Hump Day – The Toughest Day In The Workweek

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“Hump day” – Isn’t that what folks endearingly refer to as Wednesday? Of course, in the traditional sense of the expression, the term has to with being past the halfway point in the workweek. From there it is a downhill slide to the coming weekend. Of course, Wednesday is also seen as the toughest day in the workweek.

 

I’ve known folks who lived for the weekends. They detested their job, but held on to it as if locked to a ball and chain because the money was good. Their income was enough to financially live comfortably and still have some left over for whatever met their fancy.

 

Fortunately, I’m a stranger to that. I’ve had the good fortune to really enjoy my work. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the workforce cannot truthfully say that. Some researchers say that as many as 40% of the workforce live without the concept of job satisfaction. No wonder they live for the weekend!

 

Evidence can be found around every corner. People in traffic honk their horns, angrily cut in and out in front of other cars, engage in conflict both at the office and at home, populate bars until closing time and eventually show back up at work again on Monday to start the work week all over again. It is a treadmill they hate, but they can’t free themselves from the financial security.

 

I think Forbes sorted it out accurately when they asserted: “If you hate your job, you hate your life.” If you are one of the 40% who are miserable at work, that statement should give you pause for concern. “If you hate your job, you hate your life.”

 

If Forbes is right, is the converse also true? Is it logical to suggest that: “If you love your job, you love your life?” From my vantage point, that assertion is irrefutably true. My life is good. So is my work. I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy and I think a lot of that has to do with job satisfaction. That’s not to say I am always on top of the world with a sense of elation.

 

Yesterday and last night was one of those atypical kinds of melancholy experiences for me. Truthfully, I think it had something to do with dreading “Hump Day” – Wednesday. By the way, this is the day that weighed heavily on my mind last night. I wouldn’t describe it as panic attack, but it was closely akin to an undercurrent of I’m not sure what? Perhaps restlessness is the best way I know to describe it. I found it a little unsettling.

 

Okay, so what was the source of yesterday’s meltdown? I’m overstating my response, but I’m also opting to be more transparent than I’m usually willing to acknowledge. I was bothered with thoughts of hump day, but there were also other contributing factors.

 

For example, for the past couple of days, I’ve sorted through files and focused on getting rid of a lot of stuff in my office that no one else is going to want or need.  Seriously, I’ve held on to files that I’ve never looked at since initially filing them away.

 

I had binders upon binders of minimum standards, work related policies and procedures (most of which I’ve written), stacks upon stacks of proposed legislation with highlights and notes written in the margin. The list goes on and on and none of that stuff was any longer worth the paper it is written on.

 

Best practice is always a work in progress and that means that 98% of what I was holding on to was dated and no longer relevant. I picked up a copy of minimum standards (all 300 plus pages of them) and noticed paper clips on almost every page with highlighting and notations in the margins. I had used the document to flag my memory in providing staff training related to changes in minimum standards. Other than the intrinsic value that it represented related to thought and effort in time, the document was no longer of value. It was already dated.

 

At any rate, yesterday morning I loaded up a cart with all the manuals and dated materials I’d gleaned from my office. I was on my way to the dumpster to be done away with it. When I got to the dumpster behind our office building, it was filled to over-flowing. There wasn’t room for even one binder. I looked across the street to one of our other office buildings and thought: “What about over there?”

 

As I crossed the busy street pushing the cart loaded with manuals, publications and notebooks of standards and old files, it felt awkward. Fortunately, when I made it to the dumpster, the dumpster was mostly empty. I had plenty of room.

 

So for what seemed like an inordinate length of time, I tossed manuals and notebooks into the dumpster. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was short lived. It was then that the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: “I had just tossed a paper trail of decades of my work into the dumpster”. Worthless? Yeah – probably, but the visual impact of seeing it strewn in squalor was unsettling.

 

So is that what Solomon meant when he wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…

 

The unsettling experienced of last night had something to do with the fact that I was dreading Wednesday – hump day. Wednesday, May 31, 2017 represents a big hurdle for me. It is the toughest hump day I’ve ever faced, but this morning I have the peace and confidence of knowing “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

 

Unlike the indentured servant who is eventually freed from his ball and chain, I prefer to think of myself as a hummingbird or butterfly opting to seek nectar in a different location. Isn’t that one of the advantages of retirement? Today I walk away from a job that has been a mainstay of support in lots of different dimensions. I will miss it greatly, but I’m excited about what lies around the next unseen corner. After all, there is a time for everything.

 

All My Best!

Don

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A Thoughtfully Written Memorial Day Reflection

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Yesterday evening proved to be enjoyable. A neighbor stopped by and said he had something for me. I responded immediately that if it were a dog or a snake, I would respectfully decline.  I guess you could say: “I was grasping at straws”. What could he possibly have for me?  For one thing, to suggest that he’d consider giving me a dog is ludicrous.  I’m not even sure why I threw that out there as a thought.  The neighbor isn’t a dog person either.  However, you’d be surprised at the number of people who have expressed their view that the General and I need another dog.  For the record: “We don’t!”  The Barnabas years were all we needed to recognize the special place a pet can occupy in a person’s heart.

