Is It Ever Too Late To Hit The Reset Button?

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There were only two of us, both strangers, standing in the small courtyard of a very crowded restaurant. It seemed awkward not to speak. We were both waiting for a table. I simply asked, “Do you live in Lisle?”  He said “yes” and added that Lisle has always been his home.  I then asked, “Do you also work here?”  You’re probably thinking I was overstepping boundaries by plummeting a stranger with questions.  You’re probably right, but I didn’t ask the second question immediately.  He was conversational as well.  He asked me where I was from and what I was doing in town.

He answered my second question by saying he worked in downtown Chicago.  I didn’t ask about the nature of his work, but I asked if he drove into the City or if he took the train?  He said, “I have a car, but I don’t drive it in the City.  The traffic is horrible”.  He said he takes the train and leaves very early to miss the rush hour.  He also heads back to Lilse by 3:30 in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I commute at least an hour one way to work everyday, but I’m not clustered in a metal canister packed full of people.  Coming out of Chicago on Monday afternoon, one of the things I noticed about the train ride was what seemed to me as an awkward silence.  No one was engaged in conversation.  Almost everyone was texting or focused on some kind of electronic media, but I didn’t notice anyone talking.  The silence seemed surreal.

Secondly, and it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me had I not experienced it first hand, but the guy closest to me on the train sneezed several times.  I noticed out of my peripheral vision that he was wiping his nose with the back of his hand.  Gross!  I know, we’ve probably all done that in desperation, but I’d never admit to it in writing.  Thanks but no thanks, forget the fantasy of commuting to work on a train.  It would be a health hazard!  My driving may put me at risk daily, but at least I’m not in an environmental infestation of germs.

I asked one other question.  Actually, that isn’t true.  His answer to my next question was the catalyst for several more, but they were all related to his answer.  Truthfully, I probably overstepped boundaries, but I asked, “What do you like best about your job?”  He responded, “The paycheck.  I get paid well for what I do.”

I thought that was a strange answer. I don’t know anyone who acknowledges that they get paid more than enough for what they do. Most of the people I work with have a sense they are underpaid for the professionalism and skill set they bring to the table. Perhaps that’s only true in the world of nonprofit organizations. I don’t know.

I couldn’t help myself, “So is there anything about your job that gives you a sense of satisfaction or that you enjoy?”  He said, “No, there isn’t anything about the job I like. I dread going to work every morning. I just go for the paycheck”. He went on to say, “I previously had a job that I loved with Montgomery Wards. The job involved travel and I really liked what I did. It felt important and I was valued by the company.”  He then shared with me more than I probably needed to know about his disdain for Wal-Mart.   He credits that corporation with the toppling of Montgomery Wards and the core of many small town retail businesses in America.

I then asked his age?  He said, “I’m forty-one.”  I responded, “Forty-one.  You’re just a kid.  You’ve got your whole life in front of you. Help me understand why you’d sell out by settling for a job where you dread going to work everyday?  Isn’t life way too short for that?”  He identified two or three things he’d like to do, but said, “I’m too old to start over.”

I looked at him and said, “I’m almost twice your age and I’m not too old to start over. If I gained absolutely nothing from my work but a paycheck, I’d be very proactive in preparing myself to launch elsewhere”.  I cautioned him, “Don’t change your job until you find something you really want to pursue.  You may even need to take some classes or prepare yourself academically in some way, but you’ve got the time to do that. You’re only forty-one.  You’ve got your whole life before you.  Besides that, you’re probably more skilled now than you’ve ever been.  Why not build on your strengths?

He seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying.  I continued, “Think about what you liked about working for Montgomery Wards.  You said it yourself.  When you worked for Montgomery Wards you liked what you did, you thought your work was important and you felt valued by your company.  Those three characteristic are crucial to job satisfaction anywhere.  Don’t you owe it to yourself to figure out how you can capture those three things?  Maybe your can figure out how to get them in your current place of employment, but don’t settle for twenty-five years of drudgery if you can’t.

As he was summoned to his table, he thanked me for the conversation.  He actually said, “I wish you lived here. I could benefit from having a mentor like you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.  You are really a positive person. I wish I was.  I need to learn how.  Thanks.”

