Monthly Archives: January, 2018

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

More often than not I have encountered leaders, both religious and political and academic, that have not been what they appear.

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I have observed churches that pronounce that to be close to God…is to be close to the pastor.  Many of these same churches are continually focused on money and more of it.

I have known poor people that have given almost their last dime to ministers, who’s extravagant life styles were many times grander than their congregants.

There are television evangelists that have, Lear Jets and multiple mansions, and preach to their donors that the jets and mansions are manifestations of God’s blessings on them and their ministry.

Many of the people that provide the ministers with their wealth…have difficulty heating their homes and paying for their prescription medications.

Have you ever noticed that some of the most famous motivational speakers and those who have the keys to your success, for just $99.95…to begin with and your ongoing financial support, are a testament to their success plan?  They continue to become more wealthy as their impoverished ‘success plan’ participants, have less resources due to the cost of the Success Plan?

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Our politicians, who attest and swear with their hand on the Bible, that they are supporters of fiscal prudence and that we have to cut wasteful spending and that we must rid ourselves of Obamacare, have the finest of insurance plans provided for them and when the government shut down, recently, had no fear of loosing a day of pay…as their pay did not cease…while over eight hundred thousand federal workers did.

Political leaders will tell us that we must not raise the minimum wage as it will cause small business to lay off people and will drive up the costs of goods and services…while they receive annual pay increases and often enter Congress as middle class individuals and exit Congress as millionaires.

 

How is it that federal taxes persecute the wealthy and they are the ‘poor members’ of or our nation that need tax relief the worst?

The tax reductions, that almost everyone received, at some level, sunset in a few years…while the corporate tax reductions do not.

Why is it that we are so excited to receive a few dollars more on our paychecks…while Puerto Rico…is still suffering devastation and suffering that could be ameliorated, for the most part, if our Federal Government…cared…or if they would even be treated like citizens of the United States…which they are?

 

I have been a member of a University Community for 40 years.  During my over 32 year career and my 7 plus years of retirement…I have been associated with great leaders and I have also witnessed greed…in our Community.

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I am not speaking of any specific group of Campus Leaders but rather the demonstration of several to strive to milk all that they could from our great institution.

I have witnessed individuals that you could not pay enough for their dedication to SIU and I have seen others that took all they could…with both hands opened wide…and gave back…little.

If, the University, would focus…first…on those who would work for free…if they could…they would find the energy and the spark and dynamism to revitalize our great Campus.

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Have you ever noticed that you soon know and recognize and appreciate a Leader who cares more about others…than they do themselves.

I worked at SIU for over 32 years…and I never asked for a raise…as I always felt that the University had done so much of me and been so good to me…that I could not repay it.

I still feel that way.  I continue to endeavor to find a way to give back to SIU…that gave me so much.  I have never been able to out give Southern Illinois University.

When will we realize that our ministers, if they are paid by the congregation, work for the congregation.

Ministers are human.

When will we realize that our elected politicians work for the citizens of the United States.

Politicians are human.

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When will we realize that our academic leaders and the entire faculty and staff are paid for by a combination of, taxes and tuition and donations.

University Leaders, from the top of the University hierarchy to the bottom…are employees of the state and owe allegiance to the students who assist in paying their salary.

 

A Lion in the Crowd

Please enjoy a great Jonathon Brooks Blog.

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Bravery is a virtue. I believe a man doesn’t know how brave he can be until being brave is the only option left. During the boldest moments, or bravest, in my lifetime I was forced to think with my heart instead of my mind. These moments were never accomplished without nervousness, but they were successfully accomplished.

Have you ever noticed it’s hard to go against the crowd? When an unpopular child is being bullied in school by the majority it’s hard for a kid who thinks what’s happening is wrong to step up and say, “Leave my friend alone.” In teenage years when the crowd is getting drunk it’s hard to have a glass of water or a Coke while turning down underage alcohol. As an adult it’s difficult to resist this world’s temptations. Being a Christian is by far the most difficult job I’ve ever had.

The bravest thing…

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Where Did You Come From?

