Snowy Memory

The weather here in Virginia is turning, teasing us with the fall season.
Temperatures are milder, humidity is dropping into a more breathable range, and there is a crispness in the evening air.
As the season changes, it becomes a time for reflection and this memory from last winter came to mind.

#1 son came home from his job late in the night after we went to bed.

A single set of footprints come up the driveway and into the house.

This morning, all windshields covered with snow, except one-half of his.

Yes, one-half.
It seems he cleared the driver’s side enough to drive home (within the neighborhood all the way).

When asked about it, he said it was too cold to roll down the window and drive with his head sticking out. So he compromised and cleared his half of the windshield.

Ah, youth!

Meeting Whiplash

Curve Balls

When was the last time you were completely stumped by a question, a request, or a situation you found yourself in? How did you handle it?

“Now we’ll have the quarterly status report delivered by Tim.”

Tim sat there in a stupor. He wasn’t prepared to give a report at this meeting.

He was only there because his boss had called in sick. Tim had received the phone call only twenty minutes ago. Something about bad seafood and bodily fluids erupting uncontrollably. Worse than that, his boss hadn’t completed the report for this morning’s meeting.

Tim had searched the desk, computer, copier, and even trash cans to find enough information for a presentation. Here he sat with a sloppy stack of mismatched papers hastily assembled and surely incoherent.

He cleared his throat and stood up. His initial mumbles sparked a few murmurs until he restarted, louder this time.

“Quarterly metrics are improved by 4 percent over last quarter. Incidents are down. Compliance is up. Emerging initiatives appear to be developing growth synergies across business sectors…”

The jargon flowed freely. The terms meaningless to him. This was how his boss always spoke. Tim hadn’t realized how much he’d absorbed through daily interaction with him. The meeting attendees listened and nodded as the gobbledygook language rolled off his tongue. Like a politician, he filled the air with words, conveying nothing.

After twenty minutes he stopped and sat down. He had made no conclusion. He had simply reached his personal limit of babble and cut off his last sentence abruptly. No one seemed to notice.

“Thank you, Tim, for that insightful discourse. I’m sure we’ll be able to incorporate some of your ideas into the next paradigm.”

Changing for Someone – The List

To-Do? Done!

Quickly list five things you’d like to change in your life. Now, write a post about a day in your life once all five have been crossed off your to-do list.

“What do you want from me? I can change to make you happy. Just tell me.” he said desperately.

“I don’t want to change you,” she replied.

“Tell me,” he urged again, “What must I change?”

“Okay, since you really want to know, here’s a list.” she answered and handed him a sheet of paper.

“You’ve got a written list?” he asked surprised.

“Be sure to read the front and back,” she commanded. “I’ve numbered and outlined subheadings by major categories.”

He scanned the page for the major headings, then went back more slowly and reread the subheadings. Each item was numbered or lettered and followed by a short explanation. It followed a pattern of:

  • Problem
  • Desired Change
  • Acceptable Evidence of Change

There were underlined portions of some text. He pointed to one and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Hyperlinks,” she stated. “The full document is on my blog. This is just the index.”

He hung his head, got up from the table and turned to leave the restaurant. His own list of things to change began forming in his mind as he walked home.

  1. Change to a different online dating service
  2. Stop dating bloggers
  3. Stop posting the details of his dates on his own blog…

Improving My Soul

Soulful Machines

Machines, appliances, and gadgets sometimes feel like they have their own personalities — from quirky cars to dignified food processors. What’s the most “human” machine you own? 

Soulful –

  • Filling one’s soul with goodness.
  • Improving yourself.
  • Making you a better person.
  • Smoothing the rough edges off your personality.
  • Increasing your capacity to interact positively with others.

It must be my coffee maker.

Audiobook Recording – Not These People

Voice Work

Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone — from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson — to narrate your posts, who would it be? 

My impulse is to rapidly identify who would not be my choices. Candidates range from authors, radio personalities, and actors. Let’s begin with the trash talk, shall we?

Definitely would not want:

  • The actor who played Bane in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises; especially not with the stupid mask over his mouth. His lines were unintelligible for much of the movie behind that grill. What was the director thinking?
  • Radio host Glenn Beck. I had never heard his broadcast and made the mistake of downloading his self-read audiobook. His delivery method was to shout and get worked up over his writing to the point it was a continuous scream-fest. I quit listening to it in the first chapter. I still have no idea what his message is to this day.
  • Author J.R.R. Tolkein. I know, his Lord of the Rings books are being turned into massive movie successes after his death. I heard an audio recording of The Hobbit where he actually sang some of the lyric poetry he included in his prose. It was the start of my aversion to authors reading their own works.
  • Actor Keifer Sutherland (aka 24’s Jack Bauer). His range appears to be two tones. Whisper or shout. If you don’t believe me, watch a few episodes in quick succession. He goes from a low threatening whisper during an interrogation to an explosive shouting frenzy. The writers of the show also appeared to limit everyone’s options to a narrow path despite the almost omnipresent big government surveillance capabilities of the anti-terrorism unit. You could get drunk off the word only in each episode. “This is our only lead…” “This is our only option…” “We have to do this (despicable thing), it’s our only chance…” I hope to never write that poorly.
  • William Shatner. I’m sure my first audiobook won’t be a perfect work. It doesn’t need to be further hindered by long………dramatic…(awkward)………stilted………pauses……in phrases that should roll off the tongue and keep the story moving.
  • A Kardashian – pick one, any one. I don’t care. I don’t want my work associated with them in any way. Please get off the world stage.

Hand-Me-Downs: One Way to Ruin Christmas


Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.

“It doesn’t fit.” I said.

“You’ll grow into it.” Mom said.

“I hate it.” I whined.