 

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the neighbor is a snake person.  I think he has the prudent judgment to know that I am not a friend of creepy crawlers. After all, he is my go-to-guy to handle any of the snake related episodes that surface on my place.  Of course, I have to reach out to him immediately following my awareness of a problem in the hopes that I can reach him before my automatic default to “fetal position” sets in a locked position. 

 

When I don’t get to him quickly enough, the option to use my over-and-under 12-gage shotgun seems like the only alternative. That makes the General a little nervous, especially when I am shooting toward the house.

 

Since my neighbor has a menagerie of lizards and snakes in the upstairs space of his home, he intuitively knows I’m not the “go-to-guy” if he needs someone to care for them while he is away. I’ve been asked to check their mail, but never once has he asked to feed crickets or mice to their snakes.

 

Like I’ve said before: “The guy is really smart”. Besides that, even though I haven’t read the book: “How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty”, I would automatically respond with a: “NOT NO BUTabsolutely not” kind of response.  The very thought is way outside my comfort zone.

 

In order to stop my guessing game of what he had for me, my neighbor quickly said that he had been asked by a mutual friend to give me a hug.  I’ve actually never met our mutual friend. For that matter, I’m not sure he has either. Thanks to technology, a lot of people can come into our lives and legitimately hold a place card as friend even though we’ve never actually laid eyes on them. I’d be hard pressed to pick out any number of people that I’ve come to treasure as a friend in a police lineup. The friend thoughtfully believed a hug would be needed on Memorial Day.  She, too, is smart. The hug was well received. 

 

For the past couple of days, I’ve been mulling over a poignant and thoughtfully written Memorial Day reflection written by Mike Bliss. Mike Bliss served in the United States Marine Corp at the same time as my brother. They both were stationed at Nam Phong, Thailand.  His posting was entitled: “Memorial Day – My thoughts in 2017.”  It was posted on May 26, 2017. 

 

Mike had me hooked on reading his article before I completed reading his first paragraph.  He wrote: “ Memorial Day – The word memorial… it must be related to the word memory. Some wordsmith could tell you all about the root word from which memorial and memory are derived. Not me. I just know that they are related and that’s good enough. Memories are about remembering. Memorial is about celebrating or honoring the memories. I’ve lived 65 years, so as you can imagine I have many, many memories”.

 

To highlight a point, he added: “Pick a name, any name of someone gone from this world…I chose Ronald Wayne Forrester. I didn’t choose his name because I was particularly close to him, but rather so I can better relate or explain or demonstrate my understanding of what Memorial Day means… At that time, Ron Forrester was an officer in the Marines, a 1st LT, and I was an enlisted Marine, a Lance Corporal. Lance Corporals and Lieutenants didn’t socialize or hang around together. We had a working relationship… I got to know Lt. Forrester as a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman. I respected him. We never discussed personal lives, though, because of the nature of our duties and our ranks. It was always strictly business. I have learned more about his personal life in the years since”.

 

Late yesterday, the friend who stopped by to provide me the hug and I went for a ride. We hadn’t gone far before he asked: “Do you know Phil?” I didn’t know Phil.  My neighbor then asked for me to stop so he could introduce us.  I actually hadn’t seen him. Phil and his wife were across the fence on the other side of the road taking care of their herd of Longhorn cattle.  Phil proved to be very conversational.

 

Actually, from the time we walked up it was non-stop conversation between my neighbor and Phil. Both had served in the United States Air Force. Phil was obviously older based on some of the information he shared. However, he actually looked a lot younger than either of us.

 

Phil made reference to models of airplanes used by the Air Force from 1964 going forward.  Wow! That was before I graduated from high school. For the next forty-five minutes my neighbor and Phil talked about planes, their capacity and their performance track record.  One of the planes Phil mentioned was sadly referred to as “The Widow Maker.” It was in production and used heavily by the U.S. during the Vietnam Conflict. That was during the period of time that Phil served.

 

Phil shared several personal stories of being present and seeing a number of crash landings that resulted in the death of the pilot.  Landing a plane upside down isn’t particularly known for its survival rate. Ejecting out of an aircraft when it is upside down and near the ground also didn’t work well.  Phil had sadly seen the loss of many lives.

 

I had the thought as Phil talked that Memorial Day had to have a special meaning for him. After all, how many people do you see die in the worst possible of ways before the imprint is permanent and over-riding?

 

During the ensuing conversation, Phil mentioned a pilot with whom he flew that had made an impressionable positive difference for him. He said something closely akin to: “For years now, I’ve thought I’d like to locate him to thank him for his kindness”.

 

He shared the story of being the guy in the back seat and the pilot asking if he’d like to take the stick and fly the plane. The memory of that experience and the patience of the pilot when in short order they were flying about five thousand feet higher than the group of other planes they had been flying with in formation became evident to him.  Of course, the pilot was fully aware that they were no longer in formation. The man sharing his story said: “I was so busy focusing on keeping the ride smooth that I didn’t recognize we were climbing in altitude.

 

The pilot said: “We’re okay. Let me take the stick back and I’ll show you how the interceptor feature of this plane works. With that said, they were soon flying upside down in a backward loop as the pilot came up from behind and rejoined the other planes in formation. The man said, “It was an unbelievable ride. The G-factor was way out there.”