‘I always ordered the egg sandwich…but I wanted the ham and egg sandwich.’   President Lyndon Johnson

I have been listening to the audio book, The Years of Lyndon Johnson The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro.

Former President Johnson was a fascinating figure and a study in extreme contrasts.

The book illustrates his identification with the oppressed and his inclusion of the Johnson Family along with African Americans and Hispanics as members of a forgotten groups of people.

 

We look back with nostalgia at our fallen President, John F. Kennedy, but we often do not think of the fact that almost all of Kennedy’s legislations was stalled in one or the Houses of Congress and that it took, The Master of the Senate, Lyndon Johnson, to fulfill JFK’s political agenda.

‘If You Are More Fortunate Than Others, Build A Longer Table Not A Taller Fence.’   Canadian Memorial Centre For Peace

The greatest people and leaders that I have ever met…never forgot where they came from.

 

I watched a documentary on Netflix, last night, regarding a well known race car driver who became extremely wealthy by a fraudulent Pay Day Loan Business.

Pay Day loans, typically are used by the poor in order to make it, financially, from one pay day until the next.  Also, these organizations, prey upon, individuals who have unexpected expenses, such as a automobile repair or an appliance break down or an emergency furnace repair.

This business, which the owner attempted to hide through Indian Reservations due to States not being able to bring suit against them, had such a confusing contract that it was almost impossible to understand.

For instance, on a loan of $300.00…which was the typical amount being borrowed at one time…if not paid in full by the next pay day of the borrower, there was a $45 renewal fee charged to the customer…and this occurred several times.

Finally the Pay Day Loan Company would telephone the borrower and tell them that they were in arrears on their debt and when the customer protested that they had been having $45 deducted from each of their pay checks and that they assumed that their loan was either paid or almost so…they were then told that the $45 renewal fees were just to renew their contract and that they had paid nothing on the principle of their loan debt.

The typical three hundred dollar loan, by the time of the payment of the numerous renewal fees and the principle…was $975.00.

The owner of the business lived in a luxurious mansion and owned numerous three hundred thousand dollar racing cars and was complaining how unfair the judgment against him was.

I wonder how many wealthy people have become rich off of taking advantage of poor people?

The interviewer, asked him in the documentary if he would consider himself a caring and compassionate man.  He responded that he was a businessman.

The Great Recession of 2008 illustrated that Wall Street was obsessed with their own interest and collection of riches and the customer, us, really did not count for much in their algorithm.

Untold thousands lost their homes…while the Big Banks, ‘To Big to Fail’, were bailed out by our government…with our tax dollars.

The pay day loan contracts were so confusing that the borrower would have needed a lawyer to stand over their shoulder and advise them on the obfuscation and cleverly hidden clauses regarding what their loan was really going to cost them.

It is hard to pay for a lawyer…when you are taking out a small loan to keep heat in your house.

 

The self made man…often is not.

Many times the wealthy have been the beneficiaries of inheritance or being in the right place at the right time or rules of the game that favored the upper levels of the company while those at the bottom..had difficulty purchasing lunch.

‘The top 10% of families held 76% of the wealth in 2013, while the bottom 50% of families held 1%.’   CBO

 

 

Do You Feel Unseen…and Unheard?

Jonathan and I saw the terrific and multiple Oscar Nominated Movie, The Shape of Water.

Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece illustrates what it is like to feel unseen and unheard.

The actress, Sally Hawkins, plays Elisa Esposito a night janitor who is mute.  Her discovery of an amphibious man, which is reminiscent of the Creature from the Black Lagoon filmed in 1954, and their immediate bonding…is a beautiful allegory of two creatures who have been marginalized by their differences.

So it is in our time.  Many in our society and around the world are invisible to the powerful and the elite.

Elisa was a night janitor and she and her cleaning partner, Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, were questioned by the man in charge of security for the amphibious man, Mr. Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, and at one point he exclaimed…’what was he doing questioning the help…the shit cleaners and the piss wipers.’

And, so, many of us feel invisible to the majority.

We think, we feel, we bleed, and we die…and yet we are truly the silent majority.

