New Shoes in the Rain

Monday, May 21, 2018

The darndest things

Happy Monday, friends.  If ever there was an oxymoron, that's it!

Recently I've been thinking about some of the funny and surprisingly profound things that one or another of my grandchildren has said to me over the years.  There's a lot there, and I've always said that I should "write this down."  So this will have to do.  These are in no particular order, by the way. Bear in mind I have five grandchildren, but the fifth is only five and a half months old!

I took granddaughter #1 (along with her dad) to the movies once, to see "Toy Story 3."  If you're familiar with these movies you know that the ending is very emotional, even for grown-ups.  Toward the end I leaned over and squeezed my granddaughter and told her "don't grow up, sweetie!"  She turned, looked right into my eyes and said, "But I have to, Poppy.  I have to."  That was several years ago, and she's now twelve, soon to be 13.

Recently she texted her mother from school aftercare begging to be picked up early that day.  "What's wrong?" her mother replied.  "I just can't deal."  Oh, boy!  I text occasionally with this one, too, which I'm sure alternately delights and frustrates her.

Her younger brother, grandson #1, recently was credited by our daughter with this commentary about school:  "It's like a prison.  You have to do what they tell you and go where they tell you."  He's eight and is not all that talkative, at least not around us.  This guy sleeps in his clothes, so he's ready for action from the time he awakes.  He may be onto something.

Grandson #2 celebrates his seventh birthday this week, and he's a real comedian.  From the time he could speak, he would gesture broadly, waving his arms, when trying to tell anyone anything, as if to say "you have to listen to me!"  We have him on video at an early age dancing up a storm to the Kook and the Gang classic "Jungle Boogie," right down to the "oohs" and "aahs" in the song.

What I love about this guy is telling him a story, that we both know is completely made up, and having him react with "you did?' or "it was?"  Important to find a good straight man.

I've been telling him since he could remember that I am Batman.  My evidence is that you never see me and Batman in the same place.  As he's gotten older, he simply won't have it.

I've recently been picking him and his sister, granddaughter #2, up at school occasionally.  Once the shock of Poppy picking up at school wore off, the two of them proceeded to reduce me to uncontrollable laughter on the drive to their house or ours.  They sing made-up songs, with no apparent practice, plus they play along with my bad jokes.  There's a line in a song by Talking Heads, "Found a Job," where, in the chorus, the song goes "Judy's in the bathroom" and I coopted that as "Judy" is somewhat similar to this granddaughter's name.  This turned into a running commentary about what she or her brother are doing, set to the same tune.  Harder than you'd think, but, amazingly, both kids join right in.

My wife is out of town right now, looking after her mother.  This gives my brother-in-law and his wife a break, as my MIL lives with them in a basement apartment in their home.  My wife was explaining to the kids that she would be gone and when told why, grandson #1 replied, sincerely, "Is she sick?"  He's met my MIL twice, but was that concerned about her well-being.  When told that, no, she's not sick, she just needs help with things sometimes, he exhibited relief that no one was having a problem.  Sweet little guy.

Granddaughter #2 is similarly sensitive, despite her well-developed sense of humor.  My wife misplaced something of hers not long ago and they found it, but my wife apologized to her.  The response?  "That's OK, Gram, it wasn't your fault."

We had the two older grandkids at the house not long ago for some afterschool fun and dinner and I mentioned spontaneously that I hated something (it was a dish we were having) and granddaughter #2 politely explained to me that "you shouldn't ever say you hate anything."  She's right, of course.

This same granddaughter loves my pancakes.  Particularly with chocolate chips.  Every time we have them for a sleepover, I start the same patter about, hmm, what should we have for breakfast tomorrow, etc.  Invariably, I suggest pancakes with carrots, or waffles with lettuce or somesuch.  I am ALWAYS corrected.

The very best stuff with these two that live nearby was when their mom was expecting their baby sister.  Before we knew the gender, I told them that I had wonderful name suggestions.  If it's a girl, I said, she should be named Esmerelda, and it it's a boy, he should be called Farquahr.  They loved that.  Then when the baby's gender was determined, I kept on with the comments about Baby Esmerelda.  Granddaughter #2 would always scold me with a stern face, proclaiming, "No!  [Baby's actual name]!"

