Midweek Musings – Multi-Tools

It was many (many) years ago that I purchased a Leatherman Wave multi-tool after my buddy had spent months raving about his. So many years and lives later I must say, I feel naked without it on my belt.

I hesitate to even wager a guess at how many times in a given day I find myself reaching for it.

I do just about everything with it. I’ve repaired guitars, worked on computers, and opened more boxes and assembled more toys than I could ever count.

I’ve used it as a hammer, a door stop, a means of steadying a stubborn nail in a cramped space as I feebly try to hammer it into place. I’ve removed splinters and trimmed branches. I’ve sliced, diced, filed, shaved, and sawed just about anything you can do that to and probably things you shouldn’t.

I could probably perform minor to moderate surgery with nothing but my trusty Leatherman and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy.

Which brings me to my musing for today: Are you a multi-tool?

It’s something to strive towards.

Some may frame this concept as the old cliché that says “jack of all trades but master of none” but I don’t particularly care for that description. It suggests that by its very definition a “jack of all trades” is not or cannot be a master in and themselves.

I believe flexibility, fluidity, and adaptability to be among the most valuable character traits we can have in life, professionally or personally.

Just a cursory review of the most successful people in the world will show that very few of them are “just a hammer” or “just a flat-head screwdriver.” Those that may have been typically have clear enough vision to surround themselves with a bevy of multi-tools.

Organizations, both large and small, in every industry have armies of employees with titles like “Manager – Special Projects and Design” or “Project Specialist.” As a matter of fact, mine is “Communications and Projects Specialists.”

These titles beg the question: “So what does someone with such a title actually do?”

Well…pretty much anything.

In my case I prepare a great deal of internal and external communications collateral. It could be security white sheets, new business development proposals, internal training and education guides, data documents for clients or just a sign telling everyone when the next pot luck will be.

I also manage extensive and complex international travel logistics involving flights, planning executive-level meetings, conferences, and events around the world. I help our team by ensuring their travel visas and passports are in order and that everything has been handled to ensure they are able to get to and from anywhere in the world in order to serve our clients.

I do graphic design, new employee on-boarding, negotiate vendor contracts. Ask me in an hour and I’ll have three more, seemingly complexly unrelated tasks to knock out.

One of my most recent projects has been to create a step-by-step, easy-to-understand, all-encompassing guidebook for how our new expense management software solution works because of course the materials provided were anything but.

My company relies on me to fill gaps no matter where they may open. I’m the Leatherman multi-tool on my company’s belt.

This is most certainly the case for independent small business owners, like Ashley Newman of Houston’s Ashley Newman Photography.

A brilliant and creative photographer and storyteller, her passion led her to take a big step into the world of creating her own company to manage full-time.

In the two years or so since she made that decision it is safe to say that she is anything but “just” a photographer.

In addition to standing behind the camera Ashley has had to develop skills in web design and development. She is her own social media marketing and communications manager charged with developing and implementing multi-platform campaigns while defining and targeting market segments and audiences. Small business owners like her must be accountants, financial planners, and logistics specialists.

They have to vet and manage their vendors, handle purchasing, new technology assessment and implementation…oh and in Ashley’s case being a spouse, a parent, a friend, and everything else that life throws at us every day.

Multi-tools are, by design, masters of being able to do anything and everything whenever the moment calls for it to do be done.

Job seekers will immediately distinguish themselves from other applicants by demonstrating their ability to be entrusted with critical but diverse challenges while delivering superlative results.

An existing employee will make themselves essential an invaluable within their organization by showing a willingness to take on any new challenge no matter how foreign or “outside of their job description.”

Small businesses become successful larger businesses when they are led by someone willing to push themselves beyond the core activity that drove them to start the company in the first place.

So again I’ll ask: are you a multi-tool?

We should all be!

That’s it for today!

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

With This Ring….

 

Anyone who knows me understands how much baseball means to me. Anyone who knows me understands what this season continues to signify to me. I shared some of those thoughts a while back.

I struggled with whether or not to join the thousands of people lining up the night before in order to have a chance at getting one of these earlier this season when they announced a giveaway promotion.

After years of rooting for my beloved team and going through this incredible season it was so very tempting but I decided to avoid the crowds and see if I couldn’t find one later on down the road. Fortunately enough one was gifted to me just the other day! I’m not sure what looks better the incredibly well-crafted ringing or the dashing center fielder Jake Marisnick. (Yeah, I said it. haha)

seriously? It’s not even fair how good looking this guy is. 😉

 I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to truly describe what this ring really means to me but I’ll try.

I’m not a memorabilia guy. My “collectibles” at this point in my life consist largely of Lincoln Logs, analgesic cream, and orphaned sippy cup lids.

Some guys are really into sports memorabilia. They get the jerseys and signatures and all that. They may see a ring like this as something to hold on to for a while and then sell or trade it down the line.

To others it is a neat souvenir. They’ll put it on their office desk, show it off for a day, and promptly forget it’s even there.

For me it’s something much more. Hell, for me, it doesn’t even belong solely to me.

With this ring I share a lifetime of stories and coaching and anecdotes and “who was better” discussions with my father. My father, incidentally, was the proud and popular Spanish voice of the Houston Astros throughout the 80s and into the early 90s. I can’t count how many times I sat in the booth with him watching Jose Cruz, Ken Caminiti, Craig Biggio, and the rest.

My dad coached my peewee team and no matter how many times I struck out or just begged for a walk because I knew getting a hit was off the table he always encouraged me.

With this ring I share with my father the difficult months after Harvey when the Astros were our only escape from a reality we are still struggling to reconcile ourselves with and develop a path forward within.

This ring is his as much as it is mine.

With this ring I share a brotherhood with one of the most influential people in my life. Our shared love of music and baseball formed the basis of the kind of friendship that only a blessed few ever receive. I will never fully square the debt I owe him for his love and for teaching me so much about songwriting, for putting his arm around me as I slumped in a corner suffering the kind of heartache that can only be felt at such a young age, and for inspiring me to just be a better me.

David his beautiful wife Tina, and my son, Young Master Oliver at a ball game.

During the 2017 season he experienced a profound loss. His entire family did.  The Astros provided him, and all of us, with something to hold on to. When we didn’t want to talk about it, (or couldn’t) we could pick apart AJ Hinch’s lineup card. We could go back and forth on whether or not Gattis was awesome. Incidentally, judging by the last month or so, David was right and I was so very wrong. He usually is and I usually am.

