Here’s Johnny

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Last night Andrea and Kevin wanted to orchestrate a belated birthday dinner for the General. Of course, as part of the entourage, I was also invited. In all truthfulness, I can say it proved to be an exceptional evening.

 

For starters, Andrea and Kevin chose a restaurant where the General and I have never been. Truthfully speaking, I am mostly a stranger to the kind of fine dining that includes something more than a white tablecloth and dinnerware. I am not accustomed to having a myriad of choices for the first course, second course, main course and the grand finale (aka – desert).

 

It was a touching moment when Andrea looked at the menu and said to her mom, “Why don’t we take this and this and this for starters?” She offered several suggestions to include for the second course and pretty much left the third course for our own choosing.

 

Seriously, for the most part, I had looked at the menu and had no idea what was being served. When it comes to culinary choices that include something outside my regular fare or frame of reference, my first reaction is to look for something else on the menu that seems more familiar. I kind of discount the possibility that I will like it if I haven’t already tried it.

 

Andrea has a culinary charm about her where she can get by with promoting a menu selection for consideration. She does a good job of convincing you that you have a treat in store. I had a flashback to the General coaxing Andrea throughout her childhood to try different foods.

 

It was both interesting to observe and experience the role reversal-taking place before my eyes. Andrea was taking on the role of teacher and mentor. Though she’d never suggest that we were her inept students, we were on unfamiliar territory. She was pretty convincing that we would enjoy the taste. Never once did she use the line: “It is good for you”.

 

The waiter was a young man named Johnny. Actually, when he first came to our table, I missed his providing us his name. At least, I didn’t recall his name when he came back around. Consequently, when he came back around I said: “Help me with my memory. I don’t remember your name.” He smiled and said: “It is Johnny. Just like Johnny Cash, except that I don’t have any cash. Okay, so now I had a frame of reference. I would remember his name.

 

As our two-hour-plus dinner took place, I watched Johnny interacting with a host of other folks dining in the restaurant. He was attentive, personable, and had a genuine gregarious nature about him that added to the ambience of the evening.

 

He mentioned early in waiting on our table that he had just returned to work. He had been on vacation. I asked about his vacation and he provided a thumb-nailed sketch. He had gone to Arizona. While he was there, he attended his brother’s wedding. He added: “I also had a great time visiting with my mom. I sprung her from the hospital for a while. She has just finished chemo and radiation treatments”. He mentioned that in four months she has aged about fifteen years.

 

Immediately, I had the thought associated to the complexity of his family’s circumstances. His mother’s health status had to weigh heavily on the family as they rallied around and celebrated a family wedding. I’m sure there were lots of emotions surrounding the celebration.

 

I mentioned that I was sorry he was dealing with that kind of stress. He said, “It comes with life”. Who could argue with that? He went on to say: “It is interesting, but my mother has developed the most magnificent sense of humor. She had never been so funny. I guess she figures, ‘What do I have to lose’?”   He added: “I really enjoyed the time with her. In addition, my brother’s wedding provided an opportunity for me to visit with a lot of old friends I’ve not seen in awhile. It was really nice. I enjoyed my time at home, but it is also good to be back at work.”

 

Through the course of the evening, bits and pieces about his life surfaced in conversation. He mentioned George Straight’s song: “Ocean Front Property In Arizona”. He said he had recorded the song and given it to several friends. His friends had responded with positive reviews.

 

I asked: “So did you come to Austin to get in the music business?” He said he had graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and was ready to advance his career. He had started skateboarding at the age of four and thought he could make it as a professional skateboarder. California was calling his name. He had to go and give that career track a chance”.

 

I doubt that is just the kind of thing every parent wants to hear from his or her seventeen-year-old son? Actually, he told his dad he was going to request court emancipation. The dad countered that he would allow him to go, but that he wasn’t going to be emancipated. The dad wanted to keep him on as an income tax deduction. Did I mention that his dad is a CPA and his mother is an art professor?

 

He had support from his family as he pursued his dreams. In the course of the two hours we shared, he shared several more tidbits about his life. He got a degree in nursing and things began to fall apart with his girlfriend at exactly the same time that he was beginning to see a line of white picket fences.

 

I had the thought: “What a clever way to express where he was in his human pilgrimage.” Romance didn’t work out in California and he made his way to Austin. His story associated to getting into the restaurant business really caught me by surprise. He said, “It was all about the Balloon Animals”. “The what”, I asked?” He said when he was still in high school a friend had showed him a stash of cash in his wallet. He said: “He had twenties and hundred dollar bills.” His friend explained: “I’ve been working at a restaurant making animals out of balloons for children.” He said, “The parents love it and they pay me. Some pay me very well”.

