My moment of Zen

Saturday night I was taking Homer for an evening walk along the shores of the Mighty Okabena when I decided to stop and sit for a while on a park bench in Chautauqua Park. The sun was setting, there was a nice breeze coming off of the lake and the weather was perfect.

Before I knew it, I caught myself slipping into a little bit of an introspective mood. (The better word might be “reflective” but I went with “introspective” so that nobody thought I felt as though I had a mirror-like quality. I digress.) Both Homer and I were taking in the tranquility of it all when I started noticing the leaves on the trees.

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Besides the fact that, in my humble opinion, fall is the best time of year for sports-minded people such as myself, there are plenty of things to love about the current season. There is the color of the aforementioned leaves, the temperatures that aren’t too hot but are still warm enough to be outdoors without dressing like you’re about to climb Mount Everest and the crispness of the air. I could go on.

It’s always felt a little strange to me that I enjoy autumn for any reason other than the sports factor. I’ve usually looked at it as a season of change; when the summer heat (and sweatiness) gives way to the cold and snow so that everything can be clean and fresh again in the spring. But here’s the kicker: for as long as I can remember, I’ve dreaded change.

From the smallest change – like getting a new dresser in my bedroom as a child – to bigger ones – like moving to Kansas, as I did in 2012 – I’ve always approached them with apprehension. I’ll even admit, there’s probably a little bit (maybe a lot in some cases) of fear involved.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint the reason. Change means stepping outside of your comfort zone. (Heck, what if one of those dresser drawers sticks and I have to yank and yank every time I want to put on a clean t-shirt? The old one didn’t do that. It was a perfectly fine dresser. Why change it?)

I looked at the leaves that evening and thought about change, and how many of them I’ve undergone in my life. Moves to new places and new jobs, drifting apart from old friends and making new ones, the things I like to do for fun, what I value and how those have changed from 10, even five years ago. (I’ll be the first to admit, I think I’m a lot different now than I was five years ago. In most, but possibly not all, cases I think I’ve changed for the better.)

I guess you could say all of this led me to an epiphany. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not that old. I’ve already undergone more changes – both large and small – than I could ever count; and I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’ll see when I look back 30-40-50 years from now. Through all of those changes – most of which I fought tooth and nail – I survived. My life didn’t end or become drastically worse when I moved to Kansas anymore than it did when I got a new dresser as an 8-year-old.

Looking at it from that perspective, I feel a little silly knowing how uncomfortable change has been for me. That’s why I think autumn is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. (See what I did there?)

It’s going to be a process, but I want to begin looking at change from a different angle; to start seeing it as an opportunity rather than a monster waiting to tear my world apart. So far, most of the changes in my life have turned out pretty well. It’s time I start embracing them.Sunset

Too much quantity, not enough quality

You will rarely see me write about politics, but there is one particular issue I feel compelled to discuss: the number of candidates vying for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s the number of candidates remaining (16) or the format in which they’re trying to differentiate themselves that bothers me more. But when you have 10, even 11 candidates involved in one debate, the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” immediately comes to mind.
What annoys me the most about all of it, however, is that at this point I feel like it’s doing a disservice to the American voters.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I tend to lean left on most political issues; further on some than others. That said, at this stage in the game (thankfully there are 13 months yet before Election Day) I am not completely sold on any of the Democratic candidates. But that’s a bit beside the point. I also think casting an uninformed vote for a candidate simply because he or she has a “D” or an “R” next to their name is downright irresponsible. I think all voters have a responsibility to be as informed as possible on all of the issues and where each of the candidates stand on them before casting their ballot.
With that in mind, I’ve watched both of the Republican debates between the top candidates according to polling numbers. The first of these debates was in early August and consisted of a 10-man field. Carly Fiorina was added to the second, bringing the number of candidates involved in last Wednesday’s debate to 11. Having that many people involved is simply not helpful to someone like me.
I watch because I sincerely want to learn about each of these candidates. As there are certain Democrats I like and would probably vote for if the election were today, there are also those I’m not so sure about. I want to get to know these Republicans because I simply want to answer one basic question before I go to the polls: “Are there any — and if so, who — that I agree with on enough of the issues that I would possibly vote for them if a Democrat I’m not as crazy about were their opponent?”
At this point, I can’t really answer that question. I know where all of the top candidates stand on some of the issues and I can point to an area or two where I agree or disagree with almost all of them (even Trump). That said, with 11 of them taking part in the debates, not all of them are able to voice their opinion or say how they would handle each issue.
I, along with other voters, are left with a half-finished painting. We have an idea of what it’s about, but the whole picture isn’t quite distinguishable.
I understand there are other places to get informed about candidates, and I use some of those as well. But I prefer the debate format to all others. At least in theory, it allows us to see how the candidates think on their feet, react to criticism and conduct themselves when contentious issues arise. In my mind, performing well in those areas is also essential to good leadership.
At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
Heck, maybe I’ll just vote for Homer.

