Monday, September 29, 2008

Seven year anniversary - Fireproof

Today marks my seventh wedding anniversary. Seven years and she hasn't kicked me out yet. What a wonderful woman. Over the weekend we went to see the movie "Fireproof". Imagine my surprise when Caleb (Kirk Cameron) points out to his wife that they've been married seven years. I'd heard a lot about the movie, but no one had shared that little detail with me.

What is it about seven years that is supposed to be so difficult? We always hear about "the seven year itch" (which I just found out was an old movie) In my mind, the last seven years have been great. Ok, maybe not all of the time. But the good times have more than outweighed the bad times. And mainly because we both tried. We both considered it worth working for. And the results have been OUTSTANDING!

I'm looking forward to the next seven years and the next seven after that. I'm looking forward to as many sevens as I can get.

The movie was good. It was funny, it was touching. If you're the emotional kind that cries easily, take a tissue. If you're not that kind, you won't be put off by the teary eyes. There's a good bit of comedy spread throughout and the audience really gets into the movie. You get pulled in rooting for the couple, rooting for their marriage and rooting for them as individuals.

Caleb (played by Kirk Cameron, formerly of the TV show Growing Pains) is a firefighter, head of his firehouse, and has saved lives on more than one occasion. We see two scenes in the movie where he is called into action. He leads his team by both barking out orders and going in first. He's not trying to act macho, he's just doing what he's trained to do. He's a hero with everyone but his wife.

His marriage is falling apart. And to put it bluntly, he's not sure it's worth saving. After all, it's not his fault, it's his wife's. She's always nagging him and doesn't appreciate what he does for her. He's been saving for several years to buy a boat and the boat is primary on his mind. Now she complains that this is all he thinks about. That and one other dirty secret he has.

Never leave your partner behind. That's his motto as a firefighter. But how can he make this apply to his marriage?

The movie is age appropriate for all ages, but I'm not sure all would understand. We went with another couple and discussed if it was good for our late-teen aged sons. We decided that it might be good, but would probably go beyond their understanding. For my four older kids (all married less than seven years), I HIGHLY, STRONGLY recommend it. It's also appropriate for couples who might be going through tough times. But the movie isn't enough by itself. You have to learn to work at it. Each day. Every day.

A friend recently went through some tough times with his marriage. "Randy," he told me, "no one ever told me it was going to be this hard." My answer to him was a simple question: "Who ever told you it was going to be easy?" But then I pointed out "It's worth the effort."

Seven years. My wedding anniversary and the couple in the movie. Thank you to the movie producers for putting that one small line in to remind me that I need to work every day to show my wife how much I love her. I don't think it was a coincidence. Thank you to my wife, for putting up with me for seven more years. Thank you for seven wonderful years. And if she'll have me, for the next seven. And the next seven after that.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Buffet's Big Bet

You've probably heard that Warren Buffett has purchased a couple of shares of Goldman Sachs this week. I saw a quote of his that says "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy only when others are fearful".

Part of me wants to believe that Mr. Buffett is being patriotic and trying to save our country from an economic mess. Part of me thinks he's doing this because he knows a bargain when he sees one. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

I had two thoughts about this:
1) Mr. Buffett has put up $5BILLION (you have to use bold letters for that word) and may put up another $5BILLION. The total bail-out is estimated at $700BILLION. If we can get Mr. Buffet to call 69 of his friends and they all step up to the plate, we'll have this thing licked quickly.

2) Like Mr. Buffett, I recently invested a small amount in a couple of companies. I followed his mentality, I chose companies that I believe are undervalued, companies that I understand the product and companies that I think will be around a while. I don't intend to strike it rich overnight, but won't complain if I do. Like Mr. Buffett, I invested money that I can afford to lose. If he or I either one lose, I don't think we'll go hungry.

Just like Mr. Buffett, if I called all my friends and they invested like me, we'd have this problem licked. I'd have to call a few more friends than Mr. Buffett though.

In fact, if I started calling right now and spoke for only 3 minutes per call, never slept, never stopped calling; If each person that I called then invested the same amount as I did, how long would it take for me to raise the $5BILLION that Mr. Buffett has already raised?

Well, I'd be finished sometime in the year 2027. And that's not including the additional part that Mr. Buffett might invest or his 69 friends.

I'm not sure I have that many friends. If I called them asking them to invest, I don't think I'd keep them for long. But this shows the magnitude of Buffett's Big Bet.

Monday, September 22, 2008

There will be wars and rumors of wars

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to misquote the subject verse. It's one of my favorites and I misquote it often to fit whatever need arises.

But my point always matches the point of the original verse. Matthew 24:6-7 is when the disciples talk about the end times. Jesus' answer is that there will be wars and rumors of wars, but that's not the end. Things may look bad, but it's not all over (yet).