It was a brief interaction with a total stranger, but is it ever too late to hit the reset button?  Don’t we owe it to ourselves to do it differently if life has grown stale and our needs are not getting met?  Yesterday, while waiting in an airport, I ran across an article about folks who hit the reset button late in life. Grandma Moses took up painting after her arthritis made it difficult to continue with her needle work.  She started painting at the age of 76.  Do you remember the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken? Colonel Sanders was in his 60s and drawing Social Security when he closed his service station and created a fried chicken empire.   Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes was appointed to the Court at the age of 60 and served until the age of 90. Harry Bernstein published his first book at the age of 96.

Life is way too short to settle for business as usual, if usual leads to a lack of satisfaction and fulfillment. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to use the gifts we have been given?  Whether it’s in the workplace or another venue, if we’re still here, we’re not done.

All My Best!

Don

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Leader Of The Pack

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It was the right decision for me to make, but I still found it bothersome. I opted out of an adventure into the City last night. Generally when I travel and have the opportunity to sightsee, I’m up long before most of the world knows it is morning and I don’t slow down until way past my ordinary bedtime. I don’t want to miss anything.

Several in our group have bemoaned the fact that although for all intents and purposes we are in Chicago, we really haven’t been in Chicago. Last night was the one opportunity for our group to catch the City lights and explore the sights and sounds. Historically, I would never turn down that kind of opportunity. In addition, I’d do what I could to attempt to assert myself as the leader of the pack.

A couple of years ago when we were in the same location, I did what I could to orchestrate a walking tour of the City. Did I mention there are folks who don’t enjoy walking? Consequently, the evening turned into a mixture of walking and cab rides. It’s not that I’m frugal, but I’d prefer to walk if you’re only traveling a couple of miles. By the way, I don’t always get it my way. Actually, the only way to guarantee that is to travel alone. Since I’m fairly people needy, that at times poses a problem.

After the architectural tour of the City by boat, we opted to go to dinner. The meal was great, the conversation was good, but the dinner hour turned into three and we needed to get back to Union Station. Our group was too large to all fit in one taxi. I looked at the other two guys and said, “Lets walk”. If they were telling the story, they would say I told them it was only about three blocks to Union Station.

As it turned out, they would say it was closer to three miles. I don’t think that’s right either, but in the midst of our walk the other two guys were experiencing a sense of panic that we might miss the last train out of Chicago. Consequently, they started attempting to flag down a taxi. I kept saying, “Walk”. They continued to walk backwards waving at oncoming taxis that were filled with passengers.

My proclamation that we were almost there seemed to fall on deaf ears. Finally a taxi stopped for us. The newly self-appointed leader of the pack asked the driver, “Can you get us to Union Station quickly?” He added, “We have to catch a train.” The taxi driver looked at us like we were nuts and said, “Sure”.

Of course we were nuts! The taxi driver knew that for two reasons. To start with, “Why would anyone go to Union Station for any other reason than to catch a train?” Secondly, the taxi driver drove about a forth of a block and turned right. He then pulled over and stopped. We were at Union Station.

Last night was an opportunity to create a new memory and have more stories, but I opted out. Later as I reflected on the missed opportunity of my choosing, I asked myself, “Why?” The decision was uncharacteristic. “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”, came to mind. I immediately discounted that as an explanation. I may be in denial, but I think I could walk circles around most of the group.

I’ve heard the expression, “If your feet hurt, you hurt all over.” I think the same could be said of your eyes. At least that’s been my experience this week. Actually, it is probably true that any sensation of pain moves your focus to the discomfort and interrupts fair play and openness for adventure.

So how did I spend my evening? I went back to the same restaurant where I had dinner on Monday night. I looked at the menu and intuitively wanted the grilled salmon again. How boring is that? I asked the waitress what she’d recommend. She asked, “Do you like spicy food?” Indicating that I did, she recommended the Carne Asada with Tequila sauce. Just for the record, I ordered mine with salt (that was a joke).

