Happy Father’s Day! 7 Life Lessons Learned from My Father

  1. Whatever you do, do it 100%. – My father taught me to water ski when I was 7 years old. I remember the little red skis with the white string to keep them together. It was not long before I was popping out of the water and criss-crossing back and forth across the wakes. My dad would sit me on the edge of the boat, put my skis on and pick up my little body and toss me in the water unceremoniously. I’d fly through the air, hit the water, the skis would threaten to drag me down and drown me, so I had no other recourse but to start doggy paddling like hell in a frenzy of fear and determination. Just matter of fact like that and then he’d walk away without looking back. It was always a sink or swim moment and I learned from an early age to keep my head above water, to hustle hard, and it is the most valuable skill I learned for adult life in the rat race. Fathers are good about that. Mothers will hover over you and helicopter you out of love. But Fathers will throw you in and feign to walk away, knowing that is the best thing for you and it is also an equal love, just a different kind, perhaps a better kind in the long run.
  2. Hold on no matter what. – Another water skiing lesson. After a few rounds about the lake going at an easy pace, we’d generally pick up speed or go over rougher waves or even go in tight circles. My forearms would get really sore but I got a reputation for hanging on. I wasn’t the kind of kid that could get thrown easily and I never went down without a stubborn fight or total wipe out with water going up my nose. I learned that life would be like a Tetris game or maybe Lucille Ball working in the Chocolate Factory with the conveyor belt speeding up and she’s stuffing chocolates in her bra to keep going with the supervisor yelling in the background to move faster. I learned from lesson #2 that you had to work hard and stubbornly maintain your work and speed because eventually, things are bound to get rougher and harder down the road. Show up to work most every day. Be present. Clear your desk as much as you can. Don’t get behind. Work earlier or later if needed so your “tetris pieces” or piles of paper don’t start stacking higher and higher. Whatever you do in life, do it with intensity. Even if things get faster and more out of hand just go with the flow and ride the waves as long as you can. If you succeed, succeed immensely. If you fail, fail brutally and embarassingly. The kind of wipeout that makes everyone laugh and ask if you’re ok and becomes a great story in hindsight. But just know, either way, there is no room for regret that you didn’t try hard enough. Avoid being lukewarm.
  3. Being strategic is far wiser than being charismatic. – Strategy will get you a long ways but it requires some important elements, listening and learning to move in silence. You must be willing to sacrifice ego to attain greater goods of security and persistence. “We spend our first 2 years learning to talk and all the rest of our lives, learning to be silent.” – Aristotle. My father was a vice president at a university for 30 some years. He managed the money. He was a strong, silent type that came in to work daily, did his accounting, and then went home to his wife and kids and his gardens. Many times, he would listen and give wise counsel but he never really stepped up to be the charismatic designated leader of the organization although he was the influence behind it. Presidents came and went and he stayed on through the years. Being the bureaucratic leader is a far more sustainable and advantageous position within government and where the real power lies, the power to raise up presidents and the power to undermine their authority if necessary to maintain the rule of law. If you don’t believe me, look at the Executive Branch.
  4. The best way to get along in the work place is to be quiet. – Adopt an attitude of calmness and others will feel that. “Aggressive people are a vexation of the spirit.” – The Desiderata. Think like a flight attendant and remain calm under most all circumstances. The more drama and gossip you involve in, the worse the work environment becomes for all members. Punch in. Do your work. Go home. When you get home, don’t discuss work. Keep home life and work life two separate spheres in order to maintain the peace, calm, and happiness of your home. I struggle very hard with this one personally as I often want to confide my work problems with my husband but as I get older, I learn that it really does him no good and instantly turns his attitude sour and pessimistic. If you love your family, do not burden them. If you gotta sit out in the car in the driveway a few more minutes and relax a bit or maybe hit the gym to release pent-up frustration, try to do so. My father used to go to work, come home and have dinner every night at the head of the table with us and then disappear for a few hours to watch television in his room. I get it now. Television has a way of mellowing a person out and instantly improving their mood. It is easy, effortless, and sometimes entertaining. As I get older, I realize that one must strike a careful balance between play and work every day. If you grind 8 hours and drive 2 hours and then cook dinner and clean dinner and do laundry until 8 or 9…….you are just burning yourself out internally. You need down time to maintain a positive mood which is the number one determinant of future success. Work smarter, not harder. You can get more done in the workplace with others with the right personality and attitude. What is that line, you can catch more with honey….something like that.
  5. Manage by walking around. – If you really want to know what is going on at the front line level in your organization, you must leave your office and be seen. Get out on the factory floor everyday and make yourself accessible to others. When I took classes at the university, I would often see my dad do this. He’d be examining the flower beds or talking to a custodian or I’d see him maybe talking to a faculty member here or there. He was observing what people needed help with and he’d go back to his office and work on those little things for them. The little things eventually become the big things if not attended to. During his tenure, the university campus was the most beautiful I had seen with carefully manicured and attended to lawns and the university was constantly in the process of building and acquiring donated funds from community contributors to expand in technology and engineering and the arts. “Pumping the flesh” as they call it, or shaking hands on all levels, is a very important part of managing. Like Zig Ziglar says in regards to sales, when you meet someone for the first time, learn what they are in need of and help them to fulfill that need and you will develop a life-long client.
  6. Leadership is not about you, it’s about being of service to others. – Go to work with the frame of mind that you are providing customer service to everyone that enters your office. What can you do to help them today? When you answer the phone, ask them how you can help them. Build networks through being of service to others and in turn, when you need help, they will be of service to you. Humble yourself and you will connect better with others.
  7. The best leaders are the ones who don’t want the job but take it because it needs to be done. – They see a vacuum and they fill it because they are responsible, not because they want the attention or the power.

