Monday, October 17, 2011

What Is Time and Does It Really Matter (yes, another Mom story)

Time! One of the governing factors of our lives is time, from minutes to years to decades and more. Sometimes we speak of time in general measure such as 'morning, afternoon, day, night, last week, next month, etc'. Sometimes we're more specific using a clock to mark the exact time something occurred. Regardless of whether we're talking in generalities or in specific, time is an important concept to understand... or is it?

The value of time is another subject altogether. We've all heard the saying "time is money". Different people place different values on time. Some people feel it is very important to be 'on-time' to an event, while others (who shall remain nameless) have never been on-time to anything in their lives and they're quite ok with that.

There's no great mystery here. Time and the value of time is relative to the individual. But imagine, if you can, that you had no concept or understanding of time. How would you live? How would you know when it's time to do anything. How would you feel if you didn't know how old you are. How would you feel if you didn't know when you got married, or when your child was born?

If you haven't figured it out yet, here comes a Mom story. I've known for a while that Mom was losing the concept of time. She still knows what an hours is, a day, a week, etc. but she has no concept of time spans. If something happened yesterday, it might as well have been 10 years ago. If you tell her on Monday that something is going to happen on Friday, she'll worry about it every day wondering if it's Friday yet. Today I had to take Mom to a lab to have some blood drawn for a test her eye doctor wanted. While we were sitting at the lab waiting, she asked me how long it had been since she lost sight in her left eye. I told her it had been 5 months. She gave me a funny look and emphatically proclaimed that she hadn't seen out of that eye for years. Now, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter whether it's been 5 months or 5 years. In this particular case, no it doesn't.

This was a stark reminder that Mom is going away. You know how it is... you think you understand, you tell yourself that it's the alzheimers desease, you rationalize it in your own mind and then think you're prepared to deal with it. Well trust me, you can arm yourself with the cold hard facts but you're fooling yourself if you think that prepares you to watch your Mom disappear.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Part One: 35 years of marriage
Sheri and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, and by celebrated I mean we got dressed up and went out to a fancy dinner. Thirty five years is a milestone, to be sure, and it caused me to reflect on the past. You know how it is, we get so wrapped up in the here-n-now and worried about the future, that we don't usually give much thought to the past. Now I have to admit that my memory is selective, choosing to remember mostly the good times, and many of the details are lost to dead brain cells, but the general ideas and feelings are still there. Having made that stroll down memory lane now, I can honestly say that I feel extremely blessed.

Of course, it takes two to make a marriage so let me say a few words about the better half of this partnership, my lovely wife, Sheri. It goes without saying that God knew what he was doing when he put us together. At least that's my perspective, I hope it is Sheri's as well. To summarize, Sheri is all the good things I believe a wife should be (loving, caring, respectful, supportive - to name a few), and none of the bad things (nagging, belittling, shop-aholic, etc.).
My kids might think "ewwwwww" at this next statement. I happen to think Sheri is a hottie, especially to be a 50+ year old grandmother.

I could go on and on about the highs, the lows, the changes, the growth, but I'll just wrap up this part by saying it's been a great 35 years of marriage and I'm looking forward to many, many more.

Part Two: Getting Old Really Sucks
I know... It's been an amazing journey and I should be happy that I've made it this far. But that doesn't keep me from longing for my youth - the days when I could mow my yard without taking 4 rest breaks and needing all night to recuperate. Seriously, just this year I've begun to notice things like that. It seems like all at once I can't do certain tasks with the same endurance and enthusiasm of days gone by. It doesn't feel like it slowly crept up on me. It was like, "BAM" your old now! I can't go anywhere without my reading glasses. I can't plan two physical events in the same day, like washing the car followed by mowing the grass. And the heat, I can't take it like I used to. It just sucks the energy right out of me. In my youthful days a "good time" was going out and doing something fun, usually a physical activity. Now days a "good time" is doing nothing at all. And it doesn't help to think it probably won't get any better. Sure, I could work really hard to get in better physical condition and shed a few pounds and I might get a boost in energy, but the body is still the same age and will still suffer from all the aches and pains.

