5 1/2 Months- Week Two

 

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Week Two: Celebrating Tim’s 60th Birthday at Guido’s with Tim & Deb, Judi, Tom & Kathy and Sandy. We spent the night at Tim and Deb’s home in Illinois. Talk about a great B&B! We had a beautiful bedroom, brand new bath and shower. Tim prepared an awesome breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash-browns, blueberries, strawberries, English muffins,orange juice and coffee. We topped it off with Deb’s home made banana cream birthday cake. If you add the view over their pool and Lake Lorraine plus the good laughs with Tim and Deb all for the awesome price of $0.00 you end up with quite the bargain.

Sandy, Tim and I went to the Veterans Home to visit my 92 year-old father. He was in rare form. He can’t hear well and usually refuses to wear his hearing-aids. His eye-sight is poor and getting worse. He gets around FOR NOW in a motorized wheelchair. When he is headed to the cafeteria you better get out of his way. He has a reputation, and it’s not good. We had a good visit. All his body parts are failing but he still has his sarcastic sense of humor. He is ready for God to take him. God is thinking it over. We all wonder if Mom is holding up a NOT ALLOWED YET sign at the entrance to heaven.

We returned to Springfield via Jacksonville where we found the downtown square, a Ferris Wheel at the edge of a nice park and the Elma Mae Leonhard Wildlife Sanctuary. That pretty much covers every square inch of Jacksonville, Illinois with nothing more to report.

Monday night Nicole prepared a fantastic homemade Italian meatball pasta dinner with chocolate covered strawberries for desert. The rest of the week in Springfield is pretty much the same each day. After our morning coffee we head to Panther Creek CC for a one-hour workout and steam room sauna. Then, its lunch, read a book, write, and watch the Olympics after dinner. This is some life-style for two homeless gypsy’s in their seventies.

Today is the day—-we have been married for 50 years. We enjoyed celebrating with Sandy’s brother’s and sisters and the spouses. Thanks to Sally and Tom, Mimi and Tom, Jack and CeCe, Mary, Nancy and Judi for sharing the night with us at Schneithorst’s. As always, when we get together conversations and laughter exceed the sound barrier most other patrons scatter for a quieter place in the restaurant.

Saturday night the celebration continued with dinner at Favassa’s. Thanks to our friends Gerry and Sue, Jim and Eileen, Tom and Elsie, Mike and Karen for sharing the love. We will miss all of you as our travels get under way. Tuesday morning we will be traveling to Blue Hill, Maine. I;m looking forward to lots of good stories to share then.

 

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Today We Begin a 5 ½ Month Journey, February 8, 2018

As most of the world knows by now, February 23, Sandy and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “most of the world” because this morning Sandy told the grocery clerk in Springfield, Illinois all about our five and half month trip plans. This women, plus over 200 people at the Dorchester, all of our friends and relatives are aware of our anniversary date and plans through July. If each person will tell just one other, well, you know, word travels fast.

We have been considering a variety of travel options for most of the past year. At first, we were planning a trip to Italy and then a Viking Cruise through Germany ending in Amsterdam. Sounds awesome. Maybe next year.

Sandy came up with the idea of subleasing our apartment for a few months so that we could travel the US and then end up in the NW. We could then spend more time with our children and grandchildren who live north of Seattle.  She was tired of being a “Skype Grandma” and wanted to live near the kids for a few months to experience what it’s like to be a real grandma, not one who visits for a few weeks each year and one you can only see via Skype. Of course, that plan would allow me to be a real grandpa too. I’m all in.

Things have worked out well. We have sub-leased for four months through mid-July. We have planned a big SASH BASH 50th Anniversary party for July in Breckenridge, CO. All six kids, wives, husbands, significant others and all ten grandchildren will be there. So, from this day through the return to ST. Louis mid-July, I plan to write a daily blog highlighting some of the adventure.

We will be gone five and half months, 165 days, I believe. And, today is…

Wk1/Day 1: We arrived at Randy and Chris’ summer home in Springfield, Illinois, unloaded our things for a two week stay and relaxed before bed via a Netflix original. The next morning we enjoyed coffee with a spectacular view of Lake Springfield, ten deer passed through the open yard beyond the swimming pool, and at least 100 ducks and geese swam by in the lake. What a wonderful way to begin this journey.

