JOSH AND CAROLINE – A LOVE STORY

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

I’m Not Going To Sit By The Pool And Eat Bon-bons

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If you find you have an aversion to jumping out of airplanes, it is probably best not to add skydiving to your bucket list. Profound statement, don’t you think? It was preceded by the thought: “What was I thinking when I gave up my day job?” My next thought was: “Is it too late to get it back?”

 

You know of course, I couldn’t make stuff like this up. I spent most of Friday working on my laptop from the sunroom. I’m finding the sun porch a perfect venue to get a sense of being outside while being inside in air-conditioned comfort. It is a very relaxing workspace and ideal work environment.

 

About 4:30 p.m., I moved my computer from the table I had been working on to charge the battery. I then went from the sun porch to my interior office. I had just sat down at my desk when the General walked it carrying a piece of paper. She tossed it on my desk while stating: “You left this piece of paper out there”. She then stated more emphatically: “I can’t have you just making messes around here.”

 

It actually was kind of comical. She wasn’t angry, she just wasn’t going to pass up a teaching moment. I felt like a three-year-old in Vacation Bible School. The nice lady was going to make sure I colored inside the lines.

 

The next round of redirection came when the General discovered I failed to move the bathroom rug from the floor to the edge of the bathtub after my shower. Another infraction of the rules! Who would have thought? Sometimes I can’t win for losing. I remember a time that we purchased expensive bathroom rugs to actually leave on the bathroom floor. Not any more, we are now duplicating a four star hotel with the bath mat carefully in reach, but not out flat.

 

God as my witness, I’m not making this up. It wasn’t ten minutes later that the General then asked: “So how is working from home working out for you?” I cheerfully responded: “It’s great! I don’t have to deal with traffic.”

 

So later, I left the house in my truck. The General and her mother were sitting on the sun porch. I had tossed a plastic garbage bag full of excess branches I’d pruned from the crepe myrtles in the yard into the back of my truck and driven it down to place them next to the canister for trash pick-up. When I returned she asked: “What have you been doing?” I answered truthfully, “I’ve been texting”. “You drove the truck to do that”, she asked. “No, that’s what I’ve been doing since I got back in the truck”. I then explained about the crepe myrtle branches. She immediately clutched at her chest and said: “Ethyl, it’s the big one! Not even a pacemaker can help with this.” “Very funny”, I said.

 

Actually, she is very funny. There is also a pleasant and playful inconsistency on her part. When I tossed my plastic empty water bottle in the trashcan located in our garage, I absentmindedly forgot the green bottle cap that went with it.  Like a hummingbird looking for nectar, she tracked me down. “Was that the green bottle cap from your bottle of water that you left on the table?” Before I had a chance or even the thought to answer: “No Ma’am, I’m sorry. I promise never to do it again”, she smiled and said, “If you’ll give me a hug I’ll throw it away for you”. Before the day was done and three hugs later I was out of trouble and beginning to think the retirement deal might work. That’s not to say there aren’t still looming questions. I’m still wondering: “What was I thinking when I gave up my day job and is it too late to get it back?”

 

Okay, so leading up to retirement my primary focus has been: “Do we have enough money in savings and does our monthly annuity and social security more than provide for our financial needs going forward? Thankfully, that isn’t an issue. Of course, my oldest grandson will be happy to know that. He is as frugal as my dad ever thought about being. Who know, maybe it’s in the name. They both share the same one.

 

I recently made some off-hand statement in front of my grandson about the General purchasing a new purse. I’ve mentioned in my blog that out of the generosity of my daughter and son-in-law, I’m a member of the Sock of the Month Club. Unknowingly, I think the General must have signed up for the Stash of a Month Club. Stash is the “Now” desirable brand if you collect purses and I promise you the General has quite a stash. She has a new purse every time I turn around. At any rate, I made some off-hand comment and William responded: “So granddad, are you concerned Gram is spending too much money on Stash?” The kid is really smart! He got it. Actually, I thought he had until he offered his take on the issue and finished his thought process. He said, “If you think Gram is spending too much money on Stash, maybe you need to stop buying a new car every 40,000 miles”.

