Category: The Daily Life

Driving 101: The Nashville Way

Nashville-trafficSince moving to Nashville in 2014, I have had the experience of being “trained” by my fellow drivers in the Music City.  A national magazine recently awarded Nashville as the friendliest city in America.  When I heard about this I said, “They obviously didn’t drive here.”  I’m not saying the traffic or drivers in Nashville are worse here than in other city, it’s just frustrating and not that good old country friendly feeling you would think.   Over the past four years, here are the rules I have learned for driving here:

  1. If you are already on the Interstate, you should stop and let merging traffic on.   Yes, believe it or not there are a lot of these drivers out there.  They will get mad and flip you off if they are entering from the ramp and you don’t stop to let them over.  They don’t seem to be able to comprehend the idea of merging.  Traffic already on the Interstate are not required to stop.  Drivers entering the Interstate need to adjust their speed and safely enter.  Shocking concept I know!
  2. What is a yield sign?  The city/county seriously wasted their money making yield signs.  I have seen – and reacted – to other drivers blowing through a yield sign.
  3. If a turn signal is being used, you’d better let me over.  First, you are lucky if someone actually uses a turn signal but when they do they are getting over.  It isn’t an “indicator” that they plan to get over, they are doing it.
  4. I’m too busy texting to use a turn signal.  I think this mentality goes with driving in general but seems to happen more when drivers are turning and simply don’t have a free hand to use their turn signal because their hands are too busy with their smartphones.
  5. I am late for work and MUST get in front of you.  Thousands of people converge into downtown Nashville daily and there are some who think THEY are the only ones trying to get to work.  They will zip in and out of lanes trying to get into the fastest one.
  6. A roundabout is the automobile version of Russian roulette.  I don’t know whose idea it was to put roundabouts in a major Southern U.S. city but drivers have no clue how to use it.  If you get in one of these traffic wheels of fortune you’d better prepare to get out soon.
  7. At a four-way stop *I* go first!  No one knows how four-way stops work.  You will soon find out who the arrogant/impatient people are when you approach one of these.  Forget about the rules of taking turns.
  8. I have no time to brake so you can make your turn.  Be are extremely impatient.  No Southern hospitality at all.  If you need to turn and use your turn signal, be prepared for nearly being pushed out of the way by the driver behind you.
  9. I don’t have to yield to pedestrians…EVER.  I will say that many times pedestrians walk when they aren’t supposed to but when they do, drivers don’t want to yield (yes, there’s that word again) and Nashville has increased in pedestrians being struck every year.
  10. I can do whatever I want to do….especially if the driver is driving a Lexus.   Basically people will do whatever they can get away with.  I have seen so many violations and just some really dumb and unsafe maneuvers that not much surprises me now.  And if the driver is driving a Lexus, you might want to be prepared for anything.

With the city of Nashville growing, the traffic situation grows worse.  It doesn’t seem like anyone has a plan to do anything about it.  One thing about Nashville and the Interstate highway system is that truckers are forced to come through downtown because there isn’t a true bypass around the city.  We have no transit system.  Yes, there is a train but the route is only on the eastside of town so most folks around here have to use their Lexus (and other cars) to navigate the traffic everyday.  Nashville drivers are a different breed.  If you come here, you’d better be ready with some patience and sing to your favorite country tunes.

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What If We Knew For Real?

Since my dad passed last month, I have revisited the issue about what happens after we die. I have asked a few people about their beliefs and I posted my own thoughts here as well.

I wish we knew for sure.

I have wondered why we don’t? Wouldn’t it be better if we did? If we knew for sure what happens on the other side I think people would act differently. So why don’t we?

It’s funny how adamant people are about their beliefs. Some folks are borderline militant about it. I have to ask the question if they have been to the afterlife and come back. The truth is they no one REALLY knows with absolute certainty. You can’t base it on scientific facts because there is no evidence of life after death. Sure, there are numerous accounts where people have died and came back to tell about their experience but there isn’t much consistency in their stories. Science often explains them away.

Honestly I think it’s a bit unfair that we don’t know. So now all we are left with is faith that there is something there.

Faith. That makes it hard. Especially when you need to know for sure. Faith is a belief.

I still would like to know for real.

What if someone that has passed could come back to tell us? That would be irrefutable proof wouldn’t it? Maybe. Maybe not. Humans are so fickle and unpredictable so there is no guarantee that anything would make us believe – even a visit from someone that has come back from the dead.

This is the great unknown. Yes I know what the Bible says about it and what every other religion or non-religions say about it. We are left with not knowing and most of the time not even thinking about it. We are all headed there but we aren’t wanting it to get here anytime soon.

I still believe what I believe about it but I have no proof. None. That’s what stinks about this.

Instead of dwelling on it, we should make our lives count. We should make a positive impact on the people around us. Since there is absolutely nothing we can do about the end and whatever happens after that, we have right now.

