Go with Happy…

Shit happens.  Some times it keeps happening.  As a Dad, sometimes it seemed it was literally happening all the time.

Nobody ever told me the first few years of the joys of fatherhood would smell like my children’s dirty diapers.¬†
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Diapers? Size what? Boys? Girls? Pull ups. Holy shit! That came out of my kid?? I still laugh about all the times juggling kids and all their ins and outs. ¬† We laugh about it now. ¬†They were great times. ¬†Hellllllllla smelly. But great times ūüėä

It’s kind of a metaphor for life at times; where our happiest times can be punctuated by periods of absolute, incomprehensible, and seemingly endless crap.

Sometimes it seems to pile on. ¬†Jobs. Relationships. Family bs. Friends. ¬†Commuting. Bills. More bills. Still more bills. Uninvited drama…..At times, it just doesn’t seem to end. ¬†It’s tough to keep positive when shit keeps flying at you. ¬†Even when it isn’t literally the case.

I have been asked how I keep calm in stressful situations. ¬†First, I must admit sometimes appearances can be deceiving. ¬†The appearance of calm often masked a state of immensely stressful vibration so intense it’s only appearance could be perceived at stillness.

As times evolve, the realization no matter how stressed we are, it will pass – creeps in more and more to consciousness. After a while, it becomes second nature to simply roll with things.


After all, we can’t control everything and I, for one, have long since accepted this as my most effective stress management tool.

So….

My choice is to try my best to “go with happy“.

When things are bad, try and find the good. The happy. Try and make someone’s world a little better. ¬†Like my friend Brian and his wife Barbara and daughter Gemma do so selflessly; volunteer and make the world a better place. ¬†Show your kids the gift of giving. ¬†Show them your “happy” and you’re happy.

Take someone’s picture when they’re struggling for a selfie with their family (a personal favorite). ¬†Give directions (another favorite) and just stop and find the good. ¬† Make someone’s day just a tiny bit better with an act of kindness. The gift you give gives back.

Wake up and choose happy. ¬†Put tomorrow behind you. ¬†I know it’s not easy. Damn, sometimes it’s as if the universe conspires to mess with you. ¬†A cascade of seemingly unfairly aligned circularances can test the most well intentioned person. ¬†It has been the case for me and I suspect many of you as well.

But those are the times to push through. ¬† To rise above the easy slide towards “oh shit, seriously?!?!”. It’s when these situations are overcome or at least dealt with and moved on from…we see the pattern of influencing our own mindset and the way we live.

So as you look at the day. ¬†The last week. Last months or years. ¬†Know this… They’re all in the past. ¬†Your now is here. ¬†Embrace it. Your future is waiting for you to create it. Go for it!

And if you fail.  So what. You know enough about life to know it will nearly always be ok.  The times we fret about things is immeasurably more numerous compared to the times worry was warranted.
And for those times positivity won’t erase the hurt, I have a couple of theories.

First, about the people we have lost. Those special people we love most who hurt or have died. ¬†Those people, I really believe in my heart, want you to be happy. ¬†I feel it’s the best way to honor them. ¬†To love the gift of life we are living right now. That is what we would want for them isn’t it? If the roles were reversed? I believe so.

And for the events in life where consequences are inescapable and you have to deal with things you couldn’t ever have imagined? I have a theory about that also. Pretty simple really.. Deal with it and don’t let it define you. ¬†It happened. ¬†It sucks. ¬†You messed up big time. BIG TIME. Move forward. ¬†Do you want that to define you and who you are and will be? ¬†No way right ? ¬†So don’t. ¬†

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just saying it’s possible to rise above it and keep moving forward. ¬†Relentless forward progress….

So… I believe we should go with happy. ¬† But what do I know… I have NOIDAD….

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Slowing down for Dad

It’s been a busy week. ¬†Starting out in Beirut, then to Paris, and back to NYC. ¬†Relieving JP after he came down to spend time with my Dad while Mom recovers from knee replacement surgery. ¬†Work, grad prep, and a spectacular day yesterday with Samantha for her graduation from The Ursuline School.
The day was amazing.  It was a blessing. It was great to see my girl and all her friends celebrating.  Great to see my Brother and his family.