In the early 1960’s, Jim Crow laws were well in force.

Women could be housewives or teachers or secretaries or nurses.

African Americans could not set at the lunch counter and could not use the same rest room as whites and could not sit on the main floor of theaters and could not lodge in many hotels or be a member of the audience for many productions or performances.

Gay individuals were not only looked down upon but persecuted and not afforded the simple dignities of heterosexual couples.

This was in the early 1960’s…before the Civil Rights Bill.

Before the assassination  of President Kennedy.

Before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Before the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

And, still, we wait…for a government that will accept all of it’s citizens and will not categorize or demonize or ostracize anyone who does not fit the narrow mold of the ‘secret society of the white elite.’

Hunger is rampant in America.  The richest country on the face of the Earth.

Our schools now serve both breakfast and lunch to their students.  It is noted that many of these students do not eat over the weekend.  Many schools have summer breakfast and lunch programs…although they are not in session…due to the food insecurity in our nation.

I had a African American friend tell me that she had lived in the south and in the north but that she preferred the south…in that they were open regarding their prejudice…while in the north…people endeavored to hide it…unsuccessfully.

The amphibious man in The Shape of Water was loving and caring and compassionate and appeared to many, at first glance, to be a monster.

Truly Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is more true today than ever before:

‘We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.’

‘We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’   G.K. Chesterton

I began hiring people from the disabled community, many years ago.

These were, wonderful and hard working and brilliant people, that it was an honor to work with.

I learned more from my intellectual and physically disabled staff than I could ever offer them in return.

They were not blessed by me…I was blessed by them.

They were the highlight of my career!

 

 

 

A Blue Jay and a Cardinal

As I set on why porch…thinking about something to write…I saw both a Blue Jay and a Cardinal cavorting around my cedar tree.

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It is not often that I see either in my yard…and today I have both to entertain me.

This morning, the first movie of the day on the weekends is significantly cheaper, we saw, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

What a delightful and thought provoking film.

The movie is classified as a Black Comedy and in the deft hands of Francis McDormand the strikingly serious subject matter was interspersed with a lot of funny scenes.

The movie examined the themes of grief and guilt and justice and revenge and illuminated what these subjects mean and how they are interpreted in our human psyche.

Indeed, we are the sum of all of our parts…our experiences and our interactions…our hopes and our prejudices…and our desire to become something better than we are.

Life, hands each of us difficult choices.  We thrash about to be a good parent and a good husband or wife and we see so often that our best efforts fall abysmally short.

But the beauty and the dignity is in the trying.

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‘For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’   I Corinthians 13:12   KJV

‘For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.’   James 1:24   KJV

‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’   Rosa Luxemburg

‘Ah, love, let us be true

To one another!  for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.’

Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach and Other Poems

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The human experience is made up of a lot of mistakes and second and third and fourth, you get the idea,….Chances.

As in our personal lives and homes we experience many reversals and plans that do not work out and there is debris to clean up and often we must be picked up from the floor of our aspirations and dreams and begin again.

When the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, was asked if he was discouraged regarding the thousands of experiments that he had performed as he endeavored to create the light bulb…he answered that he was not as he now understood thousands of ways that did not work.

Have you ever participated in the building of a new home?  Have you ever remodeled your home.

Building is messy and remodeling is messy.

To create something of worth and beauty and strength and security…requires a lot of dirt and debris and toil and sweat and tears.

At times, our political pendulum swings to far to the left…and at other times it swings to far to the right…it is work and struggle to keep our great American Experiment in Democracy…alive and well.

The road of life is winding and hilly and there are boulders and tar pits and earthquakes and tornadoes…but the privilege to travel the bumpy path is magnificent.

Our wonderful Southern Illinois University is going through a remodeling project and it is messy and there is debris and dirt and toil and sweat and tears…but the end result will be progress and moving forward and a renaissance of purpose and spirit and strength… for a world class School.

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The Sad Clown

Have you ever noticed that for, almost, everyone that you meet when you enquire as to how they are doing…they will say ‘doing fine’ or ‘doing good’ or ‘I am well’…and you?  And, of course, you will reply, ‘fine, thank you.’

