A seventy-one old toaster (and marriage)

It is just a toaster, a Sunbeam T-20 model, which toasts two pieces at a time. Yet, it was purchased and given as a wedding gift in 1949. And, it still works. Two slices of toast are still needed each morning, because Frank and Gloria Witt are still married after seventy-one years.

Per the article by Nicole Brodeur of The Seattle Times called “After 71 years, marriage – and wedding gift – endures,” the 92 year-old Frank and 93 year-old Gloria, are enduring well. A picture accompanying the article reveals Frank, with his World War II Veteran ball cap, and Gloria, and her large smile, placing her head on his shoulder.

They met when Frank ventured to Tacoma after the war to attend college and went to the dentist. Gloria was the dentist’s niece and was working behind the desk. Frank said he made more appointments to find out who she was. Good dental hygiene can be a matchmaker.

Per Brodeur, “It’s not just about a toaster. It’s about marriage, and anything of value. It’s about taking care of something – or someone.” Their son Christopher adds, “‘if you treat something really well, then it will last.'”

Frank added, “‘we try to take care of everything and keep using it. We came from the Depression days. You used everything you could for as long as you could take care of it.'”

Frank said they had only purchased a refrigerator before they got married. Everything else was provided by others. They planned their purchases as well as when they wanted children, five years hence. They ended up with three Victoria (now 66), Christopher (now 62) and Margaret (now 56), but note the spacing in ages, which also looks to be the product of planning.

A vintage Sunbeam toaster like the one they have is worth about $300 today. This one is worth far more than that as a symbol. Yet, my guess is, if it goes before them, they will be practical and just go buy another one.

Shut the front door – common ground can be found

I am not sure when it happened, but “shut the front door” became a funny euphemism for a more colorful saying. I have witnessed it being offered up as an excited way to say the person cannot believe what has just been uttered. I will leave you to your own devices to substitute the more colorful metaphor.

So, with this in mind, please feel free to utter “shut the front door” on these truthful events or comments:

– Novak Djokovic, the top-seeded men’s tennis player in this year’s U.S. Open, was disqualified after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball during his match. On occasion, tennis players are prone to slam a ball with their racquet when they hit a bad shot. Djokovic hits the ball harder than almost anyone on the planet. The good news is the judge is alright and Djokovic was concerned and contrite after he did it, he apologized afterwards and spoke of his poor judgment later. Common ground after an unfortunate incident.

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American hero, especially for her groundbreaking work for women’s rights. She had a colorful and exemplary career, and her love of opera is renowned. Apparently, she and her conservative justice Antonin Scalia both loved opera, so attended performances together. Common ground can be found if we look for it. Note, it is reported she was allowed to participate in a few operas in full costume, but only in a non-singing background role.

– Joe Biden and John McCain were friends. McCain was renowned for his Senate trips to visit troops or improve relationships abroad. Given McCain’s POW status for five years, where McCain refused to be released unless others were, he was against torture and maltreatment of prisoners of war. Biden accompanied McCain on these trips, along with a few other Senators, and mutual respect and friendship blossomed. Again, common ground can be found if we look for it.

– I read Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi used to write letters to each other. During 1909-10, “Gandhi solicited permission to redistribute Tolstoy’s writings among Indians, and Tolstoy in turn was pleased that his ideas were being put into practice. This collection of letters gives the reader an insight into this meeting of two great minds,” per GoodReads. Going one step further, Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi’s civil disobedience approach. Common ground over standing up to disenfranchisement.

Shut the front door. Common ground can be found in the unlikeliest of places. I did not mention the line judge’s name, as fans of Djokovic have been less kind. Yet, unlike an infamous politician, he recognized his mistake and made up for it and told his fans to cool their jets.

The Buffalo Soldier – a good read about relationships in tough times

The recipe is simple, but tragic. Mix in a young couple living in Vermont who loses their twin daughters to a terrible flood. Season with a ten-year old African-American foster child that they take in two years later. Understand the couple grieves differently and the husband has a one night affair that produces a pregnancy. Finally, layer in a kind, retired couple across the street, one of whom is a retired history professor who introduces the boy to a book on an African-American regiment called the Buffalo Soldiers. What results is an excellent book by Chris Bohjalian called “The Buffalo Soldier.”

