Who Am I?

Who am I? Good question ! Let me answer this from the different stages of my life. Starting at age 5.
I am a girl with dreams literally I would dream of my future husband and life as an adult. I had an imagination, a need to be independent, loved and happy. At age 10 I would have said that I was funny and had lots of friends. I had a great sense of imitation, I could imitate just about every teacher in our school. Picking up on those little movements, sounds and the personality of the teachers whom I saw on a daily basis was so easy for me. Still wanting to be independent but scared a bit of what that would really look like. Knowing that I was struggling in school I did not want to disappoint my parents and teachers. I was the first to make friends with the new students and would stand for those being bullied.
The 15 year old me… I am finding my way in a “large” school. Following my older brother who was so talented in music and stage…” no I can not sing like my brother” was a common answer I would give to every teacher and older student that heard my last name. Determination to make my own path to independence. I loved hanging out with friends at school. I was an advocate for those struggling in life. I could play the clarinet, but I didn’t know how to read music…. yes you read that right, I never learned how to read music but I could play the clarinet and my senior year I picked up the Alto Saxophone for our Jazz band. How did I learn enough to stay in the 1st/2nd chair?  I would play quietly through the music in band, picking up on notes that were familiar to me I could then piece together the music correctly.
The 20 year old me… In college and hoping to find that special person who the 5 year old me dreamed about. Unsure of her future.  Sensing that God had something so very special for me I could not wait for life to happen.   30 year old me, a mother of 2 and wife of the husband I had dreamed about when I was little.  Independent, fun, caring, still believing in the importance of accepting others where they are in life.  40 year old me.  I am a successful student, leader of the Kansas State Secondary Counselors, mentor to new school counselors, helper of students who are struggling and mentor to those who are ready to fly off to college.  The 50 year old me, educated, leader, confident, a great friend, loves to explore, golfer, traveler.  I became a grandmother and love every second of it, still a mother and wife and luckily a daughter to both of my parents.

Not 60 yet, but looking back at my thoughts of who I am at different ages I see that there is a theme of loving my family and independence, married the man of my dreams, I am a good friend and accept others no matter where they come from.

Paying Bonuses

In December, 1991, I was hired as Controller of commercial bus builder ElDorado National in Salina.  ElDorado, as I learned shortly after starting, was in rough shape.  People were dissatisfied, working way too much overtime, wages were low (around eight dollars an hour). We were behind in our production schedule, and losing a lot of money.

I learned that one of the RV plants in Elkhart, Indiana had a bonus system for its employees.  I went to take a look.

I flew to Elkhart, walked into the plant at two in the afternoon, and thought the place was closed.  The plant was dark, and there were only a few people mulling around in the office.  I learned that the workers started at 6 am and normally left around 1pm.  They explained to me how the bonus worked: each of the plants gave their people ten percent of what they produced.  They totaled up the production from all the units for the week, multiplied it by 10%, subtracted what they paid the workers, and paid the rest to them in a bonus.  Workers were happy, well paid, and they could leave when they were done every day regardless of the time.

I checked the math at ElDorado, found out that ten percent labor was a lot better than we had ever done as far as I could tell, and introduced the plan to our workers.  The first reaction was skepticism – why should we believe a new guy in this struggling company when he says we could work less and make more money.  I told him the mostly Amish work force in Elkhart was making $33-$35k a year.  They didn’t believe that, either.

I just started posting the numbers every week – how many units we built, total sales, 10% bonus target.  For the first several months the labor we paid them including overtime was over the bonus target, so no bonus.

One day, about six months into the process, the welders came into my office and asked if they had to work Friday and Saturday.  I said no, as long as their work was done for the week.  They said they could get side jobs welding that paid as much or better than they make here.  So, the 7-8 people in the weld shop stopped working Fridays and Saturdays.

The bonus didn’t pay, but the numbers I posted each week looked better.  Not long after, the plywood guys were in my office asking the same thing.  They stopped working Fridays and Saturdays as well.  The weld and plywood shops were the first two stages of bus production, so as long as they worked ahead enough, it didn’t affect the rest of the plant who was still working Fridays and Saturdays.

Before long, three or four groups started taking three day weekends, then the plant payroll got low enough that the bonus started paying.  Not a lot at first, maybe $30-50 a week, but something. Soon after,  half the plant was leaving Thursday night and the other half was working Fridays and Saturdays, and civil war broke out in the plant.  Those groups who were going home early were convinced that the others were sandbagging, and that if everyone would go home early, the bonuses would be much bigger.

Before long, no one was working Fridays or Saturdays.  The bonuses were closer to $200 a week.  People were happier.

Next, we needed to increase production from 20 to 25 buses a week.  We asked the production people how many more people they needed.  They asked who got the money if they didn’t add any more people – I said they did.  This cycle continued, and they didn’t add any additional people until we were doing close to 30 units a week.  The bonuses got big.  The time off was cherished.  The morale and dignity of the workforce was increased dramatically.  Since many of us lived in the small town of Minneapolis, Kansas, I enjoyed getting the see workers’ kids getting new bikes.  Or a little better car.  Or a new truck.  The company grew quickly, aided by a dedicated and motivated workforce.

In December, 2004, I was promoted to President of Champion Bus in Imlay City, Michigan. I tried to implement the same or similar plan.  I failed for four years.  During this time, I had grown the sales and complexity of the company, so I had a real problem in production.

I told the production managers to give me the worst area of the plant, and I would go see what I could do. They sent me to Interior Rears, where thirteen people were failing daily to put the interior panels on the inside of the rear of buses in time to meet production.  Workers on both ends of the plant were angry and waiting on them.  I worked with Fred Jacklett, the lead person in the area for a few days, watching people work, talking to them, and trying to figure out what their problems were. The first day, I watched a young man try to cut a piece of hard plastic with a pair of tin snips to cover the hoses running up the corners of the back of the bus.  He spent hours, and was really frustrated.  After a couple of days, I asked Fred if we had any flexible material that looked okay.  He found some.  I asked if we had a couple of pieces of J-rail.   “For crying out loud,” he said, and grabbed the J-rail, quickly screwed one piece up the side of each corner, and bent the flexible material to fit inside the J-rail.  Problem solved, in about five minutes.