 

In reflecting back to that time in his life, Phil said: “Most of those guys (pilots) were arrogant and proud. They wouldn’t have even acknowledged my presence.  The guy I flew with was different.  He made me feel valued as a person.  He earned my respect. We weren’t friends and we didn’t hang out together.  It wasn’t permissible for officers and enlisted men to have that kind of relationship.  But he treated me with kindness. I’d really like to look him up to say: ‘Thank you’.”

 

Hearing that, I thought immediately of Mike Bliss’ words concerning my brother: “I got to know Lt. Forrester as a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman. I respected him.”

 

Mike Bliss’ article related to Memorial Day gave me much to contemplate.  His reference: Memorial Day – Memories – The recollection that Ronald Forrester was a very respectful, soft-spoke gentleman” with the added notation “I respected him.” was a gift that Mike unknowingly provided Ron’s family.

 

All My Best!

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Don    

 

Memorial Day 2017

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Despite what some may think, I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. I include my daily blog as part of my early morning routine, but I don’t generally scan the horizon for tidbits of this or that. I simply don’t have the time. At least, until this week, I haven’t had time. Maybe with retirement comes more time.

 

It was simply by happenstance that the posting immediately prior to one I posted a couple of days ago caught my attention. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one spoke volumes. Just seeing the picture left a lump in my throat. It would have left a lump in my throat even if I hadn’t known the mother and father in this photograph, but I knew this family.

 

The picture was unmistakable. It was a Kodak moment capturing the worst possible of days in any parent’s life. A triangular folded American flag was being presented to a grieving mother whose face had temporarily aged beyond her years. Her countenance didn’t reflect the joy and smile that is generally characteristic. Yet, with dignity and a sense of patriotic pride she represented strength even in the midst of great difficulty.

 

Whether it was purposeful or otherwise, I do not know. I do know that the picture carried with it a patriotic “God Bless America” theme. The mother’s red blouse, the white pearls and the navy blue blazer spoke an undeniable message. The colors were the same as those in the flag being presented. It, too, was red, white and blue. Of the flag, it is said that the white signifies purity and innocence, the red, hardiness and valor and the blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.

 

Sgt. Garrett I. McLead, age 23, was one of fourteen soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Multaka, Iraq on August 22, 2007. The soldiers were between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. They hailed from 11 states, spanning from California to Massachusetts. Sgt. McLead joined the army following graduation from high school in 2002 motivated by the 9/11 act of terrorism against our Nation. Out of his love for God and country, he responded to the need. He served in Afghanistan from 2004-2005 and began his tour in Iraq in 2006.

 

It is in Sgt. McLead’s honor and memory that I dedicate today’s Memorial Day posting and to that of his family.  Like I said, “A picture is worth a thousand words and this one spoke volumes”. Patrick McLead added only the notation to his Facebook posting: “THIS is what Memorial Day is about”.

 

I actually didn’t know the McLead family had become a Gold Star family until several years ago when I officiated at the wedding of one of Sgt. McLead’s cousins.  It was then that Patrick shared  with me the sad news concerning his son.  It hurt my heart.   At the time of their loss, the family was living in Rockport.  They now live in Johnson City.

 

I guess at some level, unless a person experiences the loss of a family member through harms way while serving in the military, it is difficult for us to wrap our head around the process of grief up close and personal. Consequently, Memorial Day for most signal the beginning of summer and the first three-day holiday weekend. Most reserve it for a quick weekend trip filled with barbeque, shared laughter with family and friends and a respite from a typical five-day work-week. They are oblivious to the heartfelt meaning of Memorial Day.

 

For folks like Patrick and Patti McLead, it is something very different. Memorial Day carries with it a sense of something sacred. It is so significant that it needs to be wrapped in memories too precious to forget. It isn’t about a holiday or shared time with family and friends and barbeque, it is a time of reflection and remembering and honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Patrick and Patti have become seasoned veterans in honoring their son’s memory and moving forward with their lives. Yet each step they take is somehow altered by the memory of what could have been.  I know that is true becasue it is a universal characteristic of all such families.  How well I know.

 

Yet it is the families for whom Memorial Day 2017 has only come to have heart felt significance in the recent past that concern me most.  My heart goes out to families who have not yet reached the place where memory is a treasured gift. Currently every thought related to their husband or wife, son or daughter, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, family member or friend seems directly connected to the details associated with separation, loss and unrelenting pain.

 

The price of freedom isn’t free and when a loved one’s life seems prematurely taken, the sense of grief is overwhelming. Perhaps that is one of the motivating factors associated with the origin of Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it was originally called.

 

“In April 1863, in Columbus, Mississippi, after decorating graves of her two sons who died representing their beloved south-land, an elderly woman walked to two mounds of dirt at the corner of the cemetery to place memorial flowers there also. ‘What are you doing?’ friends shouted, ‘Those are the graves of two union soldiers.’ Softly that compassionate mother said, ‘I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.’”

 

Memorial Day has its roots all the way back to the Civil War. I have toured the battlefield at Gettysburg three times in the past five or six years. Reportedly, it is the site of the most costly of the battles. The location is very picturesque and today reflects such serenity. How did it ever become a battlefield reflecting so much sorrow? What capacity we have to destroy that which we have been given.

