Case # 1973

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I didn’t anticipate that I’d be surprised by anything I heard at the POW/MIA League of Families meeting yesterday. Of course, I knew and anticipated there would be a special report by the League Archival Research Committee regarding a report on Case #1973. The committee had invested a full year of their time laboriously working on that lone investigation.

 

The team included the blended skillset of highly qualified professionals that was second to none. The team was composed of a former military officer and historian, a Vietnamese Linguist, an Imagery Analyst, and an F-4 Pilot. All four men are now private citizens who volunteer their time to take on the task of using their professional expertise to determine what heretofore has not been determined.

 

In case you missed it, the investigative “Archival Research Committee” receive no financial remuneration for their efforts. They are volunteers who live with the belief that no one serving their country in the military should be left behind. Consequently, their mission is to establish a basis that could subsequently lead to the return of those left behind.

 

The committee took full advantage of everything technologically possible as a resource in their finding of facts. In addition they had access to many Vietnamese publications and records, topographic imagery with date lines and the ability to capture before and after imagery.  The details are many. I mention these things just to highlight that when it comes to investigative techniques and thoroughness, the team investigating Case #1973 was at the top of the leaderboard. They represented the best and they were passionate about the mission before them.

 

No stone was left unturned and they painstakingly went down a lot of trails that proved to be dead ends. They were undeterred by the need to backtrack and go a different direction. They charted flight patterns, air speeds, projected time frames, possible target areas and a host of other variables.

 

The F-4 pilot personally invested over 360 hours in the past 12 months attempting to look at pictures of physical evidence previously collected at the thought-to-be potential crash site. A picture may worth a thousand words, but there were at least a thousand questions as to whether or not the pictures from long ago represented parts that came off of an A-6 Intruder aircraft. It was not a simple process.

 

Interestingly, the pictures were taken in 1992 by U.S. military personal at the first identified crash site for (Case #1973). In addition, a host of witnesses were interviewed. Many gave conflicting reports regarding the timeline when a plane crashed in their area. Some said it was time line in which my brother’s plane was lost. Others identified an earlier time. What appeared to be parts off of an aircraft were collected and taken back for analysis.

 

The subsequent investigative report from 1992 was sent to my niece in a brown manila envelope. She was a college student at the time and the Investigative Crash Site Investigation Report provided graphic details of the horrors of war indicating reports of strewn body parts.

 

In 1992, after years of silence with no information, suddenly as a family we were confronted with an abundance of information that brought with it questions regarding the credibility of investigation team’s conclusions.  Trust me, no one wanted information more than our family. I wrote back and said that we were grateful for any information regarding Ron. For years it had been a daily prayer of our family to know what happened. Without doubt, that is a characteristic of every MIA family. However, I respectfully requested an explanation of how they reached their conclusions.

 

I highlighted the contents of their report back to them. Since the report indicated airplane parts that were not consistent with Ron’s plane, I simply wanted some kind of justification regarding their conclusion. Almost immediately, they responded in writing that they had made a mistake. They, too, agreed that since the aircraft pieces were from “another type of aircraft”, the conclusion that it was Ron’s plane didn’t seem justified.

 

Initially this year’s investigative team looking with fresh eyes at the first potentially identified crash site pictures and descriptions of evidence, attempted to make sense of it as well.  For one thing, there was a picture of a fragment of a tire. Was it consistent with what you’d expect of an A-6 aircraft? According to one of the tire dimensions recorded in U.S. documents, it appeared not so.

 

The record indicated that a tire located and photographed was 50 inches in diameter with a width of 22 inches. That is a really big tire. Think about it. Could it be from a B-52 aircraft?” I’d almost say “yes”, but how would I know? Extensive investigative research and numerous telephone calls and emails to tire manufacturers revealed that there was not an aircraft tire with those dimensions for any kind of plane manufactured anywhere at anytime.

 

I can’t recall the number of venders that manufactured tires for aircraft during that era, but the investigative team contacted all of them. So what was the explanation? Could it be that the person documenting the dimensions of the tire in 1992 inverted the numbers? Instead of being a tire with a 50-inch diameter and a width of 22 inches, could it have been 20-inches in diameter with a width of 5.5 inches. Maybe? If so, it could have been a tire for an A-6 Intruder.

