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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Best Friend’s Dark Secret 2

Best Friend’s Dark Secret 2

He asked me to open all the mail that we had been holding for him in my office and to please make the minimum payments, to try and maintain his secret.  While I was shocked (about the intrigue and debt) I knew that what he was asking me to do was no less than what he would gladly do for me.

Even though I opened the bankcard statements, and made the minimum payment required on all of them, one called his number at home and his wife answered.  That particular card only had a $7000.00 balance but with late charges and who knows what other charges he was over the limit, and they weren’t nice about it.  His wife waited until he was released from the hospital and confronted him about the credit card.  All of sudden my very tough friend wasn’t able to stand up to the pressure and he came clean.  He even told her that his statements were coming to my post office box. By now his total indebtedness was over $82,000.00
His wife called me and read me the riot act.  She wanted to know how I could betray her trust.  I really didn’t want to be in the middle but I also didn’t want to throw my friend under the bus, at least not all the way under the bus.  I explained that I wasn’t his manager, and didn’t check up on the correspondence that he was receiving at the PO Box.  Furthermore, I explained that I had just become aware in the last week about his financial problem.

Two days later I received a call from my friend at eleven o’clock at night: he asked me to come and get him at his house because they were separating.  I confess that I can be a pretty brave guy, but, and this is a big but, I was afraid to come face to face with her.  When I knocked at his door he opened and pointed to about 10 boxes that he wanted to take with him.  I walked into the entryway only and carried the boxes to my van one at a time.  I helped him down the stairs from his porch and into my minivan.  My conscience told me that I had to at least apologize to her in person, she had sounded so tough over the telephone when she scolded me that I expected her to be in total control.
What I found was a woman that was crying, and appeared devastated by the latest developments.  When she realized that I was standing at the door to her dining room, she looked up and all she said was, you are his best friend, are you happy now?  I couldn’t say one word after that.  I just left the house and drove away with my best friend, to look for a hotel that would serve as his temporary home. 

Joe L. (my friend) explained that his solution would be to file for divorce and with his share of the property (waterfront home free and clear); he would have more than enough money to liquidate his financial problems (after all he had two pensions plus Social Security).  I tried to talk him out of it but to no avail.  I could tell he was embarrassed by the mess he had created for himself.  I told him to let things cool off and they would be able to talk things out.  As it turned out leaving the house was his idea, his wife never wanted him to leave.  For the next week I became Joe’s special assistant, I drove him to restaurants for his meals, and anywhere else he wanted to go.
One day a week later I got a call at two o’clock in the morning, Joe wanted me to drive him home.  He and his wife had been on the phone and in a moment of weakness he told his wife, honey I miss you so much, I just wish I was home next to you.  I am worthless without you; I can’t even put my own socks on without a big struggle.  I know these statements because my friend told me about them. They agreed that they would mortgage their home for the amount of credit card debt Joe had accumulated, and he would pay form his pension funds.

Joe must have explained that I was unaware of his problems, because I was forgiven; the best part of our friendship took place after this incident.  She remained my very good friend long after his passing.  The best is yet to come….

Getting Fit

Getting Fit

The fitness effort has added just enough to my daily schedule, that yesterday was the first time since I started blogging that I didn’t post anything. When I did feel that I had a small window of opportunity to sit at the computer, I chose instead to sit in my sauna at home for 30 minutes with a temperature setting at 120 degrees.  For a while afterwards I felt very relaxed and my body didn’t ache.

Very simple tasks such as sitting down at the computer for the next few days are no longer automatic and without effort.  Most of us that have decided we are happy being the way we are (whatever that means with regard to physical condition), understand the pain that needs to be endured (temporarily) in getting the body to be fit.  I mentioned previously that looking good is one thing and being fit is a total different matter altogether.

Looking good to me means you lose a few pounds by hook or by crook (usually dieting), and you drop a couple of sizes.  Just like that voila you look good! To get to the point of being fit on the other hand can be painful.  The real difference is that one is for show and the other is for performance.

If I am to do the fitness effort thing right, I will have to not only reach a level of fitness but maintain it for the duration.  Otherwise I might as well drop off now and be done with it.  The trophy at the end of the effort is extended quality of life with my loved ones.

I almost forgot, in the privacy of my home this morning I dropped the soap in the shower, and for the first time in a long time, I had to do some serious effort just to get it back in my hand.  I’ve always known what was meant by no pain no gain, but these days I am living it.  Next session with the Personal Trainer is this morning at 10.  The best is yet to come…

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Staying Healthy 2

Staying Healthy 2
As promised I am going to post regularly as I make progress with my getting fit effort.  Hope that you understand that looking good is one thing and being fit is totally something else.  Tomorrow will be my third meeting with my Personal Trainer, and we have arrived at the point where as the saying goes the rubber meets the road.  I want you to know that I already have some weight loss to report.  I haven’t even been assigned my workout regimen, and already my wallet is quite a bit lighter.  I’m being a little flip, but I am serious about the effort this isn’t Kansas anymore (no disrespect meant to Kansas).  This fitness center is the state of the art.  My personal Trainer is preparing for a Body Building Competition in California, so he is every bit a professional and comes very highly recommended by family members that are into body building.

