Treasure the Memories

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I was visiting with a friend at lunch today and asked how his son and newly acquired daughter-in-law were doing.  He replied, “They are doing great. They’ve gotten moved into their apartment.”  He laughed and said, “They are finding it a little cramped for space, but they are enjoying the experience.” He also added, “Since they are living within their budget, it may be a while before they get a larger place. He said, “I told my son and daughter-in-law: “Fifteen years from now you’ll look back on this time in your lives and treasure the memories.”

I thought to myself,  “Isn’t that the way every one starts out?”  In reality, the space issue is deceiving for young married couples.  When you’ve been used to living in a college dorm, even the smallest of apartments can look like “the Biltmore” in comparison. Isn’t it true that moving from a college dorm setting into a “place of your own” can feel like you’ve been propelled into the mainstream of adulthood?  It is kind of a nice feeling!

I actually picked out our first apartment sight unseen by the General.  The apartment became available in April or May of 1968 and we were getting married in June.  I described it to her over the telephone and she said it sounded great.  She trusted my judgment.  Mostly without reservation, she still does.

That seems like a lifetime ago.   If memory serves me correctly, the “stately-old-house” had been converted into two apartments.  Ours was the apartment that probably originally had been the home’s living area, dining room and large kitchen. When the house was sectioned into apartments, a bathroom was added and the dining room was converted into a bedroom.

The house was located on Hickory Street in Abilene.  It was several blocks south of Hendrick Hospital where I worked and Hardin-Simmons University where I went to school.  I won’t say it was easy walking distance, but it was manageable if need be.

Just thinking of our first home seems so long ago and so far away.  My friend told his son, “Fifteen years from now you’ll look back on this time in your lives and treasure the memories.”

I nodded in agreement.  I knew exactly what he meant.  However, I wondered what his son and daughter-in-law thought of his philosophical observation.  “Fifteen years from now you’ll look back on this time in your lives and treasure the memories.”  What does that really mean?  Is it closely akin to: “Tough times don’t last forever?”

I think my friend’s observation is accurate.  The “young and in love conquers all” syndrome makes a nice reflection in looking back over one’s life.  In reality, love and marriage really has more to do with commitment, shared goals, and a resolve to orchestrate a forever family. It isn’t dependent on the size of one’s home, their 401K or their income level.

“Fifteen years from now you’ll look back”.  Is that really true?  Perhaps it is a sign of good emotional and spiritual health if you do, but I didn’t.  Perhaps I should have looked back, but I failed to do so.  I was so busy embracing the future, that I failed to honor, revere and learn from the past.

When the General and I had been married for fifteen years, I wasn’t looking back. I was still in the midst of a marathon attempting to put all of my eggs into one basket.  I was busy negotiating the challenges and obstacles that potentially interfere with or promote quality to life.

How do you find balance?  I was thirty-six years old.  I had been married for fifteen years. I had a twelve-year-old son, a two-year-old daughter, a job that could easily consume fifty to sixty hours a week and a host of responsibilities associated with being a good neighbor in the community we called home.  My life was abundantly full.  I was passionate about life.  I felt capable, responsible, needed and valued, but I didn’t purposefully carve out the time to look back.

“Fifteen years from now you’ll look back on your lives and treasure the memories.” I hope my friend’s son does, but I didn’t.

  • ·      I didn’t provide myself the luxury of remembering what it was like to make a complete meal out of fried okra and fried squash.
  • ·      I had forgotten the elation of discovering enough discarded coke bottles to redeem that I had the money to fill my car’s tank with gas (It was only $.18 a gallon).
  • ·      I didn’t remember shopping garage sales, buying used furniture, refinishing it and placing it in our home.
  • ·      I didn’t remember the intensity of some of the arguments and the joys of working out our differences.
  • ·      I didn’t remember the simplicity of having friends over and being content to make a meal out of a casserole.
  • ·      I had forgotten the ability to live for the moment, drop whatever we were doing, drive three hours to visit our families and then drive back home again.
  • ·      I had forgotten the friends who were instrumentally important in our lives, but who then evaporated when work transfers and career paths sent us different directions.

