Make me smile

Humorous things pop up when you least expect them. In this spirit, here are a few surprising and funny things that make me smile. I hope you will as well.

We called my grandmother Big Mama which was not an unusual moniker in the south. While Big Mama had a piano, I never saw her play. One day she saw me chop-sticking and sat down. When she obliged my request to play, I expected something classical. What I heard was flat out boogie-woogie. And, it was well-played. She added to my surprise saying she played by ear.

My mother surprised me by telling of the time my father was visiting her at a pond near the female college dorms while they were dating. Lingering near the female dorms was frowned upon in the late 1940s at this small college. When she espied the female dean watching them, she playfully pushed him and he fell into the pond. That certainly disarmed the situation.

My date and I were at a community theatre which was held in a church hall. The audience sat in fold out chairs on chorus risers. We were in the last row about eighteen inches off the ground. After intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my rear chair legs moved off the riser. As I sipped my wine, my date appeared to be going forward, but actually I was falling backward and crashed on the floor with a loud boom. Everyone turned. I was not hurt, but it sure was funny later.

Finally, another date became offended when I asked if we could use her car, so my visiting friend could borrow mine. Unfortunately, she told me she did not want to go out after I arrived. In a huff, I tried to back down her diagonal and downhill driveway. Unfortunately, I backed into a rock garden and got stuck. Her father had to tow me off the garden with her watching from the living room window. Oops. It was funny by the time I told my friend, but at the time…

What are your unexpected funny stories?

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I remember when

As I dressed for a long walk this morning, I was reminded of an old dressing habit. This prompted a reflective post (you can hum Nat King Cole’s “I remember you” as you read with me):

I remember when we used to cut the tops off athletic socks to make footies, as they did not make those when I was growing up, at least for boys and men.

I remember when phones were dialed and not keyed; if you did not complete the dial, the phone might call the wrong number.

I remember when there were three serious US news anchors whose words were gospel; Nixon once said when he lost Walter Cronkite, he lost the country.

I remember a time when we lived in blissful ignorance that all priests, pastors and evangelists were above board and not participating in criminal behavior.

I remember when both parties cared that the US President was exactly what he said he was not; Nixon said “I am not a crook,” but that was a lie.

I remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated, but was too young to remember JFK’s,

I remember the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s words of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, I remember the Challenger blowing up with citizen astronauts aboard. It showed how difficult it is to leave and return to our planet.

I remember when the US celebrated its bicentennial and when we prepared for computers programmed in Cobol to recognize the new millennium.

On this last comment, my wife and I hosted a New Millennium Eve party. We got so interested in shooting fireworks with the kids, we forgot to put the lamb in the oven. That was the only time we cooked lamb, and almost did not then. We were eating at midnight when the year 2000 rolled in.

I hope I spawned some memories. Please share a few of yours. I remember when…

A funny thing happened

Work does not sound like fun, but it offers plenty of comic relief. We need to find moments to laugh at ourselves to break the monotony. Here are few true stories to earn a grin or chuckle.

Two people I knew at a client were arguing over an issue. The funny thing is without the other knowing, each one called me to ask for my input on the argument. Through this process, I was able inch them closer together to see the other’s point. “You know Fred, Andy is making a reasonable point.”

A colleague was looking into a past precedence on a process a client was using that did not make much sense. He shared with me what he found in the archived files. I asked “Who would ever give such advice?” He showed me the email, “You did.” Oops.

This story ended well, but it offered an opportunity to tease a demanding colleague who had a high sense of self-worth. Our senior consultant was meeting with a client who had traveled from London. He was a heavy-set man and began to profusely perspire and get red-faced during the meeting. Our colleague felt he was having a heart attack and called the ambulance. The client turned out to be fine, but it was scary. Our colleague was a perfectionist which made him a good consultant, but a demanding one. After this episode, when he was extra hard on us, we would feign a heart attack in front of him acting like comedian Redd Foxx would on “Sanford and Son.” He did not find this amusing. “Elizabeth…I’m coming to join you!”

When I went to work for one of my clients, we had a greatly appreciated employee wellness program including mobile mammograms and health screenings. The woman who ran the program shared with me all the upcoming wonderful plans for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. As I described it to my boss and a few others, I left off the word “cancer” by mistake. She slowly corrected me, that would be Breast CANCER Awareness Month.

Our firm bought another with some highly paid consultants. My boss, who I have written about before, looked over the compensation data and uttered one of his folksy sayings. “We sure are peeing in the tall grass with the big dogs now.”

Finally, I had a colleague who was getting final quotes from various insurance companies for a bidding process for a client. He had not heard from one, so he called around 6:30 pm to see if they wanted to improve their quote. Apparently, the night janitor picked up the phone. After listening to my colleague explain what he needed, the man uttered, “I told you as much as I know when I said hello.”

Let me know of some of your funny stories at work. Please change the names to protect the innocent. I might throw in a couple of more in the comments.

Alcoholism – Feherty, Watson and me

I am an alcoholic, yet I am approaching the twelfth anniversary of my last drink. I bring this up today as I learned in an interview yesterday that David Feherty, a retired golfer, golf announcer and truly comical person, is also an alcoholic, along with some other demons he has to manage.