Writing this post proves to me that if I took a few hours, I'd think of more gems, but, like taking pictures of every little thing that they experience, the recording of each special moment takes away from the experience.  And I kind of like being in the moment, particularly since each one is so special.




Thursday, May 17, 2018

What's left unsaid

Good Thursday to everyone.  Returned home from a business trip last night to find that it was warmer here than in Atlanta, where I was for two-plus days.

Do you ever think, as I do, about what you would say to people if you encountered them in the right circumstances?  And I don't necessarily mean people that we already know, but, rather, strangers that we've had some sort of interaction with.

For instance, I got off my homebound flight last night tired from the day's activities and the cramped conditions of a completely full flight.  When I returned to my car in the parking garage, I immediately saw that a car had parked less than six inches from my driver's side door.  So, tired as I was, I had to enter my car from the PASSENGER side, climb over the center console and finally put myself into the driver's seat.

What would I say to the offending driver?  Here are some of the things that flashed through my mind:

"Are you blind?"
"Could you not see that there was no way for anyone to get into their car with so little space there?"
"Were you in such a hurry that you actually parked in two spaces?"
"I can't believe you drive such a nice car so carelessly."
"How would you feel if someone did this to you?"

Of course, I said none of those things to anyone but myself, and probably wouldn't have said more had the other car's driver been present.  Honest mistakes are one thing, of course, but that kind of blatant disregard for others really gets under my skin.

On the flip side, as we were about to depart Atlanta, the flight attendants announced that the boarding door had closed and that we were ready for departure.  A young woman sitting directly across from me asked the nearest attendant if she could quickly retrieve something from her bag in the overhead, the overhead that was over MY head!  She smiled, apologized and said she would be careful, got her bag down, retrieved what she needed, replaced it, apologized again, and smiled again.

What would I want to say to her?  Well, "thank you" was what I actually did say, and when we landed, I happened to stand up in the aisle before she did, so I offered to get her bag down for her.  I wish you had seen the smile on her face.  Apparently she doesn't know too many gentlemen.

Here's one more, and this is again from my trip.  The work group with whom I was in meetings went out for an Atlanta Braves baseball game.  There was substantial confusion over where we would have dinner, because the organizers assumed they had purchased tickets that included access to a restaurant, and later found that they did not.  So we wound up in a sports bar inside the stadium, overlooking the right field wall.  We eventually got standing tables and all of us ordered food and drink.  The woman who was our primary server was very patient, as it was extremely crowded AND noisy in that environment.

In any case, I noted several of my coworkers complaining to this server about the length of time it was taking to receive their orders, accuracy issues, etc.  This woman never failed to help anyone and did it with a smile on her face.

When it came time for us to leave, I saw her settling the bill with my boss, and she passed me and wished me a nice evening.  I stopped her and thanked her for being so patient and courteous to our group.  She was genuinely surprised, thanked me, and asked me where I was from.  We exchanged a few more pleasantries and went our separate ways.

It wasn't hard.  It didn't take long.  But sometimes you should say something.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Interior yardage

Good Monday morning, my friends.  Hope you were able to celebrate yesterday with the moms in your life!

My wife and I spent a fair amount of time getting our yard in shape yesterday.  Last fall we determined that we needed a bit of a makeover in our back yard, since some of the plants we had put into our planting beds over the past few years were either overgrown or unhealthy.  So at that time and into the early winter I went about clearing out some of the old stuff.  Pulled an azalea plant that had never flourished (I'll come back to the subject of azaleas shortly), yanked a sickly holly bush from the ground with one hand, and chopped eight juniper bushes down to ground level, planning to remove them when we had a plan for replacement.

Fast forward to two months ago, and we examined the remaining three azaleas, which were originally quite pretty adjacent to our living room window that looks out onto the back yard.  They were also a bit spotty.  Sadly, they also came out of the ground without a fight, so they and our very clay-like soil never really got along, despite all of the additives and mulch I included when planting them.

We'd made a couple of trips to garden centers simply to get ideas, but in the meantime discovered that the ivy we used as ground cover on parts of the sides of our house was also looking a little peaked.  So I cut all of that out and was left with some twigs and such.  We decided to leave the roots intact in the event it decides to come back, which it has done before.

