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  • I like doing things that help me to change my perspective, to see the world from a different point of view. My point of view is comfortable and safe, to me, but it is also very limited. Without changing it up, periodically, it would quickly become boring and stale.

    This is part of why I like to broaden my network, as much as I can – the more people I interact with in a meaningful way, the more I can learn and understand other points of view, and most importantly, get to see where they are coming from, and why. I don’t have to agree with them all – I still have my own point of view, and my own reasons for it – but, the more I know of others’, the more mine can be fully formed, and fully informed.

    This works on other levels, as well. It’s part of why I like to travel. I like to see the world from different points of view. I like to be changed by traveling somewhere I’ve never been before, and actually see how different the world is there. When I return home, I now see home from a much different viewpoint. It’s still very much my home – in fact, after a long journey away, I usually appreciate it even more than before. It always feels good to be home, even after the best of trips.
  • Growing up in Pittsburgh, I had seen very little of the rest of the world. The extent of my world exploration consisted of 2 weeks each summer at Pymatuning Lake, the occasional trip to Butler, Pa, for a hayride or a sleigh ride on cousin Eddie Portman’s farm there, and the occasional trip to Kent, Ohio, to visit relatives there.

    Once, when I was 9, we drove to Atlantic City to pick my brother Chris and his friend Walt up after they’d spent the summer working there. That was my first view of the ocean. It definitely changed me. It was just so different, so vast, it really fired my imagination, and I wanted to go back.

    For the next few years, I began to bug my mom about us spending a week on the ocean. She would tell me we couldn’t afford it, it was too much to try to plan such a vacation, finding a place to stay, and all of that. We would do what we always did, go to Pymatuning Lake for a week or two, where Uncle Roman and Aunt Lollie would let us use their cottage for free, all we had to do was get there, and feed ourselves. Much as I loved it there, once I’d seen the ocean, I wanted to go back. I wanted more.

    So, one year, I started saving the money I earned from delivering papers, instead of blowing it right away on candy, going to ballgames at Forbes Field, and buying new clothes or cool sneakers (I never wanted for clothes, but they were always hand-me-downs from older brothers. Mom and Dad would buy me sneakers, but they were always the cheap, uncool ones).
  • That was the year that I also worked in a bakery for most of the year, so I had more money coming in than ever. After I made my newspaper route collections the week before Christmas, when everyone gave me my Christmas tips, I was really rolling in the cash. With the tips thrown in, I had about $500 in my savings account.

    I approached Mom with great determination, and a plan. I would put up my savings towards a beach vacation. I really wanted to go back to the ocean. She was impressed with my determination, and the fact that I had saved so much money. She told me, “We actually could probably afford to go to the ocean this year. The only problem is, since I’ve returned to college, I don’t have time to plan such an adventure. But, I’ll make you a deal. If you can find a place that we can afford, and make all the arrangements, we’ll go to the ocean next summer".

    I was just turned thirteen, but I did as Mom suggested. I looked on a map of the east coast of the United States, and picked out about a dozen oceanfront towns, from New England down to South Carolina, and sent letters to the Chambers of Commerce for each of those towns. I received all kinds of pamphlets and information about beach rentals. I kept at it for a couple months, writing back and forth to all these places, until I narrowed it down to Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Since Virginia Beach was closer, we decided to go there.
  • Mom was very pleased with my efforts. I’d found a place big enough to accommodate the whole family, and then some, for $500 for the week. While it wasn’t right on the beach, it was within walking distance of the beach.

    The whole family went on that vacation – it might have been the last one that we all went on together – and I’d learned a valuable lesson. You can do anything you want to do, if you want it badly enough, and are willing to work for it.

    Most importantly, my point of view of how to get things done in the world had changed, dramatically. The Chambers of Commerce and the real estate agents I’d dealt with didn’t know I was a 13 year old kid. They’d treated me like an adult, and I, in turn, acted like one throughout the process of finding a vacation place for my family. I liked how it made me feel.

    That whole week, I would look around, as everyone was having a good time, all together at the beach, and reveled in the knowledge that I had made this happen. I also knew that it wouldn’t have been possible if Mom hadn’t let me. My point of view of her changed forever after that. While I always knew that she was on my side, now I knew how valuable an asset she was to have on my side. What Mom would have let their 13 year old plan the whole family’s vacation? Mine!
  • Speaking of changing points of view, here’s what I started out planning to write about today, before I went off on that vacation tangent. (I must have vacation on the brain!) Once a year, right around this time, I pull out my big ladder, climb up onto my roof, and put up the cascade lights, which go all along the front and sides of the house’s roof line. Since we have a very long roof line along the front of the house, this winds up taking the better part of an afternoon to do.

    If the weather allows (it has to be dry), I’ll do this on Thanksgiving weekend. Yesterday was a beautiful, though chilly and very windy at times, day. At some point, after I’ve clipped on the first two or three strings of lights and tested them to make sure they all work, I’ll take a break, and go stand up at the peak of the roof, stretching my aching joints, and taking in the view. Yesterday, the view from there was simply splendid and more colorful than it usually is, by now.

    I got all the lights up, and am feeling it, today. Each year, it gets a little harder to do, but I still love going up there, and getting that point of view. It always changes me, opens me up, helps me to see how great a place to live, this truly is.
  • When I first started to clip those lights on, a new fear gripped me, momentarily. I’ve never had much of a fear of heights. But, just as I was leaning over the side of the roof, clipping those lights onto the gutter, the thought crossed my mind, “What if you got hit with a vertigo attack, right as you were doing this? You'd fall right off this roof and probably get killed!” I looked down at the ground below, down about 20 feet, and shuddered. A part of me wanted to quit right there, and declare "I'm too old for this crap!" But instead, I shrugged it off, and just said to myself, “You know what? It’s a good day to die. If that happened, at least I would have gone doing something I love to do, while bringing a little light into the world.” The fear quickly left me, and I went on stringing those lights along the roofline, clipping them to the gutter, and never once felt dizzy (thankfully).

    This, in turn, gave me a new point of view for dealing with other fears that crop up in my life, and sometimes keep me from doing things I should be doing. I’m reminded that I can just shrug those fears off, do what I know to be the right thing, and trust that the universe will take care of me.

    That was a valuable lesson!
    All Photos in this story were taken from my roof, yesterday
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