To the heavens, an angel flys

April 24th, 2009 by John Morris

The Lord has called home a faithful servant, Elizabeth Morrell Haines.

Beth was my mother-in-law. She knew how hard life’s hard knocks could be. She raised two children alone long before single moms were the norm. Her baby girl, Lyndal became my wife, Lyn. Beth did all she could to get by and sacrificed mightily for her children. She said her faith was, at times, all she had, but she knew it would be enough.

Her second husband, Lewis Haines died in 1968 during the summer after my wife’s first year at college. I met them both on the last day of the year. Beth always said Lewis and I would have liked each other. He would have had great fun at my expense.

It’s hard for me to imagine her pain when her daughter told her she wanted to go to Pennsylvania with me after our wedding. Her children would now live long distances from their Salina, Kansas home base. Her love for her daughter was strong enough to let her follow her own happiness.

When I visited my wife in the recovery room after my daughter was born, I asked what she wanted to name the baby. She answered, “Beth”. I knew she had picked the perfect name and a great role model for her,

Over the years, tragedy struck Beth Haines’ life. Her step-son, Sheldon Haines died in a grain elevator fall. Her grand-daughter, Tammie Hair died suddenly. And her first born, David Hair took ill and died within days. Through it all, she remained strong.

Beth Haines was a woman with the strength born from remarkable faith. Her life was her work at The First Christian Church. She was the stalwart member the clergy could always count on. She may not have done any one thing memorable, but she did thousand of things to keep the church’s ship afloat and on-course. 

At least once a year, I would thank Beth for allowing me to stay married to her daughter. It was my way of paying tribute to her for raising the woman who completes me.

I will miss my mother-in-law. Even now, it’s hard to imagine my life without her in it.

Email is an imperfect beast

April 19th, 2009 by John Morris

The world’s great inventions must include caller ID. This little gem can help us set boundaries about who can distrube us just because they want to talk. With all the ways we have to communicate, it’s nice to be able to step back and say, “Not now. Maybe later.”

Email is messier. Some folks will get your address and make you the recipient of everything they write, find, or receive. Some are family & friends and some are fellow travelers; so it’s okay. Others seem to like capturing gobs of targets to broadcast to.

Most days, I delete ten broadcast messages for every one read. Sometimes I even respond because the one was good. Such is the world of email today.

When I feel crowded by too many emails, I have asked some senders to remove me from their broadcast email lists. I do this mostly because they send the same messages I’m getting from another source, and once is enough. Sometimes I ask off because their relays just don’t do anything for me.

On occasions, the spurned ones take offense. I think they missed the point. As the one being run off the information highway, I will defend my personal space and make no apologies. I also don’t worry about hurt feelings because my address was captured after a friend sent them a broadcast email.

Email can’t be as restrictive as Twitter. Email should be an open board, but I’d like to see a bit more courtesy extended from all sides.

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ *

April 16th, 2009 by John Morris

* a George Santayana quote.

The Vietnam War ended over 34 years ago. The most agreed point about the war is America made mistakes. These mistakes became lessons best not repeated.

One of these lessons had its time on the national spotlight when Homeland Security sent out a memo stating extremist groups may try to attract returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans in order to strengthen the agendas of right-wing extremists. On the surface, it looks like just a statement of fact or conjecture but harmless enough. In reality, it’s a rehashing of the misguided opinion that returning warriors have been rendered fragile and open to manipulation. Just like Vietnam.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the necessary apology and worded it quite well by wishing she could take back that statement. She’ll also meet with the major Veteran organizations to make political nice-nice.

It may be the #1 lesson of the Vietnam War: you don’t blame the warriors just because you don’t like the war. You don’t make them the scape goats no matter how it suits the politcal agenda.

Whenever a politico plans to denigrate our active duty military or Veterans, they should reevaluate their plans and then discard them entirely.

A new type of boomers

April 16th, 2009 by John Morris

There is not a lot of conversation in mens’ bathrooms. A female interloper will get men chatting though.

This happened to me this week at the local Mickey-Dee’s. After she ran out, the subject changed  to the new menu’s price increases. I was asked what my hot tea cost, and said I get the senior discount. The other guy said, “Lot of that going around. It’s the Granny Boom”.

This was my first brush with this term. He left before I could ask if he coined the word or had heard it. I liked it straight out.

