Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Much-Needed Sabbatical

I began writing Ake’s Pain in May 2011. I have posted over 249 essays which I have compiled into three books. (Book 3 expected release is March 2020).

And I need a break. Over the last year, sometimes I have become a little bored of my own writing. Which means, of course, maybe you too – well just a little.  So, I am taking a much-need sabbatical from the humor blog. I’m not sure how long it may last. If a topic suddenly appears that I just have to write about, I suppose I might post. Other than that, I’ll give my funny bone a well-deserved rest.

But writers gotta write, right?  So, I will be introducing a new blog: Deep, Heavy, Stuff. It will deal with the difficult issues in life from my perspective, sharing the wisdom I have gathered to this point in life. As Ake’s Pains helped you by bringing humor into your life and making you laugh, my goal for Deep, Heavy, Stuff is to help you deal with and figure out some of those tough, confusing issues of life. I want the blog to be as if we sitting at a booth having coffee talking about those issues you struggle with, but nobody talks about.  Just a deep, heavy discussion.

If you want to be included on the mailing list for this blog, please e-mail me at vefather@gmail.com

Thanks for your support!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Heading Off A Cat-astrophe

Here are my most enchanting memories of last year, which never made it into a blog post.  Now there could be hundreds of these moments.  However with my fading memory, I can only remember two.

The Cats Invade

We watched my daughter’s two cats, Dede and Buddy, while she prepared her house for sale. I liked having the cats in the house. I work from home and enjoyed their company – on most days.

Generally, they were not a distraction and stayed out of trouble. They are not bad cats; however, they are cats, nonetheless. Occasionally they would jump on my desk while I was working, but never at the same time. If I didn’t spend enough attention on him, Buddy would plop down on my computer keyboard. “Try typing now, you so-called industry expert!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
One day, Dede’s tail did 
Buddy helping me finish a report
suddenly appear on-screen during an internal video call, but otherwise, no big deal.

But Cats are a lot like women when it comes to logic. They are unpredictable and tend to do things for which there is no logical explanation randomly.

And You’re Live

Every couple of months, I get to be a guest on the Road Dog Trucking channel during Mark Willis’ show on SiriusXM radio as part of my work in the trucking industry. It is very enjoyable to be interviewed for an hour on national radio.

My session was just about to start when Buddy appears out of nowhere and jumps on the desk. I never thought about shutting the office door because it is mid-afternoon, and I have not seen the cats the entire day. Why he waited for just this moment to jump on the desk is one of those random cat actions.

This is distracting, but I can easily handle this. Buddy just wants his head scratched, and as long as he doesn’t hit the keyboard, which has a needed spreadsheet up, I am fine. I can quickly rub his ears and set him back on the floor.

“We go live in 10 seconds”, the radio producer tells me.

And then without warning, Dede also jumps up on the desk. Now I have a huge problem, a cat-astrophe waiting to happen. Never, ever, before that critical moment, have both cats been on my desk at the same time. Complicating things, although the cats live together, they don’t really like each other, they tolerate each other. But the one thing that really sets them off and usually leads to a literal catfight, is when one cat invades the other’s territory. 

For example, let’s say one cat has jumped up on a desk and the other cat decides to jump up on the desk too.

I am in full panic mode trying to manage these cats, knowing I am going live on national radio in a few seconds. I am supposed to be a trucking industry expert, but two seconds before going live on national radio, I am literally herding cats. I put my arm between the cats just as I hear Mark say:

“Our special guest today is Don Ake! How have you been?”

This was kind of a surreal experience in that I started talking to Mark, but my full attention was on the cats and the huge furry fight that could spill over into my lap any second. I was talking, but I really wasn’t aware of what I was saying. But I soon realized I had to refocus on the radio show before I said something stupid or unintelligible such as: “I believe the key issue in trucking today is the coughing up of hairballs on the road.”

Fortunately, the cats moved to opposite sides of the desk. Buddy was disappointed I wasn’t paying any attention to him and jumped off the far end of the desk. As soon as he left the room, I grabbed Dede and sat her on the floor. Cat crisis averted. Thousands of truckers were spared hearing a live catfight on the radio; such an awful distraction could have led to several dangerous accidents on the road.

As soon as I stopped hyper-ventilating, I went on the have a great show with Mark. All in a day’s work! Sometimes I just love working from home.

And the second one ....

