Middle Street – Somewhere In Maine

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The treasure chest of memories associated to our brief visit in Maine is already full and running over. With two more days left before us, I can’t begin to imagine what other surprises the trip could hold. Seriously, by the end of yesterday I had identified at least half a dozen different things that could be featured in my morning blog. Where do I start? How do I begin?

 

Let me say by way of introduction that yesterday was one of the best of days. At every juncture, I had the thought, “I’ve got to write this down.” By the time we were in Maine for a day and a half, I had the sense that we were locked on “fast-forward” and it was almost too much to absorb. The General would concur with that assessment. We talked about it last night. It had been a wonderful day.

 

The experiences we’ve encountered probably are atypical to those most strangers passing through the state experience. We have the good fortune of having friends that live in Bath. It was our first trip to visit them and we have been amazed by the warm welcome extended us by their friends. In fact, tonight we all are joining one of their neighbor’s at her home for lobster and steak. Even before she met us, she extended the invitation. After all, lobster is one of the mainstays Maine has to offer. She thoughtfully wanted to ensure we didn’t miss that experience.

 

It was the author E.B. White who said: “I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.” Base on our first impressions of everyone we’ve met, I can’t argue with his assessment. It is almost as though the value of friendships and importance of shared time with others is intuitively recognized.

 

In addition, the neighborhood our friends live in is located in walking distance of downtown is one of significance. Dating from the mid-1800s, most of the homes have weathered the test of time and today continue to hold the same prominence and charm they reflected from the beginning. In addition, most fall somewhere into the category of being between 4,000 to 6,000 square feet with lots windows, porches and curb appeal. You really have to see it to believe it.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever met so many people who genuinely seem to know that the things that matter most in life are relationships. Who knows, maybe that insight comes from the recognition that the winter months are much easier to manage if they are shared with others in friendship and camaraderie. Actually, that is true of the other three seasons of the year as well.

 

I’m not a cold weather person. I can’t imagine the temperature ranges in Maine during the winter months or the drudgery of having to deal with snow and the risks it poses if it isn’t shoveled and cleared from roadways and sidewalks in a timely fashion. Add to that the reality that darkness blankets the environment by 4:00 p.m. every afternoon throughout the winter. Those things are difficult to deal with in isolation. It all works better if somehow it can become shared time.

 

People needing people/people helping people seems to be the mantra for making the worst of times the best of times. In the process, it shifts the focus from the darkness and cold to the warmth and joys associated with shared time with others.

 

Following dinner on Friday evening, as we walked from downtown back toward the home of our friends, one of our friends suggested we stop in at the home of a couple in their neighborhood hosting a party. The hostess who is a concert pianist was going to be performing. He was certain that we’d enjoy the experience. My initial reaction was that I wasn’t comfortable crashing a party. He countered that we weren’t crashing the party. It was being hosted by dear friends and we would be welcomed. He replied, “I want you to meet these people. You’ve got to hear her play.

 

I didn’t really want to go, but I also didn’t want to say “no”. Consequently, the General and I opted to be open to the adventure. The folks hosting the gathering couldn’t have been more gracious. In addition, we found the same response from everyone else we met.

 

In visiting with the husband who is a university professor in music history, he shared some of the history related to the piano his wife would be playing that evening. It was a grand piano with “John Broadway & Sons – London” stamped on the keyboard cover. The piano originally had been shipped with a container of other antiques to the U. S. from England. Reportedly, during that timeframe, it was a matter of routine that at least one piano was added to every container shipped from England in order to make more space available in the country’s antique stores.

 

He didn’t articulate if the piano needed restoration when it arrived or if it had already been restored. The piano was dated 1895. They purchased the piano 12-to-15 years ago. The person selling the instrument wanted to make sure that the purchaser had the skillset and expertise to play exceptionally well. Consequently, his wife was one of several “would-be” purchasers who auditioned to be selected to purchase the piano.

 

Our friends had heard her in concert once earlier. In her introductory remarks at that concert which was a fundraiser for a local non-profit, she shared: ““My mother was a classical pianist. My father was a jazz musician who never read a note of music in his life. It is my hope that I play classical music like jazz”.

 

The music program began with the hostess playing the gift she’d just received from her husband to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. It was a newly crafted re-creation of a vintage historical musical instrument called a virginals. It is a rectangular shaped simpler form of a harpsichord. The music was incredible. That really is understating it. You had to hear it to fully process what I’m talking about.

