Sometime It Pays To Pay For Hotel Parking

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Do you ever let insignificant frustrations put a damper on your day? From time to time, I guess we all do. I think of myself as pretty laid-back and easy going. It takes a lot to push my buttons. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the same thing the Honorary General will think when she sees what I’ve written. I guess a more accurate statement would be, “For anyone other than the Honorary General, it takes a lot to push my buttons.

Unlike the general public, the Honorary General has known me since childhood. She should and does know the kinds of things that set off the alarms in my head. Consequently, I have higher standards for her.  Actually, all of the stuff I write about in my blog is 100% factual (based on my limited perception). It is not fiction as Treva maintains. Sometimes I can’t believe my ears concerning her need to offer wise counsel and redirection.

Yesterday evening I was working on a document that I needed prepared for work. “Why are you doing that?” was her first question. I answered her question and she asked a second question, “Isn’t there anyone else you work with who could do that?” When I offered the explanation that some of the information is stored in my head, she countered, “So, if you want it done right you have to be the one to do it?”   I didn’t answer her question, but I did let the concept roll around in my head for awhile. I don’t think I come across to other people that I’m reluctant to delegate.

Yesterday when I returned from Dallas, I told my boss that I only had 9 ½ more years to do this. He smiled and commented that I must be having a bad day. I routinely remind that him I have 10 more years left. However, when I’m frustrated, I will shorten the projected retirement date by six months. Consequently, depending on what’s happening, I’m closing in on having less than a decade left before I launch on a new career.

I have maintained for years that life is too short to live in Dallas. There is something about the concrete jungle and the congestion associated to the Metropolis that I find confining. Truthfully, the thing I found bothersome was insignificant, but it left me frustrated.

I’ve mentioned before that I am frugal. I seldom give myself permission to be needlessly extravagant when it comes to finances. That is true of my personal finances and it is true of my work related finances. I always travel via Priceline if I can make it work for me. I routinely get an incredible deal on a very nice hotel room and I do it for a fraction of the regular retail cost.

I generally bid on Priceline, but when I made my room reservation for my overnight stay in Dallas, I looked at “Express Deals” before opting to bid. As it turned out, there was a four-star hotel in the section of town I wanted to stay for a hugely discounted price. Of course, I didn’t know the name of the hotel until I made the purchase, but the cost was low enough that I opted to purchase direct rather than bid.

When I received confirmation of the hotel, I told myself it was both good and bad news. The Hilton Anatole Hotel is nice. I’ve stayed there a number of times. I could have done worse. The downside was that you have to pay for parking. Did I mention that $19 to $20 a night to park you car seems like gouging the public even if you did get a good price on the room through Priceline.

I arrived at the hotel just as the 5:00 traffic was beginning to build. Pulling into the drive, I made my way to self-parking. Taking the ticket from the machine, I saw that the rate to park was $19 a day. It was a long way from the parking lot to the registration desk and I bemoaned the need to pay for parking with every step.

The desk clerk who took by driver’s license and credit card to sign me in, looked at his computer, looked at me and then said, I’ll be right back. I watched as he went to two different computers before returning. He didn’t ask which I wanted first, but he said, “I’ve got good news for you and I’ve got bad news for you. The bad news is that the hotel is completely full and we don’t have any more rooms. The good news is that we’ve secured a room for you at a different hotel.

I didn’t get rattled, but I was less than thrilled. Did I mention there is nothing like getting back into Dallas traffic at the end of a workday? I was thrilled (well, not so much)! The desk clerk had secured a room for me at the Hyatt Reunion Tower. I’ve stayed there many times and I really like the hotel. When I stay there, I generally manage to talk the desk clerk into assigning me a room near the top with a view of the city. I always voluntarily promise that I’ll stay inside and not go out the window.

When I stay at the Hyatt Reunion Tower, I always park on the street. It negates the need for paid parking.   Getting booted from the Anatole would have been a WIN/WIN if it weren’t for the traffic. Oh, yes, I guess there is one other downside. The closest on-the-street parking is actually about 2 ½ blocks away. You have to negotiate getting through Union Station and then walk through the tunnel under the train tracks to get to the hotel.

Making it to from the Anatole to the Hyatt was almost effortless. The GPS routed me a different way that I would have normally chosen to travel. I managed to find a parking place without difficulty. In no time, I had erased the inconvenience of getting booted out of the Anatole.

I don’t know how long I had been in my room. I had worked (real work) on my computer for a period of time. At some point, I realized that I didn’t have my cellphone. I thought I remembered having it in the hotel room. I looked everywhere I could think to look at least twice. Could I have left my cell phone in the car? I certainly hoped so.