My next session will be where all the assessments come in; range of motion (flexibility), how to use the equipment, I will be assigned a workout routine based on my needs, with consideration to my strengths and weaknesses.  Warming up properly, prior to starting my assigned workout, so I won’t get hurt.  I realize that there are experts in my age group and readers that are thinking boringgg, but this post isn’t meant for them.  This post is for those of you that like me have thought about getting started but haven’t, and don’t know how to start.
I can tell you already that I am having fun and feel a sense of excitement. Today while visiting the center, I ran into two of my golf partners, as they were starting to workout.  I felt like I had just transferred into a new school and ran into some old friends.  They welcomed me and told me they were looking forward to working out with me.  Then almost jokingly, I said I better get out of here and stop bothering the customers, and one of them said, you belong here you are now a member.  I can confess that I secretly felt very good inside.

I went to a sporting goods store and bought some of the things I needed to augment my attire for tomorrow’s first scheduled workout.  So you know some of my wallet’s weight loss was not for the fitness program but to look good.  I know that I will be sore in a couple of days, but I am committed, and look forward to the rewards associated with being fit.  FYI, my wife and family in general are very supportive.  The best is yet to come…

The Best of Sin City

All through my twenties I enjoyed many a trip to Las Vegas.  My children now (no longer children except in my mind) enjoy an average of two trips a year to Las Vegas.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I have a feeling that somewhere along the line the cost of everything (consumerism) outpaced the income of the average person. The last time I was in Vegas I was elated to see that a tribute to Elvis was in town with Elvis impersonators.  My elation went away quickly when I found out that the going price was over $200 per person.  My Elvis admission back 1975 was much less than that.  I wasn’t about to pay more for the fake than I did for the real thing.  I really felt that I would be disrespecting the King of Rock and Roll.

Two other artists that I used to regularly enjoy during trips to Las Vegas were Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. You’ve heard the saying; the women wanted to be with them and the men wanted to be them; I definitely believe that the saying applies in their case.  You always got to see the prettiest women at their shows when in Vegas.  Back then my cost for admission was around $100 and included 3 drinks.  I knew my way around Vegas so I would always work my way to the VIP line at shows.  Through big Vegas corporations that I had an in with or the hotel concierges I could end up on pretty much any VIP line to any show I wanted to attend. Funny how most people don’t even think about that, so they stand in lines that are as long as a city’s block.

Sir Thomas John Woodward, known by his stage name Tom Jones, is a Welsh singer (born in 1940). He became one of the most popular vocalists to emerge from the British Invasion. The following is a short list of some my favorite of his songs; She’s a Lady (1965), Delilah (1965), It’s Not Unusual (1969).  Until now I didn’t realize that I saw Tom Jones perform soon after he started his Vegas gig (he started in 1967 and I caught his act in 1969 for the first time, Caesars Palace).  Tom Jones went on to perform at least one week in Vegas until 2011.  I must mention that I have one very significant thing in common with Tom Jones we are both proud grandfathers. Last I heard he is still alive and well.
Arnold George Dorsey (born 1936), stage name Engelbert Humperdinck (Anglo-Indian, born in India), best known for his number one hits; Release Me (1967), The Last Waltz, After The Lovin’. Like Tom Jones, Engelbert emerged into the Top 40 scene in the 1960’s, went on to a very popular gig in Las Vegas, both had their own very popular weekly television variety shows.  Their Vegas shows were very similar in that the ladies in the audience would throw their hotel keys at them on stage while they performed, usually followed by undergarments. 

 I enjoyed their music equally and only second to Elvis recordings.  My vinyl collection and 8 tracks was the envy of my friends.  If you lived in the 1960’s and 70’s, and you had a pulse, you had to have been aware of their contribution to Top 40 music after all they were always competing for top 10 placement.  Engelbert like Tom Jones is alive and well last I heard.  I just saw a television commercial advertising that he will be performing at a local Casino in Washington State.
Can you recall some special times in your life where some of these music might have been in the background (examples; Valentine’s Day, Anniversary).  I can remember driving in my car listening to my favorite music on the radio, on occasion listening to a new release for the first time.  For some reason I don’t feel the same excitement with today’s music.  How excited can you get about hearing Gangnam Style for the first or last time?  Sometime soon I will do a post on some of the better one hit wonders of my time.  The best is yet to come….

Monday, February 25, 2013

Best Friend’s Dark Secret

Best Friend’s Dark Secret

My best friend Joe L. and I belonged to the Mutual Admiration Society.  I am positive that we both had our faults, but we both chose to concentrate on the positive.  He once told me jokingly: man, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink, and you don’t chase women, you may as well be dead, you are no good to no one!  As old fashion and gruff as he was I appreciated his sense of humor, and most of all his sincerity.  There is no one I would rather have watching my best interest than Joe.  Joe had a great retirement income with two pensions and Social Security coming in monthly.  He was also happily married to a loving professional woman who was a very successful Registered Nurse at a major hospital.  They lived in a very nice waterfront home, and enjoyed a very social life.
He probably enjoyed my friendship because he was reliving his younger years through me by maintaining his involvement in the community and State politics.  He had a lot more influence than he gave himself credit for.  The problem with influence is that to work it correctly, you have to use it for the benefit of others, and not for yourself.  I know that I and everything I did was the direct beneficiary of his influence.  I always maintained a post office mailbox for the business, and one day out of the blue, Joe asked if he could receive mail at the postal box. Because it was Joe asking, I didn’t think to ask why, and I approved his request. In hindsight, I probably thought he just wanted to feel closer to the organization.