Aren’t there times we could all benefit from remembering the past, searching for life lessons in the confines of our memory and moving forward with a sense of gratitude?

I sometimes jokingly tell people that if the General had killed me when she first thought about it, she’d be out of prison by now. I know that has to be a bitter pill to swallow, but I’m glad she didn’t.  I’d prefer to spend more time together sitting on the back porch and reflecting on all we’ve been given.  Life is good!

All My Best!

Don

Delayed Gratification Is A Sign Of Maturity

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I am probably pushing the envelope on my luck. My daughter and her husband prefer to keep a low profile. It’s not that they are purposefully secretive or trying to hide anything, but they certainly don’t fall into the category of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. In many respects they live simply. They both work long hours and when they are not working, they prefer to be home. As a rule of thumb they are both frugal. Whatever activities they may plan for leisure generally include their two labs. They are doting pet owners. (I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that doting pet owners/frugal is an oxymoron.) Perhaps I should say, apart from the dogs they are frugal. They integrate the things they value most in their lives and generally don’t opt to color outside the lines.

The General (aka – my wife) and I have the good fortune of sharing time with them often. As a rule of thumb, the four of us share Sunday dinner together. However, we are not an enmeshed family. They have a very full life apart from us and we likewise are very busy and engaged with others.

It may surprise you, but at times I may have a tendency to offer unsolicited advice. After all, wasn’t “Father Knows Best” popular in our childhood? Without fail, every time I take that approach Andrea calls my hand on it. Whatever question I’ve asked or opinion I’ve expressed, Andrea’s automatic default response is, “I hope you’re as engaging in the details of Craig and Becky’s life as you are ours.” That generally leaves both of us smiling and ends whatever conversation or advice I wanted to share. She is really good at her game. She didn’t have to take assertive training classes during her childhood, she simply watched the General at work and adapted the same approach.

The only time I’ve knowingly overstepped boundaries was shortly after Andrea and Kevin’s marriage nine years ago. Actually, I think the dialogue was between Andrea and I, but I’m sure she communicated it to Kevin. Andrea had been in a car accident and totaled her two-year old vehicle. I made the assumption they would purchase a new car.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking smart people don’t buy new cars. They buy one a couple of years old and avoid all the depreciation. The first car the General and I purchased together reportedly was a “demonstrator” from a car dealer. I think it had 3,000 miles on it. When all the title related documents came back, they reflected the car had been previously purchased by a car rental agency nine months before. Somehow that just put a sour taste in my mouth. Since that time, I’ve never bought a used car unless it was an “extra” and secondary to my need for dependable transportation.

Being a supportive father and father-in-law, I offered to go car shopping with Andrea and Kevin. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they didn’t need my help. They didn’t say that, but they didn’t invite me to go with them either.

So what did they buy? They bought a Nissan Murano. It was two or three years old, in mint condition, had all the bells and whistles and only had 60,000 miles. I didn’t ask the cost, but Andrea volunteered the information. “Dad we got a really good deal. It only cost $….”.  I’m still hoping that my gasp wasn’t audible, but they could have bought a new car without the frills for about the same price. The new car would have been under warranty. The, “I’m really happy for you,” that came from my lips probably didn’t sound sincere (I guess you could file that away as a white lie).

That was about the time I discovered I needed blood pressure medication. What were they thinking? It was abundantly clear to me that the car had been salvaged from a Houston flood and would be anything other than dependable, stable transportation. Of course, I know nothing about automobiles. It was just a worst-case possible scenario. For some reason that seemed like a rational conclusion.

In the years that followed, do you have any idea how many times I bit my tongue and didn’t say, “If you had followed by advice…?” Actually, I’m smarter than that. I have carefully voided that phrase. I waited about four years and when the vehicle was in the automotive repair shop (chronic issue related to “check engine” light being illuminated for the thousandth time), I simply said, “I’m hopeful you’ll opt for a new car with warranty next time.”

In the preceding nine years, never once have I heard either Kevin or Andrea say they wish they had a new car. From time to time, they’d say, “Car repairs are still better than car payments.” Actually, that made me proud. I couldn’t agree more (Well, up to a point).