I retraced my steps. I walked through the hotel, down the escalator, through the tunnel, and out the door of Union Station. What was going on? There was a bus parked alongside my car. In fact, my car was the only car parked on the entire block. Had I missed signage that said “No Parking?” The alarm bells in my head were beginning to sound.

There was a police car parked in the street behind my car and behind the bus. I cautiously approached my car from the curbside. I opened the door, looked in, gave a huge sigh of relief and recovered my cellphone. I then refocused. I looked at the vacated street. I looked at the policeman. I looked at the bus. I looked at a second official looking car as it pulled up behind the policeman’s car. I asked, “Is it okay for me to park here?”

The police officer said, “Sure” and asked if my name was Stephenson. I said, “No”. He asked if I was the owner of the car. I responded that the car belongs to my work. He then asked, Is that “Children at Heart Ministries”? I said “Yes”.   He then said, “Your car has been involved in an accident. I need to see your driver’s license.”

Walking to the other side of the car, the first thing I noticed was that the rearview mirror on the driver’s side was hanging on by the wiring. The driver’s door and front left fender had been dramatically altered. A Dallas City bus had sideswiped my car. It was one of those days that I allowed insignificant frustrations to put a damper on my day. It was a day that it would have paid to pay for hotel parking.

All My Best!

Don

Are You The Duck You Might Have Been?

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It was a left handed compliment.  The President of a children’s home telephoned me two or three weeks ago and asked for shared time.  He wanted an opportunity to visit with me to ask about my thoughts regarding the future of residential childcare.  He said he was hopeful his program director could join us. I mentioned in passing that I was scheduled for a meeting in Dallas and if it would be easier for them, I could visit with them while I was in close proximity.    He said, “Great! Why don’t we meet for lunch?

As the date of our scheduled meeting came close, he subsequently asked where I’d like to meet for lunch.  I responded, “I’m open and flexible.  Since you’re more familiar with the area, it is your call”.   Later he emailed me the name of a restaurant I’d never heard of before. He added the notation that it was one of his favorite places to eat. It was Bread Winners Café & Bakery on McKinney Avenue.  Reportedly, the restaurant has been in that same location for years.  It has the reputation for being exceptional.

The building is both old and architecturally interesting.  Both indoor and outdoor dining is available.  The three of us congregated outside initially and we almost opted to stay outside.  As a second thought, the program director suggested that we dine indoors since I had not been there before.  She said she thought I’d enjoy seeing the building. She was right.  There were interior walls of exposed brick, stained glass other objects of interest.  It was a very interesting building.

The thing that most fascinated me about the building and restaurant is that it is located on the same street I lived on when I lived in Dallas.  The apartment complex I lived in was less than ten to twelve blocks away.  I guess at some level I’m a creature of habit.  I had never driven by the restaurant before.  The route I took to work and back was within a block of the restaurant.  I always turned one block short of discovering an interesting place to eat.

So what am I supposed to learn from that?  I think what is true for me could possibly be true for many. Don’t we have a tendency to be creatures of habit?  Is it possible that our life “settles for less than the best” because we don’t give ourselves permission or motivation to do it differently.  “Same ole, same ole” is often used to denounce that which is boring or annoying. Do you remember the lyrics to the song, “Is That All There Is?”  The song is not a happy song.  How many people do you know who appear to find absolutely no enjoyment in living?  They appear to simply be going through the motions.    Sometimes we need to broaden our boundaries, give ourselves permission to experience new things, color outside the lines and add variety to our lives.

Once we were seated, the three of us immediately engaged in conversation.  The waiter, stopped by with menus, took our drink orders and delivered appetizers for our consumption. He was very personable and engaging.  A short time later, he stopped back by and of course, we had to confess that we had not yet looked at the menu.

The third time, we opted to quickly look at the menu.  I was the last to order, but I opted to do something I’ve never done before.  I turned to the waiter and said, “Billy, You work here.  You know what’s good. I’d like to ask a favor of you without any pressure.  Would you place my order for me.  I’d like whatever you would order if you were having lunch here.  You don’t even have to tell me what it is.  I’ll gladly take whatever you choose.  How’s that for being bold and daring?