Wait Your Turn, Old Lady, Wait Your Turn

I was standing in a long line, waiting to check out at a deep-discount store. There was only one line open since the back-up cashiers were busy stock shelves. Finally, the announcement was made over the loudspeaker that another cashier was needed.

Now, by that time, I was third in line. Which means I would be first in line when the second cashier was ready. The store layout makes it impractical for the second person in line to back up and move over to the new line. As I waited for the second cashier to get ready, I noticed the old lady behind me very subtly angling her cart towards the second register.

I know she was elderly because I had been standing in front of her for what now seemed like hours, hearing her rambling on about the cost of rugs and what a great deal she was getting on those in her cart. I casually glance back and notice her cart is full of merchandise, while I only have five items in my basket.

The second cashier turns her light on, looks directly at me, and says
“I will take the next person.”

With that, the old lady pushes fast and hard on her cart to be first in line at the second register. But she doesn’t move an inch. She now resets and pushes even harder the second time, but the result is the same. The cart doesn’t budge!

How could this be? Why isn’t her cart barreling toward the cashier at warp speed? Well, it appears that somebody, maybe a large middle-aged guy, perhaps with a shaved-head, had firmly, but subtlety grabbed the front of her cart, impeding her progress and thwarting her plan.

When she quit pushing the second time, I quickly slipped around her cart to the second cashier and set my products on the counter. The old woman was so stunned she never moved her cart, meaning not only wasn’t she first in the new line, she was in third place in the first one.

Then the bitchin’ started about the mean man who had grabbed her cart. The cashier glanced up at me and said softly, “But you were next in line.”
I double finger-gunned her and replied, “And that’s why you're ringing me up now, darlin’.”

I had to walk past the old woman as I left the store, and she again started bitchin’ at me. Now, who do think possesses the bigger month? Get that weak stuff out of here, old woman. Either bring it strong or don’t bring it at all. It was her second big mistake of the day but probably made a good story at the bridge club.

I know I could have just left her cut in line, but it is the principle that counts. And perhaps I provided a public service, teaching her the lesson of taking your proper turn. Maybe next time she won’t rudely shove her cart in front of someone. Alright, so we all know that’s not going to happen, but at least I tried.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Counting All Angels – That was one big hark!

The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing

So many of our favorite Christmas carols make reference to the angels singing in announcing the birth of Christ. The basis for this is Luke 2:13-14

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
This event was so magnanimous and spectacular that a multitude, great company, or legion (depending on the translation) of angels were dispatched to Earth to sing praise to God. But just how many angels were there in this choir? 

Now Don, why would you even ask that question? No one knows how many angels there were and it’s impossible to even estimate!

But these are the type of questions my hyper-active mind generates. And once the question enters my brain, it demands that I try to answer it.

Furthermore, it’s what I do in my job. I forecast things that are difficult to forecast and I make estimates about things that are hard to figure out. So I am going to try to do this seemingly impossible task. And I assure you that when my coworkers read this, they will laugh out loud, because they have to deal with my lunacy regarding stuff like this all the time.

The question is: How many angels appeared to the shepherds, singing praises to God, at Christ’s birth?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question may be zero.  You see Luke 2:13-14 doesn’t actually say the angels sang, it says they were praising. However, we have always assumed the angels were singing those praises because in our culture we praise God through song. So, all the Christmas carol reference singing angels.

Now if the angels weren’t singing, they were at least chanting. It had to be scripted praise for the large group, or choir, of angels to be understood by the shepherds. I know this because years ago, I had to drive through a group of striking workers at our factory who all yelled different insults as my car passed by.  It was comical because it all sounded like static and I couldn’t hear any actual words. And that’s the literal purpose of cheerleaders, right?  To coordinate the cheers so the players get the message.

Therefore, those angels had to be singing or chanting in unison. And while
there are some Gregorian monks who would argue for the latter, I think we can assume the angels were singing if we interpret the word “saying” in Luke as “communicating”. And such a large choir, would have had to practice these praises in advance.

How I estimate something difficult, is to determine a higher number, that the estimate can’t exceed, and a base number that the estimate should exceed. Then I make assumptions to determine a number somewhere in between.  

The High Number

Scholars debate about how many total angels exist. The Bible implies that the number is huge. If we interpret the term myriad of angels literally (Revelation 5:11), there are at least 100 million angels (10,000 times 10,000). It is unlikely that God would have sent all 100 million to Earth at the same time. Now if it were me, I would be tempted to “send the house”, but I’m not God, and everyone should at this point thank God for this. However, the upper limit to our question is 100,000,000 angels. 