Late morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Charlie Parker’s (must go to place), dinner with Craig at Boone’s Saloon, and on to watch Evan and SHG win a high school basketball game 62-56.

Wk1/continued: Thanks to the generosity of Randy and Chris this beautiful home on Lake Springfield will be home for the next two weeks. Saturday night I broiled steaks and vegetarian k-bobs on the outdoor bar-b-q pit even though it was 20 degrees with an ice storm just beginning. Craig, Nicole, Evan, Ella, Todd and Scarlet enjoyed a meal  and some laughs around the kitchen table set up to serve sixteen (that’s one long table). Todd and Scarlet braved the hot tub as the ice snow pelted down.

Sunday morning Todd and Scarlet left for St. Louis. The rest of the week was a bummer. Sandy had the flu from Sunday-Thursday. We laid low. Watched a lot of television. Good thing we had Winter Olympics and Netflix Originals to watch.

By Friday we had cabin fever. So, we acted like a Springfield, Illinois tourist. We started with a freezing walk along the lake at Lincoln Memorial Gardens—had the whole place to ourselves. No other visitors on a cold day like this. We got in two miles then headed to the Lincoln Museum. If you haven’t been there we recommend it. This is the best Civil War time period exhibit we have ever seen. After a light lunch at Wm. Van’s coffee shop we walked around the Lincoln family home neighborhood. And then, we wrapped up the day at the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. How’s that for acting like tourist.

Tomorrow we are headed back to St. Louis to meet family for dinner on the Hill as we celebrate my brother Tim’s 60th birthday. That will end week one.

 

 

 

Is your organization sustainable after you’re gone?

I am writing this article with one organization in mind. However, I am hopeful that the thoughts, questions and challenges will apply and benefit many organizations, both non-profit and for profit.

The organization that I speak of was founded by a married couple twelve years ago, and it still thrives today. It was funded, in the beginning, with personal finances, the proceeds from the sale of their home and personal donations of friends and family. The female partner of this marriage was the original catalyst although today this is very much a WE project. She had years of professional experience serving a population of kids who were not receiving the advice and attention needed and deserved. She was so passionate about helping these kids who were having unsuccessful interventions from the traditional medical practices that she risked career and family to start a non-profit organization designed to make a difference.

These children served are overweight. They have low self-esteem. They are frequently ridiculed and bullied. They typically perform poorly in school. They have trouble making friends. They have occasional considerations of suicide. She knew what she had in mind would save children’s lives and would have successful outcomes.

Fast forward through twelve years of trial and tribulations, we find this organization has many documented successful interventions with more than 5,000 children and their families. They reach hundreds of thousands of people and offer expert advice about healthy eating habits, nutrition recommendations, emotional coping mechanisms, and physical activity via radio interviews, articles in publications, speaking engagements and public television documentaries. They have surrounded themselves with health and wellness expertise designing their curriculum with the help of doctors, physical therapist, registered dietitians, registered nurses, exercise physiologist, and personal fitness trainers. They have been recognized by the Cooper Institute and won awards from the National Institute of Health.

Today this organization operates a highly successful summer camp with all amenities located on 200+ acres of land that was recently donated to them. They have annual revenues from camp fees and donations near one million dollars per year. They are proud of all that they have accomplished, all of the people they have helped, all of the children who are now adults living successful healthy lives. But, with all of their success, is this organization sustainable? Can they survive twenty-five or more years after the original married couple have retired or passed on?

Let me offer this criteria for what it means to be “sustainable.”

Mission and Vision: Is the passion still alive?

All non-profit organizations have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement. Only the best non-profit organizations are inspired by the Mission and Vision. Is your Mission and Vision powerful, dynamic, distinctive and inspirational? Is your Vision compelling and delivered in an effective way? Does your Board, staff, and financial supporters buy-in via the actions you desire and need? Are you thriving or drifting? Is the passion still alive?

Board of Directors and Volunteers: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission and moving you forward toward accomplishing the vision?