 

The same was true of the music she played on the grand piano. Truthfully, she did play classical music with the feeling, passion and soul of jazz. It was an absolutely wonderful evening.

 

In reflecting back on our day, the neighborhood concert in a beautiful home with outdoor gardens and charm proved to be the crescendo of the day. The graciousness and welcoming of the fifteen to twenty people present gave insight to E.B. Whites proclamation: “I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.”

 

All My Best!

Don

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It Was A First For Me

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Lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. We checked the weather forecast before we left home. Consequently, I didn’t pack my shorts, Keens or T-shirts. It wasn’t that I was purposefully attempting to camouflage the fact that I have a brother in Oklahoma who has helped orchestrate a change in my appearance.   I figure, when in Rome (or Maine), do as the Romans do. I assumed that most people would be wearing long sleeve shirts.

 

When we stepped outside the airport in Manchester, NH, yesterday afternoon, I sensed that my logic was flawed. For one thing, I didn’t see anyone else wearing a long sleeve shirt. I don’t know what the temperature was, but it felt a lot hotter than the 60s.

 

I guess it falls under Murphy’s Law, but everyone waiting in line for a rental car was at the Alamo Rent-A-Car counter. Guess which car rental company held our reservation? I know, “That was a no brainer.” An hour later when I was finally standing in front of the counter, the first question asked of me was: “Would you like to upgrade your vehicle selection?” For $80 additional dollars, we could be driving a Toyota Camry. I don’t know what car I reserved, but I figured it couldn’t be a lot smaller than a Camry. No sooner than I said “No”, than I found myself second-guessing my decision. Before I could articulate that I changed my mind, the person asked if I’d need a toll tag. Before I could say “No”, she suggested it would be in my best interest. For $19.99 I could have the tag and then the only additional charges I would receive related to the actual toll charge. Of course if I opted to do it the other way the subsequent toll charges I’d receive about a month from now would be laced with hefty- administrative paperwork charges. Enough said – I opted for the toll tag.

 

As it turned out, the bicycle-built-for two that I had rented was fire engine red. It was a Chevrolet Sonic. Did I mention, I’ve refused to drive a Chevy Impala from car rental places before because I didn’t like the looks? Small and ugly are the two best words to describe the Sonic. Small, ugly and red was going to be our chariot for the next week. The General is flying back home on Monday, but I’m in Boston through Friday for a training session.

 

No sooner had I started the car and headed out of the parking lot breathing a sigh of relief that all of our luggage fit in the trunk, the General asked: “Where are you sunglasses?” Of course, they were in my backpack in the trunk of the car. So I was stopping to retrieve my sunglasses before we even exited the airport. So where were we headed?

 

I asked the General to check with Siri for a restaurant location. She declined saying, “Let’s just drive and see what we find along the way”. In an age of technological advances, why would we take that approach? I thought it was a mistake, but I learned a long time ago that it seldom pays to fight with city hall. The sound of Doris Day singing “Que Sera Sera” went off in my head.   The word “Whatever” then flashed across the horizon of my conscious thoughts. I didn’t articulate it, but I realized I was becoming my son. When he was in high school and I’d offer redirection to something he wanted to do, he’d shrug his shoulders and say “Whatever”. I always processed “Whatever” as a being somewhat disrespectful. I figured the General would as well, so I kept my “Whatever” shielded from her hearing. Just thinking it proved my point.

 

I had entered the location we were going in Maine into my cell phone. The map was in place and we were on our way. “I bet it is illegal for you to be holding a hand held device” were the next words out of the General’s mouth. As I handed her my phone, it was like forfeiting my last thread of independence. I was no longer in the driver’s seat even though I was in the driver’s seat.

 

Eventually, she laid the phone down on the two-inch-wide middle console (I told you it was a small car) and I retrieved it again. I noticed the battery life was almost exhausted. I needed to charge my phone.

 

If you’re thinking the wiring I needed for re-charging the phone was in my backpack. You get the prize. Fortunately, there was signage for a rest stop just up ahead. I pulled over and once again retrieved something from my backpack. That was the catalyst for a wonderful discovery.

 

The bicycle-built-for-two turned out to have a radio with the “Apple Car Talk” feature. Once I plugged my phone in for charging, the map selection already highlighted on my iPhone appeared in the 7-inch screen inside the car. “Perfect” was the next word that came to mind. I now had my phone back, a display screen that I could see for myself and a voice other than the General’s giving me driving instructions. It was a “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” kind of experience.