So, anyway, Saturday was youth sports day, as our grandson had a t-ball game mid-morning, and our granddaughter played two soccer games in the afternoon.  And it was warm, but breezy.  So we both were feeling the heat, so to speak.

Over a postgame sandwich we agreed we'd go to one of the home improvement stores to scout for new plants for, well, all of the spaces I mentioned.  Went to two different locations, and that night developed a plan.

Yesterday morning I went back to store #2 and bought what we'd agreed upon.  I won't go into detail, but we're allowing a little more space between some of the plants and decided to go a little simpler (our previous plan with the junipers, for example, allowed space initially, but they thrived to the point  that we inadvertently created a hedge, which was not what we wanted) this time around.

So I started this process after I got everything home, planted three of the items in question without incident, but then had to start prying up the roots of our eight juniper plants.  Three gave quite a struggle, but all eventually gave in to me and my trusty mattock (think pickaxe--if you ever have to dig up plants yourself I highly recommend it).  That allowed us to plant two more things on the front of our main planting bed, and we'll likely add one or two plants to that later.

This morning I went out early and planted the rest, spread more mulch (we buy the rubberized stuff for durability, as it's pretty expensive to replace shredded cypress mulch every year) and watered all of our new stuff.  And our timing is excellent, as we're due to get several days of rain starting tomorrow.

Full disclosure--I have no particular skills in gardening and such, and am not really that fond of it.  But my wife is.  So I do it for her, because it makes her happy.  And I do gain a certain amount of satisfaction from my efforts.

So I'm still pretty sore but it's better than it was yesterday.

Have a good week.




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Honestly

Good morning, friends.  Hard to believe that we're into May 2018.  Won't be long before we're at the Memorial Day weekend!

This morning I want to touch on an important subject--honesty.  Do we do a good enough job of expecting it from ourselves?  From each other?  Do we assume that people are generally honest, or the exact opposite?

As with so many things, I've always felt that things like this start at the top.  Many times throughout my working life I've been associated with a company that announced it was either buying another entity or was being bought by one.  And in almost every case, the powers that be preach the oldest lie around:  it's "business as usual," so make sure that our customers know that.

It's that until it isn't.  As I write this I've mentally counted backwards and have come up with probably ten examples where this happened.  Me losing my job almost always followed this pronouncement, whether immediately or over a prolonged period.

I still don't want to discuss specific employers or positions, but my current company surprised me by being completely transparent in a change of ownership last year, moving from one venture capital parent organization to another.  That's a complete rarity in my view.

And "the top" in a different but probably more important instance is in our government.  The current occupant of the White House has, shall we say, a casual relationship with the truth.  It's been reported that he has made false or grossly exaggerated statements over 3,000 times since taking the oath of his office last January.  And that doesn't even account for the opinions and other stretches of the truth that have taken place.

Based on past history it appears to be a way of life for this man.  Unfortunately, though, it seems that others surrounding him are pulled into the same pattern, willingly or otherwise.  And this extends to members of Congress from the same political party.  If you've been keeping up you know that there was a flap regarding the chaplain for the House of Representatives recently, in which the outgoing Speaker of the House demanded and got the chaplain's resignation, only to have that chaplain rescind it a few days later.  Good for him, I say.

And just last night, the Attorney General of the State of New York was accused of some horrific behavior toward several women with whom he was in personal relationships over a period of years.  This came out in an article in the "New Yorker" magazine, a piece I have not read.  The AG promptly denied the content of the story.  The Governor then called for the AG's resignation, and the AG resigned a short time later.

I don't know exactly who was the more honest, but most likely it was his accusers more than he.

I'll leave this with a comment about a movie that came out several years ago, "The Invention of Lying."  Cowritten, co-directed by and starring caustic British comedian Ricky Gervais, the movie postulates that our human society had never discovered how to tell lies--until he did--and how this changed the fabric of society.  I won't give away any specific plot points but it is an interesting line of thinking--what if we never learned how to be dishonest?  It's funny with a very pointed message.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hard to believe

Good morning, friends.  Looks like the rainy season may be over, at least for now, here in central Kentucky, although Friday looks to be a washout.