This ring is his as much as it is mine.

With this ring I share a renewed connection and love for another friend I’d long since lost touch with. Where did Chris and I see one another for the first time in a decade? We saw each other at Minute Maid Park.

Chris and I at Minute Maid

Since that afternoon we’ve chatted almost daily. It’s been fascinating to see how much we’ve changed and yet somehow managed to remain those angsty teenagers relentlessly clinging to…well…whatever it is we’re were clinging to back then. Haha

I’m astounded at how radically some of our opinions have changed over the years.

He likes Led Zeppelin now!

I love the Smiths now!

We both finally came to our senses.

We’ve both been through our fair share of life in our years apart and I think we would have been better off together through it all but we’re together now and that’s enough.

He, David, and I have a shared text message thread and it is never lower than the third spot on my phone for as often as we talk throughout the day. As if we are still sitting on Dave’s sofa or on a park bench, the three of us are goofing around, telling stories, ranking songs, and talking Astros baseball.

This ring is his as much as it is mine.

With this ring I share a revived connection with a girl who I’ve known since those days on the peewee field flailing about just trying to at least look like I might make contact with the ball. Jennifer and I had not spoken in a number of years due to reasons and circumstances that just don’t seem to matter anymore.

I’m grateful to once again be back in touch, sharing music, trading bits of trivia, and as much as anything, rooting for our boys on the field. Throughout that incredible run up to the Series, every cheer or nervous “oh man I can’t take this anymore” we shared, so too did it seem like we slowly began to reaffirm a bond I’d long thought broken and discarded. I’ve missed her friendship more than I’d allowed myself to admit to anyone including myself.

This ring is hers as much as it is mine.

With this ring I share the the joy of newfound passion with my buddy Jon. Jon was hardly a sports fan. Our relationship was rooted mostly in music, cooking, and trying to one-up the other in that timeless game of “What’s grosser…” and “What would you rather do?” As the season went on and he saw my enthusiasm and that of the entire city he found himself wondering what all of the hubbub was about. All of the sudden I began getting text messages.

“What’s the infield fly rule?”

“Wait, why is that guy out? The ball went foul.”

“Oh man! Did you see that catch!?”

One of the most intelligent and creative people I know, I’ve learned so much and been challenged to examine issues from different perspectives. Now was my turn to help him learn something new, to expose him to something I knew a little bit about.

He’s a very tech-savvy and analytical guy so of course he has now digested the entirety of 200 years of baseball statistics. He’s not just watching Astros games. He’s watching random games from the national league, keeping track of farm clubs, and trolling other teams’ fans in their online discussion forums. Jon is now a baseball fan…a big one. This ring is as much his as it is mine….though he needs to stop calling them “points.” It’s baseball. They’re called “RUNS” damn it.

With this ring I share a tender but also tumultuous season with my son Oliver.

We were hit hard by Harvey and I can’t fathom a more patient and courageous child. As I endeavored to rescue my parents, get them settled into our home, battle back the waters that threatened to flood our home running around like a madman trying to learn how to operate a generator, find gasoline, keep the milk cold, and just get through the next hour or two he watched and waited for any second we could find to grab a hug, for me to cradle him, or take him on a piggy-back ride while lugging bags of laundry and extension cords around the house. He was a such a champ.

We had spent the whole season cuddled up watching every single game. He chanted “Altuuuuuveeee” every time Jose came to bat and we cheered every time that dreamboat Marisnick seemed to defy gravity catching a line drive in center. 

This boy has stood by my side every day of his life and we are bound for life. I could not be more proud of anyone. Seeing him handle the upheaval, the loss of electricity, the heat and humidity, the complete disruption to his routine was humbling. Once we got the power back and TV back on we went back to our routine with my dad watching every game right on through that magical World Series win.


This ring is definitely as much his as it is mine.

I love you son. Thank you.

Go Astros!

#NeverSettle
#EarnedIt

Be Well and Kind,
Jason

 

The More Things Change…The More Things Change

Things are different with me these days.

I have changed quite a bit over the recent past due to two distinct reasons.

Growing up, my family escaped the worst of nature’s wrath. As a child I watched a neighbor’s tree get ripped from the ground but nothing really happened to our house. We had various flooding events as I grew up but again nothing really impacted us.

Tropical Storm Alison flooded my apartment but very few of my possessions were destroyed. We only had about 8 inches of water and it came in so slowly that I was able to get my valuables off the ground. My car needed a good washing. That was about it.

Katrina and Rita didn’t directly impact us either.

Ike knocked out another neighbor’s tree and destroyed part of their house and both cars but we were only out of electricity for about 6 hours. We had a little water seep into one room.

My parents were without power for about 2 weeks but they sat on the patio and grilled, came over to do laundry, and everyone was relatively ok. I had other friends who lived in a cul de sac full of outdoorsy folks so they had a huge block party with everyone emptying their deep freezers and firing up the grills and smokers.

Then the Tax Day Floods came. My parents were not flooded out of their home  but they were flooded in. It was impossible to reach their door without a boat. It took over a week for the water to drain. Getting my dad’s medication was a bit of a challenge. I was worried about what would happen if I needed to get to them or get them out in an emergency.

Just like that, things were starting to hit much closer to home and it seemed as if these events were experiencing a crescendo.

Still, afterwards everything went back to normal and such concerns faded to the background again.

Enter Harvey.

We are closing in on one year since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It’s amazing to think about that because of how much the storm still seems to linger over so many of our lives.

There are homes yet to be repaired. There are people yet to determine what to do with their houses and where they’ll live. Some kids are still waiting for their schools to reopen.

Before the storm, a new strip centering being built meant everyone wondered if there would be a Starbucks or a Kohl’s but now then news of a new real estate development project is greeted with questions about flood mediation. Citizens that never once thought about things like how an empty patch of grass helps control water flow have become comment thread activists on the NextDoor app. We’ve all gotten a crash course in city planning and civil engineering.

Looking back Harvey does not seem like an isolated incident. Rather, it seems like the most recent in a series of ever-building events.

Reality hit me at about 4:00 am on the morning of the storm when I left the house looking for batteries and a flashlight. It was the first in a flurry of shots I would receive over the coming days and weeks.

The experience of trying to provide and protect my family during and after the storm, of trying to manage the logistics of things like finding pharmacies and grocery stores that were both open AND accessible, of finding gas, of finding something to put the gas in, of learning how to use a generator, of trying to keep Oliver cool and entertained…all of that has changed me.

