November 1, 2018

Some Things You May Not Know About Me

Blogging is an interesting process. It involves some research and a lot of writing. It involves remembering events and decisions that might prove useful or helpful to others. It also involves exposing details of one's life that usually are kept private, especially on an Internet platform. Occasionally, like the previous post, it opens up about fears and insecurities A blogger must be honest enough with readers so a virtual connection is made.

Regular readers of Satisfying Retirement know a fair amount about me, my wife, Betty, and our retirement lifestyle. But, something I read on another blog got me to think about some other parts of my life that may give a reader a clearer glimpse into some of my motivations and personality. Without getting too personal here are some parts of my life that have made me who I am today. Maybe you can see some similarities.

I quit my first job as a camp counselor in training. The reason says a lot about the strength of my ties to family (and something about my maturity level at the time). I quit because I was homesick. At age 14 that might strike you as a little weird. I had been to summer camp as an attendee for several 2-3 week stints and did just fine. But, suddenly being in charge of 11 younger boys for 8 weeks was more than I was ready to tackle. After a week I called my parents to come and get me. To their eternal credit they did not discuss my "failure" but simply took me home.

16 years old: first job on radio
As these things sometimes happen, being home that summer meant I was able, a few months later, to find a small local radio station that would hire me as a part time janitor. A year and a half later that opened the door to my eventual 35 year career in broadcasting. That "failure" ended up being a life changer for me.

My college degree had absolutely nothing to do with my career path. By the time I was ready for college I knew what my career would be. I was fully committed to radio. I was accepted at Syracuse University and started attending in the fall of 1967. I applied because Syracuse had one of the top broadcasting programs in the country. But, after attending a few of the classes and seeing their facilities it became quite apparent that area of study was going to be bad choice. The techniques I was being taught were old-fashioned and not practical, like how to produce radio dramas. The campus radio station was set up like stations in the 1940's, teaching skills that no longer existed in the real world.

So, I ending up switching majors to International Relations. Syracuse had a strong reputation for training diplomats and those in government service who worked overseas. When I told my fellow students I wanted to play records on the radio they wondered about my sanity. But as it turns out, that college major was an excellent choice. I studied political science, political geography, history, social sciences, research and public relations, art history, plus a smattering of debate techniques. I wanted a well rounded liberal arts education and got it. The fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with my career was a plus.

I started to smoke for an incredibly dumb reason. Both my parents were smokers during the period when virtually every adult did. But, they both quit sometime in late 1950's. I never learned why but they showed me it could be done. Later I would use that strength to help me.

I began smoking at age 20 for the dumbest reason in the world: so I would not cough when I was handed a joint at a party. I took up a habit that is dirty, dangerous, costly, and makes you smell like an ashtray so I could smoke an illegal drug with friends. My only excuse was this was the 1960's: joints and college students were good friends. Couple that with my job playing rock records and partying with rock artists and smoking a "J" was almost a requirement.

A few years later the joints disappeared from my life when I grasped how stupid it was. But, by then I was hooked on cigarettes. My constant travel, being alone in airplanes and hotels for days at a time keep me puffing away for years.

Finally, a combination of events and a desire to not have my growing children aware that daddy smoked lead me to quit cold turkey. It was miserable but necessary. That was over 30 years ago and I haven't been tempted since. Looking back, the reason I started to smoke seems so ridiculous. But, at the time it was a completely logical choice!

Not quite as interesting but still part of the story I came from a family of librarian's which may explain my love of books and reading. I am a ham radio operator which allows me to still "be on the radio" but in a very different way. I am a dog person and believe that cats are not mentioned in the Bible for a reason. OK, that last sentence is a bit snarky. Cats have their place, just not in my house.

So, there you have it: a bit more about the the person who fills this blog space. What do you think? Are you now a little worried about me? Do you fear I may be a bad influence? Or, can we all agree growing up involves a fair number of wrong choices? By the way, Betty and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary in June. None of this is new information to her!

Anything you'd like to share? Feel free to make up a fake name or use the anonymous choice if you'd feel more comfortable!


  1. SO interesting, Bob - thanks for sharing! Every choice we make leads us to experiences that build our character (for better or worse) and the sum of those choices equals the people we are today. None of us is perfect (although, wouldn't that be nice?!) and probably most of us simply try to do the best we can with what we have available at any given time. Your choices have led you to a happy life with a wonderful woman and a successful career in more than one field. I say good for you!

    1. Thanks, Mary. Yes,Call it good genes or good luck, but my life has been a relatively smooth and happy ride, at least so far!

