Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons of Blue

This is one of my favorite holiday songs. I am generally familiar with the Willie Nelson version. I think that Roy Orbison's version may have preceded his.

Some of the lyrics are as follows, as best I can remember:

"Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue;
Wrap your presents to your darling from you.
Pretty pencils to write 'I love you'.
Pretty papers, pretty ribbons of blue."

The ballad surrounds a story line of a downtown press of shoppers who hustle and bustle their ways past a fellow sitting in the middle of the sidewalk singing this song and peddling his wares.. He is obviously handicapped in some fashion or another. There is a description of the encounter by the shoppers who ask themselves if they should stop. The unilateral conclusion is that they cannot because they are much too busy. The song describes the colors, movement and and the lack of connection amongst the crowd, one to another during the holiday season. The lyrics include the onamonapia of the sound of children singing in the background. All in all a very moving holiday tune.

I think back to a time I was staying in Baltimore right next to the baseball park, Camden yards. It was cold and nearing the holiday season. I recall leaving our hotel with a group of people on our way to dinner walking across the Inner Harbor. This has to be nearly 20 years ago. There were 10 panhandlers for every passerby. All of them looking for a handout. Theirs was a very competetive endeavor as some of them were pushing one another posturing for a better position amongst the crowd. I remember emptying my pockets of change and smaller units of cash. It was but a little smear of ointment to a gash that oozed blood. You almost have to be compassionless to survive such an ordeal. Yet that is very difficult for most of us. Most of us would rather not be compelled to come face to face with the problem this land of freedom and opportunity has in meeting the needs of our underprivileged population.

I think of a friend of my wife and mine. Her name was Betty Williams. She had been confined to a wheelchair and a hospital bed for the greater part of her life. We became acquaintances and then friends through an outreach program with our church. The mission was just to befriend her and visit her a minimum of one time per month. Nancy, my wife, visited her by herself for several years. Nancy became part of her inner circle and cashed small checks for her and took her an illicit chili dog and other treats that diabetics are not supposed to be allowed. I fussed at Nancy for doing that and ultimately I became part of the delivery system. Indeed our entire family came to know Betty, including our bassett hound Cleo. We always took time on holidays especially to get by and see her.

She had been confined to a nursing home bed for more than twenty years. When you entered her room her smile and greeting filled the hallway and bored straight through to the center of your heart. She had a little bit of family but their circumstances were meagar. It turned out that Betty had a steady stream of visitors not just from our church but several other churches as well. The more the merrier. She captivated us all with her upbeat attitude in spite of her limited circumstances. I came to find myself stopping by to see her several times a month. I always was lifted by her. I suppose I was ministering to her in a fashion but I recall that often she ministered to me.

She was like a child at Christmas. She always had a pretty good list of things she wanted. They were not expensive requests and it seemed that every year her posse of friends would deliver what was on her list of requests and then more. She beamed with glee over every wrapped gift that found its way to her room. I can still see her big smile and hear her hearty greeting. I remember the time her TV gave up the ghost. I took it upon myself to ask people for a donation to help buy her a new one. It was the easiest fundraiser ever. I had more than enough money to make the purchase in no time. There was enough money left over to buy her a VCR and some videos. She insisted on writing each donor a thank you. Of course she had lost the use of her arms and hands years earlier, so I got the opportunity to write each note for her. She ended each note of thank you " in the name of Jesus Christ, your friend, Betty."

One day, about 10 years ago, I went to see her and another person had taken over her room. Betty had developed one of many infections and this one was more that her frail 66 year old body could bear. In the isolation of an ICU she went home to that God who gave her life. I learned along the way of my association with her that she herself had sold pencils on one of the streets in Tallahassee before she became a permanent resident of her nursing home. So I think of Betty each time I hear this song.

" Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.
Wrap your present to your darling from you.
Pretty pencils to write I love you.
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue."

Thank you Betty for all you did for me and my family over, many, many years. I hope to see you again one day. I hope I am worthy to kiss you on the cheek and hug you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Zen of Thanksgiving

It was Thanksgiving 1995. My Father-In-Law lay in a nursing home in Tampa suffering with a myolopathy akin to ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. I had just received word that if I wanted to see my father alive that I needed to get to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We had just loaded up in Tallahassee heading to Tampa when that word came. What was I going to do? We only had one car that was road worthy. All local rental car companies were out of inventory. There was nothing left to do but to head to Tampa, leave the car for my family and rent a car in Tampa. Thus I spent this Thanksgiving day entirely on the interstate. I-75 to Tampa and then I-75 and 85 north.