 

“You’ve got to show me how to do that,” was his response to his friend. In short order, he received permission to do the same thing in another restaurant. He said, “I guess it was my gregarious nature, but folks really liked me. When the restaurant decided to stop allowing me to do that, they said I was too valuable to loose. They employed me as a part-time server while I was in high school”.

 

When asked about his passion going forward he said: “I am a writer. I was made to write. I can’t stop writing. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I will. I write. I can’t stop writing”.

 

Something tells me, he’s got the stuff to reach his dreams. I liked his line: “I was beginning to envision a line of white picket fences”. What an incredible way to say much in a very different way of expressing it!

 

Johnny gave me permission to share his story and reluctantly provided the same regarding his picture. It would serve you well to find him. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable server who works for an incredible restaurant. You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and an exceptional waiter.

 

All My Best!

Don

A Contrast to the Calm and the Not So Calm

The Charles Sumner School

There is something about a crowd that leaves me feeling claustrophobic. Consequently, I try to avoid the Metro at peak times of the day. The same is true of stepping onto an elevation crammed full of people.  Leave me out is not only my first thought, it is undeniably my plan of action. 

So this morning, I’m in a quandary and there really is no way out.  I’ve got several meetings scheduled on Capitol Hill today. The same is true for several of the board members for the organization where I work. 

Our board meeting yesterday was in a venue where we virtually had the building to ourselves. There were no lines of people waiting to get into the elevator. Actually, there was no other group meeting in the building. We met at the Charles Sumner School in Washington, D.C.  Today the Charles Sumner School serves as a museum, rather than a place of learning. Okay, so I expressed that incorrectly. It is not a venue where children attend school, but it also is a conference center where learning takes place.

I’ve always had an appreciation for historic buildings that have withstood the test of time.  The Charles Sumner School was constructed in 1872 and was the first public school to serve African American children in the District of Columbia.  The architecture is absolutely amazing.  

According to information on the agency’s website: “The building was named for US Senator Charles Sumner, a major figure in the fight for abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal rights for African Americans. Reportedly, Sen. Sumner was opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the return of fugitive slaves by Union troops. He also fought for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the creation of a Freedman’s Bureau, the admission of testimony from African Americans in the proceedings of the US Supreme Court, pay for black soldiers equal to that of whites, ad the right of American Americans to use streetcars in the District of Columbia”.

The grandeur of the building and it’s furnishings make it a very comfortable space to meet as a group, host a conference, or simply get in touch with a sense of history that promoted opportunities for learning and advancement. 

Unfortunately, the sense of calm and the tranquility of yesterday will be a very different experience today on Capitol Hill.  How were we to know weeks ago when we planned our board meeting and begin making appointments, that  we were going to have company? We obviously didn’t know.

Today is “SWARM THE CAPITOL – January 29 DAY OF ACTION”.  Reportedly the planned and highly publicized “silent non-violent gathering” of people wearing T-shirts, buttons and stickers with strong “Remove Trump” and “No Cover Up” messaging will be hard to overlook. At noon, there is a mass meet-up in the Hart Senate Office Building with other strategic locations to follow including the steps outside the Capitol, the Capitol Visitor’s Center, and the hallways outside the Senate Gallery.  Reportedly, “The purpose is to voice outrage about the GOP cover-up and demand Trump’s conviction and removal from office”.  

The thought of being in a crowd is less than ideal. Frankly, I’d rather not.  The Metro is always overloaded at peak-times. I can only imagine the increased difficulty with the added flow of folks wanting access to the Capitol.  The time delay in gaining entry to the Senate Hart Building will take forever with a line of people needing to go through screening. 

I went to bed early last night with a headache.  I woke up with the same headache this morning. Could it have a relationship to wanting to avoid a crowd? Probably not, but the crowd and the added inconvenience of accessing buildings on Capitol Hill is going to be a nightmare.

Okay, so now you know I’m in Washington an having the time of my life. I’d rather be anywhere else other than in a crowd.  

All My Best!

Don

A Story In Song

Yesterday proved to be a day of near missed flight connections. Yesterday’s blog chronicled the takeoff of my day as I headed to D.C. via Southwest Airlines. The connecting flight from Nashville to Washington was also a near miss.  We were all set for landing when suddenly we weren’t. A plane still on the runway blocked the initial landing approach and we circled around for another opportunity. 