As it turned out my friend wanted to keep some of his activities from his wife.  Joe’s one major weakness, was the horse race track (Emerald downs would bring him more grief than wins).  Joe was in hog heaven at a time when credit cards were arriving in the mail daily, and Joe was accepting most of them.  It didn’t take long for Joe to dig a hole in excess of 80k deep.  He always knew that a big win was just around the corner, and he would be able to cover all his losses and walk away a winner.

Joe got deep enough that pretty soon all he could do was make the minimum payments on his quickly growing gambling debt.  The balancing act was working out perfectly even if it was likely to outlive him.  The one thing Joe didn’t count on was an unexpected illness.  Not a death bed situation but a lengthy recovery of over two weeks in the hospital was just as bad.  Even I his best friend I was not in on the secret, so I couldn’t help cover for him.  One day when I visited him in the hospital, he told me the whole story, and how deep he had gotten into debt.

He asked me to open all the mail that we had been holding for him in my office and to please make the minimum payments, to try and maintain his secret.  While I was shocked (about the intrigue and debt) I knew that what he was asking me to do was no less than what he would gladly do for me.  On part two of this post, Joe’s wife will leave him and I will get caught in the middle.  Stay tuned the best is yet to come….

George Washington and Politics

George Washington and Politics

Once upon a time not too many years ago we in the great State of Washington used to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday, as well as, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. In order to add another Federal Holiday without incurring additional costs by doling out another paid holiday, the politicians in all their wisdom changed the two birthdays into President’s Day, and used the freed holiday to honor Martin Luther King Junior in January.  In a way the politicians were showing fiscal responsibility.
Today we are possibly days away from Sequestration, and I am not sure that any of us are sure how we will ultimately be affected (financially).  The negative affect will not be fair and shared by all of us equally, I’m sorry to say.   Some of us will take a reduction in pay and others will lose their jobs.  I pray for a permanent solution, but I am not expecting a miracle.  Minimally an economic recovery (slow down) will eventually affect all of us.

I marvel at how George Washington at about the age of 6 years told his father (when asked who cut the cherry tree):  This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried: "I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.''

George Washington went on to become the first president of this great nation of ours, and based on what I’ve read was a great one and great Commander in Chief.  Unlike President George Washington, today's politicians find it difficult to tell the truth.  None the less, I still strongly believe that our country’s best days are ahead of us.  We can also find many great times in our recent past to rejoice about.  Happy Birthday Mr. President!  The best is yet to come….

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Proven Friendship

Proven Friendship

When I was first given the opportunity to transfer to headquarters (150 miles away from my home) I did the prudent thing and that was to test the waters by going by myself for the first 6 months.  I figured in 6 months I would know if I was right for the job, and if the job was right for me.  It was very difficult to only come home for the weekend.  I had never been away from my family before and the children were small (all four were under 11 years of age).  The first thing I did was to get a phone installed in my apartment.  My phone bill in my apartment was running a couple hundred per month because I would call home every night after work.  Sometimes I would simply travel the distance in the middle of the week, and head back at 4 in the morning to get to work on time the next day. 
Within 3 months I knew that I was great for the job and the job was perfect for me, but there was the problem of selling our house to relocate.  I realized that it was obviously more expensive to maintain two households, so I needed to make a decision. I looked around for a possible house lease, so that we wouldn’t get stuck with two house payments on a long term.  Most places that I looked into required first month, last month and deposit of equal amount as the monthly lease payment.  Then there was the matter of an additional damage deposit for our longtime family member Teddy a very loving Pekingese doggie.  There is no way he wouldn’t be making the transition.

Headquarters would reimburse me for my relocation expenses but I had to spend the money first.  After all the added expenses I had just gone through in the last 4 months (dual household expense plus travel) the money wasn’t just hanging around in the cookie jar.  The saving I did have was in a blue chip savings account.  If you withdraw it before maturity, the penalty was prohibitive.  I must admit that the problem was foremost on my mind.
When my friend (Joe L.) picked me at home for the trip to our usual weekly breakfast he noticed the concern on my face.  He immediately asked me what was bothering me, I asked is it that obvious, and he said in his typical retired Navy and Teamster style, you look like s—t.  I wasn’t very sharing with my problems and I certainly didn’t want to ruin the breakfast meeting by dumping my problems on him. So I just said it’s nothing serious or for you to worry about.  In his gruff manner he responded fine the hell with you.  At that point I felt that I owed him an explanation.  I mentioned that I needed to move the family close to my new job, and that I was about $5,000.00 short, but that I could get my hands on my own money in about 60 days, so everything would work out.  Again in his own manner of talking he said that’s your problem don’t bother me with it.  Trying to save face I said, I told you it wasn’t a big deal and that I would handle it. 