  2. Bob, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm grateful because we have somewhat similar paths. I entered college to obtain a degree in journalism, but never used the degree professionally. Like you, I was a child of the sixties and subject to the draft. By the time I was discharged from the Army with a wife and a baby, I was on a fast track to earn some money and journalism was not that track. I ended up in construction, but have always written to keep the synapses firing. Today, I blog for the same reason. I also started smoking for a dumb reason. As a young Army Lieutenant living in Europe, cigarettes were 19 cents a pack. I picked up the habit because I felt that cheap cigarettes were a "benefit" and I didn't want to lose out. I gave it up after about three years however. One other similarity is that I always wanted to be in radio broadcasting. I would never had made it though...I have a voice like a hillbilly with a cold. Thanks again for sharing, and best wishes for continued success with your website and books.

    1. I remain fascinated by some of the subjects I studied in the International Relations field. That was a good choice, even if I never earned a living from the information.

      Radio was a fun career and has been very good to me, but that industry has changed so much I barely recognize it anymore. I am part owner of a radio station on Kauai, but just as an investor. The inner workings are left to those substantially younger than I.

  3. I thought I took up smoking for the dumbest reason: I wanted to be cool. Well, I could've smoked 10 packs a day and still fallen short on the cool-o-meter. So eventually I gave it up, too. Agree with you about dogs and cats, except for our beloved tailless Sassy who was with us for 18 years. Anyway, thanks for the interesting post.

    1. I didn't want to upset my then-girlfriend by coughing up expensive and illegal marijuana. That I got through several years of that behavior without getting busted still amazes me.

  4. Hi Bob! I always enjoy reading bits and pieces from the life of bloggers I read and follow regularly. If I just want plain "news" I can go to those type of sites. But with blogs I think it is nice to recognize that we are each a filter to what we right about -- and while I think our readers can guess some of it--sometimes those details just make our connections deeper. So thanks. It's nice to know a bit more about you. And yes, I regrettably picked up smoking right out of highschool and kept it up to my early 30s. Thank good I also had the example of my father to show me that you CAN kick that habit. I am SO-O glad to be done with it and have become a regular smoker-policemen now. It happens. ~Kathy

    1. THere is no other decision in my life that had the potential to cause me serious legal and medical harm. I was 38 when I finally quit for good. Seeing teenagers and young adults smoke is so disturbing. They know what harm they are doing to themselves but continue anyway.

      Like you, I do enjoy learning a bit more about the people I read. I have been blessed to meet several in person and become real, not just virtual, friends.

  5. Other than the radio thing I recognized lots of this. I started smoking my first day of college, to be cool. My dad had been a heavy smoker and I hated it, so now I look back and wonder, what was I thinking? I ended up quitting cold turkey on January 15, 1984 from a pack and a half day habit because of a request from our son, one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life. It took a long time to get over smoking - not the actual smoking part, but because I missed the rituals that went along with having a cigarette. I have a LOT of empathy for anyone trying to quit any addictive behavior, be that drugs, gambling, alcohol, spending, etc. I also did the whole marijuana thing, but saw it as a purely social thing and never something I had to have or do, so never missed it when I gave it up. I've been honest with all my kids about my use of marijuana, and always told them no judgements but thankfully none of them have been interested, either in alcohol or other drugs (and I am not some naive mom either).

    I started out in college as a nursing major, but eventually came to realize that's what everyone else thought I should be studying/doing, and not what I wanted to do. Actually, I didn't know what I wanted to do! As the child of a working mother (when women rarely worked outside the home) I found I enjoyed staying home and raising my children, although I did go back and eventually earn an MA in teaching English to speakers of other languages, a job/career I enjoyed. I was encouraged to go on for my Ph.D. but was tired at that point of going to school and didn't want to disrupt the family or our finances any more so didn't. I still dream though of going back and earning an M.A. in History, always my favorite subject. We'll see.

    I have absolutely no complaints about my life or the paths it's taken; I've learned from every experience and sometimes have to pinch myself that things have turned out the way they did. It hasn't all been easy, but it's been a good life overall and I have learned and experienced more than I ever thought I would back in the day.

    (And now I'll go through a 20-step verification process Blogger requires for my comment to be posted since I'm commenting from overseas!)

    1. Speaking of overseas, it certainly seems you and Brett are enjoying your 'round the world trip, even if it has been very rainy in Florence! READERS: keep up to date by reading the Occasional Nomads blog.

      I find the comments on smoking so far to be interesting ...starting due to peer pressure or to be cool (a feeling caused in part by advertising). I really have no idea why younger people smoke now. Finding a place to light up is a hassle and no one is so disconnected to not understand the damage being done.

