Blog : Birthday

Forty

Forty

This weekend, I’ll turn 40. It’s no big deal, really. No feat, nothing particularly impressive about passively allowing time to be measured. I’m probably an old 40, if there’s such a thing.  I’ve spent every day for 22 years at this desk, typing these things, working for business, hoping for someone to call and buy this or sell that. In those 22 years I built several homes and sold several more, I built a family, I built a business that should continue at least for a bit longer.  It’s easy to look back and assume that what has been accomplished is rare and special, but I’m not entirely sure that it is. It’s just some years, thrown together all in this little town, through no special effort of my own.

I have a good friend who has told me we all have an exaggerated sense of our own importance. He reminds me that we’re all replaceable, no matter what we do. You’re a hedge fund guy who writes Java? There are likely tens of thousands of others who write the same code, and thousands who write it better. You’re a founder of a company that sells widgets? There’s another guy, or another gal, in some other town, who sells widgets like yours but they’re better widgets, shinier and smarter, and her company makes more money, more easily, more quickly.   You’re a Realtor in small-town Wisconsin and you sell lots of houses some years? The guys in Los Angeles would be overwhelmed with shame if they ever had a down year that beats your best year.

There’s something quietly odd about turning 40. I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know if it’s supposed to feel like unique. Perhaps it’s finally some notice that time is working against you, and more than working, it’s winning.  Time is short. I spend my days stressing and wishing for the days when my days can be different. If I can just get this deal closed, then things will be better. And the next one, too. If this deal in November works, things will be fine.  Real estate, like all sales, is a terrible unfulfilled cycle. Sell something today, great. Now go sell something tomorrow. I enjoy the race, I enjoy the effort. I enjoy the game. I enjoy trying to solve problems. I enjoy struggling against larger, legacy competition. But at some point it starts to become tedious and mundane. It starts to feel like there should be something greater than just a hope for a Saturday call and a Sunday offer. Maybe that point is 40. Maybe it isn’t.

This week, I’m taking a few days off and traveling with my wife to a country far away. It should be a nice trip. I’m taking the trip, in part, because I don’t want to turn into my parents, to work and wait for the time to do something fun or rare and then someday have no energy or desire to actually do it.  What’s the point of sacrifice if you’ll never reap those stored rewards? Why waste years crippled over fear of failure when there’s already some success begging to be celebrated?   Next week,  I’ll return home having missed out on some deals, I’m sure of it, and my absence will be marked by cell phone conversations and emails sent while standing near pretty sights. Pray for my wife’s patience.

Today, I’m grateful for this life that I get to live. For my little house down the road from this little office, and that big blue lake around the corner. I’m grateful for my clients who trust me and count on me, and in turn, provide for me and my family.  I’m grateful for this life that I’ve been blessed with.  Here’s to another 40, hopefully as good as the last.

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Sadly, the big story this morning is that of a kayaker who died in Geneva Lake yesterday. This sort of story isn’t nice to write about, but every unfortunate occurrence is an  admonition for the rest of us. Lakes in the spring are cold. The sun may be warm, the wind still. But the lake is still icy cold. I’d guess the water temp in Geneva today is around 52 degrees. Maybe 55. That’s cold enough to take your breath away, and if you lose your breath when you’re in the middle of the lake, your life cannot be far behind. I don’t know if this poor man had a life vest on, but remember to always use a life vest if you’re out on this lake in a vessel as unstable as a kayak.   It’s a sad story today, for sure.

The shore-path-race seems to be as unpopular as anything has ever been. It’s as unpopular as suburban style housing developments proposed for our cornfields. It’s unpopular. The city alderman who approved this race should remain ashamed, and hopefully they’re being bombarded by angry letters and calls from lake residents who wish to see their path left for the dreams and the wanderers. Several local groups have taken action against this stupid race, and with any luck it’ll be called off before the first ankle is sprained.

