The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau

The Long and Winding Road

My longtime friend John, and his dear wife Michele, moved north to Morro Bay about ten years ago to enjoy a slower pace of daily life. John being a top-notch surfer might have had something to do with it too. At the time, he said that he loved the ocean and getting away from the crowds. John told me, “I’ve spent my whole life hugging the coast, and the coast has hugged me back.”

We met by chance long ago in the insurance business, became friends and worked some cases together. But what we are doing now is much bigger than anything we have done before.

John has dreams of where he is going in life, and I’m sure he’s going to get there. Resilient in the face of setbacks, John moves in the direction of his dreams everyday. He’s positive and upbeat and enthusiastic. He thinks big. But the characteristics that most define John as a winner is that he has courage and persistency and vision.

He told me this story years ago.

John knew another agent who tried unsuccessfully to sell long-term care insurance to a wealthy prospect. John had heard of the man but hadn’t met him. He didn’t have his phone number but had an idea that he was sure Mr. Wisk would like, if he could get in front of him.

So, John drove to his address and pulled in the driveway, but there was no house in sight. The driveway stretched out before him, and he followed it, for over a mile.

When John at last pulled up to a large house, his heart was pounding. He knocked on the front door and, after what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Wisk opened it.

John introduced himself and told him why he was there and was invited inside.

Mr. Wisk didn’t end up buying what John was selling that day, but John had the courage to drive up that long and winding road, to ask. He sold himself on the belief that if he kept asking someone would eventually say yes. And they have, over and over again.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:39

A Man You Can Count On

When we were about eighteen, my cousin John and I went to Shaver Lake to go camping with a couple of friends. One friend’s dad had a camper truck that served as our base for three days in a remote campsite on the far side of the lake.

As we were leaving camp one afternoon to go into town, my view of my own dad and my life changed forever.

We all piled into the camper with our friend’s dad driving. Our plan was to go get supplies for dinner. I was in the front seat on the passenger side, with the window rolled down.

Just for perspective, this was way before cell phones, and we were some distance from town.

We slowly drove through the campground, and on the right up ahead was a car with its hood up. As we went by, the owner of the car asked if we had jumper cables.

I looked inquiringly towards my friend’s dad. He replied to the man out my window, “Naw, sorry,” and we passed by.

A few minutes later, as we edged out onto the main road, the dad spoke again and said something I never forgot. “I do have jumper cables, but if you stop, the next thing you know they’ll want you to rebuild their engine.”

I felt as if I’d been slapped across the face. My dad would never have done that. Ever. And I knew that in a way I had never fully appreciated before.

My dad always helped people in need, whether he knew them or not. I watched as he left to pick up family or friends at the airport in the rain. He loaned money, pitched in, and was there for everyone in the family and everyone else too.

And that has become pretty much a credo in my own life, because of my dad. He wasn’t perfect, and neither am I, but he knew why he was here, and so do I, thanks in large part to him.

My wife is that way, and my sister and our son John is too. The night after Thanksgiving, he drove out to the grapevine to help a friend, whose car was dead. It’s just who he is.

Thanks, Dad, for setting that example.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Yogi Berra

Teaching Old Dogs

Maybe you have had this experience. As a matter of fact, if you know anyone under thirty, you are certain to have had this experience.

Let me set the stage a bit. My daughter and I were at an estate sale this morning, not her idea, but we were there. Spotting a silver bowl my wife would like, I took a picture of it with my iPhone. Then having clicked the Photos icon, intending to attach the photo to a text and send it to her, I heard a common refrain in our family, “Dad! What are you doing?”

Now, if you are under thirty, you can stop reading, as you know what happens next. But if you’re north of that, read on, you’ll be glad you did.

My daughter took my phone and said, “Why are you doing it that way, you just…,” and zip zing she took a new photo of the item and sent it to my wife in about two seconds flat.

I learned nothing from the experience, because it happened so fast that I couldn’t really tell what she had done, other than that it was way faster than what I’ve been doing since I began texting photos. Why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?