I traveled for a living so driving the interstate was no stranger to me. However, this interstate experience was vastly different. Why? Because you could have shot a cannon down either side of the interstate and have been hard pressed to hit another living soul. My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a Big Mac at a McDonalds in Valdosta, GA. Along with some fries and hot apple pie and large diet Coke it was hardly the visionary turkey that had dominated my mind along with my Mother-In-Laws corn bread dressing. Add in the other elements of the feast that I was accustomed to and my state of depression deepened. As I drove I noted the bucolic landscapes off to my right and my left where you could see the automobiles gathered. I envisioned all the occupants of those homes gathered around a well dressed table, giving thanks and stuffing themselves with mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and numerous casseroles of broccolli, green beans, squash.

I made it as far as I could towards Chattanooga and finally had to find a room for the night. Exhausted I retired to a room all alone. My little family was safe and warm with my Mother-In-Law back in Tampa eating pecan pie and pumpkin, cherry, apple pies with whipped cream loaded on top. My Kentucky fried chicken with an institutional  piece of some variety of pie hardly seemed adequate this Thanksgiving day. I thought of my son who was 6,000 miles away from me in Buenos Aires on a church mission. How I missed him and felt a kinship with him in being absent from home.

Sleep came with great difficulty. I watched football on TV as long as I could stand it. My mind kept coming back to counting my blessings and trying hard not to sink into despair. I thought of my father and our strained relationship. He who had fought in WW 2 and had floated in the South Pacific 50 plus years prior. 48 hours in that circumstance after his ship had been torpedoed by the Japanese. My Father-In-Law who had been a mess sergeant in that same war and had seen Mussolini hanging upside down along with his girlfiend outside the gates of Paris. I thought of how difficult their circumstances had been all those many years ago and how they most likely wanted nothing more than to sit down with their families and share a meal of any sort. Whether or not it included turkey and dressing did not matter.

I sit here, 20 years after the fact. We just completed a wonderful Thanksgiving with traditional eats of all varieties. My Father did not make it to Christmas that year. We were back in north Alabama to bury him just 3 weeks later. Me, my wife, my two daughters and my son who would make it home from Argentina traveled there and back in a state of Thanksgiving just to be together.

Our minds are reservoirs of an awareness and a yearning for home and all things associated. When that circumstance is altered it is painful to endure. I suppose that all the roads and pathways in our minds lead to but one place. That one place is home where we find warmth, sustenance, association with those we hold dear. There is no effective substitute for it. It is a concept, an image and a zen-like emotional and psychological experience that keeps our GPS honed in that direction. Much more often than we are aware.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Another visit to Facebook

This is a re-visit to this subject. I posted on this back in June 2010, a little over five years ago. I continue to be fascinated with the world of Facebook. What makes it relevent? Why do we find it compelling? Why can't some of us leave it alone? What makes some people want to post argumentative, contentious comments? Why do some people want to post intimate details about their lives? Even when nobody gives a rip about those details. Some people literally live on it. They are the ones who immediately respond to others comments. It is connected to their central nervous system some way.

I notice that people like to comment about current social trends. Example: I am a Mormon so many of my Facebook "friends" are Mormons as well. Our church leadership recently took a position on the extension of some church ordinances to children of LGBT Latter Day Saints. This has truly become a tempest in a tea pot. Particularly so in Salt Lake City, the world headquarters of the Mormon church. There is some sort of adaptive technology that allows people to shade their FB pictures with colors. I have noticed that many SLC Mormons have adopted the rainbow as their shade color. Many of them have expressed outrage over their church' position on children of LGBT Mormons. Nevermind that the church published a Family Proclamation on the Family. It was published 20 years ago. The church position on same sex marriage was established then. If there is such a thing in our church as a same sex couple the likelihood that they have children is slim to none. Yet there has been extreme commentary on Facebook. People have left the church over this administrative stance due to their personal outrage. They don't leave quietly. They leave in a great pretense of anger and melodrama. My opinion? They were looking for something to leave over anyway.

