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As I See It

Memorial Day marks the traditional beginning of summer. And, with the coming of it, our daydreams turn to beaches, backyard cookouts and softball games. Laying back and fun times with the family is what the season is all about, right?

Maybe not.

What about all those things on our to-do lists? What about all those meetings? How’s your family going to kick back and enjoy the summer with all those soccer camps, piano lessons, ballet practices and T-ball games? How can we squeeze in a little down time?

I think we overwhelm ourselves with these “must do” priorities. Americans don’t leave enough white space in the margins. Every page has to be completely filled or we think that we’re not living the good life to it’s potential. Success means busyness and idle time is wasted time. Of course, this reasoning is utter nonsense, and I think we all know it.

Good ol’ days — really!

When I recall my happiest childhood memories I think of the times I spent in unstructured playtime with my friends and family. Parents took time to raise their kids in those days rather than pawning them off on someone else.

People had a clearer definition of the workday back then. They did what was required to put bread on the table and then went home to the family. None of today’s compulsion to check e-mail, voice mail, cell phones or pagers.

Our telephone was on a party line, which we shared with several other families, and if you didn’t answer the phone, it just rang until one of the neighbors picked up and said we weren’t home and please call again later.

My, my how technology has changed. My, my how neighbors have changed. We lived out in the country and only had one car, so many of the activities taken for granted today were not available to me. Does that mean that my childhood was deprived since most summer days were just spent doing things around the house? I don’t think so. We had pastures and ponds and horses and creeks. What more could a kid want?

OK, one more to-do list…

Living with a 24-hour-a-day schedule leaves no time to relax or just be a kid. I wouldn’t trade any part of my seemingly wasted childhood for today’s highly-structured, precisely-scheduled lifestyle.

So, what can we do this summer that would be fun and put a little white space in the margins of our page? At the risk of creating another to-do list, I suggest the following options to put a little summer back in summer.

First, Mississippi is blessed with state parks offering a wide range of opportunities for a little family adventure. Shut off the TV and take the family on a picnic at one of our state parks and create a memory that will last a lifetime.

At more than two bucks a gallon, cash in the old IRA and burn some gasoline taking day trips around the state. Mississippi is unique and interesting and there are lots of exciting places just waiting for a visit.

The ghost town at Rodney, near Port Gibson, has a fascinating history and a Civil War cannonball lodged in the church wall. The battlefield at Vicksburg commemorates one of the defining battles of the American Civil War and includes a visitor center that is instructional as well as entertaining.

Leaving the Civil War behind, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Museum of Natural Science, the Old Capitol Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum are all in Jackson and offer a cultural experience that will be long remembered. Similarly, the Blues Museum in Clarksdale, the Mississippi Interpretive Museum at Tunica and the Natchez Trace Parkway offer insight into Mississippi’s history and are well worth visiting.

Read a good book. I’m talking about a real book written by a serious author. Try some John Steinbeck or Mississippi’s own William Faulkner or learn some history with a James Michener historical fiction novel. Encourage your friends or family members to read the same book and discuss it with each other. Read a book about an interesting place and then visit the place. Michener wrote excellent historical fiction books covering Mexico, Alaska, Texas and the Chesapeake Bay area.

Teach your kids how to cook marshmallows and wieners on a stick over an open fire, or canoe a stream, or fish for catfish. These are non-high-tech activities that build experiences that will last a lifetime. And, after all, isn’t having great experiences and creating memories what fun is all about anyway?

Can you remember the plot to the last “Seinfeld” or “Friends” re-run you watched? I didn’t think so. Do some “out of the box” things this summer and create some memories and leave some white space in your margins and have a great summer in the process.

Thought for the Moment — There is but one secret to success — never give up. — U.S. Sen.Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.)

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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