Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Tis the Season for HOA Boards

There are posts, that you just do not want to write, but sometimes you know that it is better to speak now before you are to the point of watching people endure a ship wreck.

I served on an HOA Board for three years. One of them was very tough.  See my article, My Descent into HOA Hell. I was also involved in the hiring a lawyer to fix our HOA after we got farther into the bowels of HOA Hell.  Then I got involved a second time when we had a board that decided the best way to have an HOA was to not meet with the members and keep them in the dark. I ended up writing an amendment to the by-laws to keep that from happening again.  I remain involved in our HOA as an advisor since I learned far more about HOAs than I ever wanted to know.

So as many HOAs go into the season of electing new boards I feel a little advice from someone with plenty of scars on his back might at least provide some discussion points before you step off the cliff and accept yet another bad board. You can either listen to my advice from the HOA school of hard knocks or pay attention to the people who are usually experts in everything with little expertise to back up their freely shared opinions.

Many of you reading this have never heard of an oyster rock. Oyster rocks are very plentiful, sometimes beautiful and as extensive on the White Oak River as HOAs are across the country. I kayak and boat the river frequently so I have seen my fair share.  Oyster rocks are lot like HOAs, sometimes you have no idea they are there and often you can have an unpleasant experience if you are not watching for them.  Second, HOAs like oyster rocks often have far more below the surface than what is visible. Ours is a tidal river so our oyster rocks might be visible at low tide but nearly invisible at high tides or during storms. HOAs pop up at elections times and disappear sometimes when you think they should be there. That is the way it is.

All HOAs are different so even if you have had experience in another HOA, you likely might not appreciate the inner workings of the one where you have moved.  HOAs are run by untrained volunteers for the most part and sometimes have a management company that in theory might rescue them from their lack of knowledge. It is truly a thankless, unpaid job that will take more time than you imagine if you do it right.

Unfortunately for a good HOA you need people that understand HOA law, your covenants, your by-laws and your history. Without that you are doomed to failure no matter how well intentioned your HOA board is.

One of the first rules that boards do not understand is that they cannot pick and choose which covenants to enforce. If you let something slide and want to enforce another covenant, someone might take you to court and you will likely lose.

Getting people to be on an HOA board is a challenge because no one wants to be the enforcer of rules especially when their good neighbor might be the person violating the rule. The best situation I have ever been on in an HOA board is when we had a secretary from a management company that did almost nothing for us other than provide the secretary.  She took the angry calls, sent out the bills and minutes, and provided what passed for accounting and budgets.

I eventually discovered every board needs someone who really understands where every penny of the money goes and exactly how much is collected- that cannot be outsourced. That means you need someone on the board who can keep a general ledger. I also believe it is reckless to be involved in an HOA without an independent, professional accounting service that reports directly to the board. The board should not give away its check signing privileges. If you sign all the checks, it much easier to account for all your community's money.

So here are my recommendations for people who should NOT be voted onto a board.
  1. Previous board members who got frustrated and resigned in anger from the job.  Even worse are those who have resigned twice.  The job has likely gotten worse and your personality has probably not changed.  An HOA is not a practice operation for you to prove yourself. 
  2. People who are unable to at least have a conversation with everyone in the community.  If you hold grudges and refuse to communicate with some people in the community, do everyone a favor and stay off the board. Work out your anger issues someplace else.
  3. People who made mistakes on a board and want another chance to show that they can do it right this time.  An HOA is not a place to hone your skills, especially if you have been unable to publicly admit your mistakes.  If your previous mistakes involved wasting money, do not even think about running for the board. Your previous mistakes will haunt you.
  4. People with a personal agenda and who view the HOA as a way to accomplish their goals which may or may not align with the community's goals.  An HOA leadership role is not the right spot to try to force everyone to see things your way.
  5. People who have thin skins and who take everything personally. A role on an HOA board is job that comes with criticism. No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to please everyone.
  6. People who are not willing to work. The boards most likely to suffer burnout or make serioius mistakes are the ones where one person does all the work.
  7. People who have to control everything. If you cannot delegate and work with others to accomplish a task, you have no business being on an HOA board.
  8. People who do not completely respect the confidentially and privacy needed to be on a board. If you inappropriately share information, you will destroy any trust your board has built up. 
  9. People who think running an HOA is a fun job. It is not fun and in spite of what some folks in lots of communities think, an HOA is not just a vehicle to have great parties. An HOA is first and foremost a business which needs to be treated seriously with a full understanding of the liabilities that are incurred by allowing any HOA-sanctioned reckless behavior- especially that involving alcohol.
  10. People who cannot see the big picture. If you do not understand doing the most good for the most people, you are doomed to failure.  If you play favorites and waive fees or rules for some people and not everyone, you will destroy the credibility of your HOA and have plenty of people angry at you.
HOAs need to be better regulated by the states, but until that happens when the blue moon with a red ring around it shows up, getting the right people on the board can help make the experience of living in an HOA a very tolerable one.  I have seen good boards and bad boards.  The good ones over communicate and make every effort to treat everyone the same.  The bad ones are rife with favoritism even to the point of letting people do things that are actually illegal.  The first and best weapon you have is your vote.  After that it gets really messy which is why you often see real estate listings advertising "No HOA."