The Low Number

The record number of people in an earthly choir (signing the same song in one place) is 121,440 set in India in 2011. Let’s assume that angelic choir has to be greater than anything that can be accomplished on Earth. Taking into account future efforts to break this record, I will set the minimum at 200,000 angels.

The Range

Therefore, at this point in the analysis, the range is between 200,000 and 100,000,000. 

The Assumptions

In order to narrow the range, I have to make some assumptions. And these assumptions are difficult because they deal with God, angels, and an incredible event occurring a long time ago.

Assumption #1

God did not send all the angels to Earth because they all could not have been seen by the shepherds. This is an excess of angels. Yes, this was a big event but all the angels were not needed to accomplish the task. We know from the Bible there are different types and ranks of angels.  Let’s say the trip to Bethlehem was a reward for the top 1% of the angels. Yes, just like a Mary Kay bonus. That reduces the number down to 1,000,000 angels.

Assumption #2

Could one million angels hanging up in the sky be visible to shepherds on the ground? The number of angels needed to completely fill the sight line of shepherds on the ground can be calculated using equations containing things called “parabolas”, but I’m not a mathematician, so I won’t attempt this. You would have to make assumptions about the size of an angel, but my guess is that it took fewer than 1 million angels (1,000 rows of 1,000) to fill the sky.

Assumption #3

The decibel level of the singing angels can’t be high enough to wake the people in Bethlehem city. The announcement of Christ’s birth was only intended for the shepherds. This supposedly is because they were the lowest in that society, and Jesus came to Earth for all men. Hey, the only job requirement of a shepherd is that you must be smarter than a sheep. Oh, and you are working third-shift. Yes, you are on the bottom rung of that city and yet you are worthy of hearing this good news first.

It may have been a silent night up to that point, but hundreds of thousands of signing angels make some noise. The praises didn’t alert the townspeople and more importantly, it didn’t wake the baby.

So, let’s assume the angels sang softly, and they were positioned facing away from the town to reduce the noise factor. But again, the more angels, the more decibels. This also argues for a total number under one million.

The Call:

The assumptions get the total to between 200,000 and 1,000,000. The space and volume assumptions probably push the total under 1 million. So, I will put my estimate at 500,000 angels. As it estimated, let it be said.

So this Christmas, when “with the angelic host you proclaim, that Christ is born in Bethlehem” – know that your harking about a huge number of angels.  

And when you step outside tonight, image the sky filled with half a million angels, all singing praises to God. Wow, I wonder what the angels sound like when they sing ….. probably better than the best Dolby system ever created by man. Oh, what a spectacular night it was!

Merry Christmas to All! And a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Somebody Got My Goat Last Christmas – And This Year Too

By far, the best Christmas gift I gave last year was a goat. That’s right - I gave someone a live goat! And it was such a good gift that I’m giving more goats away this year. This may seem strange given my disdain for goats and especially goat yoga. Goats are wily, frisky creatures, and not to be trusted. Now if you are on my Christmas list, fear not (said the angel of the Lord) because you will not be getting a goat, but someone will.

Last November, I got a catalog from ChildFund International listing all the “real
gifts” available to give to poor families in Africa. On the cover was a photo of a happy African kid holding a goat. The catalog explained that goats provide wholesome milk, cheese, yogurt (now the cheese and yogurt don’t come directly out of the goat.) and “so much more”. Families can even sell the excess dairy products (that goat is going to be busy) for much-needed income. And since goats breed easily (those frisky beasts!), you could end up with a whole herd if you set the mood right.

It said thousands of lives have been transformed -- yes transformed -- by the gift of goats! These are transformational goats with spiritual powers!  Of course, it is understood that the “so much more” the goats may provide is they can be eaten if the family is starving. The reality is, that cute kid on the cover of the brochure could be smiling because he is famished and might sink his teeth into the goat, seconds after the photo is taken. But I encourage you to following my example and give a goat this year! (Click: Give a goat right here!)

I know this is a gimmick, and usually, I am impervious to all gimmicks from charitable organizations. I believe this is due from when I worked in the mailing operations of what was, at one time, one of the largest televangelist organizations in the world. Soon after I started, I asked what was in the boxes in the corner. A coworker said it was leftover anointing oil from Reverend Ron’s last campaign. If viewers sent in $100 or more, they got a small plastic vial of Reverend Ron’s anointing oil. They were instructed to rub the oil on their forehead, and their lives would be transformed. Hey! --Just like the goats, although it is much more difficult to rub a goat on your forehead.

