There are a number of Steve Woodruffs referenced on the Internet. These various alter egos are in academia, business, news reporting…at least one of them appears to be a convicted criminal! However, I made this site and they didn’t, so this site is about only one of us. Sorry, guys.
This particular Steve Woodruff is marooned in New Jersey. That turn of events was not intentional. When my bride and I moved here, it was with the intent of gaining some schooling for four years, then fleeing as rapidly as possible. That was over 28 years ago. Our kids have only ever known NJ as “home.” (OK, it’s really not so bad, but still not my favorite state in the union, you know what I’m saying??)
More background? Here is a trail of events and memories, presented in roughly chronological order, with highly debatable historical significance:
- I was born in Berlin, CT, in a little home (originally built in the 1700s) right next to where my father grew up. We used to have to duck down to move in the dirt cellar, until one of my brothers and I dug it out one summer in preparation for a belated concrete floor. I still have a faint set of scars on one leg from the infamous “match and wheelbarrow” incident during that project…
- I was the third of four boys. My Dad, and his dad, came from all boys. I have all boys. After 30+ years of marriage, I somewhat understand my wife, but no-one would mistake me for an expert on those of the Estrogen Set. If we’d had a girl, I’m afraid I either would have totally messed her up, or become an easy mark wrapped around her finger.
- We never moved growing up. My mother still lives in that compact house. It is tucked away on a historic street (just barely visible over there on the right), behind a big old wooden building that has served as a meeting house, a school, a set of offices, and now, an empty half-restored firetrap. The original wooden cupola from that building remains moldering in the overgrown parking lot of the Worthington School, and my father’s initials can be seen written inside from his early school days.
- My grandfather Arthur, who was significantly older than one might normally expect (Dad married at age 37), used to slip up and call me “Stuart.” I hated that. He served for years as the town clerk…a somewhat distant, austere man of Yankee bloodlines. His portrait still stares down at us (disapprovingly, we suspect) during family gatherings at my brother Tom’s house.
- As brothers, we had a bunch of acres behind several houses in which to roam, including a brook and some ponds. We used to catch a lot of frogs. We could never win the Berlin Fair frog-jumping contest, as perhaps we never allowed the local spawn to get big enough, so one year I deliberately entered a tiny little non-performer in order to win the $5.00 last place “booby prize.” I believe I was the first to capitalize on pursuing ignominy when victory was unattainable.
- Alliances within the brotherhood shifted daily, and name-calling was an Olympic-level sport. How my parents endured this and other follies, I did not understand…until I had 5 boys myself. Other sports: we used to sometimes get long, flexible branches, stick apples on the end, light a firecracker embedded in the apple, then fling the doomed fruit high and far, until it would explode into organic oblivion somewhere near the back lot. My patient wife is now coming to understand that having boys means fires, explosions, dirt, destruction, and general domestic mayhem. Daily.
- On Sunday mornings, Dad used to make us French toast. Later, we figured out how to do it. This is now a somewhat regular tradition in my family, and I won’t be surprised if my kids do the same. It’s best with my wife’s homemade cinnamon swirl bread. We found one place a couple years back in south Jersey that has the best French toast in the galaxy, and although I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, I know we can find it again if we’re in the Absecon area!
- I used to own a 6-inch telescope (Criterion) and was deeply interested in observational astronomy. I was also into photography, and one of my best photos from that era was a time-lapse shot of the eclipsed moon rising, while it came out of the earth’s shadow. I think I still have it buried somewhere. Some of the favorite images I’ve stumbled across on the web are deep space shots.
- To earn money, I used to deliver the early morning Hartford Courant newspaper (365 days/year), then moved up to bag-stuffing and cart-gathering at the local Food Mart. Before entering into real career-type positions, I also worked in a plastics factory, did grill work at two McDonald’s, bussed tables, worked as a waiter and a wine steward, ran a tape ministry, assisted a mason, painted, cleaned bathrooms, did desktop publishing…the usual assortment. Nowadays, I still enjoy building walls and sipping wine, but I don’t do bathrooms.
- My best friend during in high school was Eldin Lougee, who is now somewhere in the Pacific Northwest…we’ve re-established contact via Facebook. Eldin and I once built a pedal-powered boat and painted it with a shark’s face, and made the top of the rudder look like a fin. It only semi-worked but it was a fun project. We also bicycled incessantly – I bought my first 10-speed bike in early high school (a Raleigh) and it served me well until my first year of marriage, when it was stolen by some slimeball.