 

In the course of three days, 160,000 soldiers engaged in battle. When it was over 51,000 were killed. Unbelievable! Total casualties from the Civil War totaled 620,000. In case you missed it, that was Americans killing Americans.

 

For the past two years I’ve had the privilege of conducting a workshop on grief at the POW/MIA League of Families annual meeting in Washington D.C. Wanting the workshop to be interactive, at some point, I paused to ask two questions: 

  • How old were you when you learned your loved one was Missing In Action?
  • How long has it been since you’ve given thought to how that loss has impacted you personally?

 

Of course, no one was required to answer the questions, but I was surprised by the ones that did. In the process of answering, several found that they could not. They were blindsided by emotions that left a lump in their throat and tears in their eyes. For all of them, their loved one had died or had been listed as POW/MIA over 44 years before.

 

Memorial Day isn’t a one size fits all kind of experience. It has more to do with one’s life experiences and the people who are now on the other side of eternity and what their absence has meant to those who celebrate all that they have been given.

 

In looking back over the four decades since the loss of my brother, I can truthfully say that at no point have I been a stranger to God’s grace. Across the last four decades, I have experienced and re-experienced every possible range of emotion. Through it all, I’ve never experienced it in isolation.

 

Subsequently, I have discovered what a treasured gift memory becomes. Somehow, with the passing of time, memories become more precious and less painful. Memory serves as a catalyst prompting a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving for the times shared. How wonderful it is to remember the joy of my brother’s presence and the gift of love that memory supplies.

 

Several years ago, Clif Martin, a dear friend, Vietnam veteran and former supervisor, sent me the following note:

I’m glad we still have Memorial Day in America. I fly the American Flag everyday at my house. As I write this, it is raining. You are supposed to take it down when it rains, but today I am not – a symbolic gesture in my screwed up head- like the flag stands tall even when wet, cold and windblown. It droops as though bowing in prayer. Yet it stands tall even when wet, cold and wind blown.

It is Memorial Day and will fly all day regardless of the weather, just as our memories continue as well. As the flag drops, a gust of wind blows. It flaps and sheds the wetness and once again is waving and standing out, just as we should.

After the rain is over the sun will come out, the flag with dry and be warm again much like God’s promise and the flag will fly again tomorrow fully dry and straight.

                                                                                                                           – Clif Martin”

 

All My Best!

Don Forrester

JOSH AND CAROLINE – A LOVE STORY

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We live in a world of bigger and better. I’m not complaining, just simply making an observation. After all, living in a climate controlled home has to be far more comfortable than living in one without. Technology being what it is, you can now manage the thermostat in your home from anywhere as long as you have access to the Internet and have the hardware and gadgets at home to make it work.

 

When it comes to high-tech, my son-in-law pretty much chooses to embraces it all. Why you need all that stuff, I don’t know. I’m pretty much my father’s son. He didn’t opt to purchase a car with air-conditioning until it was almost impossible to buy a vehicle without one. Of course, it just took his first air-conditioned vehicle to raise the standard to the point of no return. He would never have opted to buy another vehicle without air-conditioning even if it was an option.

 

Getting back to bigger and better, I recently read that the average cost of a wedding today is $35,000.00. If the General and I had needed that kind of money to orchestrate a venue where we both said “I do” and promised to love for the long haul, some might have questioned if it was really worth it. Actually, knowing what she now knows, the General might have said it wasn’t worth it. After all, I’m obviously a slow learner. We turn the corner on forty-nine years in two and a half weeks and even after all this time, I’m still a husband in training.

 

For whatever reason, the General refuses to give up or acknowledge defeat. I suspect her mother once told her: “Quitters never win.” She also told her: “Pigs don’t pick up after themselves.” I’ve heard that line on a multiple of occasions as part of my perpetual “how to succeed in marriage” training. Depending on the number of times I hear it in a week, it doesn’t always come across as gentle redirection.

 

Yet there is something about a love story that captures the imagination of even the most callous or hard hearted of men. “Love Story” was the title of the 1970 classic film about an upper class East Coast young man in college who fell for a quick witted college girl from a working class family. In the process of making it work for them, the boy’s father disowned his son because he was marrying “beneath himself”. After all, class distinction can’t be merged without forfeiture of some level of distinction or uniqueness that sets one apart. Despite the odds, love conquered all and the couple moved forward in happiness and harmony.

 

Sadly, it ended way too early when illness took the young woman’s life. In the closing scene, the father who had rejected his son rushes to the hospital to make some kind of amends. Hearing the news from his son that his wife died, the father, says: “I’m sorry”. The son remarked: “Love –Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. It was a memorable film and a memorable line. It was a love story indeed. Doesn’t that tug at your heartstrings?

 

Fast forward to 2004. It was another love story chronicled in the form of a book and a movie by the same name. “The Notebook” beautifully chronicles the power of love, even one-sided love. It is a movie that captures the essence of two stories. One where the young couple fully embrace every dimension of love and the satisfaction and fulfillment it provides. The other is a husband’s valiant and unfaltering attempt to connect with the love of his life even though she has lost the cognitive ability to reflect on what they once shared. Yet there are glimpses in the story of the older couple’s life when the wife seemingly remembers even for a fraction of a minute the connectivity of love. Even in the briefest of moments, it is enough for the husband who commits himself day in and day out to be there for her. It is a story of love. That, too, tugs at your heartstrings.