Return to reality

Things were a little tense at the Hacker Compound early last week.
While I was off gallivanting around the Midwest — which I’m sure you ALL ready about in last Wednesday’s paper — Homer was having a vacation of his own. I went to Chicago and St. Louis to catch some baseball. As much of a baseball fan (and expert) as Homer is, he’s much more comfortable watching the games from the comfort of his own couch. (Emphasis on it being HIS couch.)
Unable to talk him into joining my friend Brett and I, Homer spent the better part of two weeks at my parents’ house. They live on St. Olaf Lake, just outside of New Richland. It’s not a shabby place for a person to catch some R & R, let alone a dog. So while I was on my travels, Homer was lounging around, taking a much-needed break from the hard work he puts in on a daily basis.
There are a couple things that make my parents’ place particularly alluring for a dog, even one who doesn’t really care for water. First of all, my mom and dad have three dogs who live with them, their two dogs and my sister’s 2-year-old beagle-dachshund mix named Hank. On top of that, my aunt and uncle live just down the road with two labs, each of whom are younger than 5 years old.
What makes this smorgasbord of playtime even better is the fact that, unlike me, my parents don’t live in town. Homer can go outside without being tied up and is free to roam the neighborhood as he pleases. Admittedly, it’s probably a pretty great feeling considering he is restricted to the length of a 30 foot rope or five-foot leash when we’re in Worthington.
Aside from his freedom to play and sniff (he really loves new smells), Homer is also quite social. He likes having company at all times. When we’re at home, he usually has to spend a few hours on his own while I’m at work. At the lake, there is basically always someone around.
I could go on, but I’ll get back to where I started.
Monday morning, I drove back to Worthington to resume my life in the working world. For Homer, this meant vacation was over as well. The first day or two he spent sleeping a little more than normal; must have been worn out from above-average amount of playing. But once he got back to himself, I think he was mad.
My wake-up calls (or barks) seemed to come a little earlier than normal for a few days. The times when I wanted to sit down and relax seemed to be met with resistance more often than not. In other words, Homer wasn’t ready for vacation to end.
Luckily, he’s a benevolent hound and has since forgiven me. Time really does heal all wounds.

Palmer gives hunters a bad name

Let me just begin this blog by saying that I’m in no way opposed to hunting.
I know that most hunters do everything within the boundaries of the law and are safe in their practice. I also know it is a necessary part of conservation. I don’t think the concept of there being too high of a deer population is bad for the habitat is difficult to grasp. Hunting has a purpose, and I disagree with anyone who says otherwise.
But, as is often the case, a few people can make a whole population look bad. People like Walter Palmer.
By now, most of you probably recognize Palmer as the Bloomington dentist who killed a famous lion in Zimbabwe. Palmer, who was on a guided hunt in Africa early this month, is accused of luring the 13-year-old lion out of a national park onto private land where he could kill it with a crossbow.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a hunter, so perhaps I’m missing something, but I’ve never understood the reason for big-game hunting. To me, hunting should be done for conservation or for food. As far as I know, Zimbabwe isn’t becoming overrun by lions (in fact, it’s quite the opposite), and I highly doubt Palmer ever had any intention of eating his kill.
It’s been reported that Palmer paid $55,000 for a license to hunt lion. That’s more than many people make in a year. Even for someone who obviously has more money than they know what to do with, I don’t see the point in paying that much to kill something for no other purpose than to say you did it.
The fact that the lion Palmer killed was famous is — for the most part — irrelevant. It’s the reason Palmer was caught (Cecil, which was the lion’s name, was wearing a GPS collar because he was part of an Oxford University study), but other than that it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Even had this been another unnamed lion in the wild, killing it still wouldn’t have served any more or less of a purpose.
But I’m straying from the point a bit. The most maddening thing about this story to me is the method by which he harvested Cecil. Palmer and his guides used bait to get the lion off the protected land it lived on, shot it with a bow and arrow (which only wounded it) and finally found and killed it 40 hours later. Not only is that cruel and inhumane, luring it out of the park is illegal.
In a statement Tuesday, Palmer said that as far as he knew, everything about the hunt was legal. He trusted his guides to ensure it was. If that were the case, I’d probably be a bit more forgiving; after all, people do make mistakes. But I have a hard time believing Palmer in the area of legal hunting practices.
Palmer was charged in 2006 for illegally killing a black bear on restricted land in Wisconsin and dragging it to an area where the kill would have been legal. He pleaded guilty to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when he was caught.
The two people who were with Palmer on the hunt have already been arrested in Zimbabwe. I can’t imagine Palmer won’t be next. As an avid hunter, I don’t see how he could think luring it off protected land so that he could shoot it was legal.
At the very least, I hope that Palmer is no longer allowed to hunt anywhere. Many people all over the world hunt within the law. It’s people like him who give them a bad name.