Fred and I watched his workers for the next couple of weeks, performing the 10-15 tasks it takes to finish the interior rear of a bus, each time helping the workers find a simpler, quicker way to do it. Within three weeks, there were six people instead of thirteen, and they were no longer holding up production.  We introduced a bonus plan, and soon they were all making an additional $4-5 an hour and no longer working overtime.

We repeated this process thirteen more times in all the areas of the plant over the next few months. Turnover disappeared, pay went up, people were much happier, the company grew quickly.

In my career, I’ve done this 4-5 times at various locations.  Each time, it’s been an extremely rewarding experience.  I’m often asked why it works.  I believe it’s because if you give people the respect to have some control over their own destinies, in pursuit of a clear and common goal, great things will happen.

I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to improve the lives of some folks who really deserved it, and it’s been fun.

 

My Struggles In School

This is something that use to embarrass me whenever the topic would come up. As I have aged I have found that my struggles in school have made me strong and that I should be proud of what I have accomplished, pushed through and Conquered! Siri tells me that the meaning of the word conquered is as follows: It is a Verb Meaning to overcome and take control of (a place or people) by use of military force. To successfully overcome (a problem or weakness). To climb (a mountain) successfully. Or to Gain the love, admiration or respect of (a person or group of people). Let me tell you that all of these examples of the meaning for Conquered are correct when it comes to my School Struggles.
1. To overcome and take control of (a place or people) by use of military force. I was born on May 22, 1961. I entered kindergarten as a very young five year old and ended my school year as an older five year old. Starting the first grade was exciting for me, I was going to get to go to school, have three recess periods, eat lunch at school and have NO NAP Time!! Yipee! I felt as though I was being set free into the world of independence! First semester went well but by the time second semester rolled around I become ill contracting several different illness’ that I was out of school for what seemed a life time but in actuality it was several months. This army of illness included tonsillitis, German measles, mumps and tonsillitis again. Mom and doctor were discussing taking my tonsils out.  The decision was made to wait on the surgery so my immune system had time to build up an army of its own. I remember during my time at home that my teacher Mrs. Jan Hall would stop by my house twice a week and bring me homework. She would talk through the teachings the best she could sitting at the end of the sofa bed that mom had pulled out for me to rest on. When I returned to school it was late April early May and it was a tough adjustment for me. Sitting in a classroom with kids who obviously had advanced way past my knowledge I was feeling so behind and scared. Passing me to second grade that year was a very tough decision that my parents had to make. Take me away from my friends whom I had such strong bonds with and hope that I would catch up or hold me back to do first grade again. I can’t tell you what the right answer should have been I can only tell you that from that point on I knew that I was behind everyone else in my classroom and the only way out for me at that time was to kick in my social game. Those who know me knew that I had a killer social game, I would even venture to say that I believed that I was the best in my grade maybe even the whole school. But social game only gets you invited to birthday parties and sleep overs. Social game does not put you at the top of the Spelling Bee, Math competitions and reading circles. In order to succeed educationally I needed to kick in my army of learning. This did not happen for me until many years later.
2. Siri definition of Conquer: To successfully overcome (a problem or weakness) It wasn’t until I married John, unknowingly the four star general to my army, he trained me in the fine art of study, test taking and learning that I was able to complete college. This was not an easy task for me as I had done so much damage to my GPA during my first years of school that I needed to bend a knee and retake classes that I had done poorly in. Getting my degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education was the largest battle I had and because of my General John and God I was able to come out of that battle a winner!
3. Siri Definition of conquer: To climb (a mountain) successfully. The battle to gain my Bachelors degree was just the bottom of that Mountain that I needed to climb. Gaining admittance to Grad School and being accepted into the School of Educational Guidance and Counseling at Kansas State University Was the climb. With the battle of my bachelors behind me I was ready for the climb. Using the tools John so graciously gave me had given me the confidence in this climb. When I finished all of the classes in the grad program I had to take a comprehensive test of all areas that I was taught. I took the test, and met with my academic adviser to hear the results. In all areas I was tested in I finished in the top third in my class, and in one area I was the top score! Wow, Mountain climbed and conquered in a way that left few battle scares. This brings me to the last part of the definition.
4. Siri definition of Conquer: To Gain the love, admiration or respect of (a person or group of people). Because of my early years of educational struggles I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I would see our friends wives becoming successful Doctors, CPA’s and Pharmaceutical reps, which reflected back to me in the form of all my failures and under achievement in school. But it put a fight in me to build my army, fight my battles and to climb that mountain. The end result was that I gained the love admiration and respect of ME. Who was the biggest obstacle in my educational journey.  The confidence gained of one’s self is the biggest battle won in the game of life. Don’t let your own self stand in the way of your dreams.

