step of a new journey as we mentally hum “we’re off to see the wizard.”

Even though it doesn’t work that way.

You can certainly do some planning today, although I have found the old proverb of “we plan, God laughs” more often than not to be true during my 64 New Year’s Days. In hindsight, the greatest years were the ones where I had low expectations, and some of the more disappointing ones were when I thought I had what was going to happen planned out quite nicely.

Turns out life doesn’t work that way either.

But I do start each New Year with hope, which forces me at some point during the day in between football games and big meals to take a moment and think about what could make me happy. Which in and of itself isn’t all that easy to determine.

That’s because, as the commercial says, life comes at you fast. As a young buck, the things I wanted meant better jobs, more money and more stuff, which I aggressively went after. Then I found myself sitting at LAX one night at 11 PM awaiting a red-eye back to Dulles, tired out of mind, asking myself “what are you doing?”

The things I wanted, I discovered, made me successful. But not necessarily happy.

Today, happiness is walking into the kitchen on a cold gray New Year's Day and seeing a full pot of good coffee (which I had just made) while my dog Maggie is wagging her tail, munching on a full bowl of her favorite food. Tomorrow it could be news that my daughter will be coming for a visit and wants me to make some of her favorite food. Sunday it could be something altogether different.

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Recent Comments
Doug Johnson

Though I struggled with Calcul...

As you smirked in another post, this was your 65th New Year's Day, Jethro.
Sunday, 03 January 2021 15:56
Dave Scarangella

Thank you, Mr. Drysdale

I guess I overlooked that...
Sunday, 03 January 2021 16:02
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Happy "The Most Overrated Holiday Of The Year"

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, which means today I will be fielding texts from my single friends complaining about how they’re going to be sitting alone, all by themselves, on New Year’s Eve.

I already received one today before it was even 8:30 AM.

I understand the sentiment, much like how bad it is being alone and not having someone to buy extremely overpriced flowers for on Valentine’s Day. It makes you feel like you’re not only by yourself, but you also have to deal with the burden of being able to do whatever you want, be able to spend your money on everything only you enjoy, be in a big den with several big screen televisions where nobody questions your decision to watch sports all the time…oh wait, we’re not writing THAT story.

My point – whatever it was supposed to be – is that New Year’s Eve is the single most overrated holiday on the calendar. My single friends think they’re missing either wild parties or this incredible atmosphere of love and togetherness; instead, it’s more a survival contest to see if everyone in the family can stay awake until midnight and yell “Happy New Year.”

In my house, the routine has been pretty similar for decades. Everybody thinks we should have special food to celebrate the New Year, but nobody wants to cook it. So I put out a bunch of crackers, cheese, chips etc. so family can graze when they walk through the kitchen. I’ll usually make a pizza, or set up a crock pot or two with stuff for nachos, but it’s nothing elaborate.

Once it turns 7, I usually go back to my office/man cave and watch sports. My wife will say something like “I have three Hallmark Christmas movies left on DVR so I’m going to watch them tonight” and my daughter – when she was living here – stared at her phone and pretended we didn’t exist.

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Here's Something You Can Do To Make A Difference

If there was ever a text emblematic of 2020, it’s the one I’m looking at right now on my phone.

It’s from my oldest friend. He’s sitting in a waiting room in a hospital somewhere miles from his home. A friend of his has encountered medical issues that could be very serious, or could be nothing at all. But knowing how tense such things could be, he said “I’ll come along.”

I told him it’s as if God knew at this moment she could use a friend to lean on, and opened the door for you to be that rock. It’s a door I’m familiar with, because I have found myself in that same situation probably a dozen times this year.

It’s what I will remember about 2020 the most.

Let’s face it, this year has had a human cost to it I’ve never seen before. I’m not talking about the financial cost of not working – although for many that’s a huge issue in and of itself. But the aspect of loneliness and not being able to have daily human interaction with a variety of others, I fear, is on the verge of seriously hurting people.

I see it in my own house. My wife had to visit a hospital three times this fall over a knee injury, and the worry over COVID, getting to the hospital, etc. was real. Each time she’d get worried, I’d talk her through all the dangers she perceived, was able to drive her to the hospital, take care of all the details, and assure her everything would be OK, which it turned out to be.

But it made me wonder “what if you don’t have anyone?”