Today Andrea and Kevin had other plans for after church, so we didn’t share lunch. Mid-afternoon, Andrea telephoned and asked if they could stop by for a visit. I don’t know why they always call before they come over unless it is simply to role model what they expect from us if we are headed their way. For the record, we always call first.

Barnabas announced their arrival before they made it to the front door. I walked outside and couldn’t believe my eyes. Wow! They were in a new car. It was a dark metallic blue 2015 Audi crossover. Both smiled when they told me it was new. It only had seven miles on it when they picked it up. Kevin also said, “Don, You’ll be glad to know it has a 50,000 mile warranty)

One of defining characteristics of Andrea is her willingness to wait to get what she wants. After looking at the color options, she wanted the dark metallic blue. Unfortunately, the only choices available were white, black, grey and another shade of blue. Consequently, she opted to order the car and wait. She had a good point. If you only buy a car every nine years or so, you might as well get what you want.

I was a little surprised when Andrea and Kevin said they placed the order for the car in November. Reportedly, they anticipated it would take three months, not five. They also picked the car up from the dealer a week ago. That being said, the General and I are the first to know. Because of the rain this past week, Andrea opted not to drive the car to work. Like I said, they are private people. I doubt that they mention the new car to anyone. I guess that is an extra advantage of reading my blog. I tell everything I know.

All My Best!

Don

The Graveyards Are Filled With Indispensable Men

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Is it true that graveyards are filled with indispensable men? Can compassion, companionship and a sense of belonging be outsourced to inanimate objects? Do people really need others or is that just a myth that belonged to another generation and another time? Obviously social media and electronic forums of communication have transformed relational paradigms in our society. However, those connections build on the fabric of personal communication and connection. Do people still need people?

Today’s world is a very different from the one of my childhood, adolescence, young- adulthood and even (I say this reluctantly) adulthood. For all practical purposes, I am a senior citizen. Is it possible that in my lifetime that we will mistakenly denigrate the importance of those with whom we share life

John Ortberg writes: “Everything keeps changing. In the time it took infants to become adolescents we all got cell phones and iPods and GPS’s and TiVo’s. The economy keeps changing. This is in a viral video called Did You Know? The top 10 in-demand jobs that will be around in 2010 did not exist in 2004, which means we’re preparing kids for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies we have not yet invented. There was a day when people looked for steady jobs…50 years…retirement…gold watch…pension. No more. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average student will have 10 to 14 jobs…by the age of 38, by the time they’re 38 years old.

When it comes to high tech, my daughter and son-in-law get it. How many people do you know who have the ability to adjust the temperature on their home’s thermostat from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet capability? I’m not sure why they needed that feature, but it puts them way ahead of me when I wish the room were warmer before I get out of bed in the morning.

My daughter works long hours and she is most at home in the kitchen. She loves to cook. In fact, she is such a fan of fine dining and exquisite meals, she opted not to put a microwave in their new home. She didn’t want one. Crazy isn’t it? Who’s got the time to prepare a meal the old fashion way? She’d go hungry before she’d eat fast food or anything that didn’t come from Whole Foods.

So how does one cook and clean? There simply isn’t that many hours in the day. Well, my high tech daughter has it figured out. The new Roomba 880 Robot Vacuum features the revolutionary AeroForce™ Performance Cleaning System. Roomba 880 removes up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair and debris from all floor types. The tangle-free AeroForce™ Extractors are virtually maintenance-free, making it even easier for Roomba to tackle daily dirt build-up. Roomba 880 even cleans one room before moving on to the next for effortless, room-to-room cleaning.

Call me old school if you want to, but I much prefer the system we use in our home. The General (aka – my wife) vacuums the floors the old fashion way. With her German heritage, I can assure you that our home is always spotless and clean enough to eat off the floor. Of course, she’d provide a disclaimer that my office is no man’s land. She isn’t going to clean up after me. She’d call that enabling and she owes it to me to ensure I get it right.

Recently, my friend Dave mentioned in passing that robots are being developed to help with nursing home care. So many elderly patients live in virtual isolation from family and friends. Perhaps it is the out-of-sight/out-of-mind mentality of an “its-all-about me generation” that negates the any personal responsibility or familial responsibility for aging parents.

