How to pray before a meal

Last week I described why I choose to pray. This week I am going to describe how to pray before a meal. It is not a difficult thing to do. It really is not. But, it may cause you fear, especially if you have to pray before a meal in front of people that you do not know well. As with all things – you will get better with practice.

Many families pray before they eat

It is common for families to say a quick prayer before eating a meal. The main point of the prayer is to thank God that you have food to eat. Some families do not have food to eat – which is reason enough for us to give thanks that we do. Growing up my parents kept it simple. We said the following prayer before dinner which will be familiar to many. We did not pray before breakfast or lunch. I do not know why, but it really did not matter much to me.

God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.

Simple prayer – short and sweet. Nothing wrong with saying this prayer. It is better than not saying anything at all. This short prayer is designed for young children. It is easy to remember, easy to say and does not require much effort. Perfect for little ones. Neither one of you boys is little anymore, so I think we can do a little better than this version.

Family saying grace before meal - keep it short with kids.
Family saying grace before a meal – keep it short with kids.

No reason to go long

I have witnessed many people pray before a meal. If there is one pet peeve I have about this topic it is people who go on and on praying before a meal. This sometimes happens at formal dinners, especially when there is a large audience. The person who says the blessing feels a need to include a lot of thoughts, and a whole lot of words. It is easy for a clergy member to fall into this trap. They know more about God than the rest of us and usually have much more experience praying in front of a large group. I do not believe that God is impressed with the eloquence of the words you use. He prefers a sincere heart to a puffy attitude. I recommend you keep it short and simple. No reason to go long.

Jesus kept his prayer short at the last supper.
Jesus kept his prayer short at the last supper.

What to say when you pray

The main point of praying before the meal is to thank God for the food on the table. Focus your words on that topic. Be sure to actually say thank you to God. Ask Him to bless the food. If the meal was prepared by someone who is sitting at the table, then you should also thank that person. There would be no meal without their work. One exception – if you prepared the meal do not pray for your own hands. That is weird. I also think it is appropriate to ask God to bless everyone that is with you – whether it is your family, friends, or people you do not know well. I have never heard anyone complain because someone else asked God to bless their life. Lastly, I like to pray in God’s name. Several different ways to do that. You can say “in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ”. Another version is “in your mighty name”, or “in your holy name”. It is not important which one you pick. Just go with the one you are comfortable saying. Below is an example of how I might pray before a family meal.

Dear Lord, I thank you for this day. I thank you for the food we are about to eat and the hands that prepared it. I ask you that you bless this food to our bodies. We ask a special blessing for our family. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen.

I might use a shorter version if I am praying at someone’s house.

God, I thank you for the food we are about to receive. Bless it to our bodies and the hands that prepared it. I ask that you bless each and everyone gathered here today. In your name we pray. Amen.

Praying at a special occasion

You may be asked to pray for a special occasion. For example, you may pray at a birthday party, before the Thanksgiving meal, Christmas, Easter, or another holiday. In these scenarios, I would go with a longer prayer, but not too long. If it is someone’s birthday you should pray for that person in particular by name. Ask God to bless them on their special day. A simple example is below.

Holy Father, we are gathered here today to honor Opa. Today is Opa’s birthday. We thank you for Opa, and ask that you bless him in a special way. We thank you for the food that we are about to receive. We ask that you bless it to our bodies and the hands that prepared it. In your mighty name we pray. Amen.

For Thanksgiving, you may want to take a slightly different approach. Some families will give everyone there a chance to say what they are thankful for before or during the prayer. Either way is fine. I think it is a nice way to give everyone the opportunity to show gratitude on this special holiday. If you choose to have everyone give thanks before praying simply go around the table, and then pray. No need to get fancy during the prayer. If you want to integrate everyone’s inputs into the prayer, then here is one way to do that.

Dear Jesus, we gather today to celebrate Thanksgiving. We give thank for your many blessings this past year. I thank you for (say what you are thankful for here). Now we are going to go around the table so that everyone has the opportunity to say what they are thankful for. Let’s start with (name of person seated next to you. Go around the table). We thank you for this meal and the hands that prepared it. We thank you for everyone seated at the table, and ask that you bless each and everyone of us. We thank you for those who serve our country, keeping us safe, especially anyone cannot be at home for Thanksgiving this year. In your name we pray. Amen.