I think the point is that there will always be bad things happen. But it's not the end of the world. So what are we to do about it? Jesus answered that later in verse 41, when He said "Watch and pray." Be alert, prepare and pray. When you turn it over to Jesus, you don't have to worry about it any more.

This morning I got a call that a co-worker passed away over the weekend. I've worked with him (mostly by phone) for about 5 or 6 years at a couple of different customers. He was 64, scheduled to retire the end of this year. I don't know much about his personal life, we didn't work that closely together. But it seems that he was not that old, in reasonably good health and had a reasonably good life.

So, is it coincidence that this verse came to me over the weekend? It was a very different setting. It had nothing to do with death. But it seems to me that this was brought to my attention to prepare me for this news..

Friday, September 19, 2008

What a great uncle

Yesterday, Sept 18, I became a great-uncle twice. Actually, I have some great-nephews, this is my first great-niece and I added another great-nephew. My neice and her husband on one side of the family had a baby boy, Jacob Thomas and my nephew and his wife on another side both had a girl, Alexia Naud (pronounced "No"). {last names omitted to protect the family privacy - new families need all the rest they can get}. This was the first in each of these families.

Alexia came into the world at 12:46, about 3 weeks early. Last word was she was doing fine, but a little fluid in her lungs. Hopefully that cleared up today. Jacob came in around 1:45, a few days late. All reports are that he's fine.

I think it was my dad that said "babies are a sign from God that He intends the world to keep going." That's a nice way to look at things.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forget on a plane, try snakes near the drain

Ok, I admit that I stole the subject line from this story. I heard about the story on my local television station and wanted to see if I could find out more details.

Imagine this, you wake up Sunday morning and decide to take a nice relaxing bath. You turn on the water, slide into the tub, close your eyes and let the water run over your feet as you think "Calgon, take me away".

Then you feel something solid against your feet, you catch a glimpse of a flicker around the water spout, or maybe a shadow. You open your eyes and what do you see? A foot-long snake swimming in the tub beside you.

At this point, you'd probably be trying to do a Jesus walks on the water scene (it is Sunday morning) or maybe Moses parting the Red Sea. (Later, you'll want to turn the water into wine, but for now, it's just a desire to GET OUT).

This happened to Elena Trowell in Ocean Ridge Florida. She yelled (DUH) and her boyfriend came to help her out (must resist the urge to teach a moral lesson here). They decided to try to take care of the snake themselves by trapping it in a tupperware container from the kitchen. When they returned to the tub, they found a second, larger, angrier snake.

Well, the snakes were removed from the tub and the Ocean Ridge utilities official have and the local Critter Control animal removal services has said it's unlikely the snakes came from the faucet, rather they came up through the drain from under the house. According to the local news story, the couple have decided to keep the snakes (described as corn snakes or rat snakes depending on who you believe) as pets.

Now, had this happened at my house, we would not be keeping the snakes. My daddy always said there's only one good kind of snake and that's a dead snake. Also, we wouldn't have to worry about it happening in our house twice. Instead, my wife would have immediately (after getting dressed) left the house and never returned. The first phone call would not be to Critter Control or the local news, it would be to a real estate agent. The house would be for sale that day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where were you 25 years ago today?

Most of you can't remember (or weren't even born then). But I remember well.

I have to go back to the night before, around 6 or 7pm. I think it was a Tuesday night, but I can't be sure. I do remember my wife and I were eating at Quincy's. She was already one day past her due date (our first) and three days away from when they said they would induce labor (my wife had some mild toxemia, mostly under control, but her blood pressure was rising).

We were standing in line to order our steaks when she turned to me and said she thought she was in labor. Being the sensitive husband I am, I said we should hurry and eat, so we didn't miss out on a steak. One mistake: she told her mother (the worry-wart) she thought she was in labor. More on that later.

Of course, we had to wait until her contractions were under 5 minutes apart. So, after dinner we headed home and began timing contractions. Rather than argue about when the last one was, I wrote down the time of each one. We began playing cards and doing other things to take her mind off of it and I'm still certain to this day that she missed a few contractions.

Also, several of my friends had recently gone through false alarms. Their wives' would say they were in labor and they would rush to the hospital only to be turned away. One co-worker went through this 3 nights in a row. I was convinced my wife would do this to me just out of spite.

Anyway, later in the night/morning, the contractions got within 5 minutes. Actually, they stuck at 6 minutes, then jumped to 4 minutes. Boy was I scared. She needed to give me more notice than that. So, at about 4am, we called the doctor, I emailed my co-workers and we headed to the hospital. I was still convinced we'd be back home later that morning. At the hospital, I was ushered into a waiting room while the doctor checked on her. About 15 minutes, later I approached a nurse and asked the status. I was told that they were going to prep her and get her to a room.

