Wednesday wanderings, April showers and falling

My hiking might get cut short today, if it occurs at all, with the gully washer we got yesterday and one more expected today. If I do walk, it will likely be on streets which will be less muddy. I don’t want to see this old body slipping on a wet hiking trail.

Being a tall person, when I fall it can be quite theatrical. My wife still laughs at me when I walked out of a restaurant in “slippery bottom” shoes I had packed for a trip and started to slide backwards saying “I am going down.” Fortunately, I avoided my prophesy and caught myself on the door rails, but it was funny. Apparently, I had forgotten why I did not wear those shoes anymore.

Each of us are at risk of falling, whether it is the Lucille Ball type fall or a metaphorical one. The key is to get back up, dust yourself off, make sure you are not hurt and keep going. One of the more memorable “I Love Lucy” shows for me is when Lucy took a tumble at a gala with several dignitaries. After washing herself off, she reluctantly went back out to the event. A Spanish diplomat asked her to dance and when she asked why, he responded she had the courage to walk back out here after falling. That was profound for a little boy to hear.

My father fell once in a noticeable way. One of the things I inherited from him is a fondness for alcohol, which I do not imbibe anymore. After rising to a senior position in his firm, my father let his drinking get in the way of being where he needed to be. Something happened in his absence and he was demoted. He had to go into work the next day as a peer not a boss. Now my father never put on airs when in charge, but still that had to be humbling. He eventually worked his way back up and before he retired he was asked to be on the Board of Directors of the parent company.

I have fallen as well. My father’s lesson is a good one. When you fall, the key question to ask yourself is what am I going to do about it? I have shared the lesson before about being demoted to the second team on my high school basketball team. So, I worked even harder in practice and eventually was asked to rejoin the first team. I have also passed many professional exams, but I failed three along the way. The key is to study harder and learn from my mistakes. Eventually, I passed them all and was accredited, but it still hurt to not pass, a feeling I will never forget.

Whether it is Lucille Ball, my father or me, everyone falls. So, don’t forget the answer to that key question and do something about it. You may end up with a skinned knee or bruised feelings, but if those are the worst things, you will survive.

Mental Health is presenting unprecedented challenges

In a recent article in Benefits Pro, a piece on the rising mental health challenges caught my eye. An excerpt from the article follows:

“A new report from consulting firm McKinsey finds ‘unprecedented’ behavioral health challenges among Gen Z Americans. The age group, which ranges from middle-school students to younger members of the workforce, has significantly more issues with behavioral health than other age groups, the study found. Their conclusions are not unique: the U.S. Surgeon General recently issued a public advisory describing a ‘youth mental health crisis,’ which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report pointed to consumer surveys that found Gen Z members more likely to report behavioral health issues, more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions, and more likely to contemplate suicide than other generations.”

Unfortunately, there remains a stigma attached to mental health that prevents too many from getting the needed help. With that said, a possible reason for the uptick is more younger folks are realizing the need than in previous demographic generations. Nonetheless, getting help is something that should be easily enabled. And, it is not just medicine that should be prescribed. Therapy paired with medicine is essential to getting the most productive level of help.

Before I retired as consultant, I used to travel with a behavioral psychologist who helped large companies set up mental health programs for its employees, including depression and obesity management ones. She would tell our clients that 1 in 5 people will have some level of mental health issue in their lifetime. She would add that if she looked at any prescription drug claims report, she would see 10% of the prescriptions be for mental health issues. What she was looking for is who prescribed the Rx, as she would prefer to see a psychiatrist rather a general practitioner.

I have a number of friends and relatives who have had mental health challenges, often multiple diagnoses – anxiety and paranoia are often paired together, eg. Therapy is the key. Having someone to help work through the problems is essential to managing them. The word management is critical as many of these problems don’t go away, so having tools to deal with them on a daily basis is utile.

Rather offer advice that I am not qualified to give, let me just say this simply. If you, a loved one or friend are having mental health issues, get or encourage them to get help from a therapist. Often, the therapy will come from a licensed clinical social worker LCSW. Your health plan or other networks will have several therapists to offer, so go through their bios and typical clients. They will suggest a psychiatrist if medicine is in order. Yet, if you or your relative or friend are having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or a suicide hotline (see below) and don’t wait on a therapist.

Life can be beautiful, but it is also hard. Sometimes it is harder than it needs to be. Just because you need help is nothing, I repeat nothing, to feel bad about whether you are the one in need or if it is your child. Get help. And, manage those challenges.

