Shifting Time

The month of July is typically hot and humid in Houston. Did I mention humid? Not so much this summer of 2012. From June 26 to July 17, the rain gauge at our house collected water on 17 different days including a 72-hour period when more than 15 inches fell. That particular deluge led to severe flooding within a couple miles.

Whether the cause is climate change, global warming or simply one of those years when the clouds randomly decided to take dead aim on our community, one thing is certain: this was unlike any of the other 14 summers we’ve spent in southeast Texas. Instead of loading up with mosquito spray and mowing our yard late in the evening to avoid the dangerous heat, we watched the grass grow higher and higher… waiting for the lawn to dry out long enough to cut.

Sometimes change is dramatic, as when the skies pour down water. Sometimes it’s subtle, as when you look in the mirror and think, ‘I haven’t seen those gray hairs before.’ When there’s a tax increase – or tax cut – you tend to see the difference immediately in your take-home pay. When your mobile phone – or satellite/cable – bill creeps up a few pennies here and there, you might not even notice the difference for months.

One of my clients heard Tom Brokaw speak last month. “You know the news right away,” he quoted the former NBC News anchor as saying. “That’s no longer our job. We’re here now to help you interpret what the news means to you.” That’s a big shift from when I started working in a TV newsroom 31 summers ago, and viewers tuned in at 5, 6 and 10 to discover what had happened while they were at work. CNN started the monumental shift with 24/7 information access. The Internet gave you control at the click of a mouse. Twitter transmits instantaneous headlines in 140 characters or less.

Who knows what will happen next. Perhaps Google Maps, which currently utilizes static pictures, will have live cameras… that you control from your fold-up tablet. The important thing, of course, is to be open to ‘new’ and adapt your personal approach and business systems to whatever next appears on the horizon. Otherwise, you risk getting swept away by the fast-moving current of progress.


Green Thumb

One of the things I take a lot of pride in is the appearance of our yard. While the one-eighth acre lot is not exactly a botanical garden, it means a lot to me that it’s always green and clean. While my 16-year-old son and I do the mowing and pruning, we turn over chemical applications to a pro. That’s why I think we have one of the nicest lawns in our neighborhood. Or at least we did for a dozen years.

Last September I noticed a small corner of our front yard was browning in a two-foot wide area. Within a week, it had spread wider, so we called ‘Fertilizer Man.’ (After all these years we still don’t know his name. He just shows up unannounced, does his thing and leaves a preprinted invoice. Then we send a check to his office.) He applied a special treatment to the St. Augustine and said we should be fine with new growth in the spring.

Unfortunately, when the grass turned green six weeks ago, the now 10-foot triangular patch failed to arrive as planned. Add the worst drought in these parts in decades and my pride and joy is looking poor and neglected.

Yesterday, FM returned for his quarterly application. I went out to ask for advice, and the first thing he said was, “I am embarrassed and confused about this. I apologize for not knowing what to do. It has me completely baffled.” He suggested we rake the area clean, replant two trays of plugs, add Leaf Mold Compost – ‘the most magical dirt you’ll ever find’ – and nurture the lawn back to health.

It was great to experience a person who takes so much pride in his work that he apologized and felt the need to admit his lack of understanding. Here’s a guy who spends every day in the hot Texas sun fertilizing yards for people he neither knows nor sees, and yet he treats each lawn as an artist views his canvas. Those are attributes to which every professional should aspire.