We drove in silence for about a mile, and then he asked; do you mind if I make one business stop before breakfast?  My answer was that he was driving and of course I was in no rush to eat breakfast.  He went into a tall commercial building, and returned within 20 minutes.  We continued to the breakfast, enjoying the typical conversation of our weekly meetings.  On the drive back he said you know I left something at the building where I went before breakfast and I need to stop there again do you mind.  I had no objection so we stopped and this time he came out within 10 minutes.  On the rest of the drive home he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope, and gave it to me.  He caught me by surprise and I said what is this?  He replied that it was the $5,000.00 I needed. I said Joe, if you are going to lend me the money I insist on signing a note; if something were to happen to me no one would be aware of our transaction.  He replied as I had come to expect; what’s the matter your word isn’t good enough?

Once again, long story short.  We made our move (relocation), and that’s why I always say everything that we have accomplished since we moved, I owe to my good friend Joe L.  I paid him back with an additional $500 within the 60 days, and he felt insulted.  He said I am not a bank you don’t owe me any interest.  This time I responded with sarcasm, and said don’t get too high on yourself, the extra money isn’t interest, I am giving you the five hundred to bet on the ponies, but you better bring me my share of the winnings.
Of course as was the story any other time, he loved the ponies but the ponies hated him, there were no winnings to report.  In his younger years Joe had an eye for the ladies, and could prove it (he was married 5 times and divorced 4).  He got very lucky on the last marriage.  However, he never outlived his love for the ponies.  RIP my friend!  The best is yet to come…..

Friday, February 22, 2013

Staying Healthy

Staying Healthy

Coming from great genes is a wonderful foundation to build on.  Up until my mid 30’s I had the world by the tail.  I was not only very busy but I always made time for golf, racket ball, walking, jogging, and mowing the lawn, just to name a few things to be constantly in action. After 35 I noticed that in order to take 5 to 6 pounds off, I had to work at it most of the year.  Even then the effort was a combination of proper eating and exercise.  As the years progressed I got busier with everything, children growing up more responsibility at work, more traveling for work, baseball practice for the kids, swimming lessons the list goes on.  I also spent quality time at home as a model husband.
Because I’ve always been healthy for the longest time the family doctors were dentist, pediatrician or gynecologist, except for the dentist, I wasn’t exactly represented.  As I got older I did fortunately get smarter, and decided that I wanted to have minimally the annual physical that every smart man should have after the age of 50, and younger if family history warrants it.  My doctors have never (my fingers are crossed) found anything to be concerned about.  I even joked with my friends that I love my doctor because she doesn’t tell me I am overweight rather she says I am about a foot short for my weight.  I promise you that I am joking about that.  I carry a few pounds more than I want to but I am about to correct that by joining a fitness center, and contracting with a Personal Trainer.

My doctor has told me after an examination, that I am boring, she quickly follows that with; in medical circles boring is good. I guess you could say that I am an above average patient.  I always follow my doctor’s advice (but I almost always ask questions) because she is the professional, and I am paying for the services. I recently made her very happy when I told her that I was going to get more involved in staying fit.  My plan is to increase my metabolism so I can keep my eating habits intact (maybe minor adjustments), increase my energy level, and of course the third element will automatically be the desired loss of a few pounds (around 10 pounds).
I am writing this post because in my circle of friends; I have a handful of them that are alive today because of their annual physicals.  One of my friends has survived cancer of two types because they were caught on time (on two different occasions).  Another friend is also a cancer survivor because it was caught on time.  Others have caught heart problems through early detection, and are healthy now.

I play golf two to three times per week, and of course starting now I plan to workout 3 to 4 times per week at the fitness center.  I have equipment at home but I find that working in front of others drives you a little harder.  I love my family, and want to prolong my quality of life, so I can enjoy them for as long as possible. 

I know that some people avoid the doctor because they are afraid to hear news that they would prefer not to have to deal with.  Two professionals that you need to maintain communications with are your doctor, and the IRS; in that order.  In today’s medical technology and advances, it’s a shame that anyone should endure illnesses that don’t have to be endured.  I realize that sometimes you have the lack of insurance to deal with, but the most important thing is that you need to survive today to fight another day.  In other words you will end up at the doctor’s office or hospital whether you go in or someone else calls 911 to take you in.  If an illness is caught in time your recovery and or survival chances are much better.  Sometimes we are not aware of the number of people that will miss you until you are no longer around. Do it for them!  The best is yet to come…..

Up the Creek

Up the Creek

 Many years ago during my last year of high school I was fortunate to get a job away from the farm and in town at the most popular tire store for many miles around.  I learned sales thanks to my bilingual skills, and pretty much every aspect of the tire business including vulcanizing (a process better known as tire re-treads), and warehousing.  Those skills from the tire business plus skills learned at the farm made me an all-around kind of guy.
My goal had always been to move to California and go to college, where all of my father’s family lived.  Through family contacts, a person that managed a Goodyear Store in Central California offered me a job based on my experience as related to him.  I immediately began my planning by saying my good byes and packing all I wanted to take with me.  I pulled a U-Haul trailer behind my Ford Victoria, and like the Beverly Hillbillies I headed to California.
I allowed myself one day of rest after I arrived before presenting myself at the Goodyear Store ready for duty.  To my dismay the person that had offered me the job had been fired together with most of the staff and promptly replaced prior to my arrival.  Apparently there had been some monkey business going on and while my contact wasn’t guilty, it did happen during his watch and was let go.  All the staff fired had been replaced, and besides they probably didn’t want to hire anyone that was remotely associated with the old guard.