Starting Porch Swing

Porch Swing started as an idea developed while driving from the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, to Michigan. When we lived in Metamora, one hour north of Detroit, we drove to Jayme’s parents’ home 3-5 times per year. The drive back was a killer, so we would leave at 3:30 or 4 am, get through St. Louis before the traffic hit, and arrive at home in Michigan, after an hour time loss, around 4-5pm.
In August, 2013, on one drive back, I spent the first 1 1/2 hours thinking about the concept of capturing life stories. I had thought about this on several occasions before, but this time I went from wondering why no one has done it successfully, to the point of wondering what it would take to get there.
So, at my traditional 5 am stop at I-70 in Kingdom City, in addition to a coffee refill, I picked up a small notepad and a package of pens at a truck stop. I spent the next four or so hours, driving, drinking coffee, listening to am radio, and jotting notes on my notepad. I sketched out a rough business plan, website strategy, and marketing strategy.  My first name for the business was rodstory.com, in honor of Grandpa’s friend, and later, our first customer.
After Jayme woke up, I shared my thoughts with her, and she added some really cool thoughts regarding the Story Coaches who would help folks write their stories.
On subsequent trips back from the lake, I would pull out the notepads (there were two before long), and continue the process.
In January of 2018, I found myself between jobs. By then, I had done research on intellectual property and competitive analysis. We had hired a young lady to prepare the website, after several (5-7) meetings with firms/individuals who ultimately weren’t interested or weren’t the right fit.
We met Annie, who agreed to provide our initial words. We met Tim, who at first told us that he was not looking for any more clients for digital marketing, but came back later and decided to join.
We met Reagan (Publishing) at a coffee shop, reconnected with Mikal (Social Media) who we had worked with in Michigan, met Kelly (Design) at Cozy Café after a referral from Annie, and reunited with Becky when she relocated to KC.
Chris (Website) was a Reagan referral and joined the team a few months later.
The team was set, the product was looking pretty spiffy, and we started sampling with family and friends.
A couple of quick victories included Rod Storey, Jayme’s dad Jammie’s best friend from high school. We got Rod’s story completed, largely by him dictating to Jammie or writing on his Boogie Board, and Jammie telling me the stories while I was driving home from work. We completed Rod’s book, he ended up ordering 12 of them, three months before he passed away. The smiles, and comments from friends and family were worth the effort.
Next, I worked with Jayme’s mom, Pat. A chronically lovely lady, Pat was at first hesitant because of a concern that her story wasn’t very interesting, and wanting to avoid some early memories. I interviewed her several times, mostly with Jammie there. We quickly found that the high points were numerous and the difficult early times were easy to avoid.
As we sit at August, 2018, we believe we have cleared the first hurdle to success, we have a product and have launched our digital advertising. The next hurdle is cracking the code to getting people to buy. We’re just starting, and we’re not sure how high this hurdle is. We don’t believe that any of our predecessors have approached this hurdle with enough momentum and gumption to succeed. Or it could be that the hurdle is forty feet tall.
We are looking forward to the challenge with a great group of people.

A Letter to Makayla

(Makayla was selected to be an intern at Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans the summer before her senior year of college at Bowling Green.  It was quite an honor, only a small percentage of applicants were selected.  One day Kayla called and we were talking about the homeless in Detroit.  We had a nice chat, and I sent her this letter afterwords.  She ended up following up on some of my suggestions…see below.)

A note to Makayla…June 16, 2016

You have a big heart, and today it’s broken because of all the homeless people you see in downtown Detroit, very few stopping to notice or help.  It’s overwhelming, it’s depressing, it’s not right.  It makes you want to go somewhere else, and you feel guilty about that.  It’s too much…

First, you’re not alone.  We went on a few business trips to Chicago when Alex was probably five.  After the first one, he prayed every night that God would make him rich so he could help the homeless.  If I remember right, he chose not to join us on a later trip.  Point is, you’re in pain because you have a big heart, you have a lot going on in your life right now, and you’re right in the middle of it.  But you’re not alone.

So, what do we do?  My advice?  Pick one.  Go and talk with one today, tomorrow or Monday.  Ask him/her a few questions, look in their eyes, tell them you hope to see them tomorrow. There’s probably 10,000 homeless people in Detroit and 10,000 cool young people, so if each of you pick one to get to know…

If you want to give him/her something, the shelter folks would tell you to give them food instead of money, because many are suffering from addictions.  But that’s up to you.  But making a connection and saying Hi every day is a lot.  Encourage her.  Find out where her kids live.

BE SAFE.  You can only help people if one of them doesn’t kill you.  Choose a meeting place that’s out in the open.

There’s a great story about a guy who is frantically throwing back starfish into the ocean, except millions of them have been washed up on the shore and are dying. A guy walks by and says, “what are you doing?  There are millions of them out there, you can’t possibly make a difference.”  The guy throws a starfish in the ocean and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

SMILE.  These people get ignored for a living.  People avoid eye contact.  Give them one of your big, wonderful smiles.  It could be the greatest gift you can give.

John Meyer has it wrong.  One of the richest guys in the world is “waiting for the world to change.”  He probably wrote that song feeling like you do today.  But that’s not the answer.  Touch one life.  Pick one and do what you can to help.  Look for him every day on your way to work and say hi.

If you have a chance to volunteer at a kitchen or shelter that helps the homeless, ask how things are.  I did this in Wichita and found that there were enough options that the homeless were aware of what was being served every day and going to the kitchen that was serving the best lunch that day.  When Rudy Giuliani turned New York around, he did it by data, they knew exactly how many homeless and “squeegee guys” there were, and eventually they were able to move some up the ladder and get the rest the help they needed.

God Bless Dan Gilbert — he just brought 300 of the brightest young people to this area.  All of them are probably struggling with this the same as you, hoping to help and not sure how.  Go watch Pay It Forward, or Have a Little Faith (it takes place in Detroit) if you need to get fired up.

And pick one to get to know.

Dad II

(Next time I saw Kayla, at Thanksgiving at the lake, she told me that she followed my advice.  She selected a young lady who was at the same place every day, and just chatted with her.  I’ve asked Kayla to do a video with me to discuss the story.)

 

A Father’s Love

A Father’s Love

A few months before her and Jake’s wedding in 2005, Tori asked me to write a song for the first dance at their reception.  I told her that it’s not quite that easy, and that Butterfly Kisses, a terrific song from a father to a daughter, had already been written, but that I would take a shot.

I kicked it around for weeks – not wanting to put too much pressure on myself, but trying to keep it top of mind in case an idea came up. And I prayed about it quite a bit.  The melody for the chorus hit my one day in a shoe store, and I think by the time we checked out, I had sketched together “Heaven’s just another day for those of us who pray.”

I went home and found the chords on the guitar. Not surprisingly, the chords for the chorus are used in about 70% of the catchiest songs ever written, but for some reason, with different words, phrasing and melodies, they continually sound fresh and different.  I wrote the words and chords down so I wouldn’t forget them.  I had nothing for the verses, so I let it sit, and walked away from it.  I was afraid that if I forced myself to write it, I would write something bad.  So I put it on the back burner for a few more weeks, not trying to rush it.