The meal added a whole new concept to the word spicy. Maybe I should rethink eating spicy food? It was tasty, but it was hot. I drank about eight glasses of water with my meal. Walking back to the restaurant from the hotel, I momentarily regretted having forfeited the Chicago City experience. At the same time, my eye(s) hurt and warm compresses were in order. Consequently, I had made the most responsible decision.

This morning, I asked myself, “What life lesson can I draw out of the experience?” The answer seemed to be, “Time goes by quickly. Missed opportunities don’t often resurface. Now is the only time we have. Grasp the day and make the most of it.”

The very thought has put a renewed spring in my step. I’m off and running.

All My Best!

Don

I Wanted To Cover All The Bases

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My son telephoned Monday night. His call came shortly after I received an email from his wife. Becky had forwarded me a copy of an obituary previously posted by Johnson’s Funeral Home in San Angelo. It was the obituary for Doris Christine Brooks who died at the age of 101. The date of her death was February 28, 2011.

Mrs. Brooks was preceded in death by two sons and a daughter. Their names were listed in the obituary. The obituary truthfully described her as being faithful to her church. “If she wasn’t in her front pew she was quilting or helping in the Church kitchen.” I smiled when I read that affirmation of her commitment. Certainly those characteristics were true of her when we went to church with her, but that had been over 40 years ago.

Craig and I had talked about Mrs. Brooks, weekend before last, when he and his family were at our home. Mrs. Brooks was a lady we knew from church in San Angelo. She provided daycare for Craig for the first two years of his life. In talking about Mrs. Brooks, Craig said he was sure that she had passed. The last time he saw her was in 2010 when he and Becky had driven through San Angelo on their way from California to Camp Lejeune. He remembered that she had just celebrated her 100th birthday. At the time, she was still living independently in her home. She was delighted to see them and was so appreciative of their visit.

I acknowledged to Craig when he called that the obituary took me back to long ago. I remember being so grateful when Mrs. Brooks expressed an interest in providing childcare for him. Actually, the plan was put together before Craig was born. As new parents, we weren’t exceptionally overjoyed with the prospects of placing our new-born son in day care. Mrs. Brooks was the perfect alternative. She lived near us in San Angelo and we knew she’d provide a loving quasi-grandparent or perhaps great-grandparent environment.

As it turned out, she was exceptional with Craig. She also had livestock and chickens and introduced Craig to a familiarity with farm animals. He absolutely thrived from the experience.

Throughout Craig’s childhood, long after we moved from San Angelo, we also stopped to visit whenever we drove through San Angelo. She genuinely was delighted to see Craig and expressed appreciation to us each time we stopped by for a brief visit. Of course, Craig was absolutely overjoyed.

After Craig was in college, he took it upon himself to stop whenever he came through San Angelo. For three of those years, we were living in Midland. Consequently, Craig came through San Angelo on his way home often. It was important to Craig and it was important to Mrs. Brooks that they stay in touch.

When Craig telephoned on Monday night, I told him I had received the email from Becky with the obituary. I was puzzled. How did they come across the obituary?” He replied, “I gave the assignment to Becky. She can do anything when it comes to the Internet”. He went on to say, “Of course, I did have the problem of not knowing Mrs. Brooks first name. All I knew was Mrs. Brooks. I remembered the name of her son who lived next door to her. I also knew that he preceded her in death. It was through that connection that Becky researched and found her name. Finding her name resulted in finding her obituary.”

I was still confused. “Why did you want Becky to research for the obituary?” Somehow that seemed a little strange to me. Of course, I didn’t tell Craig that I thought it was a little strange. His answer to my question was even stranger. He said, “Dad, I believe in covering all the bases.” I was absolutely clueless. What was he talking about? It obviously made sense to him. Far be it to me to ask for clarification.

Craig mentioned that it had been a long day for him. I thought to myself, “I can relate to that.” Of course, after he told his story, I had no question that his day had been longer and fuller than mine. He had driven from Cat Spring to Victoria for a morning meeting related to his work. When he telephoned me, he was about an hour from Odessa. He had a work related meeting the following morning in Midland and was driving to Odessa to spend the night with his grandmother. He said, “I’ve told her that I’m taking her to dinner. She said, “That’s okay. But we have a rule, “When I’m at your house you cover the check. When you’re at my house, I pick up the check.” He refuted that by saying, “We won’t be at either house, so I’m picking up the check.”