Some people hold hands while praying on special occasions like Thanksgiving.
Some people hold hands while praying on special occasions like Thanksgiving.

For Christmas, I would thank God for sending His Son into the world to save us from our sins. On Easter, I would include something about the resurrection. Keep it relevant, and keep it real. Last bit of advice. If you ever have the opportunity to pray at a large gathering or in front of an audience, then I highly recommend that you practice your prayer beforehand. God will not get mad if you rehearse several times. I prayed for each of you the day you were dedicated in the Church. You better believe that I practiced many times, and knew every word I was going to say. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself, your mother, or either one of our families. For God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t wing it.

 

Why I pray

Winter is here. It is the holiday season. You see it in the decorations, hear it in the music, and taste it in the special foods we eat this time of year. I really enjoy the holidays for many reasons. One tradition I delight in is gathering around the family table to enjoy a meal together.

Praying before the meal

For many families, it is normal for someone to say a prayer before the meal. It is part of the ritual and adds a nice spiritual component to any gathering. This year I am noticing that some people do not know how to pray before a meal. They really don’t. More specifically, I have witnessed several young men stumble and bumble their way through a pre-meal prayer. Usually, it is awkward, and they are embarrassed in the end. I am glad they had the courage to attempt to pray but slightly concerned they do not actually know how to. Praying before a meal is not that difficult, but I guess it can be a daunting task if you have limited experience or practice talking to God.

Many families say grace before a special meal.
Many families say grace before a special meal.

Is it important to know how to pray?

In the grand scheme of things, not knowing how to pray before a meal is not a big deal. It really isn’t. The meal is not ruined, and most family members will completely forget about the misstep quickly. But, I do think it is important that you know how to pray. It is a life skill that can really make a difference. It is a Christian discipline that you should exercise on a regular basis. Prayer has helped me immensely over the years. I think prayer can create the same positive impact for you. Therefore, I am going to devote the next few blog posts to this topic.

Praying can positively impact your life.
Praying can positively impact your life.

Why I choose to pray

Before describing how I pray, I thought it would be useful to share why I pray. In fact, I am going to share five reasons why I choose to pray. At this point, I feel it is important to say that I am not claiming to be a great man of prayer. The reality is that I am not that great at praying. I know that because I have heard many other people pray who are much better at it than me. I am not embarrassed to say that. Praying has been a struggle for me over the years. None the less, it is now a daily discipline for me. As a result, I have gotten better at praying the past few years. Like most things in life – you get better with practice. Do I miss a day every now and then – sure I do. I think many Christians miss a day of prayer every now and then…and God does not get mad at them.

This picture of a man praying hangs in your Great-grandparents dining room.
This picture of a man praying hangs in your Great-grandparents dining room.

I pray to give thanks to God

Every morning when I wake up I have many reasons to give thanks to God. I am alive today. God loves me. Jesus loves me. Jesus died for me. Because of his death and my faith in Him I will go to heaven when I die. I will be reunited with God, Jesus, and my loved ones in heaven, and we will live forever. That sure seems like plenty of reasons to thank God every morning. You should thank him too.

I pray to show gratitude to God

God has blessed my life in more ways than I can count. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, great kids, a loving family, a good job, and decent health. My blog post from last week includes more reasons we are blessed. I would include more blessings here, but the list would go on forever.

Studies show that gratitude is a healthy habit.
Studies show that gratitude is a healthy habit. Practice it daily.

I pray to talk with God

Praying is not complicated. You are talking with God. Nothing more, nothing less. My sense is that many people overthink prayer. They try too hard to use complicated terminology or speak in flowery language. I just try to talk with God about my life because I know He loves me and wants to hear from me like any loving father would.

I pray to ask God for help

I need help, a lot of help every day. You do too. We all do. The question becomes – where does your help come from? I choose to ask my heavenly father for help. Why in the world would I look elsewhere first? Why not ask the one who designed me, who created me, who created the world, who knows all, and who loves me. To not take advantage of God’s help seems crazy to me.

