Middle Age Mark’s 6 Awesome Summer ’21 Adventures

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Are we all ready for a non-pandemic summer or what? I know I am. As I write, March Madness is in full swing. It’s a great sport series that makes people optimistic, fills bars, enjoins bracket friends, and makes for perfect spring Saturday TV. Such fun. Every year I fantasize about accepting the workplace tropy amid cheers and cries for speechmaking; also every year the reality sets in that I’ve finished near the very bottom. But no matter; still great fun. I recall the utter pie-hole-agape disbelief when I learned of its cancelling last year. Who could have known at the time the seismic ride we were in for?

It’s been a long year, but vaccine #2 is coursing through my veins, the days are lengthening and warming, and I am SO ready for summer.

We’re in a great place to begin mapping out our 2021 summer. We’re debt-free, back to being a two-income team, investing, giving, and the minimalistic living style has created an almost responsibility-free opportunity to be away from home-base for extended periods. My brain is buzzing with potential summer travel options, not just for this summer, but for several more after that. I’ve learned that days and weeks can slip by if we’re not careful; if we don’t have a plan. I don’t want to look back on this summer and wonder where it went.

Additionally, dreaming and making plans is fun, makes for great Martini (Gin, of course) after-work conversation time, and promotes focusing on our successes – something we all should do more.

Dreaming and planning are the first two steps in the four step process of dreaming, planning, living, and remembering. We’ve dreamed an awesome summer; now it’s time to fit all the fun-puzzle pieces together and make some incredible memories!

Some of the things I have listed are couple plans (done together), and some will be individual goals. And that’s ok! Get them dreamed, planned, and on the calendar!

Ride the Boise Greenbelt

Ok, so maybe starting a little on the tame side here, but riding the 25-mile Boise Greenbelt is awesome, and gorgeous, and relaxing. Did I mention that you can also start and stop at multiple amazing little shops, restaurants, and bars along the way? One of our favorite rides is to start and end at Bardenay’s, where, as luck would have it, they distill the best gin on the whole planet! Who knew! And, this year might bring the extra fun of new bikes! It’s pretty tough to beat a summer day on the Greenbelt with a Bardenay Martini (Gin, of course) at the end!

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Now we’re stepping up the game! We have a beach cottage reserved for a week on the coast of Maine, in what is probably the quintessential and most-awesome summer New England vacay spot: OOB! 7-mile beach, boardwalk, historic pier, beach-front amusement park, pier fries, clam cakes, lobstahs, drinks on the surfside deck; all right on the beach! Sand, sun, surf, and summah! Some wicked good!

Chicken Sitting

Ok, I’m not entirely sure that’s what it’s called. Rachel and I will be house-sitting for some close friends while they travel out of country, and they have chickens. This, then, is the wild, stare-down-fear, livin’ on the edge part of my summer plans.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about chicken oversight. I’ve never had chickens. I’ve never even been around chickens (I mean, except to eat them and the eggs, and I have eaten alot of chickens and eggs) I’ve heard elders talk about having mean chickens in the olden days. Just how mean can chickens get? And I’ve seen those AFV videos where chickens chase terrorized screaming kids all over the yard (chicken ptsd is probably a thing). What if that happens? What if the neighbors see? What if the chickens take over the yard? What if they can tell I set the record for per-person chicken consumption? Bravery Mark. Press on.

Read Two Fictional Books

I read alot. Daily. Usually in the morning. I tend to drift towards the deep end of the pool. Currently I’m reading about neuroplasticity or brain plasticity and the ability for the brain to adapt chemically based on experiences, especially as it relates to addiction and impulse control. Dopamine, opioids, neurotransmitters; pretty fascinating stuff actually, but not an easy trudge.

