Monday, December 26, 2011

When is a Tatoo not just a Tatoo?

I have never understood tatoos--until today.

Much in the manner of a Jewish Prayer Shawl or a Catholic genuflecting in true humility, I learned today that a tatoo can be an, "Outward Sign of an Inward Grace."  A communications tool of the best that's in us.

Sally is a lovely single woman in her early thirties.  She has great friends of both sexes, but for full time companionship, she has decided that Dani is her lifetime companion.  They don't go to protest marches, at least, not any more--and they've found contentment after one successful house sale and one near foreclosure together.

Today at a family dinner she has kind enough (though she didn't need to ask our permission) ask if Rosie and I would be offended if she got a small discreet tatoo in the form of a ring around the base of the fourth finger of her left hand--and she had her reasons at the ready.

There is not "convenient easy shorthanded way" to communicate to an interested guy that she's in a comitted relationship.  In our culture the wedding ring does that easily and quickly with a minimum of confusion.  Trouble is, Sally is a health care professional and washes her hands multiple times daily.  The water gets in under the metal, no matter of what kind, and eats away at her sensitive skin.

A discreet tatoo (technically against company policy where she works, would help solve that problem.

Of course we said yes!  We love her, we support her and her self defense tactics, however unique and personal.

Sally explained that a well-to do man of 57 asked her out, as do many who receive her care--and explained when she changed the subject discreetly that she was wearing no ring.

We laughed and told her that since she was obviously that "scrumptious" she should't be put off by interest from the opposite sex though she is interested only in her own---right now!  Her companion, Dani, said she had told her the same thing more than once.

I took the opportunity to tell her that years ago when she got together with Dani we went to our Bishop and asked him what we should do.  So many were kicking otherwise loving and lovable children into the street for that choice.  He gave us wise advice and we've found it easy to follow with our daughter-- "Just love her!"

I had worried that she would never know the joys of motherhood---at least that's what we used to call it--but somehow both she and Dani have managed to avoid all the having of a baby and still raise two fine sons,  Dani's nephews who come to them when real parental guidance is needed.   At one point the two boys lived with Sally and Dani when their mother couldn't find any other place for the money she was bringing in.  It was Sally and Dani who got the pre teen boys up and off to school, helped them with their lessons, talked to them about the facts of life and became stabalizing influence in their lives.

They have since grown up and on and moved in with others leaving their Mom.  When presents arrived a couple days ago, Sally and Dani got two nice offerings from the boys who always come to visit when they're in town.  Their mom, sadly, got what she deserved.  Nothing this year---maybe being an irresponsible birth mother will merit better treatment as these two boys turn into men...but for now.....


The Best Cure for Anger is Delay - Socrates

Consider the many benefits of writing
all your conversations for a while!
Anger can be addictive, especially late at night when the disappointments of the day magnify the emotions.  A change in medication has left a gap in reason and my family must suffer as I reconnect with them through a 30 day readjustmeting period.

As in the best conversations, as host/patriarch/leader and pioneer I find I generate less friction by listening much more than I do by provoking reaction to change.  My wife's encroaching deafness has provided an accidental solution to a time honed dilemma: NOTES!

Much as the portable white board revolutionized the live radio broadcast before a live audience,  I have learned to carry a pad of paper and a wide tipped marker to make comments, reaction and the odd personal request.

Like he man with larangitis, I am more welcome in my own home because I temper my mercurial fits of frustration and short tempered outbursts through the filter of a brief, often complimentary note.  It takes massive discipline, but it's the 21st century version of think before you speak..

Like the cooling saucer of the Senate into which the Founding Fathers hoped would cure the excesses of a hot blooded House, I am welcome back into my own home----with wise words---and the unexpected result is that I have a written record to take to a blog session that would otherwise go untouched!

BECOMING JANE -- The Singles Ward of its day

The nubile Jane (Anne) Sizes up her future in two men
Anne Hathaway is the quintissential Jane Austin--the Pride and Predjudice author who parlayed pain and suffering into a comedy of manners as a young writer.  Tonight as a 2011 Boxing Day treat we capped a day of family and food with a little light DVD fare--and a chick flick with a timeless message.

As I wacthed it appeared to me a Victorian dating ritual that is as old as the fifth grade school yard of any age. Though the long term appeal of enough money to sustain a fine family has been replaced with the spark of courtship and what passes for true love on campus or afterward--flirting with the eyebrows and impossible pot stirring previals in both time frames.  

Even the Little League mom in Maggie Smith comes to the fore in the Victorian Age as an elderly woman fights with every weapon at her command to achieve a great companion for her dullard son.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Obese Member of of the Clean Plate Club? Guilty!

Old Food Habits Die Beneath the Belt!
Two wonderful children of the Depression raised me out in Laramie, Wyoming.  "Take what you eat, then eat what you take!"  All five kids in our family were taught to clean our plates--and to this day, my wife expects it. No left overs!  That's her battle cry!

She is the daughter of a butcher--lots of meat at dinner (our biggest meal of the day) and melt in your mouth mashed potatos are still a sign a sign of love, acceptance between us.  Sadly and proudly all at once:  I am a poster child for my wife's great cooking--and yet, as a diabetic, my doctor sayes I MUST lose weight!  Top all these mental and engrained conflicts I have ome to accept the fact that I'm addicted to food--it's color, it's texture, it's volume and it's taste.  When I go to a chinese restaurant I suffer from a syndrome with no name:  My stomach is full to bursting and my brain tells me I can still eat more!  What am I to do!

Exercise and eat everything I want?  Nope--never happen!  I'm at that age where bad knees keep me from walking.  Weak ankles, low center of gravity--and a similar addiction to sitting for hours in front of the computer to write, design, do fun earn at home activities and hours and hours of church work---I'd be a basket case, but I'm just too big for the basket!

My old explanation told with a chuckle that I've always told folks about my size is getting old.  "It's easier to play Santa than to lose weight!"  I really want to never have to tell that joke again--but I'm in a no win situation.  I love to eat--and I can't waddle away from aromatic, tasty temptation for the sake of slim!

My slat thin 35 year old son came up for a snack overheard me reading this to his mother and cut to my quick, "It's called SELF CONTROL, Dad!" he shouted.  "Shut up!  I said sweetly, "Shut the full plate of Thanksgiving Turkey UP!"

Modern intake philosophy have taught me to eat sparingly--cut the plate in half.  I don't want to cuz I love food--especially as my wife fixes it so well and especially for me.  Her self image is riding on my burping gratitude for her nightly offering of the glut of calories, fat, starch and a little sugar--with a little treat--or two or three just before bed.  How can I refuse such a delicious temptress who loves me so well in so many other ways?  I can't offend her with any diet plans---and to show me she REALLY loves me--She keeps it coming.