As it turned out, my lunch was exceptional.  The conversation was as well.  In the course of discussing the future of residential child care, several things about their program came to light that I found interesting.  The agency where these folks work chooses to refer to their staffing plan as “an extended family model.” Initially, I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but it sounded very positive.  They reportedly moved from the live-in houseparent model after they had a really negative experience with one houseparent. In essence he said, “We had a houseparent who moved out.  The apartment was totally trashed. Another guy and I cleaned it out. It was obvious the houseparent’s dog was never permitted to go outside for any reason.  In addition to the dog’s mess, we found drug pariphenalia.  Consequently we resolved to do it differently going forward”.  In essence they moved from a live-in family care model to a shift-staff arrangement.  They very cleverly camouflage the staffing pattern by calling it the “extended family model”.  The way they describe their experience, it sounds positive.  They are primarily using students in both undergraduate and graduate programs.  Consequently their work force is youthful, bright, energetic, idealistic, creative and very well received by the children with whom they work.  We use that same model in our emergency shelter, but I still strongly support the live-in houseparent model for longer-term care due to the longevity of relationships.  When your workforce is college students, you receive great benefits from their idealism and energy level, but it is time limited.  Most often it is not a career track for them.

They mentioned in passing that they once re-employed an individual who had previously done an exceptional job.  The second time around was over a decade later and the employee’s performance was less than anticipated. The staff person had lost their enthusiasm, their passion for doing the work and there was no indication she experienced any degree of satisfaction from her investment of time.  That, too, is sad.

At any rate, my friend then shared a story that very closely resembled a poem entitled “The Barnyard Ducks”. It is a vivid reminder that life lived under the threshold of “same ole, same ole” negates the discovery of adventure and sense of purpose.  As you inventory your life, do you sense that you are not the duck you might have been?  Maybe life gets stagnant because we don’t give ourselves permission or motivation to do it differently.

The Barnyard Ducks

There are three ducks in our backyard

Dabbling in the mud and trying hard

To get their share, or even more,

Of the overflowing barnyard store

Satisfied with the task they’re at

Of eating, and sleeping, and just getting fat

But whenever the free, wild ducks fly by

Their long line streaming across the sky

They cock a quizzical, puzzled eye

And flap their wings and try to fly

Oh, I think my soul is a tame old duck

Dabbling around in barnyard muck

Fat and lazy, with useless wings

Yet sometimes, when the North wind sings

And wild ones hurtle overhead

It remembers something lost and dead

And cocks a lazy, bewildered eye

And flaps its wings, and tries to fly

Oh it’s content with the state it’s in

But it’s not the duck it might have been

All My Best!

Don

Love Is A Four Legged Word

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My daughter calls it Camp Gram. The camp is located in a serene country setting with an incredible view. It terms of creature comforts, the camp comes equipped with all the attention two yellow Labs could possible need. The makeshift “pampered-pet” animal shelter is exclusively a place of lodging for the two dogs belonging to our daughter and son-in-law. Actually, that’s not totally correct. When my son’s family comes to visit, they also bring their two dogs that I have endearingly named “Trouble” and “More Trouble.”

You are probably wondering, so I’ll simply provide full disclosure. The answer is “Yes.” “Yes” there are times that we have the dubious honor of keeping all four dogs in our home. Add Barnabas (The Honorary General’s treasured Yorkie) to the mix and you’ve got trouble personified. Sometimes I simply want to bark back, but I’m sure no one would offer me a treat for doing so.

The thing that puzzles me is how the Honorary General can consistently come across so pleasant and kind when she’s talking “baby-talk” to any of those yelping dogs. At times I think it is purposeful passive-aggressive behavior on her part. She does it because she knows it drives me a little crazy. How can she (she being the Honorary General) bark at me one minutes and be so “lovey-dovey” with those dogs the next? It just doesn’t add up.

When I left for work yesterday morning, I submerged the “night-guard” I use at night in Polident. I purposefully left it throughout the day for a long over-due cleaning. If I confessed how long it had been since it was last cleaned, you’d find it disgusting. You’d probably also say I have no right to complain about a dog’s breath. Mine probably isn’t a lot better if the night-guard has been in my mouth.

At any rate, when I got in from work yesterday, I retrieved the night-guard, rinsed the container out in the bathroom sink and walked with it to the kitchen. I’m a creature of habit. I set the glass in the kitchen sink. It was like she had eyes in the back of her head. “Put that in the dishwasher” was the immediate command. Without giving it a moment’s thought, I pulled open the dishwasher. As I was pulling it open, I noticed the blue light was illuminated. Well, it was illuminated for a brief second. As I opened the door to add my glass to the dishwasher,  I closed it again without doing so. The light went off.

It was not a sign that the world was coming to an end. Actually, it should have been no big deal. The owner/operator of Camp Gram provided verbal gentle redirection with an undercurrent growl attached. “Why did you open the dishwasher?” Was she delusional? She just said, “Put that in the dishwasher.” I immediately did as I was instructed.