However, the reality of daily living is much more complex than, ‘doing fine.’

Everyone that you meet is dealing with challenges that you know nothing about.

Many have health issues that virtually consume their nonproductive time and they wonder and worry if they will be around for their kids and their husband or wife or partner and and they live in a reality that is not understood by most.

Others are experiencing domestic abuse, either verbal or physical or both.  They are mired in dysfunctional relationships that cloud their mind and warp their relationships.  They want to reach out…for help…but are afraid to do so.

Many, among us, deal with mental and emotional challenges, and are reluctant to admit their need for assistance and understanding…due to a false stigma that has been placed on such issues.

Often, middle age people are caring for their aging parents, many times with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease…and the stress on the caregiver has been know to take their life long before the one being cared for.

‘One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.  Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.’  WHO

As a manager of a large Housekeeping Department for over 25 years I encountered many individuals…who simply needed someone to talk to…and someone to listen.

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All of the Progressive Discipline Charts in the world will not make up for a compassionate supervisor and manager and administrator.

As a manager, I was often criticized for being to easy on a ‘rule breaker’, by the ‘perceived’ guilty party’s peers, only later to discover, when the accusers became guilty of a rule infraction…they pled for mercy and understanding for their temporary oversight.

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We live in a world where the majority of us travel through throngs of our fellow human travelers…living in our own head.

As I walk the Campus…two out of three people that I meet are either looking at their smart phones and/or have ear buds in their ears.

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We retreat behind our locked doors to the comfort of our televisions and…do not know our neighbors name.

It is a mystery…to us… why the races do not like each other.

We do not know each other!

We hear of the devastation of another shooting…every few days…the last was in Benton, Kentucky.

For several years in the latter 1980’s and early 1990’s it was a tradition of ours to join my stepfather, Earl, and my mom, Neva June, and travel to Benton, Kentucky a few days after Christmas and have lunch in a lovely and locally owned restaurant in little town.  They had wonderful pie.

An adolescent opened fire on his classmates and killed two and wounded several more.

The photos of the two murdered…children….

We must return to communicating with each other.

We must return to listening to each other.

We must stop looking at each other through stereotypical and shaded eyes.

When we are not ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘well’…we must reach out for help.

It is amazing how much we are alike and how similar our trials and tribulations are when we open up to each other and share our lives with our brothers and sisters in our human family.

We were friends with, Jo Ann and Peter, for ten years, and we often commented to each other how similar our thinking and view of the world and the University were and how much alike our challenges of life were.

Jo Ann was Chancellor of Southern Illinois University and Peter is a renowned history professor who has spoken at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, as has Jo Ann.

If we had let our ‘place bound fears’ or our stereotypes of academia and professors chain us to our mythology and bias…we would have missed out on one of the most enriching friendships that we have experienced.

I was the manager of the custodial organization, at SIU, during my career.   In those wonderful years I had many Professorial Friends…and some to this day.

I told my good friend, Elizabeth, that Chancellors and Presidents…were simply people…and that they responded to kindness and frankness…and all the human intricacies of communication.

Elizabeth, has taken some of my meager advice, and has become a leader at the University…and I could not be prouder of her.

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We had some appliances installed recently and the lead Delivery person was an African American.  He was not only a delightful person…but he and I had a discussion on the African American experience and the White American Experience.

He and I agreed that our nation is, currently, going in the wrong direction.

The more that we associate with others…the richer our life experience will become.

 

How Housekeeping Professionals Become Demoralized

After spending over 32 years in Southern Illinois Universities’ Building Services…I learned a few principles of the protecting of good morale and the proficiency of performing a good job, daily.

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Our department underwent virtually constant budget reductions from the early 1990’s until the present.

The fruit of Budget reductions is a diminishment in staff.

A reduction in staff causes the remaining staff to shoulder the work that was, prior to the Budget cuts, accomplished by people who occupied the open positions.

I experienced these daily frustrations until the end of 2010 when I retired.