 

I have a friend who truthfully confessed to me that following his retirement he really had a difficult time emotionally. He said, “I was like a fish out of water”. He went on to explain that he had only looked at financial affordability and had not stopped to consider the emotional impact. With the loss of his job, there was nothing immediately available to replace his career identity.

 

According to Robert Delamontagne,PhD, author of The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement: “Too few people consider the psychological adjustments that accompany this life stage, which can include coping with the loss of your career identity, replacing support networks you had through work, spending more time than ever before with your spouse and finding new and engaging ways to stay active. Some retirees ease smoothly into retirement, spending more time with hobbies or family and friends. But others, research finds, experience anxiety, depression and debilitating feelings of loss.”

He went on to say: “People can go through hell when they retire and they will never say a word about it, often because they are embarrassed”.

 

Trust me, I am not that guy! If retirement doesn’t work for me, I will do something else. I promise you I am not going to be content watching reruns of Gunsmoke and the Andy Griffith Show on television. I don’t plan to wear my pajamas all day or sit by the pool and eat bonbons. For one thing, we don’t have a pool and secondly, the General doesn’t want me eating a lot of candy.
All My Best!

Don

 

Extra Grace Required

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Ours was a strange conversation yesterday afternoon. Sometimes the General amazes me. Actually, I’m not sure “amazes” is the right word, but I’m better off not changing it. At least I’m affirming a strength-based attribute. The General was out of town all week. For that matter, I was also out of town the majority of the week myself. So out of the blue she said to me yesterday: “I noticed you changed the burned out light bulb in the kitchen”. I should have said “thanks” and left it alone. Instead, I truthfully responded, “No I didn’t”.

 

She replied: “Maybe it came back on.” Frankly, that didn’t sound like a logical deduction to me. Of course, short of suggesting that the tooth fairy is now doing nice things for old people, I didn’t have a better explanation.   I’m certainly not an electrician, but I’ve never known of a burned out light bulb resurrecting itself. With fluorescent tube lights, sometimes an adjustment of their placement orchestrates a fresh connection but the canned lights are not fluorescent bulbs.

 

The thing that took me totally off-guard was her next statement. God as my witness, I am not making this up. I am telling the truth. She said: “I noticed another light bulb looks like it is going out?” Was she clairvoyant or what? I’ve never thought of the General as particularly strange, but how can she tell by looking that a light bulb is near done?

 

I guess when it comes to light bulbs, I’m a black and white kind of guy. The light is either on or it’s off. It glows or it doesn’t glow. If the filament is burned out, it doesn’t come back on. If a light bulb is providing light, how does she know it looks like it is going out? Obviously the answer to that question, if there is one, is above my pay group.

 

From there, our conversation got even weirder. She asked the question: “Why is there a gallon bottle of water in the refrigerator?” I responded: “To my knowledge there isn’t one.” Out of curiosity, I reached for the handle of the refrigerator and opened the door. I tell you, the lady is losing it. There wasn’t one there. She responded, “Not that refrigeration. It’s the one in the laundry room.”

 

I made my way to the laundry room and looked inside the refrigerator. Sure as life, there was a gallon jug of water on the shelf where we normally store smaller bottles of water. I was almost speechless. The gallon jug of water was not sitting upright. It was turned on its side. I didn’t check to see if it had been opened. It really didn’t matter. I have no explanation of how it got there.

 

Saturday morning as I made my way home from Round Rock, I telephoned the General and asked if I needed to get anything from the grocery store. She asked me to pick up a prescription for her at the store pharmacy. Knowing we were out of bottled water, I asked, “Shall I also pick up some bottled water?” She replied that she was compiling a grocery list, but if I’d go ahead and pick up water she be grateful.