Borrowing a question from Jim Collins book “Good to Great”, do you have the right people on the bus? Often, non-profit leadership in key staff positions or at the Board level can keep an organization from just achieving a few good things to really being all that they could be.

Are your Board of Directors members effective Ambassadors for the organization? Do they willingly offer financial support? Are they willing and able to influence other gifts?

Are your Board members Advocates for the enterprise? Do they recruit others to help out? Do they advance your story? Establish meaningful connections? Provide good oversight?

Do you have volunteers knocking on your door? Are they treated with the TLC they deserve?

Leadership and Staff: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission? Are they serving clients with compassion? Are they reaching high expectations and getting desired results?

There is nothing more disabling to an organization than disgruntled employees. The time spent trying to retain and motivate a non-cooperative employee can destroy an organization’s effectiveness. One poor performer with a poor attitude can influence everyone in a bad way.

On the other hand, if you have a talented staff of capable people who have completely bought into the mission you have an opportunity to do great things. Talented positive people who have had an opportunity to join you in establishing worthwhile goals will invariably work beyond normal expectations to help you achieve near impossible objectives.

Brand Equity Can you take your brand to the bank?

As we know from old cowboy movies, a brand is a way of identifying ownership and an assortment of responsibilities and privileges that go with it. The rancher who put his brand on a calf was not only claiming it for his own, he was also accepting the burden of its care and feeding. The real brand was not the symbol burned into the animal’s hide… but, the persona behind it…the identity of both the ranch and the rancher.

A brand name represents a promise to all constituents and all stakeholders. What kind of “brand awareness”” does your brand enjoy today? How does the brand distinguish itself from competitors? Does the brand clearly communicate its benefits and attributes effectively?

Is there creative continuity and clearly understood language in all internal and external communications? Is your brand reputation “trusted?” How do you validate this trust?

Testimonials from Clients, Parents, and Donors:  Let their feedback inspire you.

Can you go to your website or to some printed materials to find many “testimonials” from customers, clients, parents, donors, strategic partners, colleagues and more who willing tell a convincing, truthful, inspiring story about who you are what you do?

If the answer is “YES,” great! If it is “NO,” do something, make it a priority.

Donor Loyalty: Are your donors still donating or are they making investments?

How well do you know your donors? Do you keep score? How many donors do you have? How often do they give? What motivates them to give? What is the average size of gift? Are your gift categories growing from year to year? What percentage of donors renew year after year? Are you growing gifts over $100, over $1,000, over $10,000, year after year?

Are you testing different tactics to grow revenue? Do you know what works? Are you investing more resources into development? Is your stewardship of donor resources excellent? Do you say “thank you” with sincerity and in a timely way?

One way for a non-profit organization who has been operational for ten years or more to determine if donors are willing to make an “investment” in this organization is to count their Planned Gifts, especially estate gifts.

Estate gifts usually provide larger amounts of money often set aside in reserves or in an endowment. Healthy non-profit organizations typically have 20% or more of their annual budget held in reserve.

And, by the way, a donor who gives you an estate gift is making an investment in your future. They believe what you do is important, and they believe you will be around for a long time.

Financials: Do you consistently hit your revenue goals and maintain adequate reserves?

What is your track record? For the past five-ten years do you consistently reach your fundraising goals? Do you occasionally receive a surprise large gift that inspires the organization? Have you ever received a transformational gift? Is your cash flow good? Do you maintain adequate reserves?

 

Have you created a “Culture of Philanthropy?”

The word “culture” is a refined understanding and appreciation for the attitudes and behavior characteristics of philanthropy. The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek language. It means, “Love of humankind.” Philanthropy manifest itself on many levels: gifts of time, gifts of wisdom, and gifts of personal resources and giving by influencing community resources.

Has your organization established criteria and certain indicators to determine if you are creating a “culture of Philanthropy?”

When a donor calls your organization are they treated as if they have interrupted your work or as if they are the reason that you are able to do this work?

Is your organization consistently meeting and exceeding expectations? Are you considered a high functioning organization at all levels and by all accounts? Are you identifying weaknesses and taking action to improve? Have you created a desirable place to work?