I pray to God because He listens

The last reason why I choose to pray to God is that He listens to me. I believe He does. I really do. Why else would I spend time praying? If God is not there listening, then all I am doing is talking to myself. That might be useful, but not overly helpful. I would rather talk with someone who listens to me. Many times it is hard to tell if someone else is listening to what I say. I know this is true because sometimes it is difficult for me to pay attention and listen to someone else who is talking. I think we all have that struggle. But, God is there for me, and He is there for you too.

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him

Be thankful – we are blessed

It is Thanksgiving weekend. Each year our country devotes a day thanking God for our many blessings. In our case the list is long. We have many reasons to be thankful this year. God has been good to us. We continue to thrive. In case you are not quite sure why I say you are blessed, then here are three reasons.

You are loved

It should go without saying that God loves you. But, I will remind you just in case you ever forget. God loves you and he demonstrated his love for you through the birth, death, and resurrection of his one and only son Jesus Christ. Never forget God’s love. It is there for you now and forever. Both of your parents love you very much. We may not love each other anymore, but we both love you. I hope that you feel that love on a regular basis. Your families love you. All of your great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members love both you boys. I did not really know my grandparents growing up. I am really glad you know your grandparents and get the opportunity to experience their love. It is a blessing that not everyone gets to enjoy.

The boys with Granddaddy Byrd from several years ago.
The boys with Granddaddy Byrd from several years ago.

You are talented

Both of you are blessed with talents. Gavin – I highlighted a few of your talents in my last blog post. Riley – I listed a few of yours last month. I am really glad to see both of you leverage your talents on a regular basis. Continue to develop your talents and abilities as you grow older. They will serve you well and will help make our world a better place. I truly believe that both of you can make a large positive impact in the world. God has gifted you in a special way.  He gives gifts to all of us but not everyone chooses to use them. Make the most of what you have been given. Don’t squander your talent. The world needs your best.

Gavin and Riley in front of the Wies Kirche in Bavaria
Gavin and Riley in front of the Wies Kirche in Bavaria

You are Americans

America is a great country. Sure – we have our problems. It seems like the list of challenges our country faces these days is long. But I think that is true for every country in the world. Both of you have traveled outside the US and know full well that America is a unique country. As Americans, we experience a Western lifestyle that is the envy of many. Our citizens have rights that other countries dream about. None of us get to choose where we are born. The reality is that you were born as Americans. It is a privilege to be an American. Be thankful that you are an American. We are still the greatest country in the entire world – no matter who is in charge of leading it. Don’t let others convince you otherwise. They are wrong.

The American Flag at Nationals Park on Opening Day.
The American Flag at Nationals Park on Opening Day.

I am thankful for you

As your father, I think it is important to let both of you know that I am thankful for you. Every day when I pray, I thank God for each of you by name. Both of you bring me great joy on a regular basis. Sure – we have our struggles and don’t agree on everything. But, that is to be expected. It would be strange if we did not.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Gavin!

Today is your birthday Gavin. Happy birthday. I hope it is an awesome one. I know it will be because today is also Thanksgiving. I remember when you were born and giving thanks to God for delivering such a wonderful baby boy. I have watched you grow over the past two decades – you are becoming a fine young man. Before we know it you will be 21 years old, a fully grown American male. Since today is your special day – I will dedicate this blog post to you. When I think of you as a person three thoughts come to mind. Three things that make me appreciate you as a son, and a young man.

You are talented

You are a highly talented guitar player and are great at writing. I have witnessed you playing guitar multiple times. It definitely comes naturally to you. I am amazed at how much your guitar playing has improved over the past few years. Your progress is impressive. It is fueled by your passion for music which I admire. I have also read some of your writing and it is good. Writing is a struggle for many (to include me), but you can crank out an essay with ease. I encourage you to keep practicing both so that you become the best guitar player and writer that you can be. Don’t waste the talent that God has given you. Make the most of it – the world needs great music and writing.

Gavin playing guitar at Rudy's Guitar Store in Soho
Gavin playing guitar at Rudy’s Guitar Store in Soho

You are fun

Over the past few years, we have spent some quality time together. We went to several concerts, visited New York City, traveled to Europe, and vacationed in Mexico. You are fun. You like to laugh and enjoy a good joke. You like seeing bands play music live, listening to new music and relaxing with friends. I enjoy spending time with you and look forward to more adventures together in the future. Who knows – maybe we will go to Europe again. Gavin and I met the band Switchfoot this summer at Wolftrap.Gavin and I met the band Switchfoot this summer at Wolftrap.