And of course, it was bittersweet knowing the pick ups and uniforms are gone.  Happy of course, but WOW that was fast.

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One of the expected but still surprising elements of the day was how much we would have to all slow down for my Father. ¬† Happy to do it by the way and lucky he’s with us for this occasion.

Let me explain…..

My Father is a bit of a miracle of modern science.  A heavy smoker for years, he had little to no physical activity as he built his business and worked through his career.   At the age of 49 after several procedures and scares, he underwent open heart surgery in 1992.  I was just starting graduate school and my brother was heading to senior year of college.

Since then, he has had a few stents, diabetes, glaucoma, neuropathy caused by the diabetes and stenosis of the spine exacerbated by a car accident. Oh, and cancer. ¬†Removal of the cancer and chemo and hormone therapy have further progessed his neuropathy and added in some muscular instabilities. ¬†Like I said, a miracle of modern science at just 73. ¬† But at 73, he’s a walking miracle to me.

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Back in 1992, a few months after his open heart surgery in August, we were gathered in late November for Thanksgiving.  Dad was still recovering of course, and he presented me with a question about the young woman I had been dating for two years at that point.  Asking if we were serious and making plans.

I was in a big damn hurry back then. ¬†A Big Hurry. ¬†A hurry to be “an adult”. To, quite frankly, get on with my life. So, that Thanksgiving so long ago, ¬†I started mapping out my life to my Dad. ¬†I began with seemed like ages into the future, the age of 30, and started counting backwards to 1992.

Age 30= married, house, kids

27= house

25= married and save for house

Age 23/24= Engaged

“So I guess you’re going to be getting engaged soon”. That was his reply back then.

You see, my Father was all serious. Especially back then. He retired and began to read more and think about the future.   I know why he was asking and know he wanted to see his sons settled down and happy; on the path to their life and content in the fact if something happened to him, his boys were ok.

Now I’m not saying that question from my Dad changed my timing, but I was engaged two weeks later on December 4, 1992. ¬† And I know my Dad was happy about it.

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Fast forward through the the engagement and marriage and I had a dream for my Dad to see a grandchild before it was too late. ¬†To say he wasn’t well was an understatement.

In March of 1997, with the birth of JP, that became reality and I was overjoyed my Dad was able to meet his grandson.

Here’s a picture of Dad and JP in 1997. As you can see, Dad was still sporting the stache and JP his baby combover….. Lol

A few months later, when JP was 9 or so months old, we learned he was to be joined by a sibling in the Summer of 1998.  And Samantha arrived late August.  It was beautiful to see the kids and the joy it brought to my Dad.

This is Sam in early 1999

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Time passes and stresses and life took on a quickened pace.  Life altering stresses preceded our move to Texas. In late 1999,  we moved to Texas and the kids began to grow up in the warm Texas sunshine and enjoy visits from their grandparents.

This is Samantha and my Dad in 2000

This is from Summer 2000 in Texas and you can still see his scar from open heart surgery pretty clearly.

This right here… That’s three happy people in this pic below….

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And just a few months later in the Fall of 2000, I asked for the divorce, was finishing my pre-med studies, completing admission to even more schooling, and moving out of the house.

Then 9/11, leaving school and joining the family to move back to New York after the loss of my sister in law’s husband.

This was a terrible time for everyone.  For so many reasons.  And it persisted for a while.  Through it all, Dad was pretty good physically and improving. He began working out. He was looking good.

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I’ll jump pretty far ahead and from 2003-2013 or so, Dad had a decent decade health wise. ¬†He progressed pretty well. ¬†There were some hiccups with a stent, a car accident, and some spinal surgery; but all in all he was managing and improving in a lot of ways.

2013- JP’s annual birthday brunch at Sylvia’s in Harlem, NYC

And then, in 2014 came the cancer diagnosis.  It was aggressively treated and, thankfully, it seems to have been eradicated.  But the muscular damage post chemo seems to have been severe.

Dad being his brand of funny with the docs before his surgery in May 2014

So since then, his walking has been compromised. PT and OT help sometimes and he’s pretty diligent with it. ¬†But he’s slow. And it frustrates him now. ¬†We are patient. ¬†But he isn’t. ¬†He has to be careful. And he gives us an attitude about it.