The book is told in first person, through the eyes of five sets of characters. Laura, the young wife, works at a pet shelter. Terry, the husband, is a Vermont state trooper. Alfred is the young boy who has moved from foster home to foster home. Phoebe is the woman who Terry becomes infatuated with and is the expectant mother of his child. And, the Heberts, Paul and Emily, are the retired couple whose view is told together. Bohjalian alternates the first person narrative by chapter which provides perspective.

Alfred becomes fascinated with the Buffalo Soldiers, especially after Paul tells him the Native Americans gave them that name as an honor. To them, the buffalo gave life – food, clothing, shelter – so they revered the animal. This becomes important when Paul and Emily get a horse and ask Alfred to help. Alfred is treated differently by others because there are not many African-Americans in this small town or his school, so the Buffalo Soldiers intrigue him and give him a connection.

The story has many relationships, but the foster family is at the heart of it. As noted therein, losing one child is trying to a family, but losing both of your only children can cause relationships to end. As noted above, people grieve differently and for long periods of time. So, while Alfred helps bring Laura out of her grief, Terry has still not stopped being mad at the world and misses how his relationship with his wife was before the death of the twins.

Each chapter begins with a little paragraph on the Buffalo Soldiers, so we see what Paul and Alfred find so compelling about them. I will stop there so as not to reveal any more of the plot. Give it a read and let me know what you think. Please avoid the comments in case others have already read it.

Eight habits of the heart – a quick review

Recently, I revisited an old post about “The Porch People.” This was a summary of the book called “Little Cliff and the Porch People” by Clifton Taulbert. One of his other books is called “Eight Habits of the Heart.” It’s subtitle adds “Embracing the values that build strong families and communities.” When I met him, he was meeting with executive groups to go over these eight habits.

Below, I will summarize these eight habits and repeat the phrase Taulbert uses on each chapter page. The book is a quick read, so please do not let this summary get in the way of picking up or downloading the book. Each chapter has questions at the end for self-reflection and the end of the book has an outline on how to pass along these habits in small learning groups.

1. Nurturing attitudeIn the community, a nurturing attitude is characterized by unselfish caring, supportiveness, and a willingness to share time.

2 and 3. Dependability and responsibilityWithin the community, dependability is being there for others through all the times of their lives, a steady influence that makes tomorrow a welcome event; and responsibility means showing and encouraging a personal commitment to each task.

4. FriendshipWithin the community, friendship is the habit that binds people together when they take pleasure in each other’s company, listen, laugh, and share good times and bad.

5. Brotherhood or sisterhoodWithin the community, brotherhood or sisterhood is the habit that reaches beyond comfortable relationships to extend a welcome to those who may be different from yourself.

6. High expectationsWithin the community, high expectations involves believing that others can be successful, telling them so, and praising their accomplishments.

7. CourageWithin the community, courage is standing up and doing the right thing, speaking out on behalf of others, and making a commitment to excellence in the face of adversity or the absence of support.

8. Hope Within the community, hope is believing in tomorrow – because you have learned to see with your heart.

Whether you agree with these eight habits, they provide a great foundation to better understand yourself and become a better community citizen. I like the inclusion of high expectations, as we look to lift each other up. A spouse, parent, grandparent, friend or mentor can inspire someone to be better than they would otherwise be, settling for a lesser plateau.

Each of these habits, if practiced and reinforced, will make our communities better. As Gandhi said, a community’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of its least fortunate. Thinking of the classic movie, “It’s a wonderful life,” do we want to live in Bedford Falls or Pottersville? Do we want to emulate George Bailey or Mr. Potter?

As you think of these habits, also consider paying forward good deeds done for you. I recall the story of someone paying for the college education for a young person in poverty. She asked how could she repay him and he said, pay it forward doing the same for someone else. And, as noted under “Nurturing attitude,” if you don’t have money, the gift of time is so very valuable.