I picked up a historical fiction book the other day (The Son by Philipp Meyer) and found that I liked it. I have not yet had the time to do it justice, and there are alot of names and generations covered as foundational information, so I stopped and will need to start it again. Time is a factor for me still, and I feel like I’m wasting time by reading fiction. It didn’t really happen, so what’s the point? I’m hoping to fix this by reading historical fiction; where I guess it kinda-sorta happened-ish. I set a goal to read two of these types of books this summer.

Squat and Press 185 (Smith Machine)

These two are fitness related summer goals for me. I’m having an absolute blast re-discovering fitness lately. I’m learning more and more about using body weight, bands, tubes, Slam Balls, and I’m watching Athlene-X YouTube videos – that guy is amazing. Actually, Sylvester Stallone turned me on to him. As people like me (and Sly) mature, we can’t push the really heavy weights anymore; it’s damaging to joints and connective tissue. But what we can do is train smarter. An older mentor of mine once said something to effect of, “train today to train tomorrow.” Talk about future-minded.

Obviously I look way better than this dude

I also started using a couple of supplements again (joint support and creatine) and feel the difference. So much so that I want to incorporate more weight resistance back into my routine. Nothing crazy heavy, and the Smith Machine keeps it safe and guided. I’m anticipating a very cool milestone this year and I’m very optimistic about it.

Family Time

What would summer be without spending time with family? Now that the virus is unwinding, it’s time to fire up the barbie and get back to partying. Reconnecting will be good. A year is a long time to not get to wrestle with grandkids. All the great electronic communication tools notwithstanding, there’s nothing that beats a lawn chair, cold beer, sunscreen, maybe a frisbee or two, and barefeet in the grass. Plus, I need hugs and handshakes. No masks, no distancing, and no looking back. It’s over. Let’s go.

Ok, one more. (I really do need to get better at this).

I turn 60!
It’s hard to believe, where did time go, and all of the other awful obligatory (last one, I swear) sayings that come with maturing and decade-number-birth milestones. It’s the Big 6-0! Although the core of summer will have passed, it’ll still technically be summer (September 21st). I’m actually looking forward to celebrating this big one. I absolutely believe the 60’s will be my best decade yet. Possible retirement (heh-heh), travel, possible relocation (co-location?), new hobbies, new pursuits, new adventures; talk about exciting. I might even do one of those Man-sexy photo shoots; maybe a fireman (I’ll fight your fire bay-bee!) or maybe a lumberjack (insert favorite wood joke) motif, who knows! The point is I can hardly wait. And cake! How big should a 60! cake be! Right? Ginormous! And with real, numb-your-lips, 200% sugar frosting; none of that whippy crap.

Well, so there it is: Middle Age Mark’s coming Summer ’21.
And potential Chicken PTSD (so worth it).

6 Things I Learned From My Dad

My relationship with my dad is hard to explain. Maybe all dad / son relationships are hard to explain. Maybe it’s the different hobbies and zip codes and communication styles and myriad other nuances as kids grow up and make their own way. I wouldn’t say we were close, but I wouldn’t call us distant either. I guess we talked when we had something to say. I’ve long believed that one should try to emulate the good and leave the bad when it comes to others, family or friends.

All parents are flawed (my own parental flaws are, of course, minuscule) because all people have flaws. As parents we do the best we can and ask for the benefit of the doubt. In my case, my parents were no different. Again, the best idea is to internalize and act out the good that parents modeled, and try as best we can to not perpetuate the flaws. Sometimes that’s easier said than done; DNA, nurturing, stressors, and all that. I have and will endeavor to recognize and fix the not-so-good’s of the mixed bag I was handed, and to model in my own life the good. That’s all any of us can do.

In that spirit of clinging to the good, I learned some valuable life-lessons from my dad.

Men Should be Manly. Men should be tough. Strong. Capable. Friendly. Brave. Able to fix things. Able to stand outside the car in the winter while pumping gas. Men should not run from the rain, or any weather. Men should know how to shoot guns, fish, back trailers, and swing an ax. They should bear a few scars, and should know the basics of tools. Handshakes should be firm, tears if any should be minimal, and solutions should always precede, if not replace, complaints.