A true All-Star

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is normally appointment viewing for me. It’s the only All-Star Game in major professional sports during which the best players in the game actually play their hardest and (usually) put on a good show.

Last Friday afternoon, I’d decided that for the first time in a while, I was not going to watch the midsummer classic. I entered into my own personal boycott of the event after learning that Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals had won the final player vote to be included on the roster. In doing so, he beat out Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

In a normal year, this might not have bothered me quite so much. The fact is, Moustakas had a pretty darn good first half of the season, making his inclusion among the American League All-Stars justified. But, although I fully admit to being bias on the matter, Dozier shouldn’t have been on the final player ballot in the first place. He should have been chosen as a reserve from the start.

Dozier — who entered the All-Star break second in the AL in at-bats (347) and runs scored (67), third in doubles (26), tied for seventh in home runs (19) and in the top 20 of nearly every other category — being left out was the last straw. The Royals fans had forced a seventh Royal onto the All-Star roster and I wasn’t going to stand for it.

Dozier was the MVP of a team that had the second-best record in the league AND had better numbers than “Moose” in all but three categories (strikeouts, batting average and on-base percentage) while playing in 10 more games and collecting 47 more at-bats. When it was announced Moustakas and St. Louis pitcher Carlos Martinez both won, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone in Missouri works or if they all have the free time on a weekday to just sit around and vote all day long.

What bothered me more about Dozier not getting on the team is that he seems like a genuinely good guy. Back in January when he was part of the Twins Caravan group that stopped in Worthington, he got “in trouble” with the team’s media relations people because he wasn’t where he needed to be because he was signing autographs for fans. In my brief conversation with him (sorry for the name-drop), I would say he was definitely the most polite and down-to-earth high-profile person that I’ve interviewed.

In protest, I wasn’t going to watch the game.

That very night, he continued to put the team on his back by hitting a walk-off, three-run homer to complete an improbable comeback win over division rival Detroit. Saturday, it was announced that he was going to be on the team after all as a replacement for injured Toronto slugger Jose Bautista.

I could watch the game again!

Tuesday night, Dozier got into the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter against Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Mark Melancon. In his first All-Star Game at-bat, all he did was blast a solo home run to center that extended the American League’s lead to 6-2.

Dozier’s All-Star experience was a good reminder that, despite the steroid and abuse scandals, many professional athletes are still good guys. After Dozier lost the final fan vote, he filmed a 30-second video thanking the fans who supported him. When he hit his homer in the game, he wore a big smile as he rounded the bases. Throughout his career, he’s played hard, the way it’s meant to be played, with class and youthful enthusiasm.

It would be hard not to cheer for a guy like that.

The Great Striper Hunt

First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Shark Week. It came a month early this year. What could be better than that?

Speaking of fish, I was able to get out for a rare fishing expedition a couple weeks ago while on vacation. Although I’ve always enjoyed fishing, it’s something I never do nearly as much as I’d like. I haven’t even bothered buying a Minnesota Fishing License in about three or four years because the last time I did, I only made it out two or three times.