 

We didn’t see the array of colors along the highway that we had expected see. Apparently, it has been short-sleeve shirt weather in Maine. Consequently the leaves have yet to turn.

 

I did encounter a new experience last night. It falls into the category of: “When in Rome do as the Roman’s do”. Initially, when a friend made the suggestion that we order oysters on the half-shell I said: “Thanks, but I don’t eat oysters.”  No sooner had I declined than I realized that I’ve never eaten an oyster. How did I know I wouldn’t like the taste? After all, I’d never tried one. I decided to at least make an attempt. Isn’t that what a mature person would do?

 

The General couldn’t be coaxed. She wasn’t doing that. It turned out to be a delightful experience. We ordered three different types of oysters indigenous to Maine and the taste was superb. It was a coming of age experience for me. After all, I’ll never be 70-years-old again.  I haven’t yet done it all, but I’m on my way. It is all about the adventure.

 

All My Best!

Don

Fall Colors

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It is seldom that I pass up an opportunity to snap a picture in a crowded airport. After all, you can just point and click and no one is the wiser. Later you can edit the photo by cropping out the unwanted subject matter. Somehow at 4:40 this morning as I walked through the Austin airport, things looked drastically different. The airport was not yet crowded and there was no one seated near the couple. Yet, I was drawn to the young couple that seemed oblivious that life was taking place around them. The storyline I had in mind for the picture I wanted to take was perfect for the photo, if only I could take the snapshot without being detected. But could I?

 

Click and snap is the way I took the picture of the man wearing shorts, dress shoes and a coat and tie at the DFW Airport several months ago. When I posted his picture along with one of my blogs, the man’s identity couldn’t be determined because his head was turned and he was looking a different direction. Somehow all of that seem less litigious if by chance, someone really didn’t want to have their picture taken.

 

Could I capture a photo of the couple in the airport without their knowing? I immediately thought so. The young man appeared to be sleeping soundly in a chair with his head titled back and supported by a u-shaped pillow. I had the thought: “That looks comfortable. I wish I had brought my pillow like that”.

 

Actually, I’ve never taken my pillow like that out of the clear plastic bag in which it stored. Of course, it is still early, but I can’t remember where I got the u-shaped pillow. Though I clearly remember that is stored on the top shelf in my closet. It seems like it was provided me by a chiropractor that did some extensive work on my left shoulder and neck over a period of several weeks. If that is the origin of my pillow, who knows what it actually cost me? However, I’ve never taken it out of the bag, so to speak.

 

The sleeping man looked as though he was comfortably sleeping, but not nearly as comfortably as the young woman sleeping at his feet. It was her presence that most caught my attention. She was lying face down on the floor at the airport. Her head and most of her body was covered by an Indian blanket. If what I’m describing is true, you’re probably wondering how I knew she was lying facedown? The answer is simple. Her feet and a portion of her legs were exposed. Her feet were pointed downward. As go the feet, so goes the body.

 

How does one become comfortable enough with their surroundings to stretch out facedown on the floor in an airport lobby? Even with your headed covered up, it seems like an awkward place to sleep. Of course, fatigue and a need for sleep can be overriding at times.

 

The General awakened me this morning. “Why are you still sleeping?” she asked.  Without giving me time to answer, she added: “ You’re supposed to be up. I thought you set your alarm.” Her question was rhetorical and she didn’t really expect an answer. That was good because I had no idea what she was talking about. Immediately, I had the thought, “Is it Sunday? Have I overslept?” Seriously, I was a little confused and disorientated. For starters, “What time was it?” Secondly, “Why did I need to get up?” For that matter, “What was she doing up?” I had questions of my own.

 

Fortunately, before I articulated my questions, my head cleared enough to remember that we were leaving town. I had set my alarm for 2:30. I could see from my phone that it was only 2:15 a.m. She was right. I needed to hurry.

 

The drive from Henly to the airport went by quickly. It was really dark outside and there was little traffic. Parking at the airport was a snap. Would you believe it, we got a space next to B-4, my favorite place to park. Somehow I can always remember that number.

 

The lady covered by the Indian blanket reminded me of a telephone call I received from my brother yesterday.   In case you missed the connection, he lives in Oklahoma. He called after having lunch with a friend who suggested he invite me to come for a visit. I needed to plan to stay three or four days and be there for Sunday school. That way, I could meet some of my brother’s friends. Reportedly, many read my blog and would like to meet me.

