Monday Meanderings: Staying Young at Heart

Image by clipart101.com
Image by clipart101.com

Later this week, I’ll celebrate my 52nd birthday. Turning 30, 40, and even 50, was no big deal for me. Even 51 didn’t seem to register as a transition point from regular adulthood to real adulthood. But for some reason, the idea of 52 is making me rethink this whole old guy thing.

I’ve always been young at heart. I’ve never wanted to really be a responsible grown-up. Yeah, I got married, bought a house, had kids, and spent most of my waking hours on the treadmill of life trying to stay one step ahead of the next batch of bills that was sure to arrive in the mail. But, I never let it stop me from channeling my inner kid.

I love to party!

With some music, a little dancing, and a few (too many) adult beverages, I’m easily transformed into the irrepressible adolescent that lives inside of a body that has seen better days.

My daughters keep me up to date with the latest music, fashion, and phrases. Like I low-key want a cheeseburger right now (unfortunately, my cardiologist-recommended no-sodium, low-fat diet doesn’t allow such a thing). Oh, well.

Anyways…

I love hip-hop and alternative music. I like low-top navy blue Chucks, Vans, skinny jeans, and slim-fitting suits. Really, I do.

I’m connected too. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. I text, Instant Message, Google, YouTube, and Facetime. My Smartphone has become an extension of my left hand.

I’ve always scoffed at old fogeys who begin sentences with, “kids these days” or “in the old days.” Times change. Each generation brings new and exciting ways of doing things. To those who yearn for the past, get with the program, I implore.

A couple of weeks ago, everything changed. I was at the Delta terminal at La Guardia Airport in New York. The place is super high-tech. Almost every chair has an outlet to charge electronic devices. There is a bank of i-Pad stations where I’m sure phone booths used to sit.

Looking for something to eat before my flight, I walked by several restaurants. I noticed that every establishment had an electronic ordering device. When I sat down to order, I ran into a problem. There was no way to communicate that I needed salt-free options, a side of fruit instead of fries.

When I asked the server, she curtly told me that everything available was on the computer as she whisked by to leave a plate of food on another table. Yeah, but…I started to say. I wasn’t able to finish my sentence as she swiftly turned the corner to deliver food to the other side of the restaurant.

Are you kidding me? What happened to the good old days when waiters and waitresses greeted you with a smile and a helping hand? I sat like a grumpy old man eating a sandwich I really didn’t want and longingly staring at fries I couldn’t eat, only to pay the same machine I ordered from.

And then, to my horror, the device asked for a tip! What had the world come to?

Bam! There it was. I said it. I sounded like a bitter senior citizen decrying new-fangled things. I started questioning if I was from a bygone era when people actually talked with each other. I like to talk. I like to give and get hugs. I like to look someone in the eye when having a conversation. Was I a man of the 20th century? Did the train of progress leave me at the depot?

I hope not. I love progress and everything it brings to our lives and culture. But, I have to say that I’m perplexed when I see a young couple sitting in a restaurant booth on their respective hand-helds instead of flirtatiously giving each other goo goo eyes. There’s nothing like a warm smile and human interaction. No device can replace that.

In the meantime, I plan to celebrate my birthday with my wife over a nice dinner. I’ll gaze into her beautiful eyes and we’ll talk about whatever crosses our minds. I might even entertain sipping good old-fashioned bourbon over ice as a nightcap.

On the other hand, pounding a few Mike’s Hard Lemonades and dancing to Drake and DJ Mustard sounds like more fun. I’ll Snapchat my daughters and nieces and nephews, and share pics on Instagram with the world. I might even invite my old fogey friends who are on the couch watching TV and complaining about “kids these days.” Of course, I’ll have to call them. They’re soooo 20th century!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Meanderings: Donald Trump is the Voice of the Racist Right

Image by Red-carpet.de
Image by Red-carpet.de

I’m taking a page from the Trump playbook. I won’t be politically correct and give in to the PC police. I’ll just tell it like it is. Donald Trump is the voice for the Racist Right in America.

He’s a smart guy. The average person isn’t worth $10 billion. It takes some brainpower to make that happen. So what gives? He really wants to be President of the United States. Who knows what was behind his initial motive for running for the highest office in the land. Now, he thinks he can win.

Trump has sustained his standing in the Republican polls despite comments that are seemingly at odds with conservative icons. At a family conference, he said that he didn’t need God’s forgiveness for his sins. He called war hero Senator John McCain a loser for getting captured in Vietnam and belittled conservative news celebrity Megyn Kelly at the Fox News debate. Not one of these incidents resulted in a slide in his support.

Shrug off God, Mr. Trump. That’s okay according to the religious evangelists on the right. Proclaim that John McCain isn’t a war hero. No problem, say some veterans. Insult the star of a conservative news show. Wagging their fingers, the PC police scold women for being too sensitive.

That’s where the racist thing comes in. Trump revived the racially divisive term “Silent Majority” in a speech at a rally last month in Arizona. That term is not without historical significance. To exploit the civil unrest of 1960s urban America, Richard M. Nixon coined “Silent Majority” to rally the racist Deep South to support his election. Angry and frustrated by civil rights gains, southern voters swept Nixon into the White House in the 1968.

Trump is trying to bring that racist anger and frustration back as a political strategy. He hopes to replicate the Nixon landslide. The thrust of his message is “make America great again.” For the Silent Majority types, this means going back to the days when Blacks knew their place and Mexicans stayed in Mexico. That explains why conservatives give Trump a pass on trivializing Republican stalwarts like God, Senator McCain, and Megyn Kelly.

