Monday, March 30, 2015

Have We Become Spoiled And Entitled As A Society

It appears the gritty old school working class mentality is dying off. We rely too heavily on technology and electronics, we rarely cook meals from scratch anymore, and we are ready to sue someone or a company in a New York minute.

Now does this mean we as a society and people have gotten softer and even spoiled?

Think about it for a minute. We will start with technology. I love my smartphone and laptop. Nevertheless, I no longer have the need for certain things such an alarm clock, map, flashlight, music player or even phone book due to all of the bells and whistles my phone has. Many people can function better without a live human than they can without their cell phones.

Then you have folks wanting to lead a healthier life and think they deserve it just because. Or food is always so readily available thanks to fast food restaurants, frozen dinners, and after hour spots. How many people do you know who actually prepare their meals for the week, or cook more than one meal/everyday? Yep that number is low.

And speaking of restaurants and other retail businesses, we expect the help to cater to our every need and to treat us like we are the only person there. I wrote a piece about proper tipping a while back. Now while I expect to be treated with a certain level of respect, I understand things can and will go wrong. There are certain things I can let go as I pick my battles.

Finally, this is lawn season, one of the many things we don't do for themselves. We expect them to be done for free or cheap. Not many people do for themselves anymore: cut grass, wash their car, or even clean their own home. I understand you may lead a busy lifestyle but so did the generations before us. Many of them didn't even have electricity or indoor plumbing but they made things work, especially marriage.

So does all this make us spoiled? Perhaps a little bit. I believe we are more desynthesized and separated from our roots and history. We all need to pause and reflect on the sacrifices the ones before us had to overcome. It is also very important, especially when calculators have made adults with diplomas, degrees and high paying jobs forget their multiplication tables.

I'm not saying we don't deserve to live abundant lives. However, if we want to prove our worth, we have to put in harder work and not expect an award everytime we do something that we were supposed to do in the first place. Regain your perspective and place in history!

In what ways has your adult life become less complicated than your childhood life? Could you survive for a few weeks without certain luxuries?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Secret Shames

We all have things we like to do that we know are out of character, or simply different. I have been known for being different and unique for years. I enjoy a variety of activities and things. Most may think I'm an open book and this is mainly true. However, there are some things about me that many do not know. Here are some of these things, or secret shames.

1. I love children's shows that come on Nick and Disney. I can watch them all day when they're really good. This year was the first since 2007 that I didn't watch the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards (or slime awards).

2. I have become obsessed with ABC's underground hit "The Middle". I have about 40 episodes on my DVR and I watch them numerous times.

3. I am actually a shy and sensitive person at heart.

4. I am a loner and homebody. Often the best times I have are quiet nights alone on my sofa.

5. I love to play Agent Alice, especially since I can play when my cell phone reception is bad.

6. I thoroughly enjoy cake, and as a cheat can eat an entire one over the course of a weekend.

7. Jazz music is very soothing and relaxing to me.

8. If there are no sports or other Sunday activities, my idea of Sunday Funday is a Snapped marathon.

9. I love watching the Lifetime and Hallmark channels.

10. I love theater and musicals.

11. One of my favorite weekend activities has become going to Hardee's on Saturday mornings and get breakfast for myself and my mother.

12. Although I'm in my mid 30s and I like to look sharp, I feel more comfortable in a T-shirt and a comfortable pair of pants or shorts.

13. My idea of a fun Friday night is a good workout, an unhealthy meal, a Target run and maybe a good movie.

14. I can drive for hours like a truck driver. Especially while gas is still low, it is simply cheap entertainment.

15. One of the most relaxing things for me is a good walk or run through the woods. Chalk it up to being a country boy.

16. I have a lifelong obscession with Sesame Street and the various Muppets. I will watch almost anything with them in it, even Kermit's repetitive tea memes. 
More to come later!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rosie The Riveter Review

I haven't been to a high school play in a couple of decades. I have enjoyed live theater for a while and am sort of a thespian myself. Last night, I went to Blacksburg High School and watched their portrayal of the groundbreaking classic by Trey Clarkson:  Rosie The Riveter.

The high school cast had obviously put in a lot of work and effort. The play was well cast, written, and simply enjoyable, scored with music and radio broadcasts from the 1940s. Everyone in the audience definitely got their $5 worth.

The story centers in the heart of World War II after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Rosie, who works at Eddie's auto parts shop as a secretary, helps him recruit a female work force as the company and the country are at a crossroads. There is a freeze on manufacturing automobile parts, and most men are at war. So the company begin producing airplane parts. During the 40s, women were rarely in the workplace and if they were, they did clerical jobs, certainly not manual labor. This was definitely groundbreaking and Rosie later became the face of the company and the woman's workforce. Her face was featured all over and she was even painted by legendary Norman Rockwell. One could say it was like A League Of Their Own, instead with rivets and welders.