“No”, the Honorary General wasn’t finished, “You should have seen the blue light.” I responded, “I saw the blue light just as I opened the door. You should be thanking me for not putting my dirty glass in the dishwasher.”

Perhaps you folks can explain it to me. How can Gram (aka-the Honorary General) exercise the patience of Job when it comes to the canine creatures and at the same time bark orders at me when I don’t get it right? I guess I should be thankful she doesn’t bite.

I’ve heard the expression, “It’s a dog’s life.” Generally the expression indicates some level of hardship or unpleasantness. Let me tell you, “At Camp Gram, ‘It’s a dog’s life’ is synonymous for ‘ease and comfort.’ I only wish I had it so well!”

Let me make it perfectly clear, “Love may be a four legged word”, but I am not (repeat –“am not”) sharing my bed with two Labs. Both dogs sleep soundly during the day on the cool tile of our home. Why then would one think it is a prerequisite for the dogs to get a “good night’s sleep” for them to share our bed? The owner/operator of Camp Gram would tell you that it is because the dogs are used to sleeping with their owners. That makes no sense to me! For one thing, “We are not their owners”. The dogs do perfectly well sleeping on the tile floor. Secondly, “Camp Gram is not their home.” Why not teach them to adapt to a more “dog like lifestyle” when they are with us? If you spoil a kid rotten, they get used to privilege and anticipate that’s the only kind of treatment they’ll ever receive. The same could be said of dogs.

I am adamant. I am not going to share my bed with two 85-pound Labs. It isn’t going to happen. That is why I have options when the Labs check in for “a let me spoil you rotten” weekend experience at Camp Gram. I find that I have choices. I can sleep in the upstairs bedroom or either of the other two bedrooms on the main floor.

Saturday morning when I was pulling weeds, the owner/operator of Camp Gram let the two Labs out to play in the back yard. In no longer than it takes to say, “Please tell me she didn’t”, one of the labs was licking me in the face. It was not (I repeat) it was not a feel-good moment.

Actually, the dog and I eventually had a game going. Every time I bent over to pull weeds, the dog processed that it was an open invitation to lick me in the face. I may be a slow learner, but I didn’t pull many more weeds that day.

Andrea and Kevin returned from their out-of-town trip late Saturday night. The dogs were really glad to see them. It should come as no surprise, I was glad to see them as well.

Andrea could hardly wait to tell me the good news. While they were away, she found the most perfect sign. She wanted it for their home.   The sign read, “Love is a four legged word.”

It may be a “dog’s life”, but it is pretty extraordinary when it takes place at “Camp Gram.” I’m grateful to live here year round.

All My Best!

Don

I Am The Cute One On The Right. On The Other Hand, I Could Be The One On The Left.

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Have you ever been stumped? At face value, the request didn’t seem that difficult. In fact over the past twenty to twenty-five years, I’ve been required to include a biographical profile when I’ve submitted proposals for making presentations at both state and national conferences. My credentials and experience related to child welfare services are in line with industry standards and I’ve never questioned or given much thought to the kinds of information to share.

This time it was different. For one thing, I didn’t submit a workshop proposal. The invitation to speak wasn’t something I sought or even contemplated. It was an honor to be invited, but it came out of left field. This time the venue wasn’t work related. This time it was personal.

My niece, Karoni, serves on board of the National League of POW/MIA Families. She provided a copy of my book “Bitter or Better – A Personal Walk Through Grief” to a friend and colleague who also serves on the board. It was her friend’s suggestion after reading the book that I might have something of value to share at the League of Families annual meeting. The annual meeting is in June in Washington, D.C. Consequently, an invitation was issued.

On Sunday afternoon I received an email asking for biographical information. The person requesting the information wrote, “I know what is in your book, but could you just give me a quick bulleted list of all the great talents you possess and experiences you’ve had!?” In addition, she asked if Ronnie and I were identical twins?

I didn’t discover the email until late on Sunday. It should have been an easy task to complete. However, the child welfare related jargon I generally include didn’t seem applicable for this group. She asked for a list. Doesn’t a list include at least two items? Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. I was at a loss. I couldn’t think of two things.

Eventually I came up with this: “I’d be happy to provide a thumbnail sketch related to background.  However, the assigned task of coming up with a bulleted list of great talents and experiences is a stretch for me, so I’ll answer the question as to whether Ron and I are identical twins first.  If you look at the cover of Bitter or Better, I’m the cute one on the right. On the other hand, I could be the one on the left. For now, I’m going with my best guess. I think I am the one on the right.  We were identical twins and our mom dressed us identically throughout our elementary school years.  We finally revolted.