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One of the first principles is that if you want to have your full time staff treated as professionals…you must not make artificial boundaries for their daily/nightly work product.

In the early years of the continual Budget slashing, the Superintendent, at that time, instituted a Skip Cleaning Program that was an abysmal failure.

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To instruct the technician that, performs the housekeeping work that is required on a daily/nightly basis, that they can no longer do what they know that they can…is a fool’s errand.

A second great folly…is for University Administration to reduce the budget so dramatically that the housekeeping staff can not physically perform the necessary custodial duties to ensure that SIU is clean and well maintained and daily prepared to illustrate the high level academic prowess of our School.

As I told former President Poshard, when there was to be a grand opening of a campus building and he told me to not worry about having the custodial perfect, that if he was touring with the Chair of the Board of Trustees and they walked up to a dirty area in the newly remodeled Arena…I was confident who he would call…and who would get the blame.

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So, you might ask…what is the answer…if Skip Cleaning is often an horrific failure and Budget reductions cause such a shrinking of housekeeping staff…that they can no longer perform their duties effectively?

The common sense answer is somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios.

Adept custodial management and supervision understand the intricacies of presenting a clean academic facility without going to the extremes of leaving entire areas dirty or insisting that they must have the ‘glory days’ of housekeeping staff that they possessed 20 years ago.

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In addressing the Universities present distress three changes need to occur.

  1. Some additional staffing is required.  At one time I had 160 full time staff and over 200 student staff.  It is my understanding that there are now 57 full time staff.
  2. The experts regarding custodial excellence are already among you.  The brilliance of  stellar and shinning Southern Illinois University Buildings is first primarily manifest at the crew level…of which there were over 30 at the end of my career.
  3. Modified Skip Cleaning is the answer and Complete Skip Cleaning is always a failure and a demoralizer and a customer service disaster.

Often, when I was a member of the Campus Community, administration would tell me how excellent and workmanlike and particular my staff were in their cleaning duties.  I had hundreds of complimentary letters attesting to our professionalism.

Yet, when one of the houses that Human Resources occupied…had a fire…we came out in force on the Sunday evening of the afternoon fire and worked non-stop for several days to restore the facility in order to enable it’s immediate use.

While we were working around the clock…the University Spokesperson announced, daily, that the University was looking into obtaining, ‘Cleaning Professionals’ to restore the facility.

Listen to your staff…they are the experts and the answer to SIU’s Housekeeping needs.

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So often, custodial staff is either thought to be thieves and not really skilled to perform responsible jobs…or they risk their lives to remove water from the, in progress remodeling of Morris Library…in the dark…on the roof…in order to protect the Library’s books from being ruined as the water cascaded through the roof on to the floors and drenching the shelves and destroying priceless books and periodicals.

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They are either…unclear as to how to perform their work or…as a Building Service Worker in Life Science II did…give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a baby who had stopped breathing…saving it’s life.

What am I saying?

I am saying that the University does not understand what dedication that they have in their Building Service Staff…or the value that they bring…to the Academic Mission of SIU.

 

Success Begins in Your Mind

‘Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’

Winston Churchill

‘It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.’

Herman Melville

‘The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.’

Colin R. Davis

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‘There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in the world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.’

Ray Goforth

Having traveled through a good portion of life, as I have entered my seventh decade, I have discovered that, although, there is no magic bullet for success…the attitude that you have when you approach, any task, is much of the decider as to your level of success at the job.

I began my career, at Southern Illinois University,  as a Building Service Worker I.

Not long after I had started a much senior person to me, in both years with the School and age, asked me why I did not have the ambition to do something besides being a janitor?  He went on to say that if he was a young man that he certainly would not be employed in Building Services.

Now, I had quickly noticed that the Housekeeping Department at SIU was an excellent place to work.  The pay was good and the benefits were excellent.  I had determined, within the first week that I would be a professional BSW I and that my work would speak for my professionalism.

My inquiring, older, and senior friend…had been a barber for the bulk of his career before coming to SIU.

As the years went by I understood that the vital mission of Building Services was integral to the success of the Academic Mission of the University.