 

I’ve only touched the surface of the Archival Research Committee’s report. Their investigative report is twenty-five pages in length. They matched three pieces of evidence that conclusively were consistent with an A-6 aircraft. They also determined that the downing of this aircraft wash highly celebrated by the Vietnamese. It was publicized as the 700th plane shot down.   There is even a picture of the plane in a museum in Vietnam with several Vietnamese standing on it. Evidence suggests that the plane went down in a heavily populated area with lots of Vietnamese directives concerning the downing of the plane.

 

 

There was really only one piece of disturbing evidence. That was the surprise that I found unsettling.  I’ve now had almost 24-hours to think about it.  Rather than highlight that, let me simple say that I’ve given myself permission to focus on what I know to be true rather than what I fear to be true. How’s that for making a healthy choice?

 

 

What I know to be true is that four men comprising the Archival Research Committee and working as volunteers invested a year of their life attempting to honor my brother by orchestrating a scenario to bring him home. I am so amazingly grateful. While by their admission, they can’t say with complete accuracy “this undeniably marks the spot, put the ‘X’ here”, the information is now light years ahead of what we’ve historically known.

 

 

I don’t have the words to adequately express my gratitude to the Archival Research Team, but I’ll never forget the investment of that team’s time and the passion with which they worked to help orchestrate my brother’s return. Yesterday was a good day.

 

All My Best!

Don

Settling For Nothing Other Than The Fullest Possible Accounting

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“Hello My Name is Don…” Isn’t that something similar to the verbiage used by a lot of self-help groups to start their meetings? If so, let me begin my blog with that level of transparency. “Hello my name is Don”. Now that I’ve said it and identified myself by name, maybe I’ve got the hard part out of the way. Isn’t that the first step?

 

I can’t honestly tell you that I perceived I needed any help before I joined the group. My attitude is upbeat and positive about 98% of the time. Even when it’s not, I generally manage to turn the corner and focus on strengths rather than deficits. The need for support is not why I joined the group. Yet, because of the group, I find an extra something that I don’t have the words to cognitively define. What is it? You tell me.

 

Yet, I would hasten to say what is true for me is also true for the vast majority of other group members. The group doesn’t meet weekly. They don’t even meet monthly. Is it possible that you could become emotionally attached to a group that meets only one time a year?

 

Some of the members are seasoned and experienced and they obviously are tied to the cause. For them, the three-day annual meeting is non-negotiable. They will be in attendance come rain or shine. Yet strangely, even for a first timer, before the first day is over, the person experiences an extra something that unexplainably becomes a driving force that cements them to the cause.

 

Last night, I asked a young man if he, too, was from Kentucky? He looked at me like I had mistaken him for someone else and answered, “No, I’m from Florida.” When I had met him earlier in the day, he was seated next to someone I knew from Kentucky. I just naturally assumed they were related. It obviously was a wrong assumption.

 

So I asked, “How many meetings have you attended?” He responded: “This is my first meeting.” He voluntarily hastened to say, “I’ve enjoyed being here. I’ve met some nice people. This is something I think I want to do going forward”. Like I said, it is unexplainable, but already the brief taste he experienced had whet his appetite for more.

 

So if he wasn’t with the lady from Kentucky, with whom had he come? He must have read the question on my mind, because he said: “This is my first time here. I came by myself. I only have an older brother and he wasn’t interested in coming. My uncle is MIA and apart from my brother and I, my uncle has no other living relatives”.

 

Did I mention the meeting isn’t about the individuals who meet? Folks aren’t looking for a venue to fill a void or meet a deficit in their lives. It isn’t that kind of self-help group. Yet, in the process of meeting, they too, make the same discovery that I’ve made. They, too, find an “extra something” that tugs at their heartstrings and they sign on emotionally to advocate for a full accounting for their loved one. It is the only tangible way of actively doing something when there is so little that can be done. Did I mention that doing something is better than doing nothing?

 

Last night I attended the 48th Annual Dinner of the League of Families in Washington, D.C. It predictably included the Presentation Of Colors, the singing of the National Anthem, the Missing Man Table with a vacant chair for each branch of the military and a host of other things done symbolically to craft a story to which every person in the audience could relate. It was a visually powerful representation. So was the small sampling of pictures of the 1,600 + men and women still missing from Vietnam.

 

For me, the highlight of the evening was the verbal presentation made by Gen. Paul J. Selva, 10th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nations second highest-ranking military officer. First of all, erase from your mind the concept that to be a General you have to be someone almost as old as God and bring with you a written script that those in attendance automatically fear will take forever to get through.