 

Consequently, I stopped by the store and picked up a couple of 24-packs of bottled water and four gallon jugs. I put them all in the back of my truck. When I unloaded the truck a couple of the gallon jugs had turned to their side. Was it possible that I carried one into the house and put it in the refrigerator on the shelf where we normally keep smaller bottles of water? “Probably not” is my best response, but I have no other explanation. After all, I did purchase water at the grocery store.

 

I moved on to other matters. I needed to hang pictures I had removed from my office. I had temporarily placed the four of them next to my chest-of-drawers in our bedroom, but extra grace would be required if I thought they were going to stay there for any length of time. Truthfully, it would make me a little bit crazy to have them propped against furniture. The General isn’t the only OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) person in our house.

 

The art collection from my office was tied to an American Indian theme. A couple of the pictures are large prints done by G Harvey. I don’t recall the artist of the other two, but they are also large. Finding a place to hang them was going to be tough. I wanted them all hung together. In my mind, they would be perfect in our bedroom. The room is large and we’ve got a couple of chairs with cowhide backs.

 

The only downside to my plan is that the General had already told me they wouldn’t all fit in our bedroom. I thought she was wrong, but I could be mistaken. If I moved some of the pictures from the top of the bookshelf and put a couple of the larger pictures there, it might work. After all, our bedroom has a cathedral ceiling. If need be, I could go up really high with the pictures. The only problem was the pictures are relatively heavy and I don’t have a stepladder that will get me up as high as I need to be to safely hang the pictures.

 

Fortunately, the General was engaged in something else for a portion of the afternoon and I had time to execute my plan. Actually, with two of the pictures hung and an existing painting moved, I was convinced my plan would work. I removed the stuff including a picture from the top of the four bookcase units in our bedroom and managed to get the other two pictures propped on top of the bookcases. I then asked the General to come take a look. She liked the look and made a couple of suggestions related to the pictures propped on top of the bookcases. She thought they looked good sitting on top of the bookcases rather than hanging higher on the wall. The height of the bookcases are seven feet tall. Maybe she was right.

 

She suggested I add a large piece of pottery between the two pictures. She thought it would add some extra interest to the grouping. I actually thought it was a good idea. We could both be wrong, but we think it looks great.

 

If you were to ask, the General would tell you that I’m not OCD. In fact, we had a conversation regarding her perception that I need to do a better job of picking up after myself at some point in the day yesterday. Surprise!  Surprise!  Surprise! Something tells me my retirement years may be challenging. I’d hate to be put on probationary status, but from the sounds of things she’s already thinking of a corrective action plan.

 

Besides that, who knows how many routine responsibilities she is going to slide to my side of the table. Just for the record (that’s the way she phrased it), she put me on notice that she was handing off to me the responsibility for keeping the grandfather clocks wound. She added, “I’m not going to windup the grandfather clocks again. From here on out, it is your responsibility.”

 

This retirement gig may be a challenge. I should have asked for a job description before I announced my retirement at work. At this point, it is too late to change the process, but I’m not big on surprises when it relates to additional expectations related to my assigned tasks. Of course, with the American Indian theme pictures in the room, I might opt to explain that I am now the new Chief on the reservation.

 

All My Best!

Don

DEATHTRAP

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She didn’t express it out loud, but she might as well have.  Her first impression was not favorable.  Did I mention that never plays out well for me, especially when I can read her mind and know what she’s thinking?  We could not have been farther apart in our perception of reality. I saw it one way and she conversely saw it differently. I thought it was the perfect solution.  She saw it as a perpetual nightmare. Like I said, “She didn’t articulate the word, but it was on the tip of her tongue. The word was “deathtrap”.

 

I didn’t see the Broadway Play by the same name, but Deathtrap is a play written by Ira Levin. The play holds the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. Aren’t those two words linked together a contradiction as well?  Who knows? What I do know is that the General had a high opinion of the “Murder She Wrote” series on television. Perhaps lurking beneath her pleasant demeanor is a dark side that she protectively keeps hidden. Obviously if that’s the case, it has worked well in my best interest. Otherwise, I could be a memory rather than a reality.

