Louisiana Trip, Day 5…..

Birthday arrived yesterday and Daddy made it for over an hour before he tired and needed to return to his room. He enjoyed cupcakes, ice cream and the lady who does his hair every few weeks brought by some treats as well. One was an unbaked cookie ball rolled in coconut that tasted a great deal like a lemon tart. We had about nine of us there and a couple of the residents also stopped in the activity room. Through a very strange situation, my sister and brother-in-law didn’t make it after all and the step-sister in Texas had previously said they couldn’t come. The idea is both those sets will try to coincide a visit in a few weeks. The youngest whose name I have forgotten meant we had four generations represented; not unexpected when the oldest is 97. The rain did stop prior to everyone arriving and with the sun out, it was a bit steamy although we  were inside so it didn’t matter.

Brother and I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant last night. Not that we have a shortage of Mexican restaurants in Homestead, but my sister-in-law doesn’t care for the cuisine so it was what he wanted to do. There are actually four good Mexican restaurants in Minden/Dixie Inn; three of which serve alcohol. (One does have to have one’s priorities). My favorite doesn’t have quite as much atmosphere as the one downtown, however, they have a signature dish I really like. It’s a “Ranchero style” with either chicken, steak or shrimp, and has a little tomato, roasted green peppers, onions, all in a cheesy sauce (not heavy). The flavors are well balanced. Oh, and when they put the basket of tortilla chips on the table, they are often still warm from the fryer. And yes, the salsa is homemade.

“We Can’t Help Everyone”……

In writing for our weekly community paper, I have and continue to cover many non-profits and often pass them along in posts here. Some are events held by the national/international organizations like the Kiwanis and others are regional or local. I have also covered multiple small groups that aren’t able to sustain even though they had good intentions. Running a non-profit requires a certain level of organization and some administration as it should if you’re going to ask people to give you money. There are, unfortunately, those groups that do spend far too much of their revenue on “administration” rather than programs and even worse are those that are out-and-out scams.

Setting aside the negative aspects, I’ve also previously posted about the sheer number of legitimate organizations means no one – not even the multi-billionaires – can contribute to all the worthy causes. Which leads to the phrase, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I used that as a lead-in to this week’s article about one of the local non-profits that has managed to sustain since they started a few years ago when I first learned about them. (https://brightseasons.org) I did a post as well, but that’s been a while. The lady and her husband began with a small group of friends and have grown. Their mission and goal are to help people who are going through a “tough time” and just need a bridge to help them across the turmoil.

One of my favorite stories of many was the cheerful young man who worked at Starbucks and was a student at the local college. Aside from paying for college, his wages went to help his single mother and younger brother. So, one of the organization members learned his old car had broken down and he was waiting to make enough money to fix it. This meant taking the bus and walking to work and school which of course meant even less free time than he usually had. The first discussion was to pay for the repairs, but his car was really old. Another member had a basic used car, yet still serviceable and they said they would contribute that. Someone else did take it in to make sure it was tuned up as well as fueled. They delivered it to the young man who was stunned and incredibly grateful. While this was more of a “big project” if you consider the value of a used car, most of the good deeds they do are smaller in scope, yet greatly help the recipient.

The Comedy of Pompous….

Having now finished watching the series “Northern Exposure”, I had never seen the first season of “Fraiser”. That was another one we didn’t watch routinely and at only half-hour, the episodes can’t include as much as an hour-long show. For those who may not be familiar, it was a spin-off show from “Cheers” where the psychiatrist Dr. Fraiser Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, leaves Boston after his divorce and goes back to Seattle to become the psychiatrist for a call-in radio show. His brother, Niles, played by David Hyde Pierce, is still a practicing psychiatrist. Their father, a tough cop who certainly hadn’t envisioned both his sons being so very different from him, was forced to retire when he was shot in the hip. In not yet healing, it became apparent he could no longer live at home so the first episode and several subsequent ones were the utter disruption when the decision was made for him to move into Fraiser’s well-appointed apartment. Niles has a large, expensive house with plenty of room, but his wife (whom I don’t think we ever see) has many issues that are also worth a chuckle. Naturally, there is a spunky British live-in added into the mix who helps care for the father (played by John Mahoney) and his scruffy dog Eddy.

There are the other members of the radio staff and personalities to add humor as well as the pricey coffee shop where many scenes take place. There is the constant display of how pompous both sons are juxtaposed against the common sense of the dad and assistant. At the same time though, there are the moments when the dad or assistant stop to see things from Fraiser’s perspective to draw out the gentler person he can be. A few poignant exchanges serve as reminders that most of us do at times get caught up in our own views and perhaps fail – or are slow to consider another as valid.

Birthday On the Approach…..

As it is birthday eve, Mother Nature is being a bit “blustery” and so diving tomorrow is more than I care to mess with. They cancelled yesterday afternoon’s trips and according to Hubby, the wind and waves definitely picked up the latter part of this morning. As long as I can get a dive in by Tuesday though it still counts as a birthday dive. Depending on what else I have tomorrow, I might jump in the pool to get wet at any rate. We are joining friends this evening though who are down from New Jersey. That steered me more toward a leisurely lunch out Saturday and nice steaks at home Saturday night. Yes, that’s the day after, but again, it’s close enough to count.