In the Apple store, the instructors don’t touch your phone at all when they teach you something every third grader knows. So, when my kids roll their eyes and do some magic with my phone, I ask them to make like an Apple instructor. Show me again, with me holding the phone and doing the steps myself.

This is more or less what she said:

  • Touch the text icon on your phone’s home screen.
  • Touch the name of the person you want to send your text to.
  • Notice that a little window opens at the bottom of the screen that reads iMessage.
  • To the left of the iMessage window is a capital A that looks like it was made out of Popsicle sticks.
  • I don’t know what that does, but I will ask her later.
  • To the far left of the iMessage window is an image of a camera.
  • Touch that.
  • A wide window will open up below the iMessage window.
  • On the upper left side of that window is an image of a camera, and below that is an image of a couple of black rectangles above the word Photos. Ignore those completely.
  • To the far right side of your phone are the last couple of photos you have taken. Ignore those too.
  • But in the middle is a small live camera screen!
  • Point the camera towards what you want to take a picture of and touch the white round circle in the lower part of that camera window.
  • Presto! That’s an old fashioned word.
  • Not only have you taken a photo, but if you wait a second or two that photo will attach itself to the text you want to send to your wife (or husband). And you can write something underneath the picture if you want to.
  • Next push the white arrow in the round blue circle to the lower right of the photo you just took.
  • And that will send your new photo to your recipient.

It takes less time to do this than to explain it, so give it a try and you’ll have made your life easier. And there you have the first chapter of your new book on how to simplify your life.

I’m sorry I don’t know how to do this trick on a Samsung phone, but if you find someone of a certain age, I’m sure they would be happy to show you. Then ask them to tell you, while you hold your phone and follow the steps yourself, if you want to be able to do it again without supervision.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act.”
Barbara Sher

On A Mission

“Hey Honey, will you stop at Whole Foods and get four ripe avocados for tonight?” I don’t know about you, but that request takes me out of my comfort zone. The cook in our house is my wife, not me, though I do make good omelets and can handle the barbecue.

There are usually two types of avocados at Whole Foods, Haas and the other kind with the thinner, shinier skin. Choosing four that are good to go for tonight is way harder than picking up just one. If we need one, I get three, hoping that one of them will be just right.

We love avocados around our house, and with five of us they usually go pretty quickly. I can tell when they are overripe, because they have a red sticker that says, “Ready to Eat!”

I can also tell when they are nowhere near ripe, because they shine like my dress shoes and are as hard as a brand-new baseball.

Picking the right avocado by squeezing it is sort of like testing the bathwater by running your hand under the faucet. In either case, you don’t really know until you’re fully committed.

So, when I walk into Whole Foods and find the giant mound of avocados, there’s a large sign that reads, 5 for $4. I’m in luck, that gives me four good chances out of five to get the right ones. But as I sort through them, most feel like the first day of spring training in Vero Beach.

Finally, with five in my reusable shopping bag, which rarely make it out of the car, I do what I usually do with avocados in the grocery store. I look for a woman that looks like she knows what she is doing. That means she has a lot of produce in her cart. I don’t trust men in this situation, because they could have a loaded cart and have no idea what they’re doing, just like me. And anyway, there aren’t many men in the produce department. They’re mostly over in the frozen food aisle, where I spent a lot of time when single.

I see a woman with a loaded cart and green onions in hand and ask her the question. “Do you think these are good for tonight?” I try to look like I don’t know what I am doing, which isn’t hard to do in this situation. She surprises me by saying, “You flip off the belly button, and if it’s yellow inside, it’s good.” I think this can’t be true, but I do admire the creative word choice. Warming to the subject, she says she’ll look it up on her phone.

I spot the produce guy a few steps away and catch his eye and ask him the same question. He tells me that all of my avocados are good for tonight! I beam, and the aforementioned woman comes over and shows me a video on the subject. I’ll share it with you here, in case you don’t know what you’re doing in the produce aisle either.

When I get home, my wife says, “Good job, Honey, these are perfect.”
“Oh, good, just lucky I guess!”