 

The play Deathtrap was subsequently adapted for a movie in 1982.  I didn’t see the movie either. Robert Ebert gave it a three-star rating.  He referred to it as: “A wonderful windup fiction with a few modest ambitions: It wants to mislead us at every turn, confound all our expectations, and provide at least one moment when we levitate from our seats and come down screaming.”

 

Around 11:00 a.m. yesterday, I suggested to the General that we leave early to attend the wedding of the daughter of a close friend. We needed to arrive about 5:15. The wedding was scheduled to begin at 5:30.  Consequently, it seemed like a good opportunity for me to solicit the General’s opinion of the car I wanted to purchase.  She concurred with my plan but added: “Weren’t you going to grill steak for lunch today?” 

 

“Why not” was my immediate thought? It wouldn’t take that long and there is nothing I like better than a New York strip cooked medium rare. Consequently, I started the charcoal. We could still carry out my plan if we hurried, but if not, “There would be another day”. Actually, that is not what I thought at all.  They say that delayed gratification is a sign of maturity. Maybe that explains why I wanted to get her feedback soon. I didn’t want to wait.

 

I got the fire started.  When the coals were just right, I put the two steaks on the grill. I came back into the house for the broccoli and bell peppers.  She said, “I’m doing them in the oven. I also have leftovers from a potato casserole”.  It was going to be a really good lunch. I was grateful she mentioned to need for lunch before we left the house.

 

I subsequently noticed after I turned the two steaks over on the grill and came back into the house that she was cooking something else on the stove.  “What’s that I asked?” She responded: “I don’t want steak. I’m having this?”  I don’t know if “this” was chicken or something else, but I was grateful for the two steaks on the grill.

 

Like I’ve often said, “The General and I don’t always look at the world through the same lenses.”  It is not that infrequent that I see it one-way and through her “perfectly accurate vision” she sees it another. 

 

When we subsquently stopped by the car dealer for me to show her the Mazda Miata, it would have been an embarrassing moment had the salesperson overheard her candid assessment.  “You want that?!”  It was not a favorable review.  The next words out of her mouth were equally unfavorable: “It looks like a toy car.  There is no way you can possible get in and out of that.”

 

I had test-driven that car two-days before and was still “feeling my Cheerios” from the thrill and exhilaration of the experience.  She on the other hand was looking at the vehicle and reinforcing her belief that only a mentally deranged individual would even consider having one, much less shelling out the cash to get it.

 

Her review wasn’t totally negative. She liked the color.  Okay, so now we were making some progress.  The car I had looked at in Houston was that color.  It wasn’t the hard-top convertible, but the soft-top is still a classy look.  For the most part, when I think Miata convertible, I don’t envision a hard-top. You drive a convertible because you want the top down.

 

Okay, so part of my decision-making relates to cost. There is absolutely no difference between the 2017 soft top and the 2016 soft top. In fact, in 2016, the hardtop option wasn’t available.  Depending on where I choose to purchase, I can save $1,000, $3,000 or $5,000 off of the purchase price if I opt for the soft-top. I bet you can safely guess which option I will choose.

 

The General doesn’t think the way I think.  First she retorted: “I didn’t get anything when I retired”. I opted not  to say, “You didn’t retire. You just quick working.” See, I’m smarter than some of you give me credit for being. The unspoken question behind the General’s sad story about not getting anything when she was retired is: “How fair does that seem?” Now I want to celebrate my retirement by purchasing a car she is firmly convinced that I cannot get out of without assistance. Did I mention she doesn’t plan to offer me a helping hand? Secondly, if I’m going to do it anyway (and she’s convinced I will), it has to be the hard-top version.  Like I said, she liked the color of the car.  The hardtop is that same color.  Otherwise, with the soft-top we are back the standard black canvass cover.