Since we have trip to D.C. area coming up that will also involve some nice dinners out although it’s difficult to know how things will be with the COVID situation. Hopefully, not as bad as last year’s trip with hotel services curtailed. On the other hand, we have that to use as a gauge, so don’t expect it to be worse. Other friends we haven’t seen in quite some time are coming up from North Carolina and while my girlfriend does have business to attend to she might take part of Tues, the 14th off. If she can’t, we’ll still all have dinner, plus the performance and the gala after for “catch-up” time. The reason we’re staying close to the Kennedy Center for the night of the performance is because the gala always runs late and at least we’ll have a short distance to go when we unplug. It is a school night due to how they had to reschedule from last year’s date and I don’t think the kids have decided yet if they will get up extra early to take granddaughter to school or let her skip a couple of hours. It probably makes sense to wait and see before making that decision.


Speaking of Jobs and Working Together….

Okay, my plan to post yesterday got completely away from me with a series of errands and having three articles again for the paper this week.

A longtime business (market and cafe) has closed in Kendall which is up the road a bit. People are posting about their memories and sad to see it go. We were only there a couple of times and did enjoy it. Like so many family owned businesses though, sustaining through the generations can be difficult; especially for the third and fourth. One of my “beats” for the community paper is multi-generational businesses and I’ve written about many of them. Two generations is not uncommon as the child/children often literally “grow up in the business”. This is a usually combination of struggling to make it as a “mom and pop” whatever it might be and therefore needing to use the business for day care/after school, then finding tasks for the child/children to do which segues into part time work. At that point, there is generally a growing appreciation for the business, a thirst to learn and do more or the other side of the coin, “I’ll put up with this until I can go my own way.” If there is more than one child, it can be split as to who wants to keep with the family business and who wants to follow another path.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my career intentions had been to go into the Army to get the G.I. Bill to pay for law school and enter the small family law firm. In staying in the Army for a career instead, the cousin closest to me in age and his younger sister did both go to law school and took over the practice. Male cousin stayed with it and female cousin went the judicial route. So, that’s the third generation. Male cousin’s sons were not remotely interested, but female cousin’s oldest daughter is not only a relatively new lawyer, but also married to a lawyer. They’re in Mississippi and the daughter acknowledged the small – and I do mean small – Louisiana town may not be quite what they are looking for. On the other hand, they do have a toddler now and it is a good place to raise children. Who knows, there could be that fourth generation to step into the office after all.

Unfilled Jobs…..

Although I try to stay away from politics per se, certain social aspects often come close to, if not actually share a line with politics. I genuinely don’t know how many people are continuing to stay unemployed because of drawing extra pay through COVID-19 relief. There are no doubt some as there always are. What I do know is there are “Now Hiring” signs in many places and restaurants/hotels are having an especially hard time finding employees. A response is, “Then employers should pay more.” In some cases, I agree. I do not agree with the concept of a minimum wage of $15/hr, but that is not exactly the topic here.

There are conflicting studies that show a raise in the minimum wage causes jobs to be cut to accommodate the increase in labor costs and studies that show no job loss. I suspect either may be correct depending on the type of company and location. The reality is  minimum wage and low-paying jobs are intended to be entry level, or perhaps second-job opportunities, or augmentation jobs for someone who wants a degree of income with no real responsibility. A “fairness issue” arises when those are the dominant type of jobs available in a location so there is little chance of “getting ahead”. That also applies when the cost of living is such that even making more money may not help lift one from having to live paycheck-to-paycheck with no buffer in the case of an emergency.

What I do know is this. Companies who want to hire and retain employees and can do so increase pay and benefits in order to have a stable qualified workforce. Small to mid-size companies may simply not have the capital to do so. In the small company I worked for after I retired from the Army, the owner was great about getting around to talk to all the employees. (That changed as the company grew and was one of the reasons he and his co-owner wife eventually sold off most of what became a “group”.) Anyway, during one session, the subject of increasing compensation was raised. The boss nodded and said something like, “Everyone always wants higher salaries. We understand that. We have to stay competitive. If we charge too high a price for our services, we won’t get the contracts and can’t stay in business or grow.” The belief that any company that refuses to pay employees a bigger salary is motivated only by greed for the bosses is generally not correct.

About Those Pills……

Musing alert ahead. I was reading a post earlier about a man whose daughter had temper/lack of discipline issues when she was young. Her behavior was unlike their other children and when someone first suggested ADHD, they dismissed the idea. Fast forward to age nine and a counselor did convince them of the diagnosis and the need for medication. However, it was an approach where different dosages were tried to find the minimal amount effective which also did not have side effects. In the early part of the post was the man’s initial belief that ADHD was too quickly diagnosed and most children could be managed with “better parenting”. This is not an uncommon reaction and as the mother, especially when I was a single mother, of a very active child – the one who didn’t sleep through the night until he was four years old – I have no doubt there were people who thought he, too, might be ADHD on at least some level. He was definitely a handful and there were plenty of rounds of tantrums, etc., but he did respond to actions and yes, that often included a swat or two across the bottom. (No more than that and never anywhere except his bottom, and I realize many will still disapprove). I do think medicating children is something that must be very carefully considered and other alternatives should be thoroughly explored first.