The recruitment and retention of students is of paramount importance to our Campus.  If our buildings are dirty and unkempt…why would students want to attend SIU…and why would they stay?

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When you go to interview for a responsible position…you want to illustrate not only your proficiency and professionalism…but also your seriousness about yourself and all tasks, both small and large, that you undertake.  Do you wear your tank top shirt and your cut off blue jeans and you sandals?  Do your present yourself to the supervisor or administrator that is doing the interviewing and the hiring with your hair wind blown…and your teeth unbrushed…and a day or two growth of beard on your face?

Do you bathe before the interview or do you go au natural?

The same principals of business etiquette apply to, for my experience, at the University.

SIU has magnificent and elite and cutting edge academic programs.  Many are among the top in the nation.

First impressions mean everything.

You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.

An elite School…an academic powerhouse…a University that you are fortunate to be a member of…is a clean and shining institution.

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Remember, I told you that I learned, early on in my career, that Building Services is vital and integral to the success of Southern Illinois University!

Have you ever considered the power there is in a business or a company or a School…that does things right…the first time.

I telephoned our satellite television provider, just to order an additional Box for a television that we received for Christmas.  I spoke to half a dozen people and my call was dropped half a dozen times…over a three hour period.

Finally, exasperated, I told the last person that I spoke with that I was going to cancel my service with their company and obtain satellite service from their rival.

Then, they decided that they would send me the Box for free and ship it for free as well.

In December we purchased a new refrigerator where upon the removal of the plastic protective film on the door…there was the most horrendous, sticky, residue, all over the door.  When I asked regarding the removal of the sticky and unsightly mess…the delivery men told me that there was a cleaner at their store that would remove the substance.  They went on to tell me that all of the new refrigerators had the same, impenetrable, substance on the doors when the plastic covering was removed…and thus it would do no good to order a new door.

After my yeoman efforts to remove the goo…the appliance manager told me that he had not been able to clean a similar refrigerator door that he had on his showroom floor.  He happily ordered me another door and it was perfectly clean when the plastic protective covering was removed.

My assertions that anything that is worth doing…is worth doing well…the first time.

Periodically, I am given to going through the drive thru of McDonalds and ordering a couple of $1 sandwiches.  After the staff got my order wrong three times in a row and refused to honor a advertisement for a sale on a particular sandwich…even when I pointed out to the nice lady that she was charging me more than her advertised sale promotion that was just outside the drive thru window…I called the Owners to complain and got a voice mail that was never responded to.

Now our local McDonalds has new ownership and the staff is professional and friendly and the food is hot and the order is correct.

A professional attitude and mindset is a profound pleasure to encounter in any and all walks of life.

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The Mystery’s of Childhood

I vividly recall observing the principal of my Junior High School, Mr Seagraves and his secretary speaking…just out of ear shot…and my thinking that adults were in on a secret, or secrets, that children did not know…and that they did not intend to tell us…until we were of age to understand the Mystery.

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As a child, I lived a basically idyllic life…until the age of five.

I have said before, but it bears repeating, that the street that I lived on and the house that my mom and dad and I lived in reminded me of the popular television show, of that time, Leave it to Beaver.

My primary mission in life was fun.  I had my friends, Danny and Pauly, on one side of the street, and my older friends, Susie and Steve, on the opposite end of our tree lined avenue.

Mom was sweet and enjoyed doing the Twist as Chubby Checker sang the lyrics.

 

Dad was mysterious in his motorcycle jacket and cap and he appeared in the evening with the smell of cold air and cigarette smoke and mechanics’ grease.

 

We attended a church service, held in a home, where afterwards my mom and dad were speaking with some of the parishioners who remarked that they knew that the minister was a prophet of God and that they believed that he would never die.

I was about 4 years old…and I thought that this was very strange.

Mom and dad moved us to Eldorado, Illinois, which was the home of much of my mom’s side of the family, in an attempt to save their marriage.

We moved into a cold and ghost like house on Illinois avenue, just across from the High School, and the house had a fireplace in each room and we caught a rat in the bathtub.