It’s my birthday this weekend, which is nice for me. But it’s also terrible because I’m getting old and my beard is graying and my temples have completed the process. I sat through my son’s spring music concert the other night.  As a proud parent and school alum, I had every reason to sit still and marvel at each squeak from the flute and eat off-key solo. But I have found, that even at my advancing age, I still lack the maturity to sit still for 90 minutes while high schoolers sing Disney songs. Perhaps this means I’ll never grow up. Perhaps it means I’ve failed at this game. But as Mark Hoppus once said, No one should take themselves so seriously. With many years ahead to fall in line, why would you wish that on me?

My Morel season was another bust this year. I didn’t have time to look as much as I should have, and when I did I didn’t really find many. A few dozen, perhaps. I know morel season waits on no man and yet I expected it to wait on me. It didn’t. And now I’m another year older and have scant few morels to show for it. This is something I’ll have to live with until next May, when I’ll try to right the wrongs of 2017.

Lastly, if you were in the Lake Geneva Starbucks this morning at 7 am I did spill that entire cup of coffee at the cream station. Everything was going fine until I looked up while putting on the lid. The entire cup poured onto the counter, the floor, even into the little container where the Splenda reside. I felt sort of bad about this, but quickly used one hundred or more napkins to tidy up my mess. I apologized profusely to those around me. But if you were me, and it was your birthday this weekend and you hadn’t really found any morels,  are you trying to tell me you wouldn’t have also spilled your coffee?

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and my wife and all of the other mothers.
Spring

Spring

Spring started a couple of months ago. I guess it was in March. March is when spring starts, the calendar says. Before that, it’s winter. And when spring ends, it’ll be summer. That’s how this whole thing works. Spring comes and the birds chirp and the grass greens and the weeds need pulling. Yesterday, some animals ate the tops off of some poppies that are growing in my garden. The tops, right off. Now I have to deal with that, which is an issue for me, because I’m busy and it’s my birthday and I don’t feel like shooshing away poppy eating varmint. I can’t kill them, because I’m still too soft. Even at this grizzled age I can’t kill things.

When spring started, it started with some wind and some rain and then some snow, still with the wind.  Rain again, wind. Windy, some sun, rain.  We had good weekends during this spring, more good than bad, in fact. That’s not something anyone would debate. The weekends, three of the last four, have been really solid. This weekend that starts right about now is going to be lame, so just plan on it. Three out of five isn’t bad, especially for spring. Because spring, with its birds and its flowers and all the greening, it’s really a terrible season. It’s good for, almost literally, nothing.

Sure we can shake off winter, slowly. But that’s because we have no choice. We can’t abandon winter and jump to summer, because when we make that jump we have to stay nimble, because we’re just going to end up jumping back. Boating on Sunday, shivering on Monday. Rain on Tuesday. Sun on Wednesday! Wind Thursday. Rain Friday. Tolerable Saturday. Sunny Sunday! This is the cycle and who could love it? Not me, not now, and I don’t care about the birds singing and the grass growing and the rest of it.

And what of these birds? What are they? I love when the Sandhill Crane honks and calls its way across the sky. A hunter told me this year that those birds are delicious. He said he’s heard from other people that they are the Filet of the Sky. Sounds delicious, I thought, and when he said it I could see that he knew about the taste from experience, and then I wondered what he does in those dark, deep woods he owns. I wouldn’t ever tell you that a bird I’ve never eaten is the Filet of the Sky, even if I’d read it in a book somewhere.  And the birds at my feeders, they’re not the good kind of birds. Another neighbor has Orioles. Bushels and flocks and baskets full of Orioles. I have a feeder dedicated to the Oriole and they don’t even consider it. Two years ago I did, but not this year. Not last year, either. My neighbor gets them all, and so I’m left with my wrens. I am the Wren King, which isn’t really such an incredible thing. I’d rather be the Oriole King, and they’d call me Cal.

But on Facebook some people have said Happy Birthday, so that’s something spring is good for. Another year older. Milestones, not really. There are no milestones in middle age, just decade markers. I’ll be at a new decade two springs from now, and then I’ll write something about it, assuming I’m still here writing three days a week, even though that’s unlikely if you don’t actually email me to tell me you’re ready to buy a house. Come to Lake Geneva, where we have so much spring we can hardly take it! We have sun and rain and wind and green and birds and poppy-eating rabbits, usually we even have them all on the same day.