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, 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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What Happens In Niagara Falls Doesn’t Stay In Niagara Falls (The Story of Me - Part 3)

This is Part 3 of the story – for context, please read Parts 1 & 2.

This was an unusual honeymoon. Betty and Gene had only known each other for three months, following a ten-day relationship. Their infatuation, not even sure you can call it love at this point, was still burning hot on their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. This meant they engaged in frequent procreating activity. So, it should not be surprising that they indeed procreated during this trip.

Up to this point, they may have been living in a fantasy world, but it just got real. It GOT REAL, real tough, real fast. Betty and Gene had been acting like young lovers, but now it was time to face the adult world.

Betty called it her love-child. Maybe it was more of an infatuation-child. This was not the immaculate conception, but in their minds, it was a miraculous conception. A few months ago, they never thought they were ever going to be parents, and then without warning: Boom! Boom! Boom! Yeah, life was coming at them fast, and it was all good.

However, this unexpected, unplanned pregnancy created the first test of their still-fragile relationship. The intention was for Betty to keep working for a while until they saved up enough to have a child, but that plan was now shattered. You could argue that they should have been more cautious on that honeymoon, but remember, they had gotten engaged after knowing each other for ten days. Caution had been thrown to a whirlwind, and no one was thinking clearly.

The expectant baby created a crisis. Betty may have been willing to make sacrifices to live in that small apartment, but that concession applied only to her. She delivered an edict: “No child of mine is going to be raised in a small apartment.” This was non-negotiable. Gene had a big, urgent problem on his hands.

They needed a house now, but they had little money. The pressure was on; the clock was ticking, and there was no easy solution. Now you might expect Betty’s prosperous family to help them out of this jam. And family did step up, stepped up big time. But it wasn’t Betty’s family, incredibly, it was Gene’s Uncle Frank. Uncle Frank gave, not loaned, the money for the entire down payment. Sadly, Frank died a little over a year after this most generous act. (You can’t take it with you, so you may as well use it for great things while you are still here.)

This bailed them out of a tight spot. But you still have two strong-willed, stubborn, independent people, set in their ways, not used to compromise, with bad tempers, living in the same house. And they still don’t really know each other. Despite everything, how was this marriage ever going to make it long term? This union still had disaster written all over it, except for this wild-card they had suddenly been dealt.

The house was purchased, and the Kid arrived. And while usual circumstances put Betty and Gene together, the whirlwind of activity pushed them closer together. But long term, the thing that kept them together was the Kid. The Kid was the focus; he was the glue to this relationship.

No, they didn’t stay together in a bad marriage for “the sake of the child”. They made the marriage work.  They MADE IT WORK because there was something, well, someone, who was more important than anything. And making this relationship prosper was tough, difficult work in the early years. There was considerable conflict. Yelling, lots of yelling. But the anger never persisted; there were no long-term grudges. After all, there was a child to raise. This turned out to be one of those few marriages that got stronger and stronger over time.

Gene turned out to be a great father, remarkable because he was raised without one. He had no role model, other than those uncles. He recognized that his son had not inherited much of his mechanical ability, nor his love of hunting or fishing. But he never forced the Kid into being something he wasn’t. Gene passed along his Pennsylvania Dutch values to the Kid. You work hard for what you achieve, but you never brag about your accomplishments because you are no better than anyone else.

Gene was pleased the Kid had inherited most of his intelligence, and strongly encouraged his scholarly pursuits.  Gene knew how much he had been restrained by his lack of education and wanted the Kid to have all the opportunities he lacked. This was so important to him that even though the grandparents on both sides had provided full funding for the Kid’s college, Gene paid every penny of the costs himself.

Betty had extremely high standards for her son. She also knew she had fallen short of her potential due to health issues and circumstances. The fact that the Kid was being raised in a working-class home instead of something more prestigious meant that the Kid was just going to have to work harder to get where he needed to be.

So she pushed the Kid hard. He was expected to succeed because he was her son, and that heritage made him exceptional in her eyes. There was no ridicule for failures, but there was no compassion either. Winning was assumed. Losing is supposed to hurt. If you don’t like the pain you’re feeling, then perhaps you’ll put forth a better effort next time. But she also supported the Kid, guided the Kid, provided the best she could for the Kid, loved the Kid. And always, always wanted the very best for “her child”. 