I don’t have enough left-brain function left to calculate how many miles or how many hours Craig obviously had been in the truck on Monday, but there is no way I would have undertaken that kind of drive. It is a very long way from Victoria to Odessa. Add to that, he started from his home in Cat Spring, drove to Victoria and at the end of the day he would be in Odessa. The very thought seemed a little overwhelming in more than one way (just mostly joking).

It was not until I got off the phone with Craig that the dots connected in my head. With the realization of his intent, it made me doubly glad that he is my son. When he said, “Dad, I believe in covering all of the bases”, he obviously had asked Becky to research for an obituary for Mrs. Brooks. If by chance she was still living, he would have stopped to visit when he came through San Angelo. That’s what he meant by, “I believe in covering all the bases.”

At a very real level, the debt of gratitude and love Craig carries in his heart for the dear lady that provided care for him during the first two year of his life is a tribute to her. No doubt the love and nurture she amply provided ensured that she would always be “one of the bases.”

I couldn’t be prouder of my son!

All My Best!Don

Rain, Rain, Go Away: Come Again Another Day

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Yesterday was a day of surprises. I awakened first around 2:15 a.m. That wasn’t a surprise. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep when I set the alarm for 3:15. When you need to get up that early, chances are good that you could oversleep. I didn’t, but it could have gone either way.

Sunday night as Treva and the three dogs were heading to bed, she told me to remember to eat a pastry for breakfast. I gave her a nod. It was one more thing to add to my list of things to remember – my wallet (included driver’s license, credit card and a little cash), the backpack (included medications, iPad and charger, Treva’s Apple Notebook (it is lighter than my other option) and , my luggage. I actually had picked up the luggage and was taking it to the car when I remembered the pastry.

I’m sure I didn’t put the luggage down and retrieve and heat the pastry simply because the General had issued the order. As a rule of thumb I don’t take orders. That is something I’ve learned from observing how the General negotiates life. I apparently was hungry, but the fact that I remembered to eat was a surprise. I purposefully left the dirty dish in the sink so the General would have evidence that I followed instructions.

As I made my way toward the airport, I had already written the trip to “near” Chicago (“near” being the operative word) off as being inherent with challenges. For one thing, the 90% chance of rain coupled with a flash flood warning and severe storm warning had gotten my attention the night before. I am frugal. I was flying into Midway, taking the train to the Quincey Station in downtown Chicago, walking four blocks to Union Station and taking a train to Naperville. Do you have any idea how wet and miserable that experience could be? I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I had already rolled the dice, made my travel plans and had no intention of changing them, rain or sunshine.

A person can get pretty wet walking in the rain. My umbrella is a large one. It is really too big to tote with luggage. Besides that, my umbrella is in the back of my work car at the body shop. I wondered if Wal-Mart would be open? “Probably not was my best guess”. Who in their right mind goes to Wal-Mart? Sorry, I meant to write, “Who in their right mind goes to Wal-Mart at 4:00 in the morning?” On the outside chance Wal-Mart was open, I took the exit near it’s location. Who would have thought it? They really were open. I guess you could say I was surprised on two counts: “(1) They were open & (2) I found a travel umbrella.

The next surprise of the morning took place in the long-term parking lot at the airport. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were enough people waiting at the pick-up point for a ride to the terminal to fill two buses, not one. Certainly there were enough people to start a riot.

Just for the record, body language was speaking volumes. Finally in frustration, at least fifteen people took their luggage and started walking toward the terminal. I don’t know how long they had been waiting, but they were not happy campers. Two minutes later a bus arrived and I had the good fortune to get on. Not everyone did. The bus was packed. One of the travelers felt the need to offer his opinion to the bus driver that they needed twice as many people working at 4:45 a.m. From my perspective, he was talking to the wrong guy. He was simply doing his job. Folks in management were probably still sleeping soundly.