One day on my break, I took one of the vials and rubbed some anointing oil on my arm, I couldn’t put it on my forehead without it being detected now, could I? It was just vegetable oil, perhaps snake oil, nothing more. Of course, it had been blessed by the Reverend Ron, and that motivated people to send him $100 or more, for maybe an eighth of an ounce of cooking oil. And I’m not saying that the oil didn’t work, because faith is a powerful and mysterious force. However, if the Internet had existed then, I’m sure someone would have posted instructions on how to anoint yourself for $1 by using some Wesson, and you would still have enough left over to make some delicious french fries for supper!

But even though the goats are a gimmick, I trust ChildFund International to deliver the goods, well, in this case, deliver the goats. I have sponsored a poor African kid (PAK) through them for a couple of years. My official reason for the sponsorship is that it is important to help those less fortunate than you, and there is no one less fortunate than a PAK. However, I worry that my giving to a PAK is just a covert way to justify my purchases of lattes.

 A new coffeehouse recently opened up near my house. I stop in maybe once a week or so. I am very disappointed they do not serve cappuccino, but they do brew a delightful double mocha latte for $4.45 a cup. Now there is no way I can justify paying $4.45 for coffee. You can probably feed a family in Kenya for like a year on that. But Kenya is very far away, and the coffee shop with its blinking light is right in front of me, so the double mocha latte wins. And as I slurp down this chocolaty goodness I think: I know this is wrong, but I gave money to that PAK, so I’m still a great person.

So, for some reason, ChildFund International got me with that goat gimmick. You might say they really got my goat. I gave two goats last year and it felt so good I’m doing it again this year. If you would like to give a goat, (they are $99 each) go to www.childfund.org. And I do believe it is important to give out of your abundance to the less fortunate if you are able.

And like most everyone, I do most of my giving at Christmastime. Despite all the commercialized hype, Christmas forces us by its original pureness to live better than we normally do. That’s why we do more good deeds and are more charitable to the less fortunate at this time. So, this holy day reminds us of two things: 1. We know how to do good. 2. We are not able to be this good the rest of the year.  Which seems like a cruel trick to me. I’m sorry, being this good the entire year has to be impossible. You just show me someone, anyone, who has ever been able to do this and I, I, -- Oh, well played God, well played indeed.

Therefore, it would appear that the more we try to distort and pervert Christmas, the more the true meaning becomes clear. And that in itself is a miracle. Please consider giving someone a goat this Christmas. It's much better than buying yourself or someone a huge expensive pickup truck or luxury SUV like in those awful, cheesy "It's the Season!" commercials.  (Click: Give a goat!)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Game 5 of the World Series Was A Real Bust

This year’s World Series was historic. Yes, the visiting team won all seven games, but another first-time occurrence topped even that. At the start of the middle of the seventh inning in Game 5, Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole looked in to his catcher to flash him a sign. And he got flashed alright, by three young women behind home plate, who lifted their tops and exposed their
Cole reacting to a strike out - not the boobies

Cole was expecting to see up to five fingers. Instead, he was presented with six boobies. And these weren’t just any boobies. They were professional boobies, from three models who work for an online magazine that specializes in displaying attractive women with large, bare boobies.

Because modern baseball is all about statistics and metrics, it is important to know just what Cole was up against. The three women flashers consisted of Julia (38-24-36), Kayla (36-23-34), and Lauren (38-24-34).  In baseball, this is known as bringing some serious heat. Julia’s stats may have been padded by the use of a foreign substance. Regardless, you don’t get many of those to a pound. But regarding Lauren, based on my Internet research (which was extensive for this post), they’re real, and they’re spectacular.

If they were attempting to distract Cole, they brought out the big guns. They didn’t send a girl to do a woman’s job. They didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight; they brought bazookas. These were weapons of mass distraction. But they didn’t bare their breasts to fluster the pitcher. The intent was to promote their web-based magazine, which mainly consists of the three ladies and a couple more models displaying their boobies each month. All three women were on the cover of the July edition, which also features an article titled “A Guide to Doggy Style”. So, what the women were actually doing is handing out, more like boobing out, free samples at the baseball game, which marketers have been doing for years.