I have a friend whose son sent her a letter several years ago saying that he loved her and would always love her, but that he never wanted to see her again. Over the years, a number of extended family members have made him aware of his mother’s need for familial support, but he obviously is busy “doing the Lord’s work in the church that he leads” that he has no empathy or even a passing interest in her welfare or well-being.

How many people in nursing homes or extended care facilities have been put on the back-burner of importance because family members are too busy to care? They have their lives to live. God help those who helped them because they “owe it to themselves to be self-absorbed.”

A Google search yielded the following: “The number of elderly in the industrialized world is expected to grow significantly over the course of the next two decades. Alongside this growth in the elderly population, many nations, including the US and Japan, face short and long-term labor shortages in the healthcare sector. A number of projects in both countries have sought to address this perceived shortage by developing interactive robotic assistants to work in home and assisted-living environments.”

“The development of robotic creatures for senior care and research and its impact on senior life is being studied worldwide. For example, in Japan, Matsushita in 1999 created the robotic cat Tama, which looks like a plush toy but is networked to its owner’s health care service center, and is intended to be a companion to senior users. Tama responds happily when it is stroked, and speaks to its owner, sharing “encouraging messages” and reminders programmed by health care workers at a distance. In the United States, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University launched a major collaborative research and development effort in this area, and have been testing their ‘nursebot,’ Pearl, at an assisted-living facility. InTouch Health has developed the mobile robot Companion to assist and interact with the elderly by putting providers and family members in direct contact with seniors through an interactive LCD screen as its ‘face’.”

Perhaps the graveyards are filled with the Indispensable. When God pronounced that it was not good for man to live alone, I don’t think robotic companionship is what he had in mind. If that is the best we can do, we are doomed.

All My Best

Don

Good News/Bad News

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The General (aka – my wife) announced to me yesterday that the grandkids don’t want to go home tomorrow. Before she could tell me more, I interrupted her to say, “Great! You’ve just given me a topic for tomorrow’s blog. I can see it in print now, ‘The good news is the kids don’t want to go home! (Abbreviated pause) The bad news is the kids don’t want to go home.’” I guess I thought it was pretty clever. I laughed; the General did not! At times she really needs to lighten up.

Her only response was something closely akin to: “You spend all your time either working or writing your blog.” It wasn’t followed by a lecture. There was no, “You didn’t do x,y or z.” She didn’t make accusations related to being inattentive, neglectful or preoccupied. It was simply a statement of fact based on her perception. “You spend all of your time either working or writing a blog.”

Lesson learned: “Keep my blog ideas to myself and let the General be surprised if and when she reads them”.  I am in the process of posting my blog on a different platform. It is one where an individual can subscribe and automatically be notified through email when the next blog is available. In fact, you might check out the link and select “Follow” (https://lifeblogcarpediem.wordpress.com). I’m not holding my breath that the General will select the “Follow” button. Only time will tell and I may never know.

At any rate, she went on to say, “They want to stay until Sunday.” I immediately thought, “Hello Houston, we’ve got a problem”! We had agreed to take them halfway home and hand them off to their parents. The traffic will be horrible on Sunday afternoon. That is particularly true since Sunday is the last day of spring break.

While I was thrilled with the affirmation that the kids want to stay with us as long as possible, I was also less than enthusiastic related to the thought of being in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunday. I can make good decisions when needed. If left to the General’s discretion, she’d have no problem waiting until Sunday. Of course, she wouldn’t be the one driving.

I took the day off work yesterday to stay home with the kids. In the quietness of the early morning, I was attempting to process some of the features associated with the new blog site. Jake walked into my office and said, “Granddad, do you want to know what I do to get the cows attention?” I responded, “Sure”. He replied, “You’ll have to come with me.” To which I replied, “Right now I’m working on something, but when I get finished I will come with you.”   Apparently, my response was unsatisfactory.

His body language was very expressive. His voice resonated with urgency as he said, “Granddad, what you are doing is not a life or death situation. I need you to come with me now.” I was hooked, but curious. “Jake, where did you learn the expression, “Life or death situation?” He replied, “I learned it from my brother. He says it all the time.”