I am a firm believer that everything you say and do will affect you for the rest of your life one way or another.  Who is to say where I would be today, if I had gone to work at the Goodyear Store?  I might be the CEO of Goodyear today, or maybe even shot by an angry customer, luckily I will never know.  I do know that I am happy the way my life found its way to where I am today.  On that very day without wasting time I drove to the unemployment office, and I was referred to an employer for a management training job where I eventually worked my way into mid and upper management. 
The corporation that I ended working at was considered second in size within its industry nationally.  To this day I like to brag that everything I needed to know I learned at that job.  I guess the only thing that makes sense is that no matter what life throws at you, you need to carefully analyze it and make the most of the opportunity.  I feel that I have at every turn.  I am grateful for all that I’ve been given and have earned, to be sure I made a good return on all the lemonade stands I’ve had to operate.  The best is yet to come….

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Love Story

I Can't Help Falling In Love

I have had many happy days in my life and at least 7 happiest days when each one of my children was born.  I, however, have to rank at the very top the day I met and fell in love with my beautiful wife and partner of almost 36 years. I had been single and divorced for approximately two and a half years, on the day she crossed my life’s path.

I was working as a vocational counselor at a community college alongside a Viet Nam Veteran that I enjoyed working with and considered a good friend.  He and I were meeting in my office, discussing student files and comparing progress notes, when one of the front office secretaries called on the intercom to check, if I knew the whereabouts of my coworker. I am purposely not mentioning names because I didn’t want to have to clear the content of this posting.  I responded that we were meeting in my office, and he asked her what she needed him for.  We had not notice the passage of time and had worked past the start of the lunch hour.  My coworker had a scheduled lunch appointment and she had arrived.

He was reminded that he was supposed to have lunch with his sister to celebrate her birthday.  He asked the receptionist to show her to my office where we were meeting.  Before I go any further I feel the need to explain that in a recent visit to my mother’s house, she had mentioned that she would feel a lot better, if I got married and didn’t go through life by myself.  My response was that I would be at least 45 years old before I considered marriage again (some 16 years in the future).  Now back to that special moment I interrupted.

When she walked into the room, I was taken by her presence (read that striking beauty), and poise.  My coworker mentioned that they were celebrating her birthday and invited me to join them for lunch.  I felt the need to properly represent the professionalism of my office; after all she was a student at another college some 70 miles away.  Before they left for lunch it was brought up by her brother that she and I shared a similar taste in music and that I had a sizable collection of some of her favorite artists.  I wished her a happy birthday and told her to feel free to call to borrow music anytime she wanted.  At the time we didn’t realize that we only lived a block away as the crow flies.

When they left my office I actually felt like I was in love.  I felt compelled to write her a note on my IBM Selectric II to once again wish her a happy birthday, and tell her that if it was alright with her parents I would like to see her again.  Fortunately for me I had a shining example of a reputation, and her parents had heard great things about me through her brother, and they gave their permission. I will condense the love story of a life time and say that we had about 4 dates, including one out of town that was chaperoned, and we married secretly within a couple of weeks.  After the secret marriage, I lived up to my upbringing and scheduled a meeting with her parents to ask for her hand in marriage.  I was granted her hand but we never had to go through with the planned future marriage because we were already married, and as they say the cat got out of the bag.  Less than a month later I dropped by my mother’s house to introduce her to her beautiful new daughter-in-law.

I’ve said it before in previous postings, if I could start my life over; I would do everything the same so I can end up where I am today.  I love my wife and family very much and at this point in our lives I believe that she is going to keep me.  The best is yet to come….

Killing Kennedy

Killing Kennedy

Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly is the title of the newest addition to my personal reading collection. I have always had a special interest on anything written about the 35th President of the United States, President John F. Kennedy. Our nation was unified in shock and grief on November 22, 1963. Anyone that lived through that infamous day has the moment etched in their memory, I know I do.

Friday November 22, 1963 started like any other Friday, with the anticipation of the weekend to be followed by the Thanksgiving Holiday being the only difference. I don't remember the exact time but I do remember that it was early morning, not long after school started (sometime after 10 am).  I was looking forward to a normal day of classes, and making plans for the weekend when all of a sudden the routine of the classroom was interrupted; The Principal’s voice came over the intercom system. 

There were usually two or three musical notes that preceded the voice message, not unlike a musical doorbell.  This time we heard a crackle over the intercom almost like fumbling with the microphone. That was the first thing that was different about the interruption, the second thing I noticed is that the principal never delivered the message himself.  His voice sounded very different from the person of authority that he always projected. He was almost apologetic in delivering the news, with a quivering voice he began; we just got a report from the school district administration office that our president, President John F. Kennedy has been shot while in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.  He has been rushed to the hospital and is being attended to.  A short time later we were informed that the president was dead.