Just a few truisms (and a word about Joe)

As my wife and I traveled to a funeral for an extended family member, I had time to reflect. on a recent post about the “Second time you die,” meaning when the last person who remembers you passes away, you die for a second time. The point of the post is how do you wish to be remembered?

My cousin Joe passed away after a life well lived. He was a devout man who loved his wife and family. He also gave back to his community, his church and his profession. One of three wonderful eulogies noted he was a “servant leader” meaning a leader is measured by how many people he helps, not vice versa. That is a wonderful way to be remembered.

Remembering Joe reminded me of some truisms we should not forget. Here are a few to digest and offer feedback on:

If you get up with an attitude of let’s make it a great day, you have a better chance of fulfilling that prognostication. The opposite attitude is also true.

If you have the impression kindness is a weakness, then you could not be more wrong. Reread the comment above about servant leadership. A great leader deflects credit to others and asks how can I help?

If you go looking for trouble, don’t be surprised if you find it or it finds you. Some people place themselves in harm’s way and are surprised when harm befalls someone, even them.

If you surround yourself with people who care less you about you and more what they can use you for, get new friends or acquaintances.

If you feel you are the odd person out, then you often are. There is an old saying that when three adolescents find themselves alone, one often becomes the foil. Don’t be anyone’s fool.

If you treat people the way you want to be treated, do not be surprised if you are treated well in return. A very old book called this rule “golden.” You can actually disarm people or lessen tension with kindness.

If you remember this saying, people will pay more attention to what you have to say. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.

If you give to others, it usually pays you a psychic income in return. Feeling better about yourself, especially when you give anonymously is an amazing gift to you and the recipient..

If you put someone down to elevate yourself, it will usually come back to haunt you. One thing is for certain, the person who is being put down will always remember it. Some may be slow to act, but they won’t forget.

If you work for an employer who treats people poorly when they exit, get your resume together and look for another job, as that could be you someday. Treating people with dignity matters.

If you take away only two things – remember that golden thing and the two ears and one mouth proportion and you will do fine. These are just a few thoughts to contemplate. Let me know what you think. Tell; me a few others that spring to mind.

Joe, you are remembered well by many. If there was any doubt, I have rarely if ever witnessed a minister choking back the tears during a eulogy.

Lessons from Dad (a repeat of an old post)

The following post was written nine years ago. I was searching for another post, when I stumbled onto this one. It is worth the reposting, at least to me. Stay with it as there is a major life lesson at the end courtesy of my father around the issue of what do you do when you really screw up.

Six years ago this month, my father passed away. I have been thinking about him a lot this month, as my middle child graduated from high school and my youngest had her 15th birthday. In fact, I wore his anniversary ring my mother had given him during the graduation so he could be there. Like all of us, Dad was not perfect, but he was one of the finest people I have ever met.

He was raised by his Aunt and Uncle, since his parents had a messy divorce. He tried living with each, but that was not a productive co-habitation for any of them. He learned the grocery business at a very young age working in his Uncle’s small store in a small town. Like many people of his time, he started smoking when he was 12. A near life-long habit that was a contributing factor to his death, even though he had quit for over ten years beforehand. His smoking is a reason I don’t.

He graduated from a small college in north Georgia that had a work-study program, the only way he could have afforded college. There he met my mother and literally fell into her lap while diving for a loose ball during a basketball game to which she arrived late. To say he fell for her would be an understatement. It is not ironic that many couples they befriended there were still married when he died (he was married to Mom for 54 years when he died).  My father went to work as a management trainee for a large grocery chain, but moved over into the then called data processing business, the computer science of its time. Back in the 1950’s, everything was new in the computer business.

Dad was a great athlete – track, baseball and basketball – and gave back by coaching his boys (and girl). My best friend and I used to call him the 45-year-old pitching machine, as he would always go throw batting practice to my brother, sister and me. His selflessness was one of his great attributes.He was always giving to others whether it was getting up early to check on a smoked ham or turkey (or both) he was cooking for his co-workers or family or helping someone.

He taught me many things which I try to emulate. Let me mention a few before closing with an anecdotal lesson that I shared again with my children last night.