Facebook in the hands of some members is a portal to writing a script to a soap opera. You get used to seeing them and you cannot resist reading their posts. I think it is akin to reality television. I could give you a list of a dozen or so people who post long detail laden comments about their loneliness, their recent divorce, unemployment, health issues, hobbies, the list is long and pervasive. Why? No one really cares. If you are getting divorced, go into the night quietly. If you are coming out of the closet, do so with a semblance of quietude. No one cares or is interested. Why inflict the reservoirs of your confusion in discovering your inner self on the rest of us. We have our own issues to deal with. Why are you posting? Why am I reading?

Why do others like to start an argument? My football is team is way better than your football team. My political party is much more insightful and significant than yours. All you perverts out there are going to hell.
Some particular regions and cities are inferior to where I live. Why would anyone want to post those controversial issues on Facebook?

I believe that Facebook has found a market in loneliness and unhappiness. Those amongst our society who are too lazy, under funded, disconnected and so forth to actually go out and do something gravitate to Facebook. Rather than go to work for a political candidate we like, go to games, or take up a cause we access that Facebook app and post what is on our mind. We type and post and then we turn on our reality show on TV and raid the fridge. We have made a contribution?

Of course there are those who use Facebook to post pictures to share with friends and families. I think of the Ice Bucket challenge. Millions raised for ALS largely due to Facebook posts. The addiction pays off in those realms.

One thing for sure, Facebook is not going away. There are those who will never be on it. I think of my son, my wife, my daughter. My son shared with me concerning a job he applied for. There were 35 positions open and 1500 applications. The position required a background check. He told me that the background checkers had that applicant list down to less than 500 almost immediately. How so? Simply by taking a look at what they posted on Facebook. Anything you put on the world wide web is there to stay. Even when you think you have deleted it. Smart people can resurrect it and read it.

I suppose this is the same reason some people Blog. Speaking of which, I need to post this for all 6 of my followers and go watch Duck Dynasty.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Belief, the placebo of outcomes.

There is an old saw about the hummingbird, or bumble bee, take your pick. It is said that aerodynamically there is no reason that either of these two creatures should be able to fly. However the engineers forgot to tell that to the bumble bee and the humingbird. They can both fly. They can fly very, very well.

I spent 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. I was not a scientist however, I had to take the products that the scientists gave us and convince physicians to use them. If I was not successful then the scientist and a whole lot of other people could not cash a pay check. In other words I had to believe in the product and I had to convince others to believe in it.

One of the important avenues that a medication has to travel is the FDA's, very strict approval regimen. An analogue has to progress through several phases to become an approved agent. There are animal studies and ultimately there are human trials. One method for studying an agent is a double blind study in humans pitting the effectiveness of the agent within a population of patients who have been diagnosed with a particular illness. Half of the patients are given the active medication, the other half are given a placebo, a sugar pill. The results are then studied head to head and contrasts are drawn between the two groups. Sample size is very important. You cannot expect very definitive results between two people, one on the active modality and one on the placebo. You must have thousands of people in each group. It is then that the bio-statisticians draw conclusions as to the efficacy of the product. More importantly there is an exploration of the medication's side effects. You would presume that there would be few side effects in the placebo group. You would presume incorrectly. There are tons of pronounced side effects in the placebo group. Because the participants are sick they are susceptible to side effects real and imagined. Those on placebo do not know they are on placebo and they have the side effects. Many are quite impressive. This is called the placebo effect. They ellicit side effects because they believe they are on the active med.

Belief is a powerful thing. I listened to a motivational speaker by the name of Lou Tice. He was quite the effective speaker and used to speak to audiences all over the country. I had several of his tapes. He touched on this subject. A few impressions that he made on me were as follows:

It is interesting the effect that a "WHO SAID" has on us all. What is a Who Said? A Who Said is the person that is authorized by society by virtue of their credentials to perform a certain task. There are those that marry people. The Who Said stands at the front of an audience and pronounces people to be married. " By the authority granted by the state of confusion I now pronounce you man and wife". One minute you believe that you are single and the next minute you believe that you are married. The who said has spoken. That belief is now firmly implanted within two people. Nowadays it is a fleeting awareness and covers a broader spectrum of us humans, or none at all.

You develop an illness you go to see the physician and maybe the surgeon. In this person's history is a "Who Said". One minute he was a medical student with extreme limitation on what he did. The next minute by virtue of the "who said" and whatever, license or certification comes along with the process he/she believes that they can diagnose your illness and actually slice you open and cure you. Not only do they believe it. You also believe it and willingly submit yourself to them with sincere belief.