So, needless to say, when me, my dad, my sister and two of my cousins’ husbands set out on Lake Cumberland in south-central Kentucky a couple weeks ago, it had been a while since I’d dropped a line.

I’m not sure how a true fisherman would classify this particular trip. We weren’t exactly out on our own. The five of us pooled our money to hire a guide who took us out on the 65,000-acre lake. He picked us up at the boat landing near my aunt and uncle’s house at 5:30 a.m. (a time that is practically cruel for a night-owl such as myself) and took us out to a prime spot.

This particular guide service specializes in fishing for striped bass (hence the name, “Striper Time”). This was the third time I’ve been out with the service and, while we’ve always had luck, this year’s trip was without question the most fruitful.

We reached our spot at about 6 a.m. and our guide, Mark, proceeded to drop a total of 11 lines in the water. Within about five minutes of him doing so, we had a bite. As the one sitting nearest to the hit, I quickly grabbed the rod and began to reel. After a tough battle between man and aquatic beast, I had the fish close enough to the boat for our guide to scoop him up in the net.

He took out the hook and plopped the fish down on a long ruler to find it measured about 24 inches, just big enough to keep. (The minimum is 22.) I’d barely caught my breath from the first one (seriously, it’s more of a workout than you think. Even the ones that aren’t big enough to keep can really fight!) when another line near me dropped. I grabbed it and managed to wrangle a 26-incher. Less than a half-hour in and I already had two keepers. I couldn’t complain about those odds.

The limit on stripers is two per person. Despite it being the largest group I’d ever gone out with, by about 11 a.m. we had our limit (10). That didn’t even include the catfish my cousin’s husband, Anwar, brought in.

With 11 keepers in tow, we headed back to the boat landing. There our guide cleaned and fileted all of them, packaged them up nice in Ziploc bags and sent us on our way. The next night, all 15 us (including four young kids) enjoyed a big fish fry during which we only cooked roughly half of our catch.

The Great Striper Hunt of 2015 was a success.

(Left to right): Bill Hacker, Molly Hacker, Zach Hacker, Curtiss Herd and Anwar Allen get their photo taken with the 10 striped bass they caught on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.

(Left to right): Bill Hacker, Molly Hacker, Zach Hacker, Curtiss Herd and Anwar Allen get their photo taken with the 10 striped bass they caught on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.

What’s my age again?

I know that I’m still relatively young compared to a majority of people on this planet. Still, I’ve began to notice my age a little more lately.

Though I’m yet to find my first gray hair (he typed with one hand while ferociously knocking on his wooden desk), I’ve noticed a few tell-tale signs that the big 3-0 is fast approaching.

First of all, the heat is getting to me more than it did even a couple years ago. I’ve written before that I’m not a fan of hot weather as high temperatures are especially difficult on larger members of the species such as myself. Though I’ve never liked the heat, just in the past couple years I’ve found myself feeling more and more uncomfortable when the mercury rises. Tuesday was a stark reminder, lest I’d forgotten.

I’ve also found little injuries, simple nicks and pulls that I would have barely noticed a few years ago, are a bit more nagging. While visiting my parents this past weekend, my flip-flop caught the rope they use to tie up their dog and I took a little tumble after slipping and sliding in the wet grass. Four days later, my knee still stiffens after just a couple minutes of inactivity.

Perhaps the most telling sign, however, has been where I’ve turned for entertainment.

I’m really not that far removed from college, the days where my idea of fun was a night downtown getting my more than my money’s worth on whatever the drink special was that evening. Now, while I certainly don’t mind a night out every now and then, the ones I enjoy involve a much more subdued atmosphere. Rather than go to bar with blaring music and people packed in like sardines, I’d rather find a quiet place to chat with good friends, have a couple drinks (taste and quality now over-ruling whatever’s the cheapest) with music playing just loud enough to hear in the background.

Even the movies I choose to watch feel like they’re geared towards an older audience. Ten, even five years ago, if a movie wasn’t laugh-out-loud-funny or basically one long explosion with a couple lines of cheesy dialogue peppered in, I had no interest. Again, I still like those kinds of shows if I’m in the right mood, but my horizons have gotten quite a bit wider.

