Sometimes The Cost Of A “2-Star” Hotel Can Be Too High

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I arrived at the Texas State Capitol yesterday morning in time to meet most of the members of our coalition when they arrived. They were coming into town for the Senate Health & Human Service Committee hearing on a couple of Legislative bills that pertain to residential childcare. When I arrived, four members of our group were already seated along the perimeter of the rotunda.

If you are familiar with “family sculpting” or “group configurations”, you’ll probably find their seating configuration a little strange. Three of the members were sitting next to each other and there were ample additional vacant seats adjacent to them. The fourth member was seated on the other side of an open passageway sitting alone.

I was in a playful mood. Having left home in plenty of time to arrive very early, I was surprised at how relaxed I felt. Since I was local, I felt some level of responsibility to meet and greet folks when they arrived. Most drove into town the evening before, but some got a very early start yesterday morning.

Last week when I came for the House Health and Human Services Committee hearing, I barely arrived at the Capitol on time. Until I finally arrived, in my heart-of-hearts, I feared I was going to be very late. I was fit-to-be tied. I don’t do “late” very well.

I’m not sure why I opted to quote Shakespeare. If you’re thinking Shakespeare referenced the “fit-to-be-tied” expression, you don’t advance to “Go” and you don’t collect $200. I think “heart of hearts” came from Hamlet, but I could be wrong. I don’t know where “fit-to-be tied” originated, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Shakespeare.

My first thought is that the “fit-to-be-tied” expression means angry or frustrated. Of course, it might have some relationship to the use of a “Posey belt.” If you don’t know what a Posey belt is, you probably never worked in a hospital. Better yet “fit-to-be-tied” could relate to needing a straight jacket?

I can’t think of anything much worse than having one’s mobility impaired and being tied-up unless it is sitting in a Legislative hearing from 8:00 a.m. until after 8:00 p.m. Honestly, I don’t know how the Legislators do it. I’d be a candidate for a straight jacket for sure. Some think I’m dangerously close now. Being a danger is oneself is one of the things that historically could warrant the use of a straight jacket.

Like I said, I was in a playful mood. I ask the three guys sitting together about the member sequestered across the way. I made some comment like, “Is he in time-out already? They laughed.

We made small talk for a few minutes before I made my way over to speak to the other member of our group. To my surprise, another member had now joined him. I hadn’t noticed that he arrived.

The two guys now seated together were from faith-based agencies. One was Baptist and the other was Church of Christ. Why not have a little fun? It was a toss up, but I decided to target the Church of Christ member. Oops! “Target” is not a good word (“Playfully interact with” would have been a better choice of words). At any rate, the Church of Christ guy figuratively drew the short straw. He was my man! I’ve only known him for a short time, but you can tell from the way he presents himself that he likes to have fun and that he doesn’t take much too seriously. I’m really not sure that he is Church of Christ.

I’m not suggesting that the Baptist represented a different persona. In fact, he too is hilarious, but he has more of a dry-sense of humor and he routinely is pretty quiet. I thought I’d pick on the new guy. Why not make him feel included and welcomed by pulling his string?

So I said, “Doug (may or may not be his real name) – I think I saw you last night? Was that you on 6th Street? I’m almost certain it was. The guy looked just like you”. Doug immediately had a sheepish grin from ear-to-ear. Obviously, he either was familiar with 6th Street or he really had been there. I wasn’t certain which.

Just for the record, you have to carefully monitor guys who routinely have a grin from ear-to-ear. They could be up to something or it may simply be their modus operandi. In Doug’s case, I suspect it’s both. Like I said, “I haven’t known him long, but he is always in a good mood and generally smiling. I guess you could say the look is his signature series.

“Truthfully”, he said: “I wasn’t on 6th Street last night, but I did get propositioned by a prostitute?” He managed to say that without his signature series grin. Was he really being serious? “Where were you?”, I asked. He responded, “In my hotel parking lot.”

Okay, I think he said “hotel” parking lot and not “motel” parking lot. The way he described the ambience of where he stayed or lack thereof, it could have been one of those venues with the fixed flat-roof carport in between the small structures that contain a bedroom and bath. If you lived through the fifties, you’ve probably seen what I’m talking about. Whether Austin has any, I don’t know. You might ask Doug.

I managed to quell the, “What were you thinking” question when he provided the name of his hotel. Things being what they are, I’m not mentioning the name of the enterprise for fear of litigation, but nobody stays in a place like that in this day and age.

In my heart of hearts, I am a caretaker. I told him about Priceline. He said, “I know, but my boss made the reservation”. I’ve actually known his boss for many years and he, too, is an incredible guy. Like I said, “I’m a caretaker”. I said: “Let me handle this for you. I’ll convince your boss that Priceline is a better option.