I describe myself as an old child welfare worker that has had the good fortune of continuing to work with children and families from hard places.  I worked in the public sector for seventeen and a half years and have been in the private sector as a residential childcare administrator for the past twenty-eight years.  I am currently Vice President of Programs & Services for Children at Heart Ministries in Round Rock.  In that capacity, I also serve as President of four separate service delivery corporations providing residential care, counseling, foster care and adoption services. I’m also a bi-vocational pastor and have served with same church for thirty-four years.

I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by capable and caring individuals throughout my life.  Most folks find me personable and caring as well. I enjoy life, have a great sense of humor and I ‘m committed to finding the adventure in the midst of the common place.  I’ve been married for 46 1/2 years; have two children and four grandchildren (including my niece’s daughter who also calls me Granddad.)  I tell my grandchildren it is okay to say granddad is crazy as long as they say “ crazy and fun.”  Nothing is of more importance to me than building memories for them and for me.

I’ve recently authored two books: “BITTER OR BETTER – A Personal Walk Through Grief” and “More Than Enough.”  For the past thirteen months I’ve written a daily blog to capture a life lesson or snapshot in time.  It is my hope that my memories will be a catalyst for others to relate to and remember their own similar experiences.  When life is grasped and valued for the experience, the associated memories highlight lessons learned and the joys associated with taking none of it for granted.

At some level, I have to confess that nothing is more boring than a bulleted list of great talents and experiences.  I have a very full and wonderful life, but if it must be condensed to bullets, I’d go with the following:

  • My youngest grandson describes me as the “King of Adventure”
  • 45 years of experience in child welfare related services
  • Public speaker, trainer and child welfare professional
  • Licensed Master Social Worker, Licensed Child Care and Child Placing Agency Administrator
  • Husband (46 1/2 years), father of 2, grandfather of 4
  • Recent author of two books

As a side note I added, “You probably think I should add ‘certifiably crazy’ to the list, but I’m keeping that a secret. Feel free to abbreviate my bulleted list anyway you choose”.

Since I devoted the time I normally would have given to scripting my blog, I decided to let my response serve a dual purpose. Let me end by providing you an assigned task. Make a list of all the great talents you possess and experiences you’ve had. I’m eager to see the list. I bet you’ll find it more difficult than you might think.

All My Best!

Don

Would The Clever One-Liners The General Launches My Direction Keep An Audience In Stitches?

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A friend commented yesterday that my blog could be the basis for a television sitcom. She thinks the banter back and forth between the Honorary General and me rivals that between Archie and Edith in All In The Family. I remember when television first brought Archie and Edith into our homes. The series became an overnight success. Can it really have been 43 years since the first episode? The sitcom ended almost a decade later.

So what do you remember about All In the Family? I did a quick Google search to capture the essence of the characters: “All in the Family revolves around Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), a working-class World War II veteran living in Queens, New York. He is an outspoken bigot, seemingly prejudiced against everyone who is not a U.S.-born, politically conservative, heterosexual White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, and dismissive of anyone not in agreement with his view of the world… He longs for better times when people sharing his viewpoint were in charge, as evidenced by the nostalgic theme song ‘Those Were the Days’, the show’s original title. Despite his bigotry, he is portrayed as loveable and decent, as well as a man who is simply struggling to adapt to the changes in the world, rather than someone motivated by hateful racism or prejudice”.

“By contrast, Archie’s wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), is a sweet and understanding if somewhat naïve, woman who usually defers to her husband. On the rare occasions when Edith takes a stand she proves to be one of the wisest characters, as evidenced in the episodes “The Battle of the Month” and “The Games Bunkers Play”. Archie often tells her to “stifle” herself and calls her a “dingbat”. Despite their different personalities they love each other deeply”.

Actually, my friend has told me more than once that the clever one-liners the Honorary General launches in my direction would keep an audience in stitches. My friend obviously is delusional. Otherwise, why am I not laughing?   Of course, unmistakably and irrefutably, the Honorary General and I reflect a very different persona than that of Archie and Edith.

For one thing, there would be a gender reversal in the roles of who perceives they are actually in charge. Unlike Archie, the Honorary General isn’t a bigot. In many respects, she reminds me more of A.J. Jacobs. He is the brilliant writer who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (all forty-four million words) and then wrote the book: “The Know It All: One Man’s Humble Quest to become the Smartest Person in the World.” The Honorary General doesn’t need to read forty-four million words to be smart. Despite her choice in husbands, she is smart sometimes to her detriment.

I told the Honorary General of our friend’s perception that my blog would make a great sitcom. She responded, “The storyline for both have a lot in common. They are both based on fiction.” Touché’! Maybe my friend has a point. I can envision Archie making a similar response.