And most important of all, are you good stewards of donor’s money? Have you invested wisely? Are you doing important meaningful work? Are you making a positive measurable impact? How do you know?

Now, I ask again, is your organization sustainable?

 

 

Dan Shasserre

President, CEO

SilverbackSTL Consulting

314-724-9527

dan.shasserre@gmail.com

 

 

 

    

 

My Grand Plan- God is Still Laughing

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plan will be established” Proverbs 16:3

January 6, 2001 I attended a White House Retreat and wrote this my in notebook. “please help me design, plan and take action to benefit poor and vulnerable people served by Catholic Charities.”

January 2001 was a long time ago. January 2016 I just returned from my 30th White House Retreat. I didn’t know that I had attended 30 retreats until I returned home and was contacted by my friend Gerry Hempstead who stayed there through the fried chicken lunch to learn of this recognition. I left Sunday following the noon mass. I’ve had enough fried chicken to last a lifetime.  If I knew that I was going to receive this recognition I would have left, but with some guilt.

My first White House Retreat was in October 1978. Since then, the rooms have been upgraded significantly, the meals vary but not much, the Chapel and the grounds have remained nearly the same over time but the retreat experience has varied on every occasion. I should acknowledge that the White House grounds have been improved a lot through the years, but the magic of the place is the consistency–the same comforting format each year, the same insistence on silence throughout the day, the same high expectancy placed on a talented Jesuit priest placed there to guide the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

This particular retreat experience was the best in recent memory. Perhaps, this is because I have missed the past two years, January 2013 was my last retreat. I felt the need to go, not because I am holy but because I’m not. In fact, I felt the need to go to a retreat this year, not because of my faith but because of my lack of faith.

When preparing to leave for White House I found an old crucifix given to me long ago. I think it may have belonged to my deceased Uncle Jack. He was such a good Catholic man. The crucifix discovery helped me to realize how long it’s been since I’ve had a good conversation with Jesus. I’ve lost touch.

The purpose of a White House Retreat in my case, in the past, has been to help me  to clarify my thoughts, to cleanse my soul, and to energize my mind and body. This is the one place and the one time of the year when I would slow down from work long enough to hear God whisper in my ear. At times, His words of clarity strengthened my belief. In the dead of silence I felt greater conviction. There is a God and He cares.

This year I have no urgent work needs. I have retired from full time employment seeking only a few consulting projects of interest to me. So, I went to the retreat dedicating it to the needs of other family members. As I focused on their needs, not mine, clear images and thoughts inspired me. I decided to walk with Jesus all weekend. And, therefore, to let Him lead me wherever He wanted to go.

Jesus was born in sometime between 7BC-29AD. He lived to age 36 but was in ministry for little more than 2 years (three Passover’s). Imagine a person, whose father was a common carpenter, who lives in obscurity for 34 years, surfaces to create such an impact on his followers that 2000 years later in central message has survived. And, from twelve initial Disciples, His followers have grown to 2 billion people throughout the world. I am one who has chosen to believe.

A White House Retreat is where you have time to think about life’s most challenging questions. Why did God choose such ordinary people for his first Disciples? Did God create men in his image and likeness or did man create God in his? Is God the Creator or the Observer? If the world is billions of years old why did God wait so long before creating men and women? If God can create a perfectly designed universe why did He create so many imperfect human beings? What is your purpose in life? What does God want of me?

I have frequently pondered this last question. At times, it  has seemed obvious when God was actually involved in my life. Good things that came my way I attributed to Him.  He had answered my  prayer. I choose to believe it happens. At other times I felt disconnected. I was trying to accomplish all of my goals all by myself. I left Him on the sidelines. Things didn’t work out too well.

I enter this day with gratitude and with confidence that God will answer my prayers. My sons and daughters will seek and find what they are looking for…my wife will continue to be amazing. I will continue the journey with Jesus at my side.