The set was broken up into four parts, including part of the aisle used as a sidewalk, and the curtain never dropped. Scenes ended with the lights dimming.

The final showing was today at 3pm. However, if you see this play at a local theater house, I would highly recommend seeing it. It is a very entertaining and transcending story.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Keith Gibbs: A Special, Positive, Once In A Lifetime Young Man

This has been a tough week if you live in my area. There have been five people unexpectedly pass on that I know well. The first was occurred on this past Thursday: Keith Gibbs Jr.

I actually first saw this extremely happy and positive young man years ago working at the Nike Factory Outlet in Gaffney, SC. He had a smile and a spirit that could light up any room. I was reacquainted with Keith about two years ago when he came to work at my company, The Robert Allen Group. He became one of our Customer Service representatives. Very fitting job for him given all the good service he had always given at the Nike store.

He was probably the most positive and happy young man I had ever met in my 36 years. Keith seemed to have no worries and no one was a stranger to him. He would talk to you as if he had known you for years. I once asked him was he always this happy and upbeat and he replied "pretty much, gotta be man."

This wasn't an act or a front either. He was very genuine with his kindness. I have heard and read comments about him from coworkers, managers and mutual friends off and on social media. It appeared he treated everyone the same and was consistently easygoing.

It is a shame that we all can't be like this at least half of the time. We will let one small thing ruin our day, weekend, week, month or even year. Keith was my type of guy, always seeing the glass half full.

He will be missed dearly. My only regret I have was not getting to know him even better. I do feel that I am a better man for having been in his presence for the short time that I was. Keith was a blessing in my life and that of many.

Let's celebrate his like the best way we know how and try to practice positive behavior as Keith Gibbs did. He set out to make the world a better place and I believe he did. He was a guiding light and had a strong mindset.

Are there any other thoughts you want to add to this young man's memory? How did Keith impact your life?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Playing God Is Serious Business: Know When To Say When

Many of us like to take risks in life, push our luck. Often we may not realize how daring we are being. Please believe, there is a difference between being bold and being a buffoon.

Basically, you don't want to put your life in danger or shorten your life span. We do have free will and a set destiny, including our eventual death date. Nevertheless, why make life harder on ourselves?

Professional athletes may be some of the worst offenders. Take Kobe Bryant for example. He has had several surgeries on various parts of his body, the last two have been season ending on his knee. He has hardly been a factor in the NBA as of late. He already has five championships, several records, Olympic gold medals, and millions of dollars, not to mention a loving wife and two lovely daughters. Kobe should seriously not play God and think seriously about retiring.

Peyton Manning was at a similar crossroads three years ago. He could have been paralyzed. He did his due diligence, rehabbed hard and sought every professional opinion before coming back. He's still planning on playing at age 39 since he continues to pass routine physicals and stay healthy. Patrick Willis announced his retirement today. He decided for himself and his family that testing God and his own athletic prowess wasn't an option.

I have been faced with this several times in my life. I do lead a very healthy lifestyle but I still take risks. A year ago, I entered an eating contest where I ate a giant burger in under 30 minutes. This was a one time thing and I was full for days. I also run and have a half marathon around the corner. I was reminded today about running too close to the road and the sidewalk. My running style has allowed me to avoid injury and accidents over the years. But it still got me to thinking. I want to stay as safe as possible. The only routes I currently run on are those with back roads and little traffic or running trails with at least a sidewalk. Since I am doing more outside running now, these safety measures will continue to improve.

So use good judgment in your life and don't think the Good Lord is automatically going to bail you out because you make a foolish choice. Trust Him, trust yourself and use good reasoning and common sense.

What are some ways that you have tested and played God? Do you think that even when you make poor decisions, God always protects you?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why It's Cool For Women To Join The Clean Plate Club

It seems for a while, especially in certain regions and areas, men have been taking women to dinner. Also for a while, it appears that many women don't clean their plate or even take home leftovers.

This can be problematic for a number of reasons. 

Women, please read carefully. Now in the early stages of dating, nerves are expected and often eating isn't the main coursr at a restaurant. However, eventually, you should feel comfortable enough around a man to eat, REALLY eat, and not feel shameful about it.

Being a member of the clean plate club can have its benefits. We men like women that are secure in themselves and their own skin. That being said, this doesn't mean pigging out and ignoring table manners. But if you're hungry, eat!

Bringing leftovers is the least you can do. I understand many people don't eat a lot at a single setting. However, it can be rude and expensive if you continuously want your significant other taking you out for dinner, but you simply nibble around. Perhaps you should simply stick to appetizers or stay at home and cook. 

