Stepping Out of the Routine

by Ron Culberson

Many of us live in an world of regular routines and yet we have multiple opportunities to live in a world of new experiences. The familiar can limiting but the unfamiliar can open up many possibilities.

My daily exercise routine often takes the form of brisk walking through our neighborhood and then through an adjacent cemetery. The cemetery keep my cynicism in check as I am reminded of the whole above- and below-ground situation.

So, I take the same path every day because I like my routines – I like the familiar. However, the other day, my wife suggested we walk on the trail behind our neighborhood instead. Wives are good like that. Always pushing the envelope.

I know about these trails…sort of. I know about them the same way I know many of my neighbors. I know they exist but I don’t know their names, their professions, or what their hobbies are. Essentially, I don’t really know them.

So walking on the trail was a new experience for me.

The trail system is way more extensive than I imagined. The trails wind throughout the woods and in between neighborhoods. They cross the Sugarland Run stream frequently, and at times, you would swear you’re deep in the forest. Yet you’re only minutes from a major highway and a mere 20 miles from Washington, DC.

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 16 years but never considered walking on the trails. Go figure. In my mind, the trails seemed mysterious and unknown while my neighborhood sidewalks and the cemetery were familiar and part of my daily routine. Yet, once I walked the trails, I realized how wonderfully therapeutic this new option was – and it was there all along.

Routines give us comfort because they are reliable and familiar. But when we’re locked into them, we’re avoiding new growth experiences.

The musical director for KA, one of Cirque du Soleil shows, spoke at a conference I attended. He said that when they’re discussing a new show and someone comes up with an idea, no one in the room ever says, “we can’t do that.” Instead, they say, “how can we make that happen?” Their normal way of thinking is to get out of the routine way of thinking. That’s pretty cool.

I like my routines and I suspect that I will hold onto many of them. Yet I am constantly reminded of the benefits of new experiences. So, with the help of my envelope-pushing wife, I will try to break out of my routines whenever I can.

All it took to walk these new trails was taking the first step. That seems doable.

Airplane Etiquette – Give Me My Space

by Ron Culberson

As a frequent traveler who will achieve the coveted 1K status this year (coveted for its benefits, not for the time away from home), I know a little bit about travel etiquette. But recently, I have encountered a number of violators. So, in the spirit of making the experience better and more fun for all of us, I offer these Do it Well, Make it Fun Airplane Etiquette Tips.


One of the largest numbers on a boarding pass is the boarding number. This is when you can get on the plane. The lower the number the later you get to board. Typically, the number is related to either the cost of the ticket or the frequent flyer status of you, the passenger. Please don’t take this personally even if you’re still trying to resolve that your mother also gave you a lower status in your family of origin. It’s just a system for boarding. So, board when your number is called. And by the way, “six” does not mean “one” or “two.” Wait your turn.

Luggage Stowage

Heavy luggage is even heavier when it falls on my head. Please don’t try to be a hero by lifting your 600-pound carry-on bag by yourself. Just ask for help from those of us around you. Believe me, admitting you are too weak is much better than knocking me out so that I miss my flight.  Also, once you put your bag in the overhead compartment, please don’t spend ten minutes getting ear buds, magazines, blankets, weird neck pillows, and snacks out of the bag. There are a lot of people with 6 or 7 on their boarding passes behind you. Since you knew ahead of time that you’d be boarding the plane, be prepared with all of your accessories.


Just like the imaginary line between my siblings and me in the back seat of my car growing up, the armrest on a plane is the boundary line between your space and mine. Please don’t cross this line. Your elbow belongs to you, not to me. I don’t need you to lean against me – even if it’s cold. And when you fall asleep, please position your leg so it doesn’t lean against mine. Well, unless you’re a very attractive woman. Just saying.


When it’s time to deplane, almost everyone on the plane needs to get somewhere else. None of us live on the plane. So, please don’t think your need to be somewhere else overrides my need to get somewhere else. When you shove me out of the way to get your bag out of the overhead compartment and to position yourself closer to the exit door, I feel the need to trip you. I don’t like to feel the need to trip you so please don’t force me to.

Delays and Cancellations

No matter what you think, the airline does not purposely create bad weather and mechanical problems to ruin your day. If they did, they would do it to your car and not on a plane that contains many other passengers. So, please don’t take out your frustrations on the ticket agent or else you cause her to be grumpy with the rest of us. Simply consider your flight options and make a decision on what’s best for you. Also note that the f-word is unnecessary unless your asking about a F-irst Class upgrade.

Since air travel requires that we all get along in a metal tube that defies the laws of physics to be that high in the air, let’s make it as pleasant as possible. Please fly well and make it fun!

Giving IS Receiving

by Ronald Culberson

A retiring car dealer in Michigan gave each of his employees $1,000 for each year they worked at his 47-year-old car dealership.  As a way of thanking his employees, Howard Cooper gave each a cash payment when he sold his dealership – including one loyal long-term employee who received $46,000.

You can read the article and see a video here:  Retiring Car Dealer

I’m a big believer that giving is receiving.  By giving to others, whether it’s our time, money, or expertise, we receive a gift through the opportunity to share the blessings that we have received…or earned.

Sometimes, our society encourages us to get all we can get and hang onto it as long as we can.  I certainly want to have enough money to last through my lifetime and I want to be able to support my children should they need it.  But I don’t want to die with too much in “the bank” or I fear I will have missed opportunities to give along the way.

I love what Howard Cooper did.  Essentially, he said, “You helped me be successful and I want to thank you.”

To me, he Did it Well.  And he Made it Fun for his employees too!

Now Doesn’t Last Forever

by Ron Culberson

It’s Thursday, and our week has been a flurry of activity. Our traditional end-of-the-summer meal was on Tuesday. My son and I played golf yesterday, and last night the whole family attended a baseball game. My wife is taking my daughter to a concert tonight.

You see, we’re frantically preparing to be empty nesters.

On Saturday, my son will join my daughter at college, and they will never again live at home full time. One of my friends says I may be mistaken on that last point.

The irony in my approach to parenting is that I’m always looking toward the future, and then when the future gets here, it catches me off-guard.

When my children were on formula, I couldn’t wait for them to drink regular milk. When they were still in diapers, I could’t wait for them to be potty-trained. And when we were chauffeuring them around to ballgames, band concerts, and Scouts, I couldn’t wait until they could drive.

Now that they’re drinking milk, fully potty-trained, and driving off to college, I finally got what I had hoped for — but it doesn’t feel as good as I expected. While all of these milestones were good, I think I missed something along the way by wishing for them to arrive sooner rather than later.

As Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, explains, “When we’re here and want to be somewhere else,” we’re missing what the present moment has to offer.

Yes, guilty as charged.

But I suspect I’m not alone when it comes to focusing on the future at the expense of the present. It’s easy to do when there are so many things to anticipate and worry about. So, even though I consider myself a work in progress, there are a couple of things I try to do to keep my focus on the moment.

First, when I feel myself reacting because my current situation is not what I think it should be, I remind myself that “it is what it is” and that if I can’t do anything to change it, I should find something to appreciate in it.

Second, when I find myself too focused on something in the future, I ask myself, “What am I missinghere by focusing on there?”

And last, I continually remind myself that while I should take responsibility for the things I can control, I should not feel responsible for the things I can’t control. For more information on this, consider the weather, other people’s opinions of me, and traffic.

When it comes to our empty nest, absence will make the heart grow fonder. And when it comes to life in general, I suspect that presence makes the heart grow richer.

Tonight, my son and I will cap off our evening with a visit to our favorite frozen yogurt shop. I plan to savor every bite… and every minute.