Category Archives: Family

An Inconspicuous Smile

A group of parents and kids were sitting around five or six tables strung together at a seafood restaurant.  They’d been at a sports tournament and the kids had on various versions of their team paraphernalia.

Most of the adults sat at one end of the long chain of tables. The kids instantly gravitated to the other, with the boys in the middle and girls on end.

As is usually the case, the girls were quietly enjoying themselves, but the boys, they were loud, excited and boisterous.

Whether by conscious decision or not, a mother was sitting in the middle between the adults and kids.  She was actively involved in the conversations on the adult side, but at the same time, completely aware of the actions and antics of the eleven to twelve year old boys at the table with her. Continue reading An Inconspicuous Smile

The Best Love Letter Ever!

Seriously, it was the best love letter!

I was in high school.  The summer before my sophomore year, I lived with and worked for my uncle in another town about an hour away. Through their church, I met two sisters, one also about to be a sophomore and one a junior. 

I was pretty naïve then, like Forest Gump at a dogfight naïve.

Continue reading The Best Love Letter Ever!

Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

The question was asked in a conversation going on in my head.  I had to stop and think past the pat answer, like enjoyment, or just being able to creatively express myself. 

My head conversation continued:

But really, why do I write, Jeff?

Honestly, I don’t know.  Me, myself and I have often discussed this.

That’s not an answer, Jeff.  There has to be something, something inside or out, that brings you back again, and again, to fill an empty page with words.

Right now, I really don’t know.  Sometimes writing seems like a preordained calling from high above, one that cannot be disobeyed. 

Other times, it’s a good feeling to write, but that’s a feeling. Feelings can be so feeble, so fleeting, and they can move depending on the wind’s direction. 

Then that’s not all of what I believe writing is then, is it Jeff?

No, me, but part of it’s fun.  It’s building a simple shanty, a family home, or even a gorgeous mansion, word by word.  Ideas are the architect.  Punctuation marks are the nails. Grammar insulates the walls, and thoughts brick the exterior with meaning, both obvious and hidden.  

Continue reading Why Do I Write?

Stocks 101

The stock market is not my friend! An acquaintance, but not a friend!

Between my 401(k), IRA, Roth IRA, cash account, and 529 plan, my semi-rational thought process nose dives into a stellular black hole!

There’s a reason people say they “play the market”.  It’s gambling. That’s all! There’s just no cards, dice or poker chips with stocks!

Instead, there’s EPS (earnings per share), PE (price to earnings ratio), Non-GAAP (Non-Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), and the really big BS (Balance Sheets).

And for trading stocks there’s Limit Orders, Market Orders, Trailing Stop %, and Selling Short!

Selling short really confuses me! How do you buy something and only make money if the price goes down? Isn’t that like trying to gain weight by not eating for a week?

Some stocks pay dividends, but that’s like getting a small rebate from a kidnapper’s ransom! 

Besides, I think I’d make more money pitching quarters in a prison riot lockdown than “investing” in stocks.

In old times, they locked people in stocks as a torturing punishment! Psft! No wonder they call them stocks today!!  It’s just a voluntary financial torture!

My success is limited, still better than most financial advisors I know, but still, limited. At least when I first started “trading” stocks 27 years ago, I had beginners’ luck, albeit bad. 

I started managing a rollover account from a previous job during the “dot-com bubble”. 

Good grief! If you couldn’t make money during that time on dot-com stocks then you were a complete dimwit!   

My wit is dim.

I spent hours studying and researching stocks.  After days of contemplation, then, and only then, did I invest my rollover account into painstakingly chosen stocks.

I marvel at it today! It was incredible!!

After just one year of investing in stocks during a bull market while the dot-com bubble was in its peak, I was able to turn a healthy sum of money into a sixty percent loss for the year! A 60% loss!!

Weightwatchers can’t touch those numbers!!

That money would’ve had less risk if I bet it all on a race horse! I could’ve done better by blindly picking a horse number!

Yes please! I’d like to bet my entire retirement account on horse #13. And what’s the horse’s name? Fat Boy you say? OK, great!!

I should’ve stopped then.  Maybe just bury cash and coins in glass mason jars in the backyard.  Even if I forgot where half the jars were, I’d still be money ahead!  

I stuck with mutual funds for a while, which is kind of like burying retirement money in Wall Street’s backyard. 

At least the mutual funds I picked were kind of OK. Not great, but OK. Kind of.

Fast forward 27 years.

Now with my vast array of investment brilliance, I realized in March that the stock sell-off from the Chinese Corona Virus was an investment opportunity. A big one!

So I started tapping into my online stock accounts.  I have stocks of some solid companies. Unfortunately, they all dropped like an apple on Isaac Newton’s head as soon as I hit the buy button!

Like one stock, it was a great deal at a measly $17.91 per share! I bought 200 shares on my iPad 2 ½ years ago while in the hospital waiting room waiting for one of my grandsons to be born.    

It’s fallen ever since!  I looked a minute ago. It’s a whopping $2.89 a share today, but as low as $1.61 earlier this year. 

I’m sure they say in Investing for Dummies 101 (a book I really need to read) that what goes up fast in the stock market can come down fast too. But what if everything you buy goes down fast?

Maybe I can sell my stock experience and knowledge to make money? 

I’ve lost money in the market, and if I carried a briefcase, then I could claim to be an expert!

Anyway, my strategy and advice would be super easy.  Whatever stocks I buy, you buy and sell them short! 

You’re guaranteed to make a killing!!

Need more advice?

Call 1-800-Rabbit trails. For a small fee, payable in three low monthly payments plus shipping and handling, I’ll let you know what NOT to buy!

In the meantime, diversify!!

Bury half your money in the backyard. Put the rest on Fat Boy, horse #13!

