Take A Minute To Breathe

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Was it a message from above? I’m not sure, but it came via my iWatch. The time was after 6:00 p.m. yesterday evening and we had just returned from an afternoon jaunt into Austin. The message on my iWatch stated simply: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe”.

 

Even my watch knew that traffic was enough to create the kind of stress that could orchestrate your neck to hurt and your heart to race. Actually, I may have even been having chest pains by the time we got through Dripping Springs and that was on the west side of Austin heading into the city. By the time we got back home; well you can only imagine.

 

Some may call it progress, but Houstonians and folks from California have discovered “The Gateway To The Hill Country”. No one is surprised that they are finding it an ideal venue to call home. The place is running over with folks who know a good thing when they see it. How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?

 

I’d say based on the traffic congestion that we’re getting close to making that discovery. Yet, on the other hand, the new folks who’ve shown up in our neighborhood are precious people who want the same kinds of things that we wanted when we first moved here over three and a half decades ago.   Last week we visited with a couple that moved here from Houston. They were on the threshold of buying a house in a Houston suburb located a stone’s throw from what was scheduled to subsequently become a freeway. They both awakened in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the thought: “We are crazy! What are we doing?”   Consequently, they exited stage right and headed to the Austin area subsequently to ultimately discover the edge of heaven (aka- The Gateway To The Hill Country – or perhaps even one step closer – Henly, America).

 

How did I phrase the question? Oh, I remember: “How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?” There is more to that question than most people really ponder? What was once regarded as “family land” that had been in the family for generations when folks in the area were “dirt poor” has become the gateway to the fast track of wealth and prosperity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.

 

Some adults who grew up in the area yearned for the day they could leave and make their mark on the world. They envisioned a level of opportunity and excitement that represented a contrast to what they had known in earlier years. Many found it. Some found it and immediately recognized it as fool’s gold and returned to their roots in the nick of time. Others simply moved on and forged their way through life with mostly memories of days gone by. Others desired to return but the time constraints related to commuting into Austin for work and the exaggerated housing costs placed the area outside their reach.

 

No one is to be faulted. It is simply that the demographics of life in the greater Dripping Springs area differ substantially from what they were like two-to-three decades ago. I miss the days when there was one blinking traffic light at the intersection of Hwy 290 and RR 12. Now you can’t count the number of traffic lights getting through Dripping Springs on one hand.

 

Okay, so I’m talking out of my head, but I was aware last night that the trip into Austin and back yesterday wasn’t a relaxing experience. So how did I make a 102 mile a day trek back and forth to work for the past sixteen consecutive years? Was traffic always as stressful as it was today? The answer is “No”. However, the last two-to-three years were identical or worse than conditions were yesterday. Hey, school hasn’t even started yet. Of course traffic conditions were much worse than they were yesterday, but how I can’t imagine. Throw that into the increasing population and no wonder it took me 2 to 2 1/ 2 hours to get home from work everyday?

 

“In 2016, the Austin area added 159 people per day on average. That’s the net gain. After taking into account 40,273 migrants, 27,375 births and 10,304 deaths, plus some statistical adjustments, the regional population climbed by 58,301 to an estimated 2,056,405, according to county and metro-area population estimates the U.S. Census Bureau”.

 

Yesterday morning the General said to me: “It seems like you are really enjoying retirement. I’m glad.” What did she expect?  Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. I had preconceived thoughts and to be totally transparent, a few fears.  Mostly, my perception was all wrong. For one thing, I anticipated that I would have nothing but time on my hands. I thought in short order I’d be bored to death. I also suspected the General would think her new role resembled that of a “drill sergeant” providing me structure and a daily “To Do List”.  That wasn’t going to work!

 

To my great relief, the General really hasn’t been that way at all.  Besides that, after 49-years of married bliss, I’m fairly skilled at managing life with the General. As Glen Campbell would melodiously sing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em – Know when to fold ‘em – Know when to walk away…” Trust me, I’ve got that part figured out. Besides that, I have a hearing impairment.  Why not let that work to my advantage? Truth be told, I mostly hear what I want to hear and do what I want to do.  In that regard, nothing’s changed.