Then one day I was at home and the melody for the verses hit me.  I really liked it, but I was concerned that it wouldn’t mesh with the chorus.  Rather than getting that technical, I hummed the tune in my head a couple of times and thought about Tori.  Before long, “You looked up at me smiling, as I tucked you in at night” came to mind.  I loved it.  “I put my arms around you, and I held on to you tight” came shortly after, and seemed to capture the emotion of that time in our lives.  I then pulled out the guitar, and figured out that the melody of the verses meshed with the melody of the chorus pretty well.

I decided it was now or never.  I needed a way to isolate myself from distractions so I could try to finish it.  I thought about driving around in the country the way I did when I was trying to decide whether to take a job that would move us to Pennsylvania.  I ruled that out – too hard to concentrate on the road and write a song at the same time.  I thought about going down to the basement – not isolated enough.  I couldn’t take the chance of getting interrupted by a phone call or call to dinner.  If I got on a roll, I had to see it through.

I settled on jogging.  Not out in the country where I would have to pay attention to where I was, but around Winding Pine, our one mile circle road, where I couldn’t get lost.  I put several note cards and a pencil in my shorts and headed out. I jogged as long as I could, probably about an hour.  I don’t know how many times I went around Winding Pine.  I know I was around Jim and Maggie James’ house when I thought about Sean Murphy and the “Isaac Newton, Galileo, Einstein, they’re pretty smart” line hit me.  I’m sure I looked pretty weird jogging along, stopping to pull note cards and a pencil out of my shorts, writing something down, and jogging off again.  By the time I was through, I was exhausted and had pretty much written the song the way it is today.

The song was a hit at the wedding.  As I was greeting people coming into the church, Jeff Toews, Travis Mann and Bret Mosiman mentioned that they brought their guitars.  They knew that our friend Pat Adams was scheduled to sing, but passed away tragically just a couple of weeks before, so they were prepared to help out if needed.  I asked them to join me in a back room prior to the start of the reception at the hotel.  In about 10 minutes, they had learned the chords and put together four part harmony on the chorus.  Alex joined me on the bass.  Tori wasn’t expecting backup singers, so that was terrific.  But she did come prepared with some Kleenex as her and Jake did their first dance.

It went great.  Alex was on the bass, some of my best friends were backing me up, and I didn’t forget any of the words.  Tori and Jake really enjoyed it, but not as much as my brother Bob.  After the song was over, Tori and Jake were headed over to give me a hug, but were beat by Uncle Bob, who practically ran over to give me.  He gave me a big hug with tears in his eyes.  It was a special moment of a special day and a special evening.

The words are below.  I’m a big fan of learning what song writers were thinking as they wrote songs, so there are some explanations following the lyrics. There are several lines of the song that refer to people or events, I explain those after the lyrics.

 

 

 

A Father’s Love

You looked up at me, smiling

As I tucked you in at night.

I put my arms around you

And I held on to you tight.

I prayed that God would lead you

And keep you in His grace

Till my arms no longer reached you

And another took my place.

 

It’s my job to protect you

Still I tried to understand

That someday you would be driving off

With another, younger man.

Though I couldn’t pick him for you,

I hope that you could see

Of all the guys you could have chosen

This one’s all right by me.

 

Heaven’s just another day for those of us who pray.

Each day we get our blessings from above.

God and I will be with you, every minute, every day.

Cause you can’t escape the arms of a Father’s Love.

 

Isaac Newton, Galileo, Einstein

They’re pretty smart.

Still you’ve got to have a daughter

To know what’s in a father’s heart.

There will be no calculation

That will help a man to know

The joy he will be feeling

As he’ll watch his daughter grow.

Though the miles may separate us,

Deep inside I think you see

That I’m always part of you,

And you’re always part of me.

Cause the love that I had for you,

As I knelt beside your bed

Will be beside you always,

No matter where you lay your head.

 

Heaven’s just another day for those of us who pray.

Each day we get our blessings from above.

God and I will be with you every minute, every day.

Cause you can’t escape the arms of a Father’s love.

 

Mom and I always worried, were we too gentle or too rough?

Times like this we’re looking at you, thinking we were close enough.

And when our game is over, and it’s left for you to play

You know that we’ll be with you, every minute, every day.

 

Heaven’s just another day for those of us who pray.

Each day we get our blessings from above.

God and I will be with you, every minute, every day.

Cause you can’t escape the arms of a Father’s love.

 

A bit of the back stories to the lyrics:

“You looked up at me smiling, as I tucked you in at night” – Mom and I loved tucking you in and praying each night – your big blue eyes looking over that little blue elephant…

“I put my arms around you, and I held on to you tight” – I had all the normal fears of a young father – was I up to the task?  Can I take care of you and keep you safe? When I hugged you and you were getting strength from me, I was getting strength from you.

“I prayed that God would lead you, and keep you in His grace, till my arms no longer reached you and another took my place.”   – There was no way I could know if I could always be with you.  So I was always talking to God making sure that He would take care of your wonderful little spirit in the event I could not.  I was pretty sure He was okay with that.

“It’s my job to protect you, still I tried to understand, that someday you would be driving off with another, younger man.” –   This is a reference to a terrific dad song from that time period called That’s My Job.  I knew that when the time would come, you would find a wonderful man.  And I was hoping, but pretty sure, you’d leave a space in your heart for me.

“Though I couldn’t pick him for you, I hope that you can see, of all the guys you could’ve chosen, this one’s all right by me.” –   Two meanings: first, I really like Jake.  Good pick.  As Mom and I have said many times, if you make the spouse decision right, all the other decisions get easier.  The second is a nod toward my dad.  Dad didn’t mind telling me he was proud of me. I think my favorite was one time he didn’t know I was listening.  I was taking a nap on the living room floor of the smaller house in Potwin, and Mom and Dad were in the kitchen.  I heard Dad look at me and say, “There may be better boys out there, but this one’s okay with me.”  This may be my favorite compliment of all time.