As Santa I've been trained to give out stickers and not treats because psychologists say that kids who get tasty treats from Santa to make them happy--turn to food when they're lonely and sad--and they get fat!

In her head she knows she shouldn't--but she can't help herself and as a result neither can I.

We've purified our water to keep the toxins out of my belly fat.

Breakfast is an apple--may be with a little low fat greek yogurt.   I dry fry my own single egg smattering of protien wrapped in a gluten free tortilla every day at 1.  I make two with the frustrated desire to eat the second one for dinner at 4--and then my sweet kitchen general wheels out the nightly feast and I crumble.

I set a goal to lose 25 pounds before my next doctor's visit--and I was well on my way until we postponed the visit for two months and I fell victim to more and more dark chocolate-- the extra piece or two of her fudgy applesauce cake--I gained back five pounds and I gave up!

The thought just came to me to buy five or six tupperware square boxes and put into each box ONLY what I could have--Each box would have a time limit--and I would eat NOTHING, I repeat N O T H I N G but what was in the boxes. Good Luck--if rules were made to be broken--these boxes would last for three days tops!

I heard about all kinds of unique diets:  The Dolly Parton diet--two ice cream scoops brimming with what every you REALLY wanted to eat--and the rest of the meal:  Cabbage Soup!  Yummy!@#$%^&*%$#

Theres the cut the plate in half diet--but unless you put the other half of the delicious meal in a bowl, seal it and force yourself to eat it tomorrow for lunch--it just lies there calling your name.

A radio play from the old days spun the apocryphal story of a little Cuban lady who lost her son in the Communist rise to power and she signs on to kill Fidel Castro by "poisoning" him with her mouth watering highly caloric/cholesterolic cooking.  I've kidded my wife that the habits of her 50s up bringing is slowly expanding my waist line to it's heart attack limit, but how can you berate a woman who slaves all day in the kitchen to please your palate and harden your arteries?

( My great cook applied to work at a cooking implement store nearby and a snooty HR type asked her to fill out an application that included the question, "Give some evidence that you know your way around the kitchen."   My wife jokingly wrote, "When we were first married 30 years ago my husband had a 36 inch waist--it's balooned up to 52 inches and growing."   The snooty applications clerk found nothing funny in that but the rest of the store heard about and laughed and laughed.

"So tell me Doctor," how do I get my wife to change habits of a life time and feed me salads for dinner and tiny meals mascarading as samples and tastes?"  Old habits die hard and part of me, the part that flops over my belt never wants her to stop!   Help!  I'm drowning in a sea of tasty gravey, stuffing and all the turkey I can eat!

(I read this post to my wife who nodded knowingly--and with an unbending resolve to keep loading me up.  With a keen sense of skewer she reminded that tonight especially --with Turkey and all the trimming--I was haunting the kitchen, snitching out of the mashed potato bowl and getting finger fulls of the mouthwateringly delicious stuffing---and stuffed myself BEFORE my plate was served!)

Wavering character in the face of delicious temptation!  (That may be inscribed on my tombstone as they lower my vastly overweight body into the ground in a coverted piano crate--because I wouldn't fit in a standard size even extra wide coffin!  Pallbearers--hope---six fork lifts!   Never mind my ample demise!  When it smells good and looks great--I'm tuckin' in-- Stay tuned.  There are no easy fixes.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Mitt puts Energy and Jobs up Front with Rifkin for his Energy Secretary!

First Romney Appointment
Rifkin to Energy Secretary
November 6, 2011:  Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney raised the stakes in the Presidential race today by naming the first member of his cabinet exactly one year before the 2112 elections.

"Jeremy Rifkin, energy consultant and author of the book, The Third Industrial Revolution: Toward a New Economic Paradigm (excerpt) has agreed to serve as Energy Secretary in the first Romney administration." the Republican candidate for president announced from his national campaign headquarters in New Hampshire.  

"In making this announcement," Romney continued, "Jeremy and I hope to move the presidential debate away from lesser things toward the most important issue facing our country in the next four years:.   Energy powers our homes and businesses.  Developing it in the way that Rifkin planned systems are already doing all over Europe and.just beginning in Vermont, Florida and Hawaii is improving lives and the economy, Most important it's creating great, high tech jobs."

Rifkin responded that he welcomed the challenge to be the Romney point man on Energy in the coming months of the campaign and the first. Rimney administration.

:In every major transition in the history of this country, practical visionaries have led the way:  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs guided the market place toward products and processes that changed and continue changing our lives.  I believe Mitt Romney is that man!  His background and his intellect are well suited to champion the cause for a new change in the way we generate and pay for green energy from the forces that exist in abudance all around us.  I am honored to assist him in that vital effort."

Before publishing his landmark book on developing two way energy at home and at work--then distributing it through a energy sharing network like the Internet throughout the country and around the world,  Rifkin engineered energy development and storage systems in cooperative systems in currently, more than 50 European countries.  He and his partners are already doing it!

As he concluded the news conference, Romney challenged his fellow Republicans and President Obama to make the issues the primary focus of the next year of campaigning by taking the initiative as he did today.

"When the American voters know more about the members of the teams we propose and the programs we will put in place when one of us hits the ground running in January of 2013, they can make a more informed choice.": Romney concluded.  "Jeremy Rifkin is a man of proven new concepts that are already producing energy and jobs overseas.  He wants to work with us here to do the same thing for America."  I want to be your President to help him do that."

"The race for the presidency should be more than a beauty contest,.  Today, I take a bold step to raise the rhetoric of this campaign towards more substance--toward proven ideas that will help us rise to our stature as the number one economy in the world, again.  

"Ronald Reagan helped us raise our sights with a campaign that convinced us that it was Morning in America.   I tell you, the sun rises every day--and when we're ready, when we are prepared, when we make the plans to do what is already working in other countries -- we will greet our next tomorrows with a new Amcerican Destiny--powered by green, affordable energy and jobs for every man and woman who can qualify to help get us there!"   

DISCLAIMER:  Of course this is fabricated from the whole cloth of the current presidential race--but suppose......?

For more information listen to a pod cast of an interview with Jeremy Rifkin by Diane Reihm, NPR from her broadcast this morning, LINK:     


Friday, September 30, 2011

What if I have other plans?

Spare us the Autopilot!
At our house, Customer Service is the name of the Game!  

Ever since our Jeff was old enough to carry a nickel in his little jeans, I've stepped back at the counter and let him deal with the sales clerk.   Both he and his sister didn't want to talk directly to an adult at that tender age--but I gambled that the desire for the little toy or treat was strong enough to motivate them to ask for what they wanted.  Eventually they got used to it and learned how to talk to adults it as they grew older.  I believe that this single skill developed in ones so young turned them into great customer service practitioners by the time they were old enough to go to work in the world..