Once inside the Nashville airport, when I reached the gate for the flight to Reagan National in Washington, the plane was already boarded. Wouldn’t you know it, for that leg of the flight, I held in my hand a boarding pass for the “A” boarding group? A lot of good it did me, since I boarded after the “C” boarding group was already on the plane.

Okay, so the only thing I ever place in the overhead compartment on the plane is my very small BiPap machine.  I keep my backpack close because I must have my computer. Would you believe there was not enough leftover bin space to accommodate the small BiPap machine?  Consequently, I “held my mouth just right” and stuffed both the BiPap machine and my backpack under the seat in front of me. Impossibly snug is the only expression that begins to describe the fit. 

On both the flight from Austin and the connecting flight from Nashville, I found myself lost in the magic of a book. The words from the pages had the same appeal that nectar holds for a hummingbird. I was drawn like iron-shavings to the pull of a magnet as I turned page after page.

The refreshing sweetness of truth in the book resonated somewhere deep in my soul.  Would I be able to process it, absorb it, be energized by it and incorporate the principles in my daily walk?  It isn’t just a rhetorical question. Patterned behavior has a way of repeating itself.  At some level, in some areas, I want to do it differently.

Yet when you look at the divisions and the increased polarization that is tearing the fabric of all we hold dear into shreds, there is “no time like this” to find the courage to “find our way back to ourselves and to each other”.  The last phrase is from Brown’s book.

I was mesmerized with the richness of Brené Brown’s book, “Braving The Wilderness”. The sub-title also spoke volumes: “The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”. In the introductory pages of the book, Dr. Brown shares her story. It wasn’t what I expected to find. Truth-be-told, every single person that we meet has a story.  

Isn’t that a common denominator that we all share? We all have a story, and there is an element of brokenness in each of our lives. None of us are the product of a perfect family.  Even if we were, someone like me would mess it up.  

There is a chapter in her book entitled “High Lonesome”. In the introductory paragraph, she mentions Bill Monroe. Bill was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter who is regarded as the “Father of Bluegrass”.  Brown writes: “Story has it that as a child, Bill Monroe would hide in the woods next to a railroad track in the ‘long, ole, straight bottom part of Kentucky’. Bill would watch World War I veterans returning home from the war as they walked along the track. The weary soldiers would sometimes let out long hollers – loud, high-pitched, bone chilling hollers of pain and freedom that cut through the air like the blare of a siren…During his legendary career, he [Bill Monroe] often told people that he practiced that holler and ‘always reckoned that’s where his singing style came from.’” Brown refers to it as high lonesome.

I didn’t grow up listening to Bluegrass music and the sound escapes me, but doesn’t music often express both a sadness and joy associated to life?  That is one of the things that resonates with me about the music the Avett Brothers sing. They simply tell their story in song.

Brown writes: “Art has the power to render sorrow beautiful, make loneliness a shared experience, and transform despair into hope.  Only art can take the holler of a returning soldier and turn it into a shared expression and a deep, collective experience.  Music, like all art, gives pain and our most wrenching emotions voice, language and form, so it can be recognized and shared. The magic of the high lonesome sound is the magic of art; the ability to both capture our pain and deliver us from it at the same time.

I read and re-read that paragraph several times. The truthfulness of it defies description. Doesn’t the sound of our own stories in songs, written by another who perhaps expresses it more poignantly than we could have fashioned, give voice to our thoughts and experiences? Even in the midst of life’s darkest hours, everything we experience is and has been experienced by others. 

I need to make ready for the day and head to a meeting, but wanted to confirm that I am alive and well in the Nation’s capital. I am also pondering ways to do life differently. Don’t we all have to pull together and meet midway rather than going our separate ways? 

All my Best!

Don

Make Mine A Double

The price of admission for an early morning flight is always the same.  Regardless of where I’m heading, I never sleep the night before.  In the early morning hours today, I awakened in a panic. Had I really turned off the alarm and gone back to sleep as I remembered? 

The panic was real. I could almost remember turning the alarm off and choosing to stay in bed for just another minute. So what time was it anyway and did I have an chance of making it to the airport in time? 

Truthfully, I’ve never missed a flight, but I’ve had some close calls.  When traffic is in a complete gridlock and nothing is moving but the hands of the clock, it can make for anxious moments.  Truth-be-told, to date, I’ve never missed a flight, but I have made U-turn in traffic to find another route to the airport.

