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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No Place Like Home 4

Texas Bound

Earlier posts of “There is No Place Like Home, No Place Like Home 2, and No Place Like Home 3” were posted on March 22nd, March 24th and April 30th respectively.  
My mother went from being a married woman (stay at home housewife) in a loving marriage that lasted 13 years, to being on her own, and head of household.  As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, she had a young son and a teenage daughter.  She had only been in the USA less than two years, and understood but didn’t speak English. We were legal residents, but that was the only plus on her side, besides her desire to persevere, and triumph.  Triumph she did, I can attest to that. 
My mother was able to keep the dream alive.  The dream to make the move to the USA, a move for a better future for her son and daughter.  You can’t imagine how many times I offered to drop out of school to help her out, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  I held many part time jobs after school and I handed all my earnings to her.  She would always give me a spending allowance, but even then I learned to save from my allowance.  Growing up I learned the following jobs; I worked the concession stand at a theater, I learned to operate the projection room at the same theater, I learned to perform auto body work, and paint, and prior to 6th grade I maintained a B+ grade average (I improved the grade average after that).  All I ever did then and all I ever do now is to make my mother and my family proud.
The following is an excerpt from my book (I am presently writing: working title "East Lincoln")
I've always known that my mother was a very strong woman, but it amazes me as an adult to think of the strength that it must have taken for my mother to walk into the unknown, and away from the love of her life. Only time and actions would prove that my father was really the love of my mother's life.
The bus ride to Texas seemed to go on forever, and I must have spent the whole time thinking of what my life was like, and how I wished that I could bring my parents back together.  Upon arrival my mother rented a hotel room while she looked for a house to rent. She had planned ahead enough to have the money necessary for a new start. For a woman that I always knew to have been pampered and taken care of, she seemed in control, and definitely in charge of her own destiny. My sister and I began to look to and expect direction from our mother. She had turned into mother and father to us. If she had any fears or doubt we never saw any signs of it.

Everyone always commented that I resemble my father very much, having said that, I count my blessings that my mother always loved my father. Life could have been pretty tough for me if the opposite were true. My mother always loved me unconditionally; at least if it means that in her eyes I could do no wrong. I returned that love by showing her respect and helping with home chores, not being an unnecessary burden to her. I always worked hard in school, did my homework, respected my elders and in fact I was a typical Boy Scout.
Since my mother didn't have much of a formal education or training, she relied on her work ethic, and common sense mostly to do well in the jobs she held. Her jobs include food processing plants, factories, and waitressing at restaurants mostly. All her hard work was because of her love and devotion to her children. Personally speaking I couldn't do enough to show her how much she was appreciated.   My mother continues to be loved, honored, respected and appreciated. My behavior in private and public is still influenced by my love and respect for my mother. I miss her very much especially as Mother's Day approaches. The best is yet to come...

No Place Like Home 3

No Place Like Home 3

Earlier posts of “There is No Place Like Home and No Place Like Home 2” were posted on March 22nd, and March 24th respectively.

I owe my life to my mother and father, but the largest influence in my life was definitely from my mother.  Because of my love for my mother, and the wonderful memories, I have an enormous appreciation and respect for the gender. My father had many qualities that if all I did was emulate him I would definitely be a good or great person, but I wasn’t raised by him, and I can only wonder what might have been.

When you think of a momma’s boy, the image that comes to mind is that of a pampered, whiny young man, that can’t stand on his own two feet, and can be easily manipulated, or bullied. Not the case here. My mother understood that because I was being raised without my father’s influence, I was going to be raised with lots of love and a strong firm discipline. When my mother gave me instructions on a task that had to be performed, I could see the determination in her eyes for getting it accomplished. Actually what I saw in her face was the look her mother (my maternal grandmother) had when passing out orders.

Soon after we moved to Texas from California my mother had to have surgery, and we stayed with my grandmother at her home in Mexico while my mother recovered (a very long two weeks). During this time if I learned one thing for sure, is that I was glad my mother was my mother. My grandmother was so strict that I was afraid to be in her presence alone. I know for a fact that she was capable of showing love and emotion but very sparingly. As my grandmother lived on a tropical island, there were animals running free everywhere chickens, horses, donkeys, dogs, duck, seagulls, Flamingos and more.