Being lumped in with “Baby boomers”  was okay when I was a kid – technically I am 34 days too old for the qualifier. As we all eventually became adults, the term was used more to define our location in the generations alive. Now as we approach retirement, being called a baby anything misses the mark.

I like being a part of this Granny boom even if I’m not sure what it means. Is it, as I hope, an ascension into revered elder status? Is it deserved?

Baby boomers were history’s most spoiled generation after they landed and have changed every stage of life in our path. We’ve had our war; became the force behind social  changes; and redefined health and wealth. Now as retirement is in our sights, I imagine we’ll change that too.

With our resume, being revered may be only partially deserved, but it is still welcomed.

Circle of life stuff #2

April 12th, 2009 by John Morris

This year’s vacation was spent in Kansas moving my Mother-in-Law from her house into an adult community apartment. My wife nailed it. It was like moving your child into a college dormitory.

How so? Here’s what they have in common:

  • Reduce belongings to a minimum.
  • Add back in those small items we all can’t bear to not have.
  • Pack small items in many boxes and secured them to travel well.
  • Leave all large items as-is except to pack stuff inside them.
  • Recruit warm bodies able to move boxes and large items from A to B.
  • Rent ass-ugly, U-Haul truck.
  • Make multi-level moving plans just short of a military campaign.

One major difference was our happy work crew was the only ones working this day. There were no hordes of other parents/students jockeying for loading dock space and hand carts.

In 1967, Beth Haines moved daughter, Lyndal Hair to her first dorm room at Kansas State Teachers College.

In 2009, the now Lyn Morris moved mother, Beth Haines into the Johnstown Adult community apartments.

Is traveling ever easy?

April 11th, 2009 by John Morris

Today, I’ll share some air traveling tips to make the going easier.

Traveling light is always best. My goal is flying with just one carry-on and one handbag to avoid checked luggage hassles – and expense.

Be miserly about what clothes to take. Take only items able to do more than one function: work, casual and/or dressy. For a week-long stay, I take three day’s worth of machine washable work or casual changes and one dressy. Oh yeah, what you wear on-board counts in the total.

Fill your smaller shoes with socks or underwear and pack them. Wear bulky items on the plane: jackets, coats, sweatshirts and larger shoes.

Park at a nearby off-site lot. I saved $3.00/day by reserving on-line. The shuttle system was fast and impressive.

Most of us know to use the eTicket stations rather than getting in the conga line at the check-in counters. Have your itinerary ready to make certain this machine can retrieve your information. Human assistance varies with the airport: Philadelphia, PA = not good; Wichita, KS = good. Once you get all your boarding passes, you’re on the way to the departing gate. Guard them carefully.

At the security gate, you’ll need to get to one level above underwear and socks. This means all that bulky stuff will need to go into bins. It’s okay to do it in your time; just let the others “play through” and keep in good humor. When you’re ready to step off, double check that nothing is left behind. Vital stuff is often lost at this stage.

Now you’re at the gate with your modest pair of traveling bags. Some smaller airplanes have overhead compartments too small for a legal carry-ons. If you find this, ask for free courtesy bag check. Your carry-on will be at the bottom of the ramp when you deplane. Congratulate yourself on being 20 miles away when the others are getting their bags at the bag claim.

For the return trip, you could pack, wear and trash selected clothing to make room for new purchases or you mail them home since it is no longer cheaper to use check-in luggage.

To get through your stay with the clothing you have, using a washing machine and dryer is vital. Use your host’s machines or take the clothes to the laundromat.

This list is far from complete. My hope is it has one or two tips to make your air traveling easier.

Feel free to add other suggestions.

Blogs V. Tweets

April 3rd, 2009 by John Morris

My blogs don’t come as often or as effortlessly. I blame Tweeter for this. Since I signed on to their service, I’ve been able to satisfy my vanity with Twitter’s 140 keystroke mini-blogs. My problems is my Tweets are just outbursts of self-importance with little forethought or meaning. It’s free-writing in its primal form.

Twitter’s not all dark and messy. I do like the discipline of keeping my thoughts to roughly three short sentences. It forces creative rewriting.

I miss the longer creative process of blog writing. The germ of a thought followed by mental back and forth that produces a deeper message. With Twitter, I can’t leave the reader with a better understanding of the person I am or how I got this way. For this, I need to blog.

Tweets are potato chips: a easy, light snack that make you want more. Blogs are potato pancakes: a complex, heavy meal that satisfies the body and the mind.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.