I followed Jake outside. What he did to get the cows attention even got my attention. He had a toy pistol (purchased with the General’s permission from the Dollar General). In my day, we’d have called it a cap gun. It was a different configuration, but it was loud. It sounded like a real pistol.

Seeing the delight on his face took me back to long ago. How many gunfights did I engage in playing “cowboys” with my brothers and other kids in the neighborhood? It was one of our favorite activities.

Having grandchildren with us typically is a feel-good experience. For the most part they are absolutely delightful and their behavior is flawless. The operative phrase is “for the most part”. Sometimes they can come off as a little bossy. Perhaps, they’ve seen Gram role model that for them. Maybe I’m old and set in my ways, but I don’t like being told what to do. A couple of times through the week, I found myself calmly responding, “Are you asking or telling? Why don’t we try that again with respect?” Each time the gentle redirection worked. Actually, I was surprised with the smile that prefaced the “I’m sorry” statements and their reframing the previous command into a request.

I also noticed the General was amazingly skilled with the kids. “Why don’t we use our inside voices instead of our outside voices?” She also was very patient. One evening at dinner, I told Jenna and Lilian (both age eleven), “When Gram was your age she was cooking the evening meal for her family”. The General chimed in, “I was also washing the dishes, doing the ironing and cleaning the house”. I couldn’t help myself. “So kids, now you know the truth. Your Gram is really Cinderella. I came along and saved the day!” The General was not amused. However, the next day, the girls did make homemade cookies from scratch. Gram also orchestrated the expectation that beds be made-up every morning. She really runs a tight ship. I should know, I’ve been the source of lots of redirection.

Actually, I think the General and I would be better parents today than we were with our children. Part of that is having a better understanding today of what is ultimately important for children. An authoritative parenting style that permits children to have “a voice” rather than authoritarian style (law and order) where any misdeed is punished with consequences seems to work best in providing nurture and support. Sometimes the gentle reminder, “Why don’t we try that again with respect” is all that is needed.

By the way, I’m not ready for the kids to go home either.

All My Best!

Don

South by Southwest (aka – SXSW) – Who Switched The Price Tags

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(Photo – Brianna Smith/Facebook)

Traffic! Austin, TX is crawling with folks in town for South by Southwest (aka – SXSW). The SXSW film, interactive, and musical festivals and conferences began in Austin 1987. I remember hearing the sound of music along auditorium shores. Since that time, SXSW has experienced phenomenal growth in both scope and size. Today, SXSW Music is the largest musical festival of its kind in the world. This year there are over 2,200 official performers and bands playing in more than one hundred different venues. Downtown Austin is literally busting at the seams with cars and people. The term “crawling” fairly reflects the movement of traffic; both pedestrian and automobile.

Did I mention that I don’t like crowds? Although has been almost 40 years, I remember my first and only concert at the Armadillo World Headquarters located across from auditorium shores. The place was packed with avid fans and the place soon filled with a low-lying purple haze and a strange smell. Of course, the purple haze could have had something to do with the concert lighting. However, according to folks in the know (I wasn’t one of them), there was only one reasonable explanation for the smell.

I guess I have a tendency to be cautious. I don’t want to be in the middle of a crowd in the most predictable of circumstances.   Add a couple of variables including alcohol and a strange smelling purple haze and the formula could represent trouble. In fact, with the right kind of manipulation a crowd might be enticed to do who knows what?

SXSW has been in the news this week. It is a crowded venue that adds to the ambience of the city and has a tremendous favorable financial impact to local economy. Unfortunately, not all the news associated with Austin this week has been favorable. Perhaps I should rephrase that and be more specific. The National news related to Austin this week is calling attention to something other than music at SXSW.

Some think the origin was intended as a joke. If so, it wasn’t funny! Other’s think something more sinister is at work. Regardless of intent, the issue carries with it the potential to become a Molotov cocktail related to race relations and carries with it the potential to incite violence.

According to yesterday’s posting on the Huffington Post in an article written by Lilly Worknah, “At least six businesses in Austin have been plastered with stickers reading ‘Exclusively for White People’, drawing condemnation from the state’s residents, lawmakers and NAACP representatives”.