You are stubborn

Once you make your mind up, it is hard to get you to change it. I think you inherited this trait from me. I can be the same way. It probably stems from our German roots. At times it can be maddening – like when I try to convince you to try something new. But, here is the good news. Being stubborn can be an advantage in the modern world. When others are willing to go with the crowd in order to be popular, you will have the strength to go your own way and stand up for what you believe. Not everyone has the courage to do that. I think this trait will serve you well. We live in a world full of wishy-washy people. Don’t be like them. Be the best version of you that you can be instead. Happy birthday Gavin!

Gavin in Washington Square Park with the Empire State Building in the background.
Gavin in Washington Square Park with the Empire State Building in the background.

One way to control your weight

Thanksgiving is this week. I am a big fan of Thanksgiving. It is a holiday full of traditions and time spent with friends. As Americans, we gather at the family table to give thanks for all that we have. Next, we eat turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie, and anything else that is offered. I am getting hungry just typing up this list. Then, we watch football, try to hold off the food coma, and finally fall asleep on the couch. After we wake up it is time for turkey sandwiches and more pie. It truly is a gluttonous day – full of family, fun, and lots of food. Lots and lots of food. I am not saying this is a bad thing. In fact, I actively participate in this annual ritual. Rather, this blog post is about the rest of the year. Every day, except Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Dinner is a special event that should be enjoyed.
Thanksgiving Dinner is a special event that should be enjoyed.

My goal to stay under 200 pounds

This year I decided that I needed to lose some weight, about 15 pounds. I was over 200 pounds and did not feel healthy. In the morning when I woke up my joints ached, and I would get strange pains throughout the day. I am sure that old age has something to do with it, but I was convinced my weight was also an issue. During my adult lifetime, my weight typically hovers around 200 pounds. It will spike as high as 210, and go as low as the high 180s. My doctors (one is my primary physician, and the other gives me an annual executive physical) recommended that I get my weight below 200 pounds for a few reasons.

  1. He said I would feel better – he was right. I do.
  2. She said my running would improve – she was right. It has.
  3. They both said I would have more energy – they were both right.

The Keating genes – short and stocky

Losing weight is usually not too difficult for me because I weigh so much, but it has gotten harder the older I get. It seems like every year I lose the same 10 pounds as last year and end up weighing 200 pounds. Also, my family genes do not work in my favor. My mom is skinny and has been her whole life. She can pretty much eat whatever she wants. My father, on the other hand, is heavyset, as are almost all the Keatings. We are a clan known to be short, stocky, and stubborn. My genes seem to come more from my Dad than my Mom.

Picture of Dad and I from several years ago.
Picture of Dad and I from several years ago.

I am not a big fan of complicated plans, especially when it comes to eating. I read several health magazines and they tend to recommend eating a lot of small meals, measuring your food, recording your calories, and exercising a lot. This approach works for many but is a challenge for me to follow. I spend a majority of the day at work and don’t have time for a high maintenance approach. Food plans are another option, but all that costs money and requires constant attention. I decided to keep it simple and implement one major change to see if it would work. It did. The change I put in place is intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is a simple solution

Intermittent fasting is not complicated. It is becoming more popular these days and I can see why. It does not take a lot of effort. I read several articles about it, and there are two basic approaches. Either you limit the number of hours you eat during the day, or you choose a few days a week to skip food altogether. The former approach is the one I prefer. No food all day would make me grumpy. An eight-hour window is what I aim for. I eat foord from Noon to 8 pm during the day. Basically, I do not eat a real breakfast anymore. Instead, I drink two cups of coffee in the morning. One is bulletproof coffee (recipe below) which includes butter and an oil-based compound. The second one is black – no cream or sugar. I get the calories I need to start the day without eating any food. Drinking coffee black was a big change for me. I have drunk coffee for decades always with cream and sugar, or a sugar substitute in it. Luckily my taste buds adjusted to drinking black coffee after only a few weeks. Added benefit – black coffee is the fastest way to get through the line in Starbucks. It also prevents the barrister from messing up your order or misspelling your name.