“Heaven’s just another day, for those of us who pray” – I feel strongly that God’s message to us isn’t to try to be good so you make it to heaven.  I think it’s stay close to God and let’s make heaven here.

“Each day we get our blessings from above” – This also means God wants us to have fun while doing it.  I don’t think He takes any joy in us making ourselves miserable for religion’s sake.  I think the idea is more, love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, and have fun doing it because that makes more people want to do it.

God and I will be with you every minute, every day cause you can’t escape the arms of a Father’s love.  I want you to go through life knowing that you are loved.  No matter where you are or what is going on in your life.  It’s a strong force that then enables you to share love with others. And you do a great job of that.

Isaac Newton, Galileo, Einstein they’re pretty smart.  Still you’ve got to have a daughter to know what’s in a father’s heart.  I was thinking of Sean Murphy, one of the smartest, most intellectual, deepest thinking people I know.  And I thought about the great thinkers of history.  And the march of technology.  And the fact that no matter how smart you are, or how fast your computer can run, you can’t express love in an equation.  So even with these gifts, we all need to take the time to develop the love in our lives.  (And Sean does a great job of that, by the way.)

Though the miles may separate us, deep inside I think you see, that I’m always part of you, and you’re always part of me.  Being in Michigan with you in Kansas was tough on all of us.  But it make me think of a terrific Glenn Frey song that was one of Dad’s Greatest Hits. You’re a part of me, I’m a part of you…

Cause the love that I had for you, as I knelt beside your bed, will be upon you always no matter where you lay your head.  – This is my favorite line in the song.  Song writing is hard, for one because you end up with “throw away words” that finish a phrase, or complete a rhyme, but wouldn’t be included otherwise.  (This song has a few of those, but not too many.)  But I could write this line 1000 times and not do it any better.  It says exactly what I want to say.  And I hope it gives you comfort.

Mom and I always worried, were we too gentle or to rough? – Half the time you’re raising kids you’re afraid you’re spoiling them.  The other half, you wonder if you are killing their spirit.  If you’re concerned about both, you’re probably pretty close to doing it right.

Times like this we’re looking at you, thinking we were close enough.  A nod to my friend JerryAnne Hadley, a wonderful woman who worked with me at DeVore Enterprises in Wichita.  JerryAnne had been the marketing director at Channel 3, but wanted to work for an entrepreneur, so she and I got to spend 5-6 years working together.  She mentioned to me one Monday morning that her adult daughter had come home for the weekend.  She told me “I was just sitting there looking at this wonderful thing I had created.”  I love that.  And it’s exactly the way Mom and I feel when we spend time with Tori and Alex.

And when our game is over, and it’s left for you to play, you know that we’ll be with you every minute every day.   – This one is in memory of my God father, Tom Thorpe.  Tom and Marye were close friends of my Mom and Dad.  Jayme and I were able to attend Tom’s funeral, and his favorite prayer, “The Game Guy’s Prayer” was on the inside of the program.  I loved it and kept it.  The prayer asks for strength when the bounces don’t come your way, courage to give it all you have all the time, compassion to help teammates who are struggling…

This song has continued to play a part in our lives.  It’s frequently requested when the family is together.  One of my favorite times is when Thalia asks James to dance with her while I’m playing it, and James will lift her up and Thalia closes her eyes and you can tell she pictures herself as a professional dancer.  Jee Hoon has really taken to the song, and has shared a video of me singing it with several of his friends.  He says his Mom, a terrific Christian, especially enjoys the first line of the chorus, Heaven’s just another day for those of us who pray.

And at the end of the day, I’m glad Tori asked.  She has always had the confidence to ask people to do things they wouldn’t have otherwise (Scott, tell Coach Snyder that Randi and I want to be managers).  And because she did, I’ve been able to tell her exactly how I feel about her and we’ve been able to enjoy this song for years.

My Mission Statement

My Mission Statement and My Faith

To love as much as I can, for there is no greater gift you can give.  He who loves the most, wins.

To love God with all my heart and to encourage others in their walk, because we all need God’s presence, guidance and love.

To love myself, by keeping a strong balance of mental, physical, spiritual and social in my life, because the stronger I am, the more I can help others.

To succeed, and help others succeed.  Success is contagious.

 

I keep a hand-written copy of My Mission Statement on a note card in my bathroom drawer where I look at it daily.  I got the idea from Seven Habits of Extraordinary People.

To love as much as I can, for there is no greater gift you can give.  He who loves the most, wins.

I hope I do a good job of loving people as much as I can.  It’s what God wants.  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s also a great way to live – it’s a lot of fun.  You find out that people are willing to return the love to you, which makes it even more fun.  (As the Beatles said, “and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”)

Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough for others.  I try to be careful about this, because if you spend too much time worrying about it, you get down on yourself, and then you’re not much help to anyone.  When I catch myself thinking about this, I try to pray about it and ask God to guide me.  As was said in Friday Night Lights, “Clear eyes, pure hearts, can’t lose.”  I believe that.

To love God with all my heart and to encourage others in their walk, because we all need God’s presence, guidance and love. (My Faith)

I enjoy talking about my relationship with God, and chatting with Jayme and the kids.  I think all of us should consider the questions – Is there a God?  Was Jesus the Son of God? Etc.  Alex and Lindsey shared with me the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” and I’ve read “The Case for Christ”. Dave Wilson at Kensington Church in Detroit has done some wonderful sermons on the topic.  I believe that the evidence for God outweighs the evidence that there isn’t one.  I think the choices in “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” that Jesus was either a liar, Lord or lunatic are the only ones we have to choose from, and that Lord makes the most sense.  I think that we humans fail all the time but that’s the beauty of free will.  And, as the title of the Sanctified CD states, we are all “Not Perfect, But Forgiven.”