Several things about Feherty’s interview with Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel are worth noting. First, he credits his second wife for her tough love – after a final straw, she said you have 30 days to get clean or I am gone.

He also credits Tom Watson, one of golf’s greatest players, whose own career was almost derailed by alcoholism. As Feherty was interviewing Watson, the latter asked Feherty if he was alright. Feherty said he was not, but asked how could he tell? Watson said “I saw it in your eyes.” He then answered Feherty’s question of what did he see? Watson said bluntly, “I saw myself.”

Watson invited Feherty to his home and helped him through managing his demons. Feherty was sober for ten years, but fell off the wagon when his son took his own life after fighting a losing battle with the same demons his father faced. It should be noted Feherty’s alcoholism masked that he was clinically depressed and bipolar. His son inherited the problems. After renewing the fight, Feherty has returned to being sober.

Alcoholism or any addiction are tough enemies. You never fully defeat them. You put a lid on them, but they still simmer on the back of the stove. Over time, the heat is turned down, but it never is fully extinguished. In my case, I still want to have a drink, but it is a fainter flame today.

The key lesson I learned from a colleague, whose husband fought alcoholism, is to say this mantra – I am not going to drink today. This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know how many days they have been sober. The other piece of advice is to find a substitute for the alcohol. It may be green tea, fruit, fruit juice, near-beer, tonic or soda water or a piece of candy. Now, for me, it is hot tea and all kinds of fruit, dried or fresh.

Life is hard. It is not uncommon for some people to use some form of anesthetic to sand the edges off difficulty. If you think you may have a problem, you do. Be honest with yourself, first, but be honest with your spouse or partner and your doctor. Most addicts lie to all of the above.

People ask me what was my trigger to change? Another colleague’s wife, who was as vivacious and funny as David Feherty, died from complications due to alcoholism. She was only 59, one year less than I am today. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. So, I got off the train. It was and still is hard. But, remember the mantra, I am not going to drink today. Then, don’t and say it again tomorrow.

Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.

A fool’s errand

In my experience, people do not like to appear foolish. Yet, Mark Twain is quoted as saying it is easier to fool someone than convince him (or her) he (or she) has been fooled. With this in mind, believing the recounting of history by a man known for his untruthfulness and his disinterest in details is a fool’s errand.

In yet another attempt to point the spotlight elsewhere, the US President is denigrating a recently deceased American hero. During this head-scratching diatribe, he incorrectly said Senator John McCain obtained the fake-news Steele Dossier to sway the election.

There are two false statements in this Trump inane rant. First, McCain received the document and handed it to the FBI about a month after the election. Second, Christopher Steele is a well-respected intelligence gatherer, which increased McCain’s interest. The credible dossier has more than a few verified findings. The President is a cornered animal, so he has and will continue to attack anyone or anything to distract people.

But, inaccurately telling history is not new to Trump, as it is his modus operandi. When the US President says “I never said…” what follows is usually a lie. When he says something someone else did is “disaster,” it is not. More often than not it is some form of compromise or multi-lateral agreement where every partner gives up a little. When he says he is the smartest or best at something, I would suggest more proof.

So, when he says we achieved in 2018 an expected GDP growth rate of 3.1%, he fails to tell people that he said the tax law change would push it to 4% and pay for itself. The 3% is what economists expected, so when this was pointed out, he blamed the negative differential on Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Folks, to believe this untruthful man on pretty much anything is unwise. But, to believe him on historical matters is truly a fool’s errand, even when it applies to himself. He tells people he grew his fortune off a small loan from his father – the truth as reported last fall is his father transferred over $400 million to his son before he died.

There is a baseball analogy for this. Trump was born on third base and likes to tell everyond he hit a triple. Please remember what Twain said.

With six you get eggroll

Six. A half dozen. According to the old movie with Brian Keith and Doris Day, it is the family size needed to get free egg rolls at a favorite restaurant. Six is also the number of Directors of Communication this White House has had in going on 26 months. That is an average tenure of 4 1/2 months.

Here is scorecard of the short-term six directors:

Sean Spicer (45 days)

Mike Dubke (88 days)

Sean Spicer (49 days)

Anthony Scaramucci (10 days)

Hope Hicks (225 days)

Bill Shine (240 days)

Setting aside “The Mooch,” who may have been the most unlikely choice of a Director of Communications, lasting only ten days filled with colorful language, the four people occupying the position five times at least had communicaion experience. They were just asked to do an impossible job. Managing communications for a twittering,   babbling man with a large ego and small filter between his brain, fingers and mouth is nigh impossible.

Apparently, Trump referred to his latest departure as Bill “No” Shine due to his inability to make him look good. Putting lipstick on a pig does not change the fact the animal still rolls around in a pig sty. Ron Christie, who served in the second Bush white house, said a director ideally works with the President to set long term communications strategy, short term tactics and daily talking points. This President consistently surprises his staff with off-script and abrupt announcements. The best metaphor is Sean Spicer and team strategizing in the white house bushes after Trump fired James Comey without telling anyone, even Comey.

It is nigh impossible to manage communications for a bombastic man who has a hard time with the truth and common decency. There are three givens going forward. Trump desperately needs someone to keep him between the white lines. Trump will be very challenged the remainder of his term as his lies and criminal actions catch up to him. And, the next director won’t last long.