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The Lifestyle Stream: The River tells many tales

If you want to know what the river will look like when it flows by you, go up stream the day before. If you want to know why you are where you are in life, look to the past and the decisions that you made. If you want to know where you will be in the future, look at the decisions that you are making today.

Upstream is the future, downstream is the past, and what is in front of you is yesterdays’ today and tomorrows’ future. You can’t change what was upstream today, but you can change what will be downstream tomorrow. If life is simply the water flowing down the river, what we see is our today. We can’t change what flows before us today but we can change what will flow before us tomorrow. Go upstream.

Everything we have learned, all our experiences, the decisions, the people in our lives to date, make up how we live today. If you had to drink the water in the river, would you want to know what was upstream? Would you want to know if there were any chemicals leaching into the water? Would you want to know if anyone was dumping sewage into the water that you were about to drink? Of course, you would want to know every detail. We depend on our water authority to watch out for the water that we drink. We want them to filter out all the bad elements that will affect our health. Chemicals, bacteria, little animals, etc. (Where do the fish poop?)

But what about how we live each day? Our Lifestyle Stream. Who filter’s out any of the bad influences and experiences that we have in our Lifestyle Stream? Where we are today, how we live, positive, negative or in between, is based on what we have learned and experienced to this day. It’s what was upstream. We must be our own thought purification plant.

If a man doesn’t like his lifestyle, he is the only person who can make the change. Keep in mind that he may need help, I understand, but the individual who is uncomfortable must initiate, invigorate, facilitate and execute the change.

Some things can’t change but most things that effect our lifestyle can change. If you are falling out of a 20th floor window, it is probably too late to make changes other than some serious spirituality. However, if you are jumping off the same building with a parachute, the important change is to pull the ripcord. The thing to remember is that you have to initiate and execute the change.

Upstream Lessons:
1. Know the difference between right and wrong. Always choose right.
2. Be accountable for your actions. Take responsibility.
3. Never quit learning. Be a student. Strive to be a teacher.

In my latest book, “Grandpa And Andy”…a grandfather’s handbook, Grandpa always has a story to share. They are all upstream stories. Stories about Grandpa’s lessons and experiences. To Andy, they may be just stories but they will help him when the Lifestyle Stream is in front of him.

Like everyone else ...

If we were all the same, then there would only be one fingerprint on record. If we were all the same, we would not need photo ID’s. If we were all the same, why bother with DNA samples and testing.

Margaret Mead said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” We are unique, like everyone else, and that uniqueness allows us to differentiate and distinguish our selves from one another. We distinguish our selves by how we look and how we act. And people make the distinction, they determine who we are and how they will relate to us based on our looks and actions.

You might say that we are always on stage. Whether it is a perfect stranger, our children or friends and acquaintances, they all have an opinion on our performance. It is best to give your best performance.

Some people prefer to distinguish them selves by their looks. They change or enhance their looks to make a statement. They may decide to wear make up or a special shirt and jacket. They may choose to alter their body. Having surgical procedures like liposuction and injectable fillers or just moving, removing or adding parts.

We see a prevalence of tattoos and facial/body jewelry today. It is perfect for a specific environment but can give an undesirable response in another environment. It’s like wearing a bikini to church. Right look, wrong place. The jewelry can be removed but tattoos are forever.

Some people distinguish themselves by their actions. Our actions represent a 24/7 performance. We are always on stage. From snoring at night to snoring during your boss’s presentation, it is the same performance but two different theaters. One performance gets a nudge while the other performance gets you fired.

The action may be the same but the presentation varies. The mood of the day, the emotional state at the moment, will affect the response to your performance. Greeting the kids when you come home may be a little different if you just ran over Johnny’s bike and got a flat tire.

Did you ever hear a young person say that some day I want to be a soldier or a doctor, or a fireman or ‘just like you, dad’ ? They may never have met a soldier, a doctor or a fireman but they see what they do. Those professionals can have a generational affect on peoples lives. And what about parents? What a great compliment to a dad or mom when their children emulate them. That is a generational response from how the parents relate to each other, to the people around them, and most important, to their children. Mom and Dad, you are always on stage. The little eyes see much more that the little ears can hear.