 

Most of you may be unfamiliar with the love story of Caroline and Josh. You may want to jot their names down. I suspect that in the years ahead the two names linked together could become as familiar as Romeo and Juliet. I used Caroline’s name first because it was her mother who shared her story…their story with me. The story lays out the details associated with her future son-in-law’s marriage proposal to her daughter.

 

The groom-to-be was undeterred by the interrogation provided him by the mother’s current son-in-law. The groom-to-be was found faultless. Even the current son-in-law agreed. He was welcomed by the bride-to-be’s family.

 

I suspect that the current son-in-law has no idea how the new guy on the block is going to raise the standard of what it means to win a mother-in-law’s favor. I say that tongue-in-cheek, even though they are not yet married. The groom-to-be could be pushing the envelope of “favorite son-in-law status” already. Of course, the bride’s mother would never admit that love has limits or that she could favor one son-in-law over another.

 

At any rate, Josh, the new guy on the block, is a man for all seasons. He brings to romance and thoughtfulness, what The Dos Equis Man brings to life. After all, the Dos Equis man didn’t get the distinction of being the most interesting man in the world because he was like every other guy. You know the drill:

 

  • His passport requires no photograph
  • When he drives a car off the lot, its price increases in value
  • Once a rattlesnake bit him, after 5 days of excruciating pain, the snake finally died

 

Let me tell you about Josh. In fact, he is good enough that I’m reordering their names (Okay, so I’m old school). This is the story of Josh and Caroline. When it comes to proposing, Josh raised the bar way over the top and established a new standard for all time. Like I said: “We live in a world of bigger and better” and Josh has all of that to his credit. He invested the time, organized the scenario, recruited the right volunteers to assist and never thought for a moment that Caroline would say anything other than “Yes”.   He was right. She did say, “Yes”.

 

When I tell you the story, I suspect you will agree. His attention to detail, his poetry and his organizational skills all-surrounding the big question: “Will You Marry Me?” are second to none.

 

It was a Saturday morning just like any other Saturday morning, except that Caroline was having brunch at a nice restaurant with her good friend Devon. She is the girlfriend that introduced her to Josh three years ago. When the waiter brought the check, he also handed a note to Caroline. She intuitively thought the waiter was hitting on her. After all, how many waiters hand a note to someone dining at one of the tables they’re serving? She had this guy figured out. He obviously was asking for her telephone number or providing his. Who would have thought?

 

The note was interesting, but it was not written by the waiter. The waiter was simply the messenger. The note was from Josh to his beloved Caroline. It included a poem about the two of them and an invitation for Caroline to embark on a scavenger hunt.

 

I told you the guy is a romanticist. He left instructions for Caroline to proceed to Top Golf, the location of their first date. The fact that they had a second date is some indication that for Josh it was love at first site. Whether knowingly or otherwise, Caroline showed up with her own clubs and demonstrated that her golfing game was better than his. Some would suggest that proper etiquette would have dictated she let the game go the other way, but competitive successful people have difficulty throwing a game for any reason. Perhaps that is one of many of the things that Josh values about Caroline? Either that or he wants an opportunity to go a second round?

 

Caroline is a competitive girl and a skillful golfer. At Top Golf, during the scavenger hunt, Caroline had to hit a certain target in order to receive the next clue.  The next clue was another poem making reference to the duplex that they gutted and remodeled, with a line about “how many trips to the hardware store does it take…”

 

Caroline is smart. She immediately connected the dots and headed to Home Depot.  There the manager presented her with a hammer with her name on it.  She had to pull a nail out of a board in order to receive the next clue.

 

She later told her mother: “Mom, that was really hard!”  The clue after that told her that she deserved to be treated like a queen and so she and her friend proceeded to the nail salon for a mani and pedi (your nails have to look good if you’re about to put a ring on it!)

 

The conclusion of the nail salon trip yielded a clue about going home.  When they arrived at home, Caroline thought Josh would be there.  Instead, there was a bottle of “JOSH” wine on the counter and the Monopoly game was out (their favorite game).

 

The Monopoly game contained a map with directions to White Rock Lake.  From White Rock Lake the clues became easier. I mean, how could you not notice a rose-petal strewn pathway? On the pathway, Knox  – their chocolate lab greeted Caroline.   Knox came running around the corner with a bow tie on and then led her to Josh who was standing on a picnic blanket with a dozen roses and a bottle of champagne.  He dropped to one knee…. and she said YES!!!!

 

The next day, both Josh and Knox woke up itching…. they had chiggers.  The only thing Caroline got at White Rock Lake was a ring!

 

The story of “Josh and Caroline” or “Caroline and Josh” is a story to remember. It is the love story of 2017.  Doesn’t that tug at your heartstrings?

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

FAREWELL MY FRIEND

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Thursday evening I fixed dinner for a friend who is moving far away. Actually he is more of a friend of my daughter and son-in-law than he is a friend to me, but he recently replaced an exterior door and doorframe on our home. He mentioned at the time that he was soon going to embark on a journey to find work elsewhere. He sensed it was time to move on.