The sticker actually reads: “Exclusively For White People. Maximum of 5 colored customers. Colored BOH staff accepted. Sponsored by the City of Austin Contemporary Partition and Restoration Program.” (“BOH staff” refers to “back of house” workers, employees who do not usually interact

An electronic posting of the Statesman yesterday at 2:45 p.m. made reference to the same issue: “Austin Mayor Steve Adler has condemned racially charged stickers placed on several East Austin businesses Wednesday.

‘This is an appalling and offensive display of ignorance in our city,’ he said in a statement”.

“The statement, sent by the city around 2:30 p.m., said the party responsible for making the stickers was not authorized to use the city’s logo or claim the city’s sponsorship”.

“The city has also concluded that the businesses that were defaced with the stickers neither made nor knowingly displayed them, according to the statement”.

Reportedly, a Texas lawmaker wants a finding of facts before reaching a conclusion. According to the Statesman, one Austin lawmaker posted “ If this is a joke at all, it is tasteless. … I will be damned if this will occur in my House District … in this historical black community or any community.”

“She wrote that city officials are investigating the origins of the sticker but urged people to not support the store until  ‘some explaining’ is done.”

“If the explanation is unbelievable …. They need to be put out of business, ASAP,” she wrote.

Another lawmaker is quoted, “I’m waiting for the facts on it—who, what, where. It kind of sounds like some fraternity prank to me. But doing something like that is not funny at all…Institutional racism is what it point to.”

In Tony Campolo’s book entitled “Who Switched The Price Tags,” he tells of a time in his boyhood when he and his best friend devised “what we thought was a brilliant and creative plan for mischief. We decided to break into the basement of the local five-and-dime store. We did not plan to rob the place (Sunday School boys would never do that sort of thing); instead we planned to do something that, as far as the owner of the store was concerned, would have been far worse. Our plan was to get into that five-and-dime store and change the price tags on things.”

“We imagined what it would be like the next morning when people came into the store and discovered that radios were selling for a quarter and bobby pins were priced at five dollars each. With diabolical glee, we wondered what it would be like in that store when nobody could figure out what the prices of things really should be”.

I agree with the lawmaker. There should be a finding of facts before conclusions are reached related to the investigation. However, in the interim (representing John Q Public), I am choosing to hope that the lack of civility and respect will prove to be nothing more than the thoughtless acts of youth who failed to recognize the inappropriateness of their actions.

All My Best!

Don

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?

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How much is enough? What constitutes the good life? What is your net worth? If you don’t know the answers, what additional information do you need to make a calculated guess? Is it all about stuff? Is it about power? Is it about money? Is it about something else?

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes, economist, predicted that within a century the per capita income would rise to a level that basic needs could be met and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week. If Keynes was correct, a lot has to change in the next fifteen years. Currently we are way off track to see the fulfillment of that prophecy.

During the industrial revolution, it wasn’t uncommon for factories to operate night and day. Consequently, many employees clocked in ten-to-sixteen hours a day. Perhaps it was under the auspices of “let us help you help us” that Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, established the 5-day/40-hour work-week in the1920s. According to a blog posted by Mikael Cho, the rationale for doing so was not tied to scientific reasons (or solely for the health of his employees). “It was primarily orchestrated to create free time for employees to enable them to go out and realize they needed to buy stuff”.

“In an interview published in World’s Work magazine in 1926, Ford explains why he switched his workers from a 6-day, 48-hour workweek to a 5-day, 40-hour workweek but still paid employees the same wages:

“Leisure is an indispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market because working people need to have enough free time to find uses for consumer products, including automobiles…” -Henry Ford

“So the 8-hour work day, 5-day workweek wasn’t chosen as the way to work for scientific reasons; instead, it was partly driven by the goal of increasing consumption.”

How much is enough? What is the value of money? At the age of 14, I got my first part time after-school job as a soda jerk in an ice cream store. Actually, the job title may be off a tad, but you get the jest. I was responsible for dipping ice cream (3 dips for a dime or one dip for five cents) and frying hamburgers and french-fries. My beginning pay rate was $.50 an hour. Nine years later, as a college gradate, full-time employee, with responsibilities associated to protecting children from abuse and neglect, my pay rate was $500 a month.