 

We hadn’t driven a mile from the dealership before she said: “That car does not have a safety rating.”  “How do you know that I asked?”  She replied: “I read it on the sticker”. I didn’t look directly at her. I didn’t want to see her smirk.  Like I said, she thinks it is a deathtrap. I see it as hours and hours of fun driving. Only time will tell, but …. I’ll let you come up with what you anticipate will be the outcome.  I have an opinion. What is yours?

 

All My Best!

 

Don

Whose To Blame?

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“I don’t have time for this”. Have you ever had that thought? Whenever I have an opportunity to speak in public, whether it is for thirty minutes or two, I want a carefully crafted road map. Call it a security blanket if you want. I never read a verbal presentation to an audience. That seems inauthentic and lacks spontaneity. However, in a perfect world, I never open my mouth if I have a verbal presentation that I’m expected to make without first carefully crafting every word.

 

If I am in an audience and the speaker fails to make eye contact and be engaging because he is carefully reading a prepared text, just count me out. You’ve already lost my attention. I was in a church once where the pastor read all of his sermons to the congregation. Maybe it was just me, but it didn’t come across as authentic or heart felt. Besides that, his sermons were always too long. Actually, they were way too long. I wanted to scream, “Just give me the script, I can read faster than you can talk.”

 

I’m not sure where all of that came from, but it highlights my point. The only folks who enjoy being read to are small children who want to hear the same bedtime story over and over again. By adulthood, most of us have moved way beyond that.

 

Craig called at the end of the workday yesterday and wanted to know what I was doing. I answered, “I am at home, but I am at work. I’ve been asked to provide testimony at a legislative hearing on Monday morning and I need to get my speaking points to the two lobbyist who are representing our group before the end of the workday. I’m almost finished, but I have time to talk.”

 

I actually was almost finished and I felt pretty good about the flow of my presentation. It was only three pages long, but three pages with a number #14 font was all the time afforded me. That was another reason to carefully craft my thoughts. At any rate, the conversation Craig was sharing would have been of interest to his Mother, so I summoned her from outside where she was playing with Andrea and Kevin’s dogs. I put my phone on speaker and the three of us engaged in conversation.

 

Okay, it was “my bad”, but the conversation moved from interesting to small talk mostly generated by the General who was doing all of the talking and so I half listened as I attempted to finish the last paragraph of my presentation. I honestly don’t know what happened, but the entire script disappeared from the computer screen. It was gone, vanished, lost; how could that be? At this point I was no longer half listening to the conversation.

 

Of course with the maturity level of a three-year-old who had just spilled an entire package of M&Ms in the mud because he wasn’t paying attention and wanted someone to blame, I was put-out with the General and Craig for the disappearing act of my document on the screen. I recognize that they clearly had absolutely no involvement in my circumstances, but with the maturity level of a three year old I needed someone to blame.

 

Who knows, maybe the document would be retrievable? It wasn’t. Oh, I found the document, but the document I found didn’t include any anything but two paragraphs that I had written at 11:47 a.m. Did I mention I found that despicably unacceptable? I turned the computer off and restarted it. Do you ever pray for something knowing full well it is magical thinking or a wasted effort? Okay, so I selfishly prayer rather than being led to pray. Either way, the result didn’t get me anything other than the two small paragraphs written at 11:47 yesterday morning. “I don’t have time for this” was my first, second and final thoughts before I started again on the missing third and subsequent paragraphs.

 

The General was amazingly kind. She knew I was miffed at her and Craig for no reason, but she was compassionate. Even the “When are your ever going to learn” speech she provided was bathed with an undertone of compassion rather than, “How stupid can you be?” She kindly dispensed or refrained from using the line, “How many times do I have to tell you.”

 

I really am a slow learner. By the way, reference to the “How many times do I have to tell you” phrase reminded me that I haven’t yet saved this document. It may be mostly nonsense, but it is my nonsense and without saving it, it too could join the ranks of yesterday’s missing document.