Legend was, according to my 22 year old uncle, that grandmother would never chase you; she was an expert with a whip, and could wrap your feet with the whip from twenty feet away. Well, this very hot and sunny day, I was chasing (herding) a herd of donkeys (Burros). My grandmother stuck her head out the kitchen window, and yelled an order, that I should leave the Burros alone and get out of the sun. I looked over my shoulder and yelled back that I would. Time passed and then almost as if by premonition, I looked behind me, just in time to see my grandmother twirling the whip over her head. I didn't pause to measure the distance to see if she could reach me. Being a fan of comic books and an expert of playing cowboys (whip wielding Lash La Rue cowboy of television series fame) and Indians, I concentrated and timed my jump perfectly so that I jumped just as the whip snapped under me. I ran like the wind and hid in bed behind my mother.

My mother was on a doctor prescribed bed rest. The temperature must have been 100 plus degree in a tropical climate, and I was covered from head to toe by a blanket, hiding from the person that I am sure inspired the Indiana Jones character.  She went by my mother's room and asked my mother if she had seen me go by. I heard my mother answer that she had not seen or heard me go by. In retrospect, I can just see my mother winking at grandma to indicate that I was behind her. Just the same the legend was continued unquestioned.

I always suspected that my mother inherited her mother’s pioneer spirit, and strength but I decided at a very early age that I was not going to test my suspicions.  I never ever saw the streak of seriousness (read that meanness) in my mother that I saw in my grandmother.  I always knew that I loved both my mother and grandmother, but looking back, what I felt for my grandmother was tempered by fear.  Much more to follow.  Next post will be “No Place Like Home 4.”  The best is yet to come…..

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Preparing for Opportunity 2

Making money is easy; keeping it is the trick!

During the time I was earning my retirement I had many opportunities to supervise staff, at my best (most) I was responsible for 42 professional staff.  I never socialized with my staff (ever).  It was a tough decision to make, but on the long run it was the best thing I ever did.  Perhaps you’ve heard people say that “it’s lonely at the top?” that is what’s meant.  You never know when you may have to enforce company policy, and then you come off as being two-faced.  You can’t party with staff Friday and Saturday night and lay down the law on Monday morning.

I had one particular staff person that I enjoyed working with.  He was a very good worker, but a hard living kind of person.  He took financial chances that I would never consider taking. Totally opposite of me and maybe that’s what I liked about him.  One day he got caught breaking company policy, and as his supervisor I had to write him up.  He became very upset, and started lashing out at me the only way he knew how.  He told me that I had sold my soul to the company store.  I had a difficult time containing my impulse to laugh in front of him.  Instead I asked him; do you even know what that means?  His response was, “that you are a company man and cater to the company’s whim.”  I responded that I was performing my duty as his supervisor and that there was no question that he had violated company policy.

I took the opportunity to correct him on his effort to put me down.  I explained that he was the one that owed his soul to the “Company Store.”  I told him that he owned a race car, a speed boat, his and hers Harley Davidsons (for him and his wife), a motorhome, a speed boat, a 30 foot fifth wheel RV, and a new Camaro.  He had previously complained that he was barely making it from pay check to paycheck.  I further explained that he owed so much that he couldn’t afford to miss work without pay.  When you are so indebted, you can’t afford to lose your or your wife’s job.  He understood and thanked me for being a nice guy, and not being angry at him.  I kind of envied him because he had all the toys that I didn’t dare spend my money on.

How’s your tab at the “Company Store?”  The only way that you will be ready when opportunity calls is not to owe your soul to the company store. Wait you say! There is no company store in my life! Now for the Aha moment: but there is!  The Company Store of today is; Department store credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Auto Finance Companies, Mortgage, lease or rent, Payday Loans, on and on. If you carry too much debt you may get stuck at your dead end job, which you hate because it doesn't fulfill you and it doesn't offer opportunity for growth. Unless you meet all qualifications, you sometimes have to start at entry level or somewhere in-between. Having too many bills might keep you from making a move to a new and better opportunity.

Changing jobs because you need more income and the new job pays more is not a good enough reason to switch jobs. Due diligence is always called for when considering something as important as a new job. First thing you need to verify is that there is a career ladder for you. Talk to people that work at the new job and see what they have to say about the working conditions.  Sometimes when you don’t like your job, changing your perspective or attitude is the answer and not just a new job.  One definite smart idea is to make sure you have another job before your quit the one you have.  In today’s economy, finding a job while unemployed is not in your favor, and unless you are a top notch performer at your place of employment, don’t bluff about having a better offer.  If you are not well thought off the boss may give you a box so you can clear your desk.