We all have to find our own way.

Mistletoe And The Workplace

mistletoeWhat is  your first thought when you see mistletoe?

Harmless decoration or inappropriate for the workplace?

I’m having some issues with this right now.  It is my feeling that mistletoe should not be displayed in the office.

In this time where sexual misconduct on the job has been a problem you would think employers would have some common sense about this.  I have no problems with decorations or trying to celebrate the holidays but some things I think could be left out.  Management should circulate a memo to remind employees to celebrate in a joyful but professional and respectful manner.  This message needs to be clear and consistent with the conduct which is appropriate for the workplace.

So what’s the harm with mistletoe?

Answer this question: If it is hanging over the cubicle at someone’s desk, what does it mean?  Unfortunately mistletoe has become a symbol for kissing and that “harmless” kiss could be harmful to reputations as well as pushing the boundaries.   And we all know that there is someone always out there who will do it.   I have seen too many people treat the workplace as if they are repeating their high school or college days.

Two years ago, the high-profile Chief Executive Officer of a company kicked off the holidays by hanging mistletoe from the front of his pants belt.  He was reported to the human resources department but people were initially hesitant our of fear of retaliation or being a Grinch.  The CEO’s response was that he was only kidding and everybody knew it.

I often make the statement:  “Can’t people just act right anymore?”

The sad answer is “no”.  Some people ignore rules, policies and common decency in exchange for a good time or excuse for bad behavior.

Maybe I am being to sensitive about mistletoe but I think the workplace should be about work.  Do your job.  How hard is that?  Have some integrity.  Is that too much to ask?

In the early years of my career I worked in an office which allowed people to dress up for Halloween.  There were no rules or policy about it and you can imagine how that went.  Some folks kept pushing the boundaries until management was forced to eliminate it altogether.  It is sad that today you have to spell out everything for employees in the absence of common sense and decency in the workplace.  The larger problem is that supervisors ignore the problem or refuse to enforce their own policies.

Hanging up mistletoe over your desk or in the workplace is only inviting the opportunity for inappropriate behavior.  Then when the office is slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit then you will wish you had been more proactive in these things.  Yes, even something as harmless as mistletoe.  Even with all the sexual harassment training, employers are assuming that they are covered and everybody got the memo with regard to their actions but you are still seeing claims of sexual harassment being filed.

With 52% of women in the workplace having experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, Christmas can create even more of a threat with workplace parties and events within the office.  So do we need more reason to condone unwanted behavior?  A mistletoe hanging overhead in the workplace might give some the idea that they can get a “freebie” without it being unwanted while women will feel obligated to compile because of a harmless holiday tradition.

Remove the mistletoe in the office.  It’s stupid to allow an opening for sexual harassment over a harmless plant hanging over the heads of employees.

 

 

The Other Side Of Grief

griefFor the first time, I have been directly impacted by the death of a loved one.  It has been an eye-opening experience for me.  While I can’t say that I have been overcome with grief, it has had its moments of difficulty.  I have been amazed at the things that have to be done and how people respond to you during these times.  Let me give you my view on this side of it:

How People Respond

This one is all over the place.  Everyone responds differently.  I have had people text or call me directly to let me know they were thinking about me.  This has meant a lot to me.  I have had flowers sent to me which touched me deeply.  While people really don’t know what to say, just acknowledging it helps a lot.  Some people say nothing or ignore the subject completely.  I think I can understand that because they simply don’t know what to say and they don’t want to make me sad.  However, having been through this, I think I would rather people say something than nothing at all.  Co-workers have had an interesting response as well.  I have had some who just said they were sorry for my loss and then others that lead with that and then into what they need me to do.  That’s pretty tacky in my opinion.  At least send separate emails.  People are funny and you really don’t know what to expect from them.

Funeral Preparation

Who came up with the idea of the traditional funeral obviously had no regard for the ones grieving.  I’m amazed at the decisions that need to be made even if the deceased had planned their funeral.  Do I really need to decide on what color scheme the pallbearers should wear?  What color does the casket need to be?  Do I prefer a flag or no flag on the casket?  Opened or closed casket?  These are some decisions I never thought I would ever have to make.  I can’t imagine if it were someone totally overcome with grief doing this.  I’m sorry but I also don’t not like funerals.  The visitation seems to be more like a family reunion.  The funeral service itself and then yet another ceremony at the cemetery.  A grieving person has to go through this over and over again.  People like to use the words “closure” or “paying your respects” but it is torture.

The Will

I was not made the executor of my loved one’s Will but let me caution you to be totally informed of what you’re getting into if you are ever asked to do this.  I would highly advise to have a neutral person who is not related to the family to carry out the responsibility.  It is much too overwhelming for a family member to do regardless of the size of the estate.  If you are making out a Will, make it easy as possible to disperse things you wish to give to those left behind.  Don’t make it a burden.  The execution of the Will only prolongs the process.  It is difficult to move on when you are having to deal with what’s left behind.