What is not said above, is practicing these habits has a psychic income for the person so doing. Being a better person, being a better community citizen, being a friend to many, will be rewarding in and of itself.

A few more relationship funnies

Relationships will provide opportunities for humor. The ability to laugh at these situations are part of the glue to long term relationships. Here are a few funnies to try and lighten our load.

When dating my wife, I took her back to the office after lunch. As I was walking down the hall, I turned to wave goodbye and then proceeded to walk into an open door (the door, not the entrance). My wife said she almost wet her pants trying to keep from laughing.

A good friend was worried about going to a school reunion with his new wife. His nervousness showed as he introduced her…and got her name wrong. She corrected him with a smile, that would be Jeannie not Jenny.

Another friend married a woman he dated since his teen years. When you asked him when they started dating, he would answer “thirteen.” But, when you asked her, she would respond “seventeen.” The dilemma is they are the same age. Although they did divorce later, they remarried and remain such.

Another friend traveled to an internal conference and hit it off with a woman from another office at the conference. While nothing transpired there, he returned to his office smitten. He shortly received a card from a consultant who he had fussed at for not being attentive to a client deadline. The card said “You are in my thoughts, D” as his first name began with that letter. Yet, my friend thought the card came from the woman he just met thinking the D was a P for her name, Patti. He called Patti, she confided that she did not send it, but wish she had. They remained married until she passed away from cancer.

I love these stories as each of the couples have had long term marriages, even the one which had an interim hiatus. Be able to laugh at these situations and you will laugh together for a long time.

Tuesday afternoon

The Moody Blues asked us to stop and smell the roses, as life is too short. Here are the first two stanzas of their poignant song “Tuesday afternoon.”

“Tuesday afternoon
I’m just beginning to see
Now I’m on my way
It doesn’t matter to me
Chasing the clouds away

Something calls to me
The trees are drawing me near
I’ve got to find out why
Those gentle voices I hear
Explain it all with a sigh”

We seem to have many clouds gathering around us. Yes, we must see the clouds and act accordingly. No question. But, we do have lives to lead. So, be smart and still do things to enjoy our world. Walks in the park or woods will see less contamination from the dreaded C word. If you encounter other human beings – give them some space, but still meet and greet. You need not shake a hand to have a conversation.

Ring up a friend or loved one and say “Hi, I was thinking about you.” The best line from the movie “Yesterday,” about a young man who wakes up from an accident and is the only person to remember The Beatles, comes near the end. A profound older man advises the young man that life is simple, “when you find the girl you love, tell her that you love her.”

This piece of advice can be modified to fit most any relationship. Tell you mom (or dad) that you love her (him). Tell your friend that you were thinking of her or him. The Moody Blues should be remembered for more than just their wonderful orchestrations. Their words had meaning. So, start “chasing the clouds away.”

I realize fully this C word has caused illnesses and even death. I realize the social distancing has caused some to lose jobs or get furloughed. Reach out to those folks, in particular. They may need a reference, a helping hand, some groceries, some cash. But, a kind word or reach out will help as a start.

You can never have enough cups of coffee with people

Happy Valentine’s Day. To honor the day, let’s invite a friend, acquaintance, colleague or even adversary for a cup of coffee. An old friend told me once “You can never have enough cups of coffee with people.”

Note, having coffee is a metaphor for getting together. When I was working, getting a cup of coffee was a smaller investment of time and expense than lunch. As a result, it is less threatening. Having to stand in line affords the opportunity to go Dutch and take care of your own cost. And, if one buys, it is not that expensive a gesture, so no one feels beholden.

So, invest a little time to catch up or get better acquainted. I am reminded of how the city of Charlotte broke down some racial barriers after the Woolworth sit-ins and Civil Rights Act. White and Black business and religious leaders went to lunch together. This made a huge statement.

Having a cup of Joe need not be groundbreaking. But, if you are having an email, text or social media tussle with someone, invite them for a cup of coffee.

