This makes me Hoppy

I’m allergic to Excel spreadsheets. I’m a right brain, “outside the box” thinker, and Excel is nothing but boxes – row after row, column after column, constricting my weirdly-wired brain.

The Excel spreadsheet below is the exception to the rule. Instead of breaking out in hives, I break out in a big smile when I see it. Probably because it has nothing to do with “Objectives and Key Results” and “long-range planning”… and everything to do with fun and frivolity:

This is the list of the monthly happy hours — a.k.a. “Hoppy Hours” — that my Xavier University buddies and I have been organizing for nigh on two years now. I’ve posted about these gatherings before. The host picks a local brewery as the venue – and picks up the tab that month. Not everyone can make each month’s gathering, but the turnout is typically 6-10 guys.

The monthly meet-up has been an unmitigated success. A chance to connect, chew the fat and sip some suds. Laughter is always on the menu. (It’s also worth noting that nearly all of the venues are locally owned and operated establishments… so we’re stimulating the local economy. )

(BrewDog is a chain… but it’s also a B Corp)

The host names on the list may not mean much to you, but they mean the world to me. We’ve all made enough circles around the sun to realize that friendship is totally worth a fat bar tab once or twice a year. Cheers to my fellow Xavier Musketeers!

Life is Funny… or the Funnies

Sometimes you can find the profound in the least likely places… like the Sunday comics section. Here are two gems from this past weekend:

I’d rather “marvel” at SolarPower Man and WindWoman.

You got that right, comic strip Pig! And the best way to get that love is to give it.

Love you!

[Pearls Before Swine and Wumo are available on GoComics.com.]

(sad) Christmas in July…

Below I’m republishing a post that originally appeared in July of 2017… because it’s been five years and we still miss “Uncle Neil”…

The year Without A Santa Claus

As I sit down to write this, it’s 10:40 a.m. on a Sunday. Normally I’d be at Mass right now, sitting in the same pew as my wife’s uncle Neil, and his wife Gayle. They were with us on vacation in Florida July 1-8, along with a bunch of Neil’s relatives, and everyone rolled back into town late last Saturday night. After every Sunday Mass, all the family members in attendance always gather and talk for a bit, with Neil at the center of the conversation.

A week ago, it was just Neil, Gayle and me. We chatted for a bit, and said our “see you next week” goodbyes… Neil had a heart attack later that day, and passed away on Thursday. Yes, he was 78, and overweight, and had already had a heart attack and heart valve replacement several years ago… but I still feel like he was stolen away from us way too soon. That’s the way it always is with great folks, and he was a fantastic human being.

There are so many stories I could tell about “Real Deal Uncle Neil” as I called him, but to me the one that best epitomizes his character and caring is this: for nearly 40 years, Neil would dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and spend several hours visiting the homes of dozens of relatives, friends and co-workers, spending a few minutes at each house talking to the kids that lived there, having them sing a Christmas song, reminding them to go to bed early, asking them to leave a snack for his reindeer… totally getting into playing the part of Santa Claus. Our house was one of the stops when our kids were younger, and I’ll never forget the look on our kids’ faces when “Santa” showed up and spoke with them. Pure magic.

Think about that for a bit. For 40 years, Neil sacrificed his Christmas Eve to make others happy. It was no fun riding around dressed up in a sweat-inducing Santa suit, with heavy boots and an itchy beard… but bringing some magic into the lives of others superseded that.

Here’s the thing – the Santa suit was just a prop. Honestly, Neil was the type of person that brought magic into the lives of others every day – kids and adults alike. He had the Irish “gift of gab” and never let the facts get in the way of a good story. He was comfortable talking to anyone and everyone, and always left you with a smile on your face.

In hindsight, as we look back at a few things Neil did on vacation that were a bit more sentimental than usual, we think he knew his time on earth was drawing to a close. We’ll miss him dearly. But I’ll also take solace in the words of Ray Bradbury, from his beautiful story about dying called “The Leave-Taking“:

Important thing is not the me that’s lying here, but the me that’s sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that’s downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I’m not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family. 
 

Readers rock!

From the first chapter of the George Saunders book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain:

Over the last ten years I’ve had a chance to give readings and talks all over the world and meet thousands of dedicated readers. Their passion for literature (evident in their questions from the floor, our talks at the signing table, the conversations I’ve had with book clubs) has convinced me that there is a vast underground network for goodness at work in the world—a web of people who’ve put reading at the center of their lies because they know from experience that reading makes them more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting.

I love the concept of a “vast underground network for goodness”… and all it takes is cracking the cover on a good book. (You can use your eReader if you prefer — they certainly have some merits — but I’ll go old school if given my druthers.)

We certainly could use more goodness in the world.

Do you really need to do that Wordle? Watch ten more TikToks? Play Call of Duty for hours?

Reading makes them more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting.

Ditch the rankings

Seth Godin is on point (as always) with one of his most recent blog posts:

This is so true… it’s also tough to put into practice in a world obsessed with “best of” lists and rankings, and a culture obsessed with #winning.

It doesn’t have to be the “best ever”… it just has to be what it is. And we should be focused on the “be here now” of it all. Because the “here” and the “now” are all we’ve got. And that’s enough.

Fanny was Wright about education

I read an interesting article about Frances “Franny” Wright in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by Jeff Seuss:

A major cause for her was the need for women’s education. From an 1829 lecture:

“Equality! Where is it, if not in education? Equal rights! They cannot exist without equality of instruction. ‘All men are born free and equal!’ They are born, but do they not so live? Are they educated as equals? And if not, can they be equal? And if not equal, can they be free?”

Thankfully, the young women of today are educated as equals in the U.S. But Fanny’s cry for equality still rings true if you look at socio-economic factors.

In this great country of ours, most public school districts receive nearly half of their funding from property taxes. So schools in affluent neighborhoods, where property values are high, receive much more funding per student than schools in areas where property values are lower. In other words, the rich get richer, and the poor get inferior school resources. It’s tough to make progress when every school day is an uphill battle.

“Human kind is but one family. The education of its youth should be equal and universal.”

part of the epitaph on Fanny Wright’s obelisk at her grave in Cincinnati
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