Brewing Bulletproof coffee is not difficult. It provides the calories you need in the morning.
Brewing Bulletproof coffee is not difficult. It provides the calories you need in the morning.

Hungry by lunch? Yes!!!

Starting at lunch I eat a regular meal. Am I hungry by the time lunch rolls around? You bet your ass I am. I usually enjoy a small snack when drinking another cup of coffee in the afternoon (I have done this for years also), and eat a normal sized dinner. If all goes well, I stop eating anything by 8, or 9 o’clock at the latest. That way I do not go to bed feeling bloated. It goes without saying that not every day follows this plan. Some nights I have business dinners, and the weekends tend to be somewhat different. But, in general, I have stuck to this plan, and it seems to be working. I lost the weight I was hoping to lose and have kept it off without too much pain and agony.

Intermittent fasting means eating within an 8 hour window.
Intermittent fasting means eating within an 8-hour window. Not hard to remember.

Is intermittent fasting suitable for everyone?

I doubt it. I am not a doctor, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a personal trainer. I am not offering professional advice. Rather I am sharing my own personal experience. I like intermittent fasting because it is pretty simple to implement and produces the results I want.

Boys – just so it is clear neither one of you need to lose weight. In fact, both of you are tall and skinny. I guess you got Oma’s genes. Perhaps they skip a generation. For your sake, I hope the baldness genes also skip a generation. But I wanted to share this information with you at a young age in case you need it for later in life.

 

 

Veteran’s Day 2017 – A Special Ceremony

Veteran’s Day this year was a special one. Your Uncle Perry and I had the privilege of escorting Opa to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Opa participated in a ceremony with his 1956 West Point classmates. Each year they gather at the wall to honor one of their classmates who perished during the war. They read the names of the fallen, share the story of one in detail, and then walk down to where the name of that person is etched on the wall to place a wreath. Family members of the fallen participate. It is a simple ceremony – nothing fancy. No long speeches, no politicians, no fanfare. Just a small group of veterans honoring one of their own. Below are some pictures from the ceremony.

West Point Class of 1956 Veteran's Day Ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial
West Point Class of 1956 Veteran’s Day Ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial

Visiting the wall is difficult for my dad

I am really glad that Opa was brave this year and decided to participate in the ceremony. He usually does not. As you know Opa is a Vietnam veteran. He served three tours there. He lost a lot of friends in the war. Visiting the wall is a draining event for him. It is an emotional one. The wall reminds him of the war, battles fought, lives lost, and the complicated aftermath. I need to let you know that Opa was able to return to the states and live a healthy and productive life after the war. Perry and I are the direct beneficiaries of Opa’s ability to put the war behind him and fulfill the American dream – to provide for your children so that they have an even better life than the one you lived. I have the same dream for both of you and will do all that I can to make that happen.

Visiting the Vietnam Memorial with Opa
Visiting the Vietnam Memorial with Opa

Veteran’s Day is for telling stories

Opa is a generous person, and always willing to help others in need. I have experienced this first hand as his son and witnessed it as he interacts with others. I saw another example of it during this ceremony. After we walked down to the wall Opa called over one of the family members who was there. He was the grown son of a fallen classmate. He is probably my age, or maybe even a little bit older. Opa let this family member know that he was good friends with his father many years ago. Opa shared a funny story that the man had never heard before. Then Opa proceeded to tell this son of his fallen classmate about his father. What his father was like as a man. How he was strong, smart, and a brave soldier. Opa thought the world of his classmate and was very sad when he learned about the untimely death of his good friend. Opa was emotional – his eyes welled up with tears. Fond memories mixed with painful memories from the past. It was a difficult thing for Opa to do, but he did it anyway. Opa gave this man a special gift that morning. The gift of knowing that his own father was a great man. Afterwards, the man thanked Opa for his service, and more importantly for letting him know what his own father was like.