What are the best lessons you learned from your father? You can share them here if you want to. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!

Choose Faith or Choose Fear

It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.

The storm is coming.

I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?

What if…What if…What if…

2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.

Or…..

choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.

Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.

I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.

It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.

Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.

We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.

Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…

Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.

We’ll get out of this.

The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.

It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.

I choose to write.

Events of 2021

Here is a quick rundown of major events that happened in 2021:

* January 6th mob in Washington DC.

* Biden inauguration on January 20th.

* Vaccines approved for use in January/February.

* 1.9 trillion dollar economic plan started in March 2021.

* US rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and WHO.

* US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

* Juneteenth became a federal holiday.

* 20th anniversary of 9-11.

* Summer Olympics held in Tokyo.

* Meghan and Harry left royal life.

* Broadway theaters in NYC opened back up.

* The Buccaneers beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl. 7th Super Bowl ring for Tom Brady.

* There were mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder.

* A condominium collapsed in Florida.

* There was a massive winter storm and power failures in Texas.

* Scorching heat and wildfires continued in the Pacific West.

* Hurricane Ida hit the coast.

* Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

* Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted.

* 3 men charged in murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

* R Kelly was convicted.

* Bill Cosby was released from prison.

* Britney Spears gained her freedom back.

* NASA Rover Perseverance landed on Mars.

* Space X sent civilians to space.

* Blue Origin sent William Shatner to space.

* Facebook rebranded as Meta.

* We faced supply chain shortages and critical staffing needs.

* We experienced the Delta and Omicron variants.

* 7.4 billion people worldwide were vaccinated.

* 5.4 million people worldwide have passed from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.

* We also lost these notables: Prince Philip, Hank Aaron, Colin Powell, Beverly Cleary, Anne Rice, Donald Rumsfield, Bob Dole, Larry King, Rush Limbaugh, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Sondheim.

A Motivational Group

Since June 2021, a new online business has been helping men and women to excel. It is a regular weekly Zoom meeting with folks from all over the country. It is Wednesday nights at 8:00 pm Central Time. It is $20 a month through this link here:

https://possibilityjunction.org/ampy

Every week, the group members encourage each other in our various projects or life issues to tackle. The instructor is a psychologist as well and teaches things like how to identify and replace negative thoughts, how to focus on contentment and gratitude, and how to build confidence in yourself. It is the best and most affordable group therapy as well as group encouragement you will find out there.

There are members from Washington and Alaska and Kansas and Vermont so far. It is beginning to grow as well as there are plans for a retreat focused on meditation, yoga, and writing. This is a fairly new group focused on progress, self-love, self-motivation.