It’s important to remember that we are always on stage and that we want to give our best performance. There is always an audience out there. The actor prepares and practices for every performance. We don’t have that luxury. We get the script and walk on stage. That means we must be ready to perform 24/7.

In the new book, “Grandpa And Andy … a grandfather’s handbook” Grandpa explains to little Andy about being respectful, looking his best, and making Grandpa proud. He says, “Andy, you and I are always on stage.”

Next: America is the place where equality permits us to strive to be unequal.

Under the Circumstances

How often do we get a chance to read stories of unsuccessful people? Not often. Not too many authors take up the challenge. There is little value to the story other than reading about someone else’s problems with an unhappy ending. Stories written about failure, that we find interesting focus on overcoming failures on the way to success. They have a happy ending.

The most successful people are the people who failed the most, learned from their failures and never quit. They don’t wallow in their circumstances. We listen and may identify with where they have been but we are excited about where they end up. It’s not where you grow up … it’s where you end up that counts. You can’t change where you grow up … but you determine where you end up.

Everyone has circumstances and some people don’t mind telling you all about them.
Circumstances are the descriptions of our past and present. They can’t be changed but they do have value. Circumstances can be used as excuses or reasons. They are excuses to continue on our current path or reasons to choose a new direction. We make the decision.

But you don’t understand my circumstances. My teachers were not very smart. Or did you choose not to study your lessons. But the teachers didn’t tell me to study. But why did you think you were going to school? Because my mom told me I had to go to school. People with out vision live in the past. They know their circumstances.

But you don’t understand my circumstances. I do understand your circumstances. We gave you a free education. We gave you schools, teachers, books, transportation, and meals and you decided not to take advantage of these gifts. I do understand your past. But there is a lesson that you can learn from your circumstances. You can change. Make your circumstances the reason to grow, to focus, to dream and to achieve great things.

There are many stories of people who never had a formal education and still achieved success. They went back to school, learned a trade or developed a skill. They started a business. They raised a family. They taught others that they can achieve their dreams. Success starts with a decision. Success starts by shedding the cloak, the weight, of your circumstances.

It’s not where you grow up…it’s where you end up that counts. You can’t change where you grow up…but you determine where you end up.

In my new book, Grandpa And Andy…a grandfather’s handbook, Grandpa tells Andy that it’s OK to be bad at something so long as you keep learning from your circumstances. You can’t get good at something until you try it once. That’s Grandpa’s logic. He says that circumstances are stories of the past. Write your own story about your future. It will be the roadmap to success.

Grandpa sits down with his pup at his side

When Grandpa sits back, with his pup at his side
He remembers the days, and many to choose
When dreams of the future were many and distant
When the dream could be changed with a blink of an eye
When things could be better with hard work and pride

Dreams of success, of family, friends and the future
Often measured in numbers by others
But only experienced by the dreamer
By the comfort one feels deep within
When he opens his eyes and his pup at his side

He remembers the dash, from then until now
The good times, the tough times, and even the sad
Because each time, is only a moment
We declare good or bad
But the next moment is ours to do what we choose
We live it regardless, win, draw or loose.

Coming soon: Grandpa and Andy … a grandfathers’ handbook

Remember When You Held Him Close

Grandpa remembers the moments when he picked him up, held him high, and let him drop into his arms. He was tiny and scared. But, by the third time, he was laughing and wanted to do it again. Grandpa would keep him safe.

Grandpa remembers holding his hand when they went for walks in the garden. He remembers reaching for the wobbling handles on the bike as he learned to ride. Grandpa remembers that first hand shake, such a little hand but a big smile. He was growing up.

Grandpa remembers that strong handshake, a grown mans grip, when they looked eye to eye. Grandpa hasn’t been able to pick him up in years. But Grandpa’s spirits are picked up everyday as he remembers the little guy that he used to hug, hold high, then hug again. These are puffed up moments.

Coming soon: Grandpa and Andy … a grandfathers’ handbook.

It's Tough Being a Grandpa

We get one chance at being a Mom and Dad. We also get one chance at being a Grandpa. Since we have more kids to choose from, Grandpas have options. The other side is that, since we have a bigger audience, we have two generations of critics.

Grandpas know how to deal with criticism. By the time he is a Grandpa, he has been in training by Grandma for at least 20 years. Grandma is convinced that Grandpa is ready to graduate from her training program. After all, it would take too long to train another one.

