Things you should not do, but do anyway

I was thinking yesterday about a good friend who tried to make a comeback as a baseball pitcher from a shoulder injury. I volunteered to catch for him sans a catcher mask – at dusk. As the baseballs were whistling toward me at 85 miles per hour in the dimming skies, I was thinking how unwise this is. One tipped pitch off the catcher’s mitt would not end well with my face as the only backstop. Yet, there I was.

As I was trimming some tall bushes, the last one was too tall to get the upper portions even with my various ladders and long electric hedge clippers. As I was putting away everything, I decided to give it one more go. Mistake. The one thing in my favor was I planned what I would do if I felt the ladder being uncooperative. So, as the ladder went one way, I tossed the clippers the other way and fell feet first toward the grass. I survived with a jolt and later soreness, but the lack of wisdom was duly noted.

I have always been a climbing fool dating back to when I was young. Two of my children are the same way. In fact, our daughter was on the climbing team in college. Fences did not present as many obstacles to me, but there is one lesson to be learned. As I was climbing a seven foot high fence, I felt I could navigate the prickly fence wires that were pointing up above the bar for some security, instead of being rounded off as with more neighborly fences. When I got to the top, the bar of the fence came out of its hosel and broke free. One of my arms now has a ten inch scar due to the prickly wires from this high school incident over forty five years ago.

At my age, one thing is for certain. I have made my share of mistakes. And, I will try to avoid future ones, but I am sure I will slip up from time to time. Many of our mistakes are not physical in result, even though they started out with a less than stellar idea. The more common mistakes are saying things you should not or acting rashly when the better idea would have been to sleep on it or not to act.

A key lesson for all of us is just because you think it, does not mean you have to say it. Some of the best retorts are the ones that you swallow and do not speak. And, you would be wise in so doing. Not everything needs to be an argument. In fact, your opinion may not be wanted, only your listening. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.

As for the rash acting, the more important the decision, the better it is to wait, organize your thought process and garner input. One thing my wife and I do is delay a big decision until a few days or weeks pass. Should we move, should we try for baby, should one of us take that job, should we buy a new car, etc.? Try to avoid buying on emotion as that is what the sales person is wooing you to do.

With that said, some impulsive decisions just need to be governed by catch-all limits. Do not drive while intoxicated or let a friend drive such. Full stop. Do not have sex sans some means of birth control unless you are looking to have a child. Do not have sex if your partner says no, even if he, she or they seemed to be saying yes to that point. Do not take opioid pain killers unless you are in a real bad way pain wise and they have been prescribed – even then you may want to down two Tylenol or look to more herbal solutions so to speak.

And, do not get up on ladders when you are tired. If you ignore this suggestion, you may just well need those two Tylenol or one of those herbal solutions.

Tea for Tuesday with a spoon of Dyerism

My youngest son has exposed us to cold brewed tea using both caffeinated tea and flavored teas with turmeric, hibiscus, ginger, lavendar, orange or lemon zest, etc. The tea brews with natural sunlight over the course of a morning. What I like about them is no sugar is needed as the flavors stand on their own. So, it is refreshing.

So, get yourself a soothing or refreshing drink in hand, sit down in the morning rays, and let me share a few miscellaneous thoughts.

My wife and I are not Royalty watchers, but we did catch the latest installment on Lifetime of the Harry and Meghan travails. Realizing these kinds of things have a little truth mixed together with hearsay and supposition, there are a couple of takeaways. If true, why does the Royal family and their staffs spend so much time reading trashy gossip magazines? I must confess the only time I pay attention to these things are when checking out at the grocery store, but primarily for my own bemusement. The other take away is no matter what one feels about Meghan, there is both a subtle and overt racist element to her press that goes unchecked. I realize fully that the Royal family does not like to comment on the magazines they read so much of, but it truly is opportunity lost to condemn in strong times that we are better than this as a country.

This search for perfection in the actions and statements of people, entities or institutions is a futile endeavor. Let me save everyone a lot of trouble. Just like with individual people, there are no perfect groups of people or organizations of people. This would include those who are calling foul. Past actions are important, but we must understand a couple of things. Severity is important. Context is important. On the latter, anyone can be made to look foolish taking his, her or their words out of context. But, severity (and repetition) matters. Not to condone any actions, but saying something sexually insensitive is not as severe as sexual assault. Saying something sexually or racially insensitive over time is worse than saying it once. Also, how long ago did the infraction occur matters as does what have they done lately? This does not give anyone a hall pass, just asks for better scrutiny.