Family

I have been surprised with the response of my relatives.  Their reaction was not what I had expected.  I have lost contact with most of my family over the years and regardless of that, they responded and have been very supportive.  I’m still not ready for a family reunion but I have added several to my contact list and hope to remain in touch with them.

The Grief Process

Although I can’t say that I’m overcome with grieve but I can tell you that it’s a strange feeling.  There are moments I will have a flashback with no warning or cry without notice.  How someone grieves is not the same for everyone.  There is also no time limit.  I know most people expect you to get over something in 30 days or so but it really depends on the individual.  It also doesn’t help to ask continually “What’s wrong?”.  It helps much more to ask “Are you okay?” or “How are you doing?”.   Believe me.  There is a difference.  I have moments of sadness but also times of anger over what could have been or things that could have been different.  It helps to do things and to keep living your life.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m new at this.  This is my first experience with grief and the experiences that goes with it.  I think with everything that happens in life, you learn from it.  I think that I have learned a lot better in how to respond to others when they are going through it.  If nothing else, just knowing people care mean a lot.  You know that you are not alone.  My wife has been through this herself and she has been a rock for me.  She can relate and she is guiding me through this new area for me.  That means a lot.  You’re not always capable of thinking clearly or keeping your focus so it is important that you have someone you can lean on when you aren’t totally yourself.  We all need a little help don’t we?

No, I don’t like being on this side of grief but it is comforting to know I am not alone.  I will get through this and I will press on.

 

Paying My Respects Without Imterference

Today I will attend my Dad’s funeral. It will be the final chapter to bring an end to the last two weeks of my final time with my dad.

Father-son relationships can be tricky. It was very difficult for us. I know I spent a long period of my life seeking his approval. I just wanted him to say he was proud of me. He never did. Many years ago I made peace with that and I never kept expecting it.

As he laid in bed last week, he told me that he had wished things had been different. He said he was sorry that he didn’t spend more time with me.

It is true that for the first part of my life, his priority was the church. I told dad that it was okay and I understand more now. He did the best that he could. We also moved around a lot because churches did not appreciate his integrity and strict accounting of church finances. That integrity finally betrayed him and forced him to retire before he really wanted to when leadership failed to back him.

Integrity. That’s what I remember most about my dad. I never knew him to lie about anything regardless of the consequences. Yes he was strict but he was always consistent. He was decisive and I always knew what to expect from him.

Our relationship was challenging. He was always difficult to talk to. I dreaded it because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Even with our difficulties, he did try to relate to me. He constructed a basketball goal each place we lived and he was a pretty good shot. He would also take me to high school football games. He might have taken me to my first college or professional football game if the church hadn’t thought it was a sin to do so.

At every church Dad tried to make them better than before he came. He was a straightforward preacher who said what he believed. He and I didn’t agree with some things and even in his final days he was still firmly entrenched in it. He didn’t waver.

Our relationship didn’t get any better during my adult years. There was a large influence which manipulated his view of me. We spent more time not talking than we did together. It wasn’t my choice. It became more and more difficult to overcome the interference. I regret this interference deeply and today I boil over in anger about it. Things could have been different. The interference sabotaged our father-son opportunities.

I think one of the things that also hinders is was that we didn’t know how to relate to each other. In the final days I understood him more than I ever had before. It helped that we no long had the interference. I finally understood how to talk to him.

I so much wish it could have happened sooner.

He was a good man. He just never could navigate through the interference.

Damn that interference.

In his final days things were different and as they should have been. He was finally the father I had always wanted. I am no longer irritated to see his resemblance in the mirror. I am proud to be his son.

In one of his final days I asked Dad if it bothered him that I never followed his footsteps into the ministry. He was not. He said it wasn’t something hereditary. It was a calling. I was finally relieved about that.

During the times of the interference I only wished he would have reached out to me. I so much wanted him to make an effort. I wanted to be worth his effort. Unfortunately the interference kept that from happening.

I am certain that outside observers couldn’t understand why we had periods of estrangement. They never understood the power of the interference. They only saw me as the prodigal son. I always appeared to them as the one who ran away. I was the rebellious one. They never saw the battles I was having with the interference. As hard as I tried, it always won and affected our relationship.

Not today.

Today there is no interference. Today I pay my respects to the man who is a part of me.

He’s Finally My Daddy

I am watching my daddy die.

I haven’t called him daddy for a long time. For most of my adult life, our relationship has been strained and estranged for long periods of time.

Yet here I sit by his bedside watching him fade away to the heaven he has preached so much about in his sermons and believed in for many years. Some have called it “slipping into eternity” or going into the “presence of the Lord.” Whatever you want to call it, he’s almost there.