Belief, is a very powerful thing. Lou Tice tells of a time that he took his little grand daughter to one of his presentations. It was a sold out event and there were many hundreds of people in his audience. He sat the little girl on the stage so she could watch the crowd. He spoke to them and they gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion. He expains what his intent was. He wanted this little child to remember her grand father on that stage. He wanted her to be able to recall that event for the following reason. When a big kid told the little girl that she was ugly, clumsy, dimwitted he wanted her to come and discuss it with him. He would bring to her memory the experience with the audience. " Do you remember all those people who came to listen to me?" Now let me tell you something. You are immensely talented, beautiful, graceful, gifted, etc. You can tell them your grandfather says so your own personal " Who Said." Is it any wonder then that parents have such an immense effect on the way that their little ones turn out?  We, as parents, must plant the belief in them that they are special. If we don't then someone is going to come along that will influence them to believe that they are just the opposite.

Lewis Grizzard, a wonderful columnist and humorist wrote a book entitled, " Elvis is dead and I ain't feelin so good myself." It was a popular book and looked at lots of funny scenarios involving our beliefs or lack of them. Such is the fodder of the hypochondriac.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: " What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." That something that must lie with in us is a belief in ourselves. If we have it then we are unconquerable.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Chewing Tobacco in Paradise

I was born and raised in the hills of southern West Virginia. I left when I was 14 and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. That was around 1960. The weekly series The Waltons was almost an exact replica of the life I led in those hills. The balladier, John Denver said about West Virginia: " Life is old there, older than the trees." The Waltons was based somewhere in the year 1930. West Virginia was still the same 25 years later when I lived there. As a matter of fact, it is still pretty much the same even today.

My mind goes back to an incident that occurred when I was on my way home from piano lessons. I used to ride the bus over to the Van Stavern sisters, two spinsters, after school and take a weekly piano lesson. I would then walk home. It must have been a couple of miles to walk. The route took me by my cousin Smokey Dunbar's house. I must have been 13 or so years of age the same age as Smokey. On this particular occassion, Smokey, was playing around out by the barn. I saw him out there and stopped off to goof off with him for a little spell.

I noticed right away that he had his cheek all pooched out and a little drizzle of what looked like chocolate escaping down his chin. I asked him what he was eating and he told me that it was some Red Man, did I want some? In a state of constant hunger and no stranger to tobacco I decided that I would try some. He loaded me up and I commenced to chewing and spitting. In spite of the fact that I was coming back from piano lessons, Smokey refrained from beating me up on general principles. I think the fact that I relented to chew some Red Man with him got me a pass on the thrashing for being a sissy that took piano lessons.

We sat there on the fence and talked and chewed and talked about things that 13 years olds do, mostly girls and school. After a brief few moments those beautiful mountains on the horizon began to appear upside down. I also began to feel ill. I uttered a weak " I gotta go Smokey" and took off for home. As soon as I got out of sight of Smokey I cleared my mouth of the vile weed but the damage was done. Man, I was sick. I almost immediately threw up and then broke out into a cold sweat. The nausea and dizziness was more than I could take.

In an effort to find some respite I laid down in the ditch by the side of the road. I laid there for quite some while attempting to start feeling better. It was a little one lane country road. The weather was pleasant and I had decided that it was not a really bad place to die. Not many vehicles passed by. The ones that did did not notice that frail, skinny little kid beside the road, in the ditch with the greenish hue about him. It was starting to get dark and I had about resolved to arise and commence my journey home.

I saw the headlights of an old pick up truck that looked sort of like my Dad's coming towards me. As it got closer I was right about the truck but wrong about the driver. It was my Mom who had become worried about me and came looking for me. I loaded into the cab and she inquired as to why I was so late. I advised her that I had become ill and laid down in the side ditch along the road hoping to get to feeling better. I had no idea as to what it was, obviously a virus floating around school. She drove us home. I went to bed pretty much immediately without dinner. I felt pretty wicked to have been chewing tobacco when I should have been heading home and not worrying my parents.

Today we are a much more sophisticated tribe. You rarely ever see people chewing on that animal purgative, tobacco. Nowadays the habits gravitate in the direction of a capsule, tablet or hypodermic. The masses consume barley by the barrels in front of the television. Somehow we are more developed and aware.