Opa talking to son of fallen classmate
Opa telling story to son of fallen classmate – the gift of memories

Thank you to all the veterans

It is impossible to calculate the toll a war takes on a nation, especially its veterans. So it is important that we honor those who have served. The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. They deserve our respect and gratitude. Opa is from a generation that fought an unpopular war, in an unknown part of the world, for reasons that are still somewhat of a mystery to this day. It was tough, but he and his generation did their part. Nowadays our country remains entangled in a long war that has cost our nation dearly. Today’s veterans face many of the same challenges that Opa and his classmates did many years ago. One day many years from now they too will gather together and talk about the wars they fought. As for you – do your part. If you see a veteran – thank them for their service. They deserve it, just like Opa.

Opa in Vietnam - Big Ranger
Opa in Vietnam – Big Ranger

NYC Terrorist Attack – Not Again

This past week we were reminded again that the war on terrorism is not over. A deranged lunatic conducted a bizarre terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. As CNN reportedEight people – six foreign tourists and two Americans were killed Tuesday in the deadliest terror attack that New Yorkers have seen since 9/11. A man drove a rented pickup truck down a crowded bike path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, crushing and striking cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to those killed, about a dozen people were hurt. A horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. One hopes that these attacks will eventually stop, but it seems like the craziness will continue.

Our country has experienced numerous terrorist attacks since 9/11, but this most recent one really bothers me for multiple reasons.

Ground Zero is holy ground

The attack took place right near Ground Zero which I consider to be Holy Ground for Americans. It takes audacity beyond measure to violate the peace and tranquility of Ground Zero. No terrorist attack on our soil is acceptable. For that matter – I cannot think of anywhere in the world where a terrorist attack is justified. Terrorism is conducted by cowards. Men who have no honor, like the low-life who conducted this one. This attack is a grim reminder that we must remain vigilant and protect our homeland from these monsters. For the victims – we will never forget.

The 9/11 Memorial in NYC includes the names of all the victims from that tragic day.
The 9/11 Memorial in NYC includes the names of all the victims of that tragic day.

World Trade Center is beautiful

He chose a place that I have been to multiple times. My first visit to this location took place when I ran through it several years ago during the NYC half-marathon. It is a beautiful part of NYC. On one side you have a park along the river. On the other side is the new World Trade Center. It stands where the two World Trade Center Towers used to stand. It is an architectural marvel and a testament to the resiliency of New York City citizens. In the distance, you can see lady liberty. If you have not been to this location – you should visit. It is inspiring.

Photo from our visit to World Trade Center
Photo from visit to World Trade Center

Taking the boys to visit

The attack took place in an area that both of my sons have visited. Gavin and I stayed at the World Center Hotel in June – just a few blocks away. We spent a lot of time in the area during that trip. It is a great location for visiting the rest of Manhattan. Over the past two years, I took both Gavin and Riley to visit Ground Zero. I thought it was important for them to see the memorials, museum, and monuments for themselves. They were both young when 9/11 happened and did not recall what that day was like for our country. It was an eye-opening experience for them. It is a special place. I am really glad they experienced it first hand. They learned a lot, and so did I.

Gavin near the World Trade Center - notice police presence
Gavin near the World Trade Center – notice police car. They are always here – keeping watch.

Keep living your life

I sure hope there are no more terror attacks in the US or the world. But I am not naive enough to believe the maniacs will stop. They won’t. In the meantime, I am going to keep up my guard, do my part, and keep living my life. I will not let these bastards keep me from seeing and experiencing the world. Especially the best parts of it, like NYC.

View of Manhattan taken from the World Trade Center in NYC
View of Manhattan taken from the World Trade Center in NYC

New York State of Mind

New York City has been on my mind this week. Two reasons. Riley and I just spent the weekend there, and another terrorist attack happened in downtown Manhattan. With these recent events in mind, I am going to share two blog posts this weekend related to New York City. Today’s will focus on my most recent visits to NYC with Gavin in June, and Riley last month. In a previous blog, I described why I enjoy New York City. In this blog post, I will share three more compelling reasons to visit. Given the recent terrorist attack, I think it is more important than ever that we show support for this great American city. #IloveNYC.