Dads can be a little mean sometimes to train up a child in the way he should grow--and when he is old he shall not depart from it.

Grampas often use a more kindly approach, but the means and the end are the same.

A Half-a-Wal tonight I needed help finding a gift we've been planning for our Sally's birthday dinner tomorrow night.   A bright young clerk said she'd go with me to help locate it.  What a luxury, to get that high quality of help.  It's standard Walmart training.  I love to visit with folks at stores and see where their commitment to great customer service comes from.

This is a good place to repeat the little story about, Bessie, the Atlanta Tea Room Great Gramma Waitress who summarized her reason for giving great Customer Service with the tender phrase: "Cuz I loves my peoples!"   When I worked at Mrs. Field's Cookie Company we traveled a bit to produce media at new stores to communicate within the company about the latest and greatest store designs.  

On one week long swing with the VP of Marketing and my direct Boss, the Senior Director of Training, we fell into a pattern of asking servers, bell boys, desk clerks and airline personel why they gave great customer service.   Bessie, in Atlanta gave the best answer I heard out of dozens of responses.  (We had planned to make a sequal to the training film, "Why do you give Great Customer Service?" but my involvement in that long term project ended when I prematurely terminated my services with the company to go onto other things)  

I've honed a sensitivity to great Customer Service ever since and I've picked up on a thing or two about  begruding contributions from folks who would really rather phone in  their weak brand of commitment to the job as greeter, cashier or grocery cart wrangler.

One little fire plug of a lady has grown accustomed to my teasing at our nearby store,  She sees me coming and starts her own brand of playful banter before I even arrive within the 20 foot perimeter.  Like so many minimum wage greeters, she has developed an "automatic pilot" tone to her entrance greeting ("Welcome to Walmart")  and her exit line, ("Have a good day!")

I tried something new with her tonight.  I got her attention with my own well thought out response, "What if I have other plans?"  It did catch her by surprise and she gulped air with wide eyes-- but nothing came.  Finally she gasped, "Well, you want to ruin your day!" and I gave her two imaginary points for thinking on her feet--something she doesn't do very often.

Earlier as we paid our bill, we got the thoughtless "Good Day Kiss Off a quick thinking casher came back with, "You can't have other plans!  For at least the next 30 seconds when you are out of my jurisdiction, I order you to REALLY have a good day!"

In the film the "Minority Report"  (spoiler alert) Tom Cruise acting in the future has two eye transplants so he won't be recognized by the cornea reading automotons in high security areas and classy department stores.   As we walks through a store the robot voice greets him with the identity of the former owner of his two new eyes and he gets a good idea where the transplated eyeballs came from, "Good afternoon, Mr. Yamaguchi! Welcome to Saks Fifth Avenue."

My point is simple.  Even though robots do the greeting donky labor in the future (if you buy into the film) we have quite a bit of robotic imitation, thoughtless greetings and good byes  that could be so much better with a little thought.

If more customer service employees "loved their peoples" the results for wishing every individual, every valuable company asset a sincere, connected greeting would make everyone involved feel so much better about themselves and the store.  

When Minne Pearl ended her show with the words, "Y'all come back now, y'hear! it rises above the cultural boiler plate that we get out of rote habit in our daily business from low paid, unimaginative sales helpers.

I went to an autoparts store with my now 30 something son and heard him smoothly greet the guy behind the counter by the first name printed on his shirt.  "Sam, I need your help." he said.

Think of how that woke old Sam up.  "Gee," he might have said in his head. " I don't know who this customer is, but he obviously knows me"--forgetting that this was a simple 'trick' perpetrated by a saavy customer.

The next words out of his mouth would likely be, "Well, hello!  Welcome back.  What can I do to help?" (and he would try to mean it!"

Tricks?  Techniques--yes, infused with meaning and made to sound sincere.  It's the "change up" game we all should play better.

Some play it better than others...and for the most part, they win with bigger sales, better commissions and a greater likelihood of promotion to management--where every right thinking person wants to be!

Roll on GGP* (Washington, D.C.'s renown Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, in the 40s and 50s,  loved to play any kind of board game with his family.  GGP are his initials for "Great Game Player.")

This "Have a Nice Day" on automatic pilot needs some pumping up.  Please, America, get out of the rut and change up the greeting.  Remember the difference between a rut and the grave are only dimensions.

Of course, I may have other plans!    


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wit Wins the Girl - Creative Dating Techniques

In Utah high schools the highly skilled art of asking a young lady on a date (or vice versa on Sadie Hawkins day) is legendary.

The "What's shakin'-wanna-go-out" technique has been replaced here with a rennaisance of creative ASKING.

Our Jeff was invited to an informal PROM - HOP - STOMP-TURNABOUT by a lovely gal in his class who dumped his invitation on our lawn in the wee hours of the morning.  It was sealed in a beautiful waterproof envelope and frozen in the middle of a giant 3 foot long block of ice. 

We had a lot of fun thawing the ice, speculating through the nearly half an hour who had sent some fun our way as a family.

An ambitious mother up the street goaded her son, John to asking his friend Susie to a school dance with a recommended clever invitation.  John went to the dance after sending a complex algorhythm by e-mail to Linda, a girl he liked in his advanced math class.   She responded with an even more complex series of three formulas that spelled out her YES after John worked through each one.  The rest of the story is that John and Linda went steady after that and are planning a June wedding at Harvard in Cambridge Mass. where they are both doing doctoral work on scholarship.

My good friend, sixteen year old Michael and I do the music for a nearby retirement community every Sunday Morning.  On the way to our joyous assignment, Michael told me that he was hammered from staying up so late the night before.

"What were you up to?" I asked.

"A friend and I were arranging the Titan fight song for string quartet." he smiled.  Michael and his xis brothers have a pretty good string quartet of their own and are in demand on the church and old folks retirement home circuit. "It's for Homecoming next week."

Something called up my creative dating stories and Michael shyly revealed that his fellow musician was a girl.

"So, brother, " I joshed."  "was this part of a creative date request?"

"Well, we have to go to the dance to see how our arrangement turned out!" he chuckled.  Might was well go together, don't you think?" 

Michael comes from a great Scoutmaster in Ron and a world class gardener and Cub Committee Chair in Melissa.  His oldest brother, Peter is in Law School back east.  Eric is pre-med at BYU, Nathan is on an LDS Mission to Seattle, Washington.  Ryan is an active scout and the redheaded caboose, Brett plays the Cello not unlike Pablo Casals.  What a great family--doing it just right, in my opinion.

Proving once again that Wit will Win when Wishy Washy Wishing Won't!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Narrowing Funnel of Growing Old--The Endurance Crawl

During the Depression years (1930s)
these were sarcastically called
Hoover Flags!
Even sideways, a funnel still gets narrow--the key is slenderizing your life style, gramps, and crawl through it to, "the other side!"