I’ve had flights that didn’t leave the terminal once I arrived at the airport, because of a last minute cancellation related to mechanical problems.   Disappointing? “Yes” – but never deadly. Consequently, how do you get too upset if folks in the cockpit determine the plane isn’t safe to fly.

My abrupt awakening this morning to the sound of silence in a darkened room was the cause of panic.  Had I missed my flight? Did I still have time to make it to the airport?  What would I do if I didn’t?  I fumbled to find my phone. Where under my pillow had I placed it?

Without my glasses, I had to squint to see clearly.  The sense of relief I experienced once I saw the time was cause for elation. It was 1:45 a.m.  I had not turned off my alarm as I previously thought. It was all a dream?  The alarm was set for 4:00. I could still catch a couple of winks, only I didn’t.

When you awaken in a panic, how do you erase or neutralize the level of cortisol the brain released into your system?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the cortisol. After all, it is nature’s built-in alarm system. It is the body’s main stress hormone. It is just difficult to fall back to sleep when you’ve been jolted fully awake by a shot of cortisol.

So, I made it to the airport in more than enough time.  This is my first flight since I lost my A-List status on SWA. I am already regretting that I fell two round trips short to meet the minimum requirements for the card again this year.  The card is as good as gold (well- maybe  not), but there are lots of advantages to being on the A-List.

Once arriving at the airport, the immediate challenge was parking my truck in the parking lot. The parking spaces can sometimes pose a problem. It doesn’t help that I can’t see over the hood of my truck to know how much farther I need to advance before I’m done.  Don’t scoff if you haven’t driven my truck. You really can’t see.

So finally, I was parked, on and off the shuttle, and standing in a long line to get my boarding pass. Finally, I was at the SWA counter. All I needed to do was drop off my luggage, show the SWA flight attendant my driver’s license and get in a very-very long line to go through security. 

My money clip doesn’t always have money, but it does have my Metro card, my credit card and my driver’s license. Only this morning, my driver’s license wasn’t where it always is in my money clip.  I guess my brain intuitively knew that I needed a double, because the shot of cortisol my brain poured into my system had me as jittery as a cat on a hot tin roof.

I somehow managed to tell myself, “Don’t forget to breathe”.  There was nothing in the compartment where I keep my driver’s license. It also wasn’t behind my credit card.  There was a couple of things behind my Metro card. 

Trust me on this. My sense of panic was real.  I was on the threshold of missing my first flight. Worse yet, where and when if ever, would I locate my driver’s license? The contents of my money clip were laid out like a deck of cards.  I did not see my driver’s license.

Fortunately, as I was telling the SWA attendant that I didn’t have my license, she reached over and shifted my Metro card from the top of another card. The other card was my driver’s license.

So the flight is back on and I’m at my gate. Unfortunately, I just received a message from a colleague in Amarillo. Her flight to Washington has been cancelled. They don’t have another available until tomorrow afternoon. Bummer!

All my best!

Don

Thoughtful Contemplation

Thursday proved to be a picture-perfect day. For starters, the sun was shining.  I’m certain that folks who live in Portland, Oregon, love living in Portland. Otherwise, they would move. I couldn’t do it!  I know my limitations. I must have sunshine in my world.  Otherwise, my sunny disposition might be more reflective of emptiness and despair. I need sunshine. I could not live in Portland and I say that without the advantage of ever being there.

Several months ago, I met two couples in a hotel in San Antonio where I was attending a conference.  Both couples were newly retired and enjoying a change of pace. Three of the four, had been school teachers in Portland. Based on our conversation in a restaurant setting, they were enjoying the change of pace and the opportunity to be in Texas. Being footloose and fancy free, they mostly had nothing but time on their hands. They were playing the role of tourists and didn’t appear to be in a rush to get back home.  

You never know if you don’t ask, so I asked. How’s that for candor?  My question for the four of them was this: “Would they consider trading Portland for San Antonio or anywhere else in the hill country to call home?”

They were kind in declining the possibility, but as is often the case, it appeared there is no place like home. The answer was mostly, “Not on your life”. Only one of the four might have considered it, but the other three were resolute in their response. Texas is a great place to visit, but falls short of what they have to call  home in Oregon.  

So, I’ve primed the pump to let you know that one day this past week, I colored outside the lines. Would I do it again?  “Most assuredly”, is my answer. Will it ever replace Sunday morning worship? Not on your life.