 

Yesterday evening I received a text message from a friend who’d read on Facebook that my niece’s home was destroyed by fire and is months away from being anywhere close to habitable again. She kindly wanted to help and asked for my niece’s mailing address. She also offered the opportunity for me to simply stop by and she’d provide me a check to take to her. What an amazingly kind gesture.

 

I felt guilty declining to stop by her home. The previously promised visit with she and her husband is long over due, but this isn’t the week. I will be sitting in front of this computer screen for much of the weekend preparing work related documents for next week which includes the hearing at the Capitol on Monday and by being in Houston and Washington, D.C. for the rest of the week.

 

“I don’t have time for this” is like being between a rock and a hard place, but it won’t last forever. The General would be the first to suggest that eliminating my daily blog would buy me some time, but you can only bend so far without breaking and I’m not willing to go that far.

 

All My Best!

Don

DID YOU KNOW?

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My son telephoned me on Monday evening to say he was calling to brag on one of his children. I asked: “Which one?” He said, “It is Jenna. Tomorrow Becky has doctor’s appointments lined out of the kids. Jenna took it upon herself to notify her teachers that she’d be out and asked for the class assignments in advance. I am amazed. In all of my years of schooling I never opted to do anything like that.”

 

I guess I hadn’t given it much thought before, but Craig has a few of his father’s characteristics. His professional background in logistics may equip him with the knowledge that you have to plan ahead and have all your ducks lined up in a row, but he, too, can rely confidently on the last minute to get it done.

 

I haven’t asked him, but I’d bet you dollars to donuts that his wife prepares their income tax returns or that they outsource it. I can almost promise you that Craig doesn’t have that responsibility.  Consequently it was probably ready for filing by the first week in February. I’ve gotten as far along as buying turbo tax for 2016. I haven’t yet downloaded it in my computer. Already, the warning light (AKA – The General) in my house has been going off. She takes a subtle approach? “So when is your ski trip?” I don’t always pay attention to my calendar or to the details. I responded: “I think it is the second weekend in April. No, on second thought, I think it is the third. I don’t really remember. I will fly out on Wednesday and return on Saturday.”

 

The next thing I know she is standing next to me with her calendar in hand. The calendar is turned to the month of April. She points out the four square blocks on her calendar that represent the days she thought I’d just articulated that I’d been gone. Okay I get it. “Seeing is believing”.  I responded: “Yes, those are the four days.” Actually, I had wanted to go skiing the week before, but work related commitments have a way of getting in the way.

 

Somehow it was clear to me that our conversation was not over. She was invading my space with her open calendar, but she wasn’t budging. “Did you know?” are the three magic words that always indicate she believes that I didn’t know, but that I should have known. I could have predicted those three words as easily as suggesting to you the sun will rise this morning from the East. “So what was the big deal?” I wanted to ask, but thought I’d wait it out. Whatever it was, I could rest assured that the message would be communicated in short order.

 

I was wrong. She wasn’t through with the questioning process. “So, are you flying home on Saturday?” was her next question. The General was on a roll. I didn’t know where she was going with this conversation, but I was certain full disclosure was imminent. I had already told her that I was flying home on Saturday.  Somehow I had the sense that I had messed up, but I still wasn’t sure how. That, too, would be highlighted with her next question. Truthfully, I didn’t see her next question coming.

 

“Did you realize that the Sunday following your arriving back home on Saturday is Easter?” “Are you kidding me?” was my next thought, but I didn’t verbalize the question. Instead, I responded. “Great, I’m grateful I’ll be back in time for Easter. That wouldn’t have worked well had I planned otherwise.” How’s that for expressing the “I’m on top of my game” confidence that I didn’t really feel?

Without any intentional disrespect on my part, I may have even suggested that,
“Good Friday would be doubly good this year because I’d be on the ski slopes”. On the other hand, maybe I just thought that? Other wise I might have gotten boxed in the ears and there would still be ringing inside my head.