 

 

Mark is one of a kind, so are You

1776 Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal – Thomas Jefferson

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only purpose in life” Robert Lewis Stevenson

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“To thy own self be true” Shakespeare

My son in law, Mark, is a carpenter, electrician, plumber, painter, fence builder, ocean faring boat Captain, salmon and crab fisherman, professional photographer, film developer, frame maker, gardener, landscaper, farmer, outdoorsman, land owner, developer, forester, hiker, environmentalist, political activist, swimmer, deep sea diver, sailor, travel enthusiast, travel advisor, tree expert, truck driver, bike rider, electronics wiz, avid reader, excellent cook, candlestick maker, soap maker, movie critic, stock investor, philanthropist, and most importantly, he is a good father and husband.

I admire Mark for his diversity, his curiosity, his commitment to be good at what he does to the point of excellence in many things. I appreciate his enthusiasm and interest in so many things and his zest for life that allows him to embrace many occupations, hobbies and personal activities. Mark is indeed a unique individual. And, so are you.

Read the quotes of Jefferson, Stevenson, Emerson and Shakespeare above. Do not attempt to be Mark or anyone else for that matter. Admire the characteristics and traits of others that you like because you may be able to learn many things from that observation. But, do not try to copy the life of another–not your father, not your mother, not your brother, not your sister, not that of your closet friend.

Your life is uniquely yours too live. And, its not where you have been in the past, but rather, where you are going that counts most. Decide for yourself the measuring stick that will be used to evaluate your life. Decide the criteria that you admire most in others that you will use to judge yourself. Its your words and actions today and tomorrow that will define your future.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank among those timid souls who neither enjoyed not suffered much, because they lived in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

15 States, 3 Provinces, 4750 miles in 23 days

Last year we traveled for 8 weeks, 56 straight days, more than 7,500 miles by car, and more miles by train, plane, bus and van. I documented the trip day by day. I didn’t think I would ever do that again. But, here I am. This time it’s a shorter trip, 23 days, all by car, but so interesting and wonderful that we have to record it for our memories. If I don’t, I will forget it all, or least significant parts, by next Monday. That’s the way the minds works these days.

August 7- 9am, we are on the road anxious to arrive at our Indiannapolis destination. I invited ourselves to visit our  friends Ted and Julie Bates. They were gracious hosts allowing us to spend the night on their beautiful new downsized home, 5000+ square feet,  located on a man-made lake. Julie prepared a scrumptious meal, salmon, asparagus  and mashed potatoes. Yummy!  In the evening we attended a Beatles consert at a local park. There must of been 10,000 people on the hillside in lawn chairs, blankets, carting baskets of wine and food. We had all the best, prepared by Julie, of course. The look like and sound like Beatles band provided nostalgic entertainment . Great night with good friends. Thanks Ted and Julie. Hey, Ted, how are you doing in our weight loss challenge?

August 8- this was an adventurous day with a slight mis-hap. We were traveling at 70 miles per hour following a semi-trailer truck when all of sudden a huge truck tire shows up in the middle of the road. We drive straight over it, shredding the tire to pieces and the car didn’t flinch. My Subaru Legacy was so steady that I kept driving despite Sandy’s suggestion that we pull over to check for damage. A few miles more, 40 minutes later, I stop for gas and then make a car damage assessment. More damage than expected. I call my insurance company to file a claim. I also call my nephew, Mark Politte. He owns Stanley Subaru in Ellsworth Maine. This is where I bought the car. I tell Mark I’m coming up to Ellsworth needing more than a free oil change.

August 9- we ended our day yesterday, in Grantsville, Maryland. This is a small mountainside village community. Nice clean lodging accommodations and a buffet dinner at some Mennonite/German restuarant. Our destination today is Willmington, Delaware. We have a picnic style lunch at a neat little park outside of the main town square. Delaware was on my buckit list. This is my 50th State visited! Mission accomplished. Without much fanfare we spend the next few hours driving on to the Jersey Shore. We visit Long Beach, Ship Bottom and Beach Haven before deciding we can’t afford to stay on the beach. $279 per night is beyond our comfort level. The Holiday Inn – few miles from shore is just fine.