Obviously 44 years ago, $500 bought a lot more than it does today. That being said, it was not automatically the formula for living on “easy street.” I remember early in my career track, I used to worry about lack of dispensable income. I loved the work, but the rate of pay was not commensurate with all the facets or variables associated with the American dream. It didn’t represent a short cut for getting the house you always wanted in a desirable neighborhood. It may have been enough to slightly edge you out of the lower-class category, but it fell way short of the upper-class category.

Is our net worth a variable equating to where one falls on a pay scale? Is one’s value associated to the positioning of where one falls on that roster compared to others?

Perhaps one’s net worth has nothing to do with income level or social class affiliation. It may simply be the range of influence that person contributes to the well-being of others. Dr. Bruce Perry says we’ve got it all wrong. When you look at the limited threshold associated to brain development and learning, the optimal time for a child to learn is in the first three years of life. Parents often defer childcare responsibilities to a minimum wage level employee whose day-to-day involvement in their child’s life is influential and significant. We pay those people almost nothing. On the other hand, a college professor is highly esteemed and paid significantly higher than teachers in lower grade levels. Yet, in reality, the range of influence and impact that professor makes has a lower level impact than those who touch a child’s life at an earlier age.

I have such an appreciation for teachers. Too, often, theirs is a thankless job. One evening this week, I thanked a friend for the investment he makes in the lives of fourth graders. He has the ability to garner attention and creatively promote an environment where children are open to learning. How do you calculate the range of influence and the positive impact he makes in a child’s life? The memory will be life-long for those he touches in the classroom.

Could he use his skill set in a different capacity and double or triple his income? Perhaps he could, but would he enjoy his work as much? Would he be using his natural gifts and abilities? Would he still have the same range of influence to make a life-long difference for others? Probably not is my best answer. That leads me to ask again, “What is one’s net value?” Is that calculated by looking at one’s financial portfolio or is it something entirely different? I’m inclined to think that the best answer has nothing to do with one’s level of income.

I still remember the names of all of my elementary school teachers. I remember their abilities to orchestrate within me a thirst for more knowledge and a quest for learning. Who knows the impact that a teacher has with a student that could potentially change his or her world for life. Better yet, the difference could impact my world and yours.

All My Best!

Don

Spring Break 2015

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On Monday night, the General (aka – my wife) set her alarm for 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. She planned to pick Lilian up at 7:30 in Lakeway and then venture as far east as LaGrange. Becky, our daughter-in-law, is taking a master gardener’s certification course and was scheduled for coursework in that location. She agreed to meet Treva and allow her to transport their kids back to our home for spring break.

On Monday evening when the General announced plans to set her alarm for 5:00 a.m. the following morning, she instructed me to stay in bed until 5:30. I thought it a little presumptive since I’m generally on my way to work before 6:00. Under the category of “pick you battles”, I decided she could shower first. Besides that, I’ve mentioned before that the General like’s to win. I could have tried the “I’m the head of the household and I need to get to work” approach, but the remote possibility that she might wash my mouth out with soap loomed in the periphery of my thoughts.

I could easily defer to her plan. I generally do (my perception, not hers). I’d simply post my blog before my shower instead of following. It represented a subtle breach of protocol by necessitating the need for me to change my routine, but it was manageable. I am not old and set in my ways. Besides that, it has been a very long time since the General has been aware that 5:00 comes twice a day.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until 5:30. Instead, I awakened at 3:45 a.m. Considering the time I opted to count sheep before falling to sleep a few (very few) hours earlier that was way too early for me. Something in my head was resistive to the notion of getting out of bed. My subliminal messages were all saying, “No! No! No!”

As an alternative to getting out of bed and preparing for the day, the receptors in my brain defaulted to thoughts of my blog. Our friend Dave (also a twin) who is less than half-my-age and twice-as-smart opted to share the evening with the General and I. His wife is out of town this week and he is on spring break. During the course of the evening we talked of many things.

He offered to “help” me transfer my blog to a different platform that is more user- friendly. It also provides others an option to “follow” or subscribe to my blog. Consequently, those desiring the communication will be alerted each time I make a posting.