 

He wasn’t like that at all. Before he fully articulated his first sentence, he had my attention. I found myself hanging on to every word. His script wasn’t stuffy. In fact, I’m not even sure he had a script. His words, his demeanor, his eye contact with those in attendance, the way he postured himself and his voice tone clearly communicated the authenticity that he was speaking from his heart.

 

In the process his communication style was undeniably heart-to-heart. He shared three real life stories that had impacted his life and the POW/MIA cause. Since I am relying on memory and I don’t have the details clearly framed in my head, I’ll not attempt to recount the three stories he shared. I will simply reference one.

 

He shared the importance that Phil and Karen found undeniable in hoping one day the crash site of their family member would be located. I mean, after all, how hard could it be with today’s technology and access to a really good map? They refused to be dissuaded by reports that the plane went down in a very remote area of Laos. They refused to give up on fostering the hope that the crash site could and would be located. When it appeared no one was going to take action to fulfill that dream, they decided to take efforts into their own hands.

 

Purchasing the hiking gear necessary, they decided to travel to Laos and personally engage in the search themselves. Would you believe it, the hiking boots weren’t even needed. They personally located the crash site.  Soon excavation of that site will begin.  Without Phil and Karen’s resolve to refuse to settle for anything less than a full accounting, none of that likely would ever happen.

 

Perhaps General Selva captured the essence of “that something extra” I can’t define when he talked about the importance of honoring those who gave everything by settling for nothing short of the fullest possible accounting. Actually, that’s got to be the catalyst that prompts an “extra something” that undeniably makes a difference in a member’s life. I am blessed to me a member of the group.

 

All My Best!

Don

I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU

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There is something delightfully refreshing about the make-believe world of children. Late Friday night and early Saturday morning, Jake fashioned for himself a make- believe fort out of cardboard boxes. When I saw it, I thought it was an army tank, but in his imagination it served more as a bunker. From the vantage point of childhood imagination, there were no limits to its representation.

 

On Saturday morning, Gram had opportunity to be the first to see it. Of course, Jake had a vested interest when he extended her the invitation. He is a little ham and he wanted her to video “the fort” along with him providing an explanation of how it works.

 

Gram then asked Jake: “So when you grow up, are you going to be a builder like your Uncle Ryan?” He provided what I could have predicted as a response. After all, how many Texas A&M shirts does the kid own? He has at least one for everyday. He answered the question by saying: “No. I am going to be a Marine”. You know what they say: “Like father/like son.”

 

Jake went on to say that after retirement from the Marine Corps, he’d become a professional football player. Gram asked: “So don’t you think you’d be a little old to play football when you retire?” He said, “No – My Commanding Officer will look at me and say: “Way to go! -That’s my Marine boy.”

 

When I finally had opportunity to go upstairs and see the “fort” for myself, Jake welcomed me by saying: “Now Granddad, this is really something to blog about! I smiled with the thought! The General gets perturbed with me when I mention something is blog worthy. Jake on the other hand has the ability to think like Granddad. I suggested he write the blog, but since he didn’t, I thought I would.

 

Like I said, “When I first saw the fort with Jake’s head emerging through a flap in the top, it reminding me of an army tank with a person peering outside. Jake’s imagination brought me back in time. When I was a little kid, we too, played soldiers. As a little kid, all I knew of war and battle were the things gleaned from movies about WWII. My dad had set aside that chapter of his life by the time I was born, but the experience had a life-long impact on him. Although he never talked of the war until toward the end of his time, he proudly served his nation.

 

Actually, my dad took us to see the movie: “To Hell And Back” starring Audie Murphy. The movie was autobiographical and garnered the life and heroism of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history.

 

We also saw: “From Here To Eternity” portraying the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were also other theme related movies, but I don’t remember the names. What I do remember is coming away from the movies with the sense that Americans fought because it was the right thing to do. Many died in the process. It was simply the sacrificial price of admission for the things we hold dear.

 

Yesterday, my brother posted a picture of Dad wearing his U.S. Army uniform. It is the picture I used for this article.  I had never noticed it before, but in the picture dad almost looks like a kid. Maybe it takes 70-year-old eyes to fully process that we send our young men off to war.