It was actually a notification on Facebook that caught my attention. I noticed that the South Austin Spiritual Book Group was meeting on Thursday at Barnes and Noble to discuss Brené Brown’s book entitled: “Braving the Wilderness”. At a glance, I knew I wanted to attend.

 

I wanted to attend the book club discussion because I am familiar with Brené Brown and the research she has conducted on connection, vulnerability and shame. Though I have not read “Braving the Wilderness”, I intuitively knew it  would be meaningful and thought provoking.

Several years ago, Dr. Brene Brown, a social worker and a research professor at the University of Houston, did extensive studies regarding the importance of connection.  

“What she discovered early on in her findings is that most folks struggle with issues around connections. For example: ‘When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they will tell you the most excruciating experiences of being excluded. When you ask people about connection, they share stories about disconnection’.

“So what is it about our lives that hold us at bay from forming deep meaningful connections with others? Some people seemingly manage to get it right, while a host of others do not. 

What Dr. Brown’s research revealed is that most folks live with a sense of shame.  “After all, isn’t shame synonymous with the fear of disconnection?  Is there something about me, if other people knew, they wouldn’t like?  We all live with that”.

She also found “that the people who seemed most happy and content were people who had the courage to be imperfect”. Do I need to repeat that? They had the courage to be imperfect.  “They gave themselves the freedom to be kind to themselves first and then to others. The truth of the matter is that we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly”.

 

Okay, so back up and reread what I just shared. I attended a spiritual book club discussion at Barnes and Noble. Some of you are having heart palpitations with the thought that I’d vary from Sunday morning worship to a spiritual book group. I know where you’re coming from, but you need to give it more thought. I suspect that many folks comfortable in that kind venue might be uncomfortable in a setting where I’m most comfortable.  Does that mean the experience would place us on a collision course? Not on your life.

 

The biggest hurdle for me was laid to rest by arriving early. There were only four or five people present when I arrived and I knew one of them. She was a friend and colleague of the General when she worked for a law firm in downtown Austin.

 

The folks already present for the book club meeting were warm and welcoming. By the time, the discussion started, there were more than twenty people present. Had I arrived to join a group of strangers that size, I’d have done and about-face and retreated. I couldn’t have done it.  

 

Most people who know me, would never pick me out of a group of any size as an introvert. Out of necessity, because of vocation and circumstance,  I’ve had to adapt and over-compensate.  Truth be told, nothing frightens me more than to be stuck in a group of people that I don’t know. Actually, that’s not totally true. Add a snake to the equation, and that frightens me more.

 

So what is the motivation for twenty plus people with a variety of backgrounds to show up on a Thursday afternoon at a spiritual book club meeting to discuss a book?  Frankly, I was impressed with the attendance, with the things articulated by those who spoke and the general level of interest by those in attendance. I sensed they were a friendly and inclusive group. Some may have even emerged from a typical church setting where I’m most comfortable with bruises from that experience. That is simply supposition on my part.

 

I have not yet read Dr. Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”, but I did purchase the book and have plans to read it this coming week.   Consequently, I’m suggesting that you might occasionally want to color outside the lines. It might not be the formula for a collision course.

 

All My Best!

Don

It Was A Double Hitter

Yesterday was Moe Dozier’s birthday. For the past fourteen years, Moe has served as Vice President of Programs and Services for Methodist Children’s Home in Waco.  Their residential program is one of the few very large quintessential home-like residential programs that serves children from hard places.  Founded in 1890, Methodist Children’s Home has lived true to their mission: “To offer hope to children, youth and families through a nurturing, Christian community”. Methodist Children’s Home is a leader in best practice and offers a myriad of quality services to meet families in crisis at the point of need.

[As a side note, Methodist Children’s Home was the first children’s home for whom I had the privilege of doing a licensing study. The year was 1972 and to suggest I was “still wet behind the ears” as a licensing representative is a fair assessment. I was twenty-five years old at the time. I laugh with the thought of all I didn’t know about residential care for children forty-eight years ago] 

At any rate, my friend Moe carefully opted to make his birthday celebration one that would dramatically forever change his life. It was a double hitter. Did I mention he loves baseball?  Moe coincided the celebration of his birthday with his retirement. The problem is, Moe’s work was never a job. It is his life. 

Moe somehow magically blended his personal life with his work life and everyone came out a winner. What I know with certainty is this: “Moe’s work promoted quality of life for many”. It resonates with the: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” message recorded in Matthew that was expressed by Christ. 