It began as a chance encounter in a small neighborhood bar. Two very different, desperate people infatuated with each other because they had only a few things in common: They were desperate to find love, they wanted a family, and they were quickly running out of time. But bit by bit, step by step, the relationship hung on, and then it flourished. It was patient, it was kind. It did not envy, it did not boast, it was not self-seeking. It was not easily angered (okay, this one’s a stretch), it kept no record of wrongs (this makes up for the last one). It did not delight in evil, but rejoiced in truth. It always protected, always trusted, always hoped. And it persevered -and never failed – until literally “death do us part”. It turned into love; strong, enduring love, in its purest form.  

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky
-Dan Peek

Next Time: Part 4 – The Epilogue - How did The Kid turn out?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ten Days That Changed Their Worlds (The story of me – Part 2)

If you haven’t read Part 1 – Ah, Look At All The Lonely People, you might want to read it first.

Part 1 Summary

Betty and Gene are both thirty-five years of age. They are both single, never-married, but desperate to find love and start a family. They are very different people, but they find themselves in the same small, Akron bar after work on a Wednesday afternoon.

If that extremely rare species of male and female frog can find each other in the huge swamp full of other creatures on that Animal Planet documentary, then the only two single, thirty-five-year-olds in that small bar had no problems making connections that fateful Wednesday afternoon.

This is the way people met before the Internet, children. And it was a good thing in this case because it is doubtful that eHarmony would have matched those two up, even if they were the only two people in the database.

And this, of course, started off as just a light conversation between two pleasant people. It grew in intensity as each realized they had met a nice, attractive person who was the same age and had never been married. And there was a spark. The heat that overcomes you when someone tweaks your love interest. Neither of them had felt that spark in a while, so this new one was intense. By the end of the conversation, a date was planned for Saturday night. This was easy to schedule on short notice because neither Betty nor Gene had anything better to do that night. Their string of boring Saturday nights had unexpectedly come to an end.

And this was, in the history of first dates, one of the best ever. Whatever spark was generated that Wednesday had turned into a raging fire at the end of the night. Now, of course, this wasn’t love, it was infatuation. They were not teenagers, but their desperate situation was making them both behave strangely. It may have been infatuation, but it was rampant infatuation.

It’s not known how many phone conversations Betty and Gene had the following week. It was at least one, to plan that second date. And the second date was even better than the first, with the infatuation level rising to torrid levels. This relationship was so out of control that it ended bizarrely. Gene was very logical, careful, and not impulsive. Everything he did was well thought out and carefully planned, but in the literal heat of the moment, that didn’t matter much. At the end of the evening, he proposed.

Now, this is a horrible move for many reasons. You don’t really know the woman; she doesn’t even know you. You are very different people. You don’t match up well socially; you come from different economic classes. Your personalities work well as friends, but not so much as lovers. Now you have rushed things and risked ending the relationship before it even began and with it, any slim chance it had to work out given enough time. It was a desperation move. A “hail Mary” pass blindly heaved to the end zone. In his head, Gene could hear the game clock running out, five seconds, four, three … “the pass is in the air …”  

But the unexpected proposal did present a dilemma for Betty. There was now an offer on the table. There had been several of these offers over the years that had been rejected because the guys weren’t good enough for her high standards. Now you are presented with an offer significantly inferior to those. But you are desperate. You thought there would always be another chance at love, but it never came. Some guy you just met has proposed to you. This just isn’t right and there is so much wrong. But that same game clock is ticking in her head, three seconds, two, one …… She can either grab that pass for a touchdown or let it fall to the turf.

This was a big decision, so the intelligent thing for Betty to do would be to tell Gene she needed some time to think about it. That maybe they were rushing things. She would take time to consider all the consequences, maybe talk to her friends to get their perspectives, before making such a huge step. And she did think about it – took her about 2.5 seconds to respond. So, what you have is a ten-day courtship. Ten days, just ten days. Ten, only ten days. A week and a half, that’s all.

And while this pronouncement caused unbridled joy in one household, a few miles across town, it was met with shocked apprehension. Betty’s parents were happy that she was getting married and happy that she was happy, but a ten-day courtship with a factory worker was difficult to accept. Betty’s mother was probably 100% percent against this pairing, but she never expressed those feelings. Sometimes you have to support your children even when you think they are making a mistake. And she knew she couldn’t talk her head-strong daughter out of this decision if she tried.

So, Betty and her mother threw together a traditional wedding as fast as you could in 1957. I’m sure her mother pressured the printer and the baker to cut in line in front of other customers. And at some point, their families had to meet. There is not an English word for the degree of awkwardness present at that event.