SLENDERIZE YOUR BUDGET:  If I told you that I get little more than $1,000 per month in Social Security and my sweet Gramma Rosie gets less than $500 you'd likely scratch your head and try and figure out how we can almost survive month to month.  We dip into our savings for a few basics.  Our monthly budget last month was more than $2,000.  

We still rent after nearly 40 years of married life and our savings are dwindling.  I was forced into retirement when the Real Estate Coaching company where I worked went under in 2008. For the last three years, I've scattered resumes into the air--and had the scant two interviews and still nothing. Unemployment is long gone after more than three years.  Old guys and gals just seem a little slower and less "bullet proof" than the young bucks who seem to know so much more than you.  It's said that we compare our worst selves to others' best offerings.  Employers may give lip service to experience and line up firmly against discrimination against age, but spot a whisp of grey hair and a little more chicken fat at the belt line and one word pops to a bosses mind:  "NEXT!"  

The poor souls who work because they have to as greeters at Walmart and table cleaners at McDonalds do their best to appear noble about it--but everybody knows:  They gotta.  I guess when our larder has only cat food, I may consider subjecting myself to the pity of my peers.

SELL THE CAR:  Much as we value our independence and the flexibility to rush wherever we want to at a moments notice on Monday, I'm putting an ad in the paper.  We owe about $1,200 on our little Kia sedan with the squinching punishing back doors courtesy of the Korean manufacturer who still thinks they're fighting a police action against anybody who has to ride back there!  Our son has kept it in great shape and with a few touch ups, it will look like new.  Selling the car, paying it off and depending on public transportation would save us nearly $400 in car payment and insurance costs.  Based on what I need to pay for medicaid and medicare and supplemental insurance when I turn 65 in December, selling the car will almost make it affordable .  

Car sales reminds me of an ironic ad on a bulletin board at a small college that read:  For Sale to Faculty First: 19 something  Buick--only ten years old for ($o much)  and then as an after thought "Would make an excellent student second car!"

Consider these other benefits for seniors contemplating the tightening noose:  

THE JOY OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT:  Taking the bus or Trax is reasonable, especially on a monthly seniors pass.  Planning around public transportation promotes physical fitness as you walk everywhere, at least between your front door and public transportation a block away.  Planning on taking the bus engenders patience.  And you meet so many nice people riding public.  There's even a hint of intrepid adventure anticipating the frosty Utah winters, snow drifts, fall promoting ice and wind that leaves you with a much more basic complexion.

Grocery shopping would need to be more frequent, demanding trips for smaller loads of groceries more often.

SIMPLIFIED DIET:  When the nice fresh veggies run out in the garden, the time has come to stock up on cat food, a wonderful affordable substitute for people food (so I hear from documentaries of starving seniors in the eastern seaboard).  Healthy cats endorse it, because after all, in the same way cats are people too, old people can become cats if they work at it, especially for the inexpensive diet.  Just remember, lots of water.

THE RETURN OF THE EMPLOYEE ATTITUDE:  I've had to learn to willingly give up a percentage of my Social Security Check to the Veteran's administration in exchange for quite competent medical care. I have no choice for what comes next.  As a kind of heavy handed gift for my glowing 65th birthday, I will incur about $150 each for Medicare, Medicaid and the dreaded Supplemental Insurance.  (Good thing I will have sold the car by then so I can just about afford it.)  I've worked for the Federal Government before when I took a job in then Senator Gale W. McGee's (D-WYO) Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee.  I earned $6,000 a year to go to school at American University, then my draft number came up and I transferred my federal service to the U.S.Army as a Chaplain's Assistant at Fort Ord at the end of the Viet Nam conflict.

I really look forward to working for the feds again--exchanging my Social Security check for medical care with enough left over to survive on the economy (almost) 

RELOCATION: During our near forty years together we've enjoyed the blessing of government food stamps occasionally, church welfare kept us alive until we could figure out how to support ourselves a little better.  Now in the twilight of our years as even the most basic cat food goes up and up and our rent steadily increases.  The utilities gently raise the costs of lights, heat, and water.  We look forward to that great social experiment called the homeless shelter. With the increasing medical costs, ever growing utilities  and no car, one day, I anticipate the freedom from rent--and liberation from the chains of junk that plague every senior (like Marley's ghost in Scrooge's Christmas Carol). If my health permits, I plan to be the only homeless person with a lap top and a good relationship with a computer store where I can access my beloved blogs. 

When my folks moved from Cheyenne to Worland, my brave Brother Tom and his wife volunteered to help out by clearing the basement at the Cheyenne house.  Over the months it took to sift and chuck, Tom and Trudy would ship us little keepsakes in what they affectionately called the intermittent BOX 'O JUNK.  I wouldn't force our beloved Landlord and Lady Chris and Ellen to wade through our aggregate belongings--so until the "end" comes that's my last real job. 

With this post I am proud to say I think I have found the ultimate solution for old age:  Poverty, Homelessness and an uninspired feline diet.  I never saved a nickle against retirement.  I have joyously cheered the onslaught of time coping with the little slings and arrows of diabetes, slowly resolving debt and a low credit rating.  

THE LAST MEMORIAL:  Lately we've had reasonably cheerful discussions of funeral arrangements.  We looked into the sevem thousand dollar bill for a fancy schmanzy funeral at one of the best funeral "homes"  We decided we could spend that money more effectively keeping our cat food supply topped off. Laws prohibit my dream: a plain pine box in the backyard--likely because I can't afford the lumber or the time to build it and my backyard is owned by another.  But I have one ace in the hole.  When you die you gotta be buried, if not for love then for stink as my dear friend Elaine Woodward chuckled to me one day. 

Yes the narrowing funnel of growing old gets narrower and narrower for those of us on the bottom of the food chain.  To get through to the other side involves enduring to the end---or just giving into disease and circumstances and jumping the broom to the other side.

WHAT'S AFTER DEATH? National Public Radio interviewed a former attorney who gave up his practice and lived in a walk up efficiency in New York and went out for chinese food a lot.  This man was a compulsive runner who spent much of his waking life jogging around a track that he championed around the old reservoir.  He gave much of his own fortune and contacted a wide circle of friends for the rest to build it.

The reporter asked the near 90 year old guy if he had any idea what death was like.  He said it was. "Like transferring from one apartment to another."  To men and women of such peaceful attitude death comes as a blessing.  For many their kids ignore them.  They haven't taken time to cultivate neighbors.  Their best friend is their barcolounger and the flickering image, hour by hour on what passes for their real life--the plug in drug.  