The roles reverse.

After all, knowing my Dad’s life story, if he took it easy or took the comfortable route early in life, he wouldn’t be where and who he is now. ¬†So, I have to give him this and know it’s just one manifestation of the man he is.

So this graduation, we took it slow for Dad. ¬†JP was amazing and his kindless and love for his Grandfather is beautiful to see. ¬†Samantha loved seeing him and was sweet as well. ¬†And even my ex I believe realizes time passing and my Dad slowing. ¬†To be very clear, I’m not saying any of us or Dad is without flaws…it’s just to me, especially now, they don’t matter at all. After all, he had NOIDAD what to do either.

Today, as I look back and look ahead. ¬†Back to all the joys and sorrows of life and the hardships, gifts and blessings we have experienced; I think back to that Thanksgiving Day in 1992 and my Dad asking me about my life and plans. I’m most grateful to my ex for the blessing of my children.

For all life’s ups and downs, I am happiest now he sees and knows my children. Spends time with them as much as possible with their busy lives and talks or facetimes with them regularly. Almost daily.

You see, this is all a dream to me. A dream where my sick Father on the verge of death in 1992 gets to meet a grandchild.

A dream where my Father gets well and sees my kids grow.

A dream where he gets to know my children on a personal level. Having their own relationship with “Papa”.

A dream where he gets to see my son and now daughter graduate High School.

A dream still in progress. Where everyday is a gift.

Take your time. It’s a privilege for me to walk slowly by your side.

Love your son Jonscott

What’s your “Why”?

I’m back in New York for my daughter Samantha’s graduation from high school this week.  These past months, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road.  A LOT.  This last 10 day trip was NY to a Paris to Lisbon to Paris to Beirut to Paris to NY. The return to NY was my 32nd flight this year.  And it’s not even the end of May yet. 

It’s all good.  ALL of it.  You know how it can be ALL good? Because I know my WHY. 

In these past years and months, I’ve had the great pleasure and true privilege of working with some really great people on fun projects around the world. One of the common themes I enjoy diving into with clients is discovering their WHY.  


Most of my clients, and any of us for that matter, know our WHAT.  What we are trying to accomplish each day. Our ambitions. These are the outcomes of our efforts.  The tangible products of what we do everyday. As the graphic I use often illustrates, it’s our Destination. 
Similarly, the HOW we do what we do is fairly straightforward.  It’s all the ways we approach our ambitions.  All the ways we organize and decide what’s important each moment of each day.  It’s our Engine.  Sometimes, the engine gets tired. Gets tested.  Gets worn down.  And that’s when we need to examine and understand our WHY. 

I’ve dedicated countless discussions with thousands of clients to discovering their WHY.   If you’re curious about this, check out Simon Senik’s TED talk on the subject.  I’ve attached a short version of it with key message points here: https://youtu.be/IPYeCltXpxw 


But when it comes to our why, we go much deeper into the spirit of what and how we do things.  Our intention, our purpose, and our mission.  Often times in my work, I ask clients why they get out of bed in the morning.  It’s not money or status that drives how and what we do.  It’s our WHY. 

For me, maybe not surprisingly, my why is simply to make my children’s lives better; to see them happy in their life; and for them to be living and working with a sense of meaningful purpose as they grow.   This takes many forms for me.  I have and will continue to give them the opportunity to see things with as broad and open a perspective as possible.  To live in a world connected rather than divided. 

These are what drive me everyday. Every morning, I wake up at ungodly hours to try my best to make things happen in the world I believe will change people. Even just a fraction. 

These micro or nano changes in a few hundred people multiplied by many clients and many cities and many more individuals, in some small way I believe have the chance to shift things.  Just a hair. 

So when I’m running around Lebanon last weekend, utterly exhausted in every way, and I see this picture of Samantha …..

 ….I was no longer tired.  I felt no fatigue.  I smiled.  I thought of my son JP flying home from his first year of college.  