I encourage you to join. It is worth 20 bucks a month in the friendships you make and the communal advice you receive. It also comes with a daily Facebook Messenger group with daily aspirations and positive duscussion. The class welcomes people from around the world too through the use of Zoom. If you are from Germany or India or Israel or Nigeria, you are welcome. The instruction language is in English, however, but the group is very welcoming.

Give it a try. I am glad I did.

After my class last Wednesday, I felt better so I wrote a story on climate change and a little boy. I submitted it to a publishing group and they agreed to publish it. Sometimes the little push of group encouragement is all you need for personal growth and to keep an optimistic perspective. As Mel Robbins says, we have a prehistoric conditioning in our brains to be seen, heard, and celebrated by the herd or group. This is a group that makes you feel visible and part of a team.

Trending on Netflix

This article is about the first episode of the #1 trending show on Netflix called The Squid Game. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the show, go ahead and skip this article. I don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s a pretty good show.

I wanted to write about the red light/green light game in the show. This is a game many of us have played as children. Perhaps it was part of our pre-conditioning to the game of life itself. In the show, the premise of the game is simple. When the rule maker calls green light you run towards a finish line. When the rule maker says red light you must freeze. If you move during the red light period you will lose. In the Squid Game episode, you don’t only lose but are “eliminated.”

There is a timer. You got 5 minutes to make it to the finish line and win. If you don’t, you also lose or are “eliminated.”

Red light/green light is the game of adult life. It is also the game scenario of any major battle in war. There are many important things you can learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game and I encourage you to think about it carefully.

Imagine The Squid Game red light/green light game was put in a different story. Imagine the American Civil War and the game players are required to make it across a field to the “finish line” or past the enemy. Imagine Union soldiers in uniform in battle. The red light/green light game is the story of what can happen in that battle and the quick assessments and decisions that must be made. Remember, the field of victory is won by the man of action. The field of defeat or failure is given to the man of inaction or the coward who retreats. I’ll talk about this later. There are really only three groups of people on the playing field: men or women of action, men or women of inaction (those who are frozen), and men and women of retreat (those who succumb to panic and fear). In life, it is really just the doers, the dreamers, and the cowards.

If you are young and you are reading this, which one will you choose to be? I’ll explain more in a moment.

Ok, so studying the red light/green light game carefully from the beginning, we see that the players are conditioned with fear, panic, anxiety a little before the actual game starts. They are put in a strange new environment together. They are assigned numbers and taught a few things ahead of time. They are given some time to interact together which makes them collectively question things. Right away, we see who the super villain is of the group and we see the one who is being bullied by the super villain. This will come into play later.

The contestants are run through a strange new environment that appears to consist of standing in long lines and going up levels and having to take photos to be identified. Right away, we also meet the cocky sure-fire and comedic fools who will attempt to lead right off the bat in the red light/green light game and fail completely while the others watch. Their “elimination” will drive a pivotal moment in the game when the players all realize the true stakes of the game and must decide to either freeze, progress forward, or run back to the starting line.

I would argue that this red light/green light game is like the game of adult life. Instead of 5 minutes, you are given 5 decades to get to the finish line of winning, or retirement. You must progress through the green light moments and be cautious and smart and stop during the red light moments. You must not get caught. You must not get disabled. You must not run back to the starting line of returning back home to parents after failure or returning too much to school for degree after degree or professional studentship after failure in employment or returning back to your hometown in the face of shame……etc. etc. you get the point. You only got five decades. You need to be progressing through each decade steadily like a turtle….not like the fools out front or like the hare in the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Stay in the middle. Don’t be at the front. Don’t be at the end.

It’s a little bit like that other game from our childhood, that board game called Chutes and Ladders. In Chutes and Ladders, you got 100 spaces to move up to the end. You spin the wheel. Some spaces you land on will have small ladders. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and get on a tall ladder all the way to the top. But there are also slides or chutes. Some of the slides just go down a few levels. There is one terrible dreadful slide that goes all the way down to the beginning. It is super frustrating……but you can still win the game if a lot of luck is on your side and you are smart and take very good calculated risks.

So back to red light/green light….you should be making slow and steady progress like the turtle throughout the decades but there are some players who freeze in inaction early on or later throughout the game, perhaps they can’t make up their mind about life goals or perhaps when they see a loved one down on the ground either eliminated or almost eliminated. Those people can still win the game but it is much much harder for them and they need lots of luck, brains, and moxy. They gotta take big risks.

