Friday, May 23

"Count The Shrimp..."

Here's a revelation... The real estate market is a bit off here in Florida. Duh.. That being the case, my bride Judi's real estate investment career is essentially on hold. So, in order to augment our family's income, she has been scanning the local St. Petersburg TIMES for part-time employment opportunities. I know what you are thinking...she applied for a waitress position at Hooters. Although she still maintains a figure that would certainly do a Hooters' polo shirt proud, those tight bright orange short-shorts is just not her least not in public. No, that particular option was never considered.

However, she did run across an advertisement in the paper for a "Secret Evaluator." This is where a person partakes of the services of a particular commercial establishment, unbeknown to the proprietor of the establishmet that their operation is being very finely scrutinized and exhaustively evaluated. Her of the local Hooters restaurants. I got to go along and was secretly pleased that she hadn't been asked to evaluate something decidely unexciting as a Tune & Lube.

This evaluation process isn't just your lick and a promise, once around a block, and exit. The package of evaluation documents was several pages, and also required the reviewer to submit at least a full page detail narrative of comments on all that had transpired and was observed during the visit. Things like was the parking lot well lighted, free of potholes...was the landscape attractively well maintained...was the deck clean...were the chairs neatly arranged around the tables...was there one more menu than there were chairs at the table... were the windows clean...was the ketchup placed behind the other condiments...the list of things went on ad nauseam. Judi asked me to assist her in making mental notes. What was in it for me...a free meal...and obviously the unspoken opportunity to observe those female accouterments that have made Hooters the unique branding icon it has established over the past twenty-five years.

Our order for beverages, appetizers and the entrees were promptly taken, prepared and delivered. Judi had a Cuban sandwich with a side of potato salad and I had a fish taco. I was suppose to receive coleslaw with my meal, but it was omitted from my order. Strike one. I did instead receive a side order of potato salad for which were were not charged. Good thing...the cup in which it was served hardly had room for more than a couple of bites. Judi ordered a soft drink that did not appear on the final bill. Strike two. The final bill was corrected. Overall...this particular Hooters performed according to Hooter's corporate expectations. I won't order the fish taco again. Not that it wasn't well prepared and tasty. It just wasn't enough to quell my appetite.

Upon arriving home from the restaurant, Judi set about filling out the evaluation forms and writing her narrative while I retired to the living room with a plate full of chocolate chip cookies. Frequently Judi would call out to me to include my observations on a particular question. I was most forthcoming on those items which involved the appearance on the Hooters waitresses. Did each waitress have her shirt tucked neatly into her shorts? "Yes." Was each waitress wearing suntanned stocking free of runs and snags? "Yes." Were their orange shorts properly fitted? An unequivocal "Yes." Were the waitresses "buttocks" exposed? "Define 'exposed.'" She did. "No." Were their white socks, athletic shoes and shoe laces clean? "They were wearing shoes?" Judi dismissed me from further requests for "on-point" in-put.

I like being a secret evaluator. I told Judi I'd be willing to do it again and that she should be keeping a watchful eye out for businesses such as massage parlors and lingerie shops. I don't think she took me seriously. Pity...

Monday, May 19

"Back In The Saddle Again...Darn!"

Judi and I experienced this past weekend what it may be like to finally retire from the rat race. We spent five nights and four days in the lap of luxury, where our slightest whim was catered to. At a price, admittedly. The upside was that we had a great time celebrating at the most leisurely pace our 25th wedding anniversary. The downside? What we paid for the privilege may delay our ability to actually retire for another 10 years. Oh well, how many times does one have the opportunity to experience a Silver Anniversary? (It's a math question...)

We were ensconced in a two bedroom, two-bath villa on the fourth floor overlooking a most peaceful lake, replete with the obligatory covey of ducks. There's nothing more invigorating than to turn to one's beloved after a hearty breakfast served at 10 a.m. and ask, "Now what do you want to do?" Reply, "Why don't we go sit by the pool until lunch?" Thus went the weekend. I could learn to adopt that lifestyle without too much persuasion. My waistline might show some eventual wear and tear, but my psychic would be very much at ease.

But, alas, all good things must eventually come to and end...and far too soon we were back at our home base greeted by our newly college graduated daughter who had moved in with us. Hopefully this arrangement shall be temporary until Megan secures permanent employment, which we hope shall be the successful result from her interview with the college last Tuesday. We have come to be very contented with the benefits of being empty nesters. Having a twenty-three year old rambunctious young lady come in after a five years absent tends to put an immediate strain on family harmony. We'll survice. Meg wants to be on her own just as much as we wish her to be. Bottom line..."Family is the place where they have to take you in when nobody else will." As I told her that I followed up with, "But don't push your luck."

So, I now have a lifestyle which intrigues and hopefully awaits me in a few more years. In the mean time I'll keep pursuing corporate enterprise until that day's dawn when my retirement ship docks...or the boat sinks.