I thought of my brother Keith and my friends and fellow Fathers.  Of Brian, Ray, Arshad, Dan, Andy, Peter, Kevin, David and many others.  Of countless fathers who know our WHY, however we interpret it.  However we feel it. However the spirit of our mission and our vision of the world drives us each day.  

I believe it’s why, literally, we all do what we do. Dad and, of course, Moms too. 

There’s no secret formula.  No manual for this.  We try our best.  But then again, what do I know. I have NOIDAD …….. 

Let’s go crazy

¬†My dad burst in my room at about 11pm. ¬†It was the early 1980s and I was using pencils to “drum” on a notebook to one of Prince’s new songs. ¬†I believe it was “little red corvette”. ¬†My drum aspirations ended for a long time that day. My Dad’s “Go to sleep!!!!” scared the shit out of me. ¬†I drummed in my head for a while after that. ¬†How sad is that!?

I have always felt drum lines in music and, even today, the percussion is my joy. It’s in my soul. ¬†I just feel alive on a cellular level with it.

I was thinking this because Prince died today and that’s one of my first memories of being wowed with his talent. ¬† “Let’s go crazy” was and is a favorite of mine for years. ¬†The melody. Lyrics and just funkiness of it all. Amazing. ¬†He was original. ¬†He didn’t care about the established formats and genre lines. ¬†He was all in and all talent. He is a loss to music and a reminder to passionate people to keep doing with they love.

It seems more and more of my musical youth passes as we all age.  Of course, this is inevitable. For me though, it causes me to go full triple focused.
Let me explain…..

Back

It causes me to look back on my life through music. ¬†Where I was. With whom. What life was about back then. It’s pure nostalgia. It’s fun. ¬†It’s emotional.

I still remember my kids asking for music in the car when they were little. ¬†4 or 5 years old and they’d rock out and we’d laugh at the lyrics and how we knew every one. ¬†We would take turns with our favorites and learn commonality and explain why we loved certain songs.

It’s transformative because …

Now

…it causes me to be hyper present in the music currently on my playlists and in my ears (“Judge” by 21 Pilots). The melodies. ¬†The lyrics. ¬†Of course, the drums. ¬†At this moment Josh is killing it. We share music now via iTunes or sending YouTube clips to one another. ¬†It’s a wonderful gift to share. ¬†And, it also gets me happily looking keenly towards…..

What’s next¬†

…new music is like expanding out palate. ¬† I mean we loved and will always love certain music. ¬†Sometimes for the reasons above and sometimes for the personal meaningful notes it hits for our lives. ¬†And what’s remarkable to me is all the creative people empowered to be themselves and express their feelings and hope and fears through their gifts.

How cool is that!? ¬†Your favorite song in 2018 or 2020…..The one you will loop over and over because it’s in your soul….. It’s in someone HEAD now. Being formed by life. By their experiences. ¬†Written and rewritten and then thrown out and written again. ¬† Musically experimentations are yet to happen. All so this song can kick you in the gut and have you say “WOW!!!”

Make YOUR noise 

A few years ago, I made the life changing discovery I can go use studio space in NYC for a nominal fee.

Me? Solo? Soundproof? DRUMS!? ¬†Fuck yes I was in! ¬†Since then, I’ve spend not nearly enough time blissfully banging away on the drums as my favorite tunes blast in my ears. ¬†Actually, bliss doesn’t even begin to capture how lost in the joy I am in those moments. I think I breathe more freely when I drum. ¬†I feel more alive. So much so, I thought I’d record the drum tracks.

You see, with the music blasting in my ears, my drumming was amazing. ¬†I must be a middle age prodigy ….. Ummmmmmm NOPE.

I SWORE someone switched my drum track with an drunk monkey loose in the zoo. ¬†It was bad. I mean really bad. ¬†And it made me laugh for one simple reason… I did not care. ¬†It didn’t take away from my joy. ¬†I was not Travis Barker and I’m ok with that.

¬†So my friends, let your kids drum. ¬†Let them enjoy their noise. And I assure you, you’ll enjoy it too. It’s the soundtrack of your life right now.

And it reminds us … Sometimes…”let’s go crazy”…..

I love you

I just text my son at college and we ended the text exchange with I love you… Like we usually do. ¬†Samantha and I text while she was at our favorite little breakfast spot today. ¬†Having an awesome time and making memories with her good friends from Ursuline. We ended our texts with I love you.