Ok so what are the other very important things we learn about the Squid Game red light/green light game as it correlates to the game of adult life. We learn that the pre-game of being in a strange new environment, standing endlessly in lines, going up levels and such…..it’s very similar to childhood or schooling. It also, whether intentional or not, serves to place panic, anxiety, and even dread in the players.

The word “panic” itself comes from the mythological creature Pan. He was said to play strange music. Panic originates from ancient times when during battles between two opposing forces, one or the other or both sides would announce their presence far before being seen on the battlefield through the use of sound or music. Imagine being a Roman soldier encountering the Barbarians of the Germanic tribes and over the crest of the opposite hill while you stand in file for war, you hear the loud beating of ominous drums. These drums are intended to scare you or make you panic long before you actually see the faces of the soldiers on the opposing side. The Barbarians would use other similar tactics to instill fear…..such as war paint or carrying creepy totems or human skulls on stakes, or carrying terrible weapons with spikes and chains and stuff.

The whole point of panic is to get half the players retreating and giving up before the action even starts and then there’s a good portion of the players that are just frozen in terror between retreating or pressing forward.

Ok, so we’ve already established that there is a pre-game that intentionally or not will get you scared and adrenaline coursing through your body ahead of time. We’ve established that on the field of play, the greatest problem you face is fear, panic, or anxiety. We’ve talked about how bad retreating is or moving away to get a fresh start in the fight or flight response or perhaps giving up on a goal and heading back to your hometown. We’ve talked about the importance of slow, steady progress that is smart. We talked about the fools out front of the pack who only serve as lessons to the rest of us of what not to do and drive the pivotal moment of intense fear or dread when they fail or are eliminated horribly. And lastly, we learn that prisoner 456 freezes in inaction for a large portion of the 5 minutes on the timer but he resumes moving forward. We learn that he can still win and cross the finish line but he needs a lot of luck, smarts, and to take risks.

But what are the really smart and strategic things we learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game?

We learn that family, friends, neighbors…..community or rather other people who feel devotion to us……this is very important. Remember that prisoner 456 is the older brother to the younger man in the game who convinces prisoner 456 to stop freezing and start moving forward or he will be eliminated by not crossing the line in the 5 minutes deadline. The younger brother who feels a devotion to the older brother because the older brother helped him go to college and helped raise him, returns the favor by taking a calculated risk to hide behind another player and tell prisoner 456 two important things. First, he tells him to move or he will lose or die. Second, he tells him to survive, prisoner 456 should hide behind the body of another player as he progresses forward. This is very smart.

What does this mean in the real world game of adult life?

Don’t be the fool at the front nor the sloth at the back. Hustle. Find a mentor. Find someone to get behind that can help you progress forward. Keep moving behind them as long as you can whether it’s a parent or boss or supervisor or teacher or coach. Also, stay to the middle. Be smart. Move fast on a green light. Watch for red lights and be prepared to stop long before the red light is called. Red lights in the game of adult life can be jail, bad jobs, divorces, etc. There are many avoidant behavior paths too that inactive people or retreating people engage in that can make things way worse like substance abuse or procrastination activities.

So prisoner 456 starts moving forward but he is hindered by someone that is shot and on the ground pleading for help. Also later in the game, prisoner 456 himself trips and almost falls but is saved by prisoner 199 who takes a calculated risk to be altruistic and save his life. For this, prisoner 456 will owe prisoner 199 a favor.

Calculated risks of altruism are good in the game because they can help us later when others pay back favors to us. But too much risk for a person that is really in trouble can lead to our detriment or demise even. In the red light/green light game, prisoner 456 determines the first time to ignore the bleeding man on the ground. He is already too far gone. He can’t be helped. Whether in war or life, you have to triage and do a quick assessment of who you can help and who is too far gone. Be altruistic. Develop good karma that can be repaid. But sometimes it is necessary to cut losses. I know that is harsh to say, but this viewpoint is from the perspective of winning the game. There are so many people in life that stop to help a loved one and just self-sacrifice knowing they are going down with the ship and that is their conscious choice. Eventually, they will lose the game.