Easy-to-say, but not so easily done. The boss said: “I’m frugal. When I stay at a place, all that matters to me is that the sheets are clean and that I have a pillow”. Oh my! Life is too short to only have the expectation of having clean sheets. Besides that, for the same price, you can generally get a 4-star hotel on Priceline. His boss mentioned the name of the hotel and said, “It isn’t bad.” I replied, “Of course it’s not, but it has been a long time since the 70s.” He smiled, but dismissively looked at me like I should mind my own business.

My next question for his boss was: “Are you going to handle this as a workers-comp case?” He looked puzzled and responded: “Handle what and what do you mean?” I calmly suggested that Doug had been traumatized by the parking lot experience. After all, he innately forfeited his customary smile when he was telling me of the parking lot experience. Perhaps with only a few months of therapy Doug might once again be secure enough to actually come to work, to sleep through the night and to not be terrified at the thought of his Austin experience. In the interim, it could be a slow go.

At this point, I have more questions than I have answers. For one thing, how did my new friend know the person he met in the parking lot of his hotel was a prostitute? Doug didn’t tell me that. Even if she was trying to hit-on-him, it may not have fallen into the category of prostitution. Secondly, how did he know she was hitting-on-him? Did she say, “Hi Sailor, new in town?” I should have asked more questions.

There are too many unknowns here, but one thing is sure: “Doug and his boss need to learn to use Priceline.”

All My Best!

Don

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Double Jeopardy

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It was three o’clock in the morning. I cannot say that it ranks as an issue that would weigh heavily on a person’s mind. Actually, when I had gone to bed four hours earlier, it wasn’t even a consideration in the thought processes of my conscious awareness. Yet when I awakened, it was the first thing that came to mind. I found the thought bothersome. Actually, I found it very troublesome. But then again, “I sometimes have a tendency to overreact” or so says the General.

 

To make a long story short, I was facing an ethical dilemma. It was a matter having to do with integrity. How long has it been since you’ve pondered an ethical dilemma at three o’clock in the morning? Ethical dilemmas at that time of night (oops, I mean morning) have a way of blocking one’s ability to sleep or sometimes even to think clearly.

 

I can’t say that I tossed and turned for the next hour. Truthfully, I did not. I didn’t toss and turn because I knew what I had to do. I had to do the right thing. Consequently I opted to get up and make a really early start on my day. The downside was that doing the right thing would add an extra fifty-one miles on my round trip commute to Houston and back yesterday. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, “That’s a killer”.

 

There were two issues that I couldn’t ignore. The first is: “A man is only as good as his word.” Last week the receptionist in our building asked me if I was going to Houston this week.   I told her I was scheduled to be there on Wednesday. Consequently, her next question was: “Would you mind taking a computer with you? It belongs in one of the family cottages.”

 

She had even reminded me on Tuesday morning. As it turned out, the day was packed with mostly unplanned issues that needed resolution. When I left the office Tuesday at the end of what proved to be a very long work day, the farthest thing from my mind was the computer I had not yet put in my car.

 

The computer I inadvertently left behind was the cause of my consternation yesterday morning. I had forgotten to pack it in my car and now I was faced with the choice of either driving back to my office to retrieve it or “taking the fifth” when asked why I didn’t get it.

 

You’re probably wondering about the “taking the fifth” statement. It refers to the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination. I mean, after all who at my age would ever openly acknowledge that I forgot anything? Someone half my age could use that excuse and no one would give it a second thought. I mean, after all, people forget things all of the time.

 

When I was living in Dallas, a young mother who worked at a restaurant that I often frequented failed to remember her infant son was still in his car seat when she arrived at work. Sadly, it was a very hot summer day. That brings to mind a lot of questions. How does a parent forget to drop their child off at daycare? Sadly when she returned to her vehicle at the end of the day, she discovered a tragedy from which she will never be able to distance herself.  Even to this day, almost two decades later, when I drive past the shopping center where that restaurant is located in Dallas, I always think of that tragic summer day.

 

The point I’m attempting to make is that forgetfulness is an issue that people of all ages experience. It is not relegated exclusively to the aged. The agency where I work is very sensitive to avoid any action or comments regarding an employee that could be considered discriminatory.

 

The three o’clock early morning dilemma I faced yesterday was one of double jeopardy. You’ll say that I’m over-thinking this, but my thought processes are sound. Did I really write than down? Am I suggesting that I am of sound mind? People who know me better would say it’s questionable. From my perspective, it was both an integrity issue (i.e.: Did I do what I said I’d do) and it was a competency or cognitive memory issue. (Have I reached the age where I can’t be trusted to remember important things)?