No matter where I am, the time, the way we express it verbally, face time or text…. or even the kind of day I am having, the I love yous I share with my kids, like all parents, ¬†make me smile from the inside out.

I believe it’s easy to slip into routine with people we love. The “I love you” closing to a phone call. The “love you too” as you leave someone to go to work, or wherever. ¬†Routine. Not saying the feeling isn’t there or sentiment is insincere. And it sometimes just becomes routine. ¬†But what do I know? I have NOIDAD.

Parents. ¬†Children. Spouses. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. ¬†These lifelong or long term loves seemingly fall into routine expressions. ¬†Not for lack of sincerity or feeling, just because they are constant and daily contacts most times. ¬†Again, what do I know. ¬†Seriously …

Maybe, for me, it’s because my access to my kids was challenging when they were young and I had finite and often limited time to share special moments with them – the “I love yous” were always urgent, emotional, and very deeply meaningful …..and without routine. There was fear behind my “I love yous”. They meant much more than a routine “I love you” to me.

They were “I love you”… and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see you tomorrow …..and I’m not sure how this weekend will go with things……. and I don’t know if my schedule to see you will go as planned ….

Back then, seeing my kids was not in my control.  It sucked.  Majorly.

There were times when I remember answering Samantha’s request to show her the calendar and circle the day I was going to see her next. Writing a “D” next to the day. ¬†That shit breaks my heart even today. I had no ability to make sure it would happen because of the situation.

Telling my kids if they didn’t see me on that day, know I LOVE YOU and I’m DOING WHATEVER I CAN to see you right then. ¬†I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do.
I had NO IDAD what to do. I suppose I still don’t. After all, we are all just trying our best.

But I do know everytime I tell my kids “I love you”, it reminds me of those days. ¬†It makes me nostalgic. It reminds me of the countless thousands of miles and hours driven (and now also flown), ¬†just to see them for a moment. So they know they were my most important gifts and their Dad would do anything for them. Then. Now. Always.


I love you.

The days I drove after a long day at work, only to wait for hours and ultimately, was not allowed to spend time with them. Followed immediately by nights I slept in my car, parked trying to avoid suspicion, just exhausted from a shitty job and drive, so I didn’t have to drive again the two to three hour+ round trip before making another attempt at seeing them the following morning.


I love you.

It reminds me of the days I woke up at 3 to drive to open up the gym I worked at before the 5am crew arrived.   Working ridiculous hours so I could be at the bus stop to see them onto the bus and then to meet after school at the stop and do homework together at Starbucks before returning to work. Then sneaking back in to the gym to sleep and avoid the long round trip drive before opening up the next morning.


I love you.

It reminds me of my parents helping me out when I worked Friday and Saturdays. Taking the kids home and entertaining them until I dragged myself home to see them and share so many moments I still remember today.


I love you.

I remember trying anything to see my kids. ¬†Wanting to and trying to do the right thing by their Mom at a time there wasn’t a right thing to do. ¬†Knowing now she was just trying to get by also. Forgiving the chaos and accepting my part in it as well. Remembering then, as now, nothing mattered more to me than JP & Samantha.


I love you.

It reminds me of the first moments my kids were too cool to say I love you back we went to the look and smile. I knew what they meant. And they sometimes whispered it to me around their friends as we said goodbye.


I love you.

And finally, for now, it reminds me of dropping my son off last year at college and his “I love you Dad” in my ear as we hugged goodbye. ¬† An intense a few days as I’ve ever experienced in ways not only directly related to leaving my first child 1500 miles away and getting on an airplane.


I love you.

Times change and life keeps rolling on. ¬†The I love yous are again not always in person but I am able to share them whenever and all the time. It’s pretty cool how it changes sometimes. ¬†Woken at 3am before a big day by an unexpected FaceTime from JP? Yes please. Sam texting me from lunch to say hello while I’m running through security to catch a flight. ¬†Any day, yes. ¬† Always I love yous. ¬†Always makes my day.