In the Squid Game red light/green light game, there is a super villain and his bullied victim. As the game starts the bullied victim realizes how she can even sabotage or destroy the super villain but doing so will expose herself to potential elimination. She can easily move the super villain and she lets him know that. In life we can sabotage or out bad guys but it is important to realize that we should not lose ourselves in the process and get ourselves in trouble or develop bad karma as a result as well.

Now the most interesting player in the game is player 1. At the start of the game, it is established that he has a brain tumor and not much odds of living long. He has early trauma at the start of the game. Also, his will to win is stronger because he has less to lose and sorta a cavalier stance towards life. He probably thinks to himself, well it can’t get much worse. He leads the others in the game moving forward and he is cunning and steady. He also has almost a smile or half-crazed look about him that is sorta creepy.

What does this teach us about the game of adult life?

The best players are the ones that experienced early trauma in the game and feel like they have less to lose cause heck, it couldn’t get much worse, and their will to win or determination is very strong with almost a crazy tenacity. You will see these type of folks leading the pack in life. They went through bad, bad stuff early on. They learned a lot about life. They had to go through it to get to it ….so to speak and they have very strong drive and discipline. These are the people that grew up in terrible poverty or fought back from horrible illness or accidents or disability, etc. etc.

So morale of the story? Don’t pamper your kids. You may say to yourself, you are giving them a break and you are being kind to them. You are sheltering them from hardship. No, you’re not. You are making it way worse for them as adults when that pivotal fight or flight moment sets in and they might turn around and flee or freeze in inaction. Teach them early. Teach them while their young. Maybe you’ll give them a fighting chance. I don’t really recommend private schools and such cause they just pamper and protect kids. Put them in public school if you have too. I think Kevin Hart says it best in his new comedy show that private schools turn out soft, scared adults. To quote him directly, “private schools breed bi*****.” And well, he’s sorta right.

I think that covers everything I learned from watching the first episode of The Squid Game red light/green light game. It’s pretty fascinating psychology actually. Oh, and I guess one last point is that whatever actions you make, you will be observed by others. So make sure you make the right decisions…it may come back to help you or hinder you in the future.

So, if you’re young, please watch this part of the show and think about this admittedly long-winded review on the psychology of it. These tips can help you later in life whether you are a soldier on the battlefield or a worker at the office, etc. etc. Remember,

  1. Keep moving forward.
  2. Work steadily towards one goal….the finish line.
  3. Don’t be the first to lead the fray.
  4. Don’t be the last to follow.
  5. Find a mentor or guide to follow.
  6. Slow and steady wins the race like the turtle.
  7. Don’t forget you are on a deadline.
  8. You can freeze momentarily but don’t give up or retreat. He who hesitates is lost.
  9. Stop before the red lights. Be smart. Anticipate the moves of the rule makers.
  10. The only thing you really have to fear is fear itself. Panic, anxiety will ruin you. Stay calm when all hell breaks loose.
  11. You can start over later in life but you better have a lot of grit, good luck, and brains to cross the finish line.
  12. Don’t let the pre-game get to you and psych you out.
  13. Don’t be pampered in your youth and don’t pamper your own kids.
  14. Be altruistric but also triage who you can help and who you cannot.
  15. Stay away from avoidant things like alcohol, drugs, too much social media, video games.
  16. Those people you help in life will one day return the favor. Support your friends, family, neighbors when you can.
  17. If you face trauma, use it as fuel to move forward not as an excuse to be disabled.
  18. Victory comes to the men and women of action. Failure/defeat lies for the men and women of permanent inaction or permanent retreat.

Good luck and I hope you catch a lot of green lights in the game of life.

Someone I Admire

She was my General Science teacher in High School. I remember her as sorta quirky and fun. She was brilliant in Science and really knew her stuff. She wore a long braid of hair and everyday she dressed comfortably but not too fashionably.

Her name is Suzanne Arruda.

I went on through High School and graduated. I went to college and continued life. Decades later, I found out she had started writing after teaching for years.

You can find her books on Amazon and sold in libraries and bookstores all over the world. She published with Penguin. She wrote a whole series of books about a female heroine who solves mysteries involving ancient artifacts and exotic animals in Africa. Her books are like an Indiana Jones action adventure series but with a female protagonist and involving a lot of Science.