It’s not just old people and hospitals. I’ve been blessed to be able to mentor half a dozen people this year who are just having a hard time with this rut we all find ourselves in. Human nature for even the most competitive person is to decide when things are not good in your life, you try changing things. In my younger days, that meant finding a different job, maybe going back to school for more or a different education, or going to new places to meet new friends. There was no guarantee any of that would work, but you at least felt in control of things by pushing buttons trying to change the arc of your existence.

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There Are Some Hokie Memories That Just Last Forever

I have to admit, I’m getting tired of all the negative Virginia Tech stories. I understand they need to be written, and I’ve written several myself. But it’s a rainy Wednesday that’s probably going to turn into a rainy Thursday, so I’m ready to read something positive.

As noted in a previous post, I was digging through the basement for some old newspaper clips involving Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall last night. Having found what I was looking for, I returned to the basement this morning to put them away. In the box I was returning these artifacts to was the program you see to the right.

Which sparked one of the greatest Hokie memories I’ll ever have.

That game back in 1995 wasn’t one filled with joy and anticipation. My wife and I had sat out in the rain the previous week against Cincinnati, a miserable contest where Virginia Tech didn’t even score. They were 0-2 after losing to Boston College in the opener, and there were even grumbles in the car driving to Lane Stadium that we may have wasted a bunch of money for these season tickets if they were going to continue playing like this.

As history will note, the Hokies bounced back in this game, beat Miami, and would not lose the rest of the season, winning 10 straight and culminating in a program-defining win over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

But that’s not what made the day special.

As I noted in a different story the other day, the world was not only given the likes of Chase Elliot in 1995, but also received a beautiful baby girl born to a single mother in Eastern North Carolina. She would later become our daughter, but it was not without some legal issues that made for more than a few sleepless nights for my wife and I. We had hired a lawyer to help us get through all these issues, and as we were driving from High Point, NC to Blacksburg, my Leroy Jethro Gibbs-style Motorola Startac flip phone rang.

We were on I-77 closing in on the North Carolina/Virginia line, and it was the attorney. She had good news, explaining that the last of the paperwork had been completed Friday, and everything was in order so that Monday morning, we could go get our new daughter and bring her home with us.

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Never Give Up, Because You Never Know How The Story Will End

I have to admit, my interest in auto racing has dimmed with each passing year to the point that I rarely watch it unless it’s a major event. Even then, it’s more background noise or an option on the second or third television for something to check on when the main event is on a commercial break.

But yesterday’s race where Chase Elliott won the championship was pretty cool.

I say this for reasons that have nothing to do with racing. When Chase opened his visor on the cool-down lap and you could see the look in his eyes, it reminded me of a conversation with his father 35 years ago, and echos a story I tell all my young friends when they tell me it's too late in life for them to keep pursuing their dreams.

It was a hot August day in 1985 when I was sitting on the inside retaining wall of the pits at Martinsville Speedway, waiting for a fairly grumpy Bill Elliott to come talk to me. I was the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin, and it should be noted that Elliott had previously always been one of the nicest guys in stock car racing. The next year, in fact, he would return to being the nicest guy on the circuit, and even mentioned when I was doing an interview with him in 1986 that he was sorry how he’d been the previous year.

That’s because in 1985, Bill Elliott transitioned from genuine nice guy to the face of NASCAR for the season. He won 11 races and 11 poles. Winston sponsored the series and had developed a promotion called the Winston Million for winning three races, and Bill would go from being “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” to “Million Dollar Bill” after eventually winning the third at Darlington. But that day, Bill was testing in Martinsville, trying to get every point possible in his pursuit of the season’s championship.

It was on that day, I got to see firsthand what fame can do to you. It’s not like Bill was an unknown by any means, and before the season, he was like just about all the drivers on the circuit: Friendly, down to earth, a straight shooter.

He was not a Darrell Waltrip with a gift of gab that would go on forever, and given the choice of being in front of a camera or having an iced cold Coke in the Dawsonville pool room, would always choose the pool room. He never, however, made you feel like you were bothering him. It was one of the great appeals of the sport, and I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to cover racing back then when the people around it were so real.

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If There Ever Was A Year To Put Up The Tree Early, This Is The One

I will admit, it was not a great idea at first.

My wife and I had decided to put up the Christmas tree on Nov. 1 way back in August. Obviously that’s like a month too soon, but we decided we were tired of the pandemic blues, and any chance to get out of that funk was well worth the effort. Plus, it’s just my wife and I in this big house, so who was going to scoff at us? Maggie the WonderBeagle?

I mean, give her a few treats and she’ll agree with anything you want.