- I had my first semi-coherent thoughts about God after talking to a young lady during a high school basketball game – I was supposed to be taking yearbook pictures of the game, but we got into a deep conversation and she told me about how she prayed during a robbery in a store where she worked. I think that was the first time I’d heard someone talk about God as if He might be real. One of my buddies had my camera across the gym, and he took a picture of this occasion – I wish I still had it.
- I graduated from Berlin High School in 1976. I was no kind of sports star – a semi-fair tennis player during junior and senior year – but I did well academically, and had both an appointment to West Point and an ROTC scholarship from which to choose. I took the scholarship and went south to Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. In freshman year, I discovered that the Civil War (“War of Northern Aggression,” as my good friend Don Davidson from Georgia called it) actually wasn’t over yet! What was ancient history for us northerners remained an open sore for some drawl-talkin’ folks who still kept Confederate flags!
- Originally, I went to Vandy for three reasons – it had an ROTC program, there was a strong Astronomy program, and I was utterly charmed by the friendly southern culture. My pursuit of astronomy came to an abrupt halt – picture a crash-test dummy here – when I encountered calculus and physics. Turns out I don’t have a mind for theoretical number-crunching. I also transitioned out of the ROTC program after 2 years, sensing (correctly, I increasingly believe) that I would not “fit” well into a pre-made, highly structured environment like the military. I do still enjoy visiting down South, however – it takes me most of a day to re-learn to relax, smile, let drivers through, say “hello” to strangers for no reason, etc.
- At Vandy, I got involved in campus Christian groups, learned how to think and write, ran a janitor for campus president (he got 37 write-in votes), got decent grades, played a fair bit of Frisbee golf, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s in psychology in 1980. I also discovered, in my first autumn there, that part of the campus culture was to attend football games in coat and tie (guys) and dresses (gals). This was a profound and disturbing shock to my uncouth northern non-frat-boy way of living, and though my flannel shirt/jeans uniform probably did not contribute much to its demise, the stuffy old tradition seems to have mercifully gone by the boards.
- The summer of 1979 was spent in Lake Placid NY, and there I met my soulmate, Sandy. It was the sense of humor at first, and also the voice. Hers on the singing voice…definitely not mine. Later, as talks got deeper, there was a profound communion. We worked together at McDonald’s, and used to pass notes of encouragement written on French Fry wrappers. She’d put my notes in her back pocket – I envied those wrappers – and we prayed for a pure and God-honoring friendship. We ended up with that and more.
- I waited on tables (Clark’s restaurant, Willimantic) while my bride-to-be finished her last year at UConn in Storrs, CT. She skipped graduation in favor of a wedding ceremony. Within 2 weeks time, she graduated from school, became some guy’s wife, and moved 1,000 miles from home with him to Tennessee. Hindsight taught me that perhaps this was a bit too much at one time for optimal emotional equilibrium!
- We were active members of Belmont Church in Nashville for those first few years of marriage. Belmont was loaded with aspiring Christian musicians. I remember playing a tennis match with one (now well-known) recording artist during an infestation of 17-year locusts – it was rather “crunchy” on the court that day! I was also ably mentored in theology by Joe Partain, with whom I recently shared a walk around Radnor Lake, just like old times.
- Finally, we moved to NJ in 1984. Much of that time has been spent in the tight-knit town of Boonton, in Morris County. My wife and I both studied and worked, then settled into a life that included (eventually) five sons, career positions in Special Ed and, nowadays, high school science (for Sandy) and in medical equipment sales and pharma training business development (for me). Now I run Impactiviti, my own consulting company, while my wife attempts to keep the kids moving forward academically, and keep the house together through the whirlwind of testosterone that surrounds her. Our house is a rambling colonial with a big yard and a lot of stone walls (built/re-built in recent years). Beside staying quite busy at the homestead, we are active members of Christ the King Church in Denville.
- Two boys are now out of the house (David, our second son, is a U.S. Marine) and the others are rapidly moving up. We’re trying not to let them drive us utterly insane. Sometimes, we succeed…
- Apart from this personal blog, I have two professional blogs - Impactiviti, which is my primary business blog focusing on pharmaceuticals and training; and ConnectionAgent, which contains my musings about social networking and business – an area of ongoing interest and professional aspiration. I also work with entrepreneurs and small businesses helping them figure out their branding with my Clarity Therapy process. For 18 months, I co-moderated #LeadershipChat on Twitter (Tuesday evenings, with Lisa Petrilli).
- I’m quite active in other forms of social media besides blogging. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and as a part of some collaborative efforts such as group-written books (Age of Conversation; Not Quite What I Was Planning) and the first-ever Blogger Social. But, above all, I love meeting one-on-one (or in small groups) with people. Just keep me away from loud crowds in small, dark rooms!