Wednesday, May 14

"Once Upon A Time...."

Twenty-five years ago today Judi and I promised to love, cherish and honor one another until "death do us part." So far, so good.

It hasn't always been sweetness and light. There are been several times in the past twenty-five years when it appeared that our parting was going to occur long before the Grim Reaper laid claim to either one of us. But we literally fought through out most difficult times to preserve our union, truly believing that God had put us together, that our marriage vows were indeed sacred, and neither one of us desired to be labeled as two-time losers in marriages that failed the test of perseverance and time. This day marks a significant milestone in our dedication to those beliefs.

So determined are we to make our marriage one of loving endurance that we have taken on the personal ministry to present to other couples in our community a self-awareness course entitled Dynamic Marriage. Far too often couples enter into the bonds of matrimony ignorant of and ill prepared to productively and beneficially face and overcome the trials and tribulations that will surely present themselves during the normal course of a marriage when two unique individuals bring different perspectives and expectations to what it means to be "happily married." Wide-eyed and full of hope for an unblemished future together, each individual in the marriage gazes upon their mate as the one person in the whole world who will complete me." Here is the reality: no other individual in the entire world will make you whole. You need to be a "whole" person before you enter into the tangles of being married. You need to know who you are and what you need emotionally to be happy. It is not the responsibility of the other person in the equation to provide for or assure you of obtaining those goals. God made you specifically unique and it is those qualities that define you as a person united with your mate that makes two divergent personalities into a convergent, cooperative whole.

The oft-quoted Golden Rule of treating others as one wishes to be treated pulls up noticeably short when applied to marriage. The uniqueness of our individual personalities defines what our emotional needs are. They are our hot buttons of happiness, contentment and fulfillment, if you will. Personal emotional triggers such as the need (expectation) for admiration, financial support, recreational companionship, conversation, family commitment, spirituality, sexual fulfillment, etc., are real-life examples. It is extremely rare when two individuals possess the same emotional need expectations, as they are forever being flexed in importance as over time situations in day-to-day living dictate adjustment. One may, therefore, regard these emotional needs like an itch.

We all know how good it feels to scratch an itch. The noticed irritant is relieved and we go on about our day. When that irritant isn't addressed, we are uncomfortable and seek means to alleviate our distress. My itch may be in a different location than that of my spouse. If both spouses incorrectly assume that they both need scratching in the same place, it is most likely that only one itch will be scratched or, to often, both will miss the mark. Therefore, treating our spouse as we desire to be treated - The Golden Rule - only addresses where we need to be scratched, not where our mate needs scratching. Being successfully married is to first understand and communicate where we need to be scratched, and two, to know and address where our mate's most important and immediate emotional needs are to be scratched. This on-going exchange of information is vital if the marriage is to evolve into a mutually shared effort to please and be pleased.

One of the participants in our current Dynamic Marriage class defined marriage as "two individuals who are always attempting to out-love each other only to end up in a tie in the end." I love that analogy. But this desired outcome just doesn't happen by accident. Marriage, like any endeavor worth our time, requires work...and no work can be productive unless it is steeped in the skills necessary and mandatory to achieve success. There are dozens if not hundreds of books on the subject of being successfully married that can be readily and economically obtained. Read one. Read several. For starters I would strongly recommend His Need, Her Needs, by Dr. Harley and Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage by Mark Gungor. Likewise, there are numerous courses available in your community that are dedicated to providing couples with the tools to strengthen and enrich marriages. Personally I would seek those that are based in Biblical principles, as I too often find that secular marriage course serve only to identify that which is wrong with a relationship, but fail miserably to provide the tools that address and eliminate the root issues of martial difficulties. It is one thing to be married, but quite a different matter entirely on knowing how to be married. Dynamic Marriage is one such course that takes the time to provide the tools that couples can employ to transform their marriages from average to dynamic. Information on this course may be obtained on line at:

Enough... It is Judi and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We are off this afternoon for a long weekend at an Orlando resort...where we will be engaged in scratching each other where we itch.

Thursday, May 8

"Cuff Links & Tie Clasps..."

My Mother turns 80 this month. In all candor I, along with other members of her family, didn't think she would see her 80th birthday, so tied was she to my father and his well being up until the day he passed away little less than a year and a half ago. Yet she has shown a resiliency of spirit that grows stronger with each passing day. Still, I am beginning to see more telling signs that she is beginning to embrace the inevitable day of her approaching demise...

First I received a package from Mom that contained articles of clothing that my father had worn and she had determined were "too good to donate to charity." "Perhaps you could make better use of them," she implored. "Sure Mom," was my half-hearted reply, knowing in my heart-of-hearts that none of the clothing items would ever find their way into my wardrobe. Going through each piece did serve to invoke melancholy memories of remembering Dad in his final days, consumed in the unassuming world of Alzheimer's, sitting in his favorite chair reading the newspaper that never turned from the front page. Among the items was a small felt covered box containing several sets of cuff links and tie claps, favorites of my Father, but again jewelry accessories that will never become personal adornments. For now they will remain secure in their container, to serve as yet additional signature mementos of my Father.