      I wonder how many people were like you and me: taking a college major that wasn't a good fit or for another purpose. Betty, for example, got her degree in Graphic Design and used that skill for only a few years. Of course, that was well before computers so everything she learned is ancient history now.

  6. Bob, I also took up smoking. It happened while I was in college. I started to fit in with friends who were also smokers and continued because it made me more comfortable in social settings. I quit 8 years later. It wasn't easy at first, but I did it. Now 37 years later, I am glad I did. Thanks for sharing about your background. We all make choices that we end up regretting.


    1. Life is a string of decisions, some smart, some dumb. Overall, I am happy with the way things have turned out so far.

      I tried to quit smoking multiple times over a 4 or 5 year period. Thank goodness it finally stuck.

  7. That pic of you at the radio board is very reminiscent to me. I worked at a small town station in the early '70's and it looked a lot like that! Some great memories and some crazy ones. (The owner was a bit nuts.)

    Also wanted to say my brother started smoking in the Army when the guys who smoked got a ten minute break every hour to smoke. What a crazy incentive the Army provided, and he struggled a long time to quit.

    LOL on the cat remark. I'm allergic, so they have no place in our home either. But they do seem much more low maintenance than our dog.

    1. That control board was very typical in smaller stations in the 60's and early 70's. It was simple to operate and didn't have many parts that could break. The on/off switch for the mic was the only thing I remember having to be replaced a few times. Of course, being AM, there was no issue of stereo controls!

      Cats are much easier than dogs to care for, but they are just too independent for me to fit the definition of a pet. Besides, one of my daughters and wife are allergic.

  8. I was raised by very “hands-off” parents. People may feel this is a good antidote to what some see as over-parenting today but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Really, I had little interaction with my parents, family trips out, going fishing or playing catch with my father just wasn’t done. I don’t think I can blame them. Dad was a hard-working blue-collar guy (a non-drinker too) that I think was focused on just getting the bills paid and my mother went back to work as soon as my sister entered grade 1 at school. Contrary to the “Leave it to Beaver” stereotype money was very tight in our 1950s family. With both of my parents working full time jobs I suppose spending time with children wasn’t high on their to do list.

    My parents were both an only child too, perhaps that had something to do with it. In any case we weren’t poor, just working class, my parents had bought the house we lived in, and it wasn’t a bad childhood just “hands-off”. Probably it was the old “children are better seen than heard” approach.

    This hands-off style extended to my education. Whether I had an “A” or a “D” on my report card never seemed to make any difference to my parents one way or the other. The fact that I went every day and didn’t get into trouble was good enough for them. Perhaps understandably I didn’t have much of an academic career and once I hit high-school it really fell apart for me. At age 16, I left school after the 9th grade feeling I was a not very bright. At heart I am an introvert which meant I also had almost no friends. In high school having lousy marks, little athletic ability, and few friends is a good way to get bullied. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good experience.

    Since everyone else seems to mention it, perhaps one good thing is that I never took up smoking to “fit in.” The odd thing is I am the only person in my family that never smoked.

    After I left school, I got a job in a mailroom of a small publishing business with about 20 employees. What a difference being with adults all day instead of confused high-school kids with something to prove either to themselves or others. These adults treated me as a more or less equal which for me was an eye opener. After a couple of years this gave me some confidence and I figured I’d need to do more than working in the mail room if I was going to be able to lead an independent life. With only a limited education this would be difficult but I found a trade I could get into which was auto body repair.

    I had to pass proficiency tests as even then grade 9 wasn’t enough to get into any trade but auto body repair only required grade 10 and if I could pass the test, I was in. I passed and began my apprenticeship. I still have my license on the wall of my home office, the first thing I ever graduated from. I also kept that license up to date until I turned 60.

    At age 26 I was accepted into a major university 10 years after I left high school with only a grade 9 education. As it turned out, after taking a variety of subjects in first year, I majored in computer science (ever the nerd I guess) and had a long and successful career in IT after leaving university, the last 20 years in corporate IT management.

    One part of that success was meeting my now wife 6 months before I started at university. She hung in there with me and immediately after university we were married, bought a house, and started our family (there was no time to waste). We raised 2 beautiful daughters and have grandchildren that we love to death. My wife and I both retired at the same time, almost 4 years ago now, and still spend most of our time together. It has not always been smooth but it has always been worth it.

    1. David sent me a lengthy, but fascinating recount of some of the challenges in his life. I had to edit some of it to fit Google's restrictions, but the essence of his story is still here: personal perseverance and natural abilities overcame several obstacles.

      From a disconnected parenting style from mom and dad, through a tough high school experience, various job paths, and finally graduating from university, starting a family, and happily retiring, David's story is a good one.

      There are lessons here for all of us.


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