Click here to watch a video on how to pick an avocado.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Unexpected things happen in life more often than you expect.”
Plautus

A Three-Hour Tour

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a short business trip down to Newport Beach for a few days, with our friends Matt and Jeri and Randy and Suzanne.

We stayed at a beautiful hotel near the water, Randy, Matt and I attending meetings, while our wives relaxed at the resort. Since our mutual friends, Craig and Margie lived nearby on Balboa Island, we visited them on Sunday afternoon, knowing we had to be back for a dinner reception by five.

Craig offered to take us for a little cruise around the island, which we much enjoyed. The day and surroundings were lovely and, as I remember it, we had some wine and cheese while taking in the sites.

On our way back to Craig’s place, we saw a solitary couple on the beach, a little boy and his mother. The boy was crying and pointing at a brightly colored beach ball floating midway between us. The boy was maybe 3 years old, and his mother couldn’t swim out to get the beach ball without leaving her son at risk on the beach.

So, we all agreed that we should go after the ball in the boat. What we didn’t realize, until it was too late, was that there were two underwater ropes between scattered buoys all along the shoreline, to keep boats from doing the very thing we were about to do, which was to get too close to the shore where there was no dock.

Within moments, we were stuck right where we were, with the submerged ropes hopelessly tangled in our prop. Craig shut the motor off and sat there watching the brightly colored beach ball bob happily in the water about thirty feet away. The mother and son abandoned the beach.

We had a little more wine and cheese and called harbor patrol, who said they could reach us in about an hour or so. We knew it would take them some time to untangle the boat once they got there, not to mention the lecture we were sure of to follow.

Knowing that we would miss dinner if we waited through all that, I began considering how to untangle the ropes. Somewhat possessed, I shed some clothes, jumped in and swam under.

Did I mention that it was March and brisk and dark under the boat? After an initial inspection of the problem, and having received sufficient assurances that Captain Craig would not start the motor, I swam back under the boat.

The prop was highly tangled in both ropes. Having begun the untangling, I occasionally came up for air, clinging to the side of the boat. During one such surfacing, Randy encouraged me by asking. “How much longer do you think you’ll be?”

After a while, and it was quite a while, it occurred to me that I could make better progress by keeping my eyes closed and focusing on the feel of the ropes in my fingers. At last, the ropes untangled. Gratefully, I climbed back in the boat and into my clothes, teeth chattering. Craig hurried us back to his house and me into a hot shower that never, ever felt as good.

We made it to dinner on time, and, looking back on it, what seemed an inconvenience turned out to be quite an adventure.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”
G.K. Chesterson

The Catch

Congratulations to the Houston Astros on winning the World Series! What an exciting Series, heartbreaking, but exciting.

I love baseball and could watch any game and enjoy it…a lot.

One of the greatest batters in history, Rogers Hornsby, was once asked what he did in the offseason. He replied that he sat in his house and stared out the window, waiting for baseball to start again.

Dodger right fielder Yasiel Puig’s nearly effortless catch in the third game of the World Series reminded me of the catch made by Willy Mays in the first game of the 1954 World Series, between the then New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians.

The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth, with runners on first and second and nobody out. Vic Wertz worked the count to two and one, when he hit what Vin Scully would call a “towering fly ball” to just right of dead center field. Mays, playing shallow center to hold the runners, turned and ran flat-out away from the ball and towards the center field wall making an over-the-shoulder catch right at the warning track at what is guessed to be 460 feet.

Dodger Stadium dead center is 395 feet.

Willy wasn’t done yet. He wheeled and threw to second, causing the runner to have to retag and barely make it to third instead of home. Willy saved at least two runs. and the Giants went on to win the game and the Series.

The catch is considered one of the greatest moments in sports. It sure was!

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“When I was seventeen my old man was so dumb I could
hardly stand the sight of him, but by the time I was twenty-one
I was amazed at how much he had learned in five years.”
Mark Twain

For Whom the Bell Tolls

My friend Michael and I were walking down the fairway the other day talking about our kids, and he told me this story.