I wanted to introduce you to her. Here is a link about her work:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzanne_Arruda

I think it’s great to write one book but it is a whole other level of amazing if you can continue into a long series involving the same character. It takes a whole other level of creativity and imagination to keep the original story going and going.

When I wrote a book, I reached out to her to see if she would go to the book launch. She said she’s retired from writing but she wished me the best of luck. She’s a pretty cool person like that.

These are the books:

https://www.amazon.com/Suzanne-Arruda/e/B001IOBL6O?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1631762632&sr=8-1

Dogs Like The Mandalorian

For the past two weeks, for every lunch break from work, I head home and greet the dogs. We grab some snacks like a soda and some chips. Then we pile onto the couch together to munch on chips and watch The Mandalorian. My dogs wag their tails very excitedly when I toss them some chips and grab the remote to start Disney+.

It has been awesome.

Today, we finished the finale of Season 2. Wow. It actually brought tears to my eyes when someone special shows up to rescue Grogu. I won’t give the ending away for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet.

But yes, it was very awesome.

I think the dogs enjoyed it too. In fact, I was reading about The Mandalorian Season 3 online and found several recent articles related to scientific research findings about dogs watching The Mandalorian. According to all these articles, scientists put heart monitors on dogs and had them watch a series of 8 or 9 shows. They studied the dog anxiety levels and found that the research dogs were most at calm and happy when watching The Mandalorian with Stranger Things as a close runner up. According to the research, dogs appear to like dramatic shows with big special effects.

For more info on the fascinating canine love for Star Wars, here’s a link to one of these interesting articles with the scientific charts and data:

https://www.cbr.com/the-mandalorian-is-beloved-by-dogs-too-experiment-finds/

Love amid the Lanes

This is my Valentine’s Day gift to you! I wrote a piece for a love contest. Here is the entry. It is supposed to be a heart-warming story about love in a Midwest bowling alley. Picture Kingpin meets Romeo and Juliet.

I hope you have a wonderful, romantic Valentine’s Day! Stay warm too, my friends!

Imagine Me and You

by J. Speer

In 2018, there was a little bowling alley in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was a popular locals’ joint and featured 12 open lanes for 12 unique teams on league night each Friday evening.  People loved going to the little bowling alley to unwind from a long week of work. 

The bowling alley manager was named Bill Casey.  He had owned the bowling alley since 1987, the year Patrick Swayze dirty danced with Jennifer Grey having the time of her life.  Bill had three great loves in his life: the game of bowling, his deceased wife Maria, and their one daughter she had named Jennifer. 

Jennifer worked the bowling alley counter.  She also was the top bowler on a league team named I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gutter.  Jennifer was a vibrant woman though still unmarried.  For years, she had looked in vain for that one true love of her life. Her team of friends was several fun colleagues from diverse occupations who shared the one commonality of being from different minority groups.  They all agreed on one thing.  They disliked the other competitive league team at Lane 1 called Split Happens

Split Happens consisted mostly of what some might call “a redneck hillbilly crowd.”  They were dang good bowlers.  The best player on the team was a handsome eligible bachelor named David Huxley.  Every Friday night, the team at lane 1 and the team at lane 2 would spar good-naturedly trading continuous barbs or pranks at each other’s expense. 

Every year, inevitably, these two teams would face off against each other in the annual Championship for the Big Balls trophy, a much-esteemed achievement.  For the past three years, Split Happens had held the title of Champion on the grandmaster board.  This was dedicated to all the great bowling league teams through the years since 1987. 

There were other teams in the league too that stood a chance at winning a prestigious spot on the leader board.  The group in Lane 3, for example, was a hardy team of independent feminists.  Their team was named Got Ya By the Balls.  In lane 4, likewise, was a team of fun-loving LGBT friends named The Sexy Strikers.  There were other lesser teams as well, such as the comic book fan team called the X-men at Lane 7.  They loved all things high tech.   

David Huxley and Jennifer Casey had grown up together, attending the same classes at the same elementary school and high school.  David had always admired Jennifer from afar.  Jennifer, for her part, held in high esteem David’s ability to hit multiple strikes.  He carried his team to victory again and again.  They, however, were adversaries on opposing teams.  For some reason, through all the years, the two had never really dated.  But that all was about to change…

It was a cold, blustery Friday night in February just before Valentine’s Day.  The league games had just ended.  Split Happens and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Gutter both defeated their opponent teams.  The sore losers for the night were taking off their bowling shoes and turning them in to Bill at the counter.  They were heading out the door. 