You would not expect Gerrit Cole, arguably the best pitcher in baseball this season, to be impacted by this most titillating stunt. He is a professional. However, he is still a guy, so getting so bodaciously violated did have an impact. He had pitched a shutout up to that point, but trouble soon began. The first batter in the seventh flew out to deep left, but the second batter crushed a fastball 383 feet into the left-field seats. Fortunately, he was able to regain his composure and get the next batters out, although he did issue one walk. 

And it’s a good thing he got out of the inning because the person most upset about the flashing incident was Gerrit’s wife, Amy. Wives tend to get upset when other women flash their boobies at their man. Now Amy is certified babelicious, as you expect of the wife of a professional athlete, but her artillery is of a slightly lower caliber. And I’m sure she wasn’t happy that her husband gave up that home run after being exposed to the sextuplets. Yeah, I think that night Gerrit had some splainin’ to do about that homer.

Now the ladies flash-mob ignited a huge debate on social media about whether the women were justified or not, and what penalty they should receive. Many argued they should not be penalized because they were just exercising their First Amendment right of freedom of expression. Just to be clear, they were only expressing their rights, and nothing else.

This reminded me of the incident in 2017 when radio talk show host Clay Travis declared on a CNN discussion dealing with free-speech: “I only believe in two things completely, the First Amendment and boobs”.  The female host was shocked and offended, wait I mean SHOCKED and OFFENDED, at this statement. This resulted in a Twitter-storm castigating Travis as a sexist, wait I mean SEXIST, SEXIST, moron.

Now my belief system is a bit more spiritual and broader than Travis’, and his statement is rather crude, but this is America, and if you want to believe in the First Amendment and boobs, and declare it proudly, I will support and defend your right to do so. 

And this politically-correct umbrage at Travis was hyper-hypocritical because lots of people believe in boobs. It is estimated over 3-million women have breast implants; 300,000 procedures being done in 2012. They certainly believe in boobs. Victoria Secrets and the hundreds of companies selling thousands of bra styles believe in boobs. Bikini-babes on the beach believe in boobs. Millions of women displaying cleavage, some even doing this in church, to some degree believe in boobs. Apparently 10,000 women on Instagram believe in boobs. And a bunch of people in the adult-entertainment business believe in boobs in a big way. America is the land of opportunity and the land of boobs.

Julia, Kayla, and Lauren all believe in boobs and have demonstrated this conviction in a most magnanimous act. The penalty handed down by Major League Baseball is that the ladies are banned from every major league baseball stadium for life. This minor punishment is justified if you view the women as young entrepreneurs who were just trying to promote their business that best way they could.

However, I do feel a stiffer penalty is needed. They purposely disrupted a World Series game, and they did it in a most aggressive way. It’s not like they robbed a store with a squirt gun; they brought their howitzers. And they were loaded, oh how they were loaded. And they need to be punished to deter behavior of this type at future games. If you permit these actions, the next “shot heard round the world” in baseball may be of the beaver variety. So, at the minimum, I think they all should have been charged with melonious assault.

But I am a compassionate man. If Julia, Kayla, and Lauren are indeed huge baseball fans and will suffer due to the stadium ban, I have a big-screen television in my man-cave, and they are welcome to come over and watch the game any time they want.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When PowerPoints Lose Their Power

My company hosts a large conference every year where industry people come from far and wide to hear many expert speakers pontificate on relevant topics. I am one of these pontificators, and I am entrusted with presenting our 5-year forecast, the most vital information of the entire conference for many of the attendees.

This is so important that I work for weeks with our team to develop this forecast. Then I spend hours putting together a stellar PowerPoint file featuring the most dynamic charts and graphs found anywhere in corporate America. It is my most critical job responsibility of the entire year. This presentation is so impactful that it takes two people to successfully deliver it. My boss does first part, expertly presenting the underlying assumptions and data that support the forecast. And then I take over to reveal those important numbers that everyone is on the edge of their seats anticipating. So my boss is the ace starting pitcher and I am like the lights-out closer, the Mariano Rivera if you will, who comes in and finishes the game with a bang.

I feel that adrenaline rush the morning of this presentation, as I prepare myself mentally and physically for the task that afternoon. I am ready, and I am confident when the big moment arrives. And the presentation starts wonderfully. My boss is artfully going through those masterfully-crafted slides (did I mention I created those?) and mesmerizing the audience. He finishes his portion flawlessly and then hands the clicker off to me. I now know how Rivera felt when he held the baseball in the ninth inning. This game is all mine!