Innocent, and unknowing, I asked "Does that mean you're going to keep her?" Well, to make a long story short, within about 8 hours of hospital time, my wife gave birth to a little girl. Not so little, 8 lbs 15 + 1/2 ounces. So 25 years ago today, I greeted my little girl into our family. Happy Birthday Ashley. It's been a wonderful quarter century, looking forward to the next 25.

Oh, as for my mother-in-law the worrier. In the morning (while we were at the hospital delivering a baby) she tried to call us. Of course we didn't answer, so she called the hospital. All they would tell her was that she had been admitted, but no details. She called my coworkers. They told her what they knew, which was nothing. She called my coworkers several times. Finally, one suggested that she call the fathers' waiting room.

When she called the fathers' waiting room, a nice man put her on hold and went to find me. When he got back he told her he had spoken to me and I would call her as soon as it was over. She felt so much better. I never met the man and I certainly didn't speak to him, but I'm glad she felt better.

Happy Birthday Ashley!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Swash it out

So I read this article in USA Today this week. Seems Proctor and Gamble (the makers of Tide and other laundry detergents) thinks that people don't wash their clothes when they've only worn them once or twice. Instead, their research shows, people pick their clothes up off the floor and wear them again. Or "re-wear" them. (sounds like Seinfelds "regifting") The product is meant to "enhance the re-wear experience."

Now my children may recall my story about Tom, my friend from college. You see, re-wear is nothing new, college folks have been doing it for years (and men in general). Tom, was the master re-wearer. But Tom "enhanced the re-wear experience" by enhancing the repair experience.

Let me explain. Tom was a pretty big man on campus. By that, I mean he was overweight. Seems the inseam of his came unseamed. So Tom invited me back to his room for a quick fix. I suggested he just try a different pair, so we could go along our way. But Tom had a repair solution. A stapler. Yep, he pulled out a stapler and stapled the inseam.

"How long will that last?" I asked. "Well," he replied "it lasted about 6 months last time." You see, Tom was re-repairing the pants. They had been stapled before. I still admire that man. (I also wonder if the staples scratched, but I never asked).

Anyway, if you're interested in enhancing your re-wear experience (and not your repair experience), check out the P&G line of products at this site ->

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Equal pay

I'm reading a book called "While America Aged" with a subtitle of "How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis." (long subtitle).

Ok, it's a little biased. But can you guess who is GM's #1 supplier? To which other company does GM pay the most? You might be thinking a steel (or aluminum) company. You might be thinking an auto parts company. Maybe the company that makes interior carpeting. Windshields and glass companies. If you guess any of those, you'd be wrong.

GM pays Blue Cross Blue Shield more than any of those companies. And they're competing with Toyota which doesn't have the same cost structure. There's more to it than that, I've got more reading to do. And after seven LONG chapters describing the problems in PAINFUL detail, there will be a conclusion, 20 pages titled "The Way Out."

But something struck me very strange today while reading, waiting on a plane to take off (1 hour on the runway is no fun). In New York City, sanitation workers went on strike because their pension plan wasn't as rich as police officers' plan. After all, the reasoned, they were uniformed employees too.

Now I believe everyone should earn a livable wage. And yes, sanitation workers are part of everyone. But if supply & demand applies to products, why can't it apply to workers too? How many people can be a police officer? It takes a good bit of training and some amount of education (at least high school, in some areas a college degree). How many people can be a sanitation worker? In a city near me, they let prisoners do it (which bothers me, but that's another issue). Training is minimal, education less. No degree required. Seems that the supply of sanitation workers should be high, and the price (wages, etc) should be low.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't aspire to be a sanitation worker. I've seen what they do and frankly, I don't want to do it. I'd rather pay someone else to do it instead. But if the sanitation worker's salary ever tops mine, I would seriously consider switching careers.

More from the book as I move along in it..

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Contract - Movie Review

Tonight I tried my first (and second) Netflix Instant Movie. Just add water and there you go! Well, actually, no water allowed near the laptop.

Netflix Instant movies are great. The ability to rewind/fast forward was pretty limited, but pause/resume worked very well. There's a limited number of movies available, but The Contract was one of them, so that was my first choice.

If you don't like seeing people get shot, don't watch The Contract. But if you think Morgan Freeman is one of the best actors of all time and John Cusack is OK, then you'll like this movie. Freeman is the head of a group with military training that has a job to do. They are exterminators. But not termite exterminators, they remove obstacles to progress. To put it bluntly, they kill people.

Cusack decides to take his son on a camping trip (like I wanted to do last week) and runs into Freeman and his group. How can they get out of the woods of Washington state with their lives? How does Morgan Freeman handle the contact with ordinary everyday people and getting to know them?

