Discipline is my theme for 2014


A Facebook friend of mine recently suggested that we identify a key word or theme to guide us through 2014. After focused consideration, I decided Discipline will be my theme.

I will turn 59 years old this May. It’s hard for me to accept that. Fifty-nine! I could sit here and count all the ways that sucks! It’s still more than a year from my 60th birthday, but I could already let myself feel sad and fearful about it. But I resist those emotions in my everyday life. Instead I count blessings, find the things for which I’m grateful, live in the moment, and take good care of myself in general. I learned to discipline myself in those ways when I finally conquered my midlife demons ten years ago.

Though I’m 58.5 years old, one of the things for which I am truly grateful is my good health. Apart from being sidelined by a few sports-related injuries, I have been healthy and physically fit for practically all of my life. Right now, after gaining three holiday pounds, I am 5’8″ and 170 pounds, for a BMI of 25.8. I need to get back to 164 to be in my target BMI of 20-25. I have the discipline to do that with a good-enough diet and regular exercise.

Today, I did a treadmill 5K run-walk in 30 minutes flat. I’ve been easing into that to avoid knee troubles. As a younger man, I could seriously kick up my training program in a matter of days/weeks. In my fifties I was forced to moderate because of knee pains. My knees are my weak link. Aerobically, I could go faster and longer. This year, I will discipline myself to slowly, gradually escalate my training, hopefully avoiding injury time off. The goal is to run a 5K later this year under 25 minutes. That’s an 8.0 minute per mile pace, which is realistic for me. That’s a far cry from my PR, but I’d be happy with that this year, at this age.

I’m doing that in preparation for my real goal, which is to do an Olympic distance triathlon (1.5K swim/40K bike/10K run) after my 60th birthday in 2015. I competed in many triathlons throughout my 30’s. Then I tore an Achille’s tendon playing soccer when I was 40, and somehow triathlon left my life! It’s funny how athletic activities come and go. But I have run so many triathlons in my life that the distances are not daunting at all. I have run a marathon, so a 10K distance doesn’t scare me in the least. Again, keeping my knees healthy is the challenge. I have bicycled the WAM-300 (300 miles) five times, so a 40K bike (25 miles) has often been a routine training ride for me. The 1.5K swim will be the biggest bummer, mainly because I don’t enjoy swimming. Swimming is really good for me, especially my upper body, but I don’t enjoy it. I will have to discipline myself to hit the pool twice a week later this year, probably starting in the fall/winter. Putting the three events together is the beauty and the challenge of triathlon. It will be fun! I don’t plan to kill myself, trying to beat my PR like I always did as a young man. Now I will simply do the best I can and enjoy the experience, participating rather than competing. I am really looking forward to it! 😀

Switching gears, there is one other part of my life I plan to discipline: I want to read more and I want to write more. I’ve set some goals, which should be easy to meet on most days. On my work days, I want to either read or write for one half hour a day. On my off days, I want to either read or write for one full hour a day. That probably sounds like chickenfeed for my reader and writer friends, but it will work for me. I am the sort of person that can chip away at a project. So a little reading here and a little writing there will gradually add up, and it will probably be more than what I am doing now. Of course, there will be those days when I can’t meet my goals, and others when I exceed them. But setting a goal is essential to the idea of discipline.

And that’s all the goal setting for now. If I do a good job with diet, exercise, reading and writing, the discipline will probably spill over to other parts of my life. Fortunately, I’m not starting from zero. But I can definitely improve! 😀

Dona Nobis Pacem 2013


I believe most of us aspire to be good people, to do good things, great things! And we aspire to live in a world of peace!

When the first representatives of the human race from the planet Earth landed on the moon, they made us proud. They did not arrive with a spirit of conquest. Instead, American astronaut Neil Armstrong humbly called this historic moment a “… small step for man…”. The heroic people of our space program displayed their true human spirit, a spirit of peace,  when they prepared the plaque that the crew of Apollo 11 left behind on the moon, perhaps for some future explorer to find. The inscription on the plaque reads:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Princess Gail meets Gabby Franco!

What a great day this turned out to be! 😀

Following her success on History Channel’s Top Shot for the past two seasons, not to mention other things like competing in the Olympics, Gabby Franco has been traveling all over the country giving shooting lessons. I was planning to surprise Gail with a trip to Miami, for a lesson with Gabby at her home range, when Gabby announced she would be teaching three classes in Warrenton, NC, about a three hour drive from our house. Gail jumped on it and became part of the small group that would comprise this special event.