Grandpa learns to get the last word in. “Yes, Dear!” Grandma thinks he has finally learned. Grandpa calls it wisdom. Grandma thinks Grandpa is getting a little forgetful. Grandpa just remembers the important things. Everything else, Grandma will remind him!

So when the grandkids come around, they like to listen to Grandpa. He tells all the neat stories. He tells about why things happened in the past and what things are going to happen in the future. He has a story for almost every subject. Sometimes the story changes but the subject is the same. Other times, the story is the same but the subject changed. Never could figure out how he does that.

Grandpas have that little twinkle in their eye when the grandkids are around. He may have a two-day bristle, a missing tooth or two, and glasses that need cleaned. But he always has a smile. He always has a “come here, give Grandpa a hug.”

Coming April 2017: “Grandpa and Andy … a grandfather’s handbook”
Green Ivy Press

It’s a month since you committed to your New Year resolutions. This will be the year that you make things happen. Or, it’s the fifth day of the new weight loss program. Or, the first day of the, “I’ll be nice to people” project. How are you doing, so far?

Dompamine

That piece of chocolate is sitting in the dish, just waiting for you. It tastes so good. It’s your favorite flavor, shape, size and gooeyness. So why is there a struggle over a simple little piece of chocolate? It’s all going on in the brain. It is the conflict between dopamine and the “dope-in-me”.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with pleasure or reward. When something is pleasurable, the stimulus (seeing the chocolate) relates to the pleasurable experience of eating the chocolate. It is recorded so that when the stimulus occurs again, dopamine is released telling the brain that this stimulus brings a pleasurable experience.

Dopamine has been identified as the body’s reward center, controlling the pleasure center of our brain while encouraging us to move towards activities that are more sensational. People with higher levels of dopamine are generally the risk takers. Individuals, who have lower dopamine levels, are thought to be more prone to addiction. There are thousands of professional and anecdotal articles that try to explain the dopamine response. This is the thousand-and-one short version!

Dopamine or “Dope-In-Me”

“Nine zero fox, you’re cleared for runway two seven. Winds ten knots.”

“Roger, D M control.”

It was a clear day with a perfect headwind for a quick lift off. It would be a nice trip up to Mt. Lemmon. I planned to fly out over the Coronado National Forest. It would take two 360 circles to get enough altitude to clear the 9,100 feet peak. I planned to circle the peak and then fly back over the desert to the airbase. This would be a comfortable, pleasurable (dopamine response) trip. The brain approved the trip. This was an acceptable risk of flying a small plane over a 9,000 feet high mountain knowing the skills and training of the pilot…me.

After the first 360, I was already at 10,000 feet. That was unusual but the tail wind had increased. It was blowing me right to the mountain. I had better be careful so that I didn’t get caught in the mountain current on the other side of the mountain. The dopamine said, “ but it would be exciting.” The wisdom said, “but it could be very dangerous if you get caught in that high wind mountain current.” The “dope-in-me” said, “but I know how to handle a mountain current.”

As I passed over the peak, my altimeter started to spin. Suddenly, I was losing altitude and fast. Airspeed was approaching redline. How could that be? I was flying straight and level. I was caught in the mountain current. Common mistake in mountain flying is that, when air speed goes up, you pull back on the stick. Nose up. But, in the mountain current, if you nose up, you will back into the mountain. If you nose down, to fly with the current, your airspeed may exceed the structural integrity of the airplane…redline.

In these situations, the pilot must fly out of the current. My instructor taught us that the wind does not flow through the ground. So don’t fight it. If you are caught, stay calm, nose level or down and ride it out. As the wind comes down the mountain, it must eventually go out to the valley. If you ride it out, and your plane does not break apart, you will be OK. OK? Are you kidding me?

Nose down and power. The noise was deafening. As my plane reached about 1,000 feet from the ground, the wind pushed me away from the mountain. The impact of the wind was so strong that it forced me out of my seat into the ceiling of the plane. Then quiet. Just the sound of the purr of the engine…and the pounding of my heart. The pounding in my heart was from the adrenalin response. The adrenaline response was from the “dope-in-me” response.

I flew out in the desert for about 50 miles and then circled back around the mountains toward the base. The wind current was too strong to attempt to get back over the mountain.