 

“So tell me again what day you are you flying home?” Obviously, I am not the sharpest Crayola in the box. I was missing something that should have been abundantly clear to me, but for whatever reason I was clueless. What was the point she was driving?

 

I guess you could say I am a visual learner. With the calendar still in her hand, she was pointing to the square box on the calendar that represented Saturday. After all, that was the day I was flying home. The numerical date of the month was the fifteenth. I was flying home on April 15th (AKA – Income tax day). So now she had my full attention! What was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t, but I was grateful for the heads-up.

 

My, “I had no idea” response didn’t fly particularly well. She mumbled something under her breath about my need to pay attention.  “All it would take for anyone with have a ounce of sense was to look at the calendar”.  That’s not what she verbalized, but I read her mind.  Didn’t Jesus say to think it is the equivalent of doing it?  Gratefully, the “April 15th thing” was good information for me to know. Obviously, I’ve got to make some almost immediate adjustments in how I used my time over the next several days.

 

Did I mention that I’m in Washington D.C. for the majority of the next week and back in Houston at least one or two days the following? How do you hit the pause button and slow things down? Uncle Sam waits for no man. “April 15 is April 15”.   Just writing it down made me feel brilliant. Actually, since the 15th falls on a Saturday, I bet we don’t have to have the return posted before the 17th, but I could be wrong.

 

However, if I’m counting on that, I could be dead wrong because the General hasn’t verbalized it, but I’m fairly certain that she anticipates I will have the check in the mail to good ole Uncle Sam before I get on my plane to Denver.

 

So if my speculation is correct that my son probably doesn’t have to worry about income tax returns because his wife has it all under control, how did he orchestrate that? I’ve been wanting to pass that over to the General for years, but she adamantly refuses.

 

For about two months in our beginning marriage years, I balanced the checkbook. I thought that was a guy thing. My dad always did that when I was growing up. Two months was about the length of time needed for the General to figure out that I don’t figure well. Consequently, almost by default, she took it over and I haven’t had to worry about it for the last forever.

 

I really do lead a charmed life, adventurously dependent on last minute venues and the confidence that, “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute.”  I borrowed that line from my son. However, I’ve shared it more than once. Consequently, I could say: “Like I’ve always said, ‘If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute’.”

 

All My Best!

Don

The Feed Trough

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My only assigned task associated to my son-in-law and daughter’s crawfish boil yesterday was to be friendly to their guests. You’re probably wondering if I have a history of being rude or unpleasant to folks? If so, let that thought go. I like to think of myself as someone that is enjoyable to be around. After all, being friendly and personable doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. It doesn’t take a paradigm shift on my part to get there. Providing me that assigned task was more like type casting rather than a role I’d have to be trained to pursue. My only role was simply to be me. Consequently, that didn’t take a lot of effort.

 

My eight-year-old grandson by his own choice had much bigger shoes to fill. He, too, is a natural when it comes to being friendly and personable. He’s never met a stranger. From the beginning of yesterday morning, he wanted to know what he could do to help Uncle Kevin. I watched as he followed him around taking care of those last minute details. Uncle Kevin also allowed him to assist in stirring the crawfish at one point. It looked like they were using a boat paddle. It also looked new,  so I didn’t worry about the paddle’s experience of being submerged in lake water.

 

Jake was also concerned about the need to define success for himself. In that regard he is like his Gram. She makes a list every day of things she plans to accomplish. Without the list, she’d feel incomplete and less than prepared. With the list in hand, Katy Bar The Door, there is no stopping her. She will accomplished her self-imposed assigned tasks.

 

Jake fell into the role quite naturally. His is a very competitive family and I surmise that winning always takes precedence over playing. It is part of the DNA that came his way. After all, why not live with the sense of a competitive edge? It is a simple process. If you’re going fishing, which sibling can catch the most fish? Which sibling can catch the biggest fish?