Friday, October 06, 2017

Cheerleading Enforcers

I had the good fortune to work at Apple for almost twenty years, but anyone who worked there for a few years would likely tell you that Apple was more like a religion than a company.  The company and its supporters have been called a cult.  While Apple and its cheerleaders do not deserve all the blame for spreading cult-like behavior through our society, they are not innocent either.  Ignoring the dangers of this behavior at any level of government puts out society at great risk.

If you do a Google search for "the cult of Apple," you will be surprised to find several articles on the subject including this one, "5 signs that Apple is a cult," from The Week Magazine.  While The Week article is over five years old, there is a Forbes one, The Cult Of Apple And The Church Of Cook, barely a couple of years old.

This quote is from Eight Marks of a cult by Randall Waters.
"The world is depicted as black and white, with little room for making personal decisions based on a trained conscience. One’s conduct is modeled after the ideology of the group, as taught in its literature. People and organizations are pictured as either good or evil, depending on their relationship to the cult."
As someone who was inside Apple for almost two decades, it would be hard to deny the black and white nature of Apple.  People were either for or against Apple.  There was no middle ground and that made it very hard  for customers who lived in the real world instead of the insanely pure world created by Steve Jobs in Cupertino.

The farther you were from Cupertino, the harder it was to live the pure ideology of Apple.  There were times that Apple was paralyzed internally because Steve would not make a decision and no one was brave enough to make a decision that Steve might overturn.
Those of us in Apple sales learned to dread finding a group of Apple fanatics at an account almost as much as a finding a Windows-leaning director of information technology.  Our Apple customers sometimes overwhelmed with enthusiasm for Apple's products could become so pushy that they would destroy any opportunity to work with an account.

Living in a cult is hard but it is a totally different thing if you leave. Once you are out of the cult, the cult always turns on you.  For years after leaving the company I wrote about Apple. I learned that Apple fans would accept no criticism of their precious products or Steve.  Apple fanatics would vilify you for complaining that iPhoto and Apple's Cloud solution were getting worse not better. Fans were especially vehement when I complained about the poor placement on the SD slot reader on the late 2010 iMac. It seemed to me that placing the SD slot on the same side just a quarter of an inch below the DVD reader was asking for SD cards to fall into the DVD reader.

In typical Apple fashion, the problem was solved by eliminating SD card readers and internal DVD drives. iPhoto and its functionality also disappeared and I suspect there is no one inside or outside of Apple that can really explain Apple's cloud strategy.

It turns out that having a cult is poor way of getting product feedback. If every product is great, why take the time make it even better by asking real customers. You end up touting as "Genius" barely useful functionality like the MacBook Pro's touchbar.  I will never forget  product engineering telling us that Intel would never get its next generation chips after the Pentium into laptops because the chips ran too hot.  Unfortunately when you are inside the cult, you end up believing your own propaganda.