That is true of the children and families served by every agency for whom Moe has worked in the past. It is also equally true for the employees that worked alongside him.  Moe’s management philosophy is simple and effective. However, it is rarely experienced. The bottom line is this: “You never worked for Moe Dozier. You worked with Moe Dozier”. It was a team approach and every player was critical to success.

In honor of Moe and Janet Dozier, Methodist Children’s Home pulled out all of the stops in orchestrating a memorable and well-deserving farewell. Folks came from all over the state to be present.  A host of Methodist Home employees and children expressed accolades of praise for both Moe and Janet. Their words were reflective of heartfelt thanks and gratitude. 

In the picture of Moe, Janet and their granddaughter, posted with this blog, there is a metal firepit made by two Methodist Home students. One of the students was a boy and the other a girl. They conjointly designed and welded the firepit.  They considered it an honor to do something for Mr. Moe.

The athletic department presented Moe with a Methodist Children’s Home football jersey bearing his name. It was displayed in a shadow box frame. As a side note, there were few games across the years that Moe didn’t attend.  He was a mainstay of the athletic program.

Moe and Janet made their home on the Methodist Home Campus for ten years.  Consequently, as residents, they chose to be good neighbors. It wasn’t a job for them, it was a privileged opportunity.  Both Moe and Janet beautifully carved out the time to impact every aspect of the program.

Several other presentations were made to may during the retirement program. Moe’s best friend from grade school and his wife were present at the retirement celebration yesterday. They have been life-long friends since the first grade.  In addition, Moe and Janet’s three children and their families were also present.

Moe and I have a history that spans decades.  I’ve known him for a very long time. When he was working for the Texas Department of Public Welfare in children’s protective services in the mid-to-late 1980s, I was working for the Texas Department of Public Welfare in regulation of children’s homes and child placing agencies.  I can’t say we were friends at the time. We were acquaintances.  Had we had more opportunities to visit, we would have been friends. Moe is the kind of guy that it is easy to like.  He is one of the most personable people I’ve ever known. 

I had the privilege of working with Moe at another large faith-based agency where he was my supervisor for five years. That is how I first, became knowledgeable of Moe’s management style. He held high standards, but he role modeled the approach. When you work with someone that always goes the second and third mile, it provides the incentive to want to keep up.

To his credit, Moe has a playful persona. What better way to connect with people?  Across the five years that we worked together, we laughed through most of it and experienced inordinate sadness through some of it.  As an example of the latter, we drove through the night together to get to an agency setting where a child had died hours before from a brain aneurism in a summer camping situation.  There was nothing left undone that could have been done. It was simply a very sad time. We were their simply to provide support to staff and to visit with the child’s family.

We also worked together one night on the next year’s budget. Actually, we worked all night on the budget.  The word from on high (Moe’s Boss) was that the budget had to be drastically reduced. They say two heads are better than one, but I’m not sure everyone would have said we used prudent judgment. It was a faith-based agency. We opted to eliminate the chaplain’s position. In our defense, children were attending church in the community rather than on campus. 

Only once, can I recall that Moe subtly threw me under the bus.  Moe and I were both serving on the board of directors for the agency where I now work.  At any rate, we had flown to Iowa to conduct an accreditation study for an agency in our membership.  We met two of the representatives from the facility at a restaurant for lunch when we first arrived. When the food was served, Moe asked: “Do you mind if Don says a prayer? It will make him feel better”.  My memory may be mistaken, but I think I kicked him under the table. 

I could go on and on and on with stories related to Moe.  The good news is that he’ll come back to the Methodist Children’s Home in a couple of months on a part-time basis. He will continue serving on the board of the organization out of Washington where I now work.  Did I mention, that as a board member, Moe is my boss again?

My wife and kids are thrilled that Moe is hanging on to that piece of his former workload. Somehow, they think Moe’s presence provides a veil of safety for me. Of course, he was the one who accompanied me to the doctor when I fell face first down the escalator at a Metro Station in Washington, D.C.. Last Janaury, he also walked with me for an inordinately long distance in Washingto. It was nine degrees outside. The next day, at Moe’s insistence we did it differently. We took a cab.

I’d say that Moe is my partner in crime, but he is far too ethical to be a party to that kind of affiliation. Every phone conversation we share ends with him telling me: “Stay out of trouble.”  I figure it is projection on his part.  

I’ll end today’s blog with this affirmation: “I have no friend or colleague for whom I have a higher level of respect. Moe’s skillset in serving children and families from hard places, is second to none. If he errs and he seldom does, it will always be to do the “right thing” for someone else. I wish he and Janet only the best of everything as they move into the next chapter of what lies ahead.