Michael was at home one night, sound asleep. Something woke him up, and he didn’t know what it was. He lay there listening and noticed the clock said 3:16 am. The doorbell rang, and Michael realized that it must have rung before and awakened him. He got out of bed, wondering who the heck would be ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night.

The bell rang a third time.

Michael opened the door in his pajamas, and there stood a pizza delivery guy holding seven large boxes. Michael looked at him quizzically and was about to speak, when he heard an upstairs door open behind him. He turned to look, and there stood his son Max at the top of the stairs.

Michael asked Max incredulously, “Did you order seven pizzas?”

Max looked back at his dad in a way only a teenager can and said, “There are seven of us.”

Of course! What more needs to be said.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Fear can make you stronger.”
Anonymous

The Corn Maze

When my twin girls were eleven, we went on a cold and blustery night to the corn maze at Pierce College, with their friend, Nicole. Tall and thick and waiving in the breeze, the maze covered a couple of acres, and we had a good time trying to find our way around and at last out the exit.

After loading up on popcorn and sugary drinks, they said, “We want to go in the Scary Maze.” On the car ride over, they talked mostly about the Scary Maze and how they would never set foot in there, too creepy.

“Are you sure?” I asked, and all three shook their sugar-charged heads yes, but on one condition, that I would go with them. My wife wouldn’t be going, she doesn’t like that sort of stuff. So off we four went to The Scary Maze.

Unlike the traditional maze, the line was long and filled with teenagers eagerly expecting the wits to be scared out of them.

At last, we entered the maze through a wall of dry ice smoke. All three of the girls hid behind me clinging to my T-shirt as though their lives depended on it. One hung on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle. My shirt was stretched out like a laundry sheet as I staggered through the maze.

For the first ten feet of utter darkness, nothing happened. Then, a flash of light! A deranged looking creature charged towards us and disappeared just as quickly. Others rushed across our path, fore and aft, screeching and whispering horrible things. And so it went, me lurching along with the three girls grappling behind, screaming all the way. Uh, they were screaming, not me. Occasionally, I nearly punched one or two of the crazed zombies coming at us from every direction, but I managed to resist the temptation.

Finally, we made it to the exit and back into the real world. The girls untangled their fingers from my stretched-out shirt and chattered excitedly among themselves about their experience.

“It wasn’t too scary?” I asked.

“No, it was hardly scary at all,” they replied. “We had our eyes shut the whole time!”

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“If you’re worried about what other people think of you,
just remember this, most people are more concerned with
their slightest headache than with news of your impending death.”
Norman Vincent Peale

Thinking of You

People generally don’t notice things. If you had a bird on your head, they probably wouldn’t notice it. Give it a try. Get a bird to land on your head and see what happens.

Kids, the more aware they become, are endlessly concerned that their parents will embarrass them, and the younger me used to worry about this too. But that concern gradually passed, as I observed that those around me didn’t seem to notice the occasional faux pas on my part either.

My sister had a boyfriend named Ruben, who had a beard. Ruben went away on a two-week trip and, while gone, shaved the beard but kept the mustache. When he returned, my sister picked him up at the airport and the first words out of her mouth were, “You grew a mustache!”

While we are on the subject of facial hair, my first beard appeared in my early twenties when I lived at home with my parents. On impulse, I shaved it off one morning and came out to breakfast. My parents were at the kitchen table, and we had a lively conversation though neither of them noticed that their only son was now beardless. I left the room momentarily, gathered the clippings in a plastic bag, returned and casually tossed the bag on the kitchen table. I thought my parents might want to put it in my baby book. They looked from the baggie to my face a couple of times and then said, “Oh, you shaved!”