At the Man Up retreat I went to with Alex, a speaker showed this great example of our relationship to God.  One person represented God, and stood at one end of the stage with his arms open.  The other guy represented us, at the other side of the stage.  God’s hope is that we walk across the stage and into his arms.  When we do he gives us a big hug.  It’s a very secure feeling.  At some point, we are able to turn, still in his arms, and face away from God and toward other people with our arms outstretched.  This visual represents what I want to share with Jayme and the kids, I have both arms around them, and they feel secure enough that they can wrap their arms around others while still in my arms.  I love that.

To love myself, by keeping a strong balance of mental, physical, spiritual and social in my life, because the stronger I am, the more I can help others.

I believe that I must love myself, and take care of myself, in order to help others.  If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s hard to help others.  In college, I met this great guy who was leading the Campus Crusade for Christ at KU.  He did a drawing of a wheel with four spokes, labelled mental, physical, spiritual and social.  His point was that if any one of the spokes is too short, or too long in your life, you’re out of balance.  For example, spiritual is good, but if you focus on that at the expense of the others, you’re probably not in a good spot.  Same as if you focus too much, or too little on physical, mental or social.

To succeed, and help others succeed.  Success is contagious.

I believe that success is a good thing.  And that as P.J. O’Rouke wrote in Eat the Rich, economics is not a zero sum game.  Which means that if we make more money, it doesn’t mean that others make less.  I believe the contrary is true – the more success we have, the more we can help others.  For one, we now know how to succeed.  It’s hard to help others succeed if we haven’t succeeded ourselves.  For two, it’s harder to give away a lot of money when you’re broke.  So the idea is for all of us to do as well as we can and help others along the way.  So I don’t know that a vow of poverty was really what God intended, at least if wouldn’t work very well if we all did it.  As my dad once said, “At some point, somebody, somewhere has to sell something.”  We all should succeed according to our own merits and good fortune and help as many others along the way as best we can.  That, I believe, is what God has in mind.

 

 

Training for a Marathon

When Alex married Lindsey Murphy, our family got introduced to long distance running.  Lindsey picked up competitive running in her junior year of high school.  We all found out she was really, really good.  In Lindsey’s first year of college, at Lake State in the Northern Peninsula of Michigan, Jayme, Alex and I were at the meet where she broke the school record for the two mile.  Unfortunately, a senior team mate was slightly ahead of her and got her name in the record books.

Lindsey, and her brothers Josh and Sean, ran distances seemingly without effort.  They formed a team and ran across the state once.  Stories of Josh finding a place to number two while running in the country were a source of enjoyment.

Never an accomplished runner, I think the most I had ran by that time would have been three miles, I was intrigued to hear them talk.  They frequently didn’t talk about how far they would run, but how long they would run, as in “I went and ran 30 minutes”. For some reason, that sounded more possible.  I couldn’t run a long distance, but could I run for 30 minutes, or 20, or 15?

We already had a membership at the Lapeer County rec center, so I decided to use it.  There is an indoor track where 13 laps equals a mile.  I decided to run 20 minutes.  I didn’t die. Felt proud.  Did it off and on for a while. Began referring to myself as a long distance runner.

Tori called one day and asked if I wanted to train with her to do a 10k.  Turns out, that’s 6.something miles.  She was not much more of a runner than me, so if she could do it…anyway, there was no way I was going to turn her down.  I said yes.

Tori and I worked off the same training plan.  When we were together, usually every other month one way or another, we would run together; otherwise, it gave us something to talk about and compare notes.  I learned that if it is written, I must do it.  We both stuck to the plan pretty religiously. The plan involved a peak run of eight miles two weeks prior to the race.  Seemed a little silly, but now I kind of was a long distance runner.

The Run for Mercy was near Tori’s house in the spring of 2011.  Jayme joined Tori, Jake and I for a 5k, and the rest of us finished the 10k without dying.  Almost had fun.

In January of 2013, Kensington church started a team to train for the Chicago Marathon.  Never to do anything small, their goal was 1000 runners.  Experience was not necessary.  The marathon was ten months away in October and everyone could do it. They showed a video of an overweight guy who trained last year and made it.  Lindsey ran it two years earlier, and we were all there to cheer her on. The money you raised was going to drill water wells in Africa.  Jayme and I signed up.  We talked Alex into it later that day.  I printed out the training program.

It was written, it must be done.  I started training that week.  One to two miles per run at first, 2-3 times per week.  I started to learn the drill – long runs on weekends. Do some fast running in the middle of your jogs.  Kensington had teams, but I was a long ways away, so I just kept my coach posted on my progress.  Most of my running was at the rec center.  I felt like a Nascar driver – a lot of right turns.  But it became a habit – stretch in the area above the pool, smell the chlorine, put on my headband, walk to the track, get a drink, turn on my ipod that kept songs I would only let myself listen to while running, and people watch and listen to great music while making a lot of right turns.  Not a bad way to spend half an hour or so.

The weekend long runs were more exciting.  Jayme would join me, her on a bike and me running, and we would head out from Winding Pine drive in Metamora, to the village of Metamora, then out into the beautiful countryside that lay beyond.  It must be one of the most spectacular places in the U.S. The wealthy folks from Detroit put their horse farms here back in the day for a reason.  The trees were eighty feet tall.  The roads were dirt and windy.  Wildlife everywhere.  Snow in the cold months only made it prettier.  Not a sound, with the occasional exception of a car.  The occasional horseback rider or bicyclist.  Quaint farms.  Smell of fresh air.

The most scenic drive in America, at least I think that’s what the sign said, took a 10 mile loop outside of Metamora. Took a few months to work up to that.  By August, the long runs went 15+ miles and took us past the Devil’s Ridge golf course near Oxford and back.

My biggest challenge came at the Back to the Beach half marathon in May.  I had run ten miles a few times, so I should be able to do 13.1.  Alex came there to support me since Jayme was out of town.  It was a warm day, 84 degrees by late morning.  A killer hill or two early in the race that I should have walked.  After 10 miles I was done.  I could no longer run.  It was hot, I was exhausted.  I saw Alex, he encouraged me to keep running. I said I can’t. He said “You just have a 5k to go, you do those all the time.” I walked, jogged when I could, maybe 20% of the time, then I’d walk again.  I finally finished.  The only guy I beat was on a stretcher with an IV.  Alex drove me home, I was discouraged.  I missed work the next day, couldn’t get out of bed.