I hear John Denver's refrains: " Dusty road, take me home, to the place where I belong. West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country road." In my 70 year old mind I see myself. An insignificant, little country boy living a life in paradise and did not even know it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dogs are wierd people

We have a little bassett hound named Petie (PT). She is soon to be 10 months old. She is the love of our family. She happens to be our only child still living at home. She is very much like a child. She cannot be trusted alone in a room as she cannot restrain herself from chewing up distal parts of furniture, kleenex, newspaper and various other inanimate objects. She has pronounced rodent qualities in her chewing proclivity. Unfortunately she is so hyperexiteable that she cannot restrain herself from jumping on and performing some mitigated chewing of our grand children when they come to our home. This is very annoying and makes people not want to come in the same room with her. She, therefore, is banished to her kennel or the back yard when we have company.

Our last bassett, Maggie, drowned in our swimming pool around 4 years ago. We are very careful about allowing PT much time around the pool. Fortunately we installed a kiddie fence some 10 years ago to control access to it by various grand children. It is gated and locked and provides much peace of mind when all is in place.

Last week while cleaning the pool I found the carcass of a dead skink in the skimmer. If you don't know much about skinks, think 5-6" snake with legs. I removed the carcass throwing it over next to the base of the kiddie fence. My hope was that a bird would discover it and carry it off.

Flash forward to this morning. I am cleaning the pool and PT accompanies me to sniff all over and discover what she can to illuminate her little hum drum life. I notice that she is upside down writhing and wallowing all over something along the fence. I think, I should have buried that skink in a shallow grave or thrown it over the fence so my neighbor's dog, Rex, could wallow all over it. However, Rex' owner is a college dean and most likely has been taught to forego the tendency towards wallowing all over dead, necrotic reptiles.

I continue to vacuum the pool and then notice PT padding along the deck with something snake like in her little jaws. I connect the dots and I say " Oh no, not on my watch. You are not about to dine on a week old, drowned skink today." I put down the vac pole and head hastily PT's way. I catch her just before she gets to the gate. I grab her behind the neck and try to extricate the skink. She protests vehemently and I win. Or lose if you want to calculate that I am now holding a week old, dead, rotten skink in my hand. Ewwwww, much hand washing goes on in an instant.

A little later I am sitting down in my family room reading the paper and PT gets up from her nap and comes to get some spontaneous scratching and loving on. She is such a a cute little fellow that I cannot resist picking her up and putting her in my lap which she always enjoys immensely. It is then that I catch a drift of the pronounced smell of the dead skink, one letter off from skunk. I mean I catch the entire effect of her wallowing all over it.

This leads to an immediate bath which is a whole other realm of PT escapades. It is a wonderful workout with chasing her, restraining her with one hand while lathering her with the other and her being convinced that I am torturing her.

This is all leads me to make the declaration found in the title of this post. What sort of errant DNA mapping makes the dog want to roll around on dead corpses and other vial smelling substances? Perhaps it is some sort of primitive protective activity. No enemy of the dog would stoop to make it a meal if it smells as putrid as is caninely possible. Indeed, dogs are wierd people.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Whatever Happened to the 25 cent movie?

My four year old grand daughter, Bellamy, just came for a visit from Ft. Myers. There is only so much you can do to entertain a four year old for a week. After healthy doses of visits from cousins, dips in the pool, trips to the park, trips to Sweet Frog’s, etc. we finally decided on a movie. That is a nice cool way to spend a hot, July afternoon. So her Nana and I and Bellamy were off to AMC in the Tallahassee mall for a showing of Minions.

Now, Nana and Pop are senior citizens and as I mentioned Bellamy is only four. Cost of this two hour excursion? $30.00 !!!! Admission was $17 and refreshments came to a tidy $13. Only Bellamy had refreshments. A small popcorn, bag of M&M’s and a small lemonade. What the what ?!?

It is sometimes hard to keep abreast of the perception of time. However, in my recollection, I clearly recall going to the movie and getting 50 cents from Mom and Dad to cover the cost. That was more than enough. Admission 25 cents, candy bar 5 cents and a coke ten cents. Why I had a dime left over.