Before Harvey I had some tools in the garage, a couple extension cords, a decent drill, an old roll of duct tape, and that was about it. I had a couple flashlights, one broken, and another in need of batteries.

Since that Saturday morning, I’ve amassed a generator, a dozen cords, fans, a stack of power bricks, flashlights of every variety, batteries, cases of water, half a dozen gas cans, and I just invested in a freezer. I have a pair of thick tactical boots that served me incredibly well throughout the storm and afterwards.

If I see a sale on water, I grab it. If I see a clearance price on a power brick, head lamp, batteries, I take it.

I pay closer attention to things like how much of my medication I have at any given time and try not to wait until the day before to call in the refill. I keep tabs on things like how much paper towel, water, and batteries I have. I have a full tank of propane and now I have a smoker…as much for the joy of outdoor cooking as for being able to cook without electricity. I’ve always been a bit of a weather buff but now even more so.

Of course all of this “prepping” may be for pointless. Let’s face it, Another will come and when it does there will only be so much we can do. The storm could flood my house wash away my precious stockpiles.

Yet, I do these things because I’m different now.

So too have I noticed a sharp change in myself for another reason.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Aurora, Tucson, the Sikh Temple, Sandy Hook, Boston, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Santa Fe, 2-inch bulletproof glass at the bank, metal detectors at the ballpark, “see something say something” and everything in between have chipped away any sense of comfort I had when out in public.

I am different now.

Mind you, I was not raised in a fantasy world where crime didn’t exist. My comfortably middle-class upbringing did not obstruct my view of reality. People got shot, robbed, raped, stabbed, and beat up. A schoolmate’s father went into a rage one night and murdered his mother as my classmate watched.

But I was never so aware or alert as I have become as these events have occurred one after the other. Much as with Harvey, the Santa Fe shooting seems like another step in a seemingly endless progression, one that keeps getting closer.

So now when I get out of the car I look in all directions. I go inside and scan the room. Where are the exits? Is it crowded? Does anything seem “off?” My ears are wide open listening for shouting, loud pops or bangs. I try not to focus so much on my shopping list that I lose track of where I am in the store, who is around me, and whether or not I can move freely and quickly if the need arises.

I like to take Oliver shopping with me. We have a ball describing things we see, singing, greeting other shoppers and store employees. Best of all, we usually come home with a toy.

On such a day out we found ourselves at the local Wal-Mart.

This particular visit began much like any other. I got out of the car; glanced around the parking lot, and pulled Oliver from his seat. We danced our way into the store and got as far as the frozen food section before we heard a wild alarm and people shouting. It was much louder than the ones heard when a customer walks out with a shirt that still had the security tag on it. It was scary. People around me ducked for cover, one woman fell flat on her stomach, hands over her head.

Oliver shouted, “Daddy! What’s that noise!?” Instinctively I grabbed him tight and turned my head towards the source while also slowly walking in a direction from which I could quickly make a dart for the exit if things went south.

I made a game of it by telling him it was the “Wal-Mart Police” who must have “arrested” a little boy for being too crazy in the store. (Everywhere we go has its own police force. There’s McDonald’s Police, Kroger Police, Target Police, Zoo Police. They all arrest crazy toddlers who drive their fathers bonkers. That’s how I roll. Sue me. Haha)

Whatever it was turned out to be nothing but for a few moments I thought things were going in a different direction.

That moment reaffirms my insecurities about letting Oliver out of my sight as much as it does my concern of taking him out. I don’t want him to go anywhere without me. Granted, a big part of this is because I want to spend every second I can with him. He’s my son and beyond loving him, I really do like him. He’s three years old and already my best friend.

The other side of that is the fear of something bad happening and me not being there for him. The idea of sending him off to school is nerve-racking.

And it isn’t like I could necessarily “save” him from anything. What am I going to do? I don’t carry a gun. I’ve never even held one and despite having memorized every training montage from every Rocky movie I have yet to “eat lightning or crap thunder.”

I have a hard time swatting a roach. (What? They’re freakish creatures. Some of them can FLY! Did you know that?! Evolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be sometimes.)

The fact is that if something is going to happen to Oliver then it should happen to me. If he’s sick then we’re sick. If he’s happy then we’re happy. If he’s frustrated then we’re frustrated. If he gets to go to the zoo then I get to go to the zoo.

We’re in this together.

And just like that, Reality comes back to throw another stiff jab.

I can stockpile all the AAs and water bottles in the world and I can keep Oliver in my arms 24/7 but I can’t really keep anything from happening can I? I can’t really prepare for anything can I?

I couldn’t have prevented Harvey from flooding my house anymore than I was able to keep it from happening to my parents down the street. If my house was going to flood it was going to flood.

If someone had shot up that Wal-Mart then all I would have been able to do is scoop Oliver up and try to get the hell out of there. Maybe we would have. Maybe I would have tripped over my own feet and fallen into the display of value size Heinz ketchup while dozens of people trampled us on their way out. Maybe something worse happens.

And so I am different now.

I am different because while I always accepted that I have no control over any tragedy that life may bring I had never truly allowed that feeling to get deep inside of me. I pushed all that aside, tucked it away deep in the back of my mind and as such my lack of preemptive action didn’t really mean much.

Now? I wallow in the ironic futility of so much preparedness.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in some constant state of fear. I’ve not spent the last ten months stockpiling arms and MREs while researching how to capture rainwater and fashion gas masks from Downy dryer sheets. (Gain smells better, don’t you think?)

There are no plans to build a bunker beneath The Cathedral.

It just makes sense to always have an extra box of AAs around, mostly so I have enough to keep Oliver’s trains chugging.

Why wait to run out of water or anything really, and have to pay full price when you can stock up during a sale?

I can’t wait to get the new freezer on Saturday. It was purchased as much for being able to take advantage of sales as anything else.

I’ll be able to stock up on Oliver’s Eggos du jour. My dad can buy all the Digiorno frozen pizzas he wants and come Thanksgiving, I’ll be able to grab an extra one for later in the year!

But reality is never so far away that it’s truly in the back of my mind. The freezer, like everything else I’ve collected over the year, will come in handy when the next storm arrives.

Every generation debates whether or not the world has changed, whether things were “different back then.”

The world might be different. It might not be.

But I am different now.