(The media makes much of fuzz and wuz as Dan Rather used to say.  News of flashing red lights and dead bodies spur TV ratings--when so many other things cry out for coverage)  News of death is like the grass in Jesus' parables--it comes and goes without much lasting impact that we can see.

Gramma Rosie knows I want a DNR (Do not resuscitate) order if and when I go to the hospital for the last time.  It's the getting from here to there than needs resuscitation.  No transplants, no surgery--well maybe a little pain medication!  As someone famous once said, "I'd love to live in the dark ages.....with penicillin!'

With the fall of the stock market and devastation of senior investments for a comfortable retirement, more and more seniors are forced to crawl through the narrow end of the funnel.  Physical and mental challenges make the journey as challenging as any mountain climbing.  I figure I'm among friends, though I've never met most of them.  

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A POLITICAL SOLUTION:  I won't wait for a resurgence of the Grey Panthers to find a political solution.  With the Tea Party wealthy dictating a freeze on all government spending--even to keep the government itself in business, I'm not going to depend on Social Security to get a boost and swoop in as if on a white horse and save us. 

Nope, I'm gonna sell the car, shop for a nearby homeless shelter, arrange our cat food by variety of flavor--and hunker down for the end I'm enduring towards.  When the young clerks at the stores we go to less and less frequently bid me to "have a nice day,"  I smile and ask "Suppose I have other plans?"   Happy endurance crawling!  See you over there!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Boy Chases Girl 'til She Catches Him!

If she likes him,
she'll fake a stumble!
There are lots of practical things a grampa can teach a gramson (and a gramdaughter) that parents some time miss.  The facts of life are often some of those things.

My own great dad was pretty sparce when it came to "the talk"  We were sitting on aluminum lawn furniture out on the edge of Laramie at 1408 Ashley, looking east at sundown one evening--just him and me.  It was a Saturday.  I had a date later.  I was a man of the world.  I'd been to Brazil.  I'd dated a few girls and I'd paid good attention in the locker room where this kind of informal "training" goes on and I was prepared.  

 It was 1969 and times were different.  AIDS had not been imagined. VD was only talked about in the seedier parts of our tiny downtown--and then only by what were then called, "Beatniks"  (anybody with a beard and sandals or long hair and a turtle neck--you get the idea.)  Most had done academic time in Berkley and had wild ideas and wilder mating habits.

I was the clean cut son of a railroad engineer--and I'd always tried to be a good boy.

"Now, son," he began, "When the time comes, make sure that you've got clean sheets on your bed."

Practical advice, nothing flashy--no great revelation.  Solid wisdom from a man who didn't say much--even to his near and dear.  He knew that the church his family were very active members of, taught the youth and adults to be totally celibate before marriage and totally faithful after marriage.  I was and he knew it.

The reason this all came up today was we got cable this week and on the Starz network I saw a wonderful romatic comedy called "How Do You Know?" with Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson.  Though it didn't do well at the box office the writing is phenomenol (maybe that's why!).  Witherspoon plays a superb female softball player on the down hill of her Olympic career who gets cut from the team and changes her whole way of life.   

Wilson is a 14 million dollar big league pitcher with a 95 mile fast ball.  He is self absorbed and trying hard to be the perfect host to the many women he sleeps with.  Reese is getting ready to leave his palacial apartment when he says, "You don't have to wear that dress, here, try one of these!" He opens a big cupboard that looks like the hoody collection at Nordstroms--and they're all in pink!

"This is wrong, it just feels wrong!" she says, " I feel like I'm on an assembly line!"

Wilson responds, "Well, that's kinda how it works.  You sleep with a bunch of women choose one to get monogomous with for the rest of your life--that IS sort of an assembly line."

Earlier in the movie he reassures her with, "lady athletes always give good sex"  

"Couldn't you personalize it a little?" she asks.

I loved the movie, even though the Nick and Nora/Cary Grant and Roslind Russell banter is a bit pretentious and self conscious.  It's like a Shakespeare farce that would work just as well on radio--but came off wooden to the teen and twenty somethings who never saw the great old movies.

Without "spoiling" the ending she has to choose between two men as the plot thickens.  Her final choice is based on how the "Right" guy treats her without pretention,   

Hence the title above.  The boys chase this girl, as they do every girl, and in the end, she makes the choice.  And that's the bit of advice I would pass along to a grandson, if I ever get one, and when he's old enough to "get it!"  Those kinds of little bits of relationship understanding are great material for a grampa to pass on.

Finally, I met a smashing girl at one of the electronic stores.  She had a smile like Nora O'Donnel of CNBC and big eyes to match.  Her real name is not Annie, but that's the one I'll use in this story.  I bought a little smart phone stand to attach to the vent in the Kia.  Annie is a natural flirt--great hair, really good customer service and had learned to call me by name.  I admit it, I fell in love (in the way that a caring dad falls in love with an excellent find for his single 30 something son)  Upshot:  She let me take her picture to "test" the phone and she gave me her e-mail so I could send her an example of how much Nora O'Donnel she looked like--the high tech geriatric equivalent of my son getting a cute girl's phone number (and he does that a lot).

Here's the lesson- I casually showed him her picture and encouraged him to go down and do a little cell phone shopping at her counter, suggesting that she had a technical background and a great manner--and not bad looking either! (A perfect daughter in law).

My wonderful self absorbed bone-headed son got a touch of arrogance in his manner when he responded, "Well, if Annie thinks she knows tech, I can run rings around her!"  ....and I hung my head in defeat for a couple of beats!  He didn't get the lesson.   I reminded him gently that the purpose of courting was to be attracted to someone who would make a great partner, a fine companion -- a good match, and he'd lost it in the bullpen with an arrogance that denied all the potential she could bring to a partnership, and played up his superiority -- to the boredom of all concerned.

There's a little commercial running on network TV with two guys and a waitress.  I've long since forgotten the product, but I got the message that my son does not yet understand.  The nerdier of the two asks for the waitress to repeat the specials again--and as she begins to look exasperated the noble buddy interrupts her and tells his friend what they are as the camera cuts away to the waitress who looks with growing admiration at a man who obviously listens.

Self absorbed young men don't get to first base.  Caring, accomplished, secure, honest listeners who, like Judge Learned Hand love for others to participate in the conversation-- these get to second, sometimes third and more often than all others,score at Home Base.

By the way, Judge Hand was an apellate judge in Washington D.C. in the forties and fifties.  Hostesses were always careful to invite him to parties and he would show up armed with his mental list.  He had devised half a dozen provocative questions that he would drop like pearls into every coversation.  Then, and most importantly, he would actively listen and ask related follow up questions to prove it.

The secret to this message is girls fall for men who are secure enough to follow Judge Hand's excellent example.  Instead, most are so insecure they have to dominate conversations with a variety of versions of their own story.   "How  Do You Know" is a movie that at it's best illustrates the dilemma of communication that plagues modern couples--and demonstrates how, and how not to resolve the conflicts that arise!