Everyone in the room was stunned, and some started to cry out loud, even our teacher was shaken and red eyed.  I was supposed to be one of the tough guys in the school, and I couldn’t control the tears welling from my eyes.  I felt lost I didn’t know what to think, and I wasn’t sure what might happen next.  I certainly didn’t want my class mates to see me lose control, and for once I didn’t feel that I had a leadership role in helping bring calm to my fellow students.  A radio was apparently placed in front of the open microphone in the office carrying the news broadcast throughout the school as it developed.

Since I didn’t feel that anyone was in control I left the classroom, walked down the hall and straight out of the building to my car in the student parking lot.  The first thing I did before leaving the area was to find a strong radio station that I could clearly listen to, for the developing story.  My family loved and respected President Kennedy so much that I felt a need to rush home and be near my mother to comfort her.  The 15 miles between town where my high school was and home must have been a difficult drive but all I can remember is that I had tears streaming down my face.  It’s not easy to write this portion because after all tough guys of any age don’t cry.  I arrived home to find my mother crying in front of the television set.

The perceived American Dream doesn’t have tragedy of this level in it, so it was a rude awakening for the country and the world.  The next two weeks were filled with being glued to the television set and included the live coverage of the assassination of Oswald by Ruby.  The country since that time has made progress in many areas, including medicine, technology, and space exploration to name a few but I feel that society has regressed in the area of crime and violence in general.  We have become indifferent and much less caring for one another. I know that this terrible tragedy in American History changed me, and I’m not sure that I can explain how.  I guess one way that I changed, is that from that incident on, I always expect the unexpected.

I still have high hopes for our country, and believe that our best days are ahead of us, and that is why I always say; the best is yet to come…..

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Save because you can

Save because you can

There are many good reasons to save money or resources.  There are two main reasons why you should save money.
1.       Because you need to   

2.       Because you can
If you are struggling with your finances, you need to save money and that is reason number 1.  You are going deeper every day that you don’t take action.  You could even say that common sense dictates that you take corrective action immediately.  Unless there is some unusual or even expected windfall in your near future, such as income tax refund, inheritance, job promotion or even pay raise that will change the dynamics, action is dictated as soon as possible.

Ways to cut your expenses might include, getting rid of your gas guzzler car, cutting off or reducing the amount of cable service you presently pay for, reducing the type of cell phone service you presently pay for (going from a smart phone that requires a data plan to a basic cell phone).  The examples go on and on, another common example might be reducing or cancelling your fitness center membership and joining a group of people that walk or run for exercise, even god forbid reduce your habit from two or more Lattes to one a day.  If you are buying your home and you haven’t refinanced in the last 3 or 4 years you may find that to be a life changer (with present low rates you could save as much as $400 per month).

The next reason is one that my wife and I regularly discuss and take action on approximately every three months.  Save money because you can.  I am not bragging that we can afford to be foolish and throw away money but that is exactly what we would be doing if we continued being unaware.  The following are great example of how you can save money and how others have recently realized savings by being aware.
One of my sons recently had a conversation with me about how he was paying way too much for Internet and cable service.  He mentioned that his cost was well in excess of $200 dollars per month.  He was considering t cancelling the service.  I recommended that he call the cable provider and tell them that his bill was so excessive that he was considering leaving and contracting with the competition.  He had been a customer for a very long time, and they didn’t want to lose him.  They discussed his service needs and negotiated a new arrangement where he gets exactly what he wants and needs for a very small fee of $69 per month plus tax, on a two year signed contract.
Another major area is your car insurance.  The last time I shopped for automobile insurance I saved over $500 dollars per year.  The secret was to include my Home Owner’s Insurance Policy on the same package of coverage.  Another factor was to look at my deductible and increase it to a level that I was comfortable with.  I know people that have deductibles as low as $200 dollars.  How many repairs do you know that can be performed to your automobile for under $200?  In the area of deductibles more often than not your level is controlled by the type of bank finance and luxury level of your auto.  For example any kind of vehicle lease requires a $1000.00 deductible, and most insurance companies will require you to maintain the higher deductible across your coverage even if your second vehicle is already paid for.  Your costs for insurance is lower the higher deductible you pay.  We still shop and compare insurance premiums every three or four years, because the insurance companies will slowly raise your premiums to get more money from you as time goes on (it’s simply the nature of the business).
Other external factors that will affect your premiums, are your driving record, and with some companies even your credit rating.  The idea of enjoying life at 50 and beyond is made better by watching over your hard earned money.  Someone once said; that if you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.  Do you have any tips or perhaps other ways that we can share about saving money.  It’d be nice not to take it to the level of trading Gold on margin, or buying and selling Stocks at the best possible time.  Maximizing your resources is always one way to get more fun out of life.  The best is yet to come….

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Being Wealthy

On Being Wealthy

 I was born to a very loving and giving couple.  If I had a choice and could pick my own parents, I would pick the same ones.  My father worked hard and smart to provide for his family (he was and educated man).  My mother came from more humble beginnings, but you would be hard pressed to find a more caring person.  I know that my mother loved me from before I was born, to her last day on this earth.  I can say the same about my father, but he just didn’t show it like my mother did.  Matter of fact, I remember it like it was yesterday, I was 42 years old and had already crossed the security check at the airport in Ontario California on my way to board my return flight home, when my father said the words, “I love you son.”

I’d like to think that it wasn’t a big deal, but it must have been if I still remember the exact moment to this day. There again, this is material for another posting.