 

The most surprising thing about retirement is that I’m as busier now than when I was working. Let me say, there is a hint of disappointment in that. I thought I’d have a lot more time for reading, but it becomes a trade-off. I have to let something else slide to find the time to read. Thankfully, I’m not burning four hours of my day each day in traffic. Consequently, the quality of my life has risen significantly.

 

Maybe it was because I didn’t have a good option other than to commute through the quagmire of traffic, but how did I do that for past sixteen years?  I loved my job and I loved my home and I wanted it all. But having it all, represented more stress than I realized. I am significantly more rested and more relaxed now than when I spent twenty hours a week in the car.

 

The message on my iWatch came at a good time. I needed the reminder: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe. How about you? I’d highly recommend it.

All My Best!

Don

Greener Grass

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Will Rogers, the noted actor, humorist, newspaper columnist, American cowboy and social commentator once said: “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.” Trust me, I know that what he says is true. Reportedly, there are people who even saw the “for sale” sign on our property and reportedly the news began to spread.

 

Really? How could that be true? I specifically requested that the realtor not put up a sign. After all, “What would the neighbor’s think?” Okay, I’ll answer that question. They would think we are moving? That’s why I didn’t want a sign. Maybe we are? Maybe we aren’t? I live here and I don’t know the answer to the question of whether we are moving or not. But I will hasten to say that: “If we do move, we aren’t moving far”.

 

I say this tongue-in-cheek: “I don’t want to give anyone false hope or un-due anxiety”. Probably, in reality, no one falls into either of those two categories, but it could happen. Actually, once the listing agent posted pictures of the property on Facebook, the veil of secrecy dissolved immediately. Of course, I’m not blaming the listing agent. He is trying to sell the property. Bottom line, that means money for both of us.

 

Seriously, folks have been both surprised and supportive. By my own admission, I’m surprised that we are even considering this. The General would rightly say that: “She has nothing to do with this. It was my bright idea”. In case there is any doubt, I have to confess that I’ve had a treasure chest of bright ideas across the past 49 years. I’m still waiting for most of them to materialize.

 

Friends have offered valuable insight and cautionary warnings. All of it has been lovingly provided without a hint of anything other than our best interest at heart. In the process of taking it all in, I thought about a story I heard long ago. It was about a man who thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. One day, the would-be seller saw an ad in the newspaper that beautifully described the kind of place he wanted to call home. He hurriedly called his agent and said: “I found it. I found exactly what I’ve been looking to find.” As it turned out, the ad was a description of the property he was selling.

 

Earlier this week when I looked through the 39 pictures of our home on MLS, I had the thought, “I could never afford to buy this house”. It is true, “I couldn’t”. Despite the fact that I’ve historically bought and sold houses almost as a hobby, I’ve lived with the sense that the next place would also be home. Consequently, if our house sells for the listing price, I will have to deal with the reality that at some level I have an emotional attachment to our home. For the past decade and a half, our home has been the venue for wonderfully joyful times and extremely sad times. It also has a million dollar view. Never once has there been a day that I’ve taken for granted that we live were we live.

 

A friend cautiously mentioned the Acre of Diamonds story about a farmer in South Africa. Perhaps you are familiar with the story. Actually, there are several variations, but Dr. Russell Conwell, the first president of Temple University in Philadelphia and the pastor of The Baptist Temple delivered an inspiring story entitled: “Acres of Diamonds.” It was one of those stories that folks never tire of hearing. In fact, Dr. Conwell reportedly delivered the story 6,152 times around the globe. Even yesterday’s reference was sent my way as a gentle reminder to think twice before I sell my home.