 

Okay, so was this a set up? Was I being lured across the Red River so they could teach me a thing or two about third world countries? How’s that for being paranoid? Seriously, it was a genuine invitation and one I plan to accept. My brother is one of the good guys. Birds of a feather flock together.

 

In addition, it would give me more time to build memories with his grandchildren. They are young and precious. The other day, Larry and Lane left a message for me. I missed their call. Lane was calling to say hello. The call made me feel good. I like being liked by four year olds. Makes me wish I was a kid again.

 

I’m posting this blog from Midway in Chicago. The General and I are headed for a long weekend in New England. How’s that for adding a touch of fall colors in our life?  It is all about the journey and we are on our way!

 

By the way, I didn’t take the picture I wanted to take.  I turned my camera away from the couple’s direction and took a practice picture. It flashed. I feared a flashing light might awaken the young man from his sleep.  Who knows, he could be off the reservation and not want his picture taking.  I know, it is all in my head.  That’s true, but the woman was covered with an Indian blanket.

 

All My Best!

Don

Game Night

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The lady in the bleachers sitting next to me last night was the quintessential sports’ mom. She knew the name of every player on the hometown’s team and she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic or a louder supporter of every single player on the field. There was no distinction between her elation. It didn’t matter if it was her son’s name being called out by the sport’s announcer or one of his peers, she was all about cheering the team on and she did.

 

First of all, I’m kid friendly so it was hard not to like her. Secondly, she used to live in Dripping Springs and her two sons are best friends with the two sons of one of our closest neighbors that are like family to us. It really is 6-degrees of separation. Most folks have more in common than they ever take the time to discover. Of course, Craig knew the back story and he provided the full disclosure needed for us to connect the dots.

 

Last night all seemed a little surreal to me. For one thing, I had no frame of reference. The General and I were a little late arriving at the game. Our first stop was to transport our youngest grandson from his home where he had gotten off from the school bus to baseball practice. First he needed to eat an early dinner. It was going to be a very full evening.

 

First of all, I had no idea that anyone played baseball in the fall of the year. But after all, we were in Sealy America where everyone knows that baseball resonates with: “God, Country and Apple Pie”. Baseball in Sealy is not seasonal. I should have known that. Baseball is the All-American game. It is deserving to be played year round. Some do – apparently Jake is one of them.

 

Of course, for Jake the evening only represented practice. For William, my oldest grandson, it was GAME NIGHT. It was noteworthy for sure. For starter’s it was William’s first football game as 7th grader. Actually, it should have been his second. Last Tuesday when the team and a host of supporters arrived for the out-of-town game after driving for over an hour to get there, the opposing team’s couch announced his team wasn’t playing.

 

Can that be right? How do you call off a game before it gets started unless you call it off long before the opposing team and spectators arrive. There has to be a back story, but I’ve yet to hear it. Strange isn’t it?

 

After dropping Jake off at the baseball field, the General and I headed to the school for William’s football game. After the baseball practice, Jake’s uncle would bring him to the football game. The General has spent enough time in Sealy providing chauffeur services to the grandkids, that she knows the lay of the land.

 

When the General directed us to the high school stadium, I told her she was wrong. Seventh graders don’t play football in a high school stadium. That is crazy. They are only seventh graders. The General isn’t always as smart as she thinks she is. Okay, so I was the one that was crazy. Of course, seventh graders play in the highschool stadium and the stadium was almost as full as it would be on Friday night when the high school team played.

 

It was a little surreal to me. Maybe it was a right of passage that I missed because I wasn’t athetically gifted. For that matter, when I was in junior high the games were played immediately after the school day. They weren’t held in the evening when family members could routinely be present. At least I don’t think they were. I don’t remember them.

 

The stadium was filled and the game was in action when we arrived. At least I thought it was. Actually, it was the 7th grade “B-team” that was playing. The 7th grade “A-team” would play following the B-team. Are you kidding me? The school had two 7th grade teams. It took me a while to sort all of that out.

 

With the recognition that there were two teams instead of one, I immediately knew we were in for the long haul. I didn’t see that coming. Two football games in one evening seemed like a good way to ensure a late night. I’m smart – It did. However, I’m kid friendly. If there had been a “B-team” as well as an “A-team” when I was in school, I might have a different frame of reference. I was never good enough for an “A-team” anything.

