As the saying goes; Life is short, live it to the fullest. Sometimes a life experience sneaks up on you and you are surprised by the emotions that you experience. My granddaughter, Callie, and grandson Broc were fishing off the dock during vacation. The water was very clear and you could see small pan fish circling their fishing lines. We were watching with anticipation, hoping the fish would take the bait. Then boom! Callie’s face was priceless; she had a fish!

She reeled the small sun fish in and soon it was flopping on the dock. Callie squealed with excitement. Her smile and giggle is something I will always remember. What fun she was having! Then it was Broc’s turn. He had the same result and same smile. Their mother, Jen, was sitting on the dock soaking it all in, just like I was. My son Jeremy was assisting his kids with the fishing poles and bait.

That scene of catching fish was played out a few more times on the dock of Lake Darling just outside of Alexandria that night. The excitement and joy on all of their faces brought tears to my eyes. I was caught by surprise by my emotions. I tried to hide my tears of joy.

My son Jeremy and his wife Jen, along with Broc and Callie have had a very difficult year. Jen was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer last summer. Jen had surgeries and radiation treatments throughout the year. I’m happy to report that Jen is cancer free today. They have been through so much, so it was nice to have them with us at Arrowwood Resort for a short family vacation.

Watching the expressions on Broc’s and Callie’s faces, along with Jen’s and Jeremy’s is something that I will always remember. The smiles were huge; the laughter was non-stop. Something so simple as catching small fish off the dock brought so much joy to all of us. Live life to the fullest; enjoy every moment. That is what they taught me that night on the dock.

There were sixteen of us in the townhouse at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, which is a very nice place. It had been a few years since we had all been together. Spending time with all four of our children and their spouses, along with our grandchildren was the best. I needed some family time. I have thought of that moment on the dock with Callie and Broc often this past week. It really is the simple things in life, like spending quality time with each family member.

I really enjoyed watching grandma play Farkle or Uno with all the grandchildren around the big table, and observing Brianna and Seth spending so much time with their nieces and nephews at the lake or pools at the resort. My daughter-in-law Kristine, and grandson Zane, who loves to bake and cook, brought some amazing desserts and dishes. My boys love to grill and did a lot of it. Watching my daughters-in-law, Katie, Kristine and Jen love on their children. I spent the early mornings, sipping coffee on the patio and thanking God for my family.

Family is everything. I don’t want to paint a picture of a perfect family; we have our issues like most families have. This family vacation was special for me. I realized I have an important role as a grandpa. I feel so much love from my grandkids, and they enjoy spending time with grandpa. I don’t want to disappoint them. I try and be the best grandpa I can be by spending quality time with each of them. Life is short, live it to the fullest.

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Had a interview with Bob and Chris of Hairball Thursday at the Chippewa County fair. Great show!

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Do you like family reunions? I do. I attended a small family reunion last weekend at my brothers in Worthington. It seemed like all my extended family reads my blogs each week. I was shocked and appreciated the nice comments about my blogging. My cousins were wondering if I was going to write about them in my blog this week. The answer is yes!

It seems like family reunions don’t happen as often as they did in the 50’s or 60’s, which is really sad. When I was a young child, it seemed like my parents were always going to family reunions on the weekends. Big gatherings in city parks, picnic tables were full of food all day. I remember playing baseball, or kickball with all my cousins, uncles and aunts. Even grandpa and grandma played with us. Many pictures were taken. It was always fun.

In fact, when Neal Armstrong stepped off the lunar module on the moon on July 20th 1969 we were at a family reunion in New Richland Minnesota. My dad and I left the reunion to go sit in the car in the parking lot to listen to the first man to walk on the moon on the radio. I was twelve years old. It was my mom’s side of the family, the yearly Crumb reunion.

I like getting together with family members I don’t get to see often. I spent a lot of time with my cousins as kids growing up. We were always together. We really had so much fun running in the yard, wrestling, fighting, teasing each other, eating, and someone was always crying because they got hurt. I never cried.

When my brother Greg and I got together with our cousins, Mike and Mark, who are brothers, all we did was tag team wrestle, we would literally beat the crap out of each other. There was always blood spilled. Looking back on that, it is amazing nobody really got hurt bad. It was so much fun, great memories with them.

Then life happens and you get older and go your own ways and don’t see them often. Sometimes years go by without seeing or visiting with them. So when we do a planned get together, I get excited to spend time with them for a few days. Which we did at my brother Greg’s in Worthington. Many stories are told of the old days, lots of laughs all day long.

Picture taking is a huge undertaking at family reunions. We all were taking pictures with our cell phones last weekend. Years ago, it was the Polaroid camera, or a Bell Howell 8-millimeter camera. My cousins Pam and Deb did a great job of organizing the family pictures at Greg’s, making sure we got each family unit. Pam did mention let’s get a picture of the young generation, they wouldn’t let me in that picture.