I would have given up, except I got on the computer just to see how bad I did.  Walking the last three miles didn’t help my time.  But I looked at my last place time, multiplied it by two, and realized that if I could keep up even that pace, I could complete the Chicago Marathon in a qualifying time.  From that time on, I had one person I wanted to beat at Chicago – the guy who picks up the cones at the end of the race.

Alex and Jayme had come to their senses by spring.  In mid-summer, ten weeks prior to the race, Jake decided to take a shot.  Training for a marathon in ten weeks is no small task, in the summer, in a hot state.  But he did it. On October 20, 2013, Jake and I were at the starting line at the Chicago marathon.  It was 6 am.  We were wearing sweats we would take off and leave at the starting point along with everyone else.  It was a beautiful day.  A terrific event.

While training, I had always told myself that the worst thing that could happen is that I would not be able to run a marathon.  Not a tragedy.  Now I was at the starting point.  We had a lady take our picture.  Jake, me and 44,000 others started running.

The Chicago marathon is a cool event. People line the streets cheering on the runners, pretty much the entire 26.2 miles.  Different neighborhoods set up their own areas, with music, signs, and tons of people hanging out.  Our families, complete with little ones, made a decision to see us outside of the hotel where we were staying, because running round the city trying to catch up to a runner isn’t easy.  As it turns out, I ran an amazingly steady, if not very fast pace, so they could time my arrival pretty well.  Four hours and thirty minutes later, I was done.  The toughest part might have been walking another mile to get to them and then another mile to get to the hotel.  Hardest point of the race was around mile 12 where I thought my knee was going to quit on me.  Each time I had increased my mileage during training, my left knee would act up, and normally the brace would keep it in check.  I remember thinking, “poop, I might have to quit.”  I slowed down a little.  Turned out okay.  We ran through the city, through the neighborhoods, past Soldier Field, and Jake claims he missed that one.  I said later, “how did you not see Soldier Field?”  He said he was pretty focused at the time.

I beat the cone guy, and a few thousand others.  Finished in four-five hours.  Had fun.

So, at 53, I ran my first marathon.  I say my first, because, who knows I may do it again.  Since then I’ve done a few half marathons, and now three sprint triathlons.  I’m much healthier, and I’ve had a lot of fun.  I have a lot to thank Lindsey, and everyone else, for.

Pontiac

In the fall of 2013, I got a call from Alex on a Thursday night.

His group of friends had located a former police station in Pontiac that they wanted to buy.  They wanted to put a tutoring center in it. They thought it would take fifteen thousand dollars or so to buy it.  The auction was next Tuesday.  They had already looked at the building, and the folks from the City of Pontiac who were selling the property were hoping the kids would get it.  The other potential buyer wanted to put a gentleman’s club in it and liked it because the basement had no windows.

Alex and Lindsey had been married a couple of years earlier.  Jonah was nearing two.  Their group of friends had decided they would do what they could to save the world, one section at a time.  They would start with Pontiac, because it was close by and had the third highest crime rate in the U.S. (Every year, Detroit, Pontiac, and East St. Louis would battle it out for one, two and three.)  Their plan was that they would all move to Pontiac, they would all start a church that would attract people of various ethnicities, and they would start a tutoring center.  Their goal was then to start a tutoring center in each of the top ten highest crime rate cities in the U.S.  There were probably ten to twelve couples, all in their twenties, who hatched this plan.

Jayme and my initial thoughts were of concern: Pontiac was a rough place.  We rarely entered the city limits, and would intentionally avoid it.  It was a poverty-filled town of fifty thousand people in the middle of prosperous Oakland County.  Would Alex, Lindsey, Jonah, and our other grandchildren be safe?

On the other hand, how do you not root for a group of twenty somethings who are trying to make a dent in the problems of the world?  I remember doing some of the things I did when I was young, and none were quite this noble.  The kids had a meeting on the second floor of the Lafeyette Grand in Pontiac that Friday night.  Jayme was unable to go but I attended.  I didn’t get shot.  Alex, Lindsey and their friends were adorable and infectious.  No one knew if it would work.  We wrote a check.

By the time of the auction on Tuesday, in four days, the kids had raised sixteen thousand dollars, just enough to be the winning bidder.  The building was brick but in rough shape.  They did a few work weekends to clean it up.  They raised another thirty thousand to replace all the windows.  They opened in the spring of the following year.

Their concept was that the kids in Pontiac don’t get the after school opportunities that other suburban kids do.  A snack or a meal, a few games, a little help with the homework, and a little love might go a long way.  The kids believed that the folks in Oakland County would drive to Pontiac one day a week to make a bond with a deserving child.  Drug dealers in Pontiac put big TV’s and video games in houses to attract youth.  This would be an alternative.

The center has now been open for several years.  Another has opened in Detroit and there are a few others.  The annual gala is a highlight of Jayme and my year.  The kids bought a foreclosed house in Pontiac, and spent six months fixing it up.  They moved in with Jayme and I for that time.  I’ve always felt that the Hispanics have it right and that multi-generational housing is the way to go.  During this six months, we got a steady dose of dance parties, sharing bananas with Jonah, stairway mooch, and “old bucket head” running around our living room with a movie popcorn basket on his head.  And we got to spend time with some of the best young people you could ever run across.  That just happened to love us as well.

I told Alex after their house renovations were completed that they should sell the house, bank the check, and stay with us.  They moved to Pontiac.

While there, they ran across a young man named Selvin.  Selvin was in junior high at the time, and they just hung out with him and did what they could to help.  They got to know Selvin’s mom and step dad and made sure they didn’t mind.  Over the years, Selvin comes to the house a few times a month and they talk often.  Jonah and Arthur love him.  He’s a terrific young man.  He held down a job with Little Caesar’s for several years while attending high school – “nobody makes sauce as good as me” – and was tremendously reliable for his manager.  He has attended junior college, and now has a job in a factory making sunroofs for cars.  I’m sure he will impress them there as well.  He is working on getting back to college.  He owns a car, and cares for it.  He is not yet a father.  He is a great kid.