 

At any rate, I promised we’d have him over for dinner before he left. As I calculated my time left at my place of employment, I realized the end is near. Truthfully, the thought isn’t all filled with the thought that “I can hardly wait”. While I look very forward to the next chapter in my life, I find myself at some level wishing the previous chapter was not quite finished.

 

Do you ever get caught up in a book and wish there were more pages to read as you get near the end? I guess it is true of all of us. When I texted the young man to invite him to dinner, I didn’t know the General was going to be out-of-town. She left on Thursday afternoon to take her mother back to Odessa and is staying until after her mother’s doctor appointment next week. Consequently, I was the short order chef. Trust me, when I fix dinner it is a simple meal. At the same time, I wanted it to taste good. Why not go with the tried and true?

 

On Wednesday evening I texted my daughter and son-in-law and said, “I’m going to grill a steak tomorrow night. Would you like for me to throw one on for you as well?”
Andrea responded by asking if the eight paws were invited as well? Of course, I knew without giving it a second thought that the invitation to them would include their two dogs. If I wanted them to come, the dogs would have to be welcome.

 

In my effort to keep it simple, I decided to do everything outside on the grill. I even unpacked the new grate I had ordered for my Portable Kitchen Grill. I don’t know how many times I’ve replaced the grate, but it has been many times. I’ve had the cast aluminum grill since 1974. It has taken me a while, but I’ve learned to cook on it. I’ve been asked many times why I didn’t a get a gas grill instead of going old school and using charcoal. The people asking the question don’t get it. The charcoal grill gets a lot hotter and I’ve got the formula down to a fine art.

 

I didn’t tell Andrea and Kevin that their friend would be here for dinner as well. When I issued the invitation to include them, I didn’t want them to feel obligated. Consequently, they accepted the invitation for dinner without knowing they were going to visit with more than just me.

 

Andrea seemed a little concerned after I put the steaks on the grill. I also mentioned corn on the cob and grilled asparagus. She said, “The corn is going to take a lot longer than the steak”. Of course, I knew she was in error. This was not my first rodeo. Like I said, “The secret to cooking is having a really hot grill”.

 

For medium to rare steaks, five minutes on each side is usually just right if the steak is thick. For corn on the cob, ten minutes on the grill will cover that as well. The asparagus probably didn’t need that much time, but I like it crisp. Eating a meal that I prepare is a lot like one-stop-shopping. It all comes off of the grill at about the same time.

 

Maybe it was the company, but the meal couldn’t have gone better. Even my daughter and son-in-law were extremely complimentary and they know how to cook. There were even left overs, so my lunch on Friday was covered as well. Like i said: “One stop shopping works for me”.

 

The friend who is leaving town arrived a few minutes before Andrea and Kevin. I asked, “So how are you doing with the move?” Of course I knew that his circumstances have to be a little more anxiety producing than mine. At least with me, I already know what the next chapter looks like. With him, it is more like Abraham going out not knowing, but trusting God for the roadmap. I gathered from what he said that he is looking forward to the adventure, but he is a little anxious about the unknown.

 

In dismissing the anxiety, he said: “I live simply. I don’t have a lot of stuff and I’m getting rid of most of it before I leave town. I’m packing everything I’m taking with me in the back of my truck and a 5 X 10 U-Haul trailer. He plans to leave town at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

 

For the first leg of his trip, he is going home to drop off most of his things. Of course, like he said, “He isn’t taking much with him.” He mentioned that he decided to part with his trumpet. He said, “I dropped it off at the school’s band hall. I wanted it to go to a student that needed a horn. I don’t play it much any more. Why not let someone needing a horn to have mine?”

 

My next question was: “Do you play other musical instruments?” He said: “I come from a musical family. I can play the piano and the guitar. I even started out by taking violin lessons in grade school. I really like music.”

 

As he talked about his plans and his priorities, the highest on his agenda is first responding to some needs of friends who’ve moved on and left some of their things in his possession. Consequently, he is returning what they left behind and didn’t have room to carry.

 

He is heading first to Ohio where his mother lives. He’ll spend two or three days at home and then head westward with his two dogs and a truck filled with his must haves and the items he is returning to a friend that moved to Victoria, British Colombia. He is also visiting a friend in Seattle before he goes to British Columbia.

 

Once he’s done with that leg of his journey, he’ll start looking for work. He said, “I’ve got some money saved and I don’t require much”. At any rate, as he talked through the evening about the things that are important to him it occurred to me that he is a caretaker. He takes care of people. I mentioned that to him and he said, “I learned that from my family. We’ve always taken care of people; particularly older folks who didn’t have anyone else they could count on.”

 

Long story short, after sharing an evening of conversation and from my perspective a perfect steak, I find myself wishing we had shared more time earlier. A true treasure is leaving Texas and he’ll probably never return. What an uncharted adventure he has in front of him. He will add much to whatever location he eventually finds to call home and he will make it better. Like I said, “He is a caretaker”.

 

All My Best!

Don

’til death do us part

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I’ve been surprised by the number of folks who’ve voluntarily offered advice related to my transition from the work world to retirement. Just yesterday, my doctor added his two cents worth. After reviewing the results of my lab work he said: “Whatever you’ve been doing just keep doing because everything looks great. He then asked about the medication he’s prescribed. He said, “Don’t get mad at me if I can’t remember because we’ve changed it how many times in the last twelve months because of your insurance?