Maybe that is why my years-ago prediction that Apple could never sustain a ten percent market share has turned out to be true.  Recent numbers show Apple's PC sales losing market share.  Even Tim Cook admits that just Windows 10 is four times more popular than the Mac OS.

It used to be if I wrote a comment about Apple's market share, I would have to defend my honor as a human being.  Even the slightest suggestion that Apple might be making a mistake would bring a character attack. The comment always came back that Apple was  making more money than others. I even had Apple customers suggest that Apple should raise prices even higher. It was not useful to point out that overcharging customers for the same components as used in Windows computers is not a customer benefit.  You can read more than you want to know about Apple at my Applepeels site or even better check out my Kindle book, The Pomme Company.

Unfortunately Apple's cult style of leadership seems to have spread because it fits the mood of our country. From the national to the local level, personality politics seem to be the rule.  The idea that there might be a middle ground is inconceivable to the cheerleaders behind today's cult-like  leaders.  Any idea that is not theirs is toxic and any kind of behavior from their leader is not only acceptable but encouraged. Even a neighborhood leader who has attained cult-like status can do no wrong in the eyes of his or her supporters and cheerleaders.

While the diminished spirit of Steve Jobs lives on in the less-than-leading edge Mac products that Apple continues to pedal at exorbitant prices, the principles of his cult-like leadership have infected our body politic.  The worship of leaders no matter what their behavior or level of incompetence is rampant from neighborhoods to national parties.  It is not going to work any better for us than it did for Apple in computer market share.

Apple better hope the iPhone never falters because it has lost many core markets including education. The rest of us have lost the opportunity for compromise, civility, and mutual success.  Steve would be proud, he was never much for being nice.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Holiday Warmth

Holidays can focus harsh light on our relationships with others. The season sometimes becomes a time when it is hard to please and easy to slight even those who are closest to us. Feelings can be on edge during the season and seeking out perfection that is impossible to achieve is often part of the problem.

Old age and the soft light of a few winter sunsets in the marsh have taught me that life is not about the things you accumulate in life but about the connections you make and how well you nurture them. Life is mostly about relating to the people in your life.  It is not an impossible task but you cannot relate to others if you do not communicate with them and understand their lives.

Our personalities have not escaped the people who have touched our lives over the years. Our lives are defined not only by our parents and relatives, but also by those friends with whom we have chosen to spend our time. The best friends and family are those who accept you as you are. To them the thickness of your wallet matters little. How you treat them is what matters most.

Those folks whose money and toys are more important than their friends fortunately easily disappear into the hustle and bustle of the season only to emerge at the other end not even understanding what they have missed.  It is good to be with people who love others because they have taken time to get to know each other.  The values and feelings of all the people that have influenced us provide us with ways to relate to others.

Unfortunately not everyone shares the same values and even among those who do, feelings are handled in different ways.  We have all had to walk on egg shells at times to keep a good relationship going. Often during the holidays, giving others space and the benefit of the doubt can make the difference between good feelings and hard feelings.

Time has become the most valuable gift of all. No one has enough time, but patience is a gift that we all need to give during this season.  When we take the time to listen and appreciates the lives and concerns of others, we enrich our own lives and expand the circle of connections that make us truly human.

I always look forward to the holidays because it is a time of renewal and new paths to be taken.  Conversations seem harder to have in our constantly-connected world of smartphones and tablets, but we cannot give up trying because there will come a holiday season when the person you wanted to talk to is no longer there.  That conversation with them might have been the missing piece in your circle of life.

I always take the risk during the holidays that the phone call I make could be one that warms someone's heart and brightens my day.  I am rarely disappointed.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Fuzzy Light of Winter

Darkness comes early in winter and with the setting sun there are colors to tease the mind. Living on the North Carolina coast means that light gets to play even more tricks because water is everywhere and our complex waters reflect the light in ways that are almost bewitching.

Sometimes just before dusk our sounds and rivers will spring alive with golden hues mixed with rich blues. The colors are such that you wonder if you eyes are seeing things correctly.  Just to make things more intriguing, the colors change rapidly as the sun starts slipping below the horizon.