This isn't the end by a long stretch, but it's a start on "the talk"  Did it help?  Can you feel me listening?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Was that OK Customer Service? Not even CLOSE!

Cheery, Bright, Exciting, Caring: None of the Above

National Shopko Sales Training Management:

To Whom It May Concern:

We just bought eight bottles of laundry soap at your Midvale, Utah store.  At $2.99 a 72 ounce bottle compared to the same size bottle of Tide at $14.00 it was a fine value, but we almost walked away because of the way we were treated.

I write my reactions to the way the cashier and the shift manager treated us.  No, they didn't abuse us, but after years my wife and I have worked in retail customer service, I'm hoping that this report to you on the reaction of Jenna and Chris under pressure, will give you a little ammunition for your next sales training.  

We rarely come to Shopko--and by the empty parking lot, neither do many, many others.  

We came from the ad--in fact the price on the laundry soap was so good, that we bit this loss leader and bought $125 worth of things we liked that were also well priced.

Then we got to the check stand.  

The laundry detergent rung in at $6.99 a bottle (the before the sale price)  Jenna, the otherwise nice check stand woman said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  Your coupon doesn't take effect until tomorrow!"

Standing firmly and using an even voice I announced, "No, $2.99 was the price on the display and that's the one we'll have, thanks!  Jenna looked at me like I had flame coming out both nostrils.  She feigned a certain politeness, but she started our "confrontation" blaming the computer.  I stood my ground.

Finally, Jenna said she'd call somebody.  This took several minutes.  To her credit she kept ringing up the other items when the phone at her station rang in.  Finally Chris, the shift supervisor showed up and the tension he brought with him was palpable.  There was no reassurance of either clerk or customer.  He ran the detergent.  When it came up $6.99 he "fixed it" by scanning the bottles again and re-keying in each one of our eight bottles by hand and walking away after he repeated that the sale on the mailed out flyer was supposed to start tomorrow.  

Again, we got no reassurance, no apologies for their lack of preparation or antiquated computer programming. No smiles.  Like inmates in a concentration camp, we were made to feel guilty for standing up for ourselves and our rights.

Enough of the "IF ONLIES"

Now for the "NEXT TIMES"

1.  Reprogram the Computer nationwide to shorten the time re-pricing takes.  Yes, I pay hard earned money  for what I buy--but klunky sales procedures that waste my time in line costs my time--which is valuable, at least to me and the people behind us waiting in line wondering what the big bruhaha is.

2.  Prepare for the Sale a day or two early if the mailer hits before the date!  In the meantime, coordinate the price at the point of purchase and the computer.  Checklists are needed here!

3.  She who lives by the Computer will die by the Computer.  Everybody is lazy.  If the customer will roll over to the computer--you can go on with your life as a sales clerk without involving your manager or pushing all those pesky buttons!

4.  Don't treat me like the problem!  The frowns from Chis especially and his caustic comment that made me feel guilty for being THE PROBLEM was not my fault.  I did my part.  I came in on the ad, bought a years supply of laundry detergent and picked up an additional $125 dollars of other stuff.  DON'T YOU DARE TREAT ME LIKE THE PROBLEM!

5.  Treat me as a great reason for a solution!  Lazy Sales folks are used to blaming the computer, and avoiding the extra steps that clog up the line.  We play a little game, Here's the do over lines I would write for Jenna:  "Don't worry about the price on the computer.  I can fix that for you."  I could boycott Shopco forever for her minor rudeness, but I would promise myself to come back if I knew with just that comment in yellow that Jenna (and others on the staff) were pulling for me. Even if she CAN'T fix it, it doesn't cost anything to say those words!  It makes me feel better.

6.  Management should confine negative energy to the back room.  Chris, to his credit, asked if he could help me find something when I was wandering the store a few minutes earlier.  All that goodwill disappeared when he scowled at me and blamed an early ad drop.  I had to ask HIM if we got the sales price.  He begrudingly told me I would, over his shoulder as he walked away.   WRONG!  If he had said something like,  "I'm so sorry, Mr. Howe for the time it took to resolve that problem.  Obviously we've got to get ready for the sale a little sooner!" That's all I want.  A sales staff who knows the difference between easy smarmy friendly and real service when the chips are down.  I'd be very suprised if Chris took the time to solve that problem before it happened again after we left.

The same Chinese konji character for "crisis" can also mean "opportunity".  When the chips are down, the truly great increase genuine kindnesses.  Even Richard Nixon, interviewing bureaucrats who galled him would offer another cup of coffee or presidential cufflinks.  Nuf said!

Mrs.and Mrs. Jon and Rosie Howe
Secret Shoppers in our Hearts


Monday, August 8, 2011

Not "Snooty" Enough!

One of the joys of parenthood is to get a call like we did from our daughter today.  She called to let us know that "they" were finally accepted to the Master's Program at the U--something they have both been working for.  Sally won't actually be going to class--her job is academic support while Dani will be going to classes--as she did for her Bachelors at the University of Phoenix.

Her call reminded me of the line Eve Arden delivers, seemingly unknowing as a double entendere, acting as principal of Rydell High School in the musical film "Grease"  During announcements over the school P.A. System she invites everyone to the football game that night with the words," Remember, if you can't be an athlete, at least you can be an athletic supporter!"  (laughter)

Or the ever popular acceptance speech, "Thank you for your support!  I shall wear it always!"

Sally's sparkling ethusiasm was contageous.

Her open-hearted love for Dani and her willingness to do anything to support Dani in her academic career with no thought of any return except the love they share is admirable.  Her grandmother Delma did the same selfless service for her younger sister, working as Secretary to the Dean of Women at Utah State while Helen Marie earned her bachelors degree and found Zachary, her attorney, later bishop and judge husband and father of their nine children.

Snooty is the opposite of humility!
Though Sally took an associates degree in interior design, she was never "snooty" enough to fit in the craft.  She opted instead for work in the medical field where she is universally loved for her caring manner and the zany sense of humor she says she inherited from me.

"Snooty" is a quality shared by interior designers, executive chefs with an attitude and attorneys who spend most of their time convincing you that you need them.  Some call it pride, some arrogance, most call it annoying.  Sally has none of that.  Hooray!

As her caring father--with barely enough money at the time to pay the rent and buy a little food, I determined to spend a few hours every day calling around to find her an internship with a interior designer--any interior designer in town.   After a week or two devoted to this effort, I discovered two things:  

First - Interior Design houses had all the interns from the four year Universities that they could handle.  Junior College students were way too far down on the snooty totem pole.

Second - Interior Design would never fit my precious girl.  Woody Allen once said that he would never become a member of an organization that would accept him as a member. 