Chocoholic

Eating the chocolate is a pleasurable experience. The dopamine moves us toward the rewards of eating the chocolate. The conscious neuro-processors suggest that you really shouldn’t eat the chocolate if you want to lose the weight. The “dope-in-me” response kicks in. It can override logic, common sense and right versus wrong.

The addict had a pleasurable response the first time she used the drug. That drove her to seek the same reward. Dopamine is depleted with each drug use and must be replaced. If the addict continues using the drug, dopamine is depleted and she will require more of the drug in order to get the desired pleasurable response.

Whether it is eating chocolate, smoking, using drugs or alcohol…or flying a plane in dangerous mountain currents, it is the dopamine response that leads us toward that pleasure or reward. As we get older, we seem to take fewer risks. We depend on wisdom to place the dopamine response in proper perspective. Is it less dopamine or less “dope-in-me”?

The dopamine response is not a bad thing. It is the reward center. It tells us that there is pleasure in helping someone, in going to a sporting event, in walking in the garden, in dining at a fine restaurant or simply sharing with a friend.

The “dope-in-me” response occurs when we discount the dangers, risks or penalties of a pleasurable response. Seeking pleasure/reward overrides wisdom. A walk in the woods can be peaceful and rewarding until a bear joins the walk. If you felt it would be a pleasure to meet the bear, then I guess it was a pure dopamine response. But it could also be close to a “dope-in-me” response…like a chocolate diet or flying a small plane toward a big mountain.

“DM control, nine zero fox, request to land.”

“Nine zero fox, you are cleared to land, two seven zero.”

“Roger, DM control”

“Enjoy your flight, Fox?”

“Don’t ask, Control.”

“Roger that, Fox. Clear to taxi. Nice day!”

Make it a dopamine day.

Dr L

Good Choices

Today is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s history!

I heard a well known doctor tell his patient, “you are where you are today because of the choices you have made in the past.” The patient appeared taken back by the comment. She was hurt. She thought, “I came here for help and you are telling me what I already know. I made the wrong decision.”

When a person asks for directions, telling them that they made a wrong turn is not really useful. They already know they made the wrong turn. They are lost. They want directions to get them to their destination. Clearly, if they came by again asking for the same directions, you may want to focus on the wrong turn issue. If they come back the third time, you have to focus on their willingness to accept directions…to make the right decision.

The doctor understood that the patient was coming back again and again asking for directions. Rather than accepting the directions, the patient chose to repeat the same mistake…the wrong choice…hoping for different results. The choice was to resist change rather than embrace change.

But we make changes every day. We change the temperature in a room to achieve comfort. We cross the street because we can get to our destination sooner. We change jobs, change lanes, change diapers, change drinks, change clothes, doctors, and even spouses. Change is part of life, part of growing up, and necessary for survival. If you walk into a pond, best to quit walking and CHANGE to a swim stroke.

Change is a tough human encounter. We evaluate change based on our perception that we will have some benefit.

If you are unhappy with where you are today, look to the past and the decisions that you made that got you where you are today. Ask, “Were these good decisions?” “Did I know then what I know now?” We can’t change past decisions nor their ramifications, good or bad. But we can learn from them and not make the same mistake again.

There is an interesting parallel in golf. There are many parts to the golf swing. The more the golfer masters the many variables in the swing, the more consistent the results. Consistency leads to swing confidence, which then introduces the variables beyond the swing, including stance, lie, loft, target, strategy and emotion. The better golfer works to master the basics and then builds on the basics.

I have seen golfers who forget the basics and move right on to target and strategy only to miss the target and spoil their strategy. Rather than go back to basics, they simply change the target and modify their strategy. Not to different than the person who can drive the car but can’t follow directions. In golf, it is not polite to comment on another golfer’s swing even though you may see what is wrong. What’s worse is when the golfer hits a bad shot and then reports to his fellow golfers that ‘I know what I did wrong’. By the time he gets to the next shot, he forgot what he did wrong and repeats the bad shot…and the report.