When she was recently asked about my blog, the Honorary General responded that my stories are very much like the stories my paternal Grandfather used to share. She said, “Without fail in all the stories Don’s grandfather shared, he was always the hero. The same is true for Don.” Wow! I hadn’t noticed it before now, but maybe my friend is right. This could be a potentially be a great sitcom. The Honorary General is more like Archie than I previously thought.

The only response to her accusation I can make is fairly simple, “It is what it is.” In addition, our lives are both commonplace and fun. A story about us would be more “mainstream America” than keeping up with the Kardashians.

I casually mentioned to Treva yesterday morning that I had given more thought to what we should do regarding flooring on our sun-porch. I suggested we first stain the concrete and see how we like that look. It would be a lot less expensive than wood flooring and it might look really good. She responded, “We probably aren’t going to do anything. That’s how most of our projects play out.” Ouch!

A short time later, she called for me and said, “Are you going to eat breakfast.” I responded, “Sure” and headed for the kitchen. I guess I had a surprised look on my face. She said, “Fix it.” Ouch! (Under the auspices of full disclosure, I guess I have to confess the menu for breakfast was instant oatmeal.  All I had to do was add water and microwave.)

At some point in the day, I noticed she was putting the jewelry making materials she had been using back in their case. Without prompting she said, “I’m cleaning up my mess. I know that’s a novel idea.” Ouch!

Did I mention that I began my day by pulling weeds in the back yard? I didn’t wait for the Honorary General to ask if I needed to pull weeds. I voluntarily stepped up to the plate and attended to my stuff.

I came back inside and announced that I wanted to rearrange furniture in the living area. It was currently arranged to provide both living and dinning space. I was prepared for opposition, but the Honorary General said, “I’ve been thinking we should do that as well”. She then added, “We first need to figure out how we want it arranged. We are not going to move anything until we know what we’re going to do. She then said, she wanted to shower first. I told her to take her time.

You probably already know that I started dismantling the room as soon as she was gone. I don’t (did I mention, I don’t) need a scripted plan to arrange furniture? There were actually two rooms I needed to swap furniture out in, but I managed most of it in the Honorary General’s absence. I don’t always get it right, but when it comes to arranging furniture, I generally know what I’m doing. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Honorary General said she like it. Trust me, if she didn’t, she would have said so.

The only negative she expressed related to room accessories. She said, “You’re getting the room crowded.” I offered verbal redirection and said, “Cozy is a better term and a more accurate description.” She responded, “You don’t do the dusting.” I didn’t respond.

Later in the day, the Honorary General said, “I bet you feel good. You’ve done something today besides set in your office.” I smiled and said, “The room looks really good.”

I probably was pushing my luck, but late in the day I asked, “Did you notice I pulled weeds?” Instead of answering my question, she asked one. “Are the trash bags you put the weeds in still in the back yard?” Ouch! I don’t always get it right.

Overall, Saturday was a great day.

All My Best!

Don

The New Branding For The Airline Is Powerful, “Without A Heart It’s Just A Machine”.

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Is it ever right to do what is wrong?  I say, “Yes”.  Others say, “No”.

I’m always amused by the number of passengers boarding flights who continue telephone calls or text messaging after they’ve buckled their seatbelts. I guess that falls under the concept of trying to get “the last word in” before the door closes and an announcement is made for folks to turn off their cell phones and other electronics.

I have a friend named Sally and it is often difficult for me to literally “get a word in edgewise”. If by chance she and I were engaged in a telephone conversation when I boarded a flight, by the time I could interrupt to tell her goodbye, my plane would already be landing at my destination. Consequently, for people like Sally and any number of other reasons, I always turn my cell phone off before I walk down the jetway to board a flight.

Yesterday I heard the tragic story of a woman traveling from New Orleans back to her home in Wisconsin. While she was in exactly the same kind of circumstance I just described, she received a horrifying text message from her husband. The message read, “Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I am going to kill myself…”

Karen immediately texted back, “No, no.” Can you imagine the overload of cortisol her brain was immediately channeling through her system? The very thought of what that experience would feel like makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I can think of few messages that would be more terrifying to receive.

Her husband’s response was also instantaneous, “Yes, because I have to.”

What would you have done? I’ve always heard that one needs the ability to think of their feet. This unfortunate passenger was already strapped in an airline seat and the wheels on the plane were rolling. At least that is how I processed the information when I heard it. What would you have done?