 

Dad opted to keep three mementos from the war. They included a German helmet, a 1933 Standard Dress Dagger he took from a German soldier who was being transported after being taken captive. The soldier was taking the knife out of his boot when dad noticed him. He also kept a U.S. Army issued overcoat. To my knowledge, Dad never wore the overcoat after his discharge from the army, but he also never opted to part with it.

 

At my insistence, Larry took the overcoat after Dad was no longer here. I charged him with the responsibility to keep it for the remainder of his days since Dad found it worthy of keeping. It was a selfish thing on my part for me to do. We didn’t have the extra closet space to integrate it into our stuff. I stay in trouble with the General as it is because I’m reluctant to part with things that are too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep. I feared Dad’s overcoat would fall into that category.

 

Larry, reluctantly, but amicably agreed to take the coat. I didn’t want the responsibility of keeping the coat for the rest of my days, but at the same time, I thought we honored Dad by keeping it. Karoni, Dad’s oldest granddaughter, has the German helmet and Craig, his oldest grandson, has the German dagger. Craig is the reason I know the year and description of the dagger. He took it to an expert to learn about it and have it refurbished. It is a keepsake of Dad’s that he’ll cherish for the remainder of his days.

 

I think of Dad often. It is hard to believe the 10th anniversary of his home going was last week.  He died on June 10, 2007. During my growing up years, Dad provided for our family, but he wanted more for me and my brothers than he had experienced for himself. He saw education as the key to a better future. I don’t know how he did it, but at one time there were three of us in college at the same time. It made Dad feel good to provide for us the college degree he never had for himself.

 

From a vocational perspective, I never wanted to be just like dad, but that may have been through his urging. Like I said, he sacrificed to ensure our opportunities would be beyond his own.

 

It is interesting now that I’m in the closing chapters of life (however long or short that may be), I’m discovering that what I want most for the rest of my days is to be just like Dad. My dad represented a level of strength and sacrificial commitment that I’ve never known. The last fourteen months of his life were filled with one physical difficulty after another, but the overriding passion of his life had little relationship to himself. His primary goal was to take care of Mother.   He simply lived with a reliance on God that somehow the need would be met. He refused to give up, retreat to bitterness or fall prey to depression. He had the sense that God was with him every step of the way during the last chapter of his life and he was a testimony of how faith can make a difference.

 

If I could attain the stamina and perseverance I saw in my Dad, I’d think of myself as finishing the course in the best possible way. It was a faith walk for Dad and he never wavered. I can think of no more victorious way to cross the finish line to an eternal new beginning. I want to be just like Dad.

 

I even like the way Phillips Craig and Dean express it in their song entitled “I Want To Be Like You”. The lyrics include:

 

He climbs in my lap for a goodnight hug
He calls me Dad and I call him Bub
With his faded old pillow and a bear named Pooh
He snuggles up close and says “I want to be like you”
I tuck him in bed and I kiss him goodnight
Trippin’ over the toys as I turn out the light
And I whisper a prayer that someday he’ll see
He’s got a father in God ’cause he’s seen Jesus in me

Lord, I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be just like me
I want to be a holy example
For his innocent eyes to see
Help me be a living Bible, Lord
That my little boy can read
I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be like me

Got to admit I’ve got so far to go
Make so many mistakes and I’m sure that You know
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard I try
With all the pressures in life I just can’t get it all right
But I’m trying so hard to learn from the best
Being patient and kind, filled with Your tenderness
‘Cause I know that he’ll learn from the things that he sees
And the Jesus he finds will be the Jesus in me
Right now from where he stands I may seem mighty tall
But it’s only ’cause I’m learning from the best Father of them all

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z8bXcBRIU0

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Common Bond – Camaraderie Forged Through Harm’s Way

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Three years ago when I was offered an opportunity to lead a workshop related to ambiguous grief at the POW/MIA League of Families meeting in Washington D.C., I accepted the invitation even though I didn’t really know what to expect. I had never attended a POW/MIA League of Families annual meeting before. I had been to a host of military update meetings scattered across Texas, but it was a first for me in seeing the whole picture.

 

I certainly couldn’t pass myself off as an expert on grief or as a professional with all the answers. My background is social work and pastoral care, but what did I really have to share other than my story? Although I would describe myself as being in a good place, there are days that it is two steps forward and three steps back. My only credentials for the assignment are that I, too, have walked down that road and I’m not threatened by the vulnerability to honestly disclose everything associated to the journey. Somehow, I’ve always found myself the recipient of God’s grace. That in itself, provides the resources I need for a single day after day.