 

The lady sitting next to me said of the player who made most of the touchdowns, including one in which he ran 90 yards to cross the goal line: “This kid is really good. He can play any sport. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, he is going to excel. She provided me the kid’s name and added, “No one calls him that. He goes by his first initial. They call him “D”.

 

“D” – So the kid and I had something in common. The initial of my first name begins with a “D” as well. That’s were the similarities ended. I was the complete opposite of “D”. I never excelled at any sport. Tennis was the closest that reflected any level of skill set, but even then I didn’t often find myself at the top of the winner’s roster.

 

Okay, I get it. Most of you are reading this and thinking: “Don – this isn’t about you. It is about William. Put it all in proper perspective”. I get what you saying: “But I think you’ve missed something. Every single parent in the stadium last night that participated in school athletics was reliving the experience through their children.

 

In fact, I heard one mother say near the close of the game: “We’ve waited over twenty years for this”. Apparently, Wharton had been a school rival and they got the stuffing beat out of them last night. The score was 40 – to – 0 with Sealy in the winner’s circle. Even young William, made three tackles. He was number 92 and I couldn’t have been prouder to be present.

 

All My Best!

Don

A Hebrew Word – A Complex Concept

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The scheduled dinner had been on my calendar for a number of weeks. Back in August, a colleague and friend telephoned to say he couldn’t make my retirement party that was held earlier, but that he’d like to have us and a mutual friend who is also recently retired and his wife over to their home for dinner. Subsequently, the date was set and Sunday night was the culmination of the long awaited shared time. It proved to be a fantastic evening.

 

For starters the couple hosting the dinner live in Dripping Springs. Don’t be surprised. After all, Dripping Springs is the gateway to the hill country and the Wedding Capitol of Texas. It is a “happening place”. Could the couple really have been in their home for the past six years? It seems like they just moved to Drippin’ a couple of years ago. Though I knew they had moved to the neighborhood, I had never been by their home before. Their acquaintance was new to the General. She had never met the man or his wife. My only connections with them historically had been work-related.

 

Their home is an absolute showplace. It obviously is a custom-build; however, they said they were not the original owners. They simply had the good fortune of having exceptional taste and knowing exactly what they wanted when the home came on the market. Hands down, their kitchen is the most amazing kitchen I’ve seen. The cabinets and built-in hutch were handmade by a highly accomplished craftsman in Fredericksburg. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take pictures. Seriously, you’ve got to see it to believe it. Never have I seen an example of such carpentry and craftsmanship.

 

Of course, the fireplace’s wrap around mantel that frames the granite opening and backdrop-surround of the fireplace in the living area was equally impressive. The fireplace was bordered on either side with custom cabinetry that the couple had built and added after their arrival. The custom cabinets were painted the same shade of gray that covers the trim work and molding throughout their home. Seriously, the home’s character is such that it speaks volumes in house design and comfort.

 

It is the kind of picturesque setting that immediately garners one’s attention. The attention to detail, placement of furniture, artwork that graces the walls and grand piano subtly located off to one side of the living area crafts a story making the observer want to know more. I was like a kid in a candy store. The place is literally picture perfect.

 

The landscaping outside the home also reflects the owner’s creativity and eye for capturing what most needs to be captured. The view from the home’s front porch encapsulates a hill-country view that goes on for miles. The same view is available from the elevated patio area with a built-in gas fire-pit located at the highest point in the back yard. The white rock retainer wall that borders the upper level from the lower level seems like it was meant to be. The rock steps leading from the lower level to the higher elevation are also perfectly placed. Throw in the pergola that frames or covers the lower level and the design and style is flawless.

 

However, the graciousness of the couple hosting the dinner and the ease at which they did so was amazing. The main course on the dinner menu was salmon, but each person present participated in the process. It was an “experiential social activity” designed to promote camaraderie and conversation.  It took place in the kitchen as we each stood side-by-side around a wrap-around bar where each person present was provided parchment paper, the salmon and a host of other ingredients that could be added as seasoning or topping.

 

The instructions were simple.  Add half a lemon as the finishing touch; followed by carefully folding the parchment paper into a rolled fold and twist the ends together.  At that point the participant’s role was almost complete. Of course, each person was assigned the task of identifying their creation by writing their name on the parchment paper. Twenty-five to thirty minutes later when the meal was done, there would be no mistaking whose folded parchment feast belonged to whom.