I have been offered opportunities to re-enter the industry that I retired from at wages higher than the one I retired from.  I’ve actually looked into it 2 times, and once offered the position backed away every time, my reasons are simple:

  • I am fortunate to have reached a comfortable and generous retirement
  • I want to practice what I preach; unnecessary stress will eventually kill you
  • Like the MasterCard commercial says; spending time with my grandchildren is priceless!
  • I don’t want to come across as being greedy
  • I want to enjoy the only boss I have, but love; my wife!

The best is yet to come….

Friday, April 26, 2013

Preparing for Opportunity

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity!

Is your job a career and passion or just a job until a better one comes along? Because there is a difference; a job is usually, from my point of view (and I had a couple along the way) a stepping stone to the job or career you really want. It may be the entry level job at the place where you are planning to work your way up. Example; you may start in sales at a job where your goal is to become Vice President in charge of Marketing, or bagging groceries, where your goal is to be store manager.

Very often, its one thing to be skilled, and yet another to have the aptitude and/or temperament for a job. Example; a property manager may be trained all around in managing property but lack the people skills to deal with people on a daily basis. A person in this circumstance will make himself and the people he is meant to serve miserable within a short period of time. I’ve always told people if you don’t like your job start looking for a new one because if you don’t your supervisor will notice and you will be looking for a job anyway. I was given a word of advice when I was 17 years old by a very smart vocational counselor. I was being assessed for job skills; aptitude, mechanical, etc., etc. Almost in passing he mention that if I learned to enjoy what I do for a living I would never have to work another day. I didn't find my ideal calling until about the fourth try, but when I did, I hung on to it and not only prepared myself for it, but I continuously updated and upgraded my skills to reach my goals.

Seldom do you find your ideal the job first time out, the trick is not to settle, and continuously update your skills with your goal in mind. Being prepared when the right job falls on your lap is the secret to success. Have you heard the reference made of people that are owned by the company store? There was a time when small towns built around a particular industry (examples: logging or mining, even agriculture). In order to serve the needs of the workforce the company would open a general store, and because the towns people were also employees the company owned store would extend the shoppers credit until payday. If you weren't careful you might owe your entire paycheck to the store on payday. The best you could do is pay your bill and start a new tab for the following pay period.

The following are a few of the lyrics for the song by Tennessee Ernie Ford, "16 Ton"

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

The message of this song is that St. Peter should not come calling because he owes his soul to the company store.  This is really a message of desperation, the individual has so much debt he can't even afford to die.

One might argue that there is no such thing as the “Company Store” anymore, but in fact there is, you just have to understand what to look for or better yet what to avoid.  The next post will deal with recognizing the “Company Store,” and how to avoid it.  The best is yet to come…..

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Age Perspective 7

When I'm 64
I wanted to show I had balls at age 60. Just because society says I'm old, doesn't mean that I am. I'm pursuing happiness, even if it makes the people around me unhappy. - Sylvester Stallone
Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. - Anonymous   
Be kind to your kids, they'll choose your nursing home one day. – Anonymous
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age. - Sofia Loren
If you are nearing 60, or have been 60 for a while, minimally you should be thankful that you’ve reached the landmark age.  Personally I’d like to think that I am 40 with twenty plus years’ experience.  I’ve said it many times before, I don’t want to be at any other age in life, or even living any part of my life over, because I am blessed, and can’t imagine giving up any of the riches that I have.
Amongst my riches I include my health, wealth, family, and mental acuity, and definitely not in that order.  I am blessed with longevity in my family genes, I have relatives that died in their 90’s, and not from old age but rather complications from surgery that shouldn’t have killed them.  I realize that not everyone is as fortunate, and that there are health complications that come from turning 60 and beyond.  Some may have gotten caught up in the financial disaster of 2008 and since then.  If this is your case I sympathize, but don’t throw in the towel.  You are alive and amongst your family for a reason, make the most of it.
I am now spending more time with my grandchildren, then I was able to spend with my own little ones.  The reason was obvious for me and all of you that raised a family.  We had to provide for those good looking kids that we brought into the world.  Provide we did, I got my babies all their needs and many of their wants.  Today I am able to spoil their children.  As one of my favorite songs says, I’m not as good as I was once, but…  Well, I can’t run a foot race of any length, but I can run and catch a purse thief if I had to.  What I do with him, once I catch up might require some help from my friends Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson, but at least I have that too.
My friend Joe L. use to say (at age 82) any day I don’t read my name in the Obituaries has the promise of being a great day.  I plan not to use that saying until I get into my 80’s.  Any of us in the landmark age of 60, need to be happy to be able to attend family events, and should be involved in helping with the scheduling of reunions, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations.  I am very involved in Family Genealogy, and interviewing older members of the family to pick their brains while they still remember significant names and events.
Thanks to the Internet and Digital Technology, we at this age can still be involved in developing businesses, for ourselves or helping our younger family members with research.  We can now, take time to take computer classes for fun or profit at community colleges.  I am by no means discounting all of the members of this age group that are still required to punch the work clock, for financial or insurance reasons.  I retired early for two reasons
  • Most important I was eligible to retire early with all the benefits that I had coming, and
  • Secondly, I lost my tolerance for BS and micro-management at the office.
I believe that stress will affect you if you are not in a happy environment, and/or you will have it out with the boss, if he or she disrespects your many years of dedication, loyal contribution and experience.  The biggest reward besides financial compensation is the quality time to spend on projects of your choosing, and family time.