As an example, the Reverend Billy Graham lamented that he was in the Nixon White House and did not push back on the president for his racist and ethnic slurs. Apparently, Nixon’s colorful language was not unusual. Graham was in a better position than anyone to counsel the president on his words and tone. My guess is he was looking for any door to escape, but that is beside the point. Graham was embarrassed when his silence was discovered on the released Nixon tapes of conversations. It goes without saying, Graham was a very fine person and spiritual leader nonetheless.

I pair these two stories together, as we need more of what Dr. Wayne Dyer used to call “defending the absent.” When his children would gossip about someone, he would defend the person not present. His point is it is not right to talk about someone behind their back. Graham missed an opportunity to say simply, “Mr. President, I must confess I do not appreciate your tone and comments about others. You can choose to feel that way, but it makes you look smaller when you do.”

In the Royal family movie, they debated on whether Charles, William or Harry could react. Harry did on one occasion, but wanted to do more. But, truthfully the Queen is the one who should have made an overarching statement. “We are better than this. It is one thing to disagree with someone, but to denigrate someone because the person is perceived to be different is uncalled for and inappropriate.” It should be noted that 80 members of Parliament signed a petition of reprimand for these racist attacks in the press, so I am not just talking out of turn.

I am imperfect. I have said, written and done some stupid things. I try to do the right things, but sometimes fall short. But, I am not alone. We must shine spotlights on behavior we do not like, but we should also recall we have our own blemishes. But, I would suggest we do so in the manner and style of Dr. Dyer. He is one who would criticize privately and praise publicly. He would defend the absent, a very noble endeavor.

Sometimes, you just have to be more direct

When dealing with people who have a high sense of self worth, ranging from arrogance to narcissism, a common attribute is the “all about me” chip they carry around with them. This chip also precludes them from thinking they ever did anything wrong.

I have observed and dealt with a few narcissists in my career, but also many who carry this chip around. In my dealings with others I have tried to be at my diplomatic best. This especially comes in handy when you have to tell a client his or her idea lacks merit. But, what happens when you are dealing with someone who rarely, if ever, thinks he or she did something wrong?

One of our blogging friends Cynthia writes an excellent blog on PTSD and other issues related to dealing with narcissistic people. She offers first hand experience and supportive advice. I commented on a recent post the best way to deal with narcissists is to avoid or limit exposure to them. What makes this approach so valuable is narcissists fail to realize they are the lone constant in all of their negative interactions.

When you do dialogue with a narcissist or arrogant person, an extra dose of tolerance and diplomacy is required. To me, it is a truism the most intolerant of people require the most tolerance of others in dealing with them. But, when people show little acknowledgment or remorse of their shortcomings there are times when you just have to be more direct and dial down the dipllomacy.

When I raised concern with NC legislators about the unconstitutional and “Jim Crow” like nature of a drafted Voter ID bill before it was passed, the author of the legislation wrote me back and ripped me a new one and he did so again after I diplomatically rebutted. I showed them to an attorney friend and his response was it looks like your roles are reversed when reading the tenor of the emails. My final response to this legislator was simple – I am a 54 year-old white man who was raised in the south; you and I both know what this legislation is all about. It should be noted the law was later ruled unconstitutional.

I was dealing with one of the most overbearing leaders of a business unit in a company I worked with. His direct reports followed their leader and tended to be overbearing as well. So, when I interviewed him to get his thoughts on compensation for his staff, I knew I was in for an interesting interview. He held firmly to a practice called stretching out raises – i.e., when budgets are tight, lengthen the time between raises to eighteen or twenty-four months. He was quite vociferous that he could give them same value in raises that he would have given at twelve months. After several minutes of this diatribe, I said “you can If they are still here.” His business had a lot of turnover.

The above are two examples of push back. The common theme is I had done my homework and felt comfortable in offering a response. I knew the Voter ID law was unconstitutional, as the NC Attorney General had written a piece saying those very same words and why. I knew the business leader was experiencing high turnover as I had seen the data..

Yet, it is not that easy to push back, especially on an overbearing person who has trouble acknowledging his or her mistakes. I have used the example before of working with the youngest curmudgeon I have ever met. It was all about him and he would tell you so. When my wife and I invited my work friends to a party, he was fuming out loud to others for me to hear – “I don’t want to go to your stupid party.” My response was direct, “Then, don’t come.”