My assumption that the wheels on the plane were already rolling couldn’t be an accurate account. If that had been true, the airline attendants would have also been buckled in their seats for takeoff. The news report of the incident reported that “the flight attendant coming through the cabin ‘slapped the phone down.’ Even after she showed him the texts, she says, he told her to put the phone in airplane mode”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping the airline attendant didn’t literally “slap the phone down.” From the standpoint of respect and civility, you make eye contact, you use your words, and you await a positive response because that is the only acceptable option. I don’t applaud the notion that “might makes right.” To add insult to injury, wouldn’t you know it? The airline attendant that slapped the telephone down was a guy.

Still frantic and filled with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the distraught passenger tried explaining the situation to another flight attendant after the plane was in the air, but her request for assistance to get someone to make an emergency call was also denied.

This is not a story with a happy ending. When the plane landed in Milwaukee, the frantic wife was finally able to make her emergency call. When she arrived at home, the police were already there and informed her that Andy, her husband, was dead.

After hearing the story, I confided with a friend that I found the circumstances very disturbing. My friend stoically responded, “It’s a sad situation, but rules are rules. ” I got the distinct impression that my friend would have made the same decision as the airline attendants.

Some folks would probably classify my response as empathic and based on emotion rather than logical deduction related to standards of conduct that are absolute. I would describe my friend as a strict constructionist. My friend has the inability to see anything other than “black and white”. Wrong is always wrong and right is always right.

Before others of you who fall into the strict constructionist category with my friend decide to “unsubscribe” from my blog because I’m obviously somewhere in the middle of the road on this one, please hear me out. Wasn’t it Jesus who asked the Pharisees if the Sabbath was made of man or man for the Sabbath?” They were ready to cast stones because he opted to heal a man on the Sabbath.

Life isn’t always as simple as “right or wrong”, “appropriate or inappropriate” or “black or white”. I’ve been involved in child welfare services all of my working life and I’ve discovered life can be filled with complexities that obliterate the absolutes and cover circumstances and decision making with shades of gray.   For example, “What about the expectation that children ‘honor their father and mother?'” We probably would agree that is an absolute. What about “Thou shalt not steal?” We probably agree with that one as well. What does the child do when he dishonors his father by refusing to follow his command to go to the corner grocery store and steal a loaf of bread? Better yet, how does a daughter grow up honoring the family members who use her for their own purposes and steal the innocence of childhood?

I’m not talking about situations ethics where you could rationalize almost any response. I’m talking about knowing the rules and knowing when to break them. I’m talking about putting the best interest of others first.

One writer expresses it this way: “Is it ever right to do wrong? There are several instances in the Bible where, in order to promote God, His Kingdom, etc. people lied, or otherwise disobeyed those in authority, in order to further God’s plans (the woman who found Moses in the river, Rahab, Peter and the Apostles, etc.). However, we do not find situation ethics in play here, but total dedication to God and His Will; these events were not the result of people making up their own rules, but decisions made by people who were completely dedicated to doing God’s will”.

Give it some thought: “Without a heart it’s just a machine.” Is it ever right to do what is wrong? I say, “Yes”. Others say, “No”.

All My Best!

Don

The Look Of Alarm On Her Face Was Almost Unnerving. What Did She Know That I didn’t Know?

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As I drove to work yesterday morning, the lyrics to “Rainy Days and Mondays” sung by the Carpenters was rolling around in my head. You are probably thinking I’m not oriented to time and place, everyone knows that today is Friday. [Did I say, “Thank God” out loud?] Obviously yesterday had to be Thursday. It definitely was not Monday.

Did it ever occur to you that some weeks have four Mondays? In addition, we’ve had days and days of overcast rainy weather. Please don’t think I’m complaining. I am grateful for the rain. Even though the weeds in my yard are approaching 2 ½ feet tall, I welcome the rain. I hope never to find myself singing, “Rain, Rain Go Away, Come Again Another Day”. For too long, we did without. I’ll not begrudge the fact that “raindrops are falling on my head”.

However, I have to tell you the alarm bells went off in my head when I began to process the words to the song. Did I mention it is not a feel-good song? It has a snappy tune, but the lyric are sad. Probably I wouldn’t have honed in on the sad lyrics had it not been for a telephone conversation I shared with a friend who lives out of the country earlier this week.

My friend said, “I’ve been reading your blog. It reads like you think you are going to die soon.” Instantly a number of unspoken questions began to surface in my head. “I think I’m going to do what? Did he say die? What was he talking about? I know there are some folks who don’t think a bagel, a cup of black coffee and my blog make a good start for their day. They’d much prefer the bagel and black coffee without the blog. I get that. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to our literary tastes or lack of it.