 

Be Well and Kind,

jason

 

 

Russ Freed – Carving Out a New Chapter in Life and Business One Handcrafted Wooden Bowl at a Time

Russ Freed is never at a loss for words. His passion for carving out stories from his eclectic and successful life in business is as elegant and complex as the array of hand-crafted woodwork to which he has devoted this chapter of his life.

A New Jersey native who earned his B.S. from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Russ may not at first glance appear to be the sort of person who would so enthusiastically embrace Texas, or woodworking for that matter.  However, if anything is true about Russ Freed it’s that in business as in life, one must cultivate opportunities, embrace change, and follow your passions wherever they may lead.

For over twenty years he had a successful career within the chemicals industry that found him traveling the country until 2001 found him at somewhat of a crossroads, both figuratively and literally. Leaving the company he co-founded and sold, as well as his career in the rearview mirror, Russ decided to hit the open road on a cross country motorcycle trip from Houston to Canada and back again. Perhaps weary from the long journey, he agreed to take a step into his next professional adventure, this time in the auto industry where he became one of the most successful sales representatives within the Audi dealer network.

Over 10 years and countless cars later however, Russ needed another challenge, another story to tell. This new journey however would mean going back to the beginning, to his childhood learning woodwork at his father’s side.

Russ fondly recalls his youth and initiation into the world of woodwork:

“When I was a kid, I enjoyed helping my Dad with his various projects around the house.  If we needed a fire pit to barbeque hotdogs and burgers, my Dad made it.  Need a fence around the house? Sure, let’s build it.  So, at a very early age, I remember a picture of me at age 4 with a set of plastic ‘tools.’   Using saws and hammers, and other tools was second-nature for me.”

This DIY spirit planted by his father started Russ on a path that has seen him craft everything from custom cabinetry and fine furniture to one-of-a-kind jewelry boxes like the one he made as a birthday gift for his then girlfriend Amy, who is now his wife of 37 years.

Russ credits his father with not only inspiring his woodworking but also as being his biggest influence in life and business.

“He taught me the importance of honesty, integrity, and a solid work ethic, which have led me ably in my entire career. He taught me the importance of staying true to your values, regardless of outside forces to sway you away from center.”

Completely self-taught aside from the tutelage provided by his father, Russ has developed and refined the philosophy that guides his woodworking by pouring through every issue of the classic Fine Woodworking Magazine and imbibing everything from great woodworker and writer James Krenov. Russ enthusiastically describes his affinity for those old magazine articles and how he’s kept so many copies of articles:
“I was mesmerized by this magazine and bought all of the older issues I had not seen, and read them over and over again.  I still have hundreds of articles I cut out through the years in a dozen binders as referral guides.”

Years of working in his garage finally ceded to a proper woodworking shop when Russ and his wife made the move to Montgomery County where they designed and built what the couple hopes will be their forever home after years of living inside the Houston Loop.

Where the magic happens

Russ, finally free to explore the depth and range of his inspiration and talents in a proper workspace made the decision to devote himself full-time to crafting wood. The result was establishing a new company (nearly 25 years after his first) Baxter Blue Woodworks, named for his chief assistant, a Wheaten Terrier.

Russ was always hesitant to sell his work but was finally prodded into doing so by friends and family. His work was inspired by his creative spirit and love of crafting wood, not by a desire for profit but reconnecting with an old friend would help bring a new mission and purpose to his life and work…one which was close to his heart.

Nancy Riviere, a dear friend he met during his tenure with Audi, created WIGOUT, a non-profit organization that provides cancer patients with wigs, scarves, and hats as they battle breast cancer and other diseases being treated with chemotherapy. Nancy herself is a two-time breast cancer survivor who selflessly started the organization during her second bout with the horrific disease.

After having lost his mother to breast cancer at an early age and his wife’s recent battle with the disease, Russ decided to donate all profits to this incredible organization and with that, Baxter Blue Woodworks found its role within the marketplace and community.

Baxter Blue Woodworks focuses on custom one-of-a-kind cheese boards, cutting boards, and fine lathe-turned bowls. Armed with his successful career in sales and marketing and development and implementation of business strategies Russ has set out on his newest and perhaps most important chapter in his life and business.

Though new to social media and ecommerce, Russ has the benefit of a lifetime spent in developing sales and marketing strategies, establishing brand awareness, and cultivating customer loyalty. By approaching his customers with the same individual care and attention to detail that he does each piece of wood in his workshop he is able to both educate and inspire his clients. Like his finely lathe-turned bowls, each customer is unique with their own expectations, tastes, and style. As Russ puts it, “I find that too many artists and craftsmen in the world have amazing talents and skills, but don’t successfully communicate their talent to the outside world.  I have seen countless examples of amazing work at craft shows that doesn’t get sold because the artist doesn’t know how to relate to their buyer.” He continues, “Fortunately, my career experience of selling, managing others to sell, and teaching sales training, have all helped me in my new venture.  Engaging customers when they are looking at my woodworks helps us to form a bond that makes them want to buy something.”

While Baxter Blue specializes in a variety of bowls and boards, Russ is also able to provide unique custom work such as a one-of-kind coffee table he is currently working on for one of his clients. These custom orders provide Russ to further showcase his skill while still keeping with his belief in avoiding mass-production of identical pieces. For Russ the creative component of wood working is as essential as the wood itself. His commitment to quality, originality, and honoring the uniqueness of each piece of word he uses shines in everything he creates from a simple cheese board made of maple to a gorgeous custom made coffee table made from a massive plank of walnut.

“It’s hard to explain, like a musician trying to explain how they write a song,” Russ states. “But, the grain pattern, color, and texture of the wood all seem to combine to send me signals as to what that piece of wood should become.”

Currently Baxter Blue can be found every first and third weekend at the Farmers Market in The Woodlands, TX where Russ enjoys engaging everyone that walks by to answer questions about his work, tell the stories behind each piece, and spin yarns about with the same care and joy he spins his gorgeous bowls. Though new to social media strategies, he is finding success in sharing his stories through Facebook and Instagram and is looking forward to establishing a new ecommerce site for Baxter Blue in order to further expand his presence in the marketplace.