 

At the end of the day, it is people helping people. Does it get any better than that? I remember at the conclusion of that first POW/MIA League of Families meeting, I told my niece something closely akin to, “I don’t have time for this! You sucked me in and now I’m hooked. Thank you very much!”

 

I remember one of the young military officers who presented an overview of his work on the other side of the world.  He was leading a team of military men and women in sorting through the dirt and mire looking for remains of America’s missing. He had such compassion and resolves to make his work matter. In the process of updating those present of his efforts, he shared his personal story. He had recently received a telephone call from his dad. He intuitively knew that his dad was calling to the other side of the world to wish him a happy birthday. After all, it was his birthday.

 

Sadly, the young man was wrong on the purpose of his dad’s call. His dad was calling to tell him that he’d just received word that his brother had been killed in combat in Afghanistan. My eyes filled with tears as the young man spoke. My heart went out to him and his family. The journey before him is a long journey and it is filled with the expected. It really becomes a trust walk and you can only manage it one day at a time with God’s help. That is the only thing that I know for certain.

 

That experience coupled with a host of other opportunities to meet people who have a void in their lives associated to having no frame of reference to remembering their father tore at my heartstrings. I found myself wanting to be a surrogate dad to any number of people. Fortunately, many of those who’ve walked that path did so with the support and underpinning by extended family members. That kind of support makes the unbearable seem like a possibility, even though it is only marginally. After all, who can replace a dad?

 

Sadly, not all were that lucky. How many people did I meet who had no frame of reference of that kind of familial support? Unbelievable yes! – But it does happen. Heartache has the sad refrain to repeat the chorus again and again. I don’t understand it. It has never been my experience, but it does happen. I know it happens because I’ve talked to the folks who’ve struggled in the midst of uncertainty without extended family support.

 

You’re probably wondering what motivated today’s topic. Over the past week, I’ve been making arrangements to be in Washington, D.C. week after next for the POW/MIA League of Families annual meeting. How do I plan for that without chronicling my thoughts in the process? Obviously I didn’t. If I thought it, I wrote it down.

 

I was humbled last night to read a person’s comments related to my written thoughts. Earlier in the week, I had written about the struggle, despair and victories associated to post-Vietnam experiences. She wrote: “God continues to use you in a mighty way Don.” Wow! I was greatly humbled and honored by her compliment. Truth be told, the only thing I’ve done is simply been honest in sharing my thoughts.

 

Over the past three years, I have become friends with a number of men who served with Ron. Ron’s loss has impacted their lives in a multiple of different ways. Hearing their stories has been a gift I never saw coming. It is like I’ve been given a snapshot into a part of my brother’s world that I never knew existed. At least I didn’t have a frame of reference to fully understand the camaraderie forged through harms way.

 

I can also truthfully say (based on both observation and experience) that there is a common denominator characteristic of family members surreptitiously inducted into this pilgrimage. Their lives have been enhanced and enriched by friendships shared with others who’ve walked the same path.

 

Somehow from the threshold of ambiguous grief, the process has polished the diamonds in the rough wrought by happenstance into polished and brilliant gems that heighten the connections and the friendships shared. Consequently, I’d say collectively everyone has become a winner. The organization is filled with folks who take delight in life, lead successful and fulfilled lives and value the legacy and heritage they share. They move forward individually and in unison with a determination to make life better for others.

 

The compliment paid me last night by someone saying: “God continues to use you in a mighty way” is both humbling and honoring. If it’s true of me, it is true of all who’ve embarked the same journey and made the discovery that only God can turn loss into abundance, mourning into joy, tears into laughter and isolation into a camaraderie of friendships that makes men brothers. Some would say that is too good to be true, but unless you’ve shared the experience, you can’t fully know. We are blessed!

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

The Peril of a Home Office

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My daughter and son-in-law have the luxury of working from home. Yet, under most circumstances they opt not to do that. I have been perplexed wondering why they’d maintain an office elsewhere when they could just as easily work from home. Think about the advantages. For one thing, you wouldn’t need to dress business casual simply to sit on the sun porch and enjoy the view between phone calls and the need to be on the computer. Secondly, there would be absolutely no wasted commute time. Add to that the ability to negate the expensive involved in maintaining an office and it sounds too good to be true.   I’m slow, but I think I’ve figured it out. It sounds too good to be true because when you work from home that’s all you do at home.