Instead she opted for one of the helping professions--and works as a trusted assistant to a group of opthamologists at a local clinic.

Deep in her heart,  Sally would rather be a veterinarian.  Trouble is (and she knows this all too well) Sally would take every critter under her care home for the rest of it's natural life!  Sally is 34.  She will likely never go back to school--and critters all around will be the worse for it.  

Intstead she concentrates on a couple of pug dogs.  She lavishes love on all within her grasp.  She's not snooty enough to do anything else.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tough Meekness - The Powerful Blacksmith cuddling his Newborn!

"I'll teach you to hit other kids!"
Fathers and grandfathers are expected to be tough enough to protect their families from all hazards foreign, domestic, economic and school yard.

Not being tough enough is a charge leveled against our current president. 

This excellent communicator in public apparently has a difficult time making his rhetoric stick in the up close negotiations with the opposition.  Reagan against the Russians with star wars technology was tough!  LBJ with anybody unfortunate enough to be on the recieving end of his chain mail charm was real tough!

As long as we're talking politics, my nominee for tough is a former Senator from Maine and later Carter's Secretary of State--Edmund Muskie--the candidate who cried.  As a legislator he knew few peers.  Few know that much of the clean air legislation of the seventies came because this saavy legislator would smoke big black smelly cigars in the conference sessions where House and Senate versions of the same bill has hammered out.    

Muskie's colleagues couldn't wait for an excuse to escape that smoke filled room to go out and kiss babies of tourist constituents, take a phone call or check with his office.  While they were gone, Muskie would slip clean air language into the legislation--and by the time other members of the committee held their nose and returned--the deed was done.  Each half of the congress passsed the conference report, the president signed it into law and Muskie kept at it, using that cigar and an iron bladder to full advantage.

I read someplace that Republican Presidents are elected to protect us, Democrats are elected to take care of us.  The ying and yang of politics represents the traditional roles of each parent.  Dads are there to protect.  Moms are there to nurture.

Bringing it down to a family level, toughness, make that meekness is essential, especially in both parents and always in grampas!

Traditionally the concept of meekness is synonomous with weak, milquetoast, ineffectual.  Most folks believe that when the Bible says the meek will inherit the earth, it's because they're too weak to claim it for themselves.

Consider this:  a church leader (LDS President David O. McKay) visited the junk yard of a good friend and agreed to give up his cherished gold watch for an experiment.  His friend measured the timepiece with a micrometer, set some instruments on a crusher machine and placed the precious watch underneath a heavy, heavy weight.  When he let it fall, the crusher machine stopped mere milimeters above the watch.

The leader said, "That is meekness!  Tremendous power under complete control.  It's the image of a powerful Blacksmith cuddling his newborn babe.

We enjoy a British series on PBS entitled "Larkrise to Candleford".  Last night the prosperous owner of the Hotel in Candleford discovers he has an illigitimate son--who by the time of the episode is about nine years old.   The father arranges for his son to come to Candleford from the orphanage far away and then has a riding accident and lands in the hospital.  His friends who run the post office take "Little Man" in and nurtures him til his father heals.   This wealthy man cannot wait to "take control" of the boy --and while yet weak and recooperating he lacks the self control to hold off and demands the boy be brought to him.   The father's lack of control colors the boy's life from then on--and he rebels against the well meaning, but demanding father.

Yakoff Schmirnoff, the Russian Comic once remarked that America was, "Such a country!  Where else can you take your children to Walmart so you can yell at them!"

Parents who aren't clever enough to give their kids five dollars and challenge them to find the very best buy  to keep them from whining, deserve what they get!

Meekness is such an essential characteristic of parent hood.  My friends Chris and Ellen,the parents of our adopted gramkids are the most meek in the face of seven active, sometimes rebellious little guys.  One night their number three, Cheetah Joe started building a tent with blankets on the furniture just as their Family Home Evening was about to start.  He was excited only about the tent.  

I watched his Dad gently invite him to join the rest of the family.  Nuthin' doin'! So they started without him--and he kept building.  Mom started teaching a scripture lesson and the tent kept rising.  "C'mon Joe, please shut it down and join us." she said evenly.  (At our house the gentle persuasion would have given away to a parental explosion and a confiscation of the blankets!)  

My model parents were still gently inviting and Cheetah Joe was carrying on as if they might forget about him---then came the next level--and from the Mom--Ellen, the enforcer!  Gently but very firmly she escorted Cheetah Joe away from his blanket skyscraper and led him to a "time out stool"  He went, cuz he saw the determined look in her eye.  She went back to the lesson--- Wait for it---one beat, then two and a frustrated scream erupted from Joe on the stool!   Though we were guests, Cheetah Joe didn't care.  He's a good boy--just a little willfully focused sometimes.

Fatherhood (and Gramfatherhood) can be spoiled by a lack of self control, that hopefully Cheetah Joe will learn over the years before he graduates, marries and moves away.

One father that I know has suffered two divorces among his children -- and one son that I know well avoids his father because of the iron control he still exerts.  He's an impressive church worker and excellent provider, but his grown children still quake and shudder because he still treats them like they're little kids. How sad!

I have a close relative who went through his own divorce recently because (in part) his wife didn't support him in his quest for more education.  She craved what she called ME time, and he hid out at a nearby restaurant to study, rather than go home.  When he did go home, he became more and more frustrated because she didn't cook and clean for him as his mother had!  When the house forclosed which they foolishly tried to buy with a variable rate mortgage WHILE he was taking out hundreds of thousands in student loans that only he felt he HAD TO HAVE--they went their separate, somewhat selfish ways.  Though they had a lot of fun trying, they produced no offspring, and wisely so---neither of them had finished fully developing their own self control.  Gentle self control is an absolute necessity in a parent (or Grandparent)

Practice meekness, Grampa,  and know that kids eventually grow up some--even if it takes til they reach retirement age.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comfort Zone --Thy name is ELECTRONIC!

More than forty years ago was we would go tracting door to door as young LDS missionaries, I noticed something unique about Wednesday nights.  Lovely people who would otherwise have let us in on another night, answered our "claps" at the door and quickly asked us to come back another night.  We learned to do something else on Wednesdays because of the NOVELLAS.

I'm related to a few folks who are glued to the tube on Tuesday nights for NCIS, NCIS-LA and the Good Wife on CBS and several British Comedies on Saturday from 7-10.  I have threated to have a Whitman style sampler embroidered with the words, "Real Life IS an Acceptable Substitute for Television" but at my house I couldn't buy a convert to that idea for any amount

Some folks at my house are closer emotionally to several PBS chefs and a couple of CBS adventure stars than they are to perfectly acceptable negibors and most of our friends from before this electronic addiction.

