Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy New Year? Happy OLD Year!!!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! God Bless Ya to anyone that I missed!

I hope this finds every one of you enjoying whatever holiday is appropriate to your circumstance, as well as the companionship of family and friends, and that your cup is more than half full!

Christmas in the Hoover home this year was a very good one. Lots of family time, great food, movies, and just general enjoyment of all that is Hoovdom. I can’t remember a holiday season when there wasn’t at least one stress related disagreement, but there wasn’t a single one this year.

And that got me thinking: in spite of everything that’s taken place this year, from my own personal career changes to the global economy—I am truly so very blessed in every way.

I had a promotion in January that most people would have been thrilled with, and a seemingly great opportunity ahead of me. Of course, as usual, there are two sides to every coin: the promotion came because I lost a two horse race for the higher job; I now report to the guy who won out; and the transition has been less than easy to figure out or navigate. Maybe the most stressful work year of my life. The bright side (and remember we ALWAYS look on the briiiiight side of LIFE…) is I still have a great job at a well run company.

My two kids occasionally forget to check in or miss a curfew. But they are both doing great in school—one has a 3.4 GPA at one of the fifteen toughest business schools in the country; the other has a 3.4 GPA at one of the ten toughest high schools in Indiana. They both have their health, a healthy respect for life and others, and a great sense of humor. They are really good kids who make you feel lucky to be a parent. And they both love racing!

We have a very nice home that had serious wind damage from Hurricane Ike related storms in September, and no one seems interested in fixing it—or giving us a bid for that matter. But it is well heated, we have nice cars to drive in the driveway, and we have plenty of food to eat.

And every single day I’m thankful for a basketful of family and friends that any one person would be thrilled to have a quarter of.

I lost one of my lifelong best friends this past June, when Jim Bazini succumbed to the kidney disease he had battled for ten years. Jim and I were best friends from the time we were four, and there hasn’t been a day that’s passed that I haven’t thought of him or his impact on my life. That said, I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have had him in my life. Cheers Jimmy D, save half a glass for my arrival.

Another lifelong mentor passed away the week before Jim, when I lost Reg Lammers. Reg taught me more in twenty years than most people learn from ten others in a lifetime. His sons Larry and Dan are like brothers to me. I’ve probably thought about Reg more this Christmas than I have my own deceased parents in fifteen or twenty years. But his presence in my life was a blessing and source of wisdom that can’t be bought, and in most cases is never had at all. And through knowing him, I have two lifelong friends—and their families—that are like an extension of my own. Godspeed Pops.

I’ve got lots of others who are still here: and this summer presented the opportunity to get reconnected with four of them during a guy’s weekend at a rented lake house. We listened to music, played our guitars, drank beer and grilled. Oh yeah, and I remembered how cool it is to have such smart, fun, and humorous friends who have given you so much over the course of your life. People you knew, and who knew you, thirty or forty years ago, and shared so many of those seminal experiences in your life. People whose parents as often as not were called Mom or Dad by your entire group.

I heard from my long lost pal Fred Goodman for the first time in seven or eight years, and am looking forward to his trip back to visit this summer. What’up Mumby???!?!?!! :-)

And of course, I had countless texts from Andy during all of those painfully long Notre Dame football games this year, as well as other moments and our annual laugh until you cry/ultimate trivia/more pizza! weekend. If you have a friend like Andy in your portfolio, that’s like quarter a gallon gas: you’re the luckiest person in the world to have it, and you aren’t ever going to find it again.

I don’t know if gas will be $1.50 or $5.00 a year from now. I have no clue where home sales will be. And I surely don’t know what any of that will mean for our economy, our foreign policy, or the moving business. But I do know it will still be good.

Yes, the economy sucks. And fortunately, so far, I’ve made good decisions along the way leading up to this that haven’t hurt me.

Yes, we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we have the world’s bravest young men and women there, keeping us safe and bearing the banner of freedom.

And I woke up this morning, smiling, thankful, and going off to a day at work that I didn’t want to spend there, but felt lucky to be able to do.

It’s all good. God bless us, every one.

Happy New Year! And Happy Old Year too!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Glass-half-full? You bet!

I’m always been referred to as a “glass half-full” kind of guy. A recent boss called me that on a semi-regular basis, and didn’t consider it a compliment. That said, I think that characterization is correct…I like to pull out the best of a given situation, and build on that. I take pride in being a "glass half-full" guy.

So in that spirit, and of course that festive holiday mood that overtakes me at this time of year—no matter how dark the day, I was thinking last night about possible “silver linings” to our current malady.

It wasn’t hard to find several.

First off: look what’s happened to the price of oil in just the brief two months since it hit $4.00 a gallon. People have stopped driving as much, and hence, reduced their consumption. Result? Gas back at $1.60 a gallon—according to my local news this morning, the cheapest it’s been in over five years.




Whenever times get tough, it’s hard not to remember my parents. Both are gone now, but I grew up on a hardscrabble farm in northern Indiana, and my folks were both kids in the depression. My brother and I use to share a joke at Christmas as we rifled through the pens at my Mom’s house—literally dozens of them, all stowed atop the desk in three or four orange juice cans wrapped in decorative shelf paper—just looking for ONE that would work, which we would use to fill out gift tags on presents. “Doesn’t she EVER throw anything away?!”

The answer of course was no. No farm kid who went through the depression ever did. And as a kid growing up in my house, things like Kleenex and Band-Aids, and even soda pop for crying out loud, were treated like precious resources. My dad never bought a car that he didn’t pay cash for, and he had a new one every third year. People saved. People didn’t waste. Everything from the steak you had every couple of months (if you were lucky) to the clothes that seemed to stay in style for years was treated with the respect it deserved…our heritage was a time when families ate eggs and bean soup for days on end. Eating out was a rare treat, and many times was McDonald’s.

Fast forward to today—where everything from movies to gourmet food to satellite radio in our cars is on demand 24/7. $50 jeans; $100 sneakers; state-of-the-art stereos and TV’s and grills and refrigerators; all financed to the hilt. Fast food and restaurant dining are de rigueur. Save? Ha! Why save when you can borrow???

Maybe we’ll get back to that way of thinking I remember when I was a kid. I don’t mean in the extreme, but at least to the point where our debt is reasonable, our home isn’t five times our salary, and our egos don’t demand the latest designer flavor at the high-end cookie boutique.




In the end, it’s as I’ve told myself for years: most things in life are in our control. Every single action has a reaction, and if the outcome is something you don’t like, then change the inputs. I remember once in the 6th grade, one of my favorite all time teachers—Chip Light—came into the men’s room as a group of guys was horsing around, which was developing into a fight. I was trying to wash my hands and get out when the melee overtook me. Mr. Light rounded us all up and trooped us out into the hall, where he furiously lectured us and then lined us up for a mighty swat of his paddle. As tears came to my eyes, I said, “But Mr. Light, I wasn’t doing anything…” He had the saddest look I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never forgotten what he said next: “Then maybe this will help you to remember not to be in places where bad things happen.”

Assuming he didn’t mean I should never go to the men’s room again, I have always remembered that advice. You have much more control over your life and the events in it than you know. Don’t like your job? Improve your work record or your education. Don’t like your weight? Stop eating or see a doctor. Don’t like how people treat you? Change your attitude.


So, maybe these tough times will lead us back to a more conservative approach—both to consumption, and our personal finances. Maybe we’ll be less of a “throw away” society, and we’ll better understand the true value of things. Maybe $100 jeans won’t be so important, and the lives of our fellow man will be.



Feel free to whistle along here if you like...

Can I fill up that glass for you? ;-)