August 10- we show up at the door steps of the Sobecki’s new home at Little Egg Harbor. John and Ginny have retired in this very nice community. The home is a perfect size for two people who will occasionally get a daughter with grandchild for a visit. After John shows us around town we end up at Panini Bay for a delightful meal and a great view. John and Ginny seem to be super satisfied in retirement. We are so happy that we stopped to see them. It was definitely worth doing. Good people , good friends.

By 1:30pm we were on the highway battling traffic through NJ, NY and then Connecticutt. Finally, we arrive at our destination, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We get lucky, as we often do by exiting randomly and locating a Public House. What a great place to stay. The quaint restuarant had a marvelous setting and the food was sensational. Best of all Sandy discovered she was caring a discount coupon book with a $59.99 offer from Public House. Sandy was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I didn’t care about the discount but I was more than happy with the great meal and ambiance.

August 11-16 we arrived in Blue Hill, Maine by 3pm to do some grocery shopping before showing up at Mary’s house in time for Evan’s birthday party. Evan is a 5’11” fifteen year old grandchild. His sister’s Olivia and Ella and my son and daughter-in-law, Craig and Nicole are visitng the Politte family for a one week vacation. We show up, as a surprise to Evan, but I dont think he was surprised at all.

On Wednesday my car goes to Stanley Subaru for evaluation. The underbelly looks like I drove over a huge truck tire. Black marks everywhere! The accident cracked the catalytic converter (whatever that is) and tore up the front and back fender gards. Fortunately, Mark was able to get me on the priority list at the local body shop. They had everthing fixed up by Saturday morning so we could continue the trip.

We had a great time with Craig’s family and Mark, Samantha, Madison, Ben and Chloe. Too many great dinners and laughs to document here. Sandy’s sister Mary owns a beautiful home in Blue Hill on the ocean bay. We shared the home with Craig, Niclole and the kids, making this the most affordable part of our trip. Thanks to Mary.

Saturday we had a day trip to Acadia National Park with lunch in Bar Harbor. We’ve been there before but these places are defintely worth a second visit. With better plannng and more time we could have done a few hikes in Acadia.

August 16- we leave Maine with Canada on our minds. We were driving through a small town of Amherst when Sandy spots a B&B. It so happens, this place has been open for two weeks! We find it. It was fantastic. If you’re ever in Amherst, Nova Sotia look up the Apothic Inn. We recommend it.

August 17- we are headed to Halifax to spend the day and night. We ended up spending two hours on the waterfront and changed our minds, pushed on to Lunenberg. But first, we stop at Malone Bay for a brief walk and lunch at Mug Anchor pub, 17 beers on tap, and great seafood chowder. That night we discover the Boscawin Inn B&B. This was another great place to stay. Originally the place was a private home built by the govenor in 1875. Today it is a fantastic B&B over-seeing this quintessential little town of Lunenberg. If you are headed to Nova Scotia we recommend the Boscawin Inn and Salt Shaker Deli for lunch or dinner.

August 18- another random act, we decide to go to Prince Edward Island. Its only a few hours away. We cross an enormous bridge and then tour the central part of PEI before finding our B&B. This place was off the beaten track, in the middle of farm land with a distant view of the ocean. We were two-hundred yards away from the ocean but we did take a short walk to enjoy the sight, the smell and the gentle breeze of the ocean. By the way, breakfast was scruptious!

August 19- after paying $45.50 bridge fee to get off the Island we have a long drive day through New Brunswick to River DuLoop, just outside Quebec.

August 20 After an uneventful day we end up in Quebec City for brunch at an outside resturant. Then, we walked this beautiful french speaking European-like city. In the afternoon we drive on toard Montreal. Our plan was to have dinner at Saint Gabriel, my favorite resturant, discovered when I was marketing director for the St. Louis Blues.The NHL held annual meeting there following each season. So, I was in Montreal every June from 1978-83. This plan never materialized because we ended up in a huge traffic jam caused by a burning car stuck in the tunnel leading to downtown Montreal. We got off the highway spendng the night in Bouschville, Quebec, Province.