 

Seriously, it was a fun activity. Of course during the process I had the thought, we’re going to subsequently want to invite these folks over to dinner at our house. There is absolutely no way we can ever duplicate or improve on this experience. Dinner at our place falls short of the experiential mystique that surrounded Sunday night’s meal. I’m not saying we are boring people.  We are just not that creative.

 

I finally consoled myself with the thought: “It is what it is. I can grill a good steak. That will have to be good enough.” Seriously, three hours later when we were bidding farewell to the hosts, I had was thinking: “This has been so much fun. I really want more shared time with these folks”.

 

In addition, neither the General nor I had met the wife of the mutual friend who was joining us. Actually, he was a previous supervisor that I reported to for a number of years. Our friendship goes back for many years even before the time that he was my boss. It was good to reconnect. In addition, his wife is absolutely delightful. I found myself wanting to share more time with them as well. It was a perfect evening.

 

Toward the close of the evening, the host for the evening shared a toast in behalf of our mutual friend and myself. He mentioned that he likes to focus on different words. He mentioned a word he recently discovered in Hebrew. I should have been taking notes. I actually didn’t know when he started talking that a toast in our behalf was the destination where he was heading.

 

In addition, I had the thought as he spoke: “This man is way out of my league. He is talking about the complex meaning of a Hebrew word and I haven’t even mastered English”. Seriously, I don’t remember the last time I engaged in that kind of conversation. It may have been a first for me. Okay – total transparency here – it was a first for me.

 

The word he shared is the word: “Hesed”.  By his own admission, Hesed is difficult to translate. No single word in English captures its meanings. Translators use words like “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty.” Perhaps “loyal love” is close.

 

Reportedly, Hesed is one of the richest, most powerful words in the Old Testament. It reflects the loyal love that people committed to the God of the Bible should have for one another.  It carries a connation that goes well beyond kindness. The Hebrew word weaves together the concept of love and trust mingled together as the fabric of one’s character and approach to life. He suggested that “Hesed” is a word that describes the commitment and investment each of us has made through our life’s work.

 

As colleagues in the field of childcare, he said that he has held respect for us because he sensed the presence of the values he just described. I guess you could say birds of a feather flock together, because whatever he said of us could equally be said of him. In addition, he too is planning on retirement at the end of the year. Not only does “hesed” describe him, but he is also a man of incredible kindness. What a wonderful tribute he paid to the two of us.

 

I had the thought yesterday in reflecting back on Sunday night: “When it comes to residential child care, the three of us collectively are going to leave a gap”. Yet, we are replaceable. Someone will step in and pick up where we left off. In addition, we will applaud their success and simply be grateful that we were privileged to walk where we have walked. Ours has been an incredible journey.

 

I am eager for new discoveries. The same is probably true of each of them.  Who knows, I might discover an interest in Hebrew words. Better yet, why not just live life to the fullest and embrace the path that it takes?  That will negate the temptation to long for the past. Isn’t that the way life is supposed to work? I think it is and I couldn’t be more pleased.

 

I also look forward to more shared time with the friends with whom we shared time Sunday night. After all, we’re retired or they soon will be. We should have more time. Why not spend it wisely. Shared time with others contributes to the well being of both. Life lived in isolation isn’t nearly as enjoyable, thought provoking or exciting.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve Got Mail

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Sometimes I’d be better served if I just opted to leave my email unopened. I noticed on Friday evening that I had received an email from the child care administrator’s licensing section of state government. There really wasn’t a need for me to open the email. Earlier in the week, I had sent in my application for renewal of my child care administrator’s license along with all of the required documentation. In addition, I had included a check to cover the cost of the renewal.

 

So why do I still need a child care admnistrator’s license? Technically I don’t. I almost opted to request being moved to emeritus status, but found that in order to do so, I had to return my original license to the Department. Okay, so I’m weird! I’ve had the original license for the past 30 years. I’ve renewed it fifteen times over those thirty years. The cost has been negligible. Why would I opt to return it?

 

If the license were a non-expiring license, I could understand the rationale for requesting it back. Since the license has an expiration date, why would they want it back? It doesn’t make any sense to me. The way I see it, the license was bought and paid for to cover the period of time reflected on the license. With each issuance, came a new sticker to place over the expired sticker.

