How’s my countdown going?

September 23rd, 2009 by John Morris

When I started this blog site, I was four years and zero months away from age 66 and full social security bennies. I reasoned this target date would be the best time for me to retire. I started the countdown to amuse myself and hopefully others.

On 08/21/08 and with three years and three months left, I received my walking papers. It was at the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008. I did my due diligence and learned I would receive only 75% of the monthly social security at this time. I questioned the wisdom of giving away one-quarter of my benefits in such a short time span.

My early game plan included unemployment compensation and riding out the recession until summer ’09 and then going back to work. I would busy myself with the home renovations I was always too busy to do before. I had my wife’s full support. Thanks, Lyn. It was a good plan with only one flaw: the recession didn’t peter out enough.

I am now two years and two months from the magic #66 and wondering about a new plan. I’m encouraged because I do have a lot going for me including what I’ve learned over the past year.

Point #1: it’s a bit cheaper to live if you’re not working. This is not to be confused with staying ahead of the game. It’s acknowledging that owning a car and other work related ancillary expenses are no longer coming out of your treasury. Critical to this point is a highly supportive partner. Thanks, Lyn.

Point #2: I am no longer interested in getting a high income, high stress job. These are much coveted positions where the employees and employers may over-expect from each other and lead to swift burnout. I’d rather have a job where I can contribute quickly and feel good about my contributions. Money is not always the only thing.

Point #3 – and the most telling: I like not working. I’m good at it. I find fulfillment in my working-at-home plans. I feel more in tune with the pace of a good day and week. Life no longer seems to be an unending loop of stress.

My new game plan is to not make any binding decisions now. If something comes up, I’ll think about it then using all I’ve learned.

When is enough truly enough?

September 23rd, 2009 by John Morris

My area’s daily newspaper, the Daily Local News is having a running dialogue about Michael Vick. On one side are people who believe he hasn’t been punished enough for his dog fighting crimes. Opposing them are others who believe that indeed he has and who among us has the right to expect more.

First point: Vick had a trail; was found guilty and sentenced to jail time. Second point: he did his time, and has since acted like a model citizen. He’s even become an active spokesperson against animal cruelty. Third point: his loss of income from contracts and endorsements ranges in double digit millions. That sounds like some heavy duty punishment.

Is this enough for his crimes? I would say, “Yes!”. He’s entitled to a fresh start and may inspire others if he stay within the law.

But there are others who won’t let go of their sense of betrayal, and I think I know what is to blame for their bigotry. It’s the OJ syndrome.

OJ Simpson was the center of  an ignoble trail of the century. His not guilty verdict in a criminal court split our country down color lines and still generates ill feelings in a lot of people. OJ had a second trail were he was found responsible for the crimes in a civil court, and it did little to change a lot of folks’ minds about his punishment.

To these people, OJ has to lose it all. His reputation, money and respect must be ripped from him in such a way he could never recover. And who best to do the job then the people who would never forgive him. Pretty much all this has happened.

Michael Vick is suffering from the heat from the OJ’s nova. Small-minded folks have learned they can punish the celebs who disappoint them.

Maybe it goes back to the old adages, “To those where much was given; much is expected.“, or “The bigger they are; the harder they fall.”  Have we reached the point where somehow punishments should be tailored not only to match crimes but to the degree of public adulation once received  by the offenders.

This approach seems to make us a little smaller overall.

Pets and I have a checkered past.

September 20th, 2009 by John Morris

My earliest memory of dogs was being knocked down by one and badly bitten. Even today, dogs sense my fear of them. I can’t seem to find the off button.

My family had one dog named Tippy, but I didn’t play with her much. I let my five siblings do it.

My wife & I had a cat, Oksana until I went full blown allergic to furry critters.

I guess saying checkered was being kind.

What I really lack is pet owner DNA. I do not long to have a furry best friend to give me unconditional love. I also just don’t see being responsible for their care and keeping. I’m lazy that way.