  • Everyone is welcome in our home. To this day, our children’s friends are always welcome to stay for dinner. My wife and I live in chaos on occasion, but hearing your children and their friends laugh is the greatest sound on earth.
  • Do your best at whatever you try. To do less harms both you and your employer. It is a hard concept for children to grasp that they are cheating themselves when they don’t do their best.
  • Treat everyone like you want to be treated. Dad grew up from very humble beginnings and a broken home. He never put on airs and was as genuine a person as you could find. He was a natural leader, but you would never know that from talking with him. Think of the movie “Dave.”
  • Have dinner together with your family. My wife and I strive to do this as much as possible. The kids grow tired of the small dinner bell, customary blessing and “how was your day” or “anything unusual, funny or interesting happen today” questions. Trust me, you have to vary the questions. They may complain, but would not trade a moment of it if you asked them.
  • It is more than OK to hug or kiss your wife in front of the children. One of the greatest gifts a father can give is loving his children’s mother. That is harder these days with so many scattered families, but it is worth the effort when you live together.
  • Marriage is hard and you have to work at it. Three musts. Be friends with your wife as it gets you through ups and downs. Confer together on children issues that arise, so you are on the same page (raising children is joyous, but not easy especially in this day and age) And, have a sense of humor. Life is too short and it is easier to laugh with people rather than have them laugh at you.

While, there are many other lessons learned, let me close with a final lesson that I was reminded of by my son’s graduation speaker. A successful woman told the graduates you will fail at something. Get back up, dust yourself off and keep on going. Life will go on. My father was not perfect as I said. I carry a curse with me that he had. I am an alcoholic. I have not had a drink in almost five years. I tell people I drank more in my first 48 years than many people do in a lifetime. I use the verb “am” as I want to have a drink everyday, even now. They key is to say to yourself – “I am not going to drink today.”

Dad was an alcoholic, as well. He had risen to the position of Senior Vice President in his firm. He was very successful. Yet, one day he was not where he was supposed to be and something happened at work. Since his goodwill at work was so large, he was not fired, but demoted instead. He had to go to work the next day as a peer of the people who used to report to him. He could not just go somewhere else; he had to go face the music every day. Going back to the graduation speaker’s counsel. He failed. He knew he had to feed his family, so he got up, dusted himself back off and went back to work. He told people “I screwed up,” but he made up for it by going back to work every day.

Dad was a smart man, well-respected and great employee. By the time he retired,  he had worked his way back up and was on the Board of Directors of the same company. This is what being an adult (or in this case) a man is. I tell my guys being a man is not being macho, wielding a sword like they do in the games or being proficient at weaponry. Being a man is being accountable and responsible each day. It is owning up to your mistakes and saying I will do better. I should say it is “doing better” as anyone can say they will do better.

Dad had many lessons for me (and others). This last one which shows how someone handles failure is the deepest as we are all “fixer uppers” and will fail. The key is what you do next.  My father showed how. I love you Dad.

Thursday this and that’s

Thursday is an underrated day. It does not get the credit it deserves as the peek-a-boo day into the weekend. When I worked, Friday was a day to just to crash and veg out – the restaurants are to crowded and the bar/ restaurants are too boisterous. Yet, we often would go out to dinner on Thursday as it was a little more relaxing and we need only worry about one work day, if we finished off the wine.

Couples get into nice rituals around how to yin and yang with each other. This goes beyond the intimacy part, so we will keep this PG rated. I was tickled by a line from the movie “All my Life,” which I recommended the other day in post, when the girlfriend invited her boyfriend to move in. She said “If you suck at being a roommate, I will kick you out.” This was after she laid out her rules and he countered, such as closet space is 80/20 in her favor, he would cook three times a week, but she would sample things, eg. to which he agreed.

So, going to dinner on Thursday instead of Friday is one of those rituals. Now that we are retired, we tend to go out to brunches and lunches, especially with the COVID pandemic. Fewer people to come across is a safety issue these days. Other rituals we tended toward is take out food on Friday, even still today. Chinese, Mexican, seafood, pizza, etc. are in the rotation. During harvest months, we tend to go to brunch on Saturday where there is a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot. And, with children, we had to have a date night. Full stop.

Yet, Thursday remains a good day, even when retired. But, it won’t find itself in songs. When I did a series of posts based on songs with the days of the week, Thursday was a less used day. Tuesday seem to get more attention, maybe because the first syllable could be accentuated more. Thursday also won’t have a restaurant named after it as do TGI Fridays or Ruby Tuesday. Maybe that is why it gets less respect.