So last Sunday, the materials needed were lugged up from the basement. We build a rather elaborate village under the tree, including trains, miniature buildings, even a ceramic McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme, so the first thing always put down is a piece of fiberboard I had cut many years ago to accommodate all this. The board was put down right after lunch, and by 8 PM, the tree was up.

Not much has happened since. But it has had a pretty significant effect: It has allowed me to get my bearings on what time of year it is.

I’m big on traditions and associate other events with certain holidays. By November, it should be cold. College football should be coming to an end and college basketball should be on its way. The NBA and NHL should be into their new seasons. Things like Black Friday sales should be weeks away.

Heck, by Nov. 6, we should know who won the Nov. 3 election.

But none of that is true. Some conferences in college football just started their seasons. It’s 70 degrees outside right now and my air conditioning is running. The NBA and NHL probably won’t start until 2021. Black Friday sales have become multi-week events that started on Halloween.

The year has felt like one long, continuous, house arrest with all of us trapped in a fog. The traditional seasonal markers – Labor Day picnics, pulling out that sweatshirt for the first time for an early October Hokie football game, seeing adorable kids knock on your door saying “twick or tweet” – none of it happened.

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Another Old Geezer Tale Of Back In The Day....

Since we all have a lot of spare time on our hands, I find myself thinking a lot. Like of all my 64 years, what was the best year of my life.

I’m not talking about the year that had the best events happen in your life. I mean, the year I got married was a great one. The year my daughter was born is another. Last year around November when the Nats won the World Series AND an adorable beagle/hound mix came home with me one Saturday was pretty sweet.

But best year? Probably 1974.

I started that year as a high school senior. I finished the year after one quarter as a freshman at Virginia Tech.

What made it so great? Well, those last months of being a senior in high school were very cool. Long-lasting friendships were made. We walked around the halls of Lake Taylor High School like we owned the place. There was the prom. Graduation. A summer like no other as we prepared ourselves to finally be free of the shackles our parents had placed on us. It was going to be great.

Once there, I would say those first couple of months shaped who I became as an adult. Curfews? We didn’t have any stinkin’ curfews. If we wanted to stay out until 5 AM, so be it. We were free.

But a funny thing happened on the way to all this freedom. One Saturday night, after several Fridays and Saturdays where it seemed we were staying out until 4 AM just for the sake of staying out until 4 AM, I decided I wanted to go to bed at midnight. I was scoffed at as being a lightweight, but I soon learned freedom involved the freedom to do what I wanted to do. And, I decided, I like to sleep.

As any college student encounters, there was no longer a parent waiting at the door when you came in 30 seconds before curfew to ask “have you been drinking?” So we drank. A lot. As the musical group Big & Rich once sang, we “drank enough to drown.” But after a couple of weeks of this, I tired of waking up with a bad headache due to a few calls to Ralph on the big white porcelain phone in the middle of the night.

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Time Flies When You're Having Fun...

According to the good people of Twitter, I have now been back posting on Twitter for 28 days. Which is kind of interesting, because I was gone for three weeks and swore I was never coming back.

It’s probably because I noticed something during those three weeks. And I encourage everyone who reads this that posts on social media to notice the same.

It wasn’t that I missed it. I just changed my routine so during the day I was reading something different – about a dozen books to be exact – and that sufficed.

But to be honest, my biggest concern during the shutdown hasn’t been COVID-19 or the economy. It is the mental health of a lot of people. I’m a pretty positive person, but during these months there have been days even I have felt like “what’s the point of getting out of bed?” I’m usually snapped out of that mood by a big brown and white dog poking its nose in my face, or my wife saying something snarky that makes me smile.

That’s all it takes. Which makes me lucky to have those two influencing my life.

But others aren’t so lucky. It starts with waking up with a case of the blues, and then turns into a vicious cycle that jumps to “am I going to lose my job?”, “how are we going to pay the bills?” and on and on. Some of my friends who are single/divorced and live alone have told me of days they never get out of bed because they’ve just become depressed wondering “am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?” in addition to everything else going on in the world.

I’m probably overly sensitive to this because twice in my life, people who were friends of mine took their own life. One was a good friend I had worked with for years; the second one involved someone who I was extremely close to. We had spent all day at a Nationals game only a few days before, and I had no clue anything was wrong.

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Recent comment in this post
Johnny Hurst

Good

I enjoy the Maggie pics of course but I like the cooking ideas too.
Sunday, 19 July 2020 12:06
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It's Time To Stop Looking The Other Way...