I told Alex and Lindsey when they started, that they were doing a great thing, and doing it while trying to run their lives – work in their jobs, raise kids, care for the house.  I told them that this kind of momentum is hard to keep up, and not to be disappointed if they lose steam in six weeks or six months.  It’s now been over five years.  They still live in Pontiac, they still run the Centers for Success.  The church ultimately closed – after several years – but that’s a different story.

Jayme and I are incredibly proud of them and glad we’ve been able to help.

The End Of Our Wedding Day

Wedding Day July 16, 1983. The day started like any other except is was raining which was very unusual for a hot July day in Kansas and I was as nervous as a cat. Half excitement to be marrying my best friend, a person whom I could be just me with, half nervous to be standing in front of everyone. You see even though I was a cheerleader and class President I absolutely hated being the center of attention. (I loved being in charge, and still do 😉)  Luckily I will be marrying a man who loves the spot light who is willing to stand in it until I become comfortable. I asked Ronda Tole to ride to the church with me. We stopped through the drive through at McDonald’s in El Dorado for lunch as the wedding was early afternoon. We arrived at the church the same time as the florist and I could smell the aroma of the yellow roses that would be in every bouquet and flower arrangement. Heading downstairs to begin bridal prep my mom arrived all excited and ready for the day. I turned the electric rollers on and unpacked my wedding dress, shoes, undergarments and make up. As I began to curl my hair I could hear that other wedding participants were beginning to arrive, listening carefully to hear John’s laugh in hopes that he too was in and not going to leave me at the alter.
Wedding complete , cake and punch were served and final photos were taken. As John and I ran to his car our friends and family cheered and threw bird seed at us, wishing us luck and good fortune. Sitting in the passenger seat with a large smile and a grateful heart John and I headed to my childhood home in Towanda to change for our honeymoon.
Now change to my mom Pat, as John and I were headed to Towanda Mom was beginning to clean up the church when it struck her that she had locked the front door of our house. Now this was something that I don’t know ever happened in the 20 some years of living with her. Our home was only locked at night when we were all in bed fast asleep. I never had a key and didn’t know if one ever even existed. Well, mom had read somewhere that burglars read the Obituaries and Wedding announcements making note on their burglar calendars of the days and address’ where homes would sure to be vacant. Who knew? My mom did and she was no ones fool, not even a burglar’s. So before she left for the church she locked the house up tight. Now cleaning up and thinking of John and I heading to the house to go on our honeymoon she remembers her safety precautions and jumps into the air as she shouts to my father, “get the car keys and meet her at the car! I forgot to give Jayme the keys to the house!”
Back to John and I heading to the house to change and begin our life together. We were so excited and planned to run into the house change quickly and leave before anyone gets home. We were ready for our trip and were done chit chatting with others. We pull into the drive way, John opens my car door still wearing his Silver Tailed Tuxedo to help me out as I was wearing my wedding dress vale and all. As John opened the screen door I reached for the front door, turning the knob, well, it didn’t turn, trying again wondering “Huh” John tries to open the door and exclaims “its locked!” Me, “What? Mom NEVER locks the door.” Thinking how are we going to make our great escape to our honeymoon if we can’t get inside to gather my suitcase and change my clothes? We stepped down off of the porch John went around the house to see if the sliding door was unlocked.  No such luck it was locked tighter than a tank. That is when I looked up at the window to the kitchen which was in the front of the house, I noticed that mom forgot to lock the window. “John if you could lift me up I can take the screen off the window and slide into the kitchen.” Now the Window was a good six, seven foot off the ground so in order to accomplish this he had to lift me up over his head. Lifting me in my dress was another issue as it was full and had many layers, just trying to find me in it was a challenge. John bends down and lifts me up, not able to see anything except my many layers of dress in his face, I direct him and take the screen off. Lowering me to the ground I notice that the same car that drove by as he was going to lift me drive by again very slowly looking at us as we were standing out front of the house.  Now holding the screen to the kitchen window I smile as they drive past.  I then looked and John and said, “lift me up, I can fit through that window and on the other side is the kitchen table I will slide right on top of it.” As John lifts me up I am halfway into the window with John’s hand on my back end pushing me through I can hear a car pulling into the driveway, not able to see who it was as I was looking at the kitchen table at this time. I hear my dad shout “Oh no, you married her, you are keeping her!” At that time I slipped through the window landing half on the table and half on the dinning seat. When I am able to look up there stands Mom, Dad and John in the kitchen looking at me. Laughing hysterically we realize that we are not going to make our quick “get away” but we just made a wonderful memory.

Comment below is from John:

Our Wedding Day Break-In

As we pulled up to the house, the objective was a quick getaway.  A quick change of clothes, grab a bag, head to the car wash, and off to start our life together.

I’m guessing I was being the gentleman and opening the door first.  A locked front door is not an unknown event, but by Jayme’s reaction, I could tell this was not normal on Mechanic Street in Towanda, and quickly learned that not only did she not have one, she couldn’t remember ever seeing a house key.

In 104 degree heat and wearing a tux, I head back to the back door.  No luck.  Jayme’s idea to try the window above the dining table seemed logical.  (I would have said it was the window over the sink, but she had the better view, so I’ll trust her memory.)

Now I just have to prove how big a man I am and gracefully lift my petite wife, in her wedding dress, over my head.  She quickly opens the window and slides in.  I have none of the memories of cars driving by or even her folks pulling up.  I was covered in taffeta and focused on the task at hand.

Her dad’s “Oh no you don’t, you married her, you have to keep her” comment is priceless and lives on.  It illustrated one of the things I love about Jayme’s family – a really quick wit.  It ranks up there with some of his classics.

The day was terrific – my family, JJ’s family, college friends, high school friends, Mark Gillihan my best man – my best friend from our pre-K years when he moved, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  A beautiful bride, a great day, a great start to a great marriage.