 

Maybe because of my age, I am a little too sensitive when it comes to forgetfulness. My mother had Alzheimer’s and prior to her death lost her cognitive ability to remember. She didn’t remember or seemly recognize anyone. Because of her memory loss, she forgot how to walk; forfeiting her mobility. She lost the memory of how to feed herself; forfeiting meeting even her most basic needs. She was mostly in a far away place known only to herself the vast majority of the time. But there were exceptions. On occasion, she sang hymns to herself. That may not seem unusual at face value, but my mother never sang out loud in earlier years. Actually, that is not totally true. Sometimes when she was with small children she would sing nursery rhymes to them. Other than that, we never heard her sing.

 

So how did I solve my dilemma? I opted to do the right thing. I drove back to the office before I headed to Houston. Consequently, I delivered the computer as I had promised. Secondly, it was so early when I arrived at the office yesterday morning that no one will ever know that I forgot the computer the evening before.

 

Speaking of the gift of memory, I recently re-visited the lyrics to Carrie Underwood’s song entitled “Don’t Forget To Remember Me”. For parents whose son or daughter just left for college, you may find the lyrics close to home. The lyrics read:

 

“Eighteen years had come and gone

For mama they flew by

But for me they drug on and on

We were loading up that Chevy

Both tryin’ not to cry

Mama kept on talking

Putting off goodbye

Then she took my hand and said

“Baby, don’t forget

 

Before you hit the highway

You better stop for gas

There’s a fifty in the ashtray

In case you run short on cash

Here’s a map, and here’s a Bible

If you ever lose your way

Just one more thing before you leave

Don’t forget to remember me.”

 

This downtown apartment sure makes me miss home

And those bills there on the counter

Keep telling me I’m on my own

And just like every Sunday I called mama up last night

And even when it’s not, I tell her everything’s all right

Before we hung up I said

“Hey mama, don’t forget

 

To tell my baby sister

I’ll see her in the fall

And tell Me-maw that I miss her

Yeah, I should give her a call

And make sure you tell daddy

That I’m still his little girl

Yeah, I still feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be

But don’t forget to remember me.”

 

All My Best!

Don

What Do You Make Of It?

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Yesterday I received a strange text from a friend. We are friends in both real life and on Facebook. Sadly, most of our contact is electronic rather than in person. His friendship is one I value and he has much to offer in terms of wise counsel and thoughtful conversation. He is investing his life in making a difference. He is an elementary school teacher in an upscale private school for a classroom of 4th grade students. Despite the fact that I am somewhere between two-to-three times his age, the two of us share much in common. He is a writer and he maintains a blog. In addition, he is a twin.

The text message he sent allegedly was in response to something I’d written related to a picture he’d posted. He sent this message: “Hey, I didn’t understand your reply to my arches picture. I assumed you were joking though!” I was puzzled. What was he talking about? I remembered seeing a picture with rock columns forged in arches that were interspersed. If memory served me correctly, it was the support system for a bridge. However, other than selecting the “like” button, I didn’t write anything or did I?

I was a little embarrassed when I went back to his posting and looked for myself. He headed his posting with a quote from Henry Adams: “All experience is an arch to build upon.” The picture was an excellent portrayal of arches. Initially, in hurrying past his posted picture, I processed it as a bridge. In looking at the picture a second time, I don’t think it was the support for a bridge. I think it was the façade for a porch with a flat roofed structure in the back ground.  On the other hand, I’m not sure what it is other than fascinating design and rock work. What do you make of it?

My friend was true to his word. My message would have to be somewhat confusing. I had written: “Please know of my concern and prayer support?” No wonder he had no idea what I was talking about.  So how did I make an error like that?  I obviously thought I was responding to another posting and somehow inadvertently attached my verbiage to his picture.

I have experienced doing that while texting. It is not that difficult to get confused if you are responding to texts from several people.  Am I making that up to justify the error of my ways, or is it easily done? All I know for certain is that when I get my text messages  confused, the communication can prove to be a really embarrassing.

Summer before last, Treva was in Odessa visiting her mother when I opted to order some cologne. Since the General has me trained to let her know when I make credit card purchases, I responded (or thought I did) to one of her previous text messages. My rationale for making the purchase was simple. I was out of my favorite cologne. You can probably imagine how I spiced up the story justifying the expense. What I learned in short order, is that I didn’t send the text message to the General. I somehow inadvertently sent the message intended for the General to the man who was building a new steel gate for our home. “Awkward” is only the beginning of describing the experience. I’m not sure when I’ve been so embarrassed.