I will continue to try to wear my Harry Potter “diplomacy cloak” more often than not. Yet, there are times when the cloak needs to be set aside. Note, one needs not be rude to be direct. You do want the message heard or read. Yet, it helps to be armed with facts or a position of strength. As for my curmudgeon friend, I thought the party would be good for him, so when he rudely said he did not want to come, it was no bother and we had a good time without him.

Arrogant and narcissistic people tend to complain. Nothing or no one is ever good enough. Even those on their good side, should not get used to it, as they will at some point misstep in the eyes of the narcissist. That will not change. So, if pushback does not suit your style, the avoidance approach works well. A colleague asked why I did not eat lunch with a known narcissist in our office. My response was simple – “I don’t want to listen to him running people down.” Or, as my friend told me once he got to fifty, he realized he did not want to suffer fools anymore, so he avoided them whenever possible.

That boy sure is a runnin’ fool

Those familiar with the movie “Forrest Gump” know the title is one of the many one-liners from the movie. We learn early on that Forrest could “run like the wind blows” after his legs got better from wearing braces. And, that was his primary means of transportation.

I used to be a runner, but after a lot of up and down running efforts, my joints told me I needed to walk more. It is much easier to start walking again after stopping a walking regimen, than it is is to start running.

Yet, I see many who run both along the streets and on trails that fail to heed a few lessons that might help. I learned from others, but still had challenges with the yo-yo running efforts. Here are few tidbits that I hope are more redundant than not.

  • Do not run on sidewalks made of concrete. The concrete does not flex, so your knees, feet and ankles (and other parts) take the brunt of the impact of each step.
  • Do not run with headphones on if you are next to car traffic or by yourself on a trail. Not being able to hear puts you in danger of turning cars or nefarious folks on trails. If you must have music, heighten your other senses to avoid getting run over.
  • Stretch before and after running. Sometimes the after part gets left off, but warming down is as important as warming up.
  • Start out slow (or even walking) and build up speed to the pace you want. Starting out to fast can cause pulled muscles and charley horses.
  • Wear shoes that have a good tread and are designed for running. A worn out tread can add impact shock to knees, feet and ankles.
  • Courtesy of the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, wear two pairs of socks, one reversed inside of one normal. The combined friction in the socks will cause less friction on your feet. Wooden would actually teach this the first day of practice.
  • Stay hydrated. This is a no-brainer, but never pass a water stop in a race and have a water bottle with you or in the car waiting for you.
  • If you do run on trails, have someone with you or run on popular trails designed for running. Some trails have way too many tree roots that are painful when stepped on or could trip you (I have done both).

I know much of the above may be well-known. But, as an old fart, let me just add I have read in my local newspapers of more than a few women being sexually assaulted on trails, I have read wear joggers were run over and killed not realizing a car was turning (one woman did not comprehend that a truck was pulling a trailer because of her headphones and stepped into traffic after she thought the truck had passed) and I am aware of many falls, bumps and bruises and arthritic or worn out knees.

Be safe. Be healthy. And, run like the wind blows.

Leadership is missing – here are key reasons why

I have written often about the dearth of leadership, not just in the US, but worldwide. It is so concerning, I often go out of my way to use the phrase about someone “in a leadership position.” I do this as I cannot bring myself to call an incumbent who defames the role on a daily basis “a leader.”

I ran across a short and simple quote that popped up in my Linked In feed.

The first rule of leadership: put your mission above your ego.

The second rule of leadership: if you don’t care about your people, they won’t care about your mission.

The third rule of leadership: if someone has to tell you the first two rules, you are not ready to lead yet.

Adam Grant on Linked In.

Think of these rules of leadership. Everyone has an ego and those who want to be leaders have even larger ones. When they put themselves above their mission, that is not leadership. That is self-serving.

Leaders also lead people. And, no matter how much they beat on their chest, they cannot serve people alone, so they need help. If incumbents treat people on their team poorly, these people will not be able to help whom the incumbents lead. It is that simple.

Too many of our politicians worry more about keeping their job, than doing their job. Too many business leaders do the same thing. For publicly traded companies, it is a key reason they focus so much on making their quarterly numbers. Rather than manage for longer horizons, they manage quarter to quarter.

I have used many other quotes about leadership that say the above in different ways. But, just focusing on the second rule, take care of your people – they see it. If you do not, they will vote with their feet.

The past serves as a reminder

Two old shows that my wife and I enjoy are focused on the past, especially when it rears its ugly head. An American produced show is called “Cold Case” where a team based in Philadelphia work unsolved cases that resurface. The other is “Unforgotten” which is a British produced show that works previously unknown crimes.