All My Best!

Don

To Err Is Human

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve been mostly homebound and tied to the computer.  Despite the fact that “all work and no play” can make one dull and boring, I had time for little else. Of  course, next week, I have a board meeting in Washington, D.C. and I am also scheduled for a number of meetings on Capitol Hill. It is going to be a busy time. Of course, it is always busy in Washington.  

Perhaps, this week has figuratively been the calm before the storm. I didn’t mention it to the General, but on Sunday, I received an email that I found more than a little unsettling. It also messed up my sense of calm. The email (or it may have been a text message?) was a schedule reminder that I was scheduled to check into the Line-DC Hotel on Sunday, January 26th.

I didn’t have to think twice to know the date wasn’t correct or at least the day of the week was incorrect.  I wasn’t scheduled to fly out until Monday. There is no way to negotiate attending church on Sunday and then getting to the airport in time to fly to D.C.  That had to be wrong, or was it?

So, had I made a hotel reservation for Sunday, January 26th , the evening before I was actually arriving in Washington?  Needless to say, the email was a jolt to my comfort level.  I always book my hotel rooms through Priceline and save money doing so. Of course, if I booked a room a day early, I lost money because the reservation isn’t refundable. That is the downside to a reservation through Priceline. 

If I had booked a three-night reservation beginning on Sunday, I was going to be without a place to stay on Wednesday night. Frankly, it was just too much for me to think about, so I chose to mostly bury it in the resources of my unconsciousness. 

The General refers to that as the “Ostrich approach”.  She’s accused me more than once of avoiding any reality that I’d prefer to bypass, by putting my head in the sand and refusing to think about it. 

By the way, I just checked and the assertion the General makes about ostriches isn’t true. Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to breathe.  However, they do dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs. Several times a day, a bird puts her head in the hole and turns the eggs. So it really does look like the birds are burying their heads in the stand. 

When it comes to the cost of a hotel room in the Nation’s Capital, we’re not talking about nickel and dime stuff. Depending on utilization, the rates can be costly even through Priceline. So what was I going to do”?  To suggest that “to err is human” is one explanation, but it isn’t one I thought the General would readily accept as justification for my ineptness. You’re probably wondering if I sprang into action to make a correction?  I did not. 

Does that surprise you? Seriously, what could I do? Like I said, the downside to booking a hotel room through Priceline is that you “dance with who brung you”, so-to-speak.  There is no margin for error where you can orchestrate a refund or change the date on the reservation. There was nothing I could do to fix the problem.

By the way, I did check my plane ticket on Sunday to confirm I had the correct date on the ticket.  For whatever reason, I chose not to look at the confirmation for my hotel reservation.  I simply didn’t need the extra stress. In my head, I had booked the 3-night stay beginning on the 27th. Despite the electronic reminder that I was schedule to check in on the 26th, I opted to mostly think my hotel reservation was exactly as I remembered. 

So, by Wednesday of this week, it was beginning to weigh heavily on my comfort zone. What if I was wrong? I logged onto Priceline to check the rate for the Line DC Hotel in Washington for next Wednesday on the outside chance, I needed  a reservation. The very thought was more than I wanted to contemplate, but I needed to come  up with a “Plan B” just in case.  

Drum roll please – A  hotel room at the Line-DC hotel for next Wednesday night was priced at $269. When you add tax and other associated fees to the cost, it almost doubles.  I had a sick sensation in my stomach.

Okay, so what was I going to do?  For starters, why not start by looking at my existing reservation? If I really had messed up, I needed to make another reservation. Like it or not, I didn’t have a choice. What would I tell the General?  

“Why tell her anything?” If that is your question for me, you really don’t fully understand. The General is the equivalent of Fort Knox in our household. She pays the credit card bills. There is no expenditure made in plastic that she doesn’t carefully scrutinize. It is like a game with her. She wants a credit card receipt to go with every expenditure.  

If I’m giving you the impression that the General would figuratively “have my head on a silver platter ‘John-the-Baptist’ style”, I’ve given you the wrong impression. Give me a break. I am not married to an “Atilla the Hun” look alike.  I refer to her as the General only with the highest regard for her rank. She is not a tyrant. Her sister would tell you from their childhood years that “she leaves no prisoners”, but I’ve never said that out-loud.