However, posting “Please know of my concern and prayer support” below the picture of architectural arches that my friend posted certainly gets honorable mention for being more than just a little strange. When I explained what happened, my friend responded: “Ha-ha! My work peeps now think something is wrong at work. Ha!”

Long story short, beware of what you see in writing unless of course it comes from me. However, if it does come from me and it appears to make absolutely no sense, it could be that I’ve crossed the wires in my head and I don’t know what I’m doing.

All My Best!

Don

Who Am I?

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Memory is such an incredible gift! The way it works and the way it doesn’t is a mystery. I came home yesterday with the intent of locating a small bag containing receipts. It is past time to reconcile my expense report at the office and I am currently clueless regarding the whereabouts of the small suede leather pouch in which I keep them.

The pouch is routinely stored in the console of my car. Last Friday, I retrieved it from my car with the intent of getting it organized. When I went to work Monday morning, my first priority was to get the expense report completed. When I got to the office, the suede pouch was not on my desk. So did I take it home on Friday and forget I had taken it? I might have assumed that I’d carve out the time over the weekend to get the task completed. Shortly before noon on Monday, I traveled to Houston and didn’t get home until after the workday yesterday. Guess what? I didn’t find the small suede pouch at home either. I clearly remember taking it from the console in my car to my office on Friday. Since that time, the pouch and receipts have been missing.   I have absolutely no recall.

It is an anomaly isn’t it? It has only been four days and I can’t remember what I did with the pouch. Stranger still is the thought that came to my memory last night as I contemplated my blog for this morning. In response to my blog “What’s Your Name?” the following comment was posted: ‘Don – I love your humor. Is the next blog going to be about identity crisis? Cora”

I read Cora’s comment and thought, “Why not?” I can write about an identity crisis. After all, I am in the middle of one now. I’m getting subtle encouragement from the General to slow down, enjoy life, quit my job, stay at home, be at her beckon call, etc. Do you have any idea the level of panic that creates in the core of my being? Actually, “being at her beckon call” in and of itself represents some level of anxiety, but the larger issue and the more frightening question is an identity issue. If I stop doing what I do, who will I be?

I know that none of that makes logical sense, but at some level it does represent truth. Okay, Okay, I’m willing to modify that a little bit. It may not represent truth, but it does represent the truth of my reality. How often do we mistakenly think we are what we do rather than something intrinsically more?

Several years ago I visited with the son of a friend who had graduated from college the year before. I asked the question, “What are you doing now?” I anticipated he’d share where he was working or the type of work he was doing and where he was living. Instead he said, “I am taking some time off to find myself.”

How would you respond to a statement like that? I said simply, “You’d better hurry. I’ve reached the place in my life that when I look in the mirror, I see my father looking back at me.”

Obviously, I grew up in a different generation. “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go” was ingrained in the expectation of the day. When you’ve got rent to pay, groceries to buy and bills to pay to keep the lights on and the house heated, the luxury of finding yourself has to be a sideline rather than a primary occupation.

How many young people graduate from college and want to tour Europe on a nickel and dime budget before they settle down and invest in a career track? After all you are only young once! Don’t we convince ourselves that, “It is now or never?”

Please hear me say, “I’m all about embracing the adventure”! Perhaps after I graduated from college, I was too eager to get started “living life” that I forget to invest the time to play? Actually, I can’t pull that off as reality. I have playfully pursued life for as long as I can remember. I’m not taking any of it too seriously.

The long and short of it is this: “ When you begin to think of yourself in the context of what you do rather than who you are, it gets really complicated”. It may not be the kind of identity crisis you worked your way through in the midst of adolescence, but it is an identity crisis never the less.

Some folks don’t fare well with it. It isn’t simply by happenstance that the highest percentages of folks who commit suicide are men toward what chronologically is legitimately toward the end of life (pardon the pun).

By now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with memory. After all, my opening paragraph represents the importance of memory. As I contemplated writing about an identity crisis, the perfect story vividly came to mind. I read the true-to-life story of a man named Jim in a sermon over thirty years ago. His was the epitome of an identity crisis. The pieces that immediately took shape in the resourcefulness of my memory included his name, his occupation, the name of his wife and the tongue-in-cheek remark the preacher made. He suggested that Jim rang the doorbell and said, “Honey, I’m home.”

Hold that thought! Remember it anyway. I’ll talk about Jim’s identity crisis in tomorrow’s blog.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END, OR DO THEY?