We arrived at the Front Line Defense Range on a cool, sunny, beautiful morning!


Gabby set the tone for a very productive day.


Gail said she was an outstanding teacher, eager to share what she calls the “essentials” of precision shooting.


She paid attention to every detail.


She demonstrated the Gabby way of doing things, which is world class!


She worked on proper form.


Though I really like Gail’s form already! 😉


She kept very good/safe order on the range.


She provided all manner of personal attention to shooters at various levels.

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And she not only critiqued everyone’s shots, but taught the group how to critique their own shots.


Gail is already a pretty good shooter, but there was visible improvement under Gabby’s expert tutelage.


And it made Gabby visibly happy to see everyone improve.

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The ladies had an awesome day shooting. I had an awesome day listening and taking pictures.


While shooting, Gabby is an intense perfectionist, and she demands “effort” and performance from her students. But she was also very gracious and warm. When Gail first met her, there was a genuine smile and a hug. At the end of the day, you knew you had made a friend. What a special young lady! I was already a fan, and now much more so! It is so great when people exceed your already high expectations!

Thank you, Gabby, for a truly wonderful and memorable day!

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OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 3

On the previous post I wrote about our little day trip south of Kill Devil Hills, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, all the way down to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This post is about our day trip on the following day, this time north all the way to Corolla and the Currituck Sound. On our way we passed the beautiful little town of Duck, NC. Duck is arguably the fanciest and prettiest residential part of all the Outer Banks.

A very special part of this day was a planned meet-up with a fellow blogger I have known for several years. We had known each other only through our mutual online community of bloggers, and this real life meeting proved to be a memorable treat! Katherine, writer of the Shoot Me Now blog, and her beautiful daughter Elizabeth, were our guides for this part of our explorations, as Corolla, NC is their long-time, beloved home away from home.

First they proudly showed us around the beautiful Whalehead Club and told us of its interesting history.

Whalehead Club in Currituck

This spectacular property includes the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. It is also home to a great birding site on the NC Birding Trail, Currituck Heritage Park. Just up the road is yet another great birding site on the NC birding trail, the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve. It would take years to really know these sites and all they have to offer, in the different seasons of the year. I feel like we just scratched the surface in our few short hours. I hope to someday return and spend much more time here. I can so see why Katherine and Elizabeth love this area!

Here is a brief glimpse of the estuary habitat.



We saw this Belted Kingfisher eating a fish.

Kingfisher with fish

Belted Kingfisher

We walked and talked along this boardwalk in the maritime forest,

Maritime Forest Boardwalk Trail

and on a primitive trail which lead us to another spot on the Currituck Sound.

Live Oak on primitive Forest Trail

Elizabeth, who is a remarkable and impressive young naturalist, spotted this Cottonmouth Snake! I’m glad we were at a safe distance and that it was moving away from us!

Cottonmouth Snake

All in all, we spent a glorious morning together, and I am so happy to have taken the “e” out of our eFriendship! Thank you very much, Katherine and Elizabeth, for this memorable day! 😀

with Katherine and Elizabeth


OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 2

During our recent trip to the Outer Banks, we spent a day going south from Kill Devil Hills, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, to the Hatteras Lighthouse. Our primary destination was the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of the prime birding spots in the USA. The weather conditions included 12 MPH NE winds with gusts to 30MPH, which virtually eliminated the chance of spotting migrant songbirds, our main goal. But we were more than satisfied with what we did see.

Gail at the OBX 2013



We saw a huge number of Tricolored Herons and White Ibis.

TcHerons and IbisTcHerons

We were fortunate to see this Audubon’s Shearwater.


We had two target birds when we set out on this expedition. We wanted to see our first Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. We succeeded on both counts!

The Black-necked Stilt:

Black-necked Stilt 1Black-necked Stilt 2Black-necked Stilt 3

American Avocet:

American Avocet 2American Avocet 3American Avocet 4American Avocet 5American Avocet 7

After a few hours of enjoyable hikes, views and birding, we proceeded to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in North America.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Us at Hatteras Lighthouse

It was fun climbing to the top!

Ferd inside Hatteras LighthouseGail inside Hatteras Lighthouse

We lucked out at the top. The high winds had closed the observation tower, but slowed just enough as we got there to allow us out. Here is a view, without hat as it would have blown off!

view from top of Hatteras Lighthouse

On the way back, we stopped at the Bodie Island Lighthouse and we lucked out again! Not only did we get to walk outside on the observation tower, we were among the first to see the four-year restoration and the actual lighthouse lens.