 

Earl Nightingale subsequently shared the story this way: “The Acres of Diamonds story ‘a true one’ is told of an African farmer who heard tales about other farmers who had made millions by discovering diamond mines. These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds himself. He sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent searching unsuccessfully for the gleaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world. Finally, worn out and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

 

Meanwhile, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing the small stream on the property one day, when suddenly there was a bright flash of blue and red light from the stream bottom. He bent down and picked up a stone. It was a good-sized stone, and admiring it, he brought it home and put it on his fireplace mantel as an interesting curiosity.

 

Several weeks later a visitor picked up the stone, looked closely at it, hefted it in his hand, and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he’d found. When the farmer said, no, that he thought it was a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he had found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered. The farmer had trouble believing that. He told the man that his creek was full of such stones, not all as large as the one on the mantel, but sprinkled generously throughout the creek bottom.

 

The farm the first farmer had sold, so that he might find a diamond mine, turned out to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the entire African continent. The first farmer had owned, free and clear … acres of diamonds. But he had sold them for practically nothing, in order to look for them elsewhere. The moral is clear: If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and prepare himself to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state, and to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.

 

The thing about this story that has so profoundly affected millions of people is the idea that each of us is, at this very moment, standing in the middle of our own acres of diamonds. If we had only had the wisdom and patience to intelligently and effectively explore the work in which we’re now engaged, to explore ourselves, we would most likely find the riches we seek, whether they be financial or intangible or both.

 

Before you go running off to what you think are greener pastures, make sure that your own is not just as green or perhaps even greener. It has been said that if the other guy’s pasture appears to be greener than ours, it’s quite possible that it’s getting better care. Besides, while you’re looking at other pastures, other people are looking at yours”.

 

All My Best!

Don

Freedom

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What is freedom? Isn’t it an experience that expresses itself through unlimited opportunity? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t desire freedom. Do you remember from childhood ever putting insects in a glass jar and puncturing the lid to contain them? The insects were intent on getting out. We are no different.

 

I recently talked with a young man who quit his job because he found it too confining. He discovered he was not suited for an 8:00-to-5:00 office job where he had to spend the totality of his day inside. Seriously, that took an inordinate amount of courage on his part. He didn’t mention student loans or the cost associated to getting his MBA, but those things paled in contrast to the thought of spending the next forever in a small office with three other men who may have been equally dissatisfied with he prison-like-sentence associated to their work.

 

I was sharing his story with another friend who retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Consequently, he had paid the price of admission and knew want he wanted. Earning his MBA on the heels of a prestigious military career, he had set his sights on something completely different.

 

In discussing his post career plans for the next chapter of his life with his college professor in the Business School at the University he attended, he talked about doing something completely different going forward. The college professor seemed a little taken back. Wasn’t coloring outside the lines a little risky? My friend was resolute in his determination to be free from the shackles of preconceived expectation by giving himself permission to follow his dreams and forge his own way ahead with a sense of freedom.

 

Apparently, my friend’s courage and boldness made an impact on his college professor. At graduation, the professor announced to the graduation class that a conversation with one of his students had impacted his life. As a result, he was resigning his position at the University and moving to the Netherlands, his country of origin, in order to follow his dreams and do life differently.

 

In a perfect world, how many of us would opt to do life differently if only we had the freedom to do so? Actually, we probably have the freedom, but we don’t have the courage. Sometimes starting over doesn’t afford the luxury of a lateral switch to another career track with the same monetary advantages. Starting over may establish a new baseline where it is three-gigantic-steps backward before you can begin to make progress. Consequently, we voluntarily agree to be held hostage and live our lives as though we have no other options. We voluntarily forfeit the freedom to do it differently because we’ve already pitched our tent in a different direction. I guess you could so we are co-conspirators in our own captivity.

 

We long to be free. In his album “Jailhouse Rock”, Elvis sang a song entitled “I Want To Be Free”. The lyrics are fairly simple, but descriptive of many. “There’s no joy in my heart   Only sorrow   And I’m sad   As a man can be  I sit alone in the darkness   Of my lonely room  And this room is a prison to me   I look at window   And what do I see   I see a bird   Way up in the tree   I want to be free free   Free – ee – ee – ee   I want to be free   Like the bird in the tree…”

 

Perhaps the anniversary of our Nation’s independence should serve as a catalyst for us to rethink quality of life issues. After all, the only place we have is here and the only time we have is now. Why not embrace freedom to pursue our dreams and set ourselves free from the shackles that bind us?