I was so shocked by my friend’s comment that I didn’t ask for an explanation or clarification. At times the Honorary General makes me a little crazy, but that doesn’t equate to a death wish for either one of us. I’ve mentioned in recent weeks a number of reunions with folks from long ago and far away, but that has a feel good ring to it, not a funeral dirge. I have a collection of music by Gustav Mahler and one of his pieces does have a dark/heavy side, but I haven’t listened to Mahler in years. I’d much prefer to listen to Neil Diamond. (Some of you are thinking…well, I won’t go there).

I drove to work yesterday morning with “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” lyrics rolling around in my head. Do you remember the song being depressing? Do you remember the lyrics to the first two verses?

“Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old

Sometimes I’d like to quit

Nothin’ ever seems to fit

Hangin’ around

Nothin’ to do but frown

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down”

“What I’ve got they used to call the blues

Nothin’ is really wrong

Feelin’ like I don’t belong

Walkin’ around

Some kind of lonely clown

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down”

I had only been at work for about two and a half hours. Leaving a meeting on the first floor of my building, I made my way back to the second floor using the staircase. I am not an elevator kind of guy. That is particularly true when there is only two floors in the building.”

As I turned the corner toward my office, I noticed a stranger standing in the hallway several feet beyond my door. He was talking to the administrative assistant through her open door on the other side of the hall.  For some reason based on the limited information I overheard, I had the sense that the person wasn’t an anticipated guest in our building.

What I overheard was, “Is there anyone who could drive me to Hutto?”   I didn’t hear her response, but based on his then providing additional information related to his need for assistance, I walked toward him.

I was even with him in the hallway when he finally looked my direction.  I spoke first, “Excuse me, I overheard you say you needed a ride to Hutto.  I’ve got some time before my next appointment. I’d be happy to drive you.”

Looking up, I caught the facial expression and body language of the administrative assistant.  The look of alarm on her face was almost unnerving.  What did she know that I didn’t know? Maybe my friend was right; my days might be very numbered.

Some time ago, we reportedly had a transient person repeatedly come into our building. There was some speculation that his presence was for reasons counter-productive to our best interests.   I never saw him, but I did see the police report. They wanted to be notified if he surfaced again. Could this possibly be the same man?

For a brief second, I wondered if I had demonstrated a lack of prudent judgment in offering the man a ride. In fact, I then looked at the guy for the first time. I hadn’t noticed before, but he was totally dressed in black. I’m not sure what that means, but he was definitely not Johnny Cash. He also was wearing more than a five-o’clock shadow. I couldn’t really tell by looking, but he probably had not shaved in a couple of days. On the other hand, maybe his beard grows quickly.

Actually, when we left the building, I didn’t have any alarms going off in my head. I didn’t know the guy’s story or even how he got into our building. That in its self is pretty monumental. We keep the office locked up like Fort Knox. How did he get in? I should have asked him. At any rate, I didn’t take him to be a serial killer, a threat to my well being or even a freeloader looking for a handout. He was simply a man who needed a ride.

How awkward would you feel if you found yourself walking into an office building and asking a total stranger if anyone could provide you a ride? Actually, I was glad to come to his rescue. The offer of a ride would have to be a welcomed relief.

As he got into my car, he told me he was a disabled Vet. I thanked him for his service. At that point, he seemed more comfortable and I have to admit, I probably did as well. As we drove, the man’s story made it’s way to my ears. His car had broken down at IH35 and Hwy 183. That is a very long way from Round Rock. He said, “I caught a ride most of the way, but even then I couldn’t walk any farther. I have a back condition that keeps me from doing much on most days”.

I shared with the guy that I knew what it was like to have back issues. I had back surgery about four years ago. Immediately, prior to the surgery, I was in a lot of pain and my mobility was pretty limited. I had put the surgery off for ten years at the advice of my primary care physician who kept telling me there were no guarantees with back surgery. He said, “Wait until you don’t have an option.” I obviously followed that plan.

He said, my doctor has cautioned me to wait for surgery until later. He mentioned his doctor’s name. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. His doctor is the same guy who performed my back surgery. What a small world. His impression of his doctor was as favorable as mine. He really is very capable and upbeat.

I didn’t ask the man any personal questions. He volunteered that his wife is the breadwinner in the family. She is a schoolteacher in Hutto. He said, “I get a small check from the government, but we really live on her income”. Because of my health status, I really have no other option.

His story touched my heart. As a rule of thumb, the disabled Vets who served our country and came home less than complete don’t get a lot of compensation or support. Offering him a ride home wasn’t much, but I felt good about having done so. He definitely was appreciative.

All My Best!

Don