We're experiencing some milestones in our family lately.  In addition to welcoming our fifth grandchild last December, we now have two grandkids who will receive their first Holy Communion this spring.  One had her ceremony here in Lexington on Sunday, and the other will do so in the Denver area in early June.  Our younger grandson will turn 7 in just a few weeks.

I just can't believe it.

But, then again, I found it hard to believe when our FIRST grandchild arrived, and she'll be 13 in late July!

I remember my parents (particularly my mother) saying that "when you get older, you'll be amazed how quickly time passes."  Isn't that the truth?

And I think we have to have some life experience to appreciate that.  At least I did.  For instance, I read that actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  Congratulations to the happy couple, but you still have catching up to do, as my wife and I will celebrate 32 years of matrimony come July 4.

In so many ways, it seems like a very short time ago that we met, but yet we've experienced so much together since then that, if one lays all of those experiences end to end, it's been quite a full life together.

At least I think so.

I try not to think in terms of the 'old days'  and such, but once in a while I catch myself thinking about a song or a movie and realize how long ago it was that it was released.  My ongoing listening to the Beatles channel on satellite radio is proof of that, of course.  How often would I consider that "A Hard Day's Night" was released when I was but four years old?

Sports is that way, too, as I'll talk about 'the kid who plays shortstop for the Reds,' and, to me, he (Jose Peraza) IS a kid, as he just turned 24!  And in the midst of complaining about something that happened to the Kentucky basketball team, I catch myself and remember that 'they're just kids."  They are.

Just something I was thinking about this week.  Have a good one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Consumer affairs

Good Wednesday morning, friends.  The rainy season continues here in central Kentucky.  Still.

Today's diatribe addresses a variety of topics, loosely related in that they are all related to consumer goods or activities.  The idea for this post came from a business function I attended last week.  At that event I wound up sitting with a couple of people I knew pretty well and others I didn't, but we turned somehow to the subject of restaurants in our home area that have either closed recently or appear to be on the verge of doing so.

The conversation started with someone commenting that "they're finally getting started building that Chick-Fil-A that replaced that old Applebee's."  Therein is one of the issues---that some food chains are going great guns, while others have fallen on hard times.  Applebee's locations have been closing in significant numbers in our area, and while that is rather meaningless to me (never was a fan), this changes the dining landscape for many.  Folks in the Lexington area are creatures of habit to a certain degree, which would explain the ongoing popularity of chains like Olive Garden and Red Lobster, but does not speak to how people swarm to newer spots as they open in prominent locations.  The category that is being left behind is the broad-menu casual dining chain, like Logan's (the original location here in Lexington closed a few months ago), T.G.I. Friday's, O'Charley's and the afore-mentioned Applebee's.

I was in Louisville for business last week and had agreed to meet some contacts for lunch.  They suggested Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe.  I agreed, as I hadn't been.  And was immediately sorry, as I didn't care much for their food.  Ironic that the franchisor who once owned so many Applebee's locations successfully sold a lot of those restaurants and now owns the regional rights to Taziki's.  Good luck to them, as selling Greek and Mediterranean food in a meat-and-potatoes region like central Kentucky will be challenging.

On the other hand, there's a regional chain called Vinaigrette that seems to be growing like crazy.  Started in the downtown area, which was smart because of the high density of office workers who can come there on foot.  Their primary menu features a variety of salads and soups which are very good, and now they appear to be expanding into wraps and bowls.  There are now four locations in Lexington and one in Louisville, and all appear to be thriving.  One of these is pretty close to our house, and, as a result, my wife has now jumped aboard the bandwagon, getting carry-out from there several times for herself and for the two of us.  And it's good.

There are a couple of other regional chains that we'll start seeing here in Lexington in a few months.  Skyline Chili and LaRosa's Pizza, both stalwarts of the Cincinnati dining scene, are going to open adjoining locations here in Lexington in the near future.  Hooray!

I read a piece online that addressed how food delivery services like Grubhub (with their very funny commercials) are changing the dining landscape, turning every restaurant, theoretically, into a pizza delivery chain.  There are certainly times when carryout from Restaurant X sounds really good, but we haven't gone in that direction.  Yet.