“Cold Case” has a unique style where they reveal the initial set-up of the crime, but not who did it. They go back and forth with the younger version of the character for a few seconds, so you know which older person that is. “Unforgotten” is told over a series of six or so shows, one crime per season. A body is discovered and the team has to begin to find out who, what, when, where and how. Both teams are led by imperfect leaders with their own set of problems.

The two shows tell us the past is never fully behind us. I know I would not want my past mistakes being brought up today, although I can confess I never murdered anyone. But, we should learn lessons from our past mistakes. Our friend Amanda revealed a quote on her blog the other day about focusing on the lesson and not the pain of the mistake (see link below)..That is easier said than done, but is a better goal than saying “woe is me.”

When people, businesses, organizations and governments do not heed the mistakes of the past, they are truly destined to repeat them. The US did not learn the lessons of Vietnam and invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq. A senator named Jim Webb who served in the military said if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay for thirty years. That was eighteen years ago.

In the book “Built to Last,” the authors’ data revealed the most admired and successful companies tended to promote from within to the CEO position. They knew what worked and did not and who to listen to and who not to. I have seen many a new CEO come in and make changes that repeated past mistakes. Even if they came from within, I have seen CEOs repeat an earlier mistake due to arrogance. I am thinking of one large bank that no longer exists who made two of the worst acquisitions that should have been avoided for the same reason – both hurt the bank’s reputation. And, that should not have been news.

People are prone to do this in their personal lives. They believe their new partner will change for the better. They ignore signals that they have seen in previous partners. The most basic of signals is this one – if a partner treats you poorly when he or she is courting you, what do you think he or she will do once you became married or more serious?

The author Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book “Blink” speaks of ignoring our subconscious signals when we make poor decisions. Our gut instinct is our collective history of experiences that tell us things before our conscious recognizes it, if it ever does. The examples of the book are many. A firefighter who tells his crew to back out of building as it is burning in an unusual manner. The art expert that knew immediately a painting was a forgery, but could not articulate why. The counselor who could tell with about ten seconds if a couple she was counseling was going to survive.

These people were not guided by whims. Their gut instinct told them something was amiss before they could articulate why. In the firefighter’s case, the fire was burning in the floor below, so his crew would have crashed through the floor, e.g. Their past experiences told them how to act. In organizations, the experience is collective, so sometimes a few people might know an action is poor (like Senator Webb did), but they do not have the power to influence leaders. Or the leaders were to blinded by their own arrogance to take advice.

The past tells us many things. While we should not be slaves to the past, as times do change, we need to understand what happened and why, so as not to avoid the same mistakes.

https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/sunday-quotes-helpful-resources/

“They suck up and punch down”

The above quote struck me yesterday when it was uttered by conservative pundit David Brooks on his PBS Newshour weekly recap with Jonathan Capeheart. “They suck up and punch down.” What does he mean by that?

Brooks was defining too many politicians who have isolated themselves from others. He was speaking about Andrew Cuomo not having many friends he could call upon to help him in this time of the sexual harassment claims. Brooks noted some aides said Cuomo is acting toward subordinate women as he has always acted.

Brooks noted there are politicians who do good things, but there are too many that isolate themselves. They are good at sucking up (my guess is to donors and more senior officials), but they don’t have as many lateral relationships. This may be due to the lack of working with people across the aisle. It may be due to the elimination of common eating areas for legislators.

Yet, one thing too many do is punch down. They treat subordinates of both genders poorly, which disturbs me as well. I have long detested seeing people treat subordinates or perceived subordinates poorly, while sucking up to others. I added the term “perceived subordinates” as I have witnessed in many organizations someone who became surprised that perceived subordinates had more power than presumed when they put them down. It reminds me of the advice “beware of the quiet one.”

This was one of the many things I did not like about the former president. He sucked up to autocrats and donors and punched down to subordinates, reporters and legislators. One of the best metaphors about the Trump presidency was during a global summit, he was wandering the reception area alone after dinner. Others had grouped together and were not too interested in chatting with him. He eventually wandered over to Vladimir Putin’s table and spoke without an interpreter or aide close at hand. Since Trump is self-described as not a well-read or studious person, Putin likely felt as if he was a spider with a fly in his web.

So, Brooks’ term is interesting. They suck up and punch down. Two characteristics that I detest. And, I don’t think I am alone.