Some golfers get so focused on just doing something that they continue to repeat to process that gets them the bad results. Like the driver, they continue to go in the wrong direction. Like many people who keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

It’s interesting that average golfers warm up before a round of golf, but after the round, they head to the clubhouse to socialize. They program their brain with the good and bad shots of the day. Better golfers and the pros, warm up, and then practice before the round. After the round, they go back to the practice area to program their system to remember only the good shots. The choice is to make doing the right thing (the swing), automatic.

Making the right choices
So let’s look at how we make choices each day. If we are automatic in making choices, we will get as much info as possible so that we can make good decisions. We acknowledge that the outcome will be a function of the information that we have at the time we make the decision AND the decision that we make based on that information.

Once a decision is made, it is history. To change it requires a new decision. To change it requires new information that was not available when the first decision was made. An old saying: today is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s history.

Sometimes, we hesitate to make decisions for fear that it may be the wrong decision. Not making a decision, is, in itself, making a decision. Critics have it easy. After you make your decision, they look at the information that you did not have and then critique your decision. So what! Spectators assess outcomes. Players determine the outcome.

People who can make decisions affect outcomes. They make the choices that they and everyone else must enjoy or endure. As an individual, however, we not only must make choices, we must be willing to be accountable for those choices.

When the person came back for the third time asking for directions, he was not being accountable for his actions. When the doctor said, “you are where you are today because of the choices you have made in the past, “he was asking the patient to accept responsibility for his choices…his decisions.

If we are not willing to be accountable for the decisions we make, our decisions will lack integrity or credibility. We cannot complain about the results of the decision. Even though people will complain about their situation based on the choices they have made, we cannot help them until they make the decision to be accountable. Until the person asking for directions is willing to accept directions…willing to change…willing to make right choices, they will not make right choices. They will not get to their desired destination.

The pilot makes decisions that get us to our destination. Wrong decisions get us to the wrong destination. A really bad decision and the plane crashes. The pilot gets one chance at a really bad decision. Fortunately, in our lives, we can make some pretty bad decisions and still find help…but we have to be ready to change. Bad golfers repeat bad decisions and make bad shots. Good golfers replace bad decisions with new information and good decisions and make good shots.

Make good choices.

Be accountable for your choices.

Learn from every choice.

Make it a great day…it’s your choice.

Pick Your Battles

When people do stupid things, are they just naturally stupid, were they taught to be stupid, do they not know that they are stupid, or are they only stupid in our eyes? Regardless of their propensity for stupidity, it may only be our perception. They may feel that they are perfectly normal.

If they surrounded themselves with like people, then they may consider themselves normal. Now we have to consider that there might be a whole population of people out there who are stupid. Or…looking from their perspective, are we the stupid people?

An old saying: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience every time.” The lesson to learn is to ‘pick your battles.’

When in traffic and someone cuts in front, without a turn signal, and causing me to step on the brake, I’m normal and don’t like that situation. But, I just say, “He must be an important person.” I forget about it. I don’t like it. But forget about it. It’s a battle not worth engaging.

If that encounter would affect my safety or the safety of my family, then it becomes a different situation. Again, I can challenge the other vehicle, make contact, and then spend the next hour in a “he said she said’ conversation with the reporting police officer. The other option is to safely clear the encounter without contact. Family is safe and a police officer doesn’t have to fill out a report.

What about the reckless driver? If the driver is truly and intentionally an aggressive driver, sooner or later, he will have or cause an accident. That’s why we have police officers patrolling the highway. If the driver is not an aggressive driver but only needed to change lanes and didn’t see you, then we are dealing with an unintentional act. It is unlikely to happen again.

Picking Your Battle

In every battle, there are two sides and one outcome. In picking your battles, think about the personal benefit of the preferred outcome. If you could teach that bad driver a lesson, but you end up with a damaged car, loss of time and money, would the cost be justified by the outcome?

Some people simply enjoy confrontations. They seek battles and are clueless as to the possible outcome/benefits for the battle. It’s fun to watch people as they interact with other people. In a grocery line, people will stake out their territory. They will check out all the cashiers. They will estimate the cashier’s check out rate. They will assess the number of people in each line and how many items they have to check out.

After the complete assessment, (I’ll bet they use a ‘checkout assessment’ app with algorithms on their smart phone) they pick a check out line. Now they look around to see if anyone is moving into their line. The cart is in place. This is my space. They will guard it, nudge others, block intrusions, and anticipate those magic words, “you’re next.”