While some may not see a connection between his extensive background in the chemicals industry or the automotive industry with his current life as a wood worker, Russ is enthusiastic about how much his background continues to form the foundation of Baxter Blue’s current and future success.
He has six key points that he credits for his success throughout his career:

  1. Working harder than anyone else because I was far from being the brightest among my coworkers
  2. Develop a reputation for being straightforward and consistent
  3. Honesty and Integrity
  4. Fast response to customers and coworkers, people know they can count on him
  5. Take your work seriously but not yourself
  6. Value “street smarts” as much as any formal education…it’s important to be able to quickly assess individuals and have common sense.

When all is said and done, while Russ may be humble about Baxter Blue’s future growth, his commitment to quality, devotion to his craft and to his customers, and the mission of assisting Wig Out all ensure that Baxter Blue Woodwork will be as successful a venture as everything else Russ has engaged in during his long career.

 

Visit Russ at the The Woodlands Farmer’s Market at Grogan’s Mill every first and third weekend of the month, reach out via Facebook, Instagram, or visit Baxter Blue online at www.baxterbluewoodworks.com.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh

I go through life with an old sitcom-style laugh track in the background. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Three’s Company, All in the Family, Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes, and the rest on TV.

Hurricane Harvey provided very few moments of laughter but there was one. There was one moment that when I look back a hearty laugh arises from my worn soul.

The rain broke and gave way to the vile humidity and oppressive heat that Houston loves to bathe us in. From that perspective at least, everything was back to normal.

Inside the house though there was anything but normal. My recording studio, The Cathedral, had become a staging area for my family’s “recovery” efforts. Bags, boxes, piles of stuff were stacked and thrown everywhere. With no power, there was no way to make a dent in the mountain of laundry that was growing by the hour. All my guitars had been packed and stacked in a corner while amplifiers and recording equipment had been moved from their places when I thought we were going to take on water.

It was hot, dank even, inside the house with only two fans to move air in any given room that we happened to be in at the moment. We all carried flashlights and LED lanterns from room to room, the wife fashioned one by wrapping one of those headband lights around a gallon jug of water…pretty nifty!

We had however, and thankfully, gotten water and sewer service back so my mom was busy cleaning up the kitchen, washing whatever dishes had piled up.

Now a couple years before, shortly after the wife and I purchased our home, I installed a new (what was supposed to be an upgraded) faucet. I was never a fan of it myself. It didn’t swivel smoothly and the buttons that shifted from shower to standard flow were very stiff and required a lot of effort to get either button fully engaged. My mom had been struggling with them the whole time since moving in.

Anyway, it was a crazy day. To say that the scene was cacophonous would be more than a bit mild.

Every conversation and movement was against a backdrop that included a growling generator, all of us shouting to be heard over it and each other. My son, “Young Master” Oliver, chimed in as only he can. That boy’s voice can bring tears of joy and laughter as easily as it can bring pain and torment. That day, as every during this ordeal brought more of the later for certain.

So there we are. That’s the moment.

Mom cleaning up in the kitchen, the wife doing her best to keep Oliver busy and quiet, Dad wanting to know what everyone wants for dinner, and every time I stood still for more than 3 seconds I was assaulted with questions, statements, concerns, what if’s, how to’s, and so many desperate pleas from Oliver to just hold him…it was absolute chaos.

I left to go on a “run” looking for roads out of the neighborhood that led to gas for that generator, milk, and anything else that would be of use in this new environment that wasn’t quite Mad Max or Walking Dead but certainly a bit too reminiscent for my tastes. I honestly have no idea what I went to grab or do, but I left for a few minutes to get something or other.

When I returned, my dad was walking out of the house ready to leave for the one restaurant I found that was both open and accessible. As he greeted me at the car he said “I dunno son, talk to your mother. There’s a problem with the kitchen faucet…something about the pressure or water coming out…I don’t know what it is.”

I walked in, assuming it was those damn buttons again and against that grinding generator that was just a few feet away from the kitchen window I found my mom looking more than a little dejected and concerned. I asked if it was the buttons and she said “oh no son, I’m so sorry! I think I broke the faucet!”

How do you break a faucet? Surely it’s not broken. Surely.

Now my mother can be a bit frantic and anxious, she worries a lot about everyone’s well being and she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders sometimes.

I was certain her discomfort in that moment was born more of the overall situation and that the faucet was just “stuck” or something….but when she turned the faucet handle I immediately realized this was not the case.

The faucet took off like a missile, water shooting up beneath it propelling it towards the ceiling. I would describe it as majestic……if it weren’t my damn faucet ascending towards the heavens and water exploding all over the kitchen.

My mother starts to shout about how she’s so sorry and that we need a plumber, and she will never use the faucet again, and that my whole world has been turned upside down by her mere presence in my home.
In the background the generator’s snarl seems to get even louder.

Is it toying with me?

Oliver’s screams from the other room are combated by the wife’s pleas that are failing to placate his unwavering demands for who knows what. Peppa Pig? Do you want Peppa Pig? No?! Dinosaur? Do you want your dinosaur? What about George? NO!? What is it? Oh god help us all, what is it?!

Amidst all the turmoil I rush to turn the water off and, robbed of its propellant, the faucet clatters into the sink.

I desperately try to reassure my mother than she neither broke the faucet nor has she introduced even a sliver of discomfort or inconvenience to my life. I remember confidently saying “Hold on Ma, it’s nothing. Just let me grab the toolbox.”

I sprint through the recovery area, out the door, into the garage, grab my tools, and sprint back through the obstacle course like I’m auditioning for American Ninja Warrior: Que Pasa Harvey Edition.

 

 

Back in the kitchen I examine the faucet and see that it has a tiny hex bolt that holds it to the base. Obviously it’s just come loose.

Obviously.

My mom is in rapid fire mode. She must have twisted it too much. She must have used it too much. She must have pulled it too much. Call a plumber. She’ll pay for it. (Where we would get a plumber in the midst of a state of disaster I have no idea but that’s not a topic for this moment.)

I again reassure her that it’s nothing. Just a quick flick of the wrist to tighten the bolt and we’re back in business.
I find the right hex key, tighten things up and BAM.

Fixed!

“Ma, look. It’s done. There’s nothing to worry about. It was just loose.”

And with that, I turn the faucet handle.

And…..sky rocket in flight!

Damn thing took off like a Saturn missile…water EVERYWHERE. The faucet seriously almost hit the ceiling this time.

I can’t help it this time. Now I’M the one screaming…the wife hears from the next room.

What’s going on?!

My mom is screaming about a plumber.

The baby is screaming about I don’t know what.

I quickly shut the faucet, get under the counter and cut the water altogether.