Two fine examples, of people in their mid-60 are Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Some of my friends have said that they are not good role models because they used steroids, and growth hormones.  I beg to disagree; if those two mentioned supplements are bad for the body (and I believe they are) shouldn’t they be in bad shape (due to the effects of abuse).  I do believe that some of us secretly envy the builds (body condition) at the landmark age of 65 and 66.  I have taken good care of my body, and wouldn’t consider any type of supplements to enhance what I’ve been issued.  This posting on Age Perspective will be the end of the 7 post series.  The best is yet to come…

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Age Perspective 6

Golden Opportunities
When you're 50 you start thinking about things you haven't thought about before. I used to think getting old was about vanity--but... actually it's about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial.
_Joyce Carol Oates
They say that age is all in your mind. The trick is keeping it from creeping down into your body.
--Author Unknown
Amongst the many responsibilities that I have performed during my working life one particular one dealt with overseeing the security needs of commercial facilities.  I bring it up because it’s relevant to turning 50 years old.  The particular group of staff that I supervised was involved in all aspects of risk management with regard to keeping staff (building occupants-tenants) safe while at work. We controlled who and how the facility was accessed, from controlling doors to sounding alarms in the event of a breach of security, to notifying security responders.
One of the most basic tasks of this unit was to document and issue badge cards (access cards with photo identification).  You would be amazed at how often someone (usually ladies) would want to talk to the head of the section about getting their photos re-taken because they were not happy with the first effort.  In the early years and even now the majority of money spent on those security systems isn’t for the professional quality of the cameras. All you have to do is look at your driver’s license, picture of your Costco Membership Card to see what I am talking about.  The reasons for the complaint to the head of the unit is that once the card was printed, you would have to pay $10 for a re-issue, and all they wanted was the process redone for free.
It was always my pleasure to tell the person complaining, that I promised them that two years down the road of life, they would look at their ID badges and appreciate their photograph.  To prove it I would ask them to compare themselves to the picture on their driver’s license.  Almost without exception I would win the exchange.
The same goes for turning 50 and entering into your fifties.  First of all the alternative to not getting older is not a good one.  Secondly, you will have many opportunities to look back at your early fifties and wish you could have them back.  I actually contemplated how nice it would be for my wife and children to remember me in my forties, how I was, and looked back then.  However, when you contemplate the time that you will miss out on getting older and seeing the family grow, spoiling the grandchildren, and maybe attending their graduations, and weddings, you realize the benefit of being older even if it means having a few pains now and then.
By the time you turn fifty you are seen more as the Wiseman that you should be.  You are nearing the time that some call your second youth.  Simply stated, the family responsibility shifts to the younger family members; they are the ones raising families, you are the fifty year old, getting closer to retirement, and almost to the point of courting your wife, as in the beginning, when the romance was interrupted by life.
If you have been fortunate to take care of your health, and your finances, you can actually begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn’t a semi-truck coming at you.  Above all else, remember to be grateful for the blessings that you do have, after all you will never achieve wealth if you don’t appreciate what you have.
I am very fortunate to have a friend, partner, and wife, all in the same person, I have undoubtedly been blessed with more than I deserve, but I appreciate it and I give thanks every night before I go to bed.  Fifties is a time when you can still set goals and dream big.  Colonel Harlan Sanders had his combination store/gas station, and restaurant fail the year before he started the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise at age 65.  Colonel Sanders died at the age of 90, he got to enjoy his success for 25 years before leaving an even stronger legacy.  What might we be able to do?  The best is yet to come…..