My next surprise was the line of people at Southwest Airlines waiting to check in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I finally figured out where the end of the line started. My plane was set to begin boarding in just over an hour. I wasn’t sure I’d get through SWA much less the Muscle Brigade.

Before I got through the SWA line, I received an email from SWA letting me know my departure was being delayed due to storm conditions in Chicago. Was I surprised? “No” There was already a dark cloud over this trip and I was going to get wet. I just sensed that it was so.

Fast forward, when we finally got to Chicago, the backlog of planes needing to get to a gate was lengthy. We set in one spot for 60 minutes waiting for authorization to get closer. I didn’t see that coming. Perhaps you could call that a surprise.

But the real surprise, the Granddaddy of them all, was the skies were perfectly clear and there was no evidence that it had rained earlier in the morning. I obviously was not going to need the umbrella I stopped and picked up at Wal-Mart

Sixty-minute intervals proved to be the time-gap for much of the day. Sixty minutes to get luggage that had been checked. Sixty minutes to ride the train into the City. Sixty minutes to walk to Union Station and make it to Naperville.

I won’t say my mood was less than positive, but I was exhausted when I finally got to the hotel. My eyes hurt. I was probably also hungry, but didn’t connect the dots with the realization I hadn’t eaten anything for lunch. At any rate, I opted out of the group dinner with the intent to spend most of the evening with a warm compress over my eye. Why not be responsible?

Around 6:30 p.m., I decided if I didn’t get something to eat, the headache that I was beginning to experience would be worse than the eye pain. I checked with the hotel desk. They said nothing was within walking distance. Besides that, “Lisle doesn’t have sidewalks. I was cautioned against walking. It wasn’t safe.”

I have a mind of my own. I know what you’re thinking, “You’re not surprised.” At any rate, I had been at this same hotel once before. I promised myself then that I would never go back. You know what they say, “Stupid is as stupid does”. I walked then and I would walk now. I Googled the restaurant. It was only .87 miles away. That was a piece of cake and I wasn’t even going to have dessert.

My meal was excellent. I was enjoying the down time. In addition to wet compresses for my eye, I would have computer time so you dear folks would have some level of nonsense to read today.

There was only one other surprise. Just as I left the restaurant, it started raining. Did I mention the umbrella I purchased Monday morning was in my backpack at the hotel?

The concept of “Go with the flow” kicked in and I triumphantly arrived back at the hotel soaking wet. It seemed like the fulfillment of an omen. I skipped a group dinner to have wet compresses on my eye. Guess you could say, I carried that same theme throughout the evening.

I’m sure the group that went to dinner this evening were still at dinner at 9:00 p.m. Not me, I was more than safely back in the hotel. It was about that time, that the last surprise of the evening took place. I could hear the abrupt sound of hail hitting the windows.

All My Best!

Don

Sometimes You Just Can’t Win

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Sometimes you just can’t win. In an effort to be responsible, I opted to check today’s weather forecast for Chicago. Last night I was bemoaning the fact that I had to set my alarm at 3:30 a.m. this morning in order to leave the house in time to catch my flight. I obviously have a propensity for having “STUPID” written on my forehead when it comes to scheduling air travel. If there is a downside to living on the edge of heaven, it has to do with the commute time to the Austin airport. I’ve tried flying out of San Antonio a couple of times, but road construction from Henly to San Antonio sometimes is a problem as well. At least I’m familiar enough with the Austin route that I generally know what I can expect related to potential time delays due to construction.

When the General and I flew to Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago, we were faced with the same issue. The problem is simple, “You’re out of night before you even get ready to go to bed”. I never sleep well on those nights for fear that I’m going to wakeup and realize I just slept through the early morning special.

I noticed on Facebook Sunday morning that my niece, Karoni, posted an update that she and Lilian awakened to the realization that they missed their flight from New Orleans back to Austin. I wasn’t alarmed when I read of their plight related to the missed flight. (Couldn’t help myself –plight and flight seemed so perfect together). It is simply standard operating procedure for their modus of operation. Maybe it’s hereditary. She, too, obviously has “STUPID” written on her forehead. I say this lovingly, but my niece is social. She likes being with people, staying up late and solving the world’s problems through conversation. She regularly doesn’t call it quits until long after folks with discretionary judgment related to how early morning comes have already been asleep for half the night.