I also enjoy spending time with the younger generation which would be my nephews and nieces and their children. I must admit I don’t know all the names of their children, but they are sure cute kids. I’m sure my uncles and aunt said that about me when I was that age. Family reunions are fun and I hope we do more of them.

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My wife has proclaimed herself to be my personal trainer. Exercise and I don’t get along very well. I never have enjoyed exercise. I turned 60 and my wife thinks that now is the time to get in shape! I got news for everyone. I like to eat and I despise exercising! There, I said it and I feel so much better!  

My disdain for exercise started at a young age. I remember how I hated gym class in high school. I hated the mile run, the pull-ups, and the sit-ups! I liked the games though because they were competitive. Gym class scarred me for life! I won’t even mention showering as a seventh grader and how traumatic that was. 

I was very active in sports in high school so I did get a lot of exercise. It was the conditioning part of high school sports I hated. I dreaded the beginning of football practice and wrestling practice. I hated the heat in August during football practice, the tough conditioning and all the running.  I can’t believe I survived all of that.  

 I admire people of all ages who are active, especially people my age who continue to run, swim, and workout. I would like to ask them if they really enjoy running or walking or going to the gym every day. I know exercise is good for you, but shouldn’t you be enjoying it? I think most people don’t.  

This spring, when I mowed my lawn for the first time, I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. We have a push mower. You see I had wintered well and I was terribly out of shape. My wife wasn’t happy with me, so she proclaimed herself “Paul Raymo’s personal trainer.”  I give her credit; she has been like a drill sergeant.  

With my work schedule the way it is, we started walking late at night. The first night, I don’t think I could walk six blocks. I pushed myself with the help from my wife to go further the next night. I am happy to report that the walking every night is working, it is easier and easier to walk farther and farther.  Am I liking the exercise? No! What I did find out is that I do like spending time with my wife. We talk and walk! It’s a good bonding time.  

She’s a tough cookie, she won’t let a night go by without pushing me out the door. Our goal is to reach three miles every night; we are almost there. I have on my phone an app called Map My Walk and I love using it while I’m walking. It has become a motivator for me. However, I’m going to need some new tennis shoes if I keep this up! I do wonder if I ever will like exercising. If I do I will let you know. As Carrie Tollefson says “Get after it” 

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Hugging is always a hot topic at work and in my family. This blog will be about giving and wanting a hug. I am a hugger. I have people in my life that I love that are not huggers and they will let you know that they are not huggers. This is something I don’t understand. Giving someone a hug has many health benefits. In preparing for my blog, I did a study on hugging. What I found was very interesting.

First let’s define what a hug is from Wikipedia.

A hug is a form of endearment, universal in human communities, in which two or more people put their arms around the neck, back, or waist of one another and hold each other closely. Depending on culture, context and relationship, a hug can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship, brotherhood or sympathy. .A hug can indicate support, comfort, and consolation, particularly where words are insufficient. A hug usually demonstrates affection and emotional warmth.  A hug can range from a brief one second squeeze, with the arms not fully around the friend to an extended holding. The length of a hug in any situation is socially and culturally determined. Unlike some other types of physical contact, a hug can be practiced publicly and privately without stigma in many countries, religions and cultures, within families, and also across age and gender lines, but is generally an indication that people are familiar with each other. An unexpected hug can be regarded as an invasion of a person’s personal space, but if it is reciprocated it is an indication that it is welcome. Some Western culture commentators advise avoiding hugs at work to prevent uncomfortable moments, especially with people who dislike hugging.

In my research, I was happy to find out that there are many health benefits from hugging. I am all for being healthy. One study has shown that hugs increase levels of oxytocin and reduce blood pressure. Did you know that a 20-second-or-longer hug releases oxytocin? Oxytocin is a hormone and has various social and physiological functions in the brain and the body, but is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” due to its role in social bonding. Hugging someone reduces stress, eases depression, it has been proven to fight infections. Hugging is very healthy for you.

I hug my wife every day. I like hugging and holding her.  I always will hug people I love. I also will hug strangers, and I have done that in the past. I want to join the Free Hugs Campaign it is a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places. The hugs are meant to be random acts of kindness—selfless acts performed just to make others feel better. International Free Hugs Month is celebrated on the first Saturday of July and continues until August first. So it will be a full month of constant hugs. Are you in need of a hug? If you see me, just ask.

Hugs just make you feel better. A complete stranger came up to me the other day in Canby and asked if I was Paul Raymo. I told her I was. She then preceded to give me a long hug! I immediately felt loved, peaceful, and wanted by a complete stranger! I asked her why the hug?  She told me that she lives in Florida and had read one of my blogs and in my blog I had asked for a hug. She really made my day! Hugs can be powerful. One of my best memories of a hug, was a family group hug at a family reunion. Fifteen to twenty of us participated in a large goodbye group hug. I have a picture of that long family group hug. It felt so good. I want to encourage all of you to give someone a hug today!

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