I retired from serious, full-time work about 2 years ago. Because I morphed into being a consultant in the autumn of my career, I now take on projects as they become available, but the days of taking on 4 clients at the same time and working 80 hours a week are over for good.

Most people, when they transition to a slower pace, struggle with finding something to do. In my case, I was blessed that “something” came looking for me. And it opened my eyes to something we’re all talking about right now.

The “something” is helping younger people trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. When you are a consultant, you work with a group of people at a company for a short period of time, then move on to the next assignment. During that short period of time, you work with a lot of people, make friends, and at times become someone worthy of trust to people you may never see again.

One day, a few weeks after I had completed working with one company, I got an email from one of the people I had met. She was a 30-something single mother, and she was fed up with her working environment. She asked if I could help her find another job, and I guess she was expecting me to say I’d call around. But instead, I did what I have done with others: asked her to print out her current resume, and we met at a nearby coffee shop so I could read her reactions to my suggestions.

It is very common in my experience that young people are very good at documenting what they have done, but overlook positive skills regarding what they are capable of doing. So after reviewing her resume, I started telling her some things I had witnessed her doing at her current job that were very positive and would be a real asset to any company.

She started to cry.

It turned out she had worked for 10 years for a boss who was very good at telling her what she was doing wrong. She had rarely, if ever, been told what she did well. Hearing such positive things kind of momentarily overwhelmed her.

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Celebrating On The 4th Of July...

I realize these are strange and unusual times, where some people are actually urging others NOT to celebrate today’s 4th of July Independence Day.

But don’t waste your breath trying to convince anyone at my house.

We celebrate it big. Every year. I’ve got two refrigerators and two freezers and I’ve been filling them up with stuff all week. I’ve got seafood. I’ve got hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken. I’ve got enough potato salad to build a small fort. I’ve got pies, cakes and enough other things to put you in a sugar coma.

I’ve also got the memories of a father serving on a destroyer in the Pacific in World War II, as well as a father-in-law being told “GO!” as his troop carrier came to a stop in the shallow waters in front of Normandy Beach on Dec. 6, 1944.

For many, many months, those two – as well as hundreds of thousands like them – did not spend their time doing Google searches and performing linguistical gymnastics in search of a phrase or statement that could be judged and condemned by today’s modern woke standards.

Instead, they picked up a gun, manned a post, and fought for our freedom, spending many a night wondering if they would be alive the next morning to face another day.

They weren’t scholars, societal experts, or even college graduates. They were scared high school kids called to serve, and they did so without reservation. They watched friends and fellow soldiers give the ultimate sacrifice, while they spent the rest of their lives doing the same bit by bit as they tried to forget all the awful things they saw. I asked them both in their final years to talk to me about what happened back then, and they still wouldn’t. It both changed - and haunted - them forever.

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When I Say It Sometimes Seems Like A Zoo Around Here....

I suppose if there is an upside to all this quarantine nonsense, it’s that it has allowed me to spend a lot more time outside in the backyard.

Which has revealed to me that I must live in some kind of nature sanctuary.

I suppose it’s always been this way, but I’m not an outside person. I can’t stand heat, so once the temps start becoming 90 on a regular basis, I hunker down inside with the AC blasting. I have an old friend who I play golf with weekly and he knows once the forecast has highs in the high 80s with humidity, he won’t see me again until September.

This summer has been different. For one, I now have Maggie the WonderBeagle, who would stay outside all day if I let her. As she is still a pup, we started with the idea she’d always be supervised in the backyard and as time went on, maybe she could have more time without Dad standing with his arms crossed watching.

But then Einstein decided to go running with a big stick in her mouth and disaster almost struck. She had it by the very end of the stick, the end broke off in her mouth, and since she was running with it, she breathed in and got the stick end stuck in her wind pipe. She immediately threw herself on the ground coughing and choking, and fortunately I was only seconds away.

I stuck my hand deep in her mouth, got my fingers on the end of the stick and was able to pull it out. Maggie of course then stares at me like “what’s the big deal?” but that little incident all but assured she’ll NEVER be outside without supervision in our fenced in backyard.

Because our back yard is a very wide pie shape, Maggie can run from one corner to the other and get a very good workout. So I started setting up a chair, an outdoor table and bringing a cup of coffee outside to give her all the time she wants 6 or 7 times a day. It is during these times I’ve noticed things I hadn’t previously been aware of.

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