A few years ago, while on a summer study group trip in Florida with my pals Matt and Kevin and Marc, we played golf in 180-degree weather, or maybe that was just the humidity. Matt and I grew tired of playing, while Kevin and Marc were still intent on the game. So, Matt and I teed off on the next hole and got back in our cart. Kevin and Marc kept on playing, while Matt and I headed unnoticed to the shade of the next palm tree. As we approached the green, Matt and I threw our golf balls onto the green and putted out. We did this for the rest of the round, and Kevin and Marc never noticed our altered form of play.

In his entertaining book, Rules for Aging, Roger Rosenblatt enumerates fifty-eight rules for aging well. Rule 2, Nobody is thinking about you, reads:

“Yes, I know, you are certain that your friends are becoming your enemies; that your grocer, garbageman, clergyman, sister-in-law, and your dog are all of the opinion that you have put on weight, that you have lost your touch, that you have lost your mind; furthermore, you are convinced that everyone spends two-thirds of every day commenting on your disintegration and denigrating your work. I promise you: Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves–just like you.”

That pretty much says it all.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Public Speaking

I began in the insurance business when I was twenty-seven. As I look back on my path, I felt as though I knew nothing and nobody. But thanks to many mentors, and learning from great speakers at industry events, I succeeded. When a friend suggested that I take the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course, memories flooded in of the talk I gave in church as a twelve-year-old and the surprising realization that knees really can shake in fear.

Frankly, the Dale Carnegie course sounded antiquated and unlikely to benefit me. I looked around for other classes or resources that might help me improve my public speaking skills and didn’t find much.

So, I enrolled somewhat hesitantly in the fourteen-week Dale Carnegie course, which was at least close to my house, in a conference room at the local Holiday Inn. There were about twenty students, mostly young, from all walks of life, including a young woman who worked at a local gas station.

The course, taught by Jay Houseman, was terrific, even if a bit frightening. Jay was an enthusiastic teacher and as good as any college professor. He shared much about himself and the skills needed to speak in public.

We were given all of the Dale Carnegie books and were required to read each over the fourteen weeks. Dale had begun teaching his course in 1912, at the YMCA in New York City, where he was living, broke at the time. He created the course in trade for his food and lodging at the Y. Dale’s greatest book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, has been in continuous print for over eighty years, a masterpiece about relating to others. It is still extraordinarily relevant.

Each night of the course, we were required to give a two- to five-minute speech in front of the class on a subject assigned the week before. Our speeches were then evaluated by the instructor and the class, and the best speech was awarded a nice-looking two-dollar pen.

Each week came and went with fearful young speakers, including me, rambling their way through brief talks on random subjects. And each week, I came home without a prize, though, as the weeks went by, we all became better speakers.

One evening, Jay announced that the next week’s speaking topic was thinking on your feet and that we would have no advance notice on what we were to speak about. When it came time to speak, there was a hat filled with index cards. We drew a card two minutes before our own two-minute talk, and mine simply stated, Appliances. I felt my spirits sink, but then had an idea. And this is what I said, more or less, in my speech.

“I got tired of opening my garage door when I came home from work and decided to buy and automatic garage door opener at Home Depot and install it myself. I mean, I’m pretty handy, and how hard could it be, right? It was hard, and took me all day to do it. When the grand moment came to open my garage door electronically, I was excited. An of image of life of comparative ease lay before me as I pushed the button. The door stayed where it was, though there was a lot of noise coming from above. I looked up just in time to see the garage door opener itself raise slowly to the ceiling. I pushed the button again, and it went back to its original position. The garage door didn’t move at all and seemed to be mocking me. I tried it again with the same effect.

I went inside and called Frank Dettenmaier, my lifelong friend and handyman. Frank came over the next day and did what handymen do, and in about an hour everything was working properly. The mockery was over. Now the garage door and opener knew who was boss, and it was Frank, but I got to enjoy the benefits.”

I got a nice round of applause…and the two-dollar pen!

That class has served me well over the years. I have spoken in public hundreds of times since then, and the skills I learned in that humble class have greatly expanded my opportunities. I overcame my fear of public speaking and gained confidence when I sorely needed it.

By the way, the young woman from the gas station was easily the most frightened speaker in our group. She went on to become very successful in her own right.