Now, when I pull up Netflix on my computer, most of the time my first search is for a documentary. My 17-year-old self would slap me for the very thought of getting pleasure out of learning. Between that and the fact that I (voluntarily) watch both the national and local news almost every night, it’s safe to say that my preferences in passing free time are much more like my parents, even my grandparents, than my own from just a few years ago.

I certainly don’t see my choices in entertainment as a bad thing, but I can’t help but wonder when I got so old.

A whole new outlook

A little more than a year ago, I wrote about the Minnesota Twins playing with my emotions.

At the time – May 21, 2014 – they were 22-21, much better than what I anticipated. Unfortunately, my favorite team did what I expected them to do and fell back to earth, finishing the season with a 70-92 record. It was the fourth season in a row they’d lost more than 90 games.

I had guarded optimism heading into the 2015 season. We signed a solid starting pitcher in Ervin Santana and there were a few young players like Brian Dozier, Danny Santana and Trevor Plouffe who seemed to be coming into their own. And, heck, having Torii Hunter back certainly wasn’t going to hurt.

That quickly crashed into my typical cynic outlook on my teams. Ervin Santana was suspended 80 games to begin the season after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Then the Twins started the spring with an abysmal 1-6 start that might have been the worst week I’ve seen out of them in more than 20 years as a fan. (That includes some of the awful teams we had in the late-90s.)

But, here we are again. It’s late May and the Twins are looking, dare I say, good.

Since that awful start, they are 26-12 (and, as I type this, have a 6-4 lead over Boston in the seventh inning.) Their starting pitching staff has a respectable combined ERA of 3.95 (even Ricky Nolasco has looked good!) and the bullpen, which was atrocious the first week of the season, has been fairly solid. While the starting lineup doesn’t feature any standout hitters in the traditional sense, it seems each player is capable of getting the big hit when needed.

What makes this year different than last is that I don’t really think it’s a mirage. No, I don’t expect the Twins to continue on this torrid pace and win 98 games, but I do think they’ll be competitive all season. There will be another rough patch or two and I’m not quite ready to proclaim them playoff contenders, but this just feels more like the good teams we had in the 00s than the ones of the past few years.

Even Homer’s excited. He asks me to leave the TV on when I go to work at night so he can watch the game. (And he has a very discerning eye for quality baseball.)

I’m interested to see how this all plays out. Entering play Wednesday, the Twins were only a game behind Kansas City for the lead in the American League Central which, in my opinion, is the best division in baseball this year. Even after the Royals went to the World Series last year, I think they’ve overachieved a bit so far this year. Meanwhile, third-place Detroit has underachieved a bit as I still think it is the best team in the division. The Twins are the wild card in the whole situation.

The Twins have done everything without the services of arguably their most established starting pitcher (Santana.) There is still a lot of baseball to be played and all sorts of things could (and likely will) happen between now and September. But if they keep playing this way, the Twins could find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. Hey, crazier things have happened.

NFL drops the ball…again

The NFL proved once again Monday that it has no clue what it’s doing when it comes to disciplining its players.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games for his role in the (cringingly-dubbed) Deflategate scandal. The team was also fined $1 million and stripped of two draft picks, including a first round selection in 2016. For anyone not familiar with the situation, in January’s AFC Championship Game, the Patriots used footballs that were under-inflated in accordance to league rules. This makes the ball easier to grip and therefore, easier to throw and catch.

At the time, it was alleged Brady ordered team equipment personnel to deflate the footballs to his liking after the game officials had inspected them. In the press conferences that followed (in the week before the Super Bowl I must add) Brady denied having ever done anything of the sort. Last week, a 243-page report came out that stated it was “more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware” that air was released from the game balls.

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but the investigator certainly sounds pretty sure of himself to me. (This is where a sarcasm font would come in handy.)

The supposed “smoking gun” that said Brady was a cheater were some text messages exchanged between Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. In the conversation from October 2014, McNally refers to himself as “the deflator.” The two talk about “Tom” “taking care” of them (giving them shoes, autographed balls, etc.) for helping out.

Again, at his press conference in January after the story broke, Brady denied ever asking for the footballs to be deflated.

Now to my point. I don’t doubt that Brady acted outside the rules to try to get a leg up and then lied about it. As a man, I think less of him because of it. That said, I completely disagree with his suspension. In fact, I don’t think he should have been suspended at all.