 

Maybe it is the principle of the thing, but I wasn’t giving it back. Every year since the initial issuance, I have more than doubled the required training hours necessary for renewal. My license has always been in good standing. If they get it back, it will be over my dead body. Okay, so I’m being a little melodramatic. But I obviously have strong feelings related to this issue. Rather than to apply for emeritus status and return the license, I decided I’d shell out the $50 bucks and keep it at least two more years. What did I have to lose other than the $50?

 

I’m still wondering what possessed me to open up the email yesterday afternoon? It did nothing to positively impact my peace of mind. Frankly, I was surprised by the content of the written communication. It was a response I didn’t anticipate receiving.   They confirmed receipt of my renewal fee but found that they could not issue my renewal because there was no record of my completing the required training hours. According to their correspondence, the required documentation I submitted or didn’t submit showed 0 hours of training completed.

 

 

Hello Houston (and that’s where the application was sent according to the printed instructions on the application) we’ve got a problem. Along with my personal check that was attached to a covering letter, the child care administrator’s renewal form, a signed request for criminal history form and central registry check along with verification that I had just gone through that process in August 2017, were all included with the documentation.

 

I submitted verification of 42.5 hours of continuing education credit for the first year of the renewal and 35.5 hours of the second year of the renewal. The law only requires 15 hours of approved training for each of the two years.

 

So the $64,000 question is: “How did they receive payment for the renewal and not received all the other documents requested for the renewal? They were all clipped together with a metal binder clip.

 

I learned years ago that it is always in one’s best interest to maintain a copy of anything submitted to a regulatory authority. Consequently, it was with no difficulty that I located my copy of the packet of information I mailed to the State on September 18, 2017. In case you’re wondering, the documentation along with the covering transmittal letter included twenty-three pages.

 

I’m already borrowing trouble. Finding someone to answer the phone when I call their office in the morning will be a challenge. I hate automatic phone attendants. In addition, I’m painfully aware that it never serves anyone well to come across as though they are frustrated or angry. That is particulary true when your dealing with an authority figure.

 

Okay, so I’m frustrated and angry. I’d be the first to admit it. The quandry has to do with whom? I’m fixing to toss at a curve ball that some of you won’t see coming. At some level I’m frustrated and angry with myself. Why couldn’t I leave well enough alone? I am retired. I don’t need a child care administrator’s license. Why couldn’t I simply have returned my license, accepted the “out-to-pasture” status and kept my $50?

 

Okay, I’m not going to be brutal in beating myself up, but had I returned my expired license, I’d have avoided the frustration of going through this exercise. The exercise is part of the process to get a new license and until I receive a new sticker to apply on top of my expired one, I haven’t accomplished my objective.

 

Since I applied for a license renewal, I will refrain from asking any questions or making any statements related to their email communication stating that I didn’t submit documentation of required training that could be perceived as patronizing or demeaning. I certainly won’t come across as frustrated or angry. I can probably get by with acknowledging that I’m a little confused. After all, I can get by with the “confused card” because they know my date of birth. They think I’m old. Old people at times can be a little confused. No one could fault me for that.

 

I’ll have to tone it down, but something along the order of: “Can you help me understand what I additionally need to submit to be in compliance or to be eligible for receipt of my license? It might even be helpful for me to volunteer to email them a copy of the documentation that I have in my files. After all I really want to get this right”.

 

Some of you are thinking that isn’t at all the approach you’d recommend. Trust me, sugar coating the exchange will serve me better than coming acoss as adversarial, frustrated or angry. That approach never plays out well in dealing with authority figures.  Actually, that approach seldom play out well in dealing with anyone.  You come closer to winnnig when no one has to lose in order for you to do so.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

Was It A Scavenger Hunt?

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I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest Crayola in the box. I’d like to think that I have a colorful personality and that time shared with me isn’t as boring as reading from the dictionary, but that doesn’t make me a Rhodes scholar. I’m a plain and simple guy. 

 

Some may even think that my taste is all in my mouth.  In the General’s defense, she told me on Friday that she didn’t like the shirt before I bought it.  That wasn’t a problem. She generally doesn’t wear my clothing.  Actually, I’ve never known her to wear my clothing.   Consequently, I didn’t see my purchasing the shirt as a problem or potential problem.  Was I wrong?