From my early years I knew what it was like to enjoy the better things in life.  Before there was pre-school as we know it today, or even Head Start, my parents made a decision that was beneficial to my future.  I was enrolled at the age of four into a prestigious private (pre) school.  That experience and exposure gave me a boost that benefitted me for the rest of my life.  I remember being treated very special, and even lovingly if that’s possible, while at the same time being taught discipline.  By the time I was enrolled in public school I was at least two years ahead of the other students.

Having had a taste of good or decent life has a tendency to drive you to maintain a certain level of comfort.  Life throws a curve at you once in a while that may knock you of course.  The trick is to get back on course as quickly as possible to maintain the momentum.  After my parents divorced (that’s what a curve is) my mother remained single for 3 years before she remarried.  That remarriage landed me in a farm style environment.  I turned lemons into lemonade, and learned all I could from the farm environment and came out stronger (getting back on course).  We are the sum of all of our experiences.

On being wealthy:  it doesn’t matter if you are worth, one thousand or one million dollars.  If you appreciate what you have, you are wealthy.  If you don’t appreciate what you have you will never be wealthy because you’ll never know when you have arrived!  Another word of wisdom is that budgeting successfully is keeping the three legged stool balanced.  One leg is incoming cash, second leg is how much you need to live on, and third leg is outgoing cash.  If you are running low on cash by payday you either don’t make enough (get a part time job or get a better paying job), or lower your living standard (you can’t afford your life style), perhaps you are spending too much on entertainment, or unnecessary luxuries, even helping others may be a luxury you can’t afford.  Bottom line is we are all wealthy within our means; we just need to appreciate what we have.  The best is yet to come…….

Monday, February 18, 2013

Makings of a Best Friend

Makings of a Best Friend

During 1978 I was into a new job as Executive Director of a non-profit organization, I won’t say that I was out of my element but I was cautiously treading the political landscape.  My previous jobs had been very high level and well defined responsibilities, without the political element.  I attended many Planning and Funding meetings all ultra-political.  I was literally swimming in shark infested waters.
I was competing with many organizations for the funding, there was even recruiting of my staff going on behind my back.  At times I couldn’t even trust my own staff because I wasn’t sure who was being lured away, and who was really on my team.  Remember that I was new to the organization so while I didn’t know the staff, they also didn’t know me.  They really didn’t know if I was out for myself or if I would take a stand on their behalf and go to bat for them.

My actions in private and public began to speak volumes about me to my board of directors, my staff, the community, and even to a well-known and effective community activist.  As I began to gather strength and reputation in the arena that I was involved in, I noticed that Joe L. (the community activist) was siding with me on issues that involved and benefited my organization.  One evening after a long and hard fought funding meeting, he approached me as I was preparing to leave and he shook my hand, and said I am starving and would be willing to treat you to dinner.
I agreed to join him, and didn’t realize that 4 other community leaders would be joining us at one of Joe’s favorite restaurants.  Joe introduced me to his circle of friends, and in the process said to them, this is the man I’ve been talking to you about.  The four individuals were an impressive group; one was a lawyer, another a medical student, yet another a professor at the UoW, the fourth was the executive of the County we operated in.  I was proud to be included, but while I could survive swimming with sharks all of a sudden I felt like a fish out of water.
After a very pleasant dinner, and conversation we parted company but not before Joe explained to me that this group of people and handful of others would work alongside of me to make sure that our non-profit agency would survive and thrive.  I went on to lead the agency for just over 7 years and in that period of time we grew by leaps and bounds; our funding was quadrupled during my tenure.  Once again this is material for a different posting.
That night I went home and told my wife that I had met with a group of people that offered me their community expertise and support, and that based on those actions I felt that my contact Joe L. wanted to be my friend.  I then went on to make a misstatement like I had not made before or since.  I told my wife that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to befriend him because he was 26 years older than me, and he would die on me and I would end up mourning the loss of a friend.  My wife being much younger than me once again showed her superior wisdom and said; better to have him as a friend and lose him than not have him as a friend at all!

 Joe L. was my very best friend for 23 years.  He passed away at the age of 82 (retired Navy, and retired Teamster - Tough as Nails).  Periodically I will post a story on my friend Joe.  The best is yet to come……

Secretive Friends

Secretive Friends

During my lengthy life I’ve had many friend relationships of many levels (not to be mistaken with romantic relationships).  During different phases of my life I have enjoyed large numbers of acquaintances, a couple of handfuls of friends (such as co-workers, college buddies etc.). To be sure every progressive level of life brought with it different levels of interaction.

I’ve never spoken to anyone about this subject because like the Vegas commercial, “What Happens Between Friends, Stays between Friends!”  I will qualify this posting by saying that the friendships and circumstances I am about to relate happened a long time ago, and I am not using names to protect the guilty.
Many of my early friends and acquaintances (between ages of 19 and 29) were just getting started in life themselves.  Some were finishing school others were into college working on a degree, and still others were starting new jobs, but all of them male or female had one thing they shared in common; they were all in and or out of relationships.  The acquaintances were the easiest to deal with, if their presence contributed more drama and intrigue, than fun and pleasure, I slowly distanced myself from them.