The truth is, this “evidence” against him is completely circumstantial. Never does it say he instructed his minions to deflate the football to a level outside of the rules. He may have asked them to take some air out, but who’s to say they didn’t mess up and just take too much out? That’s probably not what happened, but I don’t believe you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it didn’t given the evidence presented.

In fact, I’ve seen nothing that convinces me that Brady knowingly broke the rules. Given the vague language in the Wells Report (“more than not” and “at least generally aware”), I don’t know how anyone could be sure enough to justify any suspension, let alone a quarter of the season.

To put this in perspective, one incident comes to mind when a guy wasn’t proven guilty but discipline was rendered by the league anyway.

In 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student. It was the second time he’d been accused of sexual misconduct since joining the NFL. He ended up not being charged by the state of Georgia and was never in any legal trouble over the issue. The league still suspended him six games under its personal-conduct policy. That suspension was later reduced to four games.

In my mind, you have two cases that both involve someone allegedly doing something they shouldn’t but there just isn’t enough evidence to say definitively that they are guilty. One of them is a felony under federal law, the other is the football equivalent to a pitcher using an emery board to scuff up a baseball. While I would argue Roethlisberger probably wasn’t punished enough (at least in an actual courtroom), suspending Brady the same amount of time seems absolutely ludicrous to me.

Furthermore, just this past December, the NFL adopted a new policy on domestic abuse. The suspension for a first offense is six games. Suppose for a second Brady SHOULD be suspended. Is a 350-pound Hulk beating up a woman or a child seriously only two games more serious of a violation that letting a little air out of the footballs?  I certainly don’t think so.

I realize the NFL is attempting to make an example out of Brady. But, in the process, it’s only making itself look that much more clueless.

Get busy living

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately.

I know that sounds like an awfully morbid thing for a relatively healthy 29-year-old to dwell on. But it seems to be all around me lately. In the time that’s passed since I lost someone close to me on March 4, it seems like just about every week a friend, a family member or a coworker has been mourning a loved one.

This is certainly not the first time in my life I’ve been impacted by death. While I’ve been extremely lucky in that most of my close family members are still with us (I still have five living grandparents, both of my parents, my sister, all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) I lost a close friend for the first time when I was 18 and have grieved for a couple others since. It’s never an easy process.

I believe it’s human nature to think about our own mortality when someone we or someone close to us is impacted by death. But that can be a good thing, depending on how we look at it. While I think it’s unhealthy to consciously worry about our own demise, acknowledging it and understanding that – hopefully in the very distant future – we too will die can enrich our lives.

One of my favorite quotes has always been when Kirby Puckett – who is and probably always will be my all-time favorite athlete – said “Enjoy today, because tomorrow is promised to no one.” That train of thought has felt particularly important to me during these past couple of months.

A little more than a week ago, my dad and I were talking on the phone when he mentioned that he and my mom were thinking about taking a trip with my aunt, uncle and cousins. It’s not a cheap vacation and the cost was something to consider, but ultimately they decided to go because, as my dad put it, “with all that’s been going on, you just never know if we’ll get another chance.”

I want to follow their lead, so I’m putting it in writing and making it public in hopes that it will force me to follow through.

I have quite a bit of unused vacation time and I intend to use it this summer when the local sports schedule isn’t as busy. I want to take a trip to somewhere I’ve never been before. Where, when and with whom I’m not sure yet, but I’m going to begin making it a priority to get those things figured out. But that’s certainly not all.

I’m going make it a point to reconnect with old friends and spend more time with the people who are important in my life. I’m going to take the time to do things I enjoy on a more regular basis and maybe even try to pick up a new hobby or two. I’m going to try to put down the phone or turn off the TV and computer to be more present when I’m around other people. I’m going to attempt to be less cynical, slower to anger or get frustrated and try being a little more patient.

On the surface, this doesn’t look like that ambitious of a list. I feel like most of those things should be easy, but the busyness of life seems to get in the way before we even realize. If that weren’t the case, aspirations like the ones above wouldn’t be necessary.

I know the idea of living life to the fullest is far from being a new one, but it seems that no matter how wonderful and simple of a concept it may be, it’s pretty difficult to put into practice. I’m only 29 and I hope that means I still have many years in front of me, but tomorrow hasn’t been promised to me. It’s time to act like it.