 

It is food for thought. It wasn’t easy for the 56 men of the 2nd Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence to do so, but failure to do so wasn’t an option with which they could live.  If you long for freedom, give yourself permission to choose it. It may come with a price, but the price for not pursing it is greater than the price for forfeiting it.

 

The sound of Andy Williams singing born free is now running around in my head. Do you remember the lyrics?

“Born free, as free as the wind blows

As free as the grass grows

Born free to follow your heart

Live free and beauty surrounds you

The world still astounds you

Each time you look at a star

Stay free where no walls divide you

You’re free as the roaring tide

So there’s no need to hide

Born free and life is worth living

But only worth living

‘Cause you’re born free

Stay free…”

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

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Sometimes it is really difficult to make sense of the kinds of carnage we orchestrate for ourselves under the concept of getting even. How strong and compelling is the quest for revenge? Obviously, Friday’s news of a medical doctor toting an assault rifle hidden under his lab coat into a New York City hospital and opening fire on seven people defies explanation. Even more difficult to understand is the belief that the doctor perpetrating the crime didn’t know any of his victims. The former colleague that he was gunning for reportedly was not at the hospital.

 

Of course, the eleven-second melee at a Little Rock nightclub yesterday morning that injured 28 people (2 critically) is now thought to be gang related. Initial reports of the mass shooting suggested it was not a premeditated run of the mill dispute. Maybe it was simply the power of suggestion. The promotional video of the rapper showed a man pointing a gun at a camera. So who pulled the trigger? No one knows, but it is thought there were multiple people because the volley of gunfire came so fast. Reportedly, city officials are moving quickly to shut the club down. Will they be successful is quelling the violence? The shooting capped a violent week in Little Rock. In the previous nine days, Little Rock police responded to a dozen drive-by shootings.

 

On a far less dramatic scale, the people that I know who live with a short fuse on relational conflict aren’t likely to go packing heat to resolve the problem. They simply eliminate the source of contention from their lives by choosing to cut familial ties and eliminate friendships altogether. At face value, some would argue that they are right? Give it some thought before you agree.

 

Nothing is sadder to me than tossing the people who have been important in your life aside because of unresolved conflict or a perceived glitch in the relationship. I see it all the time. We have become a society of throwaway people. That is how we most often deal with conflict.

 

Family members and friends you should most love get eliminated because relationship building and maintenance is hard work. They get tossed out of your life simply because of a disagreement or dispute. It happens in families all of the time. For that matter, even long term friendships can be dislodged by a failure to not always march to the beat of the same drum or a perceived glitch that someone has been slighted or treated unfairly. Somehow when it comes to conflict resolution most folks come up shy on social skills training, conflict resolution, Christian values and understanding the importance of relationships for the long haul.

 

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I threw in the concept of Christian values. Maybe I’m wrong, but even folks who should know better don’t. Most of us intuitively think we are exempt from the Scriptural mandate: “Love your enemies…do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” [Matthew 5:44].

 

Reportedly, a soldier was astonished when he heard General Robert E. Lee speaking favorably of a fellow officer. The soldier remarked: “General, the man you speak so highly of is one of your worst enemies. He never misses an opportunity to slander you.” General Lee replied: “Yes, I know, but I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.”

 

President Abraham Lincoln is often identified as a role model in leadership. After being elected President, he chose his three most prominent rivals to serve in his cabinet. Choosing to set aside differences and build on strengths always supports the greater good.

 

Perhaps there was a method to his madness. I’ve heard it said: “Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.” In the process of doing so, fences get mended and enemies become friends.