If I described you, don‘t feel bad. I do the same thing, too. The point is that it is not that important. I guess if you were scheduled to have open heart surgery, then it might be worth looking for the short line. But this is just people in line. Every person in the line has an agenda.

Getting through the line is just something to do in order to get where they are going. Some people had to pick up one item in order to finish fixing dinner. Another person had one item and it is their dinner. One person had one item because that was all they could afford. Another had 12 items in the ‘10 item only’ line. Where are the check-out police when you need them?

I enjoy watching people in lines. Their interaction is a function of their agenda…their destination…their vision of the next moment. You can tell by their interactions, if they are a “ME” person or a “WE” person. “ME” people focus on their needs at the expense of others. “ME” people maneuver to get in front of you. You appear like a statue to them. They will judge you without talking to you. They may even stand in front of you and tell you about themselves…how important they are. Talking to a statue is a one sided conversation…and they (not the statue) actually enjoy it.

“WE” people accomplish their needs by helping others. They see you as another person. They walk beside you and ask about you. They engage. You are an important person in their lives. “WE” people maneuver to help you get ahead.

So, what do I do when a “ME” person pushes ahead, I smile because, in their mind, they are a very important person. I believe that “ME” people will eventually come around. They are important in their own mind but they are lonely people. If they spend all their time pushing people out of their way, eventually there won’t be anyone left to push.

Pick your battles. A fellow told me one time, “Never make an unneeded enemy.” Some people love to engage simply for the encounter. When you engage in a battle, you declare an enemy. Regardless of the outcome, you have established an enemy. If you spend your time making enemies, eventually, the enemies will outnumber you. The enemies that you have created will surround you.

Whether it is a line of traffic, a line in the supermarket, or simply interacting with people we meet each day, we will engage. The outcome of the encounter will depend on how we choose to engage. Am I a “ME” or “WE” person? When we disengage, who will feel better and who will be bitter. “ME” people want someone to come away betterand someone to be bitter. The “WE” person wants both to come away feeling better.

When we can choose our battles and encounters, we should seek the outcome that will make both sides feel better. Choosing not to engage the reckless driver lets him feel better…he doesn’t know that he is stupid. He thinks stupid is normal. Choosing not to call the check out police lets the guy who can’t count or read the sign feel smart…but you know otherwise.

Tough Choices

Sometimes, we do not have a choice when trouble confronts us. In those cases, we must react. Choosing your battle is when you can respond rather than react. You have time to process the situation, the opponent, the desired outcome and the risks involved. You may have only minutes to respond but the response will be deliberate as opposed to a reaction. In most cases, you have time…hours, days, weeksto respond. Taking time to respond allows us to gather and process more information.

Our reckless driver may be rushing a sick child to the hospital. The person in the express lane may not be able to read. And the grump, who won’t smile, might not be able to smile since his stroke. Just a little more information changes our response.

So how do we choose our battles?

  1. Determine your battle flag. Do you fly the “ME” or “WE” banner?
  2. Determine the desired outcome. Remember that you can climb the fence to get away from the bull or to meet the bull. It is the same fence. It just depends on which side of the fence that you are standing. The action, climbing the fence, will be the same. Only the outcome changes.
  3. Decide how important? Do you really want to meet the bull?
  4. Determine the risk to benefit. Can I get hurt climbing the fence? If I don’t climb the fence can the bull hurt me? Do I have to climb the fence to get the desired outcome? If yes, start climbing. If no, stay put.
  5. Will I create a needed or unneeded enemy? The bull is a “ME” bull. You are either in or out of his territory.

“ME” people will talk about their conquests, the battles they have won, and the enemies yet to be vanquished. “WE” people will talk about their friends, the people they have helped, and the people they hope to meet in the future. If we strive to be a “WE” person, picking our battles will be easy.

“ME” people are always in a battle somewhere. That’s what they do. “WE” people get to choose their battles. The first step is to ask, am I a “ME” or a “WE”? Look at your flag.

Make it a great day

Dr L

Mom and I walked across the crowded parking lot and caught up to an elderly woman with a cane, slowly crossing the driveway. The man in the big pickup truck patiently waited as she crossed in front of him. While we were selecting a grocery cart, a man in a hurry, pushed ahead and pulled out a cart. No excuse me. No smile. No Merry Christmas. He must have been a very important person as he was mission focused.

