Folies in the extended family

Extending a family is never easy. But we are always better for it.
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My wife and I wanted to join our extended family together. As my wife’s parents grew older, they needed more help. My mother-in-law, Nana, struggled opening wide mouth pill bottles, of which there were many. Climbing stairs became difficult and soon impossible even with my father-in-law’s help.

The rest of the family included my wife’s and my three children and two large but happy bumbling golden retrievers, Copper and Taffy. Our goldens tried to help, but their support remained limited to the emotional. We needed a home where we could all live with, and get along with, and maybe escape from, each other.

Fortunately, my wife acquired great powers of observation by scouring neighborhoods looking for the right house. She could sense houses that would soon be coming on the market. Fresh paint, or new windows showed that someone intended to sell soon. Like Dorothy from the wizard of oz having to complete an impossible task of collecting that broomstick, my wife focused on minimum standards for the house such as a double driveway for all of the cars and a straight staircase for the wheelchair lift for Nana. And enough square footage that everyone could carve out their own separate space.

We chanced upon a lovely 1912-character home that could accommodate all our needs. The Kelly Brothers constructed the 4600 square foot, red brick, three-story beaux art style home for soon to be senator Benard. The same Kelly Brothers built the Manitoba legislature, defrauded the government, and caused the downfall of the reigning party. So, the house started off with a bit of ‘bad boy’ type of upbringing.

Once we found the home, the love of my life did grab me by the lapels and told me she wanted this house. Since I am lawyer, I immediately did the necessary due diligence and offered cash even though we needed a mortgage. I scoffed at the need for an inspection since with a character home, problems are to be expected and what problem could not be fixed by simply leaving a box of money out on the portico for the endless troop of contractors.

With a character home you retain the exterior and the interior. The wiring, plumbing and the completely random insulation material in between those two walls need replacement. 

Nana and her husband warmed to becoming a hamburger family where they played the bottom bun, the kids took the top bun meaning all of the third floor, while my wife and I essentially formed the meat in the middle. Copper and Taffy became the relish and mustard.

Character homes retain their own nature and personalities, and you ignore them at your peril. The boiler rates its own room along with a moat. Any fixture that comes with a moat deserves extra care and attention.

After joining families and furniture, we joined familiar routines. Grandpa excelled in getting the kids to school and picking them up. My flexible schedule allowed me to do more of the procurement and cooking. Nana’s extensive pill regime required a clocklike 6:15 dinnertime.

My cooking talents aligned with the Swanson’s TV tray style of cooking. I ensured a slot for protein, a slot for carbohydrates, and a slot for vegetables. During one holiday preparation, my father-in-law wheeled Nana backwards through the kitchen to the lift at the back staircase. During that brief 10 second tour, she managed to list 10 different spices and steps to get that perfect turkey. My father-in-law smiled quickly, but he didn’t slow down either and up the lift she went. I picked up my cooking game and incorporated most of her suggestions.

Of course, my wife and mother-in-law had not lived in the same house for the past 22 years, so I quietly observed the power dynamic shift. Except for when I had to step in front of the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I always imagined myself flying through the air, parallel to the ground, arms outstretched, in slow motion while yelling ‘noooooo’! Also, the house provided 4600 square feet of emotional space. Important safety tip for anyone considering this arrangement.  

Copper and Taffy became highly protective of Nana. They would come in and lie down with their heads towards the door and their horse size rears facing Nana. If the dogs had gaseous episodes, her respite involved turning up the fan higher.

Our kids camped on the third floor where the servants used to live. That notion did not rub off on any of the children. But they did regale Nana with all of their latest soccer, football, rugby scores cross country race times. This became the best part of her day.

As kids started to age out of the house, the next one vied to get the largest room and repaint it to claim it as their own. When they boomeranged home, the chagrined returners became relegated to the smaller rooms.