 

We were created for connection. Yet, as a society we justify our disconnections by saying it is in our best interests. We don’t always get it right. Consequently, “we” and “they” lose out.

 

We’ve probably all heard the adage: “Let sleeping dogs lie”. Perhaps, that’s as good a place as any to start. Believe it or not, the concept is Biblical. “He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears” [Proverbs 26:17].

 

You know, when you hit the reset button on your computer, it provides an opportunity for a fresh start without going back through the quagmire of sorting out what went wrong that caused the computer glitch. Certainly open and honest communication is important in the context of relationships, but we often make hitting the reset button impossible because we want to rehash old hash and that seldom has a favorable outcome.

 

Why not embrace the concept of building on strengths? Let sleeping dogs lie. Move forward with embracing the best someone has to offer while providing the best you can offer.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

Is It Really True? Is Corpus Like Odessa By The Sea?

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Patrick Lencioni is a noted author and expert related to the principles of teamwork and management.  He is credited with saying: “Teamwork is not about mastering sophisticated theories, but rather about embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline.”  Years ago the title of one of his books caught my attention.  It was entitled: “Three Signs Of A Miserable Job”.

 

If memory serves me correctly, he crafts the story of around a recently retired manager who makes his great escape by moving to Lake Tahoe where he discovers a neighborhood pizzeria where the workforce seems fairly discontent.  Brian Bailey, the fictitious recently retired manager, is puzzled by the contrast of what he senses about the employees in that small neighborhood business in contrast to employees in other restaurants. 

 

Wanting to lend a helping hand, he negotiates a part time position as weekend manger and moves in the direction of turning the work experience of the pizzeria’s employees into something other than the sense that work is the “curse of Adam”. 

 

I maintain that work is a privilege rather that a punishment. Yet, we live in a culture where millions of people find their work unfulfilling and purposeless.  Ten years ago, a poll by CareerVision.org suggested that 50% of the American workforce is dissatisfied with their work.  Reportedly, the experience is not unique to our country.  Misery seems to be closely associated to the ball and chain that many people associate with as their work.

 

So what makes the primary difference?  In case you’re wondering, the correct answer really isn’t the level of one’s pay.  There are any numbers of folks with six figure incomes and beyond that are equally miserable.  Perhaps the only difference is that they live with more creature comforts, but work fulfillment and a passion to get to the office isn’t part of their everyday regime.

 

According to Lencioni, the absence of measurability in one’s work, the sense of anonymity and irrelevance are the variables that make for a miserable work experience.

 

I guess at some level we all want some way to measure improvement or accomplishment in order to substantiate that we are doing a good job. We all want to feel valued by the folks for whom we work and we need to feel that our work matters.  Lencioni states: “People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” He also maintains “employees must have a clear idea that their work matters; that it has relevance for others”.

 

Late yesterday afternoon, the General asked if I wanted to go to Jack Allen’s?  Of course, she knows that I’m interested in “half price” when it comes to almost anything. In case you’re not familiar with the restaurant, there is one in Oak Hill and one in Round Rock.  From 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. M-F, their appetizers are half price.  Okay, so the food is good and the prices are second-to-none.  Under the auspices of true confession, I’ve been retired for four week and I’ve been to Jack Allen’s for “happy hour” once each week. Having an enjoyable meal for half price makes me happy. In addition, I’ve found the wait staff to be excellent without exception.  Yesterday was no different.

 

That leads me in to the story of Preston.  He was our waiter yesterday. Unlike the other three waiters we’ve had this month, his shirt carried the company name, his name and his job title: “Lead Server”.  What was all that about?

 

Let me say first of all that Preston rides for the brand. He could not have been more enthusiastic about his place of employment. In the course of our conversation, I discovered why.  The management takes care of their employees, makes them feel valued and important, acknowledges their skills and contributions and highlights their achievements. After all, the designation of “Lead Server” provides Preston a sense that his work is important.  He knows that management trusts him to mentor and support others in their work.