I thought the movie was great. Reading the Netflix reviews, seems I'm one of very few who did. It's a real good choice for a Netflix Instant movies (since they're free).

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'm not a superstitious guy...

But this week I purposely arranged my schedule to avoid flying on September 11. Too many bad memories of seven years ago. Instead, I drove to Charlotte today for an evening "team dinner" and will fly out tomorrow. Then after a meeting on Wednesday, I fly back that night rather than take the first flight out Thursday. I'm driving on 9/11, not flying.

I get to Charlotte. Guess what room I have in the hotel? 911.

Really, I'm not superstitious.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Anbar province - Peace in Iraq?

With all the activity in the last week or so, one bit of news seems to have slipped away from the forefront. On Monday of this week, American forces turned over control of the province over to the Iraqi army and police force (see here for full article).

Make no mistake, this was a major day, even if it didn't get a lot of press. Anbar had been one of the most violent areas of Iraq. "More than 1,100 U.S. troops died there in some of the biggest battles of the war, including two sweeps of Fallujah in 2004." Now according to the Chicago Tribune article "Anbar is at peace".

You may think that the US should have never entered Iraq. That's your prerogative. But the fact is that we did and now we have an obligation to complete the job that we started. Iraq has been liberated from a dictator. They have written their own constitution, held free elections and are slowly taking back their own country.

In Anbar, they have gotten Sunni and Shia to work together. That's like the Hatfields and McCoys (or a Gamecock and a Tiger). This is major. Years from now, we will look at this as a point in history, when the momentum changed.

The war is long from over. Anbar will certainly see more bloodshed. But we should take note of this transition. We should thank a soldier for his/her participation in the emancipation of this country. The 1100 soldiers who didn't make it home from Anbar should be saluted and their family appreciated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Can a heart die twice?

This is a confusing story. I typically don't like pulling articles out of the paper and then blogging about them, but I couldn't resist on this one. I saw the article over the weekend and shared it with a few family members. Then I researched it on the web and found a little more information.

Seems Cheryl's father had something to do with some subsidized apartments. Terry was working for him, managing one of the apartment buildings. Terry was married (two daughters) when he met Cheryl and unfortunately, passion flared. Cheryl's first marriage had recently been annulled because her husband was already married. She and her first husband had 2 boys. He must've been a great guy, not only was he married to Cheryl and someone else at the same time, when she started seeing Terry, he was the one who told Terry's wife.

Anyway, Terry and his wife were soon divorced and Terry & Cheryl got married (nine days between divorce & remarriage for Terry). Terry & Cheryl were blessed with a daughter (her 3rd child). But less than 6 years into their marriage, things took a sour turn. She was making more money than him, and decided they couldn't stay married. At some point, "she took off her wedding ring and threw it over the fence."

On his way out the door, Terry took a detour into his bathroom, took out his .22-caliber gun and shot himself. He didn't die immediately: spent 4 days in the trauma unit before Cheryl agreed to take him off life support and donate his organs. Sonny enters the picture as the recipient of Terry's heart. Sonny was a 57 year old man, married for over 30 years with 2 children.

The heart was a good match for Sonny and a year and a half later, he decided to thank the family of his young donor. At a restaurant in Charleston, he "couldn't keep his eyes of the 30-year old widow" and "fell in love." But, at least then, the love wasn't returned.

Three months later, Cheryl married George, her husband number 3. Sonny gave the bride away. She had a son about 2 years later (child #4), but about the same time, her relationship with Sonny became something more than fatherly. Sonny wrote his wife a letter apologizing for destroying their now 40-year plus relationship. Both couples separate and when Sonny's divorce is final, he and Cheryl move in together. (Let's call him husband number 3.5)

This lasted about 2 years and then they split up. She marries husband #4, John. This lasts about a year, before it ends, both accusing each other of domestic abuse. By the time she is legally divorced, she's already wearing Sonny's ring. They marry soon afterwards (making him husband #3.5 & husband #5).

But alas, this too was doomed. After about 3 years, Sonny decided he had had too much. After almost exactly 13 years with a borrowed heart, a heart that had already once committed suicide, Sonny took his own life.

Reports are that Cheryl is already dating again and changed her MySpace page. The next husband needs to have his own heart, the heart that died twice has stopped beating for good.

*** Now, to make Emily happy, how do I feel about this? Well the focus of the story ends up being a lady, who comes across as a gold digger. A black widow. I'm not sure those terms are justified.

Keeping track of this story forced me to take notes, check them twice and find a second article on the web. Look at how many lives have been messed up in the process. Grandparents are now suing for rights to see their grandchildren. Husband #4 reports threats from Cheryl. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations is looking into the last death (still not closed).

So many lives torn apart. I'm not sure that Cheryl deserves to be called a black widow. But I certainly don't want to meet her face to face.