Attitude is Everything

I used to have a boss that was as fickle as a spring day in New England. You never knew what type of mood she’d be in. Each day so we could know what we could expect for the day, we department managers would take turns coming out of our gopher holes (cubicles) and say hello to the boss. If she was pleasant, we all would take a collective sigh of relief and mingle. However, if you were one the unfortunate slobs who picked the wrong day and received frostbite from her icy greeting, we became the messenger to pass the word. “Keep a low profile today.” I hated living like that.

It’s not unlike the story of a housewife that drove her husband nuts with her incessant complaining and bad attitude. One day while he was relaxing in his chair reading the newspaper, she walked into the room and commenced with her typical moaning and complaining. She said with disgust, “You won’t believe the awful day I had.”

The husband at wits end interrupted her and said sternly, “There is a new rule in this house. No complaining is allowed. Unless it’s positive and affirming, you can’t say anything at all.” The wife stunned for a moment thought quickly and said with a cheesy smile, “Then you’ll be happy to know the airbags work!”

Attitudes impact everyone. When I see ads on TV with smiling happy housewives using a new bathroom cleaning product, the only thing I want to buy are the meds they must be on. I mean how often have you seen five housewives dancing around a toilet bowl singing how clean it is? My wife only does this sort of thing when I remember to take out the garbage. There are some exceptions to the rule.

Midst the amusing and funny Facebook posts each day, I am compelled to wade through an inordinate amount of things I’d rather not see and frankly could do without. I am not blind to the sufferings of humanity, but I don’t want to see multiple posts of a dog that looks like it went through a cheese shredder. Nor do I want to see mistreated children, posts on bodily functions, nor comments that read, “If you don’t share your love for me or Jesus, you will be a cursed sloth for eternity.”

I’m setting the tone for my Facebook wall as well as all my personal relationships. Only positive attitudes apply if you want to spend time with me. Because starting today, if my friends fail me on this, I’ll be wearing a button on all my shirts that reads, “Ask me about my vow of silence.”

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The Brilliant Idea That Wasn’t Mine

As a trained conflict coach, it’s ironic that I’m conflicted all the time. I generally get this way when I go to my favorite restaurant and have to choose between salad and bread sticks or fruit and cheesecake. I am amused when fashion gurus expound on fashion with comments like, “The colors we choose daily to wear, are a glimpse into the soul and mood of the wearer.” I hate to burst their bubbles but I choose to wear green because that may be the only thing that fits. Tomorrow it may be a hefty trash bag; scented of course.

A church member, wanting to assist me on my quest for thinness, sold me an exercise bicycle. The bike is amazing as it has all the bells and whistle you could ever want. It is electronic and keeps track of your heart rate, blood pressure etc. The one drawback is I wish it had a cup holder for my McDonald shake and an overflow pan like you see around hot water heaters. It needs to keep track of the tide of sweat that runs off me so I can determine how much Gatorade I need to consume after I’m done.

The bike’s prominence on our large enclosed front porch cannot be missed. Through the sliding doors of the living room, my wife can open the curtains in the morning and stand with her hot beverage and watch me.  Like a gerbil on a wheel, I am now the central figure of my own cage; a people aquarium. “Oh look Mom,  isn’t he cute? Is that sweat or did he just participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge? Does every person who rides that thing cry like he’s doing?”

I despise all these health magazines that tout the amount of exercise one has to do to rid themselves of their sinful food indiscretions. It might say, “Eat a cream puff, and you have to peddle to Mars and back.” I beat them at their game, I just eat a Mars bar.

This week as a means to foster a healthier and cozier environment, my wife had me purchase and assemble new porch furniture. Our porch is split and has a higher and lower level. Now my wife can be more comfortable at her higher vantage while she watches me exercise and torture myself. My youngest son made the suggestion that I move our little freezer off the upper porch area and place it down next to the exercise bike on the lower level. He surmised it would be out of the way and would make the furniture setting a little classier without the unsightly white freezer in the picture.

His mother agreed and together we hefted it down and plugged it in.  You know, he’s absolutely right, it does look better next to my exercise bike.  In fact, since we moved the freezer, I am using my bike three times a day. My son was a genius! I can now peddle and eat ice cream sandwiches without ever getting up.

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The Accidental Break

Isn’t it amazing the power of senses? I have satellite radio in my automobile and I frequently listen to the songs of my youth. I hear a particular song and immediately I’m transported back in time to my high school years. Varying titles bring back to remembrance of girlfriends, cars, and events of the past.

I was privileged to attend high school in the smallest town in Massachusetts. I attended a boarding school there named Pioneer Valley Academy. It still exists, but it is now a training facility for state patrol officers. Yet for four years, with the exception of summers, it was my home in the late 1970’s.