 

Okay, so what else did I learn about Preston?  He came to Austin from Corpus Christi following graduation from high school to go to culinary school.  He has been with Jack Allen’s for six years. He added, “That is a long time in the restaurant business”.  In addition, I sensed from all he shared that he has no plans to leave.  He likes the people for whom he works and he likes the people with whom he works.  That is a good start for an optimum work environment.

 

“So where are you from?” was one of my questions.  He answered, “I was born in Odessa”. Small world isn’t it?  The General was born in Odessa. I wasn’t born there, but I spent the first eighteen years of my life there.  I asked: “So how did you like Odessa?”  He responded, “I don’t remember a lot about it. We moved to Florida just before I started to elementary school.  I remember the smell of petroleum in Odessa.  It wasn’t a good smell”.

 

Okay, so I grew up in Odessa and I don’t remember the smell of anything other than the water.  I asked, “Have you ever been to Pasadena?” He had not. I added: “If you really want an overdose of the smell of petroleum, Pasadena is the place”.

 

His family moved from Florida to Corpus Christi when he was in the eleventh grade.  He didn’t give Corpus a very high rating either. He said, “It too has the smell of petroleum.”  I laughed when he said of Corpus: “Being in Corpus Christi is like being in Odessa by the sea.”

 

Bottom line, Preston is extremely personable and easily makes conversation with those he serves.  In exchange for his permission to devote today’s blog to him and of course to the half-price appetizers at Jack Allen’s, I promised I’d suggest to you that you ask for one of his tables when you go there.  Actually, tell him, you heard about him in my blog.

 

All My Best!

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Don

Take Me Back To The Ball Park

 

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So I picked up the General a day early. At the time, I didn’t know it. She didn’t know it either. Sure, she is glad to be home, but in the resources of her mind, she was back at the ballpark last night. The team our oldest grandson plays on played their final game of the season in Brenham last night. We had anticipated and hoped the last game would have been day-before-yesterday. Unfortunately, they ran out of time (How’s that for sounding like an Aggie? I learned the response from my son.) At any rate, Monday night’s loss orchestrated the need for one more game.

 

Truthfully, I was a little anxious yesterday. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. I wasn’t anxious about the game. “No”, my concern laid elsewhere. When the General announced to me that she was wearing her game shirt, I feared that a question was forthcoming.

 

I refuse to live with the notion that I am henpecked, but the General’s asking me questions for which she has already determined the only appropriate answer comes dangerously close to setting me up. When it comes to style, that kind of questioning is her signature series. For example: “Do you want to pull weeds in the flowerbeds?” is one of those kinds of questions. For me to respond, “Not no, but absolutely not” is one “not” too many. That answer could figuratively carry with it the potential that I would wind up with a knot on my head. If you get my drift, I’m headed to the flowerbeds, or else.

 

Much to my dismay, yesterday she never asked the question I feared she was on the verge of asking. She didn’t ask: “Do you want to go to the game?” As it approached game time, she asked: “Would you find the game for me?” Was she kidding? We don’t have a radio. Sure, I’d seen the suggestion from the coach that we listen to the game, but I wasn’t going to sit in the car for two hours. After all, “What was she thinking?”

 

I went out to the garage for something and when I came back into the house, I heard the sound of talking upstairs. What was that about? You guessed it, “The General had pulled up the game on her computer.” Okay, so I’m “old school” when it comes to radio stations, I naturally assumed you needed access to a radio to hear the game. I obviously was wrong.

 

Seeing the General sitting in front of her computer listening to the game gave me a flashback to one of my favorite television series. Whether it fell under the auspices of a soap opera, I cannot say. It wasn’t daytime programming. It came on television in the evening. You may have even watched the series yourself.

 

The storyline of John-Boy Walton and his six siblings growing up in Nelson County, Virginia under the care of their parents, John and Olivia was hard to beat. Lest I not forget, there were also grandparents in the equation. There was a scene in many of the series where the family was gathered around a radio listening to news of World War II. Seeing the General sitting in front of her computer waiting intently for the game to start reminded me of that.