Always makes me joyful and grateful for my blessings. Those I recognize today and those yet unknown.  Those welcomed and those devastating.   All lessons. All love. If you look at it the way I do. Or try to at least.

But what do I know.  I have NO IDAD.

Oh, and I love you ūüėä

Memories as coins.  Deposits in the piggy bank of life- time with our kids 

Thank you Facebook for reminding me of my time with Samantha 5 years ago today in Boston. This second consecutive 7th grade overnight trip, following JP’s the year before, marked the end of my school trip chaperoning days.   

As many things do, it got me to thinking about time.  And making time.  And spending time.  And wasting time.  Time.  It’s all about time. 

This trip followed many before. Albany for the day.  The Museum of Natural History. Schrek on Broadway (yes, for real).  Most of these were two trips consecutively enjoyed with JP and then Sam. Add to these the innumerable trips to liberty science center, the blues clues musical (3x), Dora on ice (2x), Yankees games, knicks and Rangers games, random trips and vacations, and many trips with my ex and the kids when they were toddlers.   All of these are indelible memories for me and I enjoy these memories immensely.   

I believe it’s simply these seemingly small moments; these tiny choices at the time; which add up to the times we remember. 

I have no idea what I would remember of those days if not spent with my kids.   Another work day? Probably.  Some momumentally important world shattering event? Unlikely. 

Recently, I was speaking with with a good friend of mine as we tried to coordinate a working/brainstorming meeting together.  He was headed to his daughter and her school and couldn’t make out meeting.  In that moment, I was again reminded about priorities.   About the finite time we have with our kids when they are young.  The moments I believe we have to be cognizant of each day.  These are the foundational aspects of life as a parent on which the rest of our life with our children will be built.  

Also recently, I was speaking with a colleague who works from 7am -9pm in the office.  Add to that commuting time, and you easily have a 17 hour day for them outside the home.  They have kids in grade school.  And their job isn’t life saving surgery for this time.  They work in finance.  

Frustrated and exhausted, I asked them what matters in their life?  Money? We all need it to survive of course.   Family? That seems right.  

Why then would someone choose to spend so much time, in 2016 and the age of omnipresence via technology, away from the people most important to them?  We discussed this for only a short while. 

As time evolves and kids grow, the attachment and time evolves too.   I can recall discussions about my travel plans for work. The time I wouldn’t be here in the US (where I write this now), and how we would stay connected.  

I’m grateful for technology and it’s help most times.  I am lucky the kids are excited about travel and experiences too.  It makes life interesting for all of us. 

It’s no perfect formula for sure.  But I know when I apologized to my kids for missing a lacrosse or soccer game in recent years, they’ve both laughed and told me “you’ve been more present than anyone Dad. You have tons in the bank with that”

That, right there, is what’s it’s all about.  Some large and some more small deposits, over and over, in the piggy bank of life and time together.   

 

Oh wow… is this great!

Do you know those videos of young children seeing their parents after work or being gone for a little while? That joy. That “OMG I KNOW THATS DAD!” Or “THATS MOM!”  Maybe an even better visual is seeing a puppy jumping around when he hears the car and knows about to see someone he loves.  

I really don’t care if it sounds sappy, but that’s the feeling I had today. I’m having right now. 

As I drove onto campus and realized I’m about to see my son JP.  OH MAN IS THIS GREAT!   You see, after some review of the calendar and intense juggling of airline miles and airfares, coupled with the fortunate timing of work and hospitality of friends not too far away, I decided to make this trip happen.  

After this short visit, with school and travel, I won’t see my son until mid-May when he returns home from completing his freshman year at St. Ed’s in Austin.  

So, I took the leap. I had a great time visiting with friends. Enjoyed the drive to and from Austin, and now …. Well, right now, is what it’s all about ….as I watch the boys finish shoot around and watch JP having a great time in the beautiful Austin sunshine.  

Blue skies, great weather, and my happy son about to play a game he loves with teammates he has become close with this year and season.  As Sam relaxes and deals with the end of her two week break (boo hoo I know:), it really doesn’t get much better than this for me. 

So the reversal.  The parent seeing the child and getting that excitement and thrill.   Knowing the roles are a bit reversed and the time is rolling on……

OH WOW….IS THIS GREAT!