Actually, the General figured it out yesterday before I did. “So, are you going to be on that computer all evening?” It was a legitimate question. I was on the computer yesterday morning before the General knew it was morning and it was time for bed… no change that… it was past time for bed when I got off last night.

Is it the quest to accomplish one-more-thing that drives that insatiable need to import one more file or transfer one more report or do this or do that? Honestly, yesterday was a very atypically day for me. After weeks of waiting for access to the domain for my new role with the Coalition of Residential Excellence, I foolishly thought I’d have an easy time of populating computer files and getting everything set-up.

Truth be known, for me to simply remember the password I need to access the information is about the extent of my skill set. I transmitted information to our membership yesterday morning and discovered one of the attachments (a one page attachment) somehow appeared to be over-size for any system to allow it to download. Explainable? I’m sure it is, but I don’t have the answer. All I know is that it didn’t work.

The quick fix, which was no fix, was for me to email the document to myself along with the attachment to the new email address at the Don@CORE-DC.org address and then to forward the document to the intended recipient. Of course, before I selected “send” to the new recipient, I had to erase the history that would have been a giveaway that the document was forwarded.

Okay, so maybe I’m becoming proficient in camouflage, because I managed to reach out to all of our membership with what looked like a professionally and well thought out transmittal of needed information. Fortunately, I have a close friend who is at the top of the leader board as an IT Guru. He has sincerely offered his expertise to be of assistance. Trust me, I’ve got his contact information next to dial-a-prayer in my outlook addresses.

Of course the “home office” syndrome is an ever-present threat to finding balance in one’s life. It certainly has been true for me. In order to keep-up on the never-ending flow of email and business needs, I don’t get it done in a day’s work. Actually, that is true for most of the people I know. Okay, so that’s an overstatement. It is true of most of the people I professionally hold in highest regard.

However, the price of admission is probably to one’s detriment. How’s the phrase expressed? Oh, I remember: “All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.” While I don’t think boredom has ever been just around the next corner, I have to confess that a lopsided existence can be the result.

At the end of the day it has to do with boundary issues. That coupled with the notion that if you really like your work, you never work a day in your life becomes one’s reality. The downside is a lopsided existence.

So how am I going to manage this? I’m obviously going to have to manage it from a work/play family perspective. When my parents retired, they set designated times throughout their day for a “break”. You can get so busy being busy that all you do is stay busy. I don’t remember who said it, but it lent to the notion that hurry is of the devil.

Actually, I do remember who said it. John Ortberg captured it in one of his books entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He expressed it like this: “The most serious sign of hurry sickness is a diminished capacity to love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is one thing hurried people don’t have”.

Ortberg quoted Lewis Grant’s reference to “sunset fatigue”. Is there any chance you could have it? This is his definition: “When we come home at the end of a day’s work, those who need our love the most, those to whom we are the most committed, end up getting the leftovers. Sunset fatigue is when people are just too tired, or too drained, or too pre-occupied, to love the people to whom we have made the deepest promises”.

My daughter and son-in-law are smart people. They prefer not to mix their work lives with their personal lives and they carve out ample time for both. It has to do with honoring boundaries. Historically, I have not been very adapt at doing that. If I don’t take great care, I could find retirement is just another expression of doing good things at the expense of forfeiting time for better things.

At some level, I have to confess that I want it all. Aren’t most of us like that? The problem is a time problem. Unless you sort it out, life gets lopsided and without balance we become one dimensional rather than well rounded.

Besides that, I don’t like being in a rut. I’d much prefer to be delightfully unpredictable and explore uncharted territory. People time should always take precedent over computer time. How’s that for a life principal that works? Of course, I’m walking on egg-shells here. The General occasionally reads my blog. She may remind me of what I’ve written. Actually, I hope she does. People time should take precedent over computer time.

All My Best!

Don

 

It Was A Good Day!

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Yesterday started like any other day except that I had posted my blog shortly after midnight. That meant I was awake long after my customary bedtime. Despite that, I was up, dressed and on my way to work by 6:00 a.m. except that I didn’t work there anymore. I was attending the meeting of the Texas Coalition of Homes for Children. The meeting was a recap of this year’s Texas legislative session and the unprecedented progress our organization and membership made in promoting a better understanding of the kind of work that we do in providing quality care for children.