The wedding went off without a hitch. There were probably rumors that the wedding was rushed due to those “unplanned circumstances”, but of course there wasn’t time for anything like that in a ten-day courtship. And besides, Betty couldn’t care less. She had a beautiful, albeit rushed, wedding. It may not have been everything she wanted, but it was a wedding she never thought she was ever going to have.

However, this was just the beginning of the concessions Betty would have to make. It actually started before the wedding. She paid for her wedding ring because she wanted a much larger diamond than Gene could afford. Even at age thirty-five, he was dutifully turning over his entire paycheck to his mother, and receiving an allowance back. They would now be living in a small apartment. An apartment! Betty surely didn’t see that in her future.

Instead of a luxurious honeymoon in the tropics, they would be vacationing like
“commoners” at Niagara Falls. But that really didn’t matter much. They had only been together about three months, and the passion was still intense. Which means this was one steamy honeymoon, with lots of time spent inside the hotel room – maybe even in the afternoon, if you get my drift.

But was this enough? At some point, the heat was bound to cool off, just like in any relationship. Then you would have two very different people living in that small apartment. And by the time they figured out that maybe they had both rushed into this, it would be too late since they were already married. This had all the makings of a disaster waiting to happen, but something totally unexpected happened on that honeymoon that changed everything.

End of Part 2

Part 3 – What Happens in Niagara Falls Doesn’t Stay in Niagara Falls 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People (The Story of Me – Part 1)

The characters:


Betty was a high school secretary who spent most of her spare time, including every weekend, working at her parent’s grocery store. Her life was good, but she longed to be married and start a family. At age thirty-five in 1957, her biological clock was ticking loudly.  

She was reasonably attractive, with a warm, outgoing, personality so it would have been expected for her, in that time, to have settled down many years earlier. However, that didn’t happen. She was a  strong-willed, independent, opinionated woman a hot temper and a mean streak, the result of the Scot-Irish blood on her mother’s side. If you disrespected, cheated, or offended her, you regretted it. She could verbally filet you in a matter of seconds.

Betty had a much higher intellect than anyone realized. Her good grades in high school got her accepted into college, no small accomplishment for a woman in 1939. However, the stress of living on campus triggered a serious nerve condition. The attack damaged her eardrum and permanently affected her hearing. She returned home after only a few weeks of studies and never went back to college again, opting for vocational training which led to her secretarial job.

Oh, there had been many suitors over the years, attracted by her friendly personality, and perhaps her family’s wealth and social status in the community. But the men either could not handle her powerful personality or they failed to meet her high standards. Either way, the pool of prospects had run dry.

She would not have described herself as desperate. She was raised never to complain about life, even when life was hard and it hurt. You sucked it up and went on and did the best you could. But this time, the best had apparently not been good enough, and even though there were no outward signs of desperation, the inward fears were growing.


Gene had grown up poor in Pennsylvania Dutch country. He was the illegitimate son of a former school teacher. She had lost both her job and possibility to ever teach again when she became pregnant out of wedlock in 1921. Unfortunately, she had few skills to fall back on, so she and her son were dependent on family members to provide basic food and shelter during all of Gene’s adolescence. Gene’s uncles helped raise him, providing good male role models and a quality upbringing.

However, it was a tough childhood. Gene was small in stature and was teased, ridiculed and roughed up often because being illegitimate in those days was an oddity that left you highly vulnerable. He did, however, did receive a solid education in that small Pennsylvania schoolhouse. That he only was able to earn a high school degree was one of the greatest hindrances of his life. For he was a literal, high-level genius. He learned as a boy how to repair car engines by observation. In later years, he taught himself electronics by studying mail-order books. There wasn’t anything mechanical or electrical that was beyond his ability to repair. He could have been an outstanding engineer, but there was barely enough money for clothes, let alone college.

After serving as a mechanic in WWII, Gene and his mother moved to Akron, Ohio. The family arrangement had soured somewhat in Pennsylvania, but there were other family members who had moved westward. Soon after arriving in Akron, Gene was able to find a good job as a machinist, and he and his mother eventually were able to move into their own house.

However, this arrangement severely interfered with Gene’s social life. He was highly amicable with decent looks and a job. However, he was also shy, nervous, and lacked confidence due to his background, and he also had an explosive temper. There were relationships, one even long-term, but he was reluctant to commit to a woman if that meant weakening the commitment to his mother, the only parent he had ever known, the woman who had protected him and guided him his entire life. Likewise, women were unwilling to commit to him, with his mother coming along in any deal. In effect, you weren’t just marrying him; you were marrying them.

