2008-The Year That Was

 In Blog

Since it’s December 31, I, like most everyone, am reflecting back on the last 365 days. Where was I a year ago? Physically, mentally, emotionally? What have I experienced, accomplished and learned from this year? Let’s just do some bloviating on the subject…

I’ve now spent one full calendar year as a married guy. Do I enjoy being married? Absolutely! For all the belly aching by comedians, friends and talk shows, you’d think marriage was a death sentence. Not so, Al Bundy. It is a constant challenge to meld the lives of two individuals, especially when each brings so much history to the table. Yet, every pinch, grumble or tense maritial situation is a teaching tool. At least, that’s how I’ve chosen to view it. In this year, I’ve learned a lot of ways to better control myself, give up control in unnecessary areas and be more Zen about my closest relationships. Lots of stuff learned in 08, but this is likely the most precious.

In August came the double whammy. My stepson, Jordan, left home and started his freshman year at the University of Florida. My stepdaughter, Maddison, made the wise and mature choice to re-create herself into the person she wants to be. That’s a wonderful thing…but it did lead to her choosing to do this by living with her father in Texas. In the span of 13 months, I went from single guy to stepfather to empty nester. Ain’t no one can say I move slow!

It was tough giving up both kids to the lives they’ve chosen, but ultimately, I’ve learned, that’s what every parent should hope for: children growing up healthy, happy and motivated to create the best life possible.

2008 was a weird sort of year, career wise. I learned that in business, if someone does not meet a set deadline, do not hesitate to end that working relationship…immediately. This came after being screwed around for a mere nine months by my graphic designer. Giving folks the benefit of the doubt is good, but at some point, it just becomes someone taking advantage of your good naturedness. Drawing boundaries with business relationships is just as valueable as interpersonal relationships.

Another business lesson from 08 is simply to trust my gut. In May, I parted ways with the college bureau which had been “booking” me for the previous year. Had I listened to my gut instead of empty promises, I could have saved a lot of time, money and stress. This situation also reinforced the old Simon & Garfunkel lyric, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” I’ve never been a fan of people who take no personal responsibility, but I’ve found that in business, it’s even more distasteful.

And speaking of personal responsibility, I failed in some of my blogging goals. I have the goal to blog every day. In 2008? Not even close. I do, however, hope the quality of blog posts is more meaningful than quantity. Throw in the creation of “Drunk Driving Speaker” and “Health Care Speaker” blogs which began back in the spring and I hope my lack of Engel’s Ensights posts will be looked at as less of a failure, and more of an expansion.

2008 was the year of increased technology for yours truly, too. When I began the year, I was at the same point technologically as I’d been for the previous several years. Thanks to my good buddy in Houston, Ron Graham, I’ve absorbed some geeky technological advancements that have increased the quality of my life. First? The purchase of a Victor Reader Stream from Humanware. If you’re blind or know someone who is, this is a device which has changed my life…and will probably do the same for many others. Now, instead of carrying around a walkman-ish four track tape player with one book, I’m toting a smaller digital device with over 30 books at a time, not to mention dozens of movies, podcasts, voice notes and albums. It’s like having an entire accessible library at my fingertips-and let me tell ya, when you live on planes like I do, you’re looking for every bit of entertainment you can find!

Second big tech advance? My ability to text message with my Pantech Duo phone with accessible software. Granted, texting is nothing new, but since I’ve been able to text, it’s bonded me closer to my stepkids than anything else has been able to do. Gotta talk to them in their own language, after all!

In the span of a month this spring, I presented at two very different high schools with very different students, but both taught me a great lesson: people are just people.

See, in March, I presented for a small, private Catholic high school in the mid-west. This school gives low income, underprivledged kids the opportunity for a great education, coupling that with life skills on the job. The kids at St. Peter Claver, Cristo Rey High in Omaha turned out to be some of the most generous, loving, insightful students I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

The following month, I spoke for Rye Country Day High School in Rye, NY. This school is private, selective, wealthy and the students? Exactly the same as those in Omaha. People are just people. Kids are just kids. Love all people, treat everyone equally and fairly and I think you’ll find the majority of differences are only apparent if you’re looking for them.

Globally. Well, any genius can see our economic markets rise and fall (mostly falling). For a while, I sat in anxious silence, grinding my teeth together, feeling nauseous and fearing the entire economy will come tumbling down. Then? I’m left with an economy in which I cannot thrive nor survive. But alas, a wise man once said, “Change the things you can “(this would be my old principal, BTW). As best I could, I’ve let this turmoil go. Do I still fear a further downturn in our economy? Sure! But I refuse to let it seep into my every thought. Life is too short to worry.

Politically: Election years suck. I got so flipping sick of all the negative press, all the ridiculous promises of candidates, all the people that feel a new president will either make or break our country. Not so, not so. Now that we have a new president, I’m happy all the election stuff is over. I’m also excited to support our new leader and hope folks will remember one thing that’s often forgotten: at the end of the day, we’re all Americans (well, other than the people who aren’t Americans)

Geographically, I learned to love some new places this year. Namely, Austin, Texas and Los Angeles. Both cities bring along their fair share of stereotyping, but open your eyes to the positive and you’ll see it, same as with anything.

Were there other 2008 things I’d like to share? Sure! But this is a blog, not a novel. So, with that wrap up, I’ll bid a fond farewell to 2008, welcome 09 in with open arms and wish everyone a happy new year!

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