I suppose that I must sound sort of like Methusaleh, however, I am only 69 years of age. I clearly remember going to work at Kwik Chek for 75 cents an hour back in the 60’s. It was hard to spend all the money I made on that part time job. I thought to myself that if I ever could get to a point where I could generate $15,000 per year on some sort of job I could live like a king. I clearly remember going to work for DuPont in 1972. I started at $7800.00 per year with the chance to make another $1500 to 2000 in bonus money. I had a company car and my expenses were covered by a $15 per diem. For $15, I could stay in a Holiday Inn for $7.95 for a night, eat a nice dinner for $4-5 bucks and breakfast maybe $1.50. When I left DuPont I was making north of $100k per year. Expenses were all picked up via a corporate AMX card. A hotel was $100 per night, dinner $25 and breakfast $10 minimally. That was over a thirty year career. And guess what, I was definitely not living like a king. I had three kids in college all at one time, a mortgage, car payment, and a few credit cards.

Now that I am retired I just seem to watch the dollar go speeding by me at an advanced rate. I make 10 times what I made when I first started with DuPont and don’t even have to get out of bed for it. Guess what, I am still not living like a king. I am a Medicare participant. I swallow a bunch of pills which seem to keep me functioning. I went to get a diabetes med filled the other day. The normal co-pay has been $45 for 30 days supply. They tell me it is now $162 for the same supply. I have for the first time run into the phenomenon called the “donut hole” in my prescription plan. Seems that once you have spent $2900 in the plan year your coverage changes and you have to pick up more of it. Someone at my insurance provider explained it all to me and once I get to $4700 on the year the copays go back down again. Get out of town ! Do you realize that is about 60% of what my first job paid me? “ No sir, I do not realize that, however do you realize that it is now 2015?”

I started to rehearse the movie cost scenario to her but somehow I came to realize that she would be unimpressed. They tell me that our national debt is somewhere around $18 trillion dollars. Are you kidding me? First off how do you conceptualize one trillion dollars? I remember being a college junior and Colonel Andrews who taught me economics at Huntingdon College discussed how much one billion dollars was. He said that if Julius Caesar had a billion dollars in 43 BC and spent it at the rate of $1,000 per day that he still would not have spent half of it by our time which was 1968. He also said that if you were to stack it in $100 dollar bills that it would make 3 stacks the height of the Washington monument. Now I believe that one trillion dollars is 1,000 billion dollars. That is a lot of Washington monuments.

Oh well, I guess I will give up trying to take it all in. I would just like to figure out how I am going to make it when that national debt gets to $100 trillion. Maybe by that time Bellamy will be in a position to take her Nana and me to the movies. I am definitely having popcorn and some M&M’s on her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Defense of Loyalty

Just how important is loyalty? I am not sure anymore. I remember as a grade schooler putting my hand over my heart at the start of every day at London Elementary school in London, Ohio and pledging allegiance to our flag. I am not speaking of patriotism. I am speaking of loyalty. Allegiance. Not only to the flag but of all things pertaining to this life we live. Loyalty to family, spouse, employer, neighbor, community, the law, religion ( one of your choosing ), friends, this list could go on forever. However, you get the picture.

I used to have a supervisor who was unfaithful to his spouse. Other than this weakness he was a decent person and a good supervisor. Unfortunately, in my view, loyalty to a spouse while you were away on business while she remained behind and kept a home for you and raised your little ones was a consummate requirement. Fellow workers used to cozy up to me and say to me, “ John Doe, is a great boss, don’t you think? I think we owe him our loyalty.” I used to shake people right where they stood by replying, “ John Doe is unfaithful to his wife. It is well known that he is philanderer. Consider for a moment, if you will, when he is doing your performance evaluation and your raise and future is in his hands. If he is not loyal to the person who gave him children and to whom he pledged fidelity through his marriage vows how loyal is he going to be towards you? ” I took the position that I did not trust him and I found his moral compass askew. I pledged my best effort in the work place. However, absolute loyalty to this supervisor? Not so much.

We run across people who are avid fans of a sports team. That is usually when the team is winning. It is always fun to watch those fans run for the hills when their team starts losing. They are the ones who lead the charge to fire the head coach, change the quarterback, pitching rotation, point guard etc. They end up being the least loyal entity that you could possibly imagine. Chicago Cubs fans, in general, are great examples of a loyal fan base that remain true blue to their beloved Cubbies. Atlanta Braves fans? It’s getting harder and harder to find many fans with dedicated loyalty to that franchise.