The home’s Tyndall stone front steps finally started to crack, and one smart blow with a sledgehammer collapsed it. We replaced the steps with a comparable pressed concrete. We intended to have our eldest son and daughter-in-law married on the steps that summer. The ceremony started along with the rain, so we pushed everyone inside. We moved two family’s worth of furniture against the oak paneled trim in the living room and squeezed all 60 people somewhere inside. The steps did not have their moment of glory. But we do have two more children.

For the house, there were some firsts, and some lasts. Nana could shuffle slightly to the next room.  I was down the hall when I saw her catch her foot ever so slightly and fall. I held her till the ambulance came. She spent her last days in the hospital then.

My father-in-law still lives with us. He prudently gave up his car a year ago, so now we drive him around. Having a parent give up part of their freedom that they have had for more than 75 years can be tough. Digging through the basement archives, I found a photo of him in his flight suit standing in front of his sabre jet. We keep the photo in the front hall as a reminder that we all came from somewhere.  

After COVID struck, we grounded him to the house. After getting his dual vaccinations, he became the typical teenager with a driver’s license wanting to cruise the world. But until that time comes, he cruises the world on his desktop.

We still have two golden retrievers, Maguire and Seamus now, but all of the children moved out. I took over the third floor for my COVID office. My fortress of solitude.

The character home fulfilled our purpose of joining our families physically and emotionally, but the home needs to re-fulfill its own purpose of being full of life.

No one truly ‘owns’ a character home due to the permanent nature of such a home and the ephemeral nature of owners. Some people and pets have now come and gone, but the character home that brought us together remains for the next generation.

We hope one of our kids kept notes for any new potential family joining.

Gary Goodwin

The unstoppable resolutions meet the unmovable realities

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Those mighty resolutions start to diminish ever so slowly.

Starting January 1st:

  1. No alcohol this January
  2. No processed foods
  3. Exercise daily
  4. Lose 20 pounds

The next week:

  1. Alcohol only on weekends
  2. Processed foods only when in a hurry
  3. Exercise every other day
  4. Lose 15 pounds

The following week:

  1. Alcohol every other day
  2. Processed foods only when too tired to cook.
  3. Exercise on the weekends
  4. Lose 10 pounds

By the end of the month:

  1. Only one drink at at time
  2. Processed foods cannot be avoided, succumb.
  3. Turn on TV and switch channels manually.
  4. Buy looser fitting clothing
  5. Be content with who and what I am

Developing a gift giving decision strategy matrix maximizes feel good returns and minimizes gift exchange returns

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1. Give them exactly what they wanted. Perhaps out of your price point, but when money is no object.
2. Give them close to what they wanted. But this time within your price point.
3. Give them what they think they need.
4. Give them what they actually need. This is fraught with peril since you may be pointing out foibles.
5. Give them something completely random. This can be cute, unless its a live animal which you should completely reconsider.
6. Give them something that aligns with their thematic lifestyle. Perhaps running gear or cooking supplies.
7. Give them something to push them into a thematic lifestyle they should adopt. I keep getting cookbooks.
8 Give to some charity that can lift people out of poverty. Providing a well for a village goes a long way to reduce disease.
And whatever you do, enjoy the time together since its really just the thought. Right?
#motivation#personaldevelopment#business#charity#management

Should one pursue happiness still?

HAPPINESS BASED ON VIRTUE DOES NOT SEEM ENTHRALLING.

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Thomas Jefferson sought virtue based happiness. This may have been what he meant when he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the need for the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson’s incredibly extensive education, much of it self-taught, appears to have been included the writings of John Lock, the Utilitarian. Jefferson was also capable in Latin and Greek, so we can assume from this that he was influenced by Aristotle. From this we have the entire concept that the pursuit of happiness endorses the Greek approach of Eudemonia. This has been interpreted to mean happiness, but literally means good guardian spirit. Aristotle’s concept of happiness meant a life well led. Just as you can’t say that an acorn is a tree, one has to look at one’s entire life to determine its’ happiness extent. Essentially a virtuous life can be based on the acts of the soul. So back in Jefferson’s time, he likely meant that overall well-being required someone to flourish as a human being and not this transitory bit of happiness we think of now.