Fortunately, the sound of the hallelujah chorus surfaced in surround-sound inside my head, when I looked at the confirmation of my hotel reservation. It reflected a “check-in- date” of January 27th. So, I’ll ask the question of me for you? Why didn’t I look at the reservation on Sunday evening rather than to  wait a couple of days?”  Even though I allegedly buried it in my unconsciousness, periodically it had surfaced to be a source of anxiety. 

Okay, so I have two answers for you. One is the old standby – “to err is human”. The second answer is “I don’t know”.

All My Best!

Don

Life Lessons

A couple of Facebook postings this morning put a smile on my face.  One revolved around the sheer delight a young couple is experiencing as new parents. Is there anything more awesome than the joy a baby adds to a home?  

The second posting related to a dozen manners the older generation (aka – my generation) were taught as children. The list includes everything from the “golden rule” to the lost art of sending a “thank you” note.

I remember the utter delight of being a first-time parent.  You could have written a book about things I didn’t know about parenting and I was a children’s protective services worker. For that matter, seven decades later, you still could. 

Seriously, the kid didn’t come with an owner’s manual. On the other hand, even if he did, I probably wouldn’t have found the time to read it unless there was something special I needed to know.  

That is how I become familiar with the contents of the owner’s manual in my car. When I can’t figure out something on my own, I consult the manual. It may be something as simple as how to you open the gas cap?  The General and her sister would take a very different approach. They are “cover-to-cover” people. They read every page of the owner’s manual.  

Okay, so we have different learning styles. Show me how to do it, but ask me to read it and follow the directions unless you add in all the necessary steps, is the formula for failure.  How many times have I attempted to follow the instructions associated to Office 365?  Did I mention I am not a fan?  I could go on and on, but you might think I am developmentally delayed or just plain stupid. Consequently, I’m not going there. One of the things I learned from my mother was the importance of what other people think. 

Yesterday, I mentioned in my posting that mother re-enforced for us the belief that cheaters never win. I even added my own two cents worth: “If you have to cheat to win, you never win.” The truth of the matter is that neither of those assertions are true.  Cheaters do win.  I’d like to think they don’t sleep well at night, but I suspect most do.  Ours is a broken world and we are broken people.

Isn’t it true that sometimes with the best of intentions, we attempt to teach our children life lessons that don’t stand the test of time?  Take for example, one of the other things my mother told us often: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  

I’m seventy-plus-years-old and I haven’t yet developed the ability to  shrug-off an unkind comment or unfounded criticism. Did I mention that the tongue inflicts pain that is not easily forgotten?

How many children grow up with a low sense of self-esteem because of demeaning things said to them by parents?  How about: “You can’t do anything right?” There are a variety of ways that concept is expressed, but this is a family friendly blog, so I’m not going there. You get the drift. 

I have a couple of friends who were the recipients of horrific emotional abuse from their fathers during childhood. Nothing they ever did was good enough. They lived with a perpetual lack of acceptance and on-going daily criticism. Every interaction underscored the reality that they were a bitter disappointment to their dads.  By the way, that is a heavy load to carry.

One of my friends saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” depicting the true story of Bart Millard’s life. The film captures the essence of an emotionally damaging childhood. Bart’s mother left his father when Bart was ten-years-old. After dropping Bart off at a Christian camp, she made her great escape. Unfortunately, she failed to remember to take her son with her. He was left in the care of his angry, bitter, emotionally abusive father.  I watched the movie and was grateful that it was dark in the theatre. My eyes filled with tears observing the father-son interaction. 

One of the friends I mentioned, who grew up in an identical environment as Bart Millard, shared with me that he saw the movie and left the theatre in tears. In fact, he went home and cried most of the night.  We may tell ourselves that “sticks and stone may break our bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, it  doesn’t play itself out that way in real life.

With the best of intentions, another piece of misinformation (or perhaps veiled threat) that I learned from my mother, fortunately proved to be wrong. She painted with too board a stroke the concept of the “Scarlet Letter” associated to one’s permanent record. As it turned out, I didn’t fail to get into college because I barely passed Spanish in the 9th grade. 

The same is true for my driving record. At the age of 14, I didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign. When I told my mother about the traffic citation, she saw that as the equivalent of “holding up a 7-Eleven and taking hostages”.  Of course, in a place like Odessa, America, a traffic citation was sure to make front page news. Fortunately, my traffic citation did not. 

Over the long haul, everything I learned from my mother was to my benefit, even the stuff she didn’t get quite right. It was to my benefit because it was shrouded in a veil of love – I’d even say, “unconditional love”. 

All My Best!

Don