 

I was a little embarrassed because he is right. My health insurance company and subsequent changes related to Medicare and supplemental insurance haven’t made it easy. Seriously, my chart is probably filled with documentation of telephone calls and communication from me that my insurance won’t pay for… and my question: “Can you order something else?”

 

He then said: “You look like you’ve been in the sun”. I answered, “Yes, I have.” He responded: “You have what?” I was puzzled by his question because I thought I had simply answered his question. Consequently, he asked again: “You have what?” Were we playing a game? If so, I tossed the answer back in his direction: “I have been in the sun.”   He smiled and said: “When you answered ‘I have’, I thought you were going to tell me what you’ve been doing in the sun”.

 

I was still a little stumped. I can’t confess that I’ve been outside doing yard work or anything else. My sun exposure is related exclusively to windshield time. How many mornings have I headed to Houston facing the rising sun and subsequently headed homeward facing the setting sun? The answer to my question is: “Every time I go and I can’t count that high.”

 

Instead of saying all of that, “I explained that my commute time from work to home is two-to-two and a half hours a day and my sun exposure is windshield time.” He asked: “Are you crazy? You’re not telling me that you drive two to two and a half hours everyday to get home from work”. Okay, so we were playing a game. That is exactly what I was telling him.

 

I decided to tell him my windshield time is limited going forward because I’m retiring in a week. I expected him to respond: “You’re way too young to retire”, but he didn’t. Instead he asked: “Are you going to play golf?” I replied: “Only if I am crazy. Isn’t “insanity” the definition of golf?”

 

So I set myself up to get the doctor’s word of congratulations and subsequent lecture on the need to maintain structure in my life. He obviously hasn’t met the General. I figure when it comes to structure, I’ve got it covered. He has no idea of the “’til death do us part” resource I have in adding structure to my world. The way I see it, if the structure becomes too overpowering, I can always set myself up to be the designated target for a “Silver Alert”. After all, I’ve got experience with the game of windshield time and I like to drive with the top down. In addition, what better way to get sun? It certainly beats yardwork or golf.

 

I recently also talked to a friend who retired about three years ago from the world of “adult protective services”. He told me the same thing. “Stay in contact with people and build structure into your routine.” He, too, hasn’t met the General. Like I said, “I’m way ahead of the game when it comes to structure.”

 

My friend from adult protective services said he had to retire because the work was killing him. Reportedly he should have had a caseload of 40 old people, but instead it was 148 plus old people. He said, “There was no way anyone could adequately cover that caseload.” He said, I have a fond memory of one of the last protective services cases I investigated. Because of the content of the report, I could have taken up to seven days to make contact and investigate the case, but I opted to do it immediately”.

 

He opted to do it immediately because there was only a twenty-four hour window that the nursing home would keep the man’s space reserved in the nursing home. If he didn’t return in that window of time, he’d be forever out of the place. So what were the allegations?

 

Because of advanced Parkinson’s disease and the inability to live without assistance, the man had been placed in nursing home care. Yet, his wife who has Alzheimer’s had come to visit and he convinced her to check him out of the nursing home and take him home. The referral to adult protective services had been made because the social worker at the nursing home knew it was a catastrophe in the making.

 

So when my friend went to the home to investigate conditions, he asked the wife about her plan to provide support in caring for her husband. She said: “I’ve got people I can call.” He asked for names and she didn’t have any. She did verbally agree that she wasn’t able to provide for her husband’s needs, but that she’d find help when the time came. He asked again about her plan for doing so and she didn’t have a plan. In exasperation she said: “I can always call our son.” My friend responded: “That’s great. Lets call him now”. When he called the son, the son was astounded. He screamed into the phone: “She did what? My mother isn’t able to take care of my dad.”

 

My  friend then went to the back bedroom to talk to the husband with Parkinson’s. When asked if he thought his wife was physically capable of providing for his needs, he said “Yes”. My friend asked: “Do you remember your wedding vows? What did you promise your wife you’d do?” He said: “She promised to love, cherish and obey me.” “So, what did you promise her”, was my friend’s reply. The husband responded: “To love and to cherish”.

 

That led to: “So if you really love your wife, you’d understand that she doesn’t have the capacity to physically take care of you. In the process of trying, it will become too difficult for her. The stress associated with her need to take care of you when she’s not able,  will eventually kill her.  Is that what you want to happen?”. The man replied: “My room at the nursing home is too small.” My friend replied, “My question about your wedding vows has to do with what you promised to do for your wife. It isn’t about you. If you really love and cherish your wife, you’d know this is too difficult for her to do and she will die trying. Are you willing and ready to go back to the nursing home?” The man responded: “I guess so, but I don’t like it.”

My followed in his car as the couple as they made their way back to the nursing home. Once inside, the social worker at the nursing home asked my friend: “How did you manage to do this?” He replied: “I asked about their wedding vows. The husband knew I was right. It simply took a reminder for him to opt to do the right thing.”

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

Out Of Bound Crazy – That Really Stings

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Sometimes the General drives me a little crazy. Actually, I may be significantly understating her effect on me. God as my witness, it shouldn’t be this difficult!  After all, she’s old enough to know better. She plays the “damsel in distress” card a lot more than circumstance dictates. 