And the generator chugs along….seriously, I think it’s getting louder.

My mom, frantically, desperately even, is begging me to call a plumber and to let her pay for it.

I try, as best I can, to calm everything down and say “Ma, there are no plumbers right now. I just need to run over to Home Depot real quick. We’ll have a new faucet in half an hour. Just let me do this.”

“I’ll pay for it!!!!!”

“That’s fine Ma, I just gotta run to the store.”

I go to grab my keys and realize, “crap…dad took my car.”

“Honey, where are your keys?!”

“What?!”

“Your keys! To the car…where are they?!”

“WHAT?!”

The generator is mocking me right now.
I run back towards the wife and ask about the keys. They are, of course, where they “always” are…but I never drive her car so that means nothing to me.

Turns out they are in her bag, on the stool.

Gotcha.

Now I’m in business. I race over to Home Depot, covered in water. I run in and ask the guy where the faucets are. I get a “um…I think…wait…let me ask…”

“Nevermind, I’ll find them.”

When I do I’m greeted by about 538 different models.

Awesome. This is what I need right now.

I pick one out after giving the decision about 9 seconds of thought. I bought a Moen…because you know, buy it for life. 😉

I pay and race home.

Mom is waiting for me.

She’ll pay for it.

Plumber.

Oliver screaming. Wife, “where did you go?”

F#*CK(#NG GENERATOR.

I start at the business of taking apart the Saturn Faucet. There are parts everywhere, water everywhere, toolbox on the counter….all the tools I mistakenly grabbed are now tossed about the floor and counters.

Dad comes home with the food.

“Foods here! Come and eat! Wait, what are you doing son?!”

“What?! HUH?!”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

I hate this generator.

My mom starts answering the question…she broke the faucet, she wanted a plumber, the water is everywhere, the Saturn missile, she’ll pay for it, all of it in painstaking detail in two languages.”

“Son, are you sure you know how to do that?”
Yeah pop.

“Well, come and eat.”

“I’ll eat in a second, I just have to finish this.”

“Ok, well I’m eating. This looks good. Leslie! Come eat, this food is amazing!”

“I’ll wait for Jason.”

Baby screams, mom nervous. That damn generator.

After about 30 minutes I’m back up and running with a faucet that works, and stays put.

I bring my mom over and beg her to try it.

“I see it. It’s very nice. You did a good job.”

“Ma, that’s not enough. I need you to use it. I need you to try it out and see that it works. It’s actually better than the other one.”

“No I see it. It’s nice.”

I know that if I don’t win this battle, she may never actually use the faucet again.

She reluctantly turns the water on, just a bit. She presses both buttons and actually says, “Oh, this is nice. It is so much easier than the other!”

FINALLY! Something goes right.

During all of this I hear my dad at the table. “MMMMM….damn son, this is good food! This place is great. MMM….come and eat some of this! WOW.”

Now my mom is starting to relax a bit and she’s going on about how proud she is that I could swap the faucets so quickly and I tell her I learned from the best.

Growing up my mom was the “handyman” of our house. She installed door knobs, and painted, and did plumbing, faucets…she was awesome.

She smiles and begins to use the sink.

YES!!!

By that time dad had finished eating and was ready to tackle Oliver and take him to play. My mom, though still insisting she pay for the faucet, was moving about taking care of this and that.

The missus and I sat down to eat…and yes, the food was damn good.

And the generator continued to serenade us. No quarter asked, no mercy given.

-final laugh, cue credits and theme song, this show was filmed before a live studio audience-

So much noise….

I’ve always been the type of person that can “compartmentalize” things in order to focus on individual pieces as they come, even when they come in at the same time.

I’ve always been able to focus my mind’s ear and block out noise in order to hear what’s most important to solving whatever problem I’m dealing with in any given moment and process multiple signals at the same time.

I’m not sure if that’s a skill or something developed over time or whatever.

What I will say is that it has been incredibly difficult to do this over the last few weeks.

There is definitely a life pre and post Harvey for me.

During the storm things came in waves…as many as five people plus a baby all coming at me from different directions with different needs, questions, comments, contributions and against the backdrop of growling generators, radios, phone calls, and text alerts.

Things took on an urgency that I can’t say I’ve ever experienced before.

There were times where I just had to tell everyone to stop talking for one minute so I could just “catch up” and process what everyone was saying.

I can take in a lot of information simultaneously but even I can get a little overwhelmed.

Now as the days have passed and our collective new normal slowly takes shape, it seems the only thing that hasn’t change is the noise level.

It’s truly amazing how an event like this brings “experts” out of the woodwork like cockroaches.

Everyone has a friend, brother, neighbor, sister, cousin’s buddy’s girlfriend’s aunt who knows someone who is the best, most experienced, nicest, honest, hardworking, fair person in the world that would love nothing more than to “help.”

It’s bad enough having an entire rolodex left on my door every day from contractors and remodelers just begging for business but to have relatives, coworkers, neighbors, and their extended networks all chiming in with what needs to happen, what’s supposed to happen, what their story is, how their story is the only way it’s supposed to be, how that time when their neighbor’s boss’ ex-girlfriend’s house flooded this happened, then that happened, and then BAM they walked away with a bajillion dollars and a completely remodeled house….ALL because they did XYZ. Simple right?

Now that the truly urgent aspect of the storm is over, that being safety, shelter, medicine, power, water, food, and clothes are taken care of, my goal is to ensure my parents take a breath and step back.

There’s a process to all things in life. There are steps to solving any problem.

While getting rescued or evacuated amidst a historic storm might seem like the “hard” part, it isn’t the hardest part.

What comes after is where the real challenges lie. Navigating the complicated waters of insurance claims, selecting a construction company/contractor, managing a budget, working with the mortgage company all pose great peril to anyone not willing to do their due diligence and instead rushing through things.

Perhaps nothing is harder however than saying no. Even our closest friends and family with the best intentions can bring chaos to the process. Relationships can break under the stress when such large sums of money are in play.

These events often seem like a winning lotto ticket to a lot of people…an opportunity to cash in, pay off debt, get cool new stuff to replace their old stuff.

But it isn’t really like that at all. Nothing in life is easy and there are no quick payoffs. In the case of my parents my only hope is that their house be made whole again, that they have the opportunity to take control of their future, and have the information needed to make the best sound decisions.

But there’s so much noise.

May all of us impacted find that button to turn down the volume.