You think a lot about “the other side” when you are sitting here watching someone die. Some people don’t believe. I can see how hard it is to believe it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. There are many Christian beliefs about what happens when we die. Some think you immediately go to heaven, others think you go to an in-between place and some think we fall into a “soul sleep” until the return of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

As far as things on this side goes, dad and I have resolved our issues. Neither one of us can make up for the lost years between us but things are settled. At this point the petty differences we had before doesn’t really matter much now.

I now declare that our relationship resolved.

We are both winners. It was never a competition. It was a prideful standoff for way too many years.

We all make hard decisions in life. It’s easy when we are young and can blame decisions on our parents but when are adults and make the hard choices, it’s all on us. I was forced to make some of those hard choices which significantly impacted our relationship. That’s what happens sometimes in life. You don’t always get the Norman Rockwell painting. Many times you get the dysfunctions that would be too difficult for even Dr. Phil to resolve. You have to make choices that allow you to live your own live. It is sad, but these choices can hurt people and cause divisions.

I won’t sugar coat it, my dad was strict. He was a pentecostal preacher and that led to a lot of conflict between us. Whenever he said I was going to get a whipping there was no parole. It was gonna happen. Of course today, he would be accused of abuse but it was a different time then. That’s all he knew. I’m not excusing it or condoning it. I’m just explaining it. I seem to think I turned okay in spite of it. We all do our best. It’s easy to be a critic.

As the breath of life gets harder and harder for him, I sit here understanding this man more now. Over the past few days we have had the father-son moments that never happened between us. He was never the mushy type who talked about feelings. Death tends to force it out of our pride.

Dad was a preacher for over 40 years for a church organization which was very much a cult of people who mistreated him and church leaders betrayed him. The only reason he left this church group is that church leaders ignored improprieties and because of his integrity, it forced him out. The so-called leader whimped out and caved into pressure. Now that person is the leader of the cult group. How pathetic. Because of this, my dad had to find another way to support himself and my mom. Even though this church burned him badly, he still held onto their ridiculous teachings to the very end.

My dad was never a slacker. At many of the churches he had to work a secular job in addition to pastoring a church. He never had a college degree but he was always very intelligent and often figured things out for himself. The church seriously limited his talents and abilities.

I never followed in my dad’s footsteps. I asked him about that recently. It never bothered him because he said that being a minister wasn’t hereditary, it is a calling from God. I see too many who follow their father’s into the ministry as if they were continuing the family business. I’m glad my dad never felt slighted about me not becoming a preacher.

For the first time in my life, my daddy needs me. I am here without any hesitation.

I don’t recall him ever telling me that he was proud of me but that’s okay. He doesn’t have to. I resolved that issue many years ago and I don’t need that affirmation.

At this moment, none of that matters. Death humbles us all.

Keeping Calm When Plans Change

Most of the time I can deal with stressful situations. I haven’t done so well over the last 48 hours.

I am a planner. I can’t help it. I am usually thinking and planning three steps ahead. Sometimes it’s a curse. So when my plans become scrambled up, it can seriously throw me off.

I thought I had the next three weeks figured out but a sudden change in my dad’s health turned all of that upside down. You can’t plan on some things and I was ill-prepared for this one. With the calming help of my wife we were able to make the immediate necessary changes.

Let me tell you that work makes me mad. I don’t love my job but I like what I do and I am good at it most of the time. It made me mad because work has to take up so much of our lives. I hate that but it is the necessary evil of life. You have to work to pay for things but it never seems to be enough. Work is not the most important thing in life but we are so damn dependent on it.

I like being prepared. This time I am not and it is freaking me out a little. I have to keep hitting my mental reset button and keep focused on the current thing in front of me. Just this morning on the drive to work I was thinking about all the changes I needed to make and had to remind myself to remember that at the moment I was driving and I needed to do that before I move on to the next thing. I couldn’t think about tomorrow or the next day or my plans next week yet. At that moment I just needed to drive safely to work.

Being rattled isn’t the norm for me. I have been calm in the moments of being fussed at by judges or attorneys on my job while maintaining my nerves.

The dynamics of this situation are different. I won’t go into details but emotions are affected as well as changes in schedule. I suppose it’s easier to remain calm during a benign situation at work rather than one that involves more.

The two things that have been working are having someone to help you through it and doing one thing at a time. My wife has been awesome at helping me and even taking some of the planning off of me. I think sometimes I have to do it all but I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help. I have also just tried to keep the next thing in front of me. Don’t get swarmed with future scenarios and trying to resolve those issues before they possibly happen.

I said that I’m learning this. I’m not good at it yet. It’s a very difficult thing for me but I’m having a chance to learn.

If you’re panicking about a situation, take my advice and keep calm. Focus on the thing that is before you at the moment. Don’t stress yourself about looking ahead. You’ll get there but you have to take care of this first.