I am all for other people having them if this improves their lives. But I seem to rub up against pet owners too often.

Back in my running days, dogs would chase after me while their owners would yell something like, “Don’t worry; he won’t bit.” Well, not always true. I was bitten by one and tripped over another. Neither owner apologized. The owner of the biter just said, “He’s never done that before.” As if this would negate the ripped skin and blood. The best rejoinder I could summoned was, “You can’t say that anymore.”

Barking  dogs cost me two good neighbors afterI had the temerity to sign a petition asking them to control their pets. I learned that some pet owners actually do care more for their pets than humans.

My daughter doesn’t have my phobias about pets. She lives happily with a yellow lab, Stella in her NYC high rise apartment. In fairness to this dog, she stays there quietly all day and is a fountain of pleased whenever the roommates come home. It’s the same whether they been away all day or five minutes. It’s fun to watch.

Stella has good natured goofiness mixed with a whole lot of laid-back. She doesn’t bark unless someone steps on her paws. I wish the dogs in my neighborhood were more like Stella.

After a lifetime of struggles with other people’s dogs, I can finally say something nice about one of them. 

My daughter’s dog, Stella is very comfortable in her fur, and it shows.

PS: You can tweet Stella at StellathedogNYC. Don’t expect prose.

We are all in sales.

September 7th, 2009 by John Morris

Can sales and politics be somehow similar? Stay with me as I explain.

As a salesman, I would meet with my bosses and their bosses at weekly sales meetings. My task was to get them up to speed on my customers since my last reckoning. At times, it was like root canal, but it always necessary. A  salesman doesn’t want to hear his boss say, “Why didn’t I know about this?”

My sales method followed the axiom that most new business comes from old customers. I kept close contact with my existing customers and did what I could to keep them buying.

My bosses favored the idea that most of my sales efforts should go toward new customers. They believed existing customers would magically keep buying. They were viewed more like annuities or cash cows. My marching orders were to visit competitors’ customers or shake the bushes for unknown prospects. I worked hard to do both.

Back to politics: I’ve seen both major parties now treat their base supporters like annuities too. They assume this support and count these votes in their pockets before elections. They spend their energies reaching out to other demographics looking for more support for their candidacies or programs.

Like my old bosses, politicians should not take for granted the very people who put them were they are. They are making a big mistake since voters will turn on their favorites when they feel neglected.

I’ll boil it down to a sound bite, “Ignore your customers; they’ll go away.”

The human spirit triumphs again

September 6th, 2009 by John Morris

Jaycee Lee Dugard surfaced 18 years after her abduction by a pervert, Phillip Garrido. Her life during this time will soon be revealed in detail but what has surfaced has me in awe of the human spirit.

Kept in seclusi0n as a sex slave, she had two children by her kidnapper. She was shut off from the world in a portion of Garrido’s back yard unseen due to natural barriers like cars, trees and piles of junk. A tarp hid a spider hole that was the access port to an hidden area with a soundproof building used to keep their existence away from neighbors. The concealed compound also had a tent, an outhouse and a makeshift shower.

From this disturbing story came uplifting elements. Jaycee Lee Dugard entered her captivity at age 11 with an education level common to her age. She knew little about rearing children and somehow was able to do so. She even educated them. This was a daunting task for someone so young and cutoff from her normal growth process.

I call on the National Education Association to establish a new annual award named for Jaycee Lee Dugard. It should be given to a teacher able to educate in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

In this way, the trails of Jaycee Lee Dugard will not soon dim from our collective memories. Her story is the triumph of the human spirit when all forces worked against it.

Post script: Phillip Garrido is taking credit for home schooling Jaycee and her children. I believe this statement to be an attempt to soften the heinous nature of his crimes. I don’t believe him. The facts will show him to also be a liar, and Jaycee Lee Dugard can receive unfettered credit for her actions.


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.