Getting my near and dear to church or a neighborhood function is impossible--but I mis-state myself.  After six weeks of organizing a very successful Talent Show and Craft Display, I came home to my loving embroidery-mad spouse who puffed out her lip in a mock pout and asked, "Could I have displayed my hand embroidered dish towels over there last night?"

"Yes," I said sheepishly, "but you haven't come over there for so long that I just assumed you wouldn't be able to participate."

"Well," she rationalized,  "the band would have been too loud any way--and you know my allergy to organ pipe vibrations.   Wouldn't have worked anyway.--cuz I've been nursing a migraine.  Pulling my sweet spouse away from her plug in drug, her DVDs and her flashing light friends in the box of transisters and wires that has become her home away from home to mingle with genuine flesh and blood friends is more and more difficult.

Strangely she jumps to the chance to shop amid strangers at the local half a Wal (as we call our downsized Wallmart) But spending time with folks outside the family circle, away from her remote controls is less and less likely.

I belong to a church that has wonderful core principles--but with changes on earth come change ups among the faithful.   Older folks who cling to their pew in church in spite of all changes are legion.   A friend told me of one fellow who took a dislike to one of the counselors in local leadership and insisted on pulling the lobby couch into the overflow area at the back of the chapel and during reverent meetings, when the despised counselor spoke --the rebel unfolded a copy of the opposition newspaper and noisely turned the pages until that talk was done.

Maybe boycott, however justified by headaches, aching knees and gimpy tummies is better than a couch rebellion by somebody who won't go away.

About going away, I must share the story I heard a few weeks ago from the Chief Operating Office of the Salt Lake Temple, Lonnie _________.  He told a group of older men about a drunk who wandered into Temple Square in Salt Lake City to the great front steps of that magnificent structure just below a majestic statue of the Angel Moroni blowing a long golden trumpet.  (If you've ever attended a wedding at the LDS temple, you know the custom of brides and their wedding parties climbing the steps in one of six door ways and posing for pictures as they start their wedded life together.

The drunk started coming in around 3 in the afternoon carrying an open whiskey bottle that he had emptied about half way.  His tirade included shaking his fist at the angel and cursing out loud in the angel Moroni's name.    In such instances the staff had been instructed to call the police, and every day for several days the police did their duty.  Unable to charge him with anything other than exercizing his first amendment rights, He was free after each arraignment to return the next day and continue the harrangue.

The Temple leadership didn't know what else to do.   Then one day after a week or two of this display a temple engineer was working on the roof, below the angel, down on his hands and knees behind some granite faced trim when the tirade began again.   Suddenly, without revealing himself, the engineer in a deep and rather loud voice said, "STOP THAT!.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  Go away and never come back!"

The drunk's ability to distinguish between the giant angle sculpture and the voice coming from slightly below it was, to say the least, somewhat blurred--but the booming announcement had it's desired effect. The man gently rested his empty bottle by the side of the temple wall, turned his wobbling steps out of temple square, never to be seen again.

Climbing out of a comfort zone is difficult at best, the older we grow.   As the leader of a Sunday School, I once tried a new technique to consolidate the Sunday School class in a chapel setting near the front.  (It's tough to teach a crowd that has two or three rows between each other--it lacks togetherness)  I masking taped some festive pastel yarn to block off the last several rows of the hall and sat in the back to see what happened.  One very elderly gentleman came in with his ailing wife, saw the yarn and unceremoniously pulled it down and sat in the same seat he had occupied for what seemed like forever.

After the meeting with as much tact as I could muster I kidded with him a little.  As seriously as he could muster he informed him that he had bought and paid for that pew and he would have to be carried out dead from it before he'd ever sit anywhere else.  (I'd read that early protestant churches had auctioned off pews as a fund raising mechanism--but not in the Mormon faith--and not in Utah.)

After asking around and some rudimentary research, I discovered that he had been the secretary of the building committee that had planned and built our building.  He was the one who paid all the bills, and likely chipped in a few more bucks than most to make sure the work was paid for before it was dedicated.   He had "bought" that pew--and I never bothered him about it again.

Enjoy your comfort zone and remember that the only difference between a rut an a grave are the dimensions!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Grampa Encourages Structure!

A shock to see a young friend in chains
Gramma Pixie and I were invited to give a show of support for a young man in jail we barely knew.  Our daughters are friends of his, his little brother and their single mom.  They have joined us for several Howe family holiday dinners when the three of them shared a house for a while with our daughters.  It was an arraignment--a brief appearance before a judge.  We were two of a double row of friends and family who turned out to impress the judge on the young man's behalf.

I couldn't help notice a gleam of gratitude in his eye when he shuffled in cuffed and shackled in his green county jail jumpsuit.  He was formally charged with felony burglary and theft.  In his good hearted way, he was taken advantage of by some pint sized thieves--and because he was he only one with a driver's license he represented them at the pawnbrokers to sell a few DVDs the younger one had taken from a house where he had had been evicted. Our young friend was trying to be kind--and it blew up in his face.  The bail was set at $100,000.

I kept thinking that our "support" was too little too late.  Somewhere back in history, before he was concieved, someone should have been there for him--giving him structure and a little tough love on a regular basis.  Like so many after-thought children, his own father never married the mother. His grandfather had long since divorced the grandmother and moved out of state.  Me?   I can count on one hand the times we rubbed shoulders.  The young man grew up virtually fatherless.  In fairness, his mother tried--but she was often unemployed--and vowed to keep religion away from her sons.  (He has a little brother who was recently caught shop lifting for food)  Well meaning relatives have offered to help some, but it becomes too much and the offer is generally withdrawn.

What could have been done early on?  What more can I do?

1. The mother could have gotten and stayed married.  A loving Dad and Mom and a steady home life with dinner on the table and open communication could have helped.

2. Membership in a good church with an excellent youth program could have helped.  I know families from many different faith groups--and it's no secret that we try to be active Mormons, but baptism, keeping covenants to do better, a good understanding of repentance could have made a difference.  LDS Young men grow into callings in the priesthood, accept responsiblity and work with youth leaders and a good bishop who monitor progress and give consistent encouragement.

3.  Cub Scouts, Hockey--these filled in the gap somewhat -- but a consistent, life long program is what's needed.  Family relationships, consistent presence and a flow of love and encouragement-- That's what Grampa's can help do.

We go to court for the trial early next month.  We'll be there for support, hoping for a good outcome.  Suprizingly this good-hearted young man told one of our daughters that he believed this happened at a good time in his life---that it was a wake up call to help teach him how to be more careful in choosing his friends--and finish his education.

He can't go back and do most of his young life over.  He can only start where he stands and move forward.  If this is a needed wake up call--and he can get probation with a warning---that would be good.  Stay tuned.  JRH

Link:  Time in Jail with Grampa