I begin my part of the presentation displaying a brilliance and clarity seldom seen in all the business world. Each slide, every chart is explained in a dynamic, eye-opening manner.

I am the Prince of the PowerPoint. I am the Commander of the Clicker. This boy is on fire -- or more like on fi-yaaaa! I feel like the mafioso of this meeting because I am killing it like a mafia don. I am a Don, literally the Don. I am Don Corleone, no Don Akelone, making them an argument they can’t refuse.

And I am looking so good doing it. For this one, I brought out the pins! I’m
sporting the pins, delivering this critical information in my best pinstripe suit. My freshly-shaved head shines brightly, leaving the audience to wonder if this is due to the lighting or the brilliant insights emanating from my dome. The men in the audience wished they looked this good, and the women … well, uh…ah… well… you know.

I hoped my boss noticed how great this presentation is. Thinking to himself how fortunate he is to have me as an employee and how enormous my next raise is going to be.   

This was the best presentation of my entire career. The room was spiked with anticipation as I neared the revelation of the forecast, the moment everyone was waiting for. I wanted to finish strong, like LeBron James coming in for a two-hand, 360-degree, reverse-tomahawk dunk.

I announce it is time to unveil the forecast and turn confidently towards the screen and hit the clicker and, and, and ….. the forecast slide isn’t there. It is missing. Click back, click forward, repeat, … no, no, no forecast slide. No forecast slide anywhere. Gonzo.

Now a more polished presenter would have chuckled, said something witty, and improvised. However, that’s not what I did.  I had a meltdown on stage, in front of everyone. I look for help from my boss, but he wasn’t pleased at the moment, and it was obvious I was going to have to handle this disaster on my own.

The audience, many of whom know me personally, was highly amused by this blunder. They laughed at the missing slide; then they laughed even more at my discombobulation. This situation was out of control, and order needed be quickly restored. Fortunately, my colleague Andy was managing this part of the schedule and handled the situation skillfully, although it was similar as if he was curator at the zoo: 

“Look, children! The monkey is angry! Let’s all laugh at the monkey! Funny, funny, monkey!”

“Don’t be afraid, children. The monkey will calm down soon (with this I got a look that said: Ake, get yourself together, now!), and we can soon resume the show!”

I regain my composure and realize I would now have to present the forecast by memory. Twenty years ago, I would have been able to zing off those five numbers instantly. Now, with my diminishing memory, I am able to put forth three numbers, and one of them is even correct! (The other two are very close). And with this, the presentation mercifully comes to a close.

The missing slide was not my fault. It was accidentally deleted by someone during the formatting process. Strangely enough, the presentation contained 62 slides, and this, the most important, was the only one missing. And of the approximately 2,500 slides presented at the entire conference, my slide, my dear, most critical slide, was the only one that vanished. If you wonder how this could happen to me, then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long.

This was the second-most embarrassing incident in my entire business career, not counting those involving me carrying my personal effects in a box to my car. The most embarrassing time was many years ago when I enthusiastically introduced a great new product to the market that my company had no way of producing.  That shrewd maneuver shortly preceded me carrying my personal effects in a box to my car.

But this time I didn’t have to carry my personal effects in a box to my car. Because, of course, I work from home. But my boss realizes that mistakes happen, so we could all laugh about it later. Okay, there was no laughing, none. But mistakes do happen; I just wish they didn’t happen so much to me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

This DNA Was Never Meant To Be Mixed – The Story of Me (Epilogue)

I actually considered writing this in third-person, but it sounded and felt weird, even for me.

According to the laws of nature, my parent’s DNA was never meant to be mixed. It is either through God’s design or evolutionary factors that compatible people produce offspring. My parents were thrown together by unusual circumstances. So, as the children produced as the result of rape or invading armies are unique and somewhat dysfunctional, so it is … 

When I started this series, I thought I would tell a basic story that I knew well. But in examining those situations closely and feeling the emotions they felt, I gained fascinating new insights into who my parents were, and thus who I am. For example, how do you feel when you are in an impossible financial situation, and someone hands you a big check that eliminates the problem?