Cross Talk

From the time I was a seedling, I wanted to be something worthwhile. Every day I stretched higher, farther, reaching for the sun to bathe my leaves in life giving photosynthesis.

My life in the forest ended when soldiers wearing helmets, red cloaks and armor cut me down. 

I hoped the soldiers would form me into an honorable, useful item, like a fine chair, magnificent bed, or maybe a grand formal dining table. I would’ve even been satisfied to be a powerful support post in a house or mansion holding it all up.

Instead, their axes hacked me into a long, rough beam. Still, I hoped. 

They loaded me in a wagon and hauled me to a city. There they cut off a smaller beam from my top, notched a side to fit over the beam, and secured my pieces with long spikes and rope.

Continue reading Cross Talk

Brave

Nineteen years ago, at the moment this posts, 10:02 AM on September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field killing all passengers, and the terrorists who hijacked the plane. 

No one will ever know for sure how many lives the passengers saved.  They had just learned that both Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been struck by hijacked planes.  Instead of becoming lambs to the slaughter, they fought back as wolves against evil snakes. 

The passengers weren’t looking for trouble, yet when chaos began, they met the challenge. The law-abiding citizens who had families, children, and jobs fought back to protect others on the ground.

That, my friend, is brave!

Continue reading Brave

Age to Age

When my first grandchild was born, I found it interesting how you can love a newborn so much.  Throughout his life, we’ll share DNA, and the same last name.

He’ll carry our family name down the generational rivers entering a sea of names.  Maybe it’s just a man thing, but that’s downright satisfying!

I looked back at a flash drive of old family pictures that included a scan of an article my grandfather wrote in 1974.  My Grandpa is my grandson’s Great, Great Grandfather.

He only had a 6th grade education, so to write a life summary and family history is phenomenal!  It was exhilarating to read! Continue reading Age to Age

Like a Verdict

My wife, Janet, had surgery two weeks ago to remove a kidney tumor. The doctor said it’s an 85% chance of being malignant.

The last two weeks have been fast, and slow, lightening quick, yet forever.

Yesterday was the surgery follow up appointment, complete with the pathology report. It was also Janet’s birthday.

Strange, really. You find out about continued life, one way or the other, on a day designated to celebrate life.

The doctor came in quickly, and asked Janet how she was doing.  He sat down.  I asked to record the doctor on my phone so we could listen and rehash as much as we needed to later.

He agreed. I pushed the record button. He asked if I was ready, and took a deep breath…

Continue reading Like a Verdict

5 Course Meal Celebration

Last Friday I took my wife Janet out on the town! A five-course dinner date! I know! Right!?

But we live in the oldest town in Texas, and there’s not a great deal of five star restaurants in Nacogdoches, Texas. So we created our own “fine dining” experience in a mobile, drive around way.

I wrote down twenty restaurants and fast food joints up and down our hometown main drag. Each place was cut to its own little strip, and I put them all in a styrofoam cup that had all 5 courses scribbled on the outside. Janet blindly reached in the cup and pulled the first slip for the first course.

It was Subway. Janet objected. She said Subway had the most expensive drinks in town, so she wanted to go somewhere else. Eventually, she acquiesced, and we ordered one large half and half tea, two straws.

The second course was Bottle Cap Alley for appetizers. A quarter mile drive and we were there, but they didn’t have many choices. Basically, we settled for fried onion rings. Besides, the next course was vegetables, so we could get something healthy then.

The third course drawn, however, was another fast food place, Taco Bueno! My five-course meal deal idea was falling apart.

We had to be creative, but guacamole with fried chips was as close as we could get to vegetables.

The fourth draw for the main course drew a groan from both of us, and then the laughter. Dominos Pizza!

While they made the extra thin crust vegetable pizza, we munched on the chips, guacamole and onion rings. After that, the pizza tasted like saltine crackers with onions and tomato sauce on it.

There’s a bloated, clog up your arteries with grease feeling that was kicking in, but we were committed to a 5 course meal…

Dessert! Should’ve started there! A quick draw from the cup and it was Whataburger, the Texas standard for fast food burgers. It was a no brainer choice!

But ice cream and milkshakes don’t mix with lactose intolerance, and the scrumptious home style cinnamon rolls were 580 calories a piece! We settled on apple pies that were only 200 calories each. Did I mention they were fried?

It was fun though, and totally random! We’ll do it again, but not tonight.

Tonight Janet will be in the hospital.

We’re in Houston. At this very moment, Janet is in surgery to remove cancer from a kidney. She was diagnosed three weeks ago.

I’m scribbling to redirect my emotions, blind my thoughts, dull the heightened awareness that the future has changed.

How much, and to what extent it’s changed, we won’t know until the pathology report comes in next week.

If all goes well, this will be a one and done surgery.

If it goes really, really well, next Friday we’ll be celebrating the 15% chance that the cancer is benign.

That’ll be worth a five course meal for sure!

Somewhere Near You

The small boy was on red alert.  He smelled the peculiar smoke coming from the bathroom where his mom kept a little pipe above the medicine cabinet.

He never knew how long it would last, but he did know it meant trouble.  It was always the same, but always different.

He looked for food.  There were no crackers or candy under her bed where she hid it, but he found a can of beans in the pantry.  He desperately tried to open it before she got out of the bathroom, but his little fingers couldn’t manage to get the manual can opener to work.

He didn’t hear her coming out. It was too late by the time he did.  Angry, she shoved him to the ground and threw the can of beans striking him squarely in his chest.

As he shrunk toward the door, grabbing the can in a frantic backward crawl, she lunged toward him, grabbing, jerking his skinny, little body across the floor.  He was terrified.  The kind afraid where you can’t breathe, can’t move, can’t cry.  The kind where every second felt like a year. Continue reading Somewhere Near You