OK, enough with the pity party. Since my 85 year old mother has moved here, I see her several times each week and so I'm keenly aware of her condition (mental and otherwise). Then I think "is that me in 25 - 30 years?" Holy octogenarian, Batman! Put in that perspective, these ARE my youthful days and I'd better enjoy them while I can.

See. It's all a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Boycotting Honda

This is my own personal rant about Honda so if you're not in the mood for it, just stop reading now. If you agree with me, please feel free to pass on my sentiments to all who will listen. I realize this really won't change anything with Honda or fix the problem, but I'll feel better having said my piece, and if I can cause Honda to lose one more customer, then my job is done.

Here's the story in somewhat condensed form. Three years ago my son, Brent bought a Honda Fit with manual transmission. At 50,000 miles the clutch went out. Of course, the clutch plates are considered a consumable wear item and are therefore not covered under the 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. So according to the Honda dealership and Honda Corporation, tough luck, it will cost $1,000 to replace the clutch. Not being very satisfied with that answer I encourage Brent to follow the Honda process for arbitration. Quickly stated, you have to file paperwork with the auto division of the Better Business Bureau. Now, six weeks after first contact with the BBB, they finally respond by saying the cars mileage is too high for them to consider pursuing our complaint. In other words, tough luck, it will cost $1,000 to replace the clutch. Where do you go to file a complaint against the BBB?

Now, you may be thinking I really have no complaint because everyone knows that a clutch is a consumable item not covered under the powertrain warranty, and you would be correct. I knew that, and to the letter of the law, we really have no recourse. But that doesn't make it right.

If you've ever driven a manual transmission, under normal driving conditions (not racing on the local drag strip), then you know that a clutch typically will last at least 100,000 miles and I've known of clutches lasting up to 200,000 miles. I have a Nissan Frontier that went 140,000 before I had the clutch replaced. So, with that being the "norm", certainly Brent's situation is out of the norm. To see if our case was a one-off bad luck situation, we went to the internet and searched for others with similar problems. Would you believe there are hundreds of reported cases of premature clutch failure with Honda Fit cars, and all of them tell the same story... no recourse with Honda... shut up and pay up. Some of these other cases are even worse than Brent's. Some had clutch failure at 30,000 or less.

I owned a Honda CRV for 13 years and never had any problems other than standard maintenance. In that regard, Honda lived up to its reputation for building quality vehicles that hold their value. Based on that experience, I've encouraged others to buy Honda products. That may have had something to do with Brent buying the Honda Fit. But now I think Honda is resting on their reputation and thumbing their nose at their customers. I've heard other people say the same thing, that Honda is not working to maintain their reputation, they're just riding its coat-tails.

You cannot convince me that Honda thinks it's normal or "ok" for a clutch to fail so soon. They just know that according to the book, they don't have to pay to fix it. They have shown that they are really not concerned with the satisfaction of their customers. Well, if they don't care about me, then I no longer care about them and will do everything in my power to discourage others from buying their products. They could have easily saved their reputation for customer satisfaction, and saved at least 2 customers by making some pretence to work with us to make it right, but they chose not to. Since the clutch was effectively half used up, we would have been happy with them paying only half the repair cost... but noooooo! When the dealership found out we were taking it to arbitration, their attitude said "take your best shot". To avoid paying $500, they have now lost at least 2 customers, and with any luck there will be many more lost customers.

Call it sour grapes if you want, but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

P.S. If there's a silver lining to this cloud, maybe it's that due to Honda's crappy product and even crappier service, some local American-owned business will get paid to replace the clutch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life Imitates Nature (is that redundant?)

I recently came upon this scene in nature (a.k.a. my backyard) that caused me to stop and contemplate how life sometimes imitates nature... okay, it took about 2 seconds. Anyway, I got in touch with my artsy-fartsy side and took this picture.

I have three titles for the picture and can't decide which one is more fitting, so you be the judge.

"Late Bloomer", or "Dare To Be Different", or "There's One In Every Crowd".