So, go enjoy Thursday today. (For my Australian friends, I hope you had a great one). Go help the hurting restaurant industry and dine al fresco or get take out. Or, while it is still pre-fall back on the time, go for a walk after dinner in the neighborhood. You might even see a few neighbors doing the same, at least I do.

One final note, when drinking was still a thing for me, Thursday did lend itself to a concept called “Thirsty Thursdays,” where beer was cheaper. This was especially dangerous at the minor league baseball park with its quarter beers in small cups. You definitely needed a designated driver or a designated memory person in case you met someone you liked and were to inebriated to remember her (or his or their) name. Now that we don’t drink anymore, those days are behind us.

So, a toast to Thursday. May it get the attention it deserves.

RESPECT – a movie worth watching about Aretha

My wife and I saw the terrific biopic about Aretha Franklin called “RESPECT” yesterday starring Jennifer Hudson. Hudson does a highly commendable job as Franklin, but that is less a surprise given her credentials and that Franklin asked her to play the role before she passed.

The acting is excellent with Forest Whittaker playing her dominant father, Audra McDonald playing her mother, Marlon Wayans as a first love interest, and Skye as a young Aretha. The movie pulls few punches showing Franklin’s shortcomings (such as her bout with alcohol) as well as her many successes.

However, the music, its creation and its performance, is what got folks clapping in the theater. Seeing Hudson as Franklin work with musicians to create “I’ve never loved a man” or with her sisters to adapt Otis Redding’s “Respect” is worth the ticket by themselves. Seeing Hudson perform “Natural Woman” and “Amazing Grace” are quite eventful.

The movie is directed by Liesl Tommy off the screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson based on the story by Callie Khouri. I will not give any more of the plot away, but simply encourage you to go see it.

Monday morning you sure look fine

Fleetwood Mac gave us this first lyric to “Monday Morning.” Some of us may remember the next line is “Friday I’ve got traveling on my mind.” That must have been some rollercoaster week. If your week turns out to be a rollercoaster, I hope you enjoy the ride and want more, instead of traveling away from someone who looked so fine on Monday. Speaking of rides, take a little ride with me as I touch on a few miscellaneous thoughts.

As we have begun the final week of July, 2021, I have become less enthusiastic about this Christmas time in July bit. Some of the channels are running holiday movies, which is fine, but when they start to sell me Christmas deals in July in the commercials, that is a bridge too far. I don’t want to buy a fake Christmas tree in July – I am just not in the mood.

My wife and I have watched a little bit of the Olympics in Japan, but we won’t be watching it too much. We do find the second page sports entertaining, as we have watched the finishes to the bicycle races, fencing, with a little swimming and gymnastics thrown in. Of course, the last two are usually front page sports during these events. What I don’t care for is NBC does not show non-American athletes near enough to balance out the show. Usually, they appear when competing directly against the Americans.

We did go see a pretty good movie called “Joe Bell” with Mark Wahlberg and introducing Reid Miller. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is based on a true story about a father and his gay son. The movie is somber look at the bullying that goes on toward gays in school and life. Rotten Tomatoes does not rate it as well as the Google viewers do, but it does make you think. Connie Britton plays the mother and Gary Sinise shows up late in the movie adding a lot of value.

Our friend Joy put a picture in her recent blog post of a frozen peach Margarita, which looked delicious, although. I do not drink anymore. So, with her impetus, I went to a local Farmers’ Market (hence yesterday’s post) and picked up, among other things, “Free Stone peaches.” Apparently, the pulp peels away from the pit very easily and, while guarded by a little tougher skin, are delightfully sweet and tart. The virgin Margaritas were a blend of the peeled peaches, pineapple sherbet, orange juice and ice. Thanks Joy for the inspiration.*

My mother and father’s birthdays are approaching. They would have been 89 and 90 this year. Dad went first about fifteen years ago, while Mom went almost five years ago. Plus, the only grandmother I had met (when not a baby) has an approaching birthday. I just wanted to think a few good thoughts about them as I close out. Have a great week everyone

*Here is a link to Joy’s post: Friday‚Äôs Super Short Stories! | Nuggets of Gold (wordpress.com)

Only women bleed – an unlikely source for powerful words

Whether his name rings a bell for a younger generation, there is an old rocker named Alice Cooper, who beneath his “Kiss” like make-up, sang some great rock-n-roll songs. But, he co-wrote and recorded one of the most powerful ballads, with domestic violence and maltreatment of women as a back drop. The song was aptly entitled “Only women bleed.”