 

One of Jake’s first questions of Kevin had to do with the amount of crawfish on hand. He needed some quantitative frame of reference so he could determine his fair share. I don’t always get it right when it comes to hearing, but I think Kevin mentioned something about ninety pounds of crawfish. Of course, when you throw in the sausage, potatoes, garlic, oranges and whatever else that eventually got stirred into the pot, it was more than enough.  Actually, it was several pots full.

 

So how many crawfish could an eight year old boy be expected to eat. Where he came up with the number, I’ll never know. He decided his fair share was sixty-five crawfish. In Gram like fashion, he wrote the number down on a stick-em note and marked his spot at the feed trough. I almost called it a table. It looked like a table or a series of tables, but in reality it was a feed trough.

 

I remember from my very early childhood years going out with my mother’s Uncle Jim when he went to his pasture to feed his cows. He had a dark green 1952 Chevrolet Pickup with wooden sideboards. Did I mention I really liked that truck? I guess you could say he was a fast order chef when it came to feeding the cows. He’d toss the day’s serving in a huge feed trough and the cows voluntarily crowded together to collectively share a meal.

 

If you’ve been to a crawfish boil, it is a similar kind of experience. I’m not suggesting it wasn’t incredibly enjoyable, but color it anyway you want, it is a community experience. When it comes to connection, I think that’s the way it is supposed to be. Can you imagine a crawfish boil for one person? The more the merrier is the modus operandi. You don’t even have to worry about having enough plates. Cows don’t bother and neither do those wanting to experience a true to life Cajun dining experience.

 

I was about forty years old before I had my first and my last crawfish boil experience before Kevin’s influence to do it otherwise. The first experience was in a work related venue, so I really didn’t have a choice. You had to be one of the guys and crawfish was king. I played the part and even told myself that it was good. It was good, but it was messy.

 

Did I mention I don’t like to use my fingers to eat anything? I guess the one exception is that I generally hold a drumstick of fried chicken with my hand. Depending on venue, I’d prefer the part I hold with my hand be wrapped with a paper napkin. To do otherwise is unpleasant tactile stimulation.  All four of my grandchildren will tell you that when it comes to eating pizza, Granddad is weird. I use a knife and fork. Without exception, they all find that a little strange.  Okay, they actually find that very strange.

 

Yesterday, I looked at the crowd of people standing around the tables for the crawfish boil experience. If you’ve got boundary issues, you’d hate the experience because folks were packed together like a herd of cattle around a feed trough all wanting to get their share.

 

So, in fulfilling my assigned task to be friendly yesterday, I asked a few people whose names I hope I remembered correctly about their previous experiences of eating crawfish. “So did you grow up in a part of the country where you were familiar with crawfish boils?” I didn’t find anyone that did. Almost without fail, there was not a Cajun in the mix. The only crawfish experience any of the people I questioned was the venue provided by Kevin and Andrea. For them it was an annual event and they looked forward to it.

 

Okay, in terms of being totally transparent, I ate only the sausage, potatoes, and the corn on the cob. The corn on the cob was really sweet, juicy and hot. My lips were burning before I finished the first cob. This was definitely a spicy food event.

 

How about Jake? How did he do? He was focused and deliberate in accomplishing his goal. He had set sixty-five crawfish as the desired outcome. He methodically made a tag mark on a piece of paper to indicate the number in groups of five as he calculated his progress. True to life, he ate sixty-five and then added two more for good measure.

 

It was a fun day! I figure anything you host where people come together, visit and share time is a friendly and pleasant manner is a valuable experience. I, too, would like to think at the end of the day, I also met my goal of being friendly and personable. I didn’t try the crawfish. I failed to mention there were also shrimp. So I ate shrimp instead of crawfish. And yes, just for the record, I ate them by using my fingers. It isn’t my favorite medium, but like eating a chicken leg, shrimp also seem to work best if you use your fingers.

 

All My Best!

Don