It reminds me most of the Northern Lights that we used to see on late night trips back to our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick.  Northern Lights that close to the United States-Canada border are so ephemeral that you are almost positive that you never saw them.  The quick changes in colors in a coastal sunset and the lingering doubts that you saw what you saw are the same as with Northern Lights.

Winter on the coast is a fuzzy time in itself.  It is rarely winter but not quite spring and you know fall has already slipped away.  Our crocus patch started blooming in December and we picked our last tomatoes on January 17, but it is still too cold to plant spring lettuce or onions.  Just as the fading light cannot decide whether to be blue, gold or something in between, our seasons often go off course as winter becomes spring and spring falls back to winter.

This year even the birds were confused.  Our bird feeder went begging except for chickadees for nearly all of January.  Now as spring is just around the corner and winter's back is destined to be broken, the birds have decided to come back.  Now the marsh is alive with chirping and birds zooming from one tree to another.

Fortunately the indecision that wraps itself in our winter is never fatal but it does slow our response to the warm days of February.  The memory of the dampness and the chill of winter can cause a hesitation in tackling the adventures to search for the real signs of spring that tell us that the first fruit of the season is not far away.

Even spring can be unsure of itself as winter lingers around the edges of the not yet warmed waters of the marsh.  Last year at the end of March much like a few years earlier, a late but hard frost killed many of our tomato plants even as they were protected with pots and ready to ride the steep curve of warmth that sometimes tries to roast us along the coast well before the heat of mid-summer.

Then with the late frost just a memory,  all of sudden the water is ready for us and spring is here but even then before we know it our evening light is often blurred in the humidity that rarely leaves until fall.  The coastal seasons themselves are sometimes just as fuzzy as the last light of winter.

The good news is that the changes in light and weather make for some great photos and interesting years as we cope with life here on the sandy edges of North Carolina.  With weather that borders on being a riddle but is sometimes so nice that it should be bottled,  our coastal paradise is a great place to be a photographer especially if you can handle all the photos that demand to be taken.

Visit my Amazon author page to check out our books, especially our travel guide to this unique part of the world.  Sign up for my almost monthly newsletter about the Crystal Coast at this page.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Not So Simple Good Life

Years ago just after graduating college, I headed off to rural Nova Scotia. After four years of college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I needed to figure out how who I was and what was really important to me.

My college years were the especially turbulent late sixties and early seventies.  As I finished my degree in the summer of 1971, I really wanted to get away from the city.  Like many on the same path, I came across the book, Living The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing.

The Nearing's book along with the Whole Earth Catalogue by Steward Brand and Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield were very influential in my sixteen years in Canada that included thirteen years of farming and growing our own food.

Life in Nova Scotia and eventually New Brunswick was much like my youth growing up in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the fifties and sixties.  The influence of my mother followed me to Canada. Her story and that of her generation whose roots ran deep into the fertile soil of rural North Carolina has always had great meaning to me.

I remember well the Sunday afternoons under the shade trees enjoying watermelon or homemade peach ice cream.  As children, we played like there was no tomorrow.  It was a simpler time when people could actually talk politics without getting angry.  I drew many parallels between life on our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick and life in rural North Carolina.

While it is easy to romanticize an earlier time, honesty demands that we acknowledge that every age has its problems and often we can find the beginnings of serious problems if we pull away from the curtain of nostalgia.

I grew up believing that hard work had its own rewards. It was a rule that my mother lived by and shaped much of my life. Yet even back in the early sixties, I learned that there was a class of folks who believed that rules were for everyone but them.

While I got sent away to military boarding school before I could finish my eagle scout requirements, I watched with interest from over 360 miles away as some of the boys whom I grew up within scouts got their Eagle award.  I am not sure I ever felt the same about scouting after I learned about the three boys whose father, a former scoutmaster, pulled some strings so that his boys'  series of thefts from soda machines would not hinder their path to becoming Eagle Scouts.  It did not seem right back then or even now that boys who broke into soda machines with crowbars received scouting's highest award.

That event could have been the first in a series of disillusions that might have turned me into a cynic, but I have managed to endure and believe that most people have good intentions.  Unfortunately, over the years I have run into more and more people who believe their birthright is a privilege.