Then, there is class

In an Olympic race yesterday, two male 800 meter runners got their feet tangled in the heat and down they went.. In a show of unity, they got up and jogged together across the line.

From Big World Tale, here are the opening two paragraphs to define what happened:

“Olympic spirit: Isaiah Jewett, Nijel Amos help each other to finish line after ‘devastating’ collision in 800M heat August 1, 2021 Sunday’s Olympics men’s 800-meter semifinal did not go as planned for USA’s Isaiah Jewett and Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Jewett was running in third place late in the qualifying heat when Amos approached him from behind.

Then one of those moments that embodies Olympic sportsmanship and seems to happen at every Games took place. Jewett didn’t express the disappointment and frustration he was certainly feeling after being tripped from behind. As he stood up, he grasped the outreached hand of Amos, and they helped each other off the ground.” 

In a true sportsmanship move, after two high jumpers matched each other jump for jump before both failing at the next height, they decided to share the Gold medal rather than have a jump off. Apparently, one got injured right before the Rio Olympics in 2016.

From a Buzz Feed, by Lauren Strapagiel called “The Moment These Two Olympians Decided To Share A Gold Medal Is So Joyful” :

“Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar both took the gold for the men’s high jump in a truly heartwarming decision.”

What’s better than winning gold in Tokyo? Getting to share the win with a friend and fellow competitor.

On Sunday, athletes Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar chose to share first place at the Olympic men’s high jump final thanks to a quirk in the rule book.

According to the rules, they could either settle it with a jump-off or share the gold. NBC video from the competition shows an official trying to explain just that when Barshim cuts in.

‘Can we have two golds?’ Barshim asks the official.

Before the official can even finish explaining, Barshim reaches out to Tamberi to shake hands, and the two — and the crowd — go wild.”

Sportsmanship still exists, but it is nice to witness it.

Heartbreaking moments

For some reason, we seem to be watching more of the Olympics in Japan than we have in previous ones. The exhilarating competition and human stories are wonderful to watch. But, it also exposes us to heartbreaking moments where you just want to hug the athlete and say it will be OK. Let me set aside the Simone Biles story, as I have written about that as have others.

There are two stories I want to focus on, but I will leave off their names, as I do not want to highlight who they are, just what happened. Plus, these two people qualified for the Olympics, which is not a small feat.

First, in one of the many “heats” for the women’s 400 meter hurdles, the Great Britain champion racer was looking to qualify for the semi-finals. This was her first race of the Olympics. Sadly, on her way to the very first hurdle, she got her feet tangled and fell into the hurdle. Her Olympic competition was ended. Seeing in live action was one thing, but when they showed it in slow motion, you truly agonize with her.

Second, the next day, in the women springboard diving competition, the top twelve divers were looking to qualify for the semi-finals, I think. After several dives, a Canadian diver was in ninth place and just needed a couple of more decent dives. Apparently, the young woman must have felt she did not get enough elevation for the twists and turns as she hopped once (per the routine) and propelled herself upward. She just meekly fell knees first into the pool. The announcers could not hide their feelings for her as they called it a “failed dive.”

Seeing both of these women, who trained so hard, walk away from what just happened made you want to hug them. Fortunately, coaches and teammates were there to do so.

It reminds me that I have failed on more than a few occasions. We all fail at some time. It hurts. Plus, you replay that hurt over and over in your mind. Hopefully, we have learned from that failure, as it can be a better teacher than success.

One of the things that I admire about the gymnasts (or skaters) is they keep going. If they mess up or have a small misstep, they keep going. It should be noted the women’s gymnastic team winners from Russia overcame two of their better gymnasts falling off the balance beam (I still don’t know how they perform on a four inch wide beam). Guess what they did? The two got back up on the beam and continued on. And, the team won.

So, it may not be a four inch balance beam, but we need to get off the floor and climb back on and keep going. And, for those two women I highlighted above. They were there. They made it to Japan. There is a lot to be said for that.

*Note: People remember failures like this, which is why I did not use their names. If you ask people in Boston who Bill Buckner is, some will tell you about a terrible error he made playing first base for the Boston Red Sox that cost them the 1986 World Series. But, there is far more to this story. His error was in Game Six and there was another game the next day. Plus, the winning New York Mets knew Boston’s weakness was their late game pitchers – they knew if Boston pulled their starting pitcher, they had a chance. Yet, Red Sox fans also forget that Buckner had a heckuva season and helped Boston make the World Series. Yes, he made a key error, but the team lost, not Bill Buckner.