You will have to reach a point of comfort in a romantic relationship. This can start with simply making an effort at the dinner table and eating if you're hungry. It can humanize you more.

Do you have this problem on dates? When it comes to dating, are you in the clean plate club?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Common Urban Legends and Wives Tales

There are many out there, and you hear more and more as you grow older. Urban legends and wives tales never seem to go away. Matter of fact, it seems more and more keep arising, even with Google and Wikipedia.

I did a piece on common myths a couple of years ago. Now, here are some of the more common urban legends of our time.

1. Elvis and Tupac are alive.

I was always told not to believe any death, on TV or in real life, unless a body is produced. Elvis died in his bathroom and his body was clearly identified. Tupac was gunned down in Vegas and the last person to see him was his mother. Yet since 1996, he has released more albums than he did before his accident. I'm not saying he's alive or dead, but it makes you wonder.

2. Playing song lyrics backwards.

There were certain bands, mostly heavy metal bands, that supposedly had hidden satanic meanings in their songs that were deciphered once the song was played backwards. Now the music does sound extra evil when played in reverse. But no one knows for sure what these messages are.

3. Reciting ABCs backwards during a field sobriety test

For years, it seemed police made supposedly drunken drivers step out of the car and recite the ABCs backwards. This can be difficult sober. No one seemed to know anyone else that had ever undergone this until COPS came out and did it on folks a few times. It doesn't happen often, but it is supposedly true.

4. Various car care tips.

We can start with gasoline. Back when gas was still well over $3/gallon, many folks that once used unleaded plus switched to regular. Years ago, regular would make your car stink and consequently wreck your engine. Foreign oil has changed so much, like car engines, and it doesn't appear to make a difference anymore. This being said, I wouldn't use regular gas in a brand new car or a luxury vehicle.

Also, not properly warming your car up for more than five minutes can wreck the engine. This is also not totally true. Often you don't need more than three minutes and your engine is fine.

Finally, you do burn more gas when you run your A/C and when you ride on the Interstate. I have personally tested this too many times in different automobiles.

5. Eating and exercising before bedtime isn't healthy.

Actually a good steady workout, and a nice, light snack or meal can help you sleep even better. I wouldn't test this legend with spicy food or chili though.

6. You need eight hours sleep or more/night.

This all depends on the person. Yes we all need proper rest. But some people function well on merely five hours of sleep, and more than eight makes them groggy and more tired.

7. Birds appear on the ground in flocks when it's about to snow.

This past week testedd my theory. I saw birds everywhere and although it wasn't the forecasted blizzard, there was snow nonetheless.

What are some other urban legends and wives tales that you know of?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grandmas Are Truly Special

This is an emotional week for me. My paternal grandmother, Ella Mae McGill, has been gone for 21 years today. Tomorrow is my brother's birthday and he would be 32 if he were living. Friday, my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Lanier, will be gone 11 years.

Grandmothers are known by many names: grandma, maw maw, mee-maw, mam-maw, nana, and even Big Mama. They are that balancing, equalizing force in our lives. They raised or help raise us in many ways. They have that old school, no nonsense manner regarding life. These special women taught us much during this time, and often let you get away with stuff and spoil you like your parents wouldn't.

I didn't get the opportunity to know my Grandma McGill as well as I would like. I do remember her as being a calm, caring, loving woman. She loved to cook pound cake , and her recipe is still a staple at family dinners. She raised eight children by herself back in the 50s and 60s in the height of racism and when welfare was basically unheard of. Grandma Ellie Mae was long the family matriarch, like Big Mama from Soul Food. She worked hard virtually her whole life, and was last a custodian at Clover Middle School. Nearly everyone says I inherited her smile and kind spirit.

My grandma Myrtle "Maw"Lanier helped raise me as my mom was in the single mother role herself. Maw had spent a lifetime raising and teaching. She not only reared her two children, she helped raised her siblings as she was the oldest of twelve,  and then later on her own grandchildren and great-grands. Maw also was a hard worker, spending years in the textile industry, doing income taxes part-time, and even returning to school for her GED and studying law before she became disabled. She taught us many things: how to cook, clean, about the Lord and church, how to drive, and how to make your voice heard. Maw was a tough, loving woman that didn't back down from anyone. That trait, among many, was passed down to me.

Watching these two great women have helped shape the man I am today. I often light up when someone mentions either one of their names. I am proud to be Myrtle and Ella Mae's grandson or grandbaby. It truly is an honor.

If your grandma is living, I hope you all cherish the relationship you have with them. These memories and times will last long after they depart.

How close are you to your grandmothers? Do you miss your grandma very much? What did she/they mean to you?