Jennifer wandered over to the old arcade that held the ancient Atari games and racing games.  David was already in there with a few friends.  She took some quarters out of her pocket.  She eyed the old air hockey game to the side of the room.  David looked over at her mildly with interest.  He always seemed to notice her.  She caught his glance and smiled.  Cocking her head towards the air hockey, she asked him, “You up for a game of this?  Haven’t played it in a while.”

“As I recall,” he said, “You used to be pretty good at this one.”

She laughed.  “I’m a little rusty, I’m sure.”

They put the quarters in the slot and the air hockey game commenced a humming noise indicating it had started.  The two squared off against each other on opposing sides.  Jennifer scored the first point and grinned.  David grinned back.  He quickly scored the second point.  Jennifer rolled up her sleeves to try again. 

Several minutes of aggressive play continued with David scoring three more points to Jennifer’s frustration.  She eyed him coolly at this point.  She set the hockey puck down on the table ahead of her.  She rapidly scored the next point. 

David watched her more intently.  He noticed every little detail about the way she bit her upper lip as a tell that she was getting ready to strike or the way she squinted when he would come close to scoring again.  The hockey puck went back and forth more urgently.  David noticed too that she looked quite pretty that night with her curly black hair tied back at the nape of her neck, her crew shirt, and slim jeans accentuating her appearance.  She scored another point and he let out a slow whistle. 

“Damn,” he said under his breath.  The game continued.  He ended up winning and smiled mischievously.  Although defeated, Jennifer had to admit to herself that she loved that smile.  David had always been handsome and loved to have a good time. 

“Alright, I guess you won this time.” She admitted.  They both shared a brief moment.  She figured she needed to help clean-up so she started to turn away to leave the arcade.  David frowned just a little.  He finally said the thought that had been in his head through most of the air hockey game. 

“You doing anything later tonight?”  Jennifer blinked.  She looked around at the others in the arcade for a moment. 

“No, no plans.  Why?”  She said bluntly surprised.

They agreed that night to maybe go out to the local coffeehouse after she finished work. 

Later that night, they sat together at The Bluebird coffee shop downtown and pretty soon were exchanging fun stories and engaging in entertaining banter.  Jennifer felt comfortable with David, although they both worried a little that at any moment, they might be seen sitting at the same table.  They agreed to go on a few more dates after that.  The romance started out a little slow and then quickly picked up steam.  One date was a dinner, another was a movie, and soon they were spending a lot of secret time together while still bowling as adversaries on League nights.  It soon became obvious to both parties that they might be falling in love. 

The secret rendezvous exchange continued.  It led to passionate embraces and nights spent lovingly in each other’s arms.  Neither one was sure what to say to their other team mates.  They agreed to keep things hush for the time being.    

Then, one night as fate would have it, they were discovered.  Jennifer had another secret admirer, a pretty woman from another team named Leslie Shaw.  Upon encountering the couple holding hands in the mall parking lot outside a local delicatessen, Leslie dropped her jaw in shock. 

“Holy cow,” she muttered under her breath.  This is interesting she said to herself with a slight twinge of jealousy. 

Leslie Shaw wanted her team, The Sexy Strikers, to win the leader board position too.  She devised a plan to blackmail the two lovers, threatening to expose them to everyone unless they both agreed to throw their games in the semi-final matches, allowing Leslie’s team to move forward to the Championship game.  Jennifer and David reluctantly agreed.    

Split Happens went first in the semi-finals and Jennifer watched sadly as David “accidentally” threw gutter ball after gutter ball forfeiting his team’s place and frustrating all his teammates to no end.  They shook their heads in disgust.  Some team members from Lane 2 scoffed at the losers with delight.      

As the second semi-final game commenced, a sudden fight broke out in the nearby lounge room between Team 1 and Team 2 players.  This spilled over quickly to an all-out brawl in the crowded league night bowling alley.  All the divided teams were fighting and carrying on.  David searched for Jennifer across the crowded room.  Jennifer tried to keep her sights on him too. 