Slightly different subject, but I read something else that spoke of Coca-Cola's sales having surged in the past quarter.  This occurred largely on the strength of a) repositioning Diet Coke by adding a couple of new flavors and selling the product in skinny cans, and b) reformulating Coke Zero into Coke Zero Sugar.  The latter change was something I was against, but I have to say that the new version is very good (if you like that sort of thing) and my taste buds have adapted.  But along with that, I would also say that I drink more water than I used to.

The funny thing is that less than six months ago I read that Coca-Cola was on the ropes, that people were drinking less soda and therefore they were in danger of some hard times.  Guess not.

Finally, we have something that's unique to central Kentucky called Ale-8-1.  It's a ginger flavored soda that is HEAVILY caffeinated and a popular choice among many in this area, particularly those who work long hours in outdoor jobs like construction and landscaping.  In recent years they've diversified into a diet and caffeine-free varieties, and now have introduced a cherry flavored soda.  And instead of asking relatives to ship this stuff (which is sold not only in cans but also RETURNABLE bottles) to them in distant locations, the Ale-8-1 folks will now sell you some online.

I've never been a big fan of their products, but I have to admit that it's been a long time.  Perhaps the next time I stop into a convenience store....


Friday, April 13, 2018

Enough

This is not designed to be an update or rebuttal to January's "State of the Union" address.

But the flurry of news items, information, accusations and leaks to the media make it almost impossible to read or watch news for any length of time without being exposed to the all-consuming subject of the Trump Administration and the campaign that preceded it.

It's not enough that an investigation about the Trump campaign and potential association with Russians (and other bad actors) who wished to influence the outcome of the 2016 election began BEFORE THIS PRESIDENT EVEN TOOK OFFICE....

It's not enough that, in addition to somewhere around twenty women who accused this man of sexual misconduct of varying types prior to the election, we have since learned of at least two women who were paid to maintain their silence....

It's not enough that this president appointed two avowed opponents of protecting our environment and natural resources are currently in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior....

It's not enough that the White House and Cabinet are staffed with people who can't satisfy their petulant boss despite their best intentions to serve their country, or are there to enrich themselves with first-class travel and excesses of office....

It's not enough that a tweeted accusation against someone who injured the President in some way turns into an actual executive order, as the Administration's order of a review of the U.S. Postal Service and its contracts (not named but specifically aimed at Amazon.com, a favorite target of the President's in recent days)....

It's not enough to tweet about pending missile strikes and other military action WITHOUT CONSULTING THE LEADERS OF OUR MILITARY OR OUR ALLIES....

It's not enough to not only parrot what's said on Fox News but also to tweet promotional announcements about upcoming programming on that channel....

No.

We have a President who seems to think it's permissible to decry actions taken by the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys in the course of ongoing investigations of wrongdoing on many fronts.  And that it may be permissible to fire those responsible for green-lighting specific acts designed to seize compromising and potentially incriminating materials.  And that it's acceptable to say that these actions are "an attack on our country," when they're simply an affront to him and those closest to him.

We have enough sustained threat of the firing of more key people involved in these investigations that members of Congress are rapidly assembling bipartisan legislation designed to prevent the President from firing the Special Counsel who's charged with investigating all of this.

We have civil litigation pending against the President of the United States regarding alleged past sexual affairs and his efforts to ensure that these affairs would stay private.

The Speaker of the House announced a couple of days ago that he plans to retire from public service later in the year.  If you're constitutionally aware, you already know that the Speaker is third in the line of succession to the Presidency.  So perhaps that's his way of expressing that he does not want to be in that line of succession.

The FBI Director whom the President fired about a year ago is about to release a memoir in which he states that the President conducted himself much like a Mafia boss, as this former Director prosecuted many mob figures in his career in the Justice Department.

Finally, we have a President who, despite claiming for months that he was eager for the chance to meet with and be interviewed by the Special Counsel, will now not do so, as the negotiations regarding the timing and conditions of such an interview have broken down, according to media accounts.  Correspondingly, it was also leaked that the Special Counsel is prepared to move forward on completing a report that outlines four distinct areas in which the President would be accused of obstruction of justice.

All of that barely scratches the surface of what we're facing as a country.  Our democracy has a gift for self-correcting to a great extent, and it appears that there will be a "blue wave" in this year's mid-term elections that will shift the balance of power in Washington to some degree.

What happens between now and then will define where we go from here.