Living in Paradise

Mount Rainier
I’ve lived in a couple of places around the country where I actually thought I might want to return someday to retire to.  Not everyone reasons like I do, and that is good, they say variety is the spice of life.  What a boring place society would be if we all thought alike.  When you live long enough (long enough is in the eye of the beholder) you should be entitled to a little more consideration for your participation (if not out of respect for the grey hair, perhaps for your experience).  It stands to reason that the longer you live the more you learn, the more you learn the better you live, the better you live the longer you live, and the cycle continues.
The topic of my posting today is all about living in the ideal place.  Once again we all have what we would consider ideal living conditions.  The first consideration that should go out the window is jobs.  When you are retired and living on a pension your consideration doesn’t have to be about the perfect environment for earning a living.  Personal health conditions should probably be top on the list of considerations.  Your needs for health reasons should take into consideration, heat, cold, rain, snow, and even dry and dusty conditions.
My considerations are the following; I don’t want to live in an area of the country where I might find myself rebuilding my life overnight.  I’m talking about natural disasters. I consider myself at an age where I don’t care to start over from scratch.  I want to avoid as much as possible, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, sinkholes, floods, landslides, and windstorms, and fire hazards.
One of the areas that I thought I might want to retire to was Santa Cruz California, and then there was the strong and devastating earthquake of Loma Prieta 1989. The earth had not yet stopped shaking and I had already crossed Santa Cruz from my top place to retire to.  Life in Santa Cruz is definitely a type of paradise to live in.  If it hasn’t changed over the years Santa Cruz is mostly known for its 17 State Beaches for recreation.  I imagine that I could not afford the property that I lived in back then. 
I remember weekends where I was totally drained of energy from all the hours I spent playing out in the sun.  Not much of a choice, everything and anything done outdoors was under a very nice and bright sunshine.  My maturity has finally taught me that sunshine is pretty much like chocolate, you can only take so much for so long before you decide that you have had all you can handle or want.  The only people likely to disagree with me would be the people that are very young, or have never had all the sunshine they can handle.
I am very happy to live in the Northwest corner of the United States, where everything is handed out in moderation except maybe the cloudy skies, and at times rain.  If you are lucky to have some decent resources, you can always get away for a little sunshine when it gets to you, about once a year.  The Western side of the State of Washington is more moderate than the climate of the Eastern side of the State.  During the summer if you want some serious hot weather, you can always go play golf in the Yakima Valley with temperatures in the 100 plus degrees.
When it comes to my golf game I’ve always said that I play in the 70’s, and it usually gets me noticed.  Unfortunately I follow it with any hotter than that and I refuse to go out.  The Northwest is so weather friendly that you can be at the beach or the mountain pass and even a little higher if you want to see and feel the snow year round within a 90 minute drive from Seattle.  I’ve been in the Northwest most of my life; I’ve been to many places outside of Washington, but I always return home.  The best is yet to come….

Monday, April 22, 2013

We Will Endure

We Will Endure
Summer of 1968 was looking and feeling great.  Where were you the first week of June 1968?  I remember that week vividly, and it especially comes to mind following the tragedy that occurred in Boston last week.
The weather was typical of a hot summer day in Central California. I was very young with only my firstborn daughter, and just like there was not a cloud in the sky there wasn’t a pain in my entire body.  I felt invincible, had the world by the tail attitude.  I was driving a new Plymouth Sport Fury, and I actually challenged some muscle cars when they would pull up to me on the freeway.  Those were the days when even in a muscle car you would pull up to a full-service (gas) station, and typically asked the attendant to put a dollar’s worth in the tank.  A dollar was good for slightly more than 5 gallons of gasoline.
The country was not at peace within.  We had demonstrations against the Viet Nam War, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in the first week of April the same year, and there were race riots all around the country.  Yet the political campaign seemed to offer a bit of promise for better times to come.
The days were so perfect I remember spending almost as much time at keeping my car in show room condition, clean and spotless, as I spent driving it.  In the mornings when you first walked out doors, you felt the warmth of the sun starting to build up.  By 8 in the morning the temperature was already hovering around 78 degrees, and you were looking forward to maybe a 97 degree day. Up until this time in my life I had maintained a family habit of doing any and all family shopping on Saturday at one of a handful of large department, and grocery stores.
Sometime around the last weekend of May of 1968, I remember that we arrived at one of our favorite department stores, and had to deal with the inconvenience of traffic blocks within the department store parking lot.  I could see that there was a large stage at one end of the parking lot, and something was about to get underway.  My thought was that maybe I could get the shopping done, and leave before the event ended so that I wouldn’t get caught in traffic.
As I was exiting the store I could tell that the gathering was a campaign stop for Robert Kennedy, and the crowd was overflowing the perimeters that had been set up to contain the crowd.  When I finally reached my car, and after empting the contents of the shopping cart into the trunk of the car, I snaked my way around the parking lot looking for a quick exit.  I could hear the familiar voice of the Kennedy brothers over the loudspeakers addressing the crowd.
I made a comment that was natural because of the obvious danger to the candidate.  I said I can’t believe that no one is at the back of the parking lot monitoring the traffic moving around.  I could have been an evil person with a sniper’s rifle and minimally taken a shot at the candidate that was so exposed standing on stage addressing the crowd.
Approximately two weeks later on June 5th 1968 for the second time in my life I was brought to tears (by news of a Kennedy assassination) when I heard on the radio that Senator Robert F. Kennedy had been shot just past midnight in Los Angeles as he addressed campaign workers.  Senator Robert F. Kennedy died 26 hours later at the Good Samaritan Hospital.  All of a sudden the bright spot in the horizon for the country, wasn’t so bright after all.  Since 1968 we have had many other events that gave us reason to give up hope!  We all know and have come to expect that the American Spirit may get knocked down but never out, and we always bounce back more determined than ever to take back what is rightfully ours.  We have proven it time and again, and we are in the process of proving it one more time since last week.  The best is yet to come…

