Lead, follow or get out of the way.

October 27th, 2009 by John Morris

Too often, some people go for a bad fourth option. When they do, they become obstructionists. One such person is my uncle. No names here, but here’s a hint: I have only one.

People like my uncle complain incessively about what productive people do. Since they usually don’t do anything, there’s no way to know if they have any viable input. Usually they don’t. They are best described as road bumps on the highway of life. Enough about them.

I find myself in one situation where it’s better for me to get out of the way.

A friend/neighbor wants me to support his efforts against our mayor. The rift between them centers on his strongly held second amendment views. Our mayor has come out in support of restricting some officials from carrying guns. My neighbor takes great offense and views her heresy as thumbling domino #1 leading to the gun squad coming for his. 

Here’s my conflict. The mayor is a long time supporter of my memorial committee’s efforts. At a pivotial moment when we needed local officials to side with us, she stepped up to our side. Her support was crucial, important and uplifting. I won’t betray her because of it.

I regret disappointing my neighbor. There will be some fallout, but we’ll deal with it. My sense of what is right and how we conduct ourselves with others requires me to sit this one out.

Giving is giving

October 25th, 2009 by John Morris

The giving seasons are only two months away. Time to write about an element of Christmas and other holidays not discussed often: regifting.

It’s hard to remember if this phrase existed before Seinfeld hit the airways with it. Either way, the activity has been with us as long as I remember. During extremely hard times, family members often gave their possessions as gifts because it was truly all they had to give.

I often gave my siblings my gifts  after I saw they like them better than I did. Translation: “You wore my shirt; I don’t want it back.” Usually, I’d hoarded my possessions as best I could but with five of them, things drifted from my control.

I was often given gifts I had no plans to include in my life. When a giving occasion presented itself, I would run down the list of reasons not to regift.

  1. Am I giving it back to the person who gave it to me? Bad form.
  2. Is there another way for the recipient to find out it was given first to me? It’s all about not getting caught.  

It’s time to take a position on the regrifting issue.

I approve of it as much as if the giver purchased the gift. Sometimes more. Why? New list follows:

  1. The original gift became the property of the first receipent at the exchange. How it is used became their sole purview. Using it or not using it; giving it to others; or throwing it in the trash was a right given with the gift.
  2. It’s possible the first receiver got the gift and thought, “Hey, I know John Morris would REALLY like this”. I appreciate this a great deal more than if they just picked something up out of desperation.
  3. Getting a gift is a reaffirming of a relationship. How the giver came by the item is mostly irrelevant.

Life has many more important issues than regifting. Accept the gift with grace. Then it’s yours to do what you like with it.

For more on regifting, go to: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/10/25/ethical-frugality-week-regifting/

“Forever Young”

October 10th, 2009 by John Morris

My daughter, Beth made many good friends at Kutztown University. One of them was a West Chester, PA gal called Kate. They were two elements of a large collection of friends better described as a traveling support group. I was pleased with my daughter’s choice of friends as best depicted by Kate.

During breaks, Beth & Kate still hung out when they came home. We learned our time with the daughter would include Kate. No problem. She is respectful which speak well about how her parents raised her. She is also fun to be around. In time, we started calling Kate “our second daughter”.

Kate settled in our hometown, and we kept contact with her and her family. The three of us attended Kate’s graduation party and learned it was also her engagement party. The wife and I were both thrilled for her and that she also wanted us at her wedding.

Joe is Kate’s ideal mate not just because he too is respectful and good natured. We noticed he also made her happy which is something we would want for our second daughter. It was Joe who saved the day when I sent a nail through a water line. There was never a test of Joe’s fitness for our Kate, but this would have done the trick.

Let’s go back to the wedding. 

It went off brilliantly. At the moment of the “husband and wife” announcement, Kate fought hard to contain herself. Her restrained little jig was so “Kate”.

The reception was not just one of the very best I’ve ever attended; it also gave me a lifetime memory. 

Weddings have traditional dances. Two of them are when Dad dances with bride to “Daddy’s Little Girl” and Mom dances with groom to a short list of lame tunes.

As Joe and his Mom took to the floor, the opening to Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” knocked me back. I said – to no one in particular – what an inspired choice this was.

With the Kutztown support group leading, the crowd sang along at full volume. It was one of the times when my fear of being heard singing didn’t stop me.

This week, I was listening to my iTouch when this song came on. My mind went straight back to the moment I watched Joe and his Mom dance while all who knew the words sang out. The memory makes  me tingle.

This song now has a new and stronger meaning for me.

The catholic life well written

October 8th, 2009 by John Morris

If you were raised Catholic and survived Catholic school, get a copy of The Longest Trip Homeby John Grogan. If you’re like me, you’ll learned you and the author shared parallel lives. If this is not you,  just read it to learn more about guys like me.

Grogan wrote the best selling novel Marley and Me, and The Longest Trip Homeis his follow up book. You know the ones that are rushed to publication when someone catches lightening in a bottle. Usually they’re pale offerings that sell because of star-power momentum. The public will buy these follow up books but if they lack luster, buyers quickly go fickle and move on to the next flavor of the month book. 

Grogan’s parents were very much like my parents: staunch Catholics. Their religion was central to their lives, and they made sure their children receive the full dose of Catholic upbringing. The reader will learn how the church, the schools and the parents are able to use religion as a blunt instrument to not just shape children but also to control.

Grogan’s depiction of growing up Catholic follows the earlier books about the subject. As I read his version, I saw more of myself than in the others. Maybe it’s because Grogan showed more real life examples of how conflicted being Catholic can be in a fast changing world. He also showed how easy it is to drift away from your parent’s core beliefs.

Maybe it would be easier to say, it’s a good book to read for anyone who fought with the Dad they loved.


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.