Face to face in a one to one setting will grease the skids for better dialogue. Decaf works as well.

Visiting people and places is the ticket

I wrote a few years ago about the wonderful visit we had to New England, made more enjoyable because we reconnected with some relatives. The combination of using a visit to a place to visit people can be marvelous, the caveat is to make sure it is people who you want to be around.

The past few days, my wife and I did a similar kind of visit to my home state of Florida and roots in south Georgia. Starting with my hometown of Jacksonville, we stayed with my brother and visited with his oldest daughter who is temporarily staying with him. The next night, we had dinner with his son, who we had not seen for a few years. It was wonderful to catch up. Earlier that day, we had yet another four hour lunch with my three best friends dating back to grade school, along with their wives. We did hear a few new stories, along with the old, and got to catch up.

The next day we drove to Tampa where we spent a couple of days enjoying its wonderful River Walk and a cool place called the Oxford Exchange suggested by our niece, my brother’s youngest daughter. The key to our trip was to visit with her, which was lots of fun. But, while there, we got to meet our blogging friend Gronda, who I had never met in person. She is a delight and has lived a wonderful life with various experiences, which she shared. We walked to and from the restaurant with Gronda, which was on the River Walk, as we sat outside and enjoyed the meal.

As for meeting our niece, it is lovely to meet her now as a wonderful young woman, as contrasted to the child we saw grow up. Meeting her alone in her new home city was quite fun. We had a nice brunch at the Oxford Exchange which is a rehabbed old building filled with shops and restaurants.

Finally, we ventured north and had a wonderful meal with members of my father’s family in south Georgia. I won’t mention the town, because everyone knows everyone else. There were eight of us, which included the three children (and their spouses) of a man raised with my father after his parents divorced. My dad was brought up largely by his aunt and her husband, who had two children as well. This aunt had helped raise his mother, as her biological mother was not part of the picture.

We had so much fun catching up, trading stories and filling in gaps in other stories. I hope the visits spawn reciprocal ones. It did with our New England trip. In fact, another niece we reconnected with in Maine is coming down for a few days later today.

I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are to have made these trips. I recognize this may not be newsworthy, but let me say don’t wait until it is too late to connect or reconnect.

A man called Ove – a curmudgeon worth a deeper look

The title of bestselling author Fredrik Backman’s book “A man called Ove” or the reference to the subject may not be inviting, but give this book a chance. We all have curmudgeons in our lives and sometimes we may even channel our inner curmudgeon. But, why do some people act the way they do?

People Magazine opines on Ove, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life.” I agree.

Backman introduces Ove in real time, so you will start off with a full-frontal view of a curmudgeon. But, through changes in his daily life and a series of reveals as Ove remembers the good and bad in his life, you gain a new perspective on how he has evolved to be who he is. You will learn Ove has a tough outer shell, but different layers are buried beneath.

To avoid any spoilers, let me mention what is written on the back cover to invite you to read the book. Ove’s daily routine is disrupted when chatty new neighbors with two young daughters announce they have arrived one November morning by accidentally backing their U-Haul trailer over Ove’s mailbox.

Their interactions and related others take an ice-pick to Ove’s icy outer shell. The book is an easy read, but do give Ove a chance. Your initial reaction to Ove will be like everyone else’s whom the character meets in the book. So, bring your proverbial ice pick along. And, some tissue.

Have you ever noticed?

Have you ever noticed…

– the person at the park laboring while he or she walks or runs seems to leave you in the dust?

– the volume of an arguer’s voice increases in opposite proportion to the veracity of his or her argument?

– the same opposite proportion holds true with the amount of name-calling and labeling?

– the best bread has the hardest crust and is served with the biggest knife?

– the one you should respect the most is the quiet one going about his or her business?

– there is a reason for the term false bravado, as an important corollary to the above?

– if there is a lot of lying going on to cover one’s hind end, there is a reason it is bare?

– the higher a monkey climbs in a tree, the more you can see its hind end?

– people who read seem to be more adept at writing?

– you can never have enough cups of coffee with people?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.