I will admit that when I work, it is with intensity and conviction. I work long hours and accomplish more than many of my colleagues, but I am not a workaholic.
I work hard so that I can play hard. I really enjoy the playing side of life. If anything, I am a “playaholic.” My play time is every day after work, most weekends and a few weeks each year.
I remember as a young kid working with my father's top mechanic. He said, “What ever you do, take a vacation every year. If you can't afford to go away, borrow the money to go away. You need to take time off.”
He was a smart mechanic. I have heeded his advice.
Of course, my wife and family come first. I travel a lot and am gone about 180 days a year. So, I do what I can to make it up to my children. I was involved with Boy Scouts with my son. That was easy. Being an Eagle Scout, I love the Scouting movement and have been active for more than 40 years. I've done my time as Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, merit badge counselor, etc.
With my oldest daughter, I was her softball coach and helped her on the high school track team. I worked my travel schedule to be at her track meets.
Our backyard is a virtual playground. We have a basketball hoop, horseshoe pit, swimming pool, sand box, fort, giant swing set, bocce area, fire pit, garden and two barbecues. Did I mention we love to cook as a family? You would probably be surprised that I am a gourmet cook. Gourmet means lover of good food.
After being creative in the plumbing profession, I love to spend nights and weekends in the kitchen creating. My Italian grandmother taught me the love of cooking. The lasagna is to die for. You don't get a bad meal in our household. Our children have continued with that passion to create in the kitchen. My youngest daughter wants to market my applesauce. Each year we produce about 4 gallons of applesauce that lasts the year and makes for great gifts.
But it's the getaway time that is the most fun. Our family theme song is, “On the Road Again,” by Willie Nelson. It blasts in our van every time we head out for another trip. My wife and I have been to all 50 states and about 20 foreign countries. Our three children have been to about 44 states each, plus a number of foreign countries.
We also hit all the local color, like festivals, concerts, beaches, amusement parks, etc. Life wouldn't be complete without the periodic trip to Disney World. Yeah, I love Mickey. It is a magical place. I embarrass my family by singing very loudly the Pirates of the Caribbean song on the ride. Then we see who can scream the loudest on the Rock 'n Roller Coaster.
Seeing the wonders of this country, meeting the people, experiencing local life, is great. We drive, we fly and we cruise. It is thoroughly enjoyable to be with my family for a week or two seeing the new sights of this wonderful world. My children never struggled in geography class.
My children are now 25, 22 and 16 years old. They still like traveling with their parents. That makes Judie and me feel good. We figure that we did something right.
My wife and I have a saying that we need a vacation after we vacation. We play hard. If there is something to experience, we do it. Imagine white water rafting in Alaska on glacier water that is 37 degrees F. It wakes you up in the morning! Don't get too excited; we were wearing dry suits, but the water still splashes on your face.
But my true secret passion happens each winter. I love to ski, as in downhill skiing. I am one of those snobs who hate snowboards invading our mountains (sorry you snowboarders out there).
When I am on top of a mountain, standing on my skis looking out at the landscape, I feel whole again. I understand the meaning of life on the top of a mountain. When I am there with family and friends, it is even better.
It does help that I am an expert skier. I've been doing it all my life. I have skied every possible terrain. I love powder skiing. I have skied in waist-deep powder in Utah. I spent a week in Colorado with a ski partner and skied nothing but black diamond (expert) trails. Yeah, we couldn't walk at the end of the week, but we felt glorious.
I look forward to the day when I can do it all winter long. When I am old enough, I'll be able to get a free lift ticket.
There is something about challenging the mountain on a pair of skis. The cold crisp air hitting your lungs. The sensation of floating down the mountain. Then going back up to do it all again.
If you catch the desktop on my computer, it is a photograph of my four brothers and myself with the backdrop of the Austrian Alps. We had a wonderful time skiing from dawn to dusk. At night we sat down to a few beers while we reminisced about growing up in the plumbing business. The other family members die laughing when they hear the stories we tell of working on the sewer trenches.
It doesn't get any better than this.
We all need that secret passion outside the plumbing profession. It is that passion that keeps us going in our profession. For me, a week of skiing keeps the fire burning for the next year. Knowing that I will be doing it again the following year gives me something to look forward to.
I'll see you on the slopes.