Be Well and Kind,
Jason

 

Look, it might not even rain that much….or at all even!

As best as I can recall, because honestly everything is a blur, the storm rolled in overnight between Friday and Saturday. I left the office a bit early on Friday and went straight home to try and prepare for the storm as much as possible. I had a ton of bottled water and some bread (the two staples of any prepper it seems).

I dug trenches to lead water away from the house, under fences, towards some drains and used the dirt to build makeshift dams around the house and used some bags of pebbles to further fortify the AC unit.

I had ordered flashlights, batteries, and even some toys for Oliver to play with in case we lost power but I got notices late Friday night saying UPS and Amazon’s last mile partners had halted delivery. That’s when I started to get a little more than a bit nervous.

Around 4 am Saturday morning, I went on what would be the first of many “runs.” Embracing my inner “Rick Grimes,” I ventured into the storm. What can I get? What do I need?

I had spent the week collecting water, bread, and milk for the baby but this did not a complete hurricane preparedness kit make.

When I got to Wal-Mart it was basically empty…not just of people but of almost everything else.
I rushed around the store knowing the storm was only getting worse. I found a good pair of boots to wear in the mud and through high water.

I got extra towels. I found some cases of Arizona Tea, the fuel that keeps my wife’s engine humming.

No batteries. No flashlights.

On my way towards the front I happened upon the Mrs. Baird’s delivery man! HA! What are the chances?! Two more loaves of bread for my stash.

I checked out and now the rain was serious. I went over to Home Depot…not open yet. Police were in an unmarked car watching over the place and our encounter was quite awkward. They were very nervous as I pulled up next to them to ask when the store opened. I didn’t know they police until they commanded me to keep my hands in the car. Once they realized I meant them no harm we collectively relaxed a bit but it was the first of very stressful moments.

Off to Walgreen’s. I found some small pocket flashlights and a couple ones that you wear on your head. These would have to work.

Back to Home Depot. No batteries or flashlights BUT they had just gotten a pallet of generators! Are you serious? The storm is really picking up and people are buying these things 4 at a time. I have no idea how to use these things but after checking with the wife, they were loading one into the back of my car and off I went. I’ll figure out how to use it later.

Wait a second….these things run on gas. Where the hell am I going to find gas?

Crap…wait, what am I going to put the gas in?!
Finding gas cans and gas became another in an endless series of major challenges. I’m soaked to the bone at this point and after several failed attempts, I find a tiny little gas station that has FOUR gas cans….but no gas.

OK…that’s OK…I’m getting close.
A few more stops and BAM! Gas.
Back to the house but now the yard is flooding…more digging…frantic digging even.
Then I realize I only have one extension cord for the generator.

Back to Wal-Mart and I buy a couple extra cords plus some fans and a lamp.

Are you realizing that I’m not very good at this whole “Rick Grimes” thing yet? I am.

Once I get everything back to the house it becomes this manic waiting game…pacing around, watching the rain, calls back and forth with my folks….back to the yard to dig deeper trenches.

By Saturday evening it became evident that my parents would be stuck in their home…the water in their cul de sac was above the mailboxes.

This happened once before and we managed. Surely there’s no way the water would get all the way up to their home, which sits on a bit of hill.

By nightfall, I got the call. Water is coming into my parents’ home. Water is literally erupting from beneath the house, pushing tile up, bursting from underneath cabinets.

My mom and dad live(d) about two blocks down the street from but they might as well have been in Thailand. I have never in my life felt so helpless, so neutered as I did that night. I knew my brother and his girlfriend were doing everything they could to get valuables upstairs, to save whatever they could, and to protect my mom and dad and their pets but the fact that I couldn’t get to them, to help, to get them out still haunts me. The guilt, the inability to take action will haunt me forever.

The rain continued to fall…another sleepless night…watching the water rise…digging in the yard, monitoring the streets to see if the front would flood and worrying about my mom and dad.

By 6 am I was looking for boats and trying to mount a rescue.

The sheriff got my dad and my brother’s girlfriend out but my mom wasn’t leaving without the cats. My brother stayed with her.

I found a neighbor who knew three guys from Louisiana that, in anticipation of the storm, decided to go thirdsies on a boat they found on Craigslist. They hitched it to the back of their pickup and came to Spring in order to start rescuing. They were kind enough to help out and a couple hours later we got mom, my brother, and the cats out safely.

Now we were together at my house…..and the power goes out. We get alerts from the water district saying the pumps were down and while the water was clean there was no sewer system. We were all filthy and soaked.

Then it happened…my roof began to leak. Water began coming in from doorways, carpets became saturated and we all started putting valuables up high on top of cabinets, shelves, etc. Guitars were put in cases and I started to wonder where I would put them? In the crawl space above the washing machine? Oh wait, I gave my ladder away to guys rescuing people.

Thankfully the water never got further than a few feet of carpet near the doorways and the rain let up such that the leak did not get worse.

We spent the next few days just living life like something out of Mad Max or Walking Dead. I would go on runs for gas and supplies, trying to get my parents settled in. Nothing was easy.

Roads were closed and constables and military were diverted to other neighborhoods once rescues were completed. Vigilante groups were formed to patrol our neighborhood because looters were on the loose taking whatever they could from flooded and abandoned houses.

My poor son, Oliver, didn’t know which way was up. His meals were late, naps non-existent or also late. What was a routine that ran like clockwork was now gone.

I can’t count how many times he came to me for a hug, or to play with something, or to just say “Hi Daddy!” only to find me racing past him to fix one thing or another, address one issue or another. My guilt piling on every single time it happened. I was often covered in filth, mold, mud, and/or whatever was floating in the water so I couldn’t even pick him up.

I was afraid to blow the generator, or run it at night (damn looters) so I was just running it during the day to power the fridge. After a few days and a quick tutorial from my neighbor I was able to plug more things into the generator and actually got the TV running. By putting Blues Clues on TV I provided Oliver with a momentary escape and a taste of normalcy. It was a small but significant victory for me.

There were so many other issues…some of my father’s diabetes medicine got washed away. He did everything right. He filled his prescriptions before the flood but in the chaos one of them got left behind. When we finally found a pharmacy that was both open and accessible he was told Medicare wouldn’t cover it since he had just refilled it. It didn’t matter that the storm washed it away. A small fortune later he had his meds but this was just one more thing piled on his shoulders. His house destroyed, cars flooded, irreplaceable mementos collected after a storied career gone. Now Medicare tells him they don’t “care”.