I might understand if these were rich people but many of them are not particularly wealthy yet somehow they have grown to adulthood with the belief that they deserve to be treated differently than the rest of us.

What is particularly distressing is that I have found that these folks will use any small power they might luck into to enhance their status at the expense of the rest of us.  At one time elected or appointed power over others carried great responsibility and the expectation that decisions were to be made for the greater good.  I will never forget the story of my father who as the run on the banks began during the Great Depression refused to warn my mother.  She ended up losing most of her money of the impending closure of the banks.  He was a director in a bank but refused to use his insider position to warm her to withdraw her money.

How different that is than what I have uncovered as I have tried to right the ship of our subdivision's Homeowner's Association.  There I have repeatedly seen people do what is right for them at the expense of the greater community.  Then there is that whole group of folks who love to enjoy the amenities of the community but refuse to follow the rules or even pay the dues that they signed a contract to pay.

While it is not as bad as our national government, it makes it easier to understand our national problem that we have a whole class of people who want to enjoy the benefits of government but spend most of their time trying to destroy it.  It is a sorry state of affairs and it all makes it hard to live a simple life.

One of the best examples of the toxic attitudes that have infiltrated our lives came not long ago.  We were having a terrible thunderstorm with lots of lightning.  My home office has a good view of our neighborhood pool.  As the storm intensified, I noticed several young boys continuing to swim in the pool even as the storm got worse.  As a parent first and secondly as a member of the HOA board of directors, I felt the responsibility to get the boys out of the pool during the storm.

I walked over to the pool and explained to them that you could easily be killed swimming in a pool during a thunderstorm. The boys, all just over fourteen, were very respectful and left the pool quietly. As they were leaving, I pointed out a sign with a list of children fourteen and older with their parent's permission to swim without an adult being.  Since there were only girls names on the list there was no chance of making a mistake.  I simply told them just to have their parents send a note to the HOA so they could be on the list.  I never suggested that they could not come back after the storm was over.

With fifteen minutes their irate mother was on my porch yelling at me about targeting her boys. It was not a pretty conversation.  Never once did she thank me for getting her boys out of the pool during a lightning storm.  She was the aggrieved one because the association established a rule which she had completely ignored in her laziness.  I have heard her standard "boys will be boys" line far too often.  I still remember a friend who worked at a local golf course telling me about chasing their golf cart to the gate of our subdivision.  Workers had caught them as they finished throwing all the flags in the golf course ponds.

When we wonder why there is no respect for authority in our society, we need only to look to the homes that raise children with the mantra that the rules apply to everyone but them.

It is no surprise that those children grow up to be the very ones who disrespect the government and even the contracts that attempt to create a civilized life for us all.  I cannot fix the problem but I can continue living my dream here in our coastal paradise and treating others like I would like to be treated.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November Memories

Tall Pines in November Along Raymond's Gut

Memories are funny things.  Some get stronger with age and some seem to fade away.   November is a good month for memories because of Thanksgiving.  Our family happens to fall into the category of families having mostly good memories about holidays especially Thanksgiving.

There are no pressures to give gifts and even most of us males can manage to be helpful during Thanksgiving by peeling potatoes or washing dishes.  Generally the weather is not so bad that a nice long walk is out of the question.  With traffic getting more and more challenging, the actual time during Thanksgiving that people are together seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  Thanksgiving is an easy holiday to enjoy.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday that often brings transitions.  It often is the first big holiday that you spend away from home.  I still remember the oyster stuffing that I had at a friends home when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home in 1967.  I can well remember that first Thanksgiving four years later in 1971 when several of my college friends came to visit my old farmhouse in Saint Croix Cove, Nova Scotia.  It was the first Thanksgiving dinner that any of our crew of friends had ever attempted without a mother being cook in charge.  We pulled it off and it is still a special Thanksgiving to me. For me it became the celebration dinner for the first chapter of my sixteen years in Canada.  Those years are a big part of our book, A Taste For The Wild, Canada's Maritimes.