Men Should Take Action. When I was maybe 6, my dad pushed over a dilapidated 2-car garage. He didn’t ask (it belonged to a relative), he just did it. After the dust settled, he said, “There. Now I guess I need to build a new one.” Men should investigate the noise at night, the squeak in the car, or why the furnace won’t furnace. We should build, create, learn, fix, help, lead, make mistakes, figure it out, and occasionally break things (needed replacing anyways). Talking is nice, but “I really ought to’s” and “Someday I’m going to’s” are wimpy and take valuable time away from actually doing things.

Men Should Eat the Damn Cookie. This is sometimes a hard one for me. I’m pretty careful with my diet. If I can work my brain around to a more metaphorical position, maybe it could also mean to enjoy the good “tastes” of life without so much worry over the little things. Dad was a firm believer in a preset death date; he would die on the exact time and date that was designed for him. Nothing and no one could change that. While we differed there, the belief allowed him to live a fuller and less worried life. Maybe the idea is to eat the “cookie,” savor it, and then move on to what we know are better things. Perhaps this could even carry over into, say, martinis (Gin, of course). (Look at me learning!)

Men Should Follow the Spirit of the Law and Round Edges Where Needed. Dad was a Maine State Trooper for several years. I think he always regretted getting out before retiring. Back then the State Police paid too little to support a young family with 3 kids, so he moved into insurance as many of his colleagues were doing. Dad came with built-in stories. He seemed to hold great tolerance for people that made honest mistakes, and little for those that were dark or disrespectful. He kept a binder of some of the cases and crimes he worked; some of the photos are quite gruesome. Through all the stories, all the people he “let go”and all the ones he didn’t, there seemed a common thread of seeing the good, the goal, and the purpose, and not being caught up in details.

Men Should Take Care of What They Have. This was a big one. Dad was always mowing, cleaning, adjusting, repairing; making things better or keeping them as good as they could be. It taught me to respect what I have and to be thankful that I have it. We don’t need everything brand new (most of what we had as kids was not), but we can keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even older things can be nice.

It’s OK to Do Stuff Alone. Over the years after I left home, all of my dad’s hunting buddies died. As he aged, he moved away from the hobby of firearms hunting and took up archery. I don’t really know how he learned it; it was before the time of YouTube videos and I don’t remember hearing of lessons. He seemed to just decide he was going to learn archery hunting, talked to folks at LL Beans, bought a bow and all the accompanying stuff, and started practicing in the back yard; far too close to the neighbors (sorry neighbors). Tires were punctured, sheds were holed, cats accidentally went missing. But he did it. And he seemed to really love those solitary hunting trips, even if it was just him. He was not afraid to try new things.

I’m sure there are a few more life-lessons I learned from my dad but I guess those are the big ones. He died a few weeks ago, after succumbing to dementia. Covid made it impossible to see him and perhaps no matter there; he was not one for philosophical departing words, or philosophical words of any kind for that matter. We hunted and fished together for years when I was younger, but my Coast Guard career made it increasingly difficult to get home. I’ll fly to Maine in a few days to visit and help with what I can. I’m still processing his life and what it meant to me.

Our last words were when we were departing after a visit and he shook my hand after a little dementia-fueled blow up the night before.
“No hard feelings and let’s just forget about that thing last night.”
“What thing last night?” I said.
He smiled, choked up, nodded, and looked away.

To this day I struggle with keeping my voice during times of high emotions. Praying at family dinners gets a little drawn out while I work to get it back under control. So much for moving orations. Thanks dad.

One of my favorite memories is of sitting together in a field after a day of hunting and watching the treeline as cold Maine November dusk settled. Not alot of words; more a feeling of presence. I’ll miss him in that time. I believe I’ll see him again, and I hope we can sit a field again at dark and watch the treeline.

For now, I think I want to draw his bow and see how it feels.