How Things Changes: Christmas Eve 2015 from Grandpa L

We pulled our cart and moved toward the entrance. By then the elderly woman with the cane, caught up to us. I offered to get her cart but she refused. She was hoping to get a motorized cart that was recharging in the corner. Mom helped her get settled. She seemed comfortable with all the controls. She probably even knows how to game and text on her smart phone.

It was Christmas Eve morning and everyone was busy. The large grocery store was packed. The staff was in urgent holiday mode. Some were already restocking shelves. Others were getting the special orders. Others were simply offering to help customers find those last minute items. Even all the checkout lanes were “open.” And “Merry Christmas” was heard, over and over.

Things have changed…a little?

I can remember when we went to the grocery store and the clerk wrote down what you wanted and then went to the shelves and brought it to the counter. He wrote down the prices, and actually added them. The only fancy machine was a pencil with an eraser. OK. OK. I really do remember but I wasn’t old enough to shop yet.

But what about shopping on Christmas Eve? When we were growing up, any shopping had to be done ahead of time. All, if not most of the stores closed early Christmas Eve. The employees had to get home to their families. And most of the things that people needed for holiday baking were already in the pantry or cupboard.

As a youngster, Christmas Eve meant having an early supper and then heading to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to see Santa Clause. He usually arrived not long after we arrived. I don’t know how many times he must have been just circling Grandpa’s house waiting for us to get there. He was a good Santa. He remembered all the things that I had put in my letter to him…except the time he got me a shirt. What Santa gives a kid a shirt?

As shirts and shoes became more important to me, I didn’t feel I needed to send a written request to Santa. I simply went to the store and sat on his lap. That ended when I was taller than all the other kids in line…and Santa, too.

On the Farm
Christmas Eve changed when we were on the farm. Mother was busy baking for almost a week before Christmas. Dad made his famous horseradish sauce. The bacon and sausage hung in the smoke house. The apples were in the bins in the fruit cellar. Rows of jars of canned fruits and vegetables filled the shelves. Why would we have to go to the store Christmas Eve?

We finished barn chores by 6:30 pm and got cleaned up for dinner. It was a special dinner but we had to finish early. We had to fast one hour before midnight mass. That’s right, evening chores, dinner, midnight mass, and then back up at 5:30 am to do morning chores. Santa usually came between the time we got home from midnight mass and when we got up in the morning to milk the cows. (By the way, cows do not give eggnog for Christmas.)

Christmas day was busy. Finished chores, deferred breakfast to opening gifts, and started testing all the cookies to make sure they would be ok for all the family members and friends who would arrive in early afternoon. Sometimes, we had to test and test and retest the cookies to be sure they were OK.

Keep in mind that stores, restaurants, and gas stations were closed for Christmas. That meant, if you were traveling, you had gas up ahead of time or travel along the Interstates. Well not true, the interstates were not started until the mid 1950’s. Today we expect stores, restaurants, and service stations to be open for our convenience on these holidays, at the expense of the families of all the people who must be there just in case we need them. Hmm!

Getting back to our grocery store experience…busy store, hundreds of people, many employees, cell phones, motorized shopping carts, fresh baked holiday cookies, gift cards at any amount, and credit cards to pay for all this on another day. All of this while texting or talking on the cell while in the checkout line. What about saying ‘thank you’ or ‘Merry Christmas?’

It’s Christmas Eve and we have things to do. I need to finish a Christmas card, read the paper and check on the world situation. Santa now has a smart phone and GPS. He will be fine with the weather and air traffic control. And, yes, where did I put Mrs. Santa’s gift. Oh my! I hope the stores are still open.

When we got home, Irene was busy looking for a favorite recipe that was usually printed on the filling can. It was missing. Why did they change the label? Now what? No problem. I have everything under control. I’ll ask Siri. No, I’ll give her a break. It’s Christmas Eve.

Laptop open, typed in: “my wife can’t find her recipe…” Not really, I just type in “Poppy seed cake recipe.” Pressed print. Handed it to my girl. Merry Christmas!

Her comment? “What Santa gives Mrs. Santa a recipe for his favorite cake?

How things have changed…or have they.

Merry Christmas! Grandpa L