What about loyalty in business? Treat a customer shabbily and see how quickly that loyalty wears thin and runs to the competition. Now how about the reverse? How loyal are people to a business person who goes over the top for them? For the most part, I think you earn that loyalty and can most likely count on it. There are some glaring exceptions that are hurtful and alarming. I had a client whom I had known for more than 30 years. I took on the sale of her home. I discounted my commission to a damaging level. I mowed her grass , I babysat her child for her. I worried about her and prayed for her well being. She had been recently divorced and was in need of a loyal friend.

I referred her to a repair man to affect some repairs for her. He was also a realtor. In due course of time she decided to list her house with him at full commission. It actually cost her around $5,000 more in commissions after selling the house to do business with him. Since I had bent over backwards to help her I am still scratching my head as to why she would treat me so shabbily. It is almost as if she wanted to kick me to hurt her ex husband in some sort of bizarre, Freudian twist. It hurt me a great deal at the time. It was not the loss of business. More business walked in the door eventually that eclipsed hers. It was just such an abject display of disloyalty. Almost like what you experience in a divorce where there has been immense disloyalty.

It is getting to a point where loyalty to others, a cause, even to yourself is getting harder and harder to find. I believe that loyalty is an important thread in the tapestry of our lives. It is important that we engender this characteristic into our practice of life. I believe that this requires that we be forgiving and open in our relationships with those we hold dear. The old saying, “ He who seeks the perfect friend, remains without one.” We all fall short of the mark. Most people, in most circumstances are worthy of our loyalty. My personal approach to my going on 70 years of life is that I am willing to extend loyalty to most people that I develop relationships with until they disappoint me. Unfortunately, the disappointment usually transpires. Then I find myself at the crossroads of decision. Is the relationship hill worth the climb to reclaim?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Failure, the School House of Success

Have you ever heard the old saying that you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time?

I think that the person we most likely need to be concerned about fooling is ourselves. We often bring ourselves to ruin by what we think of ourselves. We feel like we are losers and will always be such. Reasons line up in a cascade of major premises playing against minor premises. These sorts of experiences start early in our lives and persist with us until we draw our final breath. Example: I asked the head cheerleader to go to prom with me. She laughed in my face and made me feel like a pathetic loser. Therefore, I will never ask another pretty girl to go to prom with me again. I will instead stay home and be depressed and feel sorry for myself.

Another example: I interviewed for a job that I really wanted. There was one opening and 2,000 people applied for the position. Someone else got the job. Why did I even try against such odds? I am a pathetic loser. I am going to work at the car wash the rest of my life and never try to get that great job again.

It is my personal experience, as one who can speak authoritatively on losing, that failure is an important component of a valuable learning curve. As we step back from failure and assess why we did not make the grade, we expose ourselves to valuable introspection. If we carefully assess the situation we can make great strides on the next attempt. Therefore, failure becomes a valuable classroom in the school of life.

I have a son who was an excellent baseball player. He was decent from the time he was a 6 year old  tee baller. He got a little better each year. He was selected to the All Star teams every year all through his early youth. In our town the jump between Little League as a 12 year old to the next level was a select league which was a popularity contest, usually between parents, known as Babe Ruth. The officials of Babe Ruth would go around to all the Little League district tournaments and compile a list of the top players. They would then send them a letter and invite them to come and join their league the next season. All the other players went to Junior Major League, sponsored by the Parks and Rec department in our city. All players in this league were assigned to a team and playing time was mandated. In other words, they played for the love of the game.

My son was sort of small and did not get the invitation to Babe Ruth. Lots of his friends went to the select league and he felt sort of down about the process. His Mom and Dad encouraged him to continue to play and enjoy the game. He excelled in this less stellar league. He owned the short stop position. He had a wonderful coach named Bill Lord who taught him that he was special. He made All Stars, played in a state tournament and grew in size and talent.

To make the story shorter I move along to High School. He made the varsity and was playing behind a kid who had gone through the select league. After a while my son caught the eye of his coach with his ability at short stop. Eventually he replaced the primadonna and sent him to the bench and became the starting short stop on the varsity of one of the largest high schools in north Florida. He played the position all through his high school days and walked on in college eventually.

He could have quit trying . He did not. He took his failure and worked on areas that he needed to improve. There is a definition of luck that goes like this: “ Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” The impetus to prepare comes so very often in the face of failure.