Let’s divide the happiness of an individual into different criteria. One criteria would be to find happiness in the satisfaction of the various desires that individuals have. Therefore an individual could be happy either based on the satisfaction of these desires or the elimination of these desires. However philosophical analysis would also indicate that happiness could be far more complicated. The resolution of various desires would be more clearly defined as contentment. Happiness of the individual would then be dependent instead upon the moral values of that individual and leading a highly moral life. This may be a bit too simplistic since leading a highly moral life is insufficient to some. Ok, most people. Having good fortune is also relatively important. Sickness and poverty are severe overlying factors that can prevent or mitigate against leading a moral life and true happiness.

There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. This shorter approach can be very convenient in a consumer based society if purchasing more stuff makes you feel happy.

A path to happiness used to be assessed at the end of one’s life. Now everyone wants a continual happiness jolt similar to using one of those instant, non-recyclable instant coffee pods. And every day more ways appear to provide those single serve happiness pods.

The happiness discussion will continue…

#happiness #pursuit

Leading your life-Chapter 2

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Can a business model help your own life?

The question then becomes what is the connection between how a corporation runs and how an individual can run their own life. Corporations have always used objectives such as profits, return on investment and dividends paid amongst other criteria.  Can this somehow predicate the happiness of the Corporation or do we have a similar kind of dichotomy between man and business?

Does the satisfaction of these corporate criteria also refer only to contentment?  The satisfaction of these various corporate objectives does lead to the payment of dividends, wages and bonuses, which can lead to the contentment of individuals.  If indeed the Corporation’s soul is made up of the individuals that run the organization, then we could have an argument that a similar dichotomy exists between contentment and true happiness within a corporation.  This would suggest that a corporation having the values of the individual would also seek to maximize its happiness by leading a highly moral life.

If a corporation could somehow be happy in the satisfaction of its mission and vision statement, then it stands to reason that a similar achievement of a personal mission and vision statement would lead to the happiness of an individual. However, there’s a further questions of whether or not happiness of the individual is somehow separate apart from the individuation or actualization of the individual. 

It would seem that an individual would want to become fully actualized through the accumulation of skills and wisdom and perhaps wealth.  If it individual wishes to become actualized through work, this is somehow consistent with leading a highly moral life.  One should be able to lead a highly moral life and still become actualized.  Actualization may have to do more with the contentment of the individual and the resolution of various desires of that particular individual

The importance of holidays!

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We started holidays for a couple of weeks and headed off to the cottage to be closer to nature. Job one involved unloading all the stuff at the cottage. Job two involved brushing off all of the spiders from the gazebo. Normally not a problem, but if you haven’t been up for a few weeks, the spiders have baby spiders.

Once you finish removing all of shelob’s webs and carcasses, you start to realize that you have not dealt with all of the microscopic baby shelob spiders climbing around your legs.

One must persevere to be close to nature, but perhaps not have it that close in Steven King sort of way. One can possibly start to miss the relative sterility of the office.

#motivation #inspiration #business.

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Phoenix Failure

phoenix

The mythological phoenix rose from the ashes every 500 years. Did that mean it failed?

I don’t know about you, but I hate failing at anything. Learning to love failing simply does not appear to be a successful strategy.

Barings Bank failed 25 years ago when rogue trader Nick Leeson conducted a series of unauthorized arbitrage trades and caused a loss of $1.3 billion. So the bank would have learned to supervise his activities a bit closer if they weren’t so happy with the money he initially brought in. So failure seems to suggests being unwilling or unable to try again.

If your strategy appears to have failed, and you try a new strategy to achieve a goal, then you haven’t failed at achieving your goal. You simply learned that your initial approach to achieve your goal would not work, so you tried something different.

Leeson was sentenced to 6 years and got divorced. That sounds like failure, but he must have learned something since he got remarried, wrote two books one of which was made into movie starring Ewan McGregor.

They say fail often, and quickly. But if you pick yourself up and try again, then you haven’t really failed since you haven’t stopped trying.

 

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Retirement Untethered: National