It’s the two-years-to-go milestone.

November 29th, 2009 by John Morris

Maybe you missed the hint in the title, but it’s my birthday. This means I am a scant two years from the countdown’s date and my 66th birthday.

My life changes for the better as these years pass by. My wife and the children are all doing well and are happy doing it. As for me, I’m chugging along nicely. The home renovations are nearly complete – only the kitchen remains. I’m balancing the renovations with working part time. Perhaps next year, I’ll get a census gig counting noses or some other such thing.

The countdown itself has changed in temperament. While I was working, I’d find solace during stressful times by using “11 29 11” as a mantra. At times, it was like I was the ball in a pinball machine, but the ride was always worth  it.

Now my countdown metaphor is more like a hay wagon ambling down a dirt road. I know it’ll get there but the directions may change. I can live with that.

In exactly one year, I will celebrate this day with the uplifting phrase, “One year to go!”

P.S.: Since success is a journey not a destination, I’m finding  loads of joy in my countdown years. I’m not making a mistake wishing my life to be different or to be two years older.

Update on the countdown.

November 14th, 2009 by John Morris

My countdown to retirement rolls on. I now have a scant two years until full social security bennies. However, the prospects of getting full time employment remains slim.

I felt some relief when I was offered a 24 hour-a-week job at my favorite store: Maxwell’s Hardware. This lifeline suited my situation quite nicely because:

  1. The flexible work schedule will allow enough free time for me to continue my home projects.
  2. I can walk to work which has triple pluses: the exercise, no commuting costs and no need to buy a car.
  3. I’ll spend all day in every handyman’s dream castle: a 100+ year old,  family run hardware store.

On my first day, I worried about not knowing where the stuff is stored. I often surprised myself by being able to walk to al lot of locations. The customers were helpful and patient. We even made a game called, “Let’s learn together”.

It’s been five weeks now, and I’ve come to understand the metamorphosis of the “hardware man”.

  • Phase 1: Not knowing where the stuff is stored and not knowing what you’re talking about.
  • Phase 2: Slowly begin to know where the stuff is stored and counting on your decades of knowledge.
  • Phase 3: Thinking you know where the stuff is stored and knowing everything about everything.
  • Phase 4: Knowing it’ll take years to know where the stuff is stored and decades to know enough to be good.

I’m lucky to work with people way past phase 4. They can answer even the most obscure questions. They have encyclopedic knowledge of what’s there; where it’s stored; and how to do all manners of projects.

My game plan is to build on my existing talents and knowledge. After a time, I’ll write one of those “how to” columns and segue into a cable DIY show.

A guy can dream.

“The Way We Get By”

November 13th, 2009 by John Morris

I watched a PBS show from their POV series called “The Way We Get By”. It’s about Maine senior citizens who greet our military forces leaving for or coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. So far, they’ve greeted over 900,000 at all times and in all weather. Their benefit is a renewed purpose to their lives.

It’s emotional to watch the troops being greeted warmly by people old enough to be their grandparents. The spirits run high and electricity fills the screen. There is no stunning dialogue; just people saying hello and thank you all the while being sincere about it. This makes such as difference to the ones who really count: our fighting forces.

Some greeters bring their dogs, and the troops gravitate to the them. One Sergeant broke down while petting a black lab saying he hasn’t done so in two years. Just being with the dogs seemed to lift his spirits and others.

Through it all the dogs withstood the fawning. They seem to accept their role with regal dignity.

Ask my children, and they’ll tell you I have a checkered past with dogs and cats. It’s because I don’t get the pet ownership thing due probably to a mix up in my DNA allotment.

Shows with these messages remind even a hard case like me about how much dogs do for the people who love them.

Even I can’t question this?

A different Veterans Day

November 11th, 2009 by John Morris

On Veterans Day, I look to do something different every year. I want to avoid getting in a rut on such an important day.

I decided to do my scheduled work shift and look for ways to evangelized there. In review, there was one special moment to mark my day.

My sister, JoJo called to wish me a Happy Veterans Day. Then she placed the phone near my Mom who then said,  “Happy Veterans Day” to me. This had the affect of a lightening bolt because my Mom spends her days locked in an Alzheimer’s stupor.

On rare visits to her nursing home, she will call me John. I don’t really know if she’s talking about me, my Dad or Uncle. To me it doesn’t matter, I like to hear her say my name.

Others have wished me a Happy Veterans Day today. I appreciated deeply each offering. The one from my Mom is a gift from God who used her today in a special way I will not forget.

Freedom is not free. It comes with a high price paid by our military.

Happy Veterans Day to you.

Why I like spending my time with Veterans.

November 9th, 2009 by John Morris

On a PBS show, some Dr. Feelgood had a checklist for a better life including actively going out and making positive memories. This advice, even if a bit new-agey, helped me create a positive memory at the Downingtown Post Office.

My goal was simple: mail a package to Vietnam. I recognized the counter person as someone who was usually a cheerful, friendly guy. On my first visit to the counter, we weighed the package; got the right custom form and learned the mailing options. By following his advice, I saved about $10. without delaying the package.

When I returned with the custom form and package, we completed the deed. The counter man then asked me if I needed stamps. Yes, I did. Since today’s the day I mail my monthly newsletters, I would need such things.

“Forever stamps?”, he asked. I replied, “Have anything patriotic?” “Purple Hearts?”, he answered.  “Perfect”, I said.

This was a simple, happens-all-day-long chat that took a turn when he asked if I was a Veteran. After my “Yes”, he asked which branch. My answer of “Army Security Agency” invoked the usual confused look. “They no longer exist”, I said and asked about his status. He was a Marine.

I got confusion when he told me about his years of service. It would have made him the most preserved Marine to have served in the Korean War. Since he was 30 years too young for the conflict, we shared a laugh.

When I revealed my time of service, his face took a solemn cast. He then took time from his day to say some very kind words to me about my service and how “you guys” set the way for all who followed.

I was staggered by his praise of Vietnam Veterans. Although I’m secure in my glibness, it failed me this time. I opted for my standard comment when words don’t come, “You’re too kind.” He drew himself up and said more words to assure me how grateful he and all like him are for what we did back in the day.

During a shaking of hands, I again told him how moved I was by his words and our special moment together ended.

Maybe the PBS Doctor was more on point than his lightweight advice would seem. It’s these positive moment that sustain me when my self-esteem heads south. Remembering them at these times does well to chase away the blues or other related maladies.

God bless the man at the post office. He made this old boy’s steps seem lighter for days.

Happy Veterans’ Day


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.