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Just Say No!

Over Committed

Do you ever remember a time in your life when you had no need for an appointment calendar?  When you first got one, do you remember having to make-up things just to fill it with?  Then all of a sudden like a snow ball rolling down the hill you were adding more than you were crossing off the calendar.  Some people never understand how you get to be so busy in life, and consequently don’t know how to get off of the merry-go-round!

A person once approached me about joining a certain pyramid type function (networking activity).  I won’t mention the name of the enterprise because if they have achieved the kind of success they were aiming for, everyone on Earth and at least two thirds of the people in Mars are already involved.  I’ll only say that it involves drawing little circles (no it’s not the Olympics).  I responded with a firm “no thank you,” He wanted an explanation, and I was only too happy to give him one.  I told him that for a long time I had a very good friend that would periodically meet with me for breakfast or lunch on a moment’s notice.  Soon after she was recruited to the sales/networking effort she never had time to meet with me and so we lost the friendship.

The man explained to me that, that wasn’t possible because their operation was a matter of allocating only whatever time you could spare.  That is the way they draw you in, and soon after you agree to join them they practically move in with you.  In this instance and every other instance the simplest thing you can do is “just say no.”  Most of my life I’ve had to use more than one appointment calendar at a time, because I needed to keep track of multiple activities, and I justified it by thinking well, I am very busy because that’s how it is when you are working your way up.

Then I retired and continued to maintain two digital calendars, until one day I realized, that I am supposed to be winding down not the other way.  Often I would find myself at a golf course playing 18 holes and having to leave my foursome early because of a conflict with another event.  Almost always I would regret having accepted an invitation to play golf knowing that my schedule wouldn’t allow it unless everything worked out perfectly and there were no delays in the game.  Regrets should be thought out before hand to avoid possible scheduling conflicts.

I try to maintain a more relaxed schedule now.  I won’t agree to invitations that are spur of the moment unless it is nearing an emergency level activity.  At this point in my life there isn’t too many things going on that can’t wait a day or two.  I’ve learned that it’s not possible to please everybody, and you shouldn’t even try.  I’ve come to learn that no one died and left you in charge.  You make assumptions such as; if it’s to be it’s up to me (not so).  It’s perfectly all right to be ambitious, but no need to overload.  Another favorite saying that I recently learned is; lack of planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on mine.

I’ve always taken pride is saying that I work best under pressure, that I have the perfect personality to deal with overload and stress.  I may have been right, but I am finally learning to be more laid back.  I also firmly believe that stress kills, you may not just drop dead, but on final analysis it will cut years from your life.

I need to be more careful because I am spending so much time with my grandchildren that all of a sudden the afternoon nap is starting to look very enticing.  I am getting a little old to start picking up new habits.  I haven’t totally perfected “just say no,” but I am continuing to work on it, and making progress. The best is yet to come….

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Age Perspective Part 5

Age Perspective Part 5

 Middle age is when a guy keeps turning off lights for economical rather than romantic reasons. - Eli Cass
You know you've reached 40 when a doctor, not a policeman, tells you to slow down, all you exercise are your prerogatives and it takes you longer to rest than to get tired.
~Unknown Author

At 40 you have a lot to be thankful for. Isn’t it nice that wrinkles, greying hair, thinning hair and developing belly doesn't hurt
~Unknown Author

If you are looking for wisdom about life in your forties, sorry all I could find were funny quotes.  Since I couldn’t find any published words of wisdom for turning forty, you are bound to like my perspective.