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Circle of Life... or, be kind to your children because one day they might be choosing your nursing home.

Fifty-five years ago (come this Saturday) I made my appearance in this world. My mother was just a couple of weeks shy of her 30th birthday. A little quick math and that means my Mom will be 85 years old in a few weeks. Suddenly, 55 doesn't seem too bad.

For those keeping track, you'll remember that my Dad passed away in June of this year. He was 84 years old. He and Mom had been married 64 years. Mom went to live with my older brother in Evansville, IN. Over the past few months I've kept in touch with Mom via the occasional phone call and even less occasional snail mail (she doesn't do computers). My brother has kept me up to date on Mom's condition, and by condition I'm refering primarily to her mental state.

For some time (several years) it has been apparent that Mom's short-term memory was failing and she seems to get confused easily. Is it the early stages of alzheimer's, or basic dementia related to old age? Who knows? As an example, she swears that her bedroom at my brother's house is on a different level from the rest of the house, but instead of stairs there's like a ramp that goes to her bedroom. In reality, my brother's house is all one level, no stairs, no ramps.

Why do I mention all of this? Because Mom is now at my house and I'm about to learn first-hand what my brother has been talking about. Back before Thanksgiving we talked to Mom about coming to visit us over the Christmas holiday... figuring a couple of weeks. The next thing you know, Mom's talking about staying longer... just didn't make sense to travel all that way and just stay 2 weeks. Well, ok, I have no problem with that. Sure enough, she packed 3 suitcases and an overnight bag, along with assorted purses, shoes, coats. All evidence suggests that she's here to stay a good while. Again, I have no problem with that. The reason I was thinking just a couple of weeks is because my brother and his extended family will be celebrating Christmas on January 8th (long story) and I assumed Mom would want to be there for that occasion... apparently, not. I have a theory as to why Mom is planning an extended stay and why she doesn't care about missing my brother's family get-together, but that's better left off the public internet.

Here comes the 'Circle of Life' part. For the first 18 - 20 years of my life, my parents took care of me, making sure I had everything I needed and had every opportunity to grow into adulthood. Having been the child and having been the parent of my own children, I know what that's all about. Now it's my turn to reciprocate. In a way it's sort of cool having Mom around, but in other ways it's sort of weird. She's a little more "child-like" than I had anticipated. Sure, I've listened as my brother explained what it was like living with Mom again, but clearly it's one of those cases where you don't really understand until you've done it yourself.

Thank God she is still physically capable of dressing, bathing, and feeding herself. The difficulty comes in remembering things... like where's the bathroom. After two days she still opens every door until she finds one that looks like a bathroom or her bedroom. Hopefully, this is a short term situation until she's lived here long enough to figure out where everything is located. On the other hand, this may be as good as it gets. As strange as this may seem, I can live with that.

Where I have questions and doubts is when does my help cease being help and cross the imaginary line to be an insult. Here's an example: She gets confused going from her bedroom to the bathroom... six feet from door to door. Just down the hall is the top of the stairs... many steep, narrow steps. My biggest fear is that she will get up in the middle of the night, get confused, wander down the hall, make a wrong turn and tumble down the stairs. To prevent that from happening we put a baby gate across the hallway at night. Seems like a logical thing to do, but when does it stop being a safety precaution and become an insult to her intelligence?

At what point, if ever, does the parent accept that the roles are reversed and is not insulted by playing the role of the child?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tis The Season... I Ought To Know By Now

This is not meant to be a "Bah Humbug" rant, but rather an "I ought to know by now" article.

I really do love the Christmas season as a whole, but let's talk about stress. I'll sort this into work stress and home stress.

Work: It's practically a tradition now that this time every year brings a round of firings. I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with making up for budget shortfalls to make the year as a whole look better on the balance sheet. But seriously, how sucky is it to let people go 3 weeks before Christmas? "Merry Christmas... you're fired!!" Really? They couldn't wait until January? I know the firings are coming every year, and every year I get nervous about it because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. I've seen some of our best people fired for no apparent reason. And every year that I don't get fired, rather than feeling like I must be contributing and doing a good job, I feel like I just got lucky and dodged another bullet. Even worse, there's always some "survivors remorse"... why them and not me.