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Strange how it works, isn’t it? You can paint one room in a house and ultimately discover every other room needs to be painted. I guess the same can be said about memories. One memory generally promotes a litany of others. You then find the memories remain on the periphery of your consciousness until you give them their due.

My reference yesterday to the stately old house apartment where the General (aka – my wife) and I first lived continues to roll around in my head. I learned about the availability of the apartment from a friend I worked with at the hospital. His landlord also owned this house which had been divided into two apartments. Reference to it brought back a host of memories I haven’t thought of in years. We rented the house furnished. I guess a lot of college kids (Yes – I used that term purposefully) relied on furnished apartments. We couldn’t have purchased furniture if we wanted to. We had money for the basics, but when it came to extras, we didn’t have two thin dimes to rub together.  Yet, we had everything we needed.

I can see the shape of the house clearly in the recesses of my mind. What I can’t remember is the exterior color. Initially, I remembered it being painted yellow with white trim. The more I think about it, the yellow clapboard siding turns white in my mind and the trim appears to be barn red. I’m hoping it was really yellow and white. I asked the General, but she doesn’t remember either.

However, the General did remember several things from those early months of marriage. As she started telling me, “I remember when…” I abbreviated her story by telling her, “I’ve already thought of that. It is the topic of this blog”. Just for the record, it isn’t pretty. I have a hard time believing that my maturity level could have been that stymied. After all, I was a senior in college. I should have been smarter than that.

Getting back to the apartment, I do remember the furniture. You’d recognize it too. Just go back in your memory to the kind of furniture your grandparents had during your childhood years and you’ve got it. That is how this house was furnished. We absolutely loved it. We liked antiques. Maybe it was God’s way of preparing us for this time in our lives when we look in the mirror and have the passing thought that we are really old. That doesn’t mean we don’t have value. (Sorry, I got off track, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to offer advocacy for my age group).

You’ve heard the expression, “All good things must come to an end.” What I’m about to tell you made a believer out of me. It was an “aha moment” that I’ll never forget. Apparently the General hasn’t forgotten it either. It was like a “Garden of Eden” kind of experience where perfection seemed to dissipate instantly. Nobody got banished from the garden, but it was troublesome.

In the way of background, I worked as a tech in the emergency room at Hendrick hospital. My usual hours were 3:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. I actually worked a 40-hour week and carried 16 to 18 hours a semester. I absolutely loved the job. However, the schedule was not the most conducive for newly weds adjusting to marriage.

I think it was a Friday, late afternoon, and miraculously I wasn’t working that day. I’ve always been an impromptu kind of guy and it works for me. I suggested to the General that we telephone Glen and Sharon and invite them to dinner. It would be fun to share the evening with friends.

Treva’s (I had not yet realized she was the General) response came as a complete surprise! She said, “Lets don’t do that this evening.” I guess wars are generally fought over things of more significance, but from my perspective, this was a serious breach of what I had anticipated in marriage. I guess you could say they were fighting words.

For the previous three years that I’d been at college, I lived in the dorm. I didn’t have to ask permission to do anything. If I wanted to do it, I did it. I didn’t have to get permission. Did I mention I really liked that dimension in my life? When I was living at home, I always had to ask permission.

It was without warning that the realization hit me, “I’m married”. This is what it is going to be like. I’ll face the next forever in a relationship where my impromptu plans had the potential to be thwarted. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! I wanted to run away from home.

Actually, I couldn’t run away from home. The General opted to go to the grocery store at some point. We only had one car. I was stuck at home. Did I mention my Spiritual gift is pouting? This was a very rude awakening to the delusional sense of happiness that had previously colored my world.

I’m really embarrassed to tell you what happened next. I’m embarrassed at my level of immaturity. “Yes, I think I can say that out loud. They say confession is good for the soul”. If I couldn’t run away from home, at least I could hide. She would miss me when she thought I was gone. “I’d show her a thing or two”.

At the age of twenty-one, I was a skinny kid. Why not? I had no difficulty crawling under the bed. She’d never think to look there. Actually, truth be known, she didn’t bother to look anywhere. What I didn’t count on was that I fell asleep while I was under the bed.

Apparently, a very long time later, she was not amused when I crawled out from under the bed. By then I had cooled off (amazing what a little sleep can do) and I was ready to salvage the evening.

I guess every married couple remembers the first fight as husband and wife. That was ours. Fortunately, as I’ve matured, I’ve never opted to hide under the bed again. What good does it do to hide if no one is going to look for you? The other issue that weighs (pardon the pun) into my refrain from doing so, I’m no longer a twenty-one year old skinny kid.

I know what you’re thinking. “The General is a Saint!” You’re right. She is!

All My Best!

Don