This month’s summer activities cover story reminds me that summer has always been a point of demarcation in my year. Even as some people use their birthday or the holiday season to mentally re-launch their year, I’ve always seen June 1 as the start of my personal new year.

Why?

I guess I spent so many years in school (the old-fashioned, nine-consecutive-month program) that the beginning of summer always meant “change” to me.

Many of us take family vacations during the summer months, or send our children to summer camp, or spend a little more time at the ballpark or the lake or the pool or the golf course. Summer, by default, should be the family time of year.

Along these lines, I read something interesting in Forbes magazine the other day. (What with our nation’s supposed fixation about finances and money, I suppose it’s appropriate that I would find a kernel of lifestyles knowledge buried in a financial magazine.)

According to the Forbes information, the average parent spends approximately 28 seconds daily in “quality conversation” with the average child. This is not a misprint – 28 seconds per day.

Now, my children are about two and four years old, so my “quality conversation time” naturally is somewhat limited, but the Forbes article did make me think a little more about how much time I spend doing the things I consider to be most important in my life.

And the answer is: Certainly not enough.

My job is publishing a newspaper, and there’s no shortage of special events or news conferences or community meetings or business-related functions that I can (or am expected to) attend.

And my job probably is no different than yours, if you work outside the home: To get ahead, we’ve accepted the idea that working 40 hours a week simply isn’t going to be enough.

But given that 40 hours is the “standard” work week, that is the point from which many of us have to evaluate our commitment to work versus our commitment to family or the other things we believe are important.

For every hour over 40 we work, something else is shortchanged – whether it’s our golf game, our married/dating life or our children.

The tradeoff is that simple.

Of course, overtime work sometimes is unavoidable. And sometimes, these situations can stretch from one week to one month to one year or more.

But eventually, whether we work inside or outside the home, each of us has to look into the mirror long enough to see beyond the few stray hairs or the mussed makeup to answer this question: Am I living my life the way I really want to?

In the interest of journalism and science, try an experiment with me this month. Keep a mental or written log of how much time you spend during the month doing the one or two things that are absolutely, without question, the most imporant to you. And when the month’s over, add up the time, divide by 30 (the number of days in June), and see if you’re satisfied.

Hopefully, we’ll find that we’re spending far more than 28 seconds per day doing what is most important to us.

If you’re not, well, what are you waiting for? July 1 is as good a time for a new year’s resolution as any.

Hats Off To – Us

Several weeks ago at the annual awards convention of the Texas Community Newspaper Association, we received some great news: Advocate Community Newspapers was recognized as the group’s Best Community Newspaper.

To achieve this recognition beginning our fifth year of publishing community newspapers is gratifying, to say the least.

As the judging panel explained in honoring our newspapers: “Hats off to all at this newspaper. They do everything well.”

Our staff of full-time, freelance and volunteer writers and graphic designers deserves our thanks for helping achieve this honor. So do our advertisers, without whom our newspapers wouldn’t exist. (So don’t forget to patronize those who are offering goods and services you need: Now you can tell them you saw their advertisement in the “award-winning” Advocate.)

But most of all, those of you who read our newspapers are responsible for our success. Every month, our phone lines light up with calls from neighborhood residents who have story ideas, or who are reporting delivery problems, or who are “concerned” about what this or that columnist wrote, or who are just calling to say “thanks” for providing a community newspaper for our neighborhoods.

We’ve tried to learn from our mistakes and not become too big-headed about our successes, and receiving the top editorial award from the Texas Community Newspaper Association is an honor of which we’re very proud.

We’ll certainly try to keep doing our job of producing the best community newspaper we can, and we hope you’ll keep letting us – and our advertisers – know how we’re doing.