Life suddenly became real and maturing…almost overnight.

Mom enjoyed, Honky Tonkin, which was that generations terminology for dancing and, perhaps drinking a slow gin fizz.

I stumbled around a bit…looking for something that I could excel at.  Finally, almost by accident…I gave an oral book report.

It was all the rage with my classmates!

Teachers, who had thought previously that I was a very quiet and introverted child, could not say enough about my prowess as a Book Reporter.

After that, it was like giving salmon to a polar bear.  I stepped up my game!

I remember Mrs. Bramlet, in high school, who was so encouraging to me as a student in her speech class.

Mr. Bramlet passed away very young…and she was my friend.

I was a freshman in Speech and the rest of the class were juniors and seniors.

At first I stood out as the youngster in the group…but after my first speech…I was welcome…especially by the senior girls.

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I felt the need to support my mother through most of her life.  Not financially but to be a friend and a confidant to her.  She was a sweet and loving and generous and giving person who had many self doubts and fears and who really never completely recovered from the dissolution of her and dad’s marriage.

The last time that I saw dad…he gave me four silver dollars that were fastened to the back of an old cadillac automobile that he was driving…and he drove away…I was six years old.

The satisfaction and feeling of home and ‘place’ were welcome by me as a child who turned to christianity, in the eighth grade, I embraced Bible reading and church attendance and a multitude of friends…who were likeminded.

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I loved to observe adults, as a child, and, actually, grasped and fully realized many of the challenges that they were going through.

Often, adults speak, around children, as if they do not understand what is happening.

I understood…more often than not.

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My first pastor told me that I was a young person with an old soul.

He was right.

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Life is like the Weather…Unpredictable

Last Tuesday the temperature was 4 degrees.  Today it is 59 degrees.

 

A 55 degree increase in less than a week.

We are almost as warm as Miramar Beach, Florida, which is 64 degrees. Though,  I am told that it has been unusually chilly in Florida recently.

 

I watched the first episode of the new Starz television show entitled, Counterpart, last night.  It has the exceptionally gifted actor, J.K. Simmons in the title, two roles.

Mr Simmons plays both a mild mannered employee of a large company and a James Bond type spy who is not afraid to use deadly force.

The science fiction premise of the show is that by simply walking through a door in the tunnel, underneath the large governmental building that they work in you enter an alternative universe.

Howard Silk exists in both universes and both have experienced many identical events…but have apparently reacted to the events in different manners…making them quite different personalities.

Thus, illustrating the age old question…are we formed by nature or nurture?

Such is life.  How we react to a million choices in our life…steers our life’s direction on its’ path.

During the middle years of my SIU career I almost resigned and started a Pet Boarding Facility in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

If I had, I probably would not be retired now and setting on my porch enjoying the unusually warm weather, for January, and writing this blog.

How many times have our choices in life, seemingly very small ones, still had a lasting effect on the direction that we began traveling?

 

If your mother and father had not met…there would be no…you.

As we go through our high school and college years we can not help but notice that there are stars among us.  Those students who seem to have the world by the tail and who are academic successes, seemingly without sweating to much, and, not to mention the sports elite…who, as my mother used to say, ‘the world is their oyster.’

Now, often these gifted individuals go throughout life continually climbing the ladder of success and achieve much.

Although, others, of the anointed group, seem to peak in either high school or college and, at times, travel backward, on the road of life for no other reason than the choices that they have made.

Then, there are those who seemed to be lacking in ability during their school years…who go on to achieve success that their fellow students would not have thought possible.

Often, the homeless, have experienced many of life’s successes and blessings…but have fallen upon hard times due to financial reversals, mental illness, addictions, and in general, the vacillating vicissitudes of life, as my former pastor used to preach.

 

Wealth can be acquired by hard work and dedication to the struggle to obtain it…but it is seldom that there are not, ‘breaks’ or events that enable the accrual of monetary success.

Wealth can be lost, overnight, and if you do not believe it ask the millionaires and billionaires of 1929…the day before the stock market crash…The Great Depression.

 

‘The Road Not Taken’

by Robert Frost

‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.