Certainly Thanksgiving is the holiday that most people want to be home. Because of that, there are sometimes subtle changes in our lives that first show themselves at Thanksgiving.  For years we traveled to Mount Airy, North Carolina, to have our Thanksgiving in our home place at 347 West Pine St. which for a while was a bed and breakfast.  Our family enjoyed Thanksgiving at that same Pine Street spot for nearly 100 years.

My mother, Blanche Sobotta, held sway there on Pine Street for many years.  Her story is certainly a big part of my own story and for several years I can remember my wife, Glenda, driving down from Roanoke, Virginia, a day or two early to Mount Airy, to help with the Thanksgiving preparations.  It was always a great feast held in the formal dining room.  Mother was an expert at preparing large meals and as she got into her eighties often started the preparation a week ahead of time.  I can still remember the hot rolls and other wonderful dishes.

Then there came the time when it just seemed right for my wife and I to host Thanksgiving at our home on the mountain.  I do not exactly remember when it started happening but it was likely sometime in the mid to late nineties.  We have been hosting Thanksgiving since then and only one year did we venture out to have it with one of our children. Eventually we were bringing my mother to our Roanoke home from a nearby assisted living place in Salem, Virginia. Then we moved from Roanoke and Thanksgiving came with us to live out a dream on the North Carolina coast. This year it looks like we will be in transition once again.

With traffic so bad in the DC area and a new grandson too young to travel on the other end of North Carolina, our three grown children will be own their own with their turkeys this year.  They are a lot older than I was when I attempted to do my own turkey in 1972.  No one told me about the extra parts on the inside of the turkey. One of them has already done several turkeys on her own. One does not like turkey and the other would prefer someone else put the white meat on the platter for her.

Even so our children will likely remember this year because it is a little different since they will not here on the Crystal Coast with us. They might not have the energy to cook up everything that is on our traditional menu that accompanies the turkey and which our son prefers to the turkey.  I know that we will be paring the menu down a lot if only the two of us will be eating it.  Still it will be another Thanksgiving to remember and perhaps a memory that will stand as tall as a big pine instead of vanishing.

November is also the time when we moved to our much loved farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick, where we lived for ten years.  The snow was on the ground that first year when we moved in and it did not leave until the first week in May.  We got twenty-three feet of snow that year and at times we did have six feet of snow on the ground. It was to the eaves on the barn.

I went on my first business trip for Apple in November of 1984.  I still remember how cold it was walking around Montreal in a suit and dress shoes with snow on the ground.  Then there was the November of 1989.  We had just moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and it started snowing early that month and stayed on the ground until after Christmas.  The road got so icy that neighbors got together and chipped a path one half mile down the hill.

Of course November was often the time for Apple sales conferences.  I remember the wonderful one in 2001 when I won the award as national business sales manager of the year. The next year in Toronto our federal team was treated as heroes because we had done the impossible.  We had become a very successful enterprise sales team right in the heart of the very consumer-oriented Apple.

It was only one year later in 2003 when we were treated as outcasts because the company had been unable to ship the product that we sold.  That was the year and the November that I vowed that I would never return to Cupertino. I was gone from Apple eight months later and you can read the story in my book, The Pomme Company.

Beyond business, turkeys and snow, I first started kayaking on the White Oak River in November of 2006.  I have also enjoyed some of my most memorable fishing during November including this cooler full of fish.  There have been some wonderful Novembers here along our piece of coastal paradise where sometimes the weather is so nice that you have to worry about someone pinching you and waking you up from a dream.

Then there is that memorable for me day, November 23, 2004, just one day shy of ten years ago when I published my first blog post, My Welcome To Windows.  I have written thousands of posts since then. Many are scattered all over the Internet but there are links to a smattering of them on my homepage.  Just a little over one hundred of them are located here at my Ocracoke Waves site. There are lots more at my Crystal Coast Life site and almost fifteen hundred at my View from the Mountain blog with hundreds more at  my Saltwater On My Feet blog and my Applepeels site. The four hundred plus posts which were once at Applepeels were the basis for our first book, The Pomme Company.  I have written a few other books along the way and I just started my first truly fiction book. It comes as no surprise that I started it this November.  That might become another good November memory for me.