 

The two lobbyists who had orchestrated securing legislative sponsors for the legislation we’ve longed for well over a decade did an incredible job. Currently, the bill that defines our type of care as “a least restrictive setting”, passed through both the House and the Senate and is awaiting signature by the Governor.

 

The two lobbyist chronicled the steps along the way and the incredible opposition on the part of many who were opposed to our being a resource for children because we weren’t family. Kids need family! I’m not denying that; however we live in a broken world and not every family is a nurturing or appropriate resource for children.

 

We talked some about the idealistic young adults who passionately opposed our legislation because “we didn’t have an understanding of what children really need” and we didn’t understand Federal law and we didn’t this and we didn’t that. Honest to God, they were the folks out of step with reality.  The simply didn’t know what they didn’t know.

 

“Patronizing” is probably the best word to describe how many of them came across at public hearings and in venues where we attempted to meet to sort out our differences. Long story short, there are some things too precious for compromise. We would never agree. Both sides were passionate about their values and beliefs and neither was willing for a meeting of the minds.

 

There were twenty-five or more colleagues at our meeting yesterday and our recognition that our unified efforts in promoting an awareness and a better understanding of our work on the part of legislators was a feel good experience for us. Because of the misinformation, they were not an easy group to sway. They did their research and at the end of the day we were recognized as having something of value to offer children in Texas who need to live away from their family of origin.

 

Several in our group, including our lobbyist, tossed humor in my direction. They referenced someone who was retired and “unlike Don who is retired and still here”…. It was funny and it felt good. Before the meeting was over, I was presented with a framed certificate naming me as a “Lifetime Member of the TEXAS COALITION OF HOMES FOR CHILDREN”.

 

It was a feel good affirmation and I am grateful to have that kind of support and friendship by colleagues with whom I’ve worked. I did tell them, I plan to get a lot of mileage out of the lifetime membership. I want it to last for a very long time.

 

At some point during the day, I ran across one of the CAHM employees who expressed both delight and surprise to see me. Of course, it was only day-six of retirement, but the fact that she remembered me felt good. I’ve said for years that when I retire, after two weeks people would say Don who?

 

If there was a down side to the day, it was the traffic getting back home. I’ve only been out of it for less than a week, but it takes it’s toll. When I arrived at home, the General mentioned dinner. I obviously wasn’t paying close attention because I thought she asked me if I wanted to grill asparagus or we could go out. I said let’s go out.

 

That reminded me of one of my long time jokes. For years, I’ve told people that: “I know it is time for dinner when my wife tells me to get in the car”. It really is a joke because there isn’t a lot of variety of places to eat in Dripping Springs. The town may host seven or eight or nine banks, but there aren’t nearly that many places where you’d want to have dinner.

 

Jack Allen’s in Oak Hill is a great spot, but the parking lot is full by 4:00 p.m. and the likelihood of finding a place to park at 7:00 in the evening virtually non-existent. Besides that, I’d just spent two hours in traffic, why would I want to go back? I didn’t! I found myself saying, “Okay, I’ll grill the asparagus”.

 

Once I got the fire started on the grill, I was delighted to discover that I was grilling more than asparagus. There was also chicken breast and Zucchini squash. The General may have mentioned that earlier, but all I heard was asparagus. Don’t get me wrong, I like grilled asparagus, but I don’t want to exclusively make a meal of it. A New York strip is another story. Sometimes if I’m home alone, I can comfortably settle for just a steak. Green stuff, not so much!

 

At some point before I caved in and agreed to cook, I mentioned I’d really like to have a burger and fries. The General responded that she’d prefer healthier food. How surprised was I? Not very!  It only took about fifteen seconds of my being outside before I was genuinely grateful that we hadn’t gone into town. I really do have the good fortune of living in a very picturesque setting.

 

There are days that I take it for granted because I don’t fully absorb the sights and the sounds. Shame on me! It really is the edge of heaven. Failure to remember that even for a minute is my bad.

 

Consequently, the General and I had a very pleasant evening and dinner was on me. She did provide gentle redirection when I got my laptop out to do some work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a smart man. The General knows that I posted my last two blogs sometimes after midnight the previous two days. I wasn’t about to suggest that I was sleepy and tired. It wouldn’t have served me well. Like I said, I’m a smart man! Okay, maybe not so much.

 

All My Best!

Don