Dave is a kind man. He offered to “help me” knowing full well that I am “absolutely clueless” in negotiating any of the necessary steps to make the reformatted platform work. In other words, he was volunteering to do all the work and camouflage the fact that I was a non-contributing participant. Kindness is a great virtue!

Did I mention that he, too, has a General and he doesn’t even know it yet? Please don’t read this with any sense of negative connotation (I’m hoping he will not. Better, yet, I’m praying she will not). The only value judgment I am making is, “He married well. He is a lucky guy!

The couple just moved into their first new home two weeks ago. As his bride (of almost three years) was heading out of town for the week for work, she presented him with a list of things he needed to accomplish while she is away. As he talked with me, he was extremely grateful for the list. He said it would help him stay focused.

He didn’t go into many details, but I gathered the list is more closely akin to a graduate level dissertation than a yellow “Stick-Em” with two or three things listed. Hey, I know the drill. Been there, done that! I’m living the life! It is a good life, but it brings with it an abundance of structure, support and accountability.

I don’t always carefully follow the General’s instructions. Why bother to set my alarm at all? She would awaken me after she got out of the shower. Besides that, it was late (or early the following morning) when I got to bed. Did I mention I take my self-imposed responsibility to post a blog every morning seriously? Of course, it is mostly nonsense, but it is an accurate accounting for a portion of my day. More often than not, I pull my thoughts together the evening before the posting the following morning.

Of course, it would have been easier for the kids to stay with us all week. They were here for the weekend; however, family plans for the Houston rodeo on Monday night trumped that plan. Consequently, the General agreed to pick them up on Tuesday.

Frankly, I was a little surprised. She is generally a little reluctant to drive anywhere near Austin when SXSW is taking place. Obviously, the anticipation of spending time with grandchildren was the catalyst of throwing caution to the wind.

I was late getting home after work on Tuesday. The kids had already eaten, but they eagerly awaited my arrival. They said in unison, “Granddad, we want to watch you open your present.” I had no idea what they were talking about. I learned in short order that the General has been doing more than putting jigsaw puzzles together while I’ve been working.

She participated in a labor of love that had to be extremely time consuming. She designed and cross-stitched a framed banner that reads, “Carpe Diem!” It is signed by “TF 2015” in the lower right corner. She also had it framed. The framing wasn’t available to pick up until Monday. I interrupted her kindness as a visible affirmation of her perceived value associated to my daily writing.

Toward the end of Tuesday afternoon before I got home, the General had taken the kids to “the jump house” in Dripping Springs to play on indoor trampolines. Once they returned home, in their exhausted state, the General outlined the game plan for the week (She is good at structure and accountability). She likes making lists.

She asked each child to identify a favorite meal they’d like to have this week with the commitment to make it. She said, “There will be more than enough for everyone to eat the same thing. If by chance, someone didn’t want what was on the menu, they could have a peanut butter sandwich.

When I got home, the General had a short list of things for me to do as well. Empty the trash. Jake and William wanted to assist me by walking down the driveway to the trash container. I really needed a trash truck, rather than two overly zealous boys, but I agreed they could carry a small bag. I carried the other larger bag in my car.

When we got to the end of the drive and deposited the trash, I invited the boys to get in the car. The six year old wanted to walk back. I countered, “Why don’t you climb inside the car and I’ll let you drive back to the house?” He broke into a smile from ear to ear. As he climbed onto my lap, both boys asked questions. “Do we have to wear our seat belts?” I responded, “We’re not going to go over 5mph and with the exception of turning around in the road, we’ll be on a private drive. It is okay not to wear the seat belt. We aren’t going to be in traffic and we aren’t going to go fast”.

Of course, the six year old wanted to go fast. He also mused, “Granddad, did we just do two things that are illegal?” I assured him that this one time, on private property, it was okay. I hope the Commanding Officers (aka – his parents) agree with my counsel.

By 9:00 p.m., the General provided the structure to complete everything on her list for the day. She ensured that all four children had a bath and were in bed.  It was quiet in the house.  I guess there is much to be said for maintaining a list and getting it all done.

All My Best!

Don