I am going to look forward to the memories that I make this November.  There will be yet another turkey to carve, mashed potatoes to make, and this year I am in charge of rolls.  There is also still time to catch some November fish and finish a few November chapters of that new book.

I hope that each reader makes good memories of their own this November 2014.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Appreciating the shallows

When you look back, much of your life has revolved around the big things like graduating from high school or college, getting married, having kids, and getting that great job.   Those big events remind me of deep waters where you cannot see to the bottom.

You face a lot of deep, dark waters during your life.  When you join a corporation, it is unlikely you have any idea how long you will be there, what you will accomplish, or how your career will end.  Certainly I had no idea my time at Apple would end so abruptly right at the very moment when my team was achieving such amazing success.

When you commit yourself to spending your life with another person, there is no way to read those waters and what will happen over the years.  You just have to prepare yourself for the ride and hope you can keep your love and friendship alive.

Children are much the same.  There is no way to predict what kind of person that wonderful toddler will be in twenty years.  You do the best to guide them, provide some advice, and try to be a good example.  I know my parents were very surprised when I graduated from college and headed off to Canada to build a cattle operation in the hardwood hills of New Brunswick.

As you get beyond some of those milestones in life, the water get a little shallower and it is a little easier to see to the bottom or you could face next. Life always holds plenty of mysteries, but you often have a little better idea of what will happen if you do a certain thing. You have done a lot of things over and over and some of your actions reliably produce a consistent result. There is some comfort in that. If I go to church every Sunday, pay attention in the pew, and try to live better, I end up feeling better about myself and those around me.

I know that if I go out and walk five or six miles during the day, I will be really tired at night and likely sleep really well.  If I also do a lot of yard trimming and gardening on the same, there is a good chance that I will be so tired that I will have trouble sleeping. I seem to feel the best when I walk three or four miles in a day.

We know if we call our older daughter at 9 PM on Sunday night, it will be a short call.  That is when she is watching one of the few television shows that she enjoys. My neighbor enjoys washing his cars early on Sunday morning. Sometimes he washes them when even he admits they are pretty clean.

We understand that when beach season arrives that shopping in the grocery stores is a lot more challenging.  We try to shop for our groceries between Monday and Thursday and typically we avoid buying groceries on  the island from early June until late August.  It is part of the rhythm of life here on the coast.

While you can never predict what the future holds, experience teaches us much over the years and as the water gets shallower or our time horizon gets closer,  you do get better at navigating the waters. Know even a handful of things that you can comfortably count on to happen removes a little stress.  If life was always as mysterious as that first day on a new job or as stressful as a move to a new city, we might be perpetually stressed out.

There is some comfort in shallow waters whether you are fishing in them or living them.  Almost eight years ago when I moved to the Crystal Coast I had no idea that I would be so at home among the oyster rocks that once appeared so threatening.  Now I would rather go out on our river to fish when the tide is falling and the water shallow.  It is easier to sit alongside an oyster rock and fish.  When the tide is in, I cannot see the oyster rocks, I have no place to rest my kayak, and I am also unlikely to catch any fish.

When I get up in the morning, I no longer have to worry about the implications of every email that I write or each decision during the day.  I am no longer in the high pressure corporate world that defined my life for twenty years.  Now I try to please my wife, keep the commitments that I have made to myself, my family, my community, my church, and also to my boss who is not rich like Tim Cook at Apple but happens to be a whole lot better leader.

We have been here on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina long enough to appreciate how spring can start cool but easily rush into summer and quickly deliver us to beach season.  There is comfort in worrying about when the tomatoes will get ripe instead of when global warming will reach the tipping point or whether Apple will be able to deliver promised products before the end of the year.

Perhaps the choice of living here in Carteret County is a choice of shallower water than Reston, Virginia, where I worked for so many years.  By moving here we escaped from the city and found a less complicated life where you are more likely to be something more than just another face in the crowd.

I have written in our Emerald Isle Travel Guide that Carteret County is a lot of water spread mighty thin.  Maybe life here on the Crystal Coast is easier to take just because of that.