Full Respect

Today on Memorial Day I heard a reading of this poem for the first time. Written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, after he presided over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier during the early stages of World War I. Poppy fields were numerous near the burial ground in Belgium. McCrae died of pneumonia about 10 months before the end of the Great War.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.


Pet Peeves

For two decades, I have put in writing my ‘view of things’ – first for the magazine we sent to our franchisees when I worked in that industry, then through the e-newsletter I penned for 14 years, and lately this blog. During those 300+ missives, I’ve never listed things that get under my skin… until now. Here are 35…

> Drivers who weave in-and-out of traffic
> Gas stations that still price their product in 9/10s of a cent
> Fast food restaurants that get my order wrong
> Servers who try to grab my plate when there are still a couple of bites on it
> Weathercasters who scare people, then nothing happens
> Needing to send multiple emails to get people to reply
> Texting auto-correction
> Junk mail and junk e-mail
> Cell calls disguised to look like they come from my number
> People who look at their cell phones during meetings
> Typos in newspaper or online articles and especially in books
> Websites that let you read a few paragraphs then say you have to pay to see the rest
> Typing my customer account number into the phone then when the service rep finally comes on the line, having the first question be: ‘What’s your account number?’
> Masters who fail to pick up their dog’s doodle in my yard
> People who cough into their hands instead of their elbows
> People who don’t wipe down the workout equipment when they’re done
> Shaking hands with people who have sniffles (maybe I’m a germaphobe?)
> Those in the men’s room who leave paper towels lying on the floor and don’t wipe the sink when they’re done
> People who missed Matthew 7:5 and John 15:12
> Sermons that last longer than 10 minutes
> Big corporations that slow-pay small suppliers
> Television news programs that are one-sided – either way
> Trash pick-up service that comes at a different time each week
> Light bulbs that burn out sooner than manufacturers claim
> Having to sign a credit card receipt for a purchase under $20
> Airports that have different Security rules for keeping shoes on
> Airlines that have different rules for carry-on bags
> Oil change providers that always find something wrong with the car
> Sporting events that run over and cause our DVR to miss the delayed end of a show
> Fans who stand the entire time at football games
> Movie previews that last 20 minutes before the film starts
> People who look at their cell phone in a theater
> People who explain – loudly – what’s happening during a film or musical
> Cereal prices that stay the same while the boxes get smaller
> Politicians who don’t show conviction in their beliefs
> People who share their pet peeves


Judge Mint

Chocolate or Vanilla. F-150 or Silverado. Ginger or Mary Ann. Every day at work and at home, life is a continuous stream of choices… and each one has some degree of impact on what follows afterward.

Hit the alarm snooze button one too many times and you’re 10 minutes late for that early morning meeting. Eat smaller portions and skip that frequent glass of wine for 30 days and you drop 10 lbs. Take a different path home one evening and you discover later a serious accident occurred on your regular route that could have involved you.

Since there are so many things you can’t control – the price you pay at the pump, whether Social Security remains solvent when you reach retirement age, what happens at the end of the final episode of Game of Thrones – it makes sense to be intentional about those things you are able to influence.

Teenage daughter going to prom on Saturday night with someone you don’t know? Be at your front door to greet her date… and ask a lot of questions.

New employee starting on Monday? Make time in your schedule to spend with him over the next several weeks to ensure he’s getting everything needed to be successful.

Driving in heavy traffic? Put the cell phone away and stop surfing all around the radio dial.

So many choices. So little time. Yet, so many opportunities to impact outcomes by focusing on the most important things.

Which brings me to… chocolate, F-150 and Mary Ann.


Scope Creep

There is an accepted theorem of IT projects that what starts out as a great idea for better productivity – before the actual ‘Go Live’ moment – will ‘take twice as long, cost twice as much, and be half as effective as expected’… at least prior to the v1.1 release.

A corollary exists in home projects.

Add new hardwood flooring to the living room and that sofa and love seat just don’t seem to work like they did with your carpet. Hire the neighbor’s landscapers to mow your lawn and, by golly, come spring you’ll have them trim the shrubs, add mulch and plant some colorful flowers, too. Go to the Russian River Valley for a wonderful vacation with your spouse and you’re still getting things from the wine clubs you joined 18 months later. Oh, and you needed to buy a wine cooler to hold all those bottles.

OK, maybe that wasn’t ‘you’; it was definitely ‘us’.

The key to not having this happen is simply to increase your planned capital outlay… every time.

That way when you put in a tankless hot water heater and later find out that each year you need a service call to do something to the coils but then the first time he comes he tells you if you’ll add an external water softener then you won’t need to have him back as long as you add salt every three months to the large black container that’s visible from your street and you just know your HOA is going to make you plant a shrub in front of it because of deed restrictions and then it turns out you actually go through salt in six weeks so you make a lot of trips to Home Depot then carry two 40-pound bags from your driveway to the opposite corner of your house.

Of course, that would never happen to ‘you’… just ‘us’.


Last Chance

Part II of II

When I shared the news with a close friend that our pastor is being investigated for alleged abuse of children years ago, he said: “Your religion is shaken and your faith is shattered.”

I’m 58 and a cradle Catholic. I went to Catholic grade school and high school, kept attending mass during college, married in the church, raised our three children in this parish, served on the Stewardship Committee and Pastoral Council, and conducted retreats with the leadership team.

For years, I believed the church had resolved this issue, holding accountable both those who committed heinous acts and the bishops who moved them around to other parishes. I never expected abuse accusations to hit so close to home. Since February 1, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my faith, my beliefs and whether I will fulfill my spiritual needs elsewhere.

Following the Vatican summit, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, head of our Galveston-Houston Archdiocese and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote:

“A range of presenters from cardinals to other bishops to religious sisters to lay women spoke about a code of conduct for bishops, the need to establish specific protocols for handling accusations against bishops, user-friendly reporting mechanisms, and the essential role transparency must play in the healing process… Enhanced by what I experience here, we will prepare to advance proposals” to consider at the next USCCB meeting in June.”

Perhaps U.S. Bishops will be the impetus that forces the Vatican to scourge the church of all who participated and put in place measures to ensure this never happens again. Yet the faithful – including myself – are right to wonder if anything will change.

Shaken and shattered.