At any rate, there is a method to my madness when I book a flight. To say that a completely full flight cramps my style is probably highlighting the obvious, but I figure my chances are better that people like my niece will miss their early morning departure and it will work to my advantage. It also works to the airline’s advantage. The upgraded charge incurred for the next flight is an unanticipated bonus for the airline industry.

I like sitting in an aisle seat. The downside to the aisle seat is the space under the seat isn’t as wide as the center seat. Maybe it’s psychological, but just knowing my backpack is under the seat in front of me physiologically orchestrates some form of restless leg syndrome. I can’t stand it. Actually, if I could stand, it would help, but the airlines folks won’t permit it.

I’ve never had a fear of flying. However, I do have a fear of falling asleep in flight and keeping the other passengers awake by the sound of my snoring. I’d be so embarrassed. On an early morning flight, my chances are better that other passengers will also be sleeping. Consequently, they may not notice if I snore.

Of course, my primary motivation for taking an early morning flight relates to having more time at my destination. It is all about the adventure and I don’t want to miss any of it.

I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering, “So what’s the problem with Chicago?” I made the statement, “Sometimes you just can’t win”. You want to know my frame of reference. I threw that out there hoping you’d ask. Thank you. My frame of reference is final destination.

I love Chicago. I love the architecture. I love the water. I love the old Marshall Field’s building that has been around since the early 1900s. It is a perfect city for sightseeing. In a perfect world, I’d pound the pavement on the Magnificent Mile with my shoes soaking in as much of the City as free time would allow. I would take it all in, see it all, get my fill of Chicago style pizza and walk the Magnificent Mile again just because I could. It would be a tremendous adventure.

The problem is that the meeting I’m attending “billed as a Chicago venue” really isn’t in Chicago. It is in Napperville, about an hour outside Chicago. If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, you can probably do a round trip on the train from Napperville into Chicago and back. The problem is the limitation related to what you can see. Train tracks don’t always offer a premium view of the City.

“Sometimes you just can’t win” was the thought that came to mind when I checked the weather for Chicago for today. There is something a bit disconcerting about a “RED” Exclamation Mark highlighting “Strong Storms” – Flash Flood Watch from 1am Monday until Tuesday 1am.

Did I mention I won’t be pounding the pavement anywhere if the weather report comes to fruition?   In addition, the only umbrella I own is a large one. It is not necessarily conducive to travel. If you’ll pardon the pun, “ I guess when it rains it pours.”

All My Best!

Don

There Are Days I Wonder How Far We’ve Really Come

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A friend that I’ve known since the first grade recently responded to a blog I’d written. In the blog, I acknowledged that I had gotten into trouble with my son for allowing Jake, my grandson (age six) to drive the car, sitting in my lap, from our gate to our house without the use of a seatbelt.

In some respects my son, Craig, is very much like his mother regarding organization, structure, accountability and the need to stay the course on any plan of action. Variation is not a concept that comes easily for either. Consequently, when you understand the importance of safety and you teach your children from their earliest memory that “wheels don’t move until everyone has their seatbelt locked in place”, I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Granddad to subsequently say, “We don’t need a seatbelt to get from our gate to the house.”

Once gently redirected for the error of my ways, I understand the need for a “No Exception Policy” regarding seat belts. I get it. I understand it. I applaud it. I was wrong. Either that or I should never have told my son what we had done.

My friend responded to my confession by suggesting: “You could haul the grand kids back and forth from your house to the gate in the back of your pickup. I have fond memories of riding in the bed of my grandfather’s 56 Chevy”. He went on to write, “When my grandson was little, I let him ride in the back from our house to one down the street. I had my eye on him the whole time and we could have walked faster than I drove. It was a distance of about half a block. His Mama said, “Never again!”

I have the same kind of memories associated to riding in the back of my grandfather’s 55 Chevy. We’d stand up and hold on to the head-rack while he drove 50 mph. Obviously our guardian angels were working overtime or we wouldn’t still be here. I’d be horrified for my grandkids to stand up in the back of a pick up truck and hang on for dear life.