 

My daughter-in-law’s family comes about as close to the Walton’s as you can get. They live is a semi-rural setting, maintain close extended family ties and I can assure you that every family member from miles around was at the game in Brenham last night. Every other player on the Sealy All Star team was cousins or distant cousins. Honestly, they all have baseball in their DNA. In addition, they are a close knit large extended family group.

 

Consequently, my grandchildren are fortunate to have that kind of multi-family support. It always plays out well for children on their journey to adulthood if they are surrounded by extended family that support and encourage one another. Consequently, I have to give my daughter-in-law an A+ in that regard. I’m glad my grandchildren have cousins close at hand that they can play with and share time.

 

I have a friend that is a new first-time dad. He recently posted a blog identifying parenting advice his brothers thoughtfully provided him. Unknowingly, his wife had invited his siblings to pull together their parenting suggestions in writing and she then included them in a bound book to celebrate the beginning of his venture into fatherhood. Honestly, that is a pretty neat idea. She also invited his dad to submit suggestions as well.

 

I was intrigued by the similarities in the concepts his brothers underscored as a priority. I guess you could say, like father/like son since both he and they benefitted from the influence and direction of the same father. As you might suspect, some of the suggestions were both humorous. They were all thought provoking and carried an undeniable kernel of truth. Universally their suggestions were all wrapped in the blanket of Godly and loving nurture that provides an environment in which children flourish. Of course, I suspect the book of thoughtful advice will be a lifelong keepsake for my friend.

 

I smiled when I saw one of the suggestions provided him by his twin brother. He wrote: “Your kids are forming you as much as you are forming them.  Let them.  Even at their worst – and trust me that’ll come – they are asking you to become more loving, more patient, and more kind than you are or think you can be.  If marriage is a chisel that starts to chip away at the crust of our selfishness, kids are the wrecking ball”.

 

One of the suggestions made by another brother was beyond my understanding. I actually am clueless as to its meaning. How about you? Do you know the meaning of: “Try not to get biffed in the jimmies?”

 

Anyway you want to describe it; there is no replacement for close supportive familial interaction. It provides for children what they need to flourish.

 

All My Best!

Don

I Get It – It Is Not A Big Deal

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My truck is approaching the fifth anniversary of mostly being pampered and carefully stored in the vault. When I bought it, the General pronounced it as my last truck and suggested the need for me to take good care of it. It was another of example of her stating the obvious or providing a directive while I was already engaged in the activity. Okay, so she can’t help herself. I get it! It is not a big deal.

 

Now that Craig’s family lives within two to two and a half hours of us, almost with the ease of going to the grocery store, we head their direction to take advantage of watching the kids grow up. For the past eleven days, the General has been in Cat Spring. I actually dropped her off on a day trip I made to Houston. Her assistance was needed as chief cook, bottle washer and chauffer for the kids who live with the notion that if life is to be lived to the fullest, it must be lived in the midst of a very busy schedule.

 

Okay, so over the past couple of weeks while she has beena way, the General has developed an addiction. I guess it really isn’t her fault because the malady is highly contagious and everyone for miles around has lived with the condition for generations. The only negative impairment to one’s health is consumption of time. When it comes to eating up one’s time, Little League Baseball is a killer, but you can live with the malady.

 

In Sealy America, Little League Baseball is king.   What was potentially the last game of the season for William’s team was scheduled for this past Saturday in Bellville. Disappointingly, the game had to be postponed because there was standing water on the field. The game was rescheduled for last night.

 

The All Star team on which William plays was undefeated. They were scheduled to play again a team they previously had beaten. Their victory in that was against the odds. The other team had also been undefeated and they were like Sherman taking over Georgia. Figuratively speaking, “They were the big guns”. They also had won the championship for their age group last summer. Was it possible that the SEALY AMERCIA – ALL STAR TEAM would be this year’s winner?  There was great anticipating going into last night’s game.