However, Gene’s situation changed dramatically when his mother met and married a widower who moved in with them. Suddenly, he became the additional person in that house. The good news was Gene was finally free to pursue relationships without the baggage. He yearned to be a father because he never had a father. But he was now thirty-five years old, and most of the hot prospects were long gone.

Fate Is a Funny Thing  

So you have two people, eight months difference in age, living in few miles apart, wanting the same exact thing out of life. And desperately, painfully desperately, seeking love as the sand is pouring out of the hourglass. The obstacle, of course, is these two people live in vastly different environments, travel in non-compatible social circles, and thus have no common friends, none. Now how is this thing ever going to happen?

Well, fate’s a funny thing, isn’t it? You wake up on a Wednesday morning to the same boring existence like every other day. You expect the time to go by without any significance, then go to sleep that night and get to go through the same motions tomorrow. Yet, on those few extraordinary, memorable dates, fate intervenes, and by day’s end your life has changed forever.

It’s Wednesday afternoon. Betty is driving home from the school and decides
she needs a break before getting home and working her evening shift in the grocery store. She stops for a drink at a bar on the road home. Gene has just completed his first-shift job at the factory, and because his mother now has companionship, he is in no rush to get home. He decides to stop for a drink at a bar on the road home (coming from the opposite direction).

(End of Part 1)

Coming Next: Part 2 – Oh yeah, this involves a bar pick-up of magnanimous consequences

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I Will Work to 5 p.m.

It’s a beautiful Friday morning. A spectacular view from my deck

The sun is radiant. The birds are sweetly singing. The flowers drenched in dew.

But I will not be enjoying any of this amazing splendor

For I work from home and I’m due in my office soon

And I am an extremely dedicated employee, so                

I will work to 5 p.m.                                                       

Wow, the sun is so bright I can barely see the monitor

The soft, summer breeze gently flutters the papers on my desk

The view from the window is spectacular too. What a great day it is

But there is much work to be done, and I will do it

Because I am so thoroughly committed to the task. And

I will work to 5 p.m.

Now Mr. Bird is just tweeting up a storm

Just chirping away, since he can enjoy this beautiful day

He is not stuck in his home office doing useful work

He seems really happy, too happy

Shut your beak, Mr. Bird. I cannot join you, because

I will work to 5 p.m.

Oh, it’s so gorgeous outside and I am getting older

I may not have many of these wonderful days left

But there are important spreadsheets to produce

Critical reports to write, and essential emails to send

So even though I am tempted to escape this

I will work to 5 p.m.

Yes, I will work hard and I will work well

Unfazed by the glory before me

There, I have completed some work!

What time is it? Maybe 5 p.m.????

Mr. Clock says it’s only 10:37. This is so unfair, but

I will work to 5 p.m.

Ah, lunchtime out on the deck

The sun is hot now, but the day is exceptional

I finish my sammich and ice tea

Perhaps I can stay here awhile longer

Enjoying God’s beauty and creation, but no

I will work to 5 p.m.

Whoa, my neighbor next door is sunbathing in her thong bikini

Look at how the sweat glistens on her body

Maybe I could go over and visit with her?

I could offer to rub sunscreen all over her body

But I won’t, and she won’t distract me, because

I will work to 5 p.m.

A day like this is for frolicking

For running barefoot through the grass

For stopping to smell the flowers

For basking in the cozy sun

But none of that for me! For

I will work to 5 p.m.

I know the people at headquarters are working hard

Even though I have not received an email or call from them in hours

Look, the report says it is warm and sunny there too!

I’m sure they are all inside producing excellence also

I will not let them down. I will venture on. I will finish the week strong

I will work to 5 p.m.

And look! It is 5 p.m.!

I know it was a bad idea to listen to that Jimmy Buffet song

But it is really is 5 o’clock somewhere                                    

And it’s immaterial that Mr. Clock can be manually adjusted

Who trusts those satellite-controlled clocks anyway? So,

I will work to 5 p.m.

It’s time to bask and frolic in the sun

To listen and appreciate Mr. Bird’s song

To lounge around and enjoy the day

To relax on the deck with something bolder than iced tea

And look! My neighbor needs another coat of sunscreen!

And I am proud of myself, because

I have worked to 5 p.m.!
(Sort of)

Note: I will be taking my traditional summer break to work on editing my third book.