My friend wrote back, “Don, We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” I immediately identified with his observation. Obviously, his response carried with it the ring of something much broader than building memories with grandchildren. In fact over the past two to three weeks, I’ve thought of his summation many times.

“We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” Is that true for you as well? Over this past week, I’ve toyed with the question, “Was the world really different during my childhood years or was it simply my perception that it was different?” I’m not suggesting it was all “smoke and mirrors”, but at some level, I don’t recall a time that our problems haven’t been beyond us.

Fifty years ago, Billy Graham wrote a book entitled World Aflame. Fifty years ago? I didn’t make that up. I was a freshman in college. I still have the book. In the introduction to his book he wrote this:

“At 5:30 A.M. on July 16, 1945, a light brighter than a thousand suns illuminated the desert sands of New Mexico. One scientist who was watching wept. ‘My God,’ he exclaimed, ‘we have created hell.’ From that day on our world has not been the same. We entered a new era of history — perhaps the last era.

It was the next month that the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

Of his book, Billy Graham wrote: “Our world is on fire, and man without God will never be able to control the flames. The demons of hell have been let loose. The fires of passion, greed, hate, and lust are sweeping the world. We seem to be plunging madly toward Armageddon.

“Over and over we ask ourselves, Why? What is the cause? What has happened to our world? Can we do anything about it?

“Not long before he was killed in a plane crash, I visited with Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld in his office at the United Nations. He seemed deeply depressed during our conversation. Looking from his window across New York he said quietly: “I see no hope for permanent world peace. We have tried so hard and we have failed so miserably.” Then he paused a moment, looked at me, and said: “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.”

War and rumors of war – Isn’t the bottom-line always a Spiritual issue? “Hammarskjold got it right, “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.” As a nation we have been involved in a war on terrorism for the past fourteen years. While it is true that oppression and threat seems to come from a multiple of different sources, isn’t it also true that we have swept a lot of dirt under our own rug?

At some level, as a nation, a state and perhaps even as a community, we are a warring people. When others are treated with something other than civility and respect, isn’t that the first step in polarization and coming at odds? A house divided cannot stand. It never has and it never will.

Take the Civil War for example. 625,000 Americans were killed. 625,000 Americans were killed by Americans. In contrast, 405,399 Americans were killed in WWII which ranks the second in American casualties. There were 36,516 in Korea and 58,209 in Vietnam. If casualty counts ultimately matter most, we historically have been our own greatest enemy. Perhaps we still are. It defies explanation.

The thing that I find both perplexing and disheartening about the Civil War is that we did it to ourselves. I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could have justified the methodology. All across our nation, towns and communities were filled with churches. It was true in the North. It was true in the South. The family of faith, the people of God, choosing “ a might makes right” methodology for conflict resolution rather than His to resolve conflict and settle differences is very sad.

There are days when I wonder how far we’ve really come.  I don’t sense a lot that falls under the auspices of unconditional love.  That, too, is sad indeed.

All My Best

Don

Did I Have The Capacity To Do It Differently?

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Did I have the capacity to do it differently? Obviously if anyone was in the doghouse, it was not the three four legged animals currently in our home. The General has a Yorkie and Colby and Samson, my daughter’s two Labs, are temporarily staying with us at “Camp Gram” while Andrea and Kevin are on vacation. Trust me, regardless of their behavior; none of the real dogs could do it wrong. Where does the General find such unconditional love for the canine brigade? I don’t have the patience.

Whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t set well with the General. I know its true that she talks to the dogs during the day while I’m at work because I hear her talking to the dogs when I’m at home. I’m not suggesting a mental health diagnosis, but I do think “dog people” operate from a very different perspective than the one I use to negotiate life. So who is healthier? I’ll let you be the judge.

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, I opted to apply the hot moist compress the doctor had ordered for my eye. Actually, he ordered them four times a day. I’ve basically followed that regime. I could get side tracked and tell you more than you want to know about my eyes, but let me regain my focus and get back to the dogs. I reclined in the recliner with the moist hot cloth over my eye. The next thing I know, this 100 pound yellow Lab is playfully licking me in the face.