August 21- beautiful weather for a walk up and down the cobble stone steeets in Old Montreal. We found Saint Gabriel’s despite the resturant change of names. It;s now called Bergi on Saint Gabriel street. The ambiance looks the same. The restuarant wasn’t open at 10am when we were there but the owner allowed us in for a nostaligic visit. We went to a French speaking 12:30pm mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral before lunch and more sight seeing.

August 22 – we are approaching the United States border and we have $32 Canadian and $1.50 American money in our pockets. We spend most of the Canadian money on gas at the last city in Canada before crossing. I figure I can get cash at an ATM in Port Huron. As we are getting our Passports ready for the crossing we notice that first we have to pay a $3.50 toll. As we are approaching the toll gate we frantically search for change. This so funny but I can’t capture it properly. Just imagine Sandy and I holding up traffic trying to explain that we have NO MONEY. We dont have $3.50 even if we combine all left over change Canadian and American. Finally, the frustrated gate keeper takes what we have and waves us through to the United States. We keep re-telling that very funny story. i showed the guy my empty wallet. Sandy says, “I found two pennies, will that help?” The gate keepers expression on his face was priceless.

August 23- after spending the night in a very forgettable,Travelodge, we decided to drive to our location in Douglas, Michigan. The plan was to meet some of Sandy”s family at a rental house from the 24th-31st. We arrive Sunday night in a rain storm and found the keys to the house. The accomodations are good. We have rented a 4 bedroom house with a great view of Lake Michigan.

August 24-30 – we had a great time hanging out with Tom and Sallee, Nancy, Mary, Jack and CeCe, Katie and Mimi-Mimi. I think we saw all you can see in Saugatuck, Douglas, South Haven and Holland, Michigan. Sunsets were cool or non-existent because of clouds. Good restuarants all over. Tom and I had our favorite, M&M’s. We had three breakfasts and one dinner at a place most people would drive by. The outside looks like a place to avoid. The food and the service was outstanding.

August 30 – on we go to Springfield, Illinois to have dinner with Craig and Nicole and visit with our grankids. These are the same family members that we just saw in Blue Hill, Maine. This time we are in thier comfortable home and dinner at a wonderful Italian restuarant….best bartender and hostess/waitress I have ever seen at any restuarant.

August 31- we are back  home, watching a Cardinal game. Enjoying our15th floor view- over-looking Forest Park. Back to the routine we enjoy and the friends that we look forward to seeing soon. Safely home and very grateful.

Carpe Diem!

 

 

 

 

Take Your Own Good Advice

I have been blessed in life to be one of those people who is frequently called upon to provide mentorship for another person who happens to be unemployed, underemployed, or in struggling through a difficult time in their life. I call this a “blessing” because I consider it an honor that someone who knows me would refer a friend or acquaintance to me knowing there is high likelihood that I would be happy to meet a stranger under the assumption that my advice or my suggestions may be of value.

When asked, I always say yes. Often, my advice or my referral leads to nothing more than another step in a necessary process. Seldom does my connection lead to a meaningful job offer. But, I meet with these new contacts nonetheless with the hope and belief that my gesture of friendship, being respectful, by showing that I care, offering some suggestion may be worthwhile even in a small way.

Former head football coach and now NFL commentator makes this point very distinctly. “I follow three rules- Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people that you care.” Lou Holtz

My advice to others usually follows the same advice I give to my children. Don’t let other people tell you what success looks like. Get in touch with your own values. Spend time to identify your talents and skills. More importantly, identify what’s in your heart. When you are all by yourself, what advice do you give yourself?

Making money is a good thing. Making lots of money is better. But, making lots of money is a shallow motivator for many people like me. Human Resource research says money is seldom the number one motivator for most people. Doing work that matters is more important. Doing work that benefits others is far more important.

Martin Luther King Jr. is credited with this quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Today, I challenge myself to listen to my heart, make a decision that’s best for myself and for my family. Trust, with confidence, that whatever decision I make it will be the right decision because my good attitude about this decision will make it right.

I am so fortunate to have this opportunity before me. I am blessed with the freedom to choose, the right to make a choice, and the courage to know in advance that good things will come from this choice, based upon past experiences. Of all blessings to pass on to others this may be of the greatest value. Thank you God for the faith to pursue challenges and to expect positive outcomes.