When he outlined his immigration proposal, Trump solidified his support in Racist America. The lynchpin to his plan is to abolish the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has cited the amendment to rid our nation of the evils of racial segregation, ensure voting rights to all Americans, and guarantee equal treatment under the law for everyone. Repealing those values has always been the goal of the Racist Right.

Trump wants to take away the birthright of American-born citizens guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. He believes that their parents don’t belong here, so those born in the U.S. don’t have the right to be American citizens. There’s plenty of legal and constitutional precedent that demonstrates that Trump might be drinking too much Southern Comfort. That doesn’t matter though. He just wants to rally the Racist Right to go to the polls and vote for him. It worked for Nixon.

Fortunately, the group of Americans who want to return to a nation that provided equal treatment for just a few white folks is shrinking. These people scream at the tops of their lungs that they want to “take America back.” During a Trump rally in Alabama last weekend, his supporters heard shouts of “white power” coming from the crowd. The Silent Majority is really the vocal minority. They now have a self-proclaimed champion in Donald Trump.

While his poll numbers continue to hold steady with those who yearn for an America of yesteryear, we’ve come a long way since 1968. The rest of the country has moved on. Poll after poll shows that a vast majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. We are part of a reasonable majority that sees the true greatness of America, not in the past, but just on horizon.

Despite the belief shared by most Americans that our nation is better off with cultural diversity, Trump will continue his assault on immigrants, especially those from south of the Rio Grande. With each promise to build the Trump Wall to keep Mexicans out and every proclamation that all undocumented immigrants and their American-born children “have to go,” the vocal minority will cheer with enthusiasm and hope for the return to the racist America they loved.

The Trumpnado, as his followers call his campaign, will soon pass. Sadly, it will leave a trail of destruction and bitterness in its wake. When the winds of primary season calm down, Americans will go the voting booth and elect a president who will govern from the center. For 225 years, Americans have always found a way to elect thoughtful leaders that have kept us on the road to equality and justice.

After Election Day 2016, I’m confident that we’ll continue on our journey to make the United States the “more perfect union” that our Founding Fathers envisioned. I believe in America and I have faith in God that He will lead us down the right path.

Monday Meanderings: Turning the Corner in 2014

García Family - Christmas 2014
García Family – Christmas 2014

Five years ago this month, I was on top of the world. My obsessive quest for career success was in overdrive. After more than a decade as an executive in corporate America, I was serving my second year as chief of staff to an elected official who represented 300,000 residents, president of the high school board of trustees, and co-founder of a leadership academy created in collaboration with Stanford.

In addition to my six-figure salary and high-profile community leadership roles, my wife was a successful elementary school principal and our daughters attended private Catholic schools. I lived in a nice house and drove a late model European sedan. For a kid who grew up in a working-class neighborhood, who could ask for more, right?

Well, I did. Striving for “more,” I worked around the clock pushing myself harder and harder.

Six months later, a massive heart attack brought it all crashing down. A month after that, I was in the ICU clinging to life in a coma and on breathing machines. By the end of that summer, I was a living testament to the miracle of God’s will. I survived a heart attack, cardiac arrest, and a rare lung syndrome.

That’s when the hard part started. I had to completely change my way of life.

Although my mind still works at hyper-speed, 106 days in the hospital and three major health issues have wreaked havoc on my body. I’ve struggled to reconcile my desire to live at the hectic pace I love with the reality that I can only do as much as my heart and energy will allow.

Working hard and the struggles of leadership excite me, but the stress that comes along for the ride is life-threatening. I love Kentucky Fried Chicken, Roundtable Maui Zaui pizza, ravioli and meatball sandwiches, all of which are off limits on my low-sodium, low-fat cardiac diet. I miss working up a sweat in the gym and knocking back a few ice-cold Coors Lights on tap afterwards.

Everything I do now is measured in calculated moderation, a concept that is completely foreign to me. Bland food, light exercise, and no-stress work are orders of the day.

In the years that followed that horrific summer, I’ve been in a daily struggle with myself trying to come to terms with my new life. Faith, family, and friends formed the foundation of my miraculous recovery, so I turned to that same formula to guide me through my dramatic life change. Making that change has been an emotional a tug-of-war.

On one side of the rope is a maturing relationship with God and an evolving understanding of my place in life. On the other side is the adrenalin rush and ecstasy that come with working and playing hard. Swaying in the middle of that taut rope are the elusive concepts of happiness and living life to the fullest.

I spent 2011 slowly recovering, rebuilding strength, and refocusing on my relationships with God, family, and friends. The next year marked my return to the chaos of full-time work. When my professional career came to an abrupt and exhausting conclusion in 2013, I was lost and confused. I believed that the last exciting thing that brought joy to my life had been taken away.

But, I was wrong.

By the end of 2014, the spiritual side of the rope began gaining ground. It was another year without the thrill of professional challenges, meatball sandwiches, energetic games of hoop, or multiple mugs of ice-cold beer. I earned less income than in any other time in my adult life. Nevertheless, 2014 was a glorious year.

All of those things that gave me short-term exhiliration finally began giving way to the bliss of living life for no other reason than to celebrate God’s gift. Faith is no longer just an otherworldly concept. It forms the foundation of how I manage my day. My relationships with Sandra and our daughters, extended family, and good friends are becoming more fulfilling and meaningful.

Although 2014 was a turning point in my understanding of life’s mysteries, I still have much work to do. I need to keep trusting in God and putting my life in His hands. There are more family and friends that deserve my love and attention.

As my journey moves on, I know the long road ahead will meander with twists and turns. I’ll follow the path that God created for me and I’ll continue to celebrate life with those I love.

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I’ve been writing about my life journey and posting excerpts every Wednesday in Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life. Check it out at: https://esereport.com/summer-in-the-waiting-room.