“You’ll learn to like it. It looks good on you.” Mom encouraged.

“I look stupid.” I muttered.

“You looked that way without putting it on.” Brother #2 said from the doorway.

I stuck out my tongue at him and scratched my elbow.

“Stop fidgeting,” Mom said, “Put on the mittens.”

“Awwww, Mom. It’s July. Why are we trying on winter jackets now?” I moaned.

It was called “Christmas in July” at the local church. People donated clothing to be distributed to families in need. For parents with multiple children it was an opportunity to give and receive school and winter clothes at no cost. For the kids it was another opportunity to be disappointed by the term “Christmas.”

Instead of opening beautiful presents with the latest shiny toy or game, here I was sweltering in July heat in a puffy coat that would see me through an Arctic expedition. At least the color matched my corduroy pants, but I absolutely refused to try on the rubber cowboy boots.

Middle Position – I Wouldn’t Change It

Next in Line

A second #RoyalBaby will soon be joining the Windsors in England. Given the choice, would you rather be heir to the throne, or the (probably) off-the-hook sibling?

As a middle child, I would not trade places to become first in line for the throne. Humorist author Erma Bombeck once wrote, “Firstborn children are like waffles. They are used to season the grill and then be tossed out.”

I am glad to have chosen to leave home when I did and not get tossed out against my wishes. Being the third of five placed me in the perfect position to see my elder brothers make decisions and then choose a different path of my own. Being the third boy in a row, few pictures of me are in family albums. Apparently my parents took a “We’ve seen that before” approach to recording images of me and I appear only partially in dozens of photographs.

By partially I mean my body parts appear in the edges of the picture. You can see my arm in this one, the back of my head in another, my leg sticking into the frame of another where I TRIED to get into the photo but didn’t make it in time.

Imagine royal family photos where the younger siblings of the firstborn are routinely obscured by more important people. That would be me, obscured.

“Is that Prince Tim’s arm? Can’t the royal photographer edit that out? It detracts from the image of the heir.”

Stranger Emails

Greetings, Stranger

You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

I sipped my morning coffee, letting the aroma waft into my nostrils and clicked the next unread email. The traffic had grown since I’d begun actively blogging. The regular postings floated me higher in the search engine hits and resulted in more attention than expected. Daily emails from sites like LinkedIn and Facebook showed the increased interest. Spam filters catch the more blatant broadcasts, but some still come through.

It had started innocently enough. I’d joined a couple social media outlets at first to monitor my kids’ traffic. Protective dad mode led to other clicks and before realizing how far I’d gone, I was blogging. Followers joined and eagerly (I hope) anticipate the next posting like Saturday morning buttermilk waffles and maple syrup.

The latest batch arrived shortly after making the mistake (?) of accepting more invitations.

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.


Continue reading

Do they know? Can I tell them?

Locked and Sealed

Can you keep a secret? Have you ever — intentionally or not — spilled the beans (when you should’ve stayed quiet)?

Tim could hardly contain himself. He had to tell someone.

“Not yet,” his wife said. “We’ll wait two more weeks and break the news at the family gathering.”

“That’s a long time to wait and they are 500 miles away. What about our local friends?” he pleaded.

“No. We don’t want any of them spreading the information. It might get to the family before we tell them.” she firmly stated.

“Our family doesn’t know these people,” he grumbled to her. “I really don’t think it would hurt to tell them.”

“Don’t.” she replied.

Tim sighed and went to work. He struggled to keep the secret. It remained poised in the forefront of his thoughts all day. Wherever he went, he carefully phrased his conversations to prevent accidental disclosure. He considered telling a total stranger just to release the pressure. What could it hurt to tell a random cashier or a co-worker?

Three days passed. Tim held firm through constant effort and determined vigilance. The secret burned with unrelenting urgency, desperate to be told.

Five days, then seven, and then ten elapsed. Tim gritted his teeth in the effort to hold back each day. He barely spoke to anyone out of fear his defenses were so weak he’d blurt out the news in response to a simple greeting. He went to work, stayed as isolated as possible, and came home to his wife. No detours, no interaction with strangers (or cashiers), no telling.

On the twelfth day he came home to find his wife chatting on the phone.

She saw him come in and said, “Okay then. I’ll talk to you more later. Tim just came home.” and hung up.

She put down the receiver and lowered her eyes.

“That was my mom,” she said, “Calling to offer advice on our news.”

Tim was stunned. “You told her?!” he asked.

“Nine days ago,” she sheepishly responded, “I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I had to tell someone!”


Advantage of Foresight

You’ve been granted the power to predict the future! The catch — each time you use your power, it costs you one day (as in, you’ll live one day less). How would you use this power, it at all?

“See how that guy cut me off? I knew he was going to do that.”

“Oh look over there, she’s going to get on that bus. I knew she was going to do that.”

Ever since Tim discovered his ability to see future events, his wife had been hearing a cascade of “I knew that” comments. The ability wasn’t that impressive. It was limited to seconds or minutes at best and each time he did it he flinched a little. She was growing concerned.

It started at the carnival when he played with that stupid Zoltar machine. The next day he was full of “I told you so” and “Knew it” phrases. He said he’d transported back into his 12-year old body and relived his life. Everything he’d experienced the first time around seemed to happen again exactly as before, at least according to him. She didn’t notice much change. He’d always been an arrogant blowhard with an annoying superiority complex. Now he simply began taking credit for observing the obvious.

She knew the lady was waiting for the bus. She was standing at a bus stop when the bus pulled up. The guy who “cut them off” had his turn signal on to change lanes long before moving over. Tim’s constant claim to have known it in advance and take credit for it made her want to kill him. She began plotting ways to make him disappear…

I see it clearly now