I would come to the part of the narrative where I thought I didn’t know something, and then I would remember a story that my mom had repeated long ago, and then I had my answer. My mother was a good storyteller with a great sense of humor, and my father was as well. And their son writes humor books full of stories. Ain’t it funny how life turns out?

An important revelation in reviewing my life was realizing just how intelligent my mother was. No one realized this, and most people underestimated her, being a woman without a college degree. But she was smart and crafty. Her secret was never sharing her intelligence and insight with people because this was not to her advantage. Better for you to think she was just an average girl. There was only one person in her world who she would bless with her wisdom because in this case it benefited someone she loved deeply.

Therefore, I am the product of a genius father and a highly intelligent mother. I didn’t inherit all my father’s brainpower, but I got most of it. But these brain cells came from two very different people. I’m not right or left-brained, it’s more like I’m two-brained. I can switch between the analytic and creative instantaneously. This gives me the ability to solve difficult problems, explore all sides of an issue and see things other people miss.

However, there are two voices inside my head at all times, and they seldom agree. This results in important decisions being delayed and critical issues not getting addressed. I second guess almost all decisions I make, even when they turn out well. This creates indecision and a lack of confidence. And in a crisis, the competing voices create “brainlock” and I freeze instead of reacting, which at time can be dangerous.

My brain has a mind of its own (pun intended). It is always active, like a hard drive spinning rapidly and never stopping, due to my mother’s hyperactive mind. This sometimes allows my brain to keep looking for answers to difficult problems in the background and suddenly produce solutions out of nowhere. I have even solved problems during my sleep.  Yes, that’s nice. But my hyper-active big brain prohibits me from successfully hitting a golf ball – focus on only one thing at a time? And I don’t like to watch movies because I have to stop thinking for two hours and my brain doesn’t like to do that. I force my brain to rest once a year while on vacation, but it doesn’t always behave.

I was my parent's only child, the one they thought they would never have. I was cherished. I was the “chosen one” and raised accordingly.  Yes, it was a tremendous environment, and I had a wonderful childhood. However, all those negative traits of only children are present in me, some in excess. Spoiled? – Oh heck yes! And I am tremendously selfish, often expecting the world to bow to my will.  I hide these negative traits well, but often get glared at by my wife when they inevitably slip out. (I pity anyone married to an only child)

As a child, I was seldom criticized, which means I don’t take criticism well – just ask my wife or anyone I’ve ever worked with. Interestingly though I was seldom praised. In the last semester of my sophomore year in college, I received straight “A’s” for the first time ever in any grade. I had worked hard that term and expected my parents to be greatly pleased. My dad smiled but didn’t say much. Pennsylvania Dutch values say if you praise someone, they might become proud, and that is one of the worst things you can be. My mother smiled and said, “That’s nice.” The message to me was clear. “You have finally met expectations. You don’t get rewarded for hitting the standard.” You may think this was harsh, but the woman was crafty and knew how to motivate her son. In my last two years of college, in the harder classes, I only received two grades below an “A”.  

The mix of white-collar and blue-collar DNA sent me out in the corporate world with a college degree combined with those Pennsylvania Dutch values. And those values are not valued much in the business world; they are disdained. Those values are best suited for the farm, not the board room. In every large company I worked for, “powerful” people tried to press me into their image, tried to get me to sell out those values in exchange for the almighty dollar. And they failed. Naturally, my career suffered due to this. I had to use my brains to survive, but of course the brains prevailed. And to all those bosses and executives who tried to change me and failed: Hey, I’m good. No, literally I’m still good.

I am unique. (Some would even say my style is “goofy” as someone recently wrote critiquing a work presentation) My dad was proud of me, and if he could see me now, he would be even prouder but would be uncomfortable with the amount of self-promotion necessary to be an author. My mother was pleased that I always pursued the standards she set for me, even though I never quite achieved them.

Chronicling the bizarre circumstances of how I came to be, reminded me that life is a precious gift. It is sacred and should be cherished. It should never be cheapened or taken for granted. And when I look at the improbable union of my parents, I realize I am a miracle.

But guess what? You’re a miracle too. I know my circumstances because it was only one generation away. But I guarantee you, somewhere in your lineage was a chance encounter, a missed bus, a bumping into, a random seat assignment, a healed disease, a bullet that just missed, or something else that resulted in the unique DNA mix of who you are.

My story may be unique, but yours is too. One regret I have is that I didn’t ask enough questions of my mother about her story while I could. If your parents are still living, may I suggest that you have those discussions.