On the opposite end of the spectrum though is medicating the elderly, especially when they enter some kind of assisted living arrangement. As I discussed in the book, “Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid”, there is almost always some condition that can be medicated. Then if there is a side effect to one medication, there is one to offset that. Before you know it, the number of prescriptions have doubled or even tripled. I’m not against medications; I take one prescription for blood pressure and some over-the-counter supplements. I am very cautious though when it comes to immediately recommending continuing medications if other viable options are available.


Days Zipping Past….

Things have been extra hectic as sometimes happens with multiple commitments. It’s also part of why I wasn’t able to get out to dive in June and not sure how the rest of July will go either. It’s not uncommon for me to miss both months because during peak dive season the boats are often full on the few days I’m available.

Anyway, one of the things I was busy with was preparing for, then holding a presentation for high school students in the College and Career Prep Program of the Homestead Mexican-American Council (MAC). https://www.mexamcouncil.org

It’s a great program that runs all year with extra sessions in the summer. This year they have 20 students in the classes and 20 students in a variety of companies/organizations as interns. The title of the presentation was, “The Writing Journey: Rarely a Straight Path”. This is version three as I tailor this to the audience I am talking to. It was a combination of my own extended and circuitous path to writing and some of creative process with crafting a novel and a “cozy series” in particular. All the students were polite and several were actually interested.

Another big chunk of the week has been juggling multiple tasks involved with our upcoming Art and Artisan Show. This is the event we were supposed to have last year. If we are successful, our intent is this will be a premiere event annually in April or March. (There is one other annual event we have to work around so we don’t schedule them both too closely together). We held a small version in 2019 as a part of our Homestead Center for the Arts Showcase and that’s what led us to try for something “bigger and better”. With only a couple of exceptions all the vendors are artists or artisans with hand-crafted items. We have a nice variety with jewelry, a couple of our woodturners, a lady who does hand painted mail boxes, soaps and lotions, and more.

This is no “flea market”; it’s a boutique shopping experience that we think will resonate with the community.

Of The Seven Deadly Sins….

Musing ahead alert. A recent situation set me to pondering about the insidious nature of greed and if jealousy was not in fact an element of greed. Before I proceed with that thought, Christianity lists the sins as “pride, covetousness (also known as avarice or greed), lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth”, with some verbal tweaking over the centuries. Keeping in mind the “sins” are related to the Ten Commandments, although not a one-for-one.

So, if you take, “Thou shalt not covet”,  as the sin of “envy”, think about what causes one to envy. Someone wants something someone else has. Isn’t that, in a way, “greed”? While the concept of greed brings to mind money, it can certainly be any material item, but also a desire for that position at work, that prestige, that marriage/relationship, those looks; pick from multiple categories. Granted, if someone is impoverished and simply envies someone who isn’t, then it may not be considered greed. On the other hand, many people who are not impoverished may well want more – more of many things which does reflect a level of greed even though it is easily defined as envy. Carrying that further, greed can then lead to terrible and ugly behaviors/actions. I’ll set aside the truly horrible of wars waged and “turf battles” for the sake of this post. How about “office politics” that causes strife among co-workers? Or cutting down other individuals in a social setting? On a larger scale, businesses that raise prices for that extra profit when they think they have a “captured market”? In trying not to stray into politics, one of the hallmarks of capitalism is to open the way for that individual who can figure out how to “break the hold on a market” and offer a better deal. As we see though, greed can strike again and efforts can come together to “squeeze out the competition”. In a lot of cases though, the new can hang on and maybe not replace the “top dog”, yet maintain a solid footing.



May Have Summer Scuba Gap…..

Although I have managed the last few months getting out to dive, June and July are often months I have to miss. It’s one of those good news-bad news situations. The summer is always a peak dive time because conditions are the best barring storms of course. The water temperature is in the 80s, seas are generally calm, and visibility is good to excellent. The surge in divers means full boats which is why I don’t always get to go along. Since direct family members of the staff don’t pay, our understanding is we won’t take the place of a paying diver. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, the past year has been an anomaly because of extended high-to-maximum bookings until more overseas locations re-open to tourists. I’ve seen notices of re-openings and am not certain of how wide-spread those are.

On the up-side of divers coming down, my bud, Richie Kohler, and some of his friends were in Key Largo the past few days and we all had lunch together yesterday. It’s a guaranteed fun time and the big news is they are prepping for a September dive on HMHS Britannic again with the even more exciting news they will finally be allowed to penetrate the wreck. That has been raging controversy for years. There is a list of items they hope to recover; the success of which will depend on many variables, most of which will be out of their control. The only drawback at the moment is none of the previous media companies are willing to underwrite the expedition. If something great does come out of it, there will of course be likely takers as the camera/film experts going all have history with the companies in question. They are experienced in what kind of footage will appeal and their quality is well-known. They will shoot hundreds of hours of footage that can be edited accordingly if someone picks up the documentary.