My poor mother stressed over both my father’s health and the house, became consumed by the fear of being an imposition on me…on not making a mess, on not wanting me to clear out a closet, on not wanting to be a bother.

My wife, overwhelmed by it all, tried to be a calming voice among all the strained and frantic shouting. So much shouting…even though none of us realized we were doing it. Every conversation was urgent, every voice fighting to be heard…baby crying and generator growling in the back.

My brother and his girlfriend took on the roles of Superman and Superwoman. After spending the night with mom and dad trapped in the house and doing what they could to save any and everything possible, they devoted themselves to demo and cleanup. They’ve spent countless hours coordinating with teams of volunteers to rip drywall, remove furniture, and do everything else that comes with such a catastrophe. While my wife and I have done what we could within our home, my brother and his girlfriend have done everything they can to handle things at my parents’ home. I’ve never been more proud of him.

It’s funny…everyone was offering me assistance with the work and my brother said “I got this.” I asked him, “Are you sure?” He says, “Yeah, I got this.” And damn it he has it. Working like a job site foreman or manager he has coordinated schedules, meals, delegated assignments, everything. This guy most definitely “has it”.

Utilities came back…first water and sewer and then power. I was texting a friend about things and then all of the sudden I felt the AC kick on and the lights came on. I started crying a bit and laughing hysterically. The sheer emotion of that one thing was too much to handle.

From that point it became a little easier. We started the laundry….so much laundry. We started showering. Both helped a lot.

The broken routines have taken their tolls on all of us though. My son is still victim to all the stress and all of us running in various directions.

Supplies like garbage bags, garbage cans, towels, and cleaning products are getting easier to find but it’s still a challenge.

We will find our rhythm though. We will find our new normal. Once we do I know that we as a family will be stronger and better for this incredible struggle. We are thankful for the fact that we are together and safe. We have our utilities back. We have a home. We have access to clean water, food, and all the basics. We are in better shape than a lot of fellow Houstonians. We’ve benefited from an incredible neighborhood that has mobilized in unimaginable ways supported by local businesses.

Ours is not a tale of horrific loss. There are so many around the city. I’ve tried to block them out because some of them are so traumatic. I think I saw a woman die in front of me last week in a Wal-Mart. A diabetic, she collapsed in front of me as her daughter cried that she had not eaten since before the storm. I handed her a candy bar, my mother paid for their groceries. An ambulance carried her away, unresponsive.

Fortunately, we are together, safe, and healthy. My mother and father, though a little worse for wear right now, continue to be my absolute heroes. I want nothing but peace and comfort for them and I hope I can help them receive that soon. My brother and his girlfriend have left me in awe. Young Master Oliver is my guiding light and every minute of my life is spent trying to get to him. My wife deserves so much credit for just trying to help my mom and dad feel at home and do what she can to comfort me during a time when her own world and home have been turned upside down and none of us have been able to support or comfort her…because she’s in the middle of all this too.

The coming months will not be easy. There will be endless calls and emails with FEMA and insurance companies. There will be challenges in developing a rhythm within our home where everyone finds their own space. But in the end, when it’s all over, I know that our family will only be stronger for going through this. It has brought the best out of all of us and my mom and dad, wife and son, will all be better for us living together.

So it is not from the perspective of a victim that I write this, rather as a proud and grateful father, husband, son, and brother.

Until next time…

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

Let’s be “real”

A simple conversation a few months back gave me one of those “wake up calls” that most of us receive from time to time.

The conversation was with my student advisor at Southern New Hampshire University.

As I approaching not only the end of the current term but also completion of my MBA, she asked a simple question.

“Are you coming up for commencement?”

I live in Houston, TX. Southern New Hampshire University is…well…in Southern New Hampshire. It had honestly never dawned on me that I would, or even could, visit and participate in the graduation ceremony.

Being an online student, I just assumed they would mail me my diploma…or if I were so lucky, the wicked cool Winnebago would pull up and they’d come knocking on my door. How cool would that be?

My response to my advisor’s question was pretty simple. “Can I do that? I mean I’m just an online student. It’s not like I am real student.”

She scoffed at that…no…she actually put me in my place.

I was no less a “real” student than any of the on-campus students, certainly no less “real” than any of the thousands of students who have graduated since the school was founded in 1932.

It reminded me of a very interesting fact. We are what we tell ourselves we are. A few months back I wrote about taking control of our message. Redefining it when we needed to and about how we control the narrative we tell ourselves and others.

Well my advisor gave me a very real reminder of this fact that evening.

So there, on my patio I realized…I am a REAL student! Why wouldn’t I go to campus and participate in commencement with all my classmates?!

My wife and I flew north on Saturday morning and that evening I had the pleasure of putting faces to the names and voices of both my academic and career advisors. We had an incredibly fun dinner and then Sunday I “walked.”

I even found the winnebago! 

 

 

Now I can honestly say I’ve never known a more encouraging, supportive culture in my academic or professional careers.

To say SNHU wants us, their students, to succeed is barely worth saying because it hardly captures the effort, the passion, the focus, drive, respect, altruism, and professionalism every corner of their organizational structure provided me throughout my tenure there.

During the commencement however, something else struck me. The president and other speakers repeatedly emphasized something that I truly took to heart, and something I think many of my classmates (that’s still so neat to say) also took to heart.

SNHU truly understands the unique stories that each of us brought to commencement. They value our individualism and, just as sacred, they value and cherish all the spouses, significant others, and family members that play such an undeniable role in getting us to that ceremony.
Most of us were from out of state. Most of us had full-time careers. Most of us children or parents or spouses or all of the above and more.

SNHU holds sacred the belief that the diploma  I earned is as much about my own focus, drive, commitment, and ambition as it is about my wife’s, son’s, and parents’ support, encouragement, understanding, faith and love means everything to me.

Now SNHU gets a great deal of credit for being a non-profit university and for their innovation but for me they deserve the most credit for how they cherish their students and the people who stand next to us, behind us, and around us as we marched through classes week after week, long night after long night, whether in class or online.

To be true, SNHU has been the greatest educational experience of my life. (no offense to my beloved University of Houston)

Thank you to everyone at Southern New Hampshire for a valuable education, even more valuable experiences, and the most valuable thing of all – a reminder about what “real” is.

Until next time,

Be Well and Kind,
Jason