I ought to know by now... not to worry about getting the axe. If it happens, it happens and life will go on. And my psyche shouldn't sweat it because I probably won't be fired for doing a poor job. It'll just be an economical decision made by some mid-level bonehead. And another thought - I am not defined by my job. It was different (or so I thought) when I was much younger and chasing the brass ring, but not anymore. If I lose this job, it does not change who I am.

Home: This time of year always seems to create stress around the house. We stress about putting up the Christmas Tree, decorating the house, cooking the traditional meals, and most of all we stress about finding the perfect gift for everyone.

I ought to know by now... that all this stress is self-imposed and/or imagined. These are all things I can control. I really enjoy having the tree up and the house decorated and the big traditional meals and, most of all, giving gifts... so, why is all this stressful? Because of what we imagine others might think. If we were true to ourselves and didn't worry about what other people (those who don't matter anyway) think, would we still go big - big fancy tree, big fancy decorations, enough food to feed a small army, and big expensive gifts? Maybe not. Maybe this sounds selfish, but I think we should do these things for ourselves, because it brings joy to us. I choose to believe that the people in my life who really matter won't care if I have a fancy tree and decorations, and probably would be fine if they received no gift at all. Does this mean I'll stop decorating and giving gifts? Absolutely not! It brings me joy to do so.

Merry (stress-free) Christmas to All!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Red Coats Are Coming!!

Once again, in their infinite wisdom and in the name of globalization, the organization I work for has decided that I should report to a guy who is located in London. It's bad enough that my organization gets "re-organized" about every 6 to 9 months (meaning I get a new boss every time) and we're scattered all over the U.S. (meaning I've only met one of my past 5 bosses face-to-face), but now they've thrown in the big pond and a 5 hour time difference between me and my Boss du Jour. One thing is certain, he won't be physically looking over my shoulder.

One might think the Brit, wanting to make a good impression, would reach out to his new subordinates without delay to establish a good rapport. One would be wrong. The Brit was my new boss for almost two months before I got the first email from him, and then it wasn't sent to me personally. It was a common introduction sent to the entire team... STRIKE ONE! The next communication I/the team received was notifying us that he had hired a Management Trainee - another name for fresh-faced college boy with permanently stained lips from kissing too much ass - to assist him with the mundane (my word) tasks of herding us Yanks. So, to add insult to injury, now I have to respond to this ass-kissing infant as if he was my boss... STRIKE TWO!!

The first time I actually heard my bosses voice was late last Tuesday afternoon. By late I mean 4:00-ish Eastern Time. The boss and I were both on the same conference call where we learned of a rush-rush request from one of our project sponsors. Here's the problem -- by the time the call ended it was 5:00 PM ET / 10:00 PM London time. I had to leave the house in less than an hour for a montly dinner meeting and I was scheduled to leave Wednesday morning for 3 days of vacation at the beach. And it couldn't wait until I got back on Monday (today). Having explained this to my new boss and apologizing for having to dump it on him, he said "no problem", he would handle it on Wednesday. So, I sent out an email to all involved parties on Tuesday evening saying that my boss would take care of things on Wednesday... and I copied my boss. Now it's Monday, I'm back in the office and trying to get in touch with the boss to see how things turned out in my absence last week. I was a little concerned because I knew he should have copied me on any correspondence and there was nothing in my in-box. I sent an IM and waited 1.5 hrs for a response... silly me... at 8:00 this morning it was already lunch time in London. It turns out I had good reason to be concerned. My first clue was when he responded with basically, "was I supposed to do something?" The bottom line is, he dropped the ball and the thing that couldn't wait until Monday has now waited until Monday... and now I have to clean up the mess and apologize to everyone for the delay... STRIKE THREE!!!

Are the Brits still pissed about that whole War for Independence thing, or has common sense taken another slap in the face for the sake of political correctness and globalization? Either way, I am so screwed.

Dear Lord, can I please hit the lottery and retire early?