Amazing architecture of NYC

The Manhattan skyline is stunning, especially at night. NYC is full of beautiful buildings. It seems like around every corner is another architectural gem. There are too many examples for me to list here. I have visited many European cities that are known for their architecture. London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Brussels, and Berlin to name a few. Nothing compares to NYC. The city offers many places to view the city landscape. During our visit in June Gavin and I went to three well-known vantage points (Empire State building, One World Trade Center, and Top of the Rock) for viewing Manhattan. I have seen it many times but always enjoy seeing it again.

Gavin on Top of the Rock in NYC taking in Manhattan skyline
Gavin on Top of the Rock in NYC taking in Manhattan skyline

During my last visit, Riley and I stayed in Brooklyn. We were able to walk across both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges into the city. The views from these bridges are wonderful. We had sunny weather and snapped some great photos. I am really glad we were able to see the city from this perspective. It gave me a greater appreciation for NYC architecture. It is world class.

Riley on the Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan in the background
Riley on the Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan in the background

One of the great music cities

NYC is well known for music. It is home to Broadway which offers tourists many options. If you visit Times Square you will see available shows and plenty of vendors selling tickets. But, we do not visit NYC for that kind of music. We are more interested in the rock-n-roll history of NYC. Many great bands and artists come from NYC. The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Kiss, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, and Billy Joel to name a few. The city offers many music stores and venues. Some are famous. For example, Gavin and I visited Rudy’s Guitar Shop in Soho. The walls are covered with posters of famous musicians who have visited there. The store does a great job letting customers look around and try out various guitars. Gavin was able to play several high priced guitars and amps (well beyond what I could afford) while we were there. It was a great experience for a young musician in the big city.

Gavin playing guitar at Rudy's Guitar Store in Soho
Gavin playing guitar at Rudy’s Guitar Store in Soho

More recently vinyl records have become popular again. The sound from an LP is different than from a CD or streaming. I have a decent record collection. I stored my records from high school and college at my parents’ house. True to form they did not get rid of it. The past few years I bought both Gavin and Riley record players so that they can enjoy listening to records. The last time in NYC Riley, Geoff (one of my good friends who lives in NYC) and I went record shopping. It was a great experience. The city has many record stores. We found several albums we were looking for and came home with a treasure trove of vinyl.

Riley and Geoff in front of NYC Record Store
Riley and Geoff in front of NYC Record Store

A city of distinct neighborhoods

NYC is comprised of five boroughs and many neighborhoods. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Dumbo, Soho, Financial District, Little Italy, Chelsea, Midtown, and East Village to name a few. There are way too many to list, and I have only been to a handful. Each one is different to me. Talk about diversity – Brooklyn has a much different feel than Manhattan. Better yet, walk from Soho to East Village and you feel like you are on a different planet. Soho is a ritzy shopping district full of high-end shops. East Village is a funky place – the birthplace of punk rock. I truly enjoy this diversity. It exposes me to new experiences and stretches my mind. I like hanging out in an area to try and get a feel for the place. I am also a big fan of walking around NYC. The subway system is great, and Uber works well, but at times it is better to stroll through an NYC neighborhood to see what it is like. As mentioned, I have traveled a fair bit. I have never been to another city as diverse as NYC. It is one of the elements that make it unique.

Gavin in Soho
Gavin in Soho
Riley in East Village in front of Punk Rock mural
Riley in East Village in front of Punk Rock mural

It comes down to reality, and it’s fine with me cause I’ve let it slide
I don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside
I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind
– New York State of Mind by Billy Joel

Happy Birthday Riley!!

Today is your birthday Riley. Happy birthday. I hope it is an awesome one. You have always been a great kid. I have watched you grow over the years – you are becoming a fine young man. Since today is your special day – I will dedicate this blog post to you. When I think of you as a person three thoughts come to mind. Three things that make me appreciate you as a son, and a young man.

You are curious

You always have enjoyed learning about things. You know more about a lot of topics than most people in the world. You are a curious young man. At times I am amazed at what you know. You also enjoy traveling which is an excellent method for learning more about the world. I have been on numerous trips with you, and have enjoyed each one. I especially like the fact that you take lots of pictures while we travel to capture the experience. I hope that you never lose your curiosity and desire to learn new things.

Riley taking a photo in the Marienberg castle garden.
Riley taking a photo in the Marienberg castle garden.