  • If you can’t appreciate turning forty now, give it time because your wisdom will now come faster.  Every year after forty will make you appreciate being forty.
  • Wisdom will play a very important role in your life; you will learn to do things deliberately, and well thought out, rather than impulsively.
  • A small percentage of men and women will use this time to have a middle age crisis.  For some it will be a minor adjustment, for most it will be risky at best for some devastating, and destructive rather than the validation they were seeking.
  • If you have done your “due diligence,” you should be well under way in your career, and your children into their teens with one foot out the door.
  • Your spouses or partner should be madly in love with you because of the wonderful partner and supportive team mate you have been.

 I am a few years past my fortieth birthday (quite a few), I believe my wife will back me up on this, I have yet to experience a middle age crisis.  All my life my first concern and consideration has been my family’s needs.  Earlier in our marriage when my wife decided that the children were at an age where she could rejoin the workforce, she asked for my opinion.  All I could say to her was; if you feel you are ready I will support your decision.  I very much enjoyed knowing that the best person for the task of being a parent, and looking over my most valuable possessions was on the job full time.  Having said that, there is no way that I would get in the way of her personal growth and contribution that she wanted to make for our children’s future.
When I arrived at my forties, my children were at an age where they were growing and developing very fast.  They kept me busy and it follows that they kept me young.  I was volunteering in school, sports (basketball, softball, swimming, football), PTA.  I didn’t have time to feel old.  All of the aforementioned activities were going on while working at my career, and managing our business.

I loved my wife as much as I ever did, but we couldn’t spend enough quality time on vacation or even on Friday night dates, because of our family responsibilities, but we were both devoting equal time to the one big love we both had; our family (children).  If you’ve read my post “Making a Bucket List” February 11, 2013, you will notice they I mention on the list acquiring a muscle car this year.  That my friends is not because of a middle age crisis.  The reason is twofold;

  • I feel that we can afford it
  • I am thinking of it as an investment, and not just a joyride.

The age of the forties is a time when we have arrived and can better assess how fortunate we are to be where we are at.  I expected then to have a bigger challenge in the next age bracket (50’s). Being in our forties is like the last frontier of youth; someone called it the last stage of youth, and the early stage of maturity.  The best is yet to come….

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Real or Imagined

Real or Imagined

Do you believe in ghosts?  Have you ever seen or heard something you couldn’t explain?  Personally I don’t believe or disbelieve.  My father once told me that supernatural occurrences mostly happen to people that don’t believe in the supernatural.  On the other hand I have had things happen that I couldn’t explain.  My most serious occurrence happened while I was with a group of my friends and the worst of it is that we all saw the same thing.

I wrote about this apparition on my book, but it’s still a work in progress, and I haven’t allowed anyone to read the whole draft, not wanting to take the risk of jinxing it.  I must admit that writing down the first hundred pages is fun because you have so many things on your mind.  Eventually however, it becomes work when you have to work at bringing more substance (body) into you original effort.  The following is an excerpt from my book:

One Friday night the family and a couple of my friends were going to spend the night and half of Saturday at Padre Island. We actually camped on the beach. We had to dig a trench around the tent to keep the large crabs that came out of the ocean in the middle of the night away from us. The drive was about an hour and 20 minutes one way. We had to wait for my step-father and mom to get home at about 10 pm. They had driven to one of my step-father's sisters house to leave little Norma because she was too young to spend the night at the beach.

While we waited for my family to arrive Arturo, Ramon, Tabito and I spent the time outside sitting on the curb telling scary stories. Three months earlier Gonzalo's mother had passed away and Gonzalo was sent to live with his sister in Raymondsville. Gonzalo's mother was around 57 years old and had long salt and pepper hair with more salt than pepper. She was also hard of hearing and sometimes when you talked to her she looked like she was looking through you or at least past you.  Almost without exception she would come out before going to bed to make sure Gonzalo was safe or to get him to go into the house.

On this late Friday night everyone was sitting on the curve facing the street except me, I was standing on the street facing the buildings and my friends. Arturo, as usual was telling us how tough he was and how he wasn't afraid of anything. I looked to my left about 60 feet away, and standing next to the corner of my house was Gonzalo's mother facing the street but looking side to side, like she always did when looking for Gonzalo to get him to go home. She was wearing what looked like a floor length white cotton night gown.

For a moment I fell into the old habit, and yelled out, "Are you looking for Gonzalo?”  Almost instantly I realized that Gonzalo didn't live here anymore, and she was no longer alive. Things moved so fast that my friends didn't realize what was going on. Then I noticed that she was moving toward us. Her movement was unnatural almost like she was floating smoothly toward us, I couldn't see any leg movement and definitely her feet were not showing.