Failure becomes a valuable school house. The pretty girl turns you down for that prom date. Rather than give up why not take some dance lessons. Buy some new clothes. You know what you have to do. If you miss out on the job or promotion then step back and prepare yourself for the next time. More education, certification, practice you know the drill.

Someone once said that success is failure turned inside out. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting Beheaded in Atlanta

I don't know about you but I have just about had it with the crazy, insurgent, whackos around the world trying to intimidate all the rest of us. The recent beheadings of the 21 Egyptian Coptics by ISIS is all the rage on the news media. It seems to me that the media provides the cave man terrorist with just what they are looking for. The shock headlines that tell the world just how mentally disturbed they are and that we had all better lock ourselves in our houses and hide while they take over the world.

I am addicted to Afrin nose spray. So is about 50% of America. That is how Schering-Plough designed it so as to secure a robust sales curve for all investors and employees. I was in downtown Atlanta around 25 years ago with my family on a Braves weekend and had forgotten my Afrin, aka: snoot medicine. After trying to sleep in the Marriott hotel with all my family with me I made a decision to go buy some Afrin. I eased into my jeans and sneakers and a tee shirt, grabbed some money and went to the lobby. I asked the concierge where the closest convenience store was located. He responded thusly: " About two blocks down Peachtree. However, sir you are not going there at this hour are you?" My response was " Yes, I cannot sleep because I cannot breathe. I am addicted to breathing and therefore must get some Afrin nose spray." His response was, " Sir please don't do that. That would be decidedly dangerous. You are in DOWN TOWN Atlanta. It is 3:15 AM" I explained to him that I really did not have a choice and I was going to go. He suggested that I drive there and not walk. I agreed, he had the valet bring my car up and off I went.

Now to describe this location in downtown Atlanta at 3:00 in the morning goes beyond my capability on the keyboard. Let me just say that demilitarized zone sounds adequate. I was the only caucasion in that parking lot. However, I was determined and I exited my car and heard the following ( no kidding ) " Hey Bubba, you see that honkey over there? Do you want to kill him or do you want me to?" Since I was the only "honkey" in sight I assumed he was speaking of me. I reason, that one way or the other my breathing is going to be compromised. By that time I was committed. I went inside, located the Afrin, pressented it to the clerk and paid the $5 for 1/4 ounce of the precious concoction and headed to my car. ( I would have paid $50 for it ). On the way out I stood as tall as I could, kept my eyes moving and all I saw was 20 or so pairs of intoxicated, higher than a drone eyes following me. I never picked out Bubba but honestly speaking I did not see anyone in that group of people that I did not feel sorry for. If I had to fight, I was ready and liked my odds against pretty much everyone I saw. 20 minutes later I was back in bed, breathing deeply and off to dream land.

The next morning Nancy, my wife inquired as to where I had gone so early in the morning. I told her. She had thought I was milling around the lobby of the hotel looking to get something out of a vending machine. She turned pale when I told her of my experience.

Later on in the day I made the decision that we were going to the Braves game vi a MARTA. The brochure made it sound so much easier than driving and fighting traffic and parking. We had a MARTA station right by our hotel. After purchasing some cheaper than dirt tokens we were on our way. Mostly the train was crowded with people on their way to see the Braves play. Except for the fact that seated next to my daughter was a fellow with purple hair, ear rings  and numerous tatoos. He was leaning on my daughter and talking trash to her. She advised me and I changed places with her. He was disinterested in her middle aged over weight Father and we completed the trip without incident.

After peanuts and cracker jacks, hot dogs and a great game it was time to go back to the hotel. My family begged me to not have us ride MARTA back. So I hailed a taxi. After a 20 minute scary ride and a $40 fare we were back at the hotel. A good night's sleep and a smooth car ride back home to Tallahassee and now that trip is a faint memory. I have been back to Atlanta dozens of times since then.

My point is simply this. We have to decide whether or not we are going to be intimidated by the likes of ISIS or not. Do we surrender our freedom of movement because they put on public display their sick and tormented minds driven by a centuries old dissatisfaction with their way of life? Or do we continue to enjoy our lives and do all that we can to teach ourselves, our children and grandchildren that there are many beautiful things in this world that are worth taking the time to see. To retreat to our bedrooms and draw the covers over our heads renders us victims of those demented people. They win if they drive us to that option.

I like the bumper sticker that was seen prominently displayed in lots of places after 9/11. It said very simply and directly, " Do not be afraid..............Be alert."