Here is sample of the lyrics from the middle of the song.

“Man makes your hair gray
He’s your life’s mistake
All you’re really lookin’ fors an even break
He lies right at you
You know you hate this game
Slaps you once in a while
And you live and love in pain

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at al
l

Only women bleed”

Domestic violence remains a hidden trauma for women. I use the word “hidden” as many victims try to hide their pain and bruises. They have been told it is their fault by their abusers. They are shamed as well as beaten. And, the abusers are quite adroit at masking their violent and controlling tendencies from their co-workers, friend and relatives.

In an agency to help working homeless families that I volunteered with, about 1/3 of the families in need were domestic violence survivors. In addition to losing their home, the spouse and family had to also experience the trauma of domestic violence. PTSD in these families had two causes.

If you are in a domestic violence situation or know someone who is, here are two loudspeaker bulletins.

  • He will not change. Full stop.
  • Find a way to get out before it is too late.

Let me close with the painful story of a man who started a local group called “Men for Change.” His sister hid from him and her other siblings that her husband was beating her. She would avoid family gatherings when bruises were apparent. She also hid the fact her husband was beating her two boys, on occasion ramming their heads into the ceiling.

She hid this from her siblings until they found out. How did they? He killed their sister Only women bleed. The abusers will not change. Get out.

Friday memories

Since I am exhausted from talking about our modern day Voldemort, let me offer a few random memories on this Friday, Greenwich time. In no particular order:

When my father used to cook chicken on the grill, he would always return to the kitchen with a wingless chicken. When asked, he noted said chicken could not fly as it had no wings. Of course, he would eat the wings outside to make sure he got the basting right, at least that was his ultimate story.

When he smoked meat in his Cooking Cajun smoker, he would cook a ham on one rack and a turkey on another. The poor cook would start the large turkey around 2 am in the morning and then add the ham later. I wish I had his knack for smoking it right. He did say he basted the turkey with mayonnaise to keep it moist. Whatever he did, both were excellent.

My mother was a terrific cook as well, so these meals were accentuated with her casseroles, side dishes and desserts. One of her wonderful dishes was a layered salad, which must be served in a glass bowl to see the layers of lettuce, cheese, mostly thawed frozen green peas, mayonnaise (we southerners love our mayo), bacon and green onion. She also had a fruit pie made with fresh strawberries and bananas.

My mother was an Education and Home Economics major in college, so she would plan out our meals for two weeks between paychecks. Pot roast, fried chicken, cubed steak, spaghetti, lasagna, ham steaks with limas and cheese, etc. were usually in the mix. Back then, she went to the grocery store once in two weeks. Think about the planning behind that statement. We did not make runs to the grocer as we do now, with the exception of fresh milk which we got from a nearby dairy store you could actually drive up to.

With three kids who all played sports, we liked to eat and ate a lot. So, my mother keeping the refrigerator full shopping once every two weeks was a chore. One of the wisest things my high school did was, if you played sports, you automatically took PE in the last class of the day, so we could start practicing early. With a full load of classes in the preceding years, I found a free period for lunch in my Senior year, so I would eat at home and return for practice. So, more food was needed to fill this growing boy’s body. Did I mention I ate a lot?

When I got home, I would do my studying at night. So, my brother, sister and I would watch the reruns of Star Trek, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, The Wild West, etc., before and just after dinner. With one TV, we all watched the same thing. I must confess, the love interests of Captain Kirk and James West were fascinating to this adolescent boy. And, it did not dawn on me, at first, the comedic genius of Don Knotts as Barney Fife and Lucille Ball as Lucy. I would get irritated with how silly they were, but realized later that was their gift.

Well, that is enough for memory lane. I had a good childhood, not perfect mind you, as I have left off my parents’ fighting, but it was largely good memories. I have written before about my father’s drinking problem (which I inherited), but he was still a good man, who just had a problem. He was sober the last twenty years of his life and I have been without a drink for over thirteen years.

Thirteen years and counting

Yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of the start of my going alcohol free. The echo still remains, but it is a faint one and usually pops up at certain times in the late afternoon. It is indeed manageable. The following link is to a post I wrote on my sixth anniversary, which remains my most visited post. If you have this issue or know someone who does, I mention some teachings therein I gleaned from others. The key one is “I am not going to drink today.”

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/