Somehow in the midst of all the quarreling, David got hit by a thrown bowling ball.  Jennifer called out to him in alarm over the ruckus.  She rushed towards him.  She quickly helped him back to his feet. 

“You, ok?” she asked with concern and the two embraced.  All around them, people noticed and the room went still. 

“What?” she said defensively while looking around.  She reached hesitantly for his hand.  His fingers enclosed around hers too. 

“What the heck?!” said a few shocked onlookers.  David and Jennifer looked around awkwardly. 

“Yes, ok, we’ve been dating…” David began.  He then proceeded to explain the story of their relationship and what happened with Leslie.  Leslie looked down embarrassed.  She slinked off to the side a bit. 

 David looked around and back at Jennifer holding his hand.  He smiled at her. 

“I know we all have our differences,” he said hesitantly.  “But the truth is I love this woman.  Jennifer Casey, will you marry me?” He asked her as he started to get down on one knee.

The crowd completely stopped fighting.  Everyone waited for the reply.   When Jennifer said, “Yes!”  her teammates were among the first to clap alongside the team mates from Split Happens.             

Soon the folks that had been looking to start trouble were ashamed of their behavior.  The whole room clapped then, even Bill Casey who clapped the loudest.  It was decided that the couple would get married at the bowling alley later on that month. 

Bill Casey disbanded the league teams.  He took down the leader board which had caused so much animosity among the different groups.  There would be no more league nights, no more winners and losers.  Everyone would play as equals.    

On the wedding night, David Huxley and Jennifer Casey married at Lane 5.  He wore a tuxedo.  She wore a white wedding dress.  They kissed happily.  She tossed the bouquet.  Leslie Shaw managed to capture the bouquet too alongside a beautiful bowler named Sara.  Leslie and Sara smiled shyly at each other.  For Leslie, it seemed fated.  That’s how Leslie found her new love interest in life. 

That night, the bowlers at Bill Casey’s little bowling alley in Arkansas all bowled together as friends in a big diverse party.  Bill Casey turned the lights down low.  He set everything to Cosmic Bowling.  He turned on the music.   Happy Together by the Turtles filled the air and everyone was truly happy in that moment, especially David Huxley and Jennifer Casey. 

E Pluribus Unum

This was the official motto of the original 13 colonies during the American Revolution. It was proposed in 1776 by three men to become the Great Seal motto. These men were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Later on, this saying would be replaced in the 1950s by the words, “In God we trust.” I’m not sure where the Latin phrase for “E Pluribus Unum” originated. It really reminds me of the phrase of the French Four Musketeers. That phrase was “All for one, one for all.”

E pluribus unum simply means “out of many, there is one.” It means we stand together as a union, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, through tragedy and through celebration. We recognize our unique qualities and diversity yet also lean on our human bond as together we pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This is not a revolutionary idea. It is a motto for all friendships and relationships and it’s loyalty is the fundamental cornerstone of our foundations in life and as a nation.

We need to bring back this motto.

Family Vacation

Due to social distancing, we had to skip our family vacation to Maine. The kids started back to school online yesterday and along with that, I found some travel videos for them to watch.

We make a game out of this.

Ella and Drew pick one travel destination in the entire world and I find the videos beforehand. Each school day, I pick 6-8 really short YouTube videos that I pre-screen for entertainment and value. I filter them to make sure they are about 4 minutes or less long. I hand the kids a list of 6-8 videos and tell them that they only need to pick 3 of their own choice. Then, Ella and Drew sit down for 10-15 minutes a day and just watch 3 of the videos together to learn about that place.

Yesterday, they had chosen Orlando, Florida. Listed below are the 6 videos I found and the kids picked three of these videos to watch. They picked the Disney and Universal Studios ride videos, of course.

I have found with teenagers that it is much better to give them choices so that’s why I pick 6 and let them choose 3 only. And I limit this whole thing to about 10-15 minutes tops. I learned from the military a long time ago the acronym “KISS.” This means keep it short and sweet or as they say in the military with PowerPoint presentations, “Keep it Short, Stupid.” No one likes to sit through more than 15-20 minutes of video.

I’ll admit, my kids grumbled quite a bit at first but seemed to actually like the videos once they saw them. This was our “family vacation” experience Monday. Drew picked the Pyramids of Egypt for Tuesday.