The friends have always been harder to deal with.  With friends you have more time and emotion invested in them.  Some friends however, are abusive of friend relationships, and sooner or later you have to sit them down and have a serious talk with them.  Some examples of abuses will follow, but first I must say that there is another level of friendship and a few of us are lucky to experience it; that level is the “best friend,” which if properly categorized you will be lucky to have maybe two in a lifetime.
Some very common abuses of the secretive friends are where they have a shaky relationship and they are seeing someone else on the side.  You are perhaps not even aware of the drama, and then you are thrust right in the middle of it, where you are asked to back-up a story about how you spent time out of town with them last weekend.  One experience that totally took me by surprise was when I ran into a good friend at the Mall; he had a very good looking young woman with him that I had never met.  Before we could even be introduced, his live-in girlfriend came out of nowhere, and he quickly introduced the new woman to his live-in girlfriend as my girlfriend.

 I could tell the young woman was livid so I grabbed her hand as we walked away and I gave it a light squeeze indicating for her to keep her temper in check.  I later apologized, for my friend and explained that he was having problems in his relationship. Later that day I got a phone call from my friend where he thanked me for covering for him, and apologized for getting me involved.
My life since I met and married my wife and even before has always been very mellow.  I don’t like unnecessary drama, and I prefer the truth.  I’ve never had to cross the street because someone I owed money to was walking in my direction.  I’ve also never needed a good memory to remember lies I've told.  This posting didn’t cover the story of how you deal with a Best Friend’s deep secret.  Keep a look out for it in the next few postings.  The best is yet to come…..

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Rest of the Story

 Fortune Teller Sequel

Less than 30 days after my wife and I survived the chunk of concrete dropped on our windshield our future began to take shape in a big way.  Late one Friday 6:45 pm to be exact I was working late at the office when the phone rang.  I answered the call and the person at the other end was surprised that I was there to answer.  He said, I fully expected to leave a message, but I am glad you are still in the office.
He was calling from headquarters, and he introduced himself.  Almost immediately he apologized for not meeting me and introducing himself in prior years since I joined the organization.  He said he had seen many glowing reports of my performance, and just hadn’t had a chance to travel to my office to introduce himself and thank me personally.  I explained that no apology was necessary, and that I was just performing my duties per my job assignment with a personal commitment to quality.

His next words made the call my 14th offer of promotion in the last five years.  After surviving the accident in November my wife and I had discussed that the next job offer I received, I would give serious consideration to.  I was offered a position as the head of a section at headquarter.  The only catch is that the opening would not be available until spring or summer of the following year.  We made plans for an in person visit at headquarters soon after the new year started.
I went home all excited and shared the conversation with my wife, and as always she was very supportive and told me that I needed to do what I thought was best for the family.  Fortunately we had been able to afford for my wife to be a stay at home mom, to oversee the family front, and we didn’t have to deal with a job transfer for her.  I was totally happy and no longer looking over my shoulder due to the Fortune Teller prediction and near death event.  For once in our lives we were free to live happy and make decision beneficial to our family’s future.

It seemed like forever and almost unbelievable but in August of the following year I finally made the move to headquarters some 150 miles away.  The rest is history; everything that is good and important to our family has taken place because of decisions we made that year following the near death event.  The friends my children met in school, the spouses they met and married, the grandchildren that have been born, everyone and everything was and is affected by my promotion to headquarters and family relocation.
I have to say that a little faith goes a long ways.  If we could control every aspect of our lives, not only would we be responsible for the outcomes, but I know that many of us would mess it up.  Now you know why I say the best is yet to come….

Old Fashion family fun

Old Fashion family fun

 We are blessed to have a large family for many obvious and many other reasons.   The obvious is that there is so much love and caring to go around.  There is never a time that someone is going through trials and tribulations that they don’t have the option of someone to talk to or lean on.   Growing up my sister was 7 years older than me, and she moved away to live with my grandmother at the age of 16.  I was the only son in my family, and thus grew up similar to being an only child.
I promised my children that I was going to raise them as a close knit family so they could have a built in support system.  I am proud of my family and I accomplished my plan of the built-in support system.  All my children were raised to take responsibility for their actions, and they are wonderful young adults.  Beyond that, we are also fortunate that all our children still live in the same State.  The farthest I have to travel by car is 5 hours one way to visit anyone of my children and/or grandchildren.

When family members come into town, it’s always a time to celebrate.  We gather at our house, and play board games around the dining room table, we own a large collection of board games, plus dominos, chess, checkers, cards, and rule books for the various games. On a long weekend we manage to get in a new release movie at one of the large complex cinemas, or rent movies to view at home on the large screen.  We often compete in games of bowling, or putt-putt golf.  During the summer we may even get in a game of softball.

I personally don’t compete as much as I used to, but I do enjoy a game of golf with one of my sons or the one daughter that plays golf.  That is a game where my chances of winning are still in my favor.  My wife and I get as much fun and joy just from seeing our young adult children getting along and having fun.

One other thing that I am very proud of is that a large percentage of our children inherited my entrepreneurial spirit, and are in fact more successful than I ever dreamed of being.  I hope you are enjoying your family as much as I am mine; family is the foundation that we build upon.  The best is yet to come……