 

Getting back to my truck, I’ve finally worn the new car smell off of it. In retirement (27 days and moving forward), it has become my primary source of transportation. Of course, I also had the General’s car available to me, but it is only a year old. You know me. You can probably predict that I didn’t want to put unnecessary miles on it. Besides that, I like driving my truck.

 

With the exception of my chauffeuring the General to Cat Spring, she has mostly driven her car (she could care less how many miles she puts on it) when she’s made the commute without me. Initially, she took my truck one time. When she returned she announced that she wasn’t driving it again because driving it hurt her hip. She had previously had that same experience when she drove the truck to Odessa when she went to see her mom.

 

Did I mention that her allegation that driving my truck hurts her hip was totally irrational? Riding in the passenger seat in my truck has never been a source of discomfort for her. Driving it, well that’s another story. Once the General gets a notion stuck in her head, there is no use trying to change her opinion. She’ll embrace her ill formed opinion until the cows come home if need be. There is no changing her mind. Any of you guys married to somone like that?

 

Hey I’ve had that truck for five years. I know it like the back of my hand. It is a tough Ford Truck and it is comfortable to drive. In fact, someone at church on Sunday mentioned to me that my truck was the best in the line-up of other trucks. Obviously, the affirmation had to do with the color of my truck. I think the color is called champagne.   Maybe looking at it was tantamount to acceptably raising a glass in Baptist circles.

 

Top of the line is descriptive of 99% of the other trucks that people drive to church where I attend. They have every bell and whistle available and high dollar is the category in which they fall. In fact, there was a new one with dealer tags still on it at church on Sunday. The owner said it had all the features with the exception of a kitchen sink.

 

On Sunday I looked over the lineup of trucks at church and next to Clarence’s truck, my truck is the oldest with the exception of one belonging to a high school student. Clarence is a kind and thoughtful senior citizen who lives less than a mile from church. His old Dodge pickup looks as though it has been around the block a time or two, but it still gets Clarence where he needs to go. I think the only place he drives it is to church.

 

 

Do I ever find myself wanting a new truck? After all, mine still looks new even though it is five years old. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles, but it serves my purposes and the body style has only changed slightly.

 

Yesterday afternoon as I headed to Cat Spring, I had only gotten as far as Dripping Springs when I noticed a truck in my rear view mirror. I could tell it was a new truck because there was a red shiny tag in the front were a license plate is intended to be. It was a Ford, but the grill was different than mine. I was trying to ascertain the color. The color was amazing. Do you ever look in the rearview mirror and see something that catches your eye and there is a hint of envy? I had that experience yesterday looking at the new truck behind me. I was hoping it would go around me so I could pay closer attention to the color. I guess you could say I was in the midst of distracted driving although it had nothing to do with my phone.

 

Finally, at the last traffic light, my truck and the new one were sitting side-by-side. I carefully looked the truck over. The color was champagne. In my head, I raised a glass of envy. After all, that truck was new and the grillwork looked awesome. I could also tell from looking that it had all the bells and whistles. Isn’t that the way envy works? Truth be told, sitting side by side, there was absolutely no discernable difference between the two trucks. They looked identical.

 

Getting back to the baseball game, I suspected the game would be called due to rain. Probably, in most instances it would have been, but in this area of the country nothing takes precedence like an All STAR baseball game. So there were two game delays due to rain, but rain or shine the mandate is to PLAY BALL! At the end of the game, William’s team (which was previously undefeated) had now lost their first game. However, the team they were playing and had previously beaten had also lost a game. Tonight one thing is for sure: “Rain or shine, the playing field will be surrounded by fans cheering on their team.”

 

The General and I got home well beyond our bedtime last night. It was well after midnight. In addition, I found that the last eighty miles where the hardest. It wasn’t that I was overly sleepy, but in pain. Driving my truck hurt my hip. I couldn’t get comfortable. Maybe the General is right. Right or wrong, she predictably won’t be encouraging me to get a new truck.  Only time will tell.

 

All My Best!

Don