You are athletic

You have played numerous sports while growing up and have been good at all of them. You are a gifted soccer player. You love the game. Playing it brings you joy. I share your joy as I sit on the sidelines and watch you play. I can also tell that your teammates respect your abilities, and enjoy having you on the team. You are also an excellent runner. You have both speed and endurance which is a rare combination. I hope that you keep playing soccer later in life, and continue running well into your later years.

Riley wearing a soccer medal from one of the many tournaments.
Riley wearing a soccer medal from one of his tournaments.

You are impish

You like to have fun. I am glad that you do. Life is too short to be serious all the time. You have an active sense of humor and have been known to get into mischief every now and then. Even as a child you were known for playing pranks. Always remember the first rule of mischief – don’t get caught. Your sense of humor brings a smile to my face on a regular basis. Thanks for making me laugh many times. I will do my best to return the favor.

Riley having fun as we eat ice cream in Charlottesville
Riley having fun as we eat ice cream in Charlottesville

I could keep going, but I will end my thoughts here. You are a great son. I am proud of you and really glad that you are my son. Happy birthday. We will celebrate more next weekend when we are together again.

Three steps to making your new approach stick

If your approach is not working, then you may need to change it. I am doing a short series of blog posts about this topic. Last week, I described a process for changing your approach. Two weeks ago I described three indicators that your current approach is not working. In this post, I will share three steps for making your new approach stick. The steps are easy, but as we all know making a change stick is not. I hope you learn from my experience and do not make the same mistakes.

1. Implement it – get moving

Don’t expect anything to be different until you implement your new approach. This step is actually the easiest to complete – all you have to do is start. But, it can also be the most difficult. I cannot count on my fingers and toes how many times I decided to make a change but never implemented a new approach. Several times I even spent a lot of time and energy crafting a new approach, but never got around to making it happen. The main reason I think implementing a new approach is difficult is fear of failure. What if it doesn’t solve the problem? What if your new approach does not work better? What if it actually makes things worse? Many times these fears are unfounded. Bottom line is that you will not know how well your new approach works until you try it.

Don't get stuck in the starting blocks
Don’t get stuck in the starting block

2. Measure your progress

It will be hard to tell if your new approach is working, or not unless you measure your progress. Come up with the metrics you will use to determine if you are actually solving the problem. For example, I have been in debt numerous times. One time the amount of debt I had accumulated troubled me greatly, so I decided to change my approach. The approach was somewhat radical. I implemented several changes that wiped out the debt quickly. I was not confident that this approach actually addressed the root cause of the problem – more money going out than coming in. I decided to measure both the amount of debt I carried and how quickly it grew each month. After only two months, the same problem started to surface. I knew my solution worked in the short term, but would not suffice for the long term. After this analysis, I implemented a different approach – I changed jobs to make more money. I continued to measure my progress using the same metrics. This time the change worked. The problem was finally solved. More income than expenses equals no debt.

Measure your progress to determine if your approach is working
Measure your progress to determine if your approach is working

3. Stick with it and make tweaks

Sometimes you will make progress after implementing your new approach, but improvements are not happening fast enough. You may ask yourself what do I do now. Should I stick with my new approach, or stop it and try something else. I recommend making tweaks rather than abandoning your new approach. Tweaks are different than major changes. They are small adjustments you make to your new approach. For example, one time I changed my approach to eating in order to lose some weight. As I measured my progress I recognized that I was losing weight, but not as quickly as I hoped. In fact, I would lose five pounds and then regain five pounds, and then lose the same five pounds. My weight was going up and down like a yo-yo. Overall my approach was working but I had to make some tweaks. One tweak I implemented was to start drinking black coffee rather than put cream and sugar in it. This one change made a positive impact and helped me achieve the result I was looking for. Make tweaks to get to the finish line. Don’t abandon your new approach to quickly. Give yourself some time. On the other hand, if your new approach is not working at all, then it is time try something different. You may end up trying several approaches until you find the one that works.

'I must say, that was quite a tweak you came up with.'
Tweaks can make a big impact

In this series, I have attempted to pass along my advice on how to implement positive changes in your life. Talking about it is easy. Making it happen is difficult. Enough talking – get out there and make it happen.