Being a private Christian school, we didn’t do all the things other schools would do. We eschewed dances and proms,  instead we had joint recreation in the gymnasium and a plethora of banquets. As a student you either chose to accept this scaled down lifestyle, or you rebelled; I chose the former.

Each month, the classes of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, had their own class parties. They tended to be held at the faculty home that served as class sponsor. Everyone wanted to be at the senior parties, not because they were any more spectacular in comparison, but the school principal’s wife was an amazing cook.

Our class of thirty-six seniors gathered one beautiful May day for the last party we’d ever have together as a class. There was mixed emotions and nostalgic conversation as we gathered on the lawn of our sponsor. As we kidded around with each other, one ‘bright’ class officer made a silly suggestion. “Why not play as our last game together, Red Rover?” Those not familiar with this childhood game, must understand, it’s best played with four year olds.

The game consists of two lines approximately thirty feet apart with all the participants holding hands. It is then that one person alternately between teams yells the name of a player with this call, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Danny on over.” It is then the designated person runs full tilt toward your line and hopes to break through. If he succeeds, one person in the line must switch sides. The calls volley back and forth until one line dominates with the most players.

Typically with preschool children, it is hilarious to watch. When the call is made, a little child barrels into the other line and they all fall like pins at a bowling alley. It’s always better when no one gets hurt except for a little pride. But play with competitive teens with testosterone to spare, and it is downright idiotic.

As I held the sweetest hand of my friend Ginny, we heard someone from our line calling our class president over. He was a determined, I could see it in his eyes. However he woefully underestimated our resolve. As he steam rolled our way, I knew he was gunning specifically towards us. Gripping my hand tightly, Ginny turned to me and with an heir of feistyness stated, ‘If you have to break my arm, don’t let him through.”

As he zeroed in on us like a laser, he went right for our locked hands. As quickly as it started, it was over, he was stopped dead in his tracks. Dangling bent over our arms like a hunter’s trophy, we were triumphant, we had stopped his incursion. However as I let go of Ginny’s hand to congratulate her, she screamed and grabbed her wrist.

Surrounded by her girlfriends and taken by car to the emergency room, the game was now unceremoniously over and done. I had spoiled the day’s party. It was late afternoon when Ginny came looking for me sporting a white cast. The very first words out of her mouth was, “When I told you to break my arm, I was only kidding.”

As I reminisced over my childhood memory, I think Ginny forgave me. Yeah, I know she hasn’t spoken to me in over 35 years, but she has to have forgiven me right? On second thought, I think I’ll start switching my satellite radio to more gospel stations. At least I know One person who freely forgives. That is one memory I never want to forget.

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What My Son Has Become

The puffy white clouds on my descent into Memphis reassured me that I was finally slowing down. I had been on the road for twelve days. My journey had taken me to Denver, Cheyenne, Nashville, Daytona Beach, and now Memphis. As I recounted the past week and a half, I suddenly realized that I had not properly pondered the week’s events. I had conducted a weekend seminar series on how to minimize conflict, then promptly had the most chaotic and conflicted week I’d had in years.

My wife and I took a couple days respite with close friends after the seminars were over then flew from Denver back to Nashville. Once we arrived back in Tennessee with the help of another set of dear friends, we immediately began the process of cooking for our youngest son’s wedding reception. Add to this chore; securing a moving truck, loading up our son and fiance’s furniture, marrying them, cleaning up from the reception that had over 120 persons in attendance, returning family to the airport, then promptly driving to Daytona Beach, Florida to unload the moving truck and flying home all in five days. I can assume from all the books I’ve read on parenting, these tasks would have been in the 31st printing of said book. Of course our hectic duties would have no doubt been written as an addendum.

Isn’t it amazing what we do for our children sometimes? As the miles went by, I rarely listened to the radio. I was lost in thought on how fast time had gotten by me. My youngest child, the one that would forever be a little boy to me, and be known as my “little buddy” had gotten married. Gone were the skinned knees and chubby scraped little arms he was known for as a child. The little boy had suddenly transformed before my eyes into a rugged and handsome man. Despite the adversity of him blending a job, wedding preparations, and moving, all with short notice, he had made me proud with his resolve.

Now standing in his new living room, the moving truck now empty, I had a catch in my throat. I was about to leave him. But this time it was different; he was not alone. My son was now in the care of a vivacious and beautiful young wife who clung to him just like a newlywed should. Now when he needed someone to watch his back, I’d have to share that duty with someone else who filled a void I never could. Before I left, I offered them both one piece of advice. Always talk to each other with loving kindness and respect and only yell at each other if the house is on fire. “If you do this”, I said, “you will be happy into forever.”

I’m home now and I think about them every day. I imagine them putting their little home together, laughing at their new found freedom, and praying for them daily through any hardships they might encounter. I spent 23 years training my son to be a compassionate Christian husband. By observing the way he talks to her and adores her, my heart has peace, he was listening.

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