I bet you can imagine how that went over. The sensation of dog slobber on my face abruptly brought me upright in the recliner. I wanted no part of that! Did I mention the General thought it was funny? Actually, even she agreed with me. She gently redirected the dog and tossed him a tennis ball to chase. Since it was the General to the rescue, I opted not to remind her that we don’t throw the ball in the house. She should have known better, but I opted to let sleeping dogs lie.

After putting medication in or on my eye, the General asked what I was going to do next? Why not toss something totally unthought-of in her direction? I responded that I was going to take the door handle off the front door and go to Home Depot for a replacement.   Over the period of way too long, the door has increasing become difficult to open from the outside. In its current state, it was impossible to open from the outside.

I was a little frustrated with the door handle. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m the one with the borderline mental health diagnosis. Okay, I get it. You don’t think “borderline” needs to modify your assessment. You are entitled to your opinion and of course, I will insist on retaining mine.

You would be frustrated as well. I bought a new door handle three years ago. The previous handle lasted ten years before the inside mechanism on the latch totally stopped working. I remembered thinking at the time that the door handles should last longer than ten years. It may be magical thinking, but I’m of the opinion they should last as long as the house.

One of the challenges of getting the old handle off was finding a Phillips screwdriver that perfectly fit the different sizes of screws holding everything in place. I’m not joking. I’ve had the experience of using a Phillips screwdriver and obliterating the head of the screw where turning it was impossible. Surely I’m not the only inept “do-it-yourself” homeowner that’s messed that up. It took longer than I anticipated, but I managed to get everything loose.

I decided to take the current handle with me to Home Depot. I had to find one identical to the one I removed because the elongated handle also went through the door at the base of the handle. I had to ensure the next one would fit. While I was attempting to analyze what piece of the mechanism had malfunctioned, it occurred to me that all I really needed was a replacement part. Why spend another $145 for a new door handle? It was probably magical thinking, but at least I could ask.

Miracle of miracles, finding the needed part was a simple process. Can you believe it? Instead of spending $145 as I anticipated, I spent $7 and the mechanism worked perfectly.   Did I mention that replacing/repairing the inoperable door handle gained me favor with the General? Things were looking up.

That was before I walked into the back yard. Murphy doesn’t live next door. He lives where I live. The fountain in the pond wasn’t working. I also needed to clean the filter. I had that thought earlier when I fed the fish, but the fountain was working okay. I went over and turned the switch off. Sometimes, it works when you turn it back on. This time it didn’t.

Okay, so was the pump the problem or was it electrical? I’m a novice at this. It could have gone either way. As part of my due diligence process, I opened the cover to the hot tub. I could tell from looking at the darkened control panel that it also did not have power. I pressed the on buttons anyway. Okay, so the problem was bigger than I knew how to handle.

I looked at the exterior electrical box and pressed the reset button. The orange light went off, but I still didn’t have power. I went inside the house to look at the breaker boxes in the garage. From looking at the boxes, I didn’t see any breaker that was tripped, but I thought I’d find the one assigned to the hot tub. Fortunately both boxes had a listing of breakers with an associated number.

It sounds simple. The list was easily identifiable. The hot tub was assigned to #22 and #23. Great! Where were the numbers? What good does the number do if there aren’t any numbers identified on the panel? Okay, maybe I’m developmentally delayed or visually impaired. It turned out to be a visual problem. The numbers were imbedded in the panel. I’m not sure how I missed them when I first looked. I’m sure it was associated with the lighting in the garage. It couldn’t be my failing eyesight.

It’s a long story. I won’t provide you all the details, but before the evening was over, I had the hot tub working and the filter and pump cleaned and operating. I was on a roll and think of the money I saved. Did I mention the General was in a really good mood?

In the midst of all the projects, I grilled New York strips. They came out perfectly. I also grilled corn on the cob and a smorgasbord of other vegetables. It was a meal fit for a king.

It was a delightful evening. Why mess that up by going to my home office and working on my blog? Maybe I can do it differently. In addition, I went to bed at 10:30 for the second consecutive night. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

All My Best!

Don