Next came a phone call this past Tuesday evening wherein Mom announced, with some self-assuring pride, that she had taken care of all her "funeral arrangements, so I and my brother don't have to worry." "I didn't know that was something I was losing sleep over, Mom. Have you set a date for this event? Is it something I should put on my calendar?" "Don't be a smart ass!!" was her tangy reply. (She's still feisty at 80!) She went on to provide full details on how her funeral was to be identical to that of my Father's, right down to where the flowers would be placed and in what type of vases they would be displayed. "It's all bought and paid for so that when I go all you and your brother have to do is show up." "Don't you think you're making a rather large assumption that I'll show up?" "You are an know that?" We both laughed.

My Mom is no more ready to cash in her chips than is a new born infant. If she had a choice she'd go kicking and screaming, so much does she embrace life in spite of her many physical ailments that are slowly and steadily robbing her of her vitality. Making final funeral preparations for Mom is no different than making out her grocery list of her favorite stables; bread, mike, bananas and cantaloupe, "if they are in season." Judi's Mom, on the other hand at 87, has already given up any desire to live another day. She called last night at 12:30 p.m. to inform Judi that she was to "immediately cancel her appointment with the doctor...that she was not going to any more doctor's appointments, not going to take her medications...that her neighbors would take care of her...that we don't care about her...and she just wants to die!" She previously wrote a note to that effect. Judi is taking it to show the psychiatrist, with whom her Mother was to meet with today, just so we get it on the record that this woman is totally and completely without the desire or will to live another day. What a contrast. My Mom is fighting for every day of life and losing the physical capibilities to do so. Judi's Mom suffers from no debilitating physical ailments and had decided selfishly to just give up. There is no justice in old age.

I will miss my Mom when she goe on to be with my Father. She is a fighter. I honor that type of life. I will no doubt be asked to present an eulogy to her, as I did my Father. I will be honored to do so. I will stand proudly before the assembled friends and family and laud my Mother's life...wearing a set of my Father's cuff links and one of his favorite tie clasp. That I promise.

Tuesday, May 6

"Interim Thoughts..."

By omission rather than commission I have been absent from making regular posts to this blog. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity surrounding the graduation of daughter Megan from the University of South Florida. That most auspicious event transpired this past Friday evening as she walked across the stage with 830 other equally proud graduates to accept their B.A. degrees. I think the best description of how Judi and I feel is breathless, much like the aftermath of a calamitous storm that heretofore occupied every fiber of our being only to disappear calmly over the horizon as a fading memory. Taking a deep breath we gladly yet reluctantly bid goodbye to this most anticipated chapter in our daughter's life. It's been a mountaintop experience for sure, but now it is time to again descend into a period of welcomed normalcy and too a slower pace of life. I'm ready and I know Judi is.

Now a new chapter in Megan's life begins. With degree in hand she now seeks full time employment in a market where more people are being laid off than are being hired. Fortunately (and fortuitously, we hope) her well established and applauded academic and service credentials with the University will afford her the opportunity to secure employment with that institution. She has a job interview this coming Tuesday for a position with the Athletics Promotions Department wherein she will be in charge of promoting a wider and more consistent support of the on-campus students for the University's NCAA athletic teams, primarily the basketball and baseball teams, both of which lag behind the more successful and nationally recognized football program. She, I, and her boyfriend Greg - the incoming Student Body President - spent an hour last evening brainstorming different promotional ideas that hopefully would capture the imagination of the students, and would serve as the creative fodder to be presented to those persons she is to make a 45 minute presentation on Tuesday. If she is successful in landing this most sought after position, I'll share some of those ideas...many of which are quite original in their approach...even if I do say so myself. (Maybe I ought to apply for the job...)

The granddaughters, stepson and future daughter-in-law departed this morning for their return flight to Cincinnati. Having these little ones in our home for the past week has been a mixture of pure bliss and havoc. Their giggles delighted a proud grandfather's heart, but the total destruction they left in each room would give FEMA pause. It may take Judi and I another week just to put things back in order. But, be assured, were they to return next week our home and hearts would be thrown wide open for them. Our home is now strangely void of those two little voices seeking Pappa and Nanna to "come look!" I think that the only two souls who are truly thankful that these pint-sized people have departed are our two cats, who only last night made a hesitant appearance to assure that the persistent silence was indeed to be trusted. "It's okay girls," I assured them. "Your nemeses are gone. You have the run of the house again."

As with any momentous occasion dozens upon dozens of photographs were taken to preserve the events. As soon as I can download them to my computer and sort them into some type of meaningful relevance, I'll share a few. A proud father and grandfather can do no less. It is a rule that I am sure is etched in stone somewhere.

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." -Perciles