 

Yesterday it came in the form of a text message before I got home from Houston. She was at church for the Wednesday night children’s program and guess what she discovered?  She discovered she had a passenger in the car.  It was a red wasp.

 

Most people who’ve lived as long as the General intuitively know that you roll all of the windows down in the car and you bid the little stinger goodbye.  Not the General! “No sire!”   Did the General jump out of the car while it was still in motion?  Actually, she didn’t include that information in her text, but I had the fear that it could happen. Like I said, “She sometimes makes me a little crazy”. The text message simply read: “There is a wasp in the car. Can you stop by the church before 7:00 p.m.?”

 

When it comes to insects, the General’s judgment is faulty.  When she was nine months pregnant with our firstborn, she saw a grasshopper and jumped off of the porch.  Give me a break!  That was almost 46 years ago. You’d think by now she’d stop overreacting, but although things change, some things remain the same.

 

My fear of snakes is a rational thing and most normal folks would be inclined to agree (value judgment on my part). The General’s fear of something as innocuous as a grasshopper is out-of-bounds crazy!  Yet, I could talk until the cows come home and I’d never be able to convince her that she’s over the edge for no good reason. I won’t provide her a lesson plan on eradicating a wasp from a vehicle, but the chances are slim to none that leaving all the windows up is going to effectively work. An attempt at gentle redirection wouldn’t do any good.  It would be a waste of my breath.

 

So I arrived at church shortly after 7:00 p.m. yesterday and took the opportunity to visit with folks while the activities came to a close.  At the General’s urging, I then drove her car home and she drove mine. She didn’t seem overly concerned that I was in harm’s way, but she dogmatically wasn’t getting back in the car until I could affirm to her the wasp was gone. Guess what? “I drove home with the windows down and the sunroof open”.

 

I didn’t see a wasp!  At 10:00 p.m. last night she wanted me to go out to the garage again and look in her car to see if I could locate the missing wasp.  Dutifully, I looked in both the front seats and the back. There was no wasp.  Of course, she wanted to know after I gave her my report, if I looked in the cargo space in the back?  I think I’ve already told you, but she makes me a little crazy!

 

Do you remember the movie Irreconcilable Differences?  Roger Ebert says of the movie: “The opening moments of “Irreconcilable Differences” are not promising. A lawyer is advising his client about divorce — and when we see the client, she turns out to be a little girl. Her plan is to divorce her parents, because they have (she stumbles over the word) ir … ir … rec … concilable differences. Right away, I was bracing myself for one of those smarmy movies about cute kids and mean parents. I could foresee the series this movie would inspire: “Kids’ Court,” with a different little plaintiff every week. It turns out that I was too cynical. ‘Irreconcilable Differences’ is sometimes cute, and is about mean parents, but it also is one of the funnier and more intelligent movies of 1984, and if viewers can work their way past the ungainly title, they’re likely to have a surprisingly good time”.

 

I thought about the title of the movie Irreconcilable Differences between my initially coming to rescue the damsel-in-distress at 7:00 p.m. and her 10:00 p.m. plea for me to look in her car for the wasp one more time.  The trigger for the memory of the term “irreconcilable differences” had to do with my car.

 

I mean it was the perfect evening! At 8:00 p.m. the weather couldn’t have been more pleasant.  It was 84 degrees outside and there was no wind. What a perfect time to go for a brief ride in the convertible.  I sent a text to my daughter to see if they were open for a brief visit?  She welcomed the opportunity for us to come over.

 

As we were leaving, I sent her the text: “The car is ready!  – Top down with the motor started – We are on a roll”.  This was going to be delightful!  I could feel it in my bones. Like I said: “It was perfect convertible weather”.  Did I mention the General dashed my hopes of it being a perfect anything before we got to the gate at the end of our driveway? 

 

“It’s cold!” were the two words that first came out of her mouth. With the press of a button, she rolled the window up on the passenger side of the car. Within ten seconds, she was asking for me to do the same. If you think it was a genuine question, you are wrong. It sounded like a mandate to me.

 

Of course, that wasn’t my only clue that all was not well in Denmark. The request that I roll up my window was followed by a mandate for me to turn off the sound system.  Maybe she doesn’t like the sound of Adele singing.  I don’t know.  What was definitive is that she didn’t want the sound system turned on and she wanted both windows rolled up.  Apparently that was as close as she could get to accommodate my plans for a perfect evening.

 

Okay, so my spiritual gift is pouting. I played the “pitiful Don” card, but it really didn’t garner any brownie points with the General. She didn’t care.  As I turned off of RR165 on to HWY 290, an 18-wheeler passed us.  The General couldn’t resist the opportunity to say: “If we are hit by that, we’re dead”.  Like I said, she makes me a little crazy!  The same would be true of her car, but it would have been wasted words to point that out.

 

When it comes to vehicular fun, the General and I have irreconcilable differences.  I may think twice before I invite her to tag along with me with the top down again.  She obviously has an aversion to letting the good times roll. That really stings and I didn’t see a wasp in her car or mine. Like I said, “My spiritual gift is pouting” and she has the skill set to push all of my buttons.

 

All My Best!

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Don