 

So was it the color orange that did it?  I know some folks with Aggie ties who routinely defy all things orange regardless of the shade.  I’m not suggesting that the General falls into that category. Seriously, I think she’s smarter than that!  If the General drove a maroon colored SUV with a white top and an “A&M” decal on the back window, I might question her judgment. After all, our daughter and son-in-law have ties to UT. To favor our son and daughter-in-law’s alma mater over one with an orange and white identity doesn’t seem like impartial treatment.

 

In addition the General’s car doesn’t have personalized maroon colored license plates with white letters. Just because our youngest grandson has seven – count them seven: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – maroon colored T-shirts that look identical and all have the same “TEXAS AGGIES” white lettering doesn’t impact his Gram’s judgment. She’s really not like that or at least I think she’s not.

 

How I found myself backed into a corner yesterday defies explanation apart from the fact that the General is somehow responsible. I don’t often think of her as passive aggressive. That is not her style. If she’s out of sorts with me, she has no difficulty expressing her opinion and “making it perfectly clear” so to speak. Let there be absolutely no mistake about that.

 

Of course the General likes to play games.  Could she have orchestrated an advanced form of a scavenger hunt in her head and lured me into being the only participant playing?  She would never do that would she?  She knows I hate to play games.  I particularly don’t want to participate in a scavenger hunt or wild goose chase. The two are closely aligned. More importantly, I don’t want to play “scavenger hunt” at the grocery story in Dripping Springs on a Saturday when half of the population of Dripping Springs is crowded into the store. There is nothing fun or funny about an experience like that.

 

Trust me, I’m not making this stuff up. My imagination may be lively, but it doesn’t stretch that far.  What was a baguette doing on the grocery list?  I’m a simply guy. You don’t shop for furniture where you shop for groceries. The only time I was ever in the General’s paternal grandmother’s home, I was impressed with the banquette that served as their breakfast area.  Okay, so you may have caught my error. I know what a banquette is even though I’d never heard the term baguette. I read the latter for the former. Any one could make that kind of mistake. 

 

If any of my friends from Oklahoma are scratching their heads thinking the two are the same, I feel you pain. I was in exactly the same boat. Unless the two words are written down side-by-side, it is really confusing. Trust me, you’ll never find a banquette in a grocery store unless it is a sitting area in a portion of the store designed as a place to drink coffee. There isn’t anything like that in the grocery store in Drippin’. No wonder I was confused.

 

So was it a game of chance at my expense?  I think the answer to that question is “Yes”, but I’ll let you be the judge. You tell me: “Can you think of a better way for a wife to drive her husband crazy than to add Emmentaler cheese to the grocery list?

 

I am a plain and simple guy. I grew up on the south side of Odessa and I don’t know a lot about cheese. Actually, for that matter, I don’t know a lot about most things.  Emmentaler cheese???? Are you kidding me? Who ever heard of such?

 

I know that Brie cheese is soft, but that’s the fanciest and most unusual cheese I can identify on a grocery store shelf.  Before yesterday, I had no idea that the store in Drippin’ has an assortment of different cheeses. Actually, they number more than I can count using my fingers and toes times two.  Did I mention packaging sizes are small and super small and the font on the lettering is about a “7”. You need a magnifying glass to even read the label.  Price per pound you get a better deal choosing a New York Strip. 

 

When it comes to cheese, I’m pretty much a novice.  I know that my grandmother baited the mousetrap with yellow cheese when I was a kid, but white cheese might have worked equally well.  Who knows for sure? – I don’t.

 

I’m going to be embarrassed if I get this wrong. When it comes to cheese, cheddar, Longhorn, American and Colby are normally yellow in color.  Swiss and Mozzarella are normally white. If you want white and yellow thrown together, Colby Jack blends the two colors together. What else do I need to know?

 

Obviously there is a lot about cheese I don’t know.  How passive aggressive is it for anyone to add Emmentaler cheese to a grocery list?  I’d bet you dollars to donuts that my younger brother in Oklahoma has never heard of Emmetaler cheese either. That may even be true of most of his friends. For that matter, I bet it is true of most of my friends as well.

 

Just for the record, I was up to the challenge. Never let it be said that the General could beat me with her game. Before I was done looking, two people employed at the grocery store joined me in the search.  I now know that Emmentaler is white cheese.  I have no idea what it tastes like. I’m not even sure I want to know. It was on the grocery list and I checked off all the boxes.  I didn’t come home with the bacon. It wasn’t on the list, but I got everything else.

 

All My Best!

Don