Treasure the Eclectic – I do (let’s revisit an old post)

The world would be much less interesting without our eclectic friends. Conformity is overrated and when done in excess makes us too vanilla in our thinking. We need a little Cherry Garcia ice cream to keep things entertaining and innovative. It is not unusual that some of our most brilliant minds and artists have been willing to leave the white lines of life’s highway. As a result, we have benefitted from their eclectic thinking.

In fact, a Higher Education expert says innovation often occurs in the various intersections of different disciplines. These intersections are enablers of creative ideas and discussions. This is one reason, before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters with small rooms that would allow these accidental intersections to occur as people ventured from the restroom, breakrooms, workout rooms, etc.and bumped into each other. “Whatcha working on?” would lead to a brainstorming session.

This is one reason Malcolm Gladwell’s books (“The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink”) stayed on the best seller list so long. Gladwell said he has always looked differently from others and his parents moved some, so he felt like he was always an outsider. So, his writings seem to have an outside looking in perspective on things. In other words, he had not grown up in area, so he did not conform to the local way of doing things. He could question why do you do the things that you do. Gladwell had an eclectic bent.

Yet, I did not want this post to turn too serious, as I preferred to highlight a few eclectic stories, some real, some fiction that I treasure. They exemplify who we are as a world of imperfect humans.

– Several years ago, the Chicago River was leaking into a tunnel as a hole was accidentally punched into the bottom of the river. The story I was told was after much consternation and failure to stop the leak, a boy suggested that old mattresses be used. Guess what, they plugged the hole with a combination of cement and old mattresses.

– My father grew up in a rural town in south Georgia. He was given the chore to look after the hogs which included the naming rights. So, my dad named all the hogs after movie stars. Sophie Tucker, Mae West, etc. Of course, this became a problem later on, as he became too attached to the hogs and farm life is very basic in mission.

– Speaking of naming rights, my family has a habit of driving named cars, some we named, others which were given to us. My wife likes red cars, so she has driven Miss Ruby, Ruby Red Dress and Miss Scarlett. My cars have less fun names in the Purple Dragon (it was burgundy) and the Grey Goose. My daughter had a red car at first, which she called Percy, the name of the Scarlett Pimpernel lead character. Now, her gray car is called Dorian Gray.(note, the car does age, though). One of my best friends used to drive us around in high school in “Old Betsy” a beat up Chevrolet he inherited from his dad.

– One of my favorite Pat Conroy characters is in his novel “The Prince of Tides.” Unfortunately, the movie did not include this character, so you need to read the book to find his story. The grandfather of the main character was very religious and would demonstrate his faith every Easter by dressing up as Jesus and lugging a homemade cross around town. When he got older and the cross became too heavy, his family put the cross on roller skates, so he could complete his annual mission.

– Speaking of fictional characters, one of the most inventive series of characters were on the second Bob Newhart show. And, they never spoke. Into the Inn three brothers would walk and only one would speak. “Hi, I am Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.” Priceless. Of course, in real life, the boxer George Foreman named all his male children George. I guess he was covering his bets that his name would live on.al

– Speaking of Easter, I would try to attend midnight mass each year with my best friend who is Catholic unlike me. Each midnight mass, the priest would wish to his congregation “Happy Easter” as well, as he knew he would only see a great percentage of them again in 365 days. This Father is still with us as he presided over the funeral of another friend’s mom a couple of months ago.

– The other midnight mass ritual we would do, is afterwards, several of us high school or home from college friends would go caroling into the wee hours. Our other friends would be greeted by a knock on the door at 2 am. They would open the door to see these big guys singing horribly various Christmas carols.

– I have written before about my wife’s Aunt Mary. She died at the age of 99, living all but five weeks in her own home. Aunt Mary never replaced her false teeth once they were burned up in a fire, so the last twenty years of her life, she gummed her food after tearing it up with her hands. She did not want to bother with new ones. She also was candid with her economy of words, while her younger sister, my wife’s mother, was effusive and did not let the facts get in the way of a good story. After my mother-in-law went on about how good-looking a young man was, Aunt Mary said “all I can say is he was a poor pasture to lead your cows into.”

My wife and I treasured Aunt Mary. I treasure the eclectic. In the southern United States, we often use the word eccentric to mean someone a little different from others. A little “southern eccentricity” can be a good thing. I told my wife, I want to be that eccentric old man, as it would be too boring to be a conformist. At a bare minimum, I want to remain ecelectic. Please feel free to share your eclectic stories. I would love to read them.