I told my friends we should make a run to the Liscano house, but Arturo was so scared he couldn't stand up to run, so Ramon and I each grabbed one arm and dragged Arturo to the safety of his house. Once on the porch the Liscano girls didn't want to open the screen door to let us in so I punched a hole on the screen and unlatched the screen door. Once inside we moved the couch in front of the door (as if a closed door could keep a ghost out), I suppose it made sense at the time. After we did that the girls finally realized how serious and scared we were.  It was a hot summer night yet we closed and locked all the doors and windows, and started to pray as a group. Some of us were devout Catholics anyone else quickly followed the lead. We knew that help was on the way because my mother and step-father were due any moment. It seemed like forever and no one volunteered to look outside for fear of seeing something we would rather not see.

Finally, in what seemed like forever, we heard the family ford pull up into my driveway (which was next door separated by an unfinished two-story building). We quickly ran out as a group trying to not let my family run into what looked to us as a possible ambush of sorts. When we told our story Andy looked around the area and then tried to make us feel better by saying that it was probably our overactive imaginations. The problem with that theory is that 4 of us saw the same exact thing to the smallest detail.

Soon after this incident we moved to a brand new house in San Benito, Texas.  One of my very nice neighbors was Baldemar Garza Huerta (stage name; Freddy Fender of Before the Next Tear Drop Falls fame).   will write a post on that experience one day soon.  I never returned to the old neighborhood, until this year on September 2013.  The Best is yet to come….

A Lost Innocence

A Lost Innocence

If you are in this age group, do you remember a time when you were of middle school age, and you were allowed to go to the movies with a friend of similar age?  Because those were the days of innocence; most small towns didn’t have any bad history to make judgments by.  The years of my youth were so different from the days of my children’s’ youth, and they are ever changing for the worst.

I grew up with a limited environment, but I had more freedom of movement than today’s youth, who have the world in the palm of their hands (internet, cell phones etc.).  My neighborhood buddies and I used to play outdoors every day until it got dark.  Some of us had parents that were stricter than others.  You could tell who had the stricter parents, they were the ones that excused themselves from the game, and admitted that they were expected at home.  No one made fun of them, or tried to talk them into staying longer.  We were just happy that our parents allowed us to stay out a little longer.

My understanding with my mother was that I would head home as soon as it got dark, she assigned me an area where I could play in (she wanted to know where she would go looking for me if she had to).  I was only given one warning, if she had to come looking for me, I would be grounded from playtime the next day.  The funny thing is that I don’t recall any perverts hanging around the neighborhood, or any person that would cause us concern.  I always expected to meet with my friends, and always did.  Not one kid turned up missing or beat up, chased or otherwise imposed on. I never questioned that life should be exactly like that forever.

The neighbors looked out for each other’s kids, and God forbid that we were seen misbehaving, or had a letter/note sent home from school, because the time of reckoning was waiting at home.  My mother swatted me a time or two (okay, I can count in one hand how many times I got swatted), but it never hurt me physically (just emotionally).  It would break my heart that my mother would be so disappointed in me that she felt compelled to swat me.  As children, some of us were more daring than others, we all had one thing in common, we all obeyed and some feared our parents.

Some of our favorite games, tag, hide-n-seek, kick the can, marbles on Saturdays we played cowboys and Native Americans (politically correct).  I was the one with the most weapons.  I had enough six-shooters, and rifles to supply the whole neighborhood (kids) for a fun day of playing.  Because I owned most of the weapons I was always the good guy, never got killed (I could only get wounded if they had me dead to rights).  My favorite character was either Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, or my all-time favorite The Lone Ranger.  Even with all the fancy and expensive video games, today’s youth couldn’t compete with the levels of fun that we had growing up.

On a very hot and humid evening we would cool off by sitting around on the curve of our neighborhood streets, and tell the scariest ghost stories we could come up with.  One night the ghosts turned the tables on us.  I tell that story in the book I am writing (working title; East Lincoln), my next post will relate that very scary happening. 
Whenever I hear my children or their friends talk about the good all days when they had no worries, and all they did was sleep, eat, and play, I think back to my youth.  I feel that I was better off because my days of innocence lasted into my late teens.  Today’s children have to be on constant vigilance, because of the monsters that lurk around every corner, at public places including schools and libraries.  Let’s all remain strong, and determined that good will prevail over evil, in whatever form in comes.  The best is yet to come….