Bodie Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse lens

It was a great day on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

Bye! 🙂

inside Bodie Island Lighthouse

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the OBX – The Outer Banks, NC.

OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 1

Finally, after living in North Carolina for four years, Princess Gail got to see the Outer Banks! We used our few days to the best advantage!

Our room was a nice surprise. We had made reservations only a few weeks ahead of time, so our rental choices were limited. We stayed at an older hotel in Kill Devil Hills, but our 5th floor room had a glorious ocean view!

Hi, Gail!

Welcome to the OBX

Everyone knows the OBX is a great place for watching the sunrise. This photo from our room’s balcony shows that our sunsets were beautiful, too, despite the definite fall chill in the air and the very stiff winds.

View from the deck

The Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills was a short walk from our hotel. The newer boards on the pier were evidence of the damage and repair after last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

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Besides enjoying our dramatically lovely surroundings, we are of course always aware of the birds around us. We won’t talk about the usual gulls and sandpipers (though telling apart the numerous species is still a challenge), or the evil Boat-tailed Grackles like this one,

Boat-tailed Grackle

but there were interesting birdy moments right from our balcony, like these Brown Pelicans coming…

Brown Pelicans coming

… and going!

Brown Pelicans going

Most people come the the OBX for the beach life, and that is just fine! But when Gail and I travel, we like exploring as many local habitats as we can, always looking for different birds. Just a few blocks from our hotel was the Nag’s Head Nature Conservancy. Beautiful!

Nag's Head Nature Preserve

And besides all the bird stuff, in the same general area is the Wight Brothers National Memorial. I think because we are from Ohio and live in North Carolina, we felt a special awe and pride as we learned the details of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s great work. If you are ever in the OBX, a visit to this memorial is a must!

Wright Brothers National Memorial

A few short miles south, in Nag’s Head, is Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It is the site of the tallest dune system on the east coast, at about 90 to 100 feet. At the base of the dunes is a habitat of maritime thicket consisting of live oaks, persimmons, red cedar, wax myrtle, bayberry, sweet gum, red oaks, and pines. To the east is the Roanoke Sound, providing the park with an estuary habitat.

Jockey's Ridge State Park1

Gail was like a kid, climbing and enjoying the dunes! 🙂

Gail dune1

She gave her bum hip a pretty good workout!

Gail dune2

We spotted a flock of about 200 Tree Swallows, at the peak of their southward migration.

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In the thickets, we saw a Nashville Warbler, and this sneaky Pine Warbler.

Yellow-throated Vireo

As you can see, the area right around Kill Devil Hills, Nag’s Head and Kitty Hawk is chock full of fun and interesting stuff! But the goal of this visit was to see as much of the OBX as we could in two and a half short days. In Part 2 I’ll talk about our day trip south to Pea Island and Hatteras, and then in Part 3 I’ll talk about our trip north to Corolla/Currituck and a special visit to a great friend! 🙂


25th Season of “THE” FFL!

Our family is into our 25th season of Fantasy Football! It’s really my brother Al’s deal, and I truly believe there can be no better fantasy league than ours because of him. We started as a literal cut and paste league, with his unbelievable reports sent out by snail mail! Al would gather scores on the fly watching as many TV’s as he could at the same time. He would then get the rest of the scores from the newspaper on Mondays and Tuesdays (after the Sunday and Monday night games). We couldn’t live without a subscription to the USA Today! We upgraded technologies with the times, adding fax, email, and finally a web-based program. Over 25 years, many of our lives have changed. A few people have come and gone from our league, though we still boast 7 of the original 12 franchises. That says a lot! Some people have moved out of town, so our old draft-day get-togethers aren’t what they used to be. Likewise our end-of-season festivities. But we all remain tight. We have seen some of our players grow up, get married, have children, and very sadly a death of one of these children just a few months ago. I will play this season with thoughts of Devon Gray, and his parents John and Jane. I can’t conceive of a greater loss. I wish them happy memories, in the midst of the loss and pain. (My eyes well up as I write this.) We consider ourselves a Fantasy Football Family, and we all lost one of our own. I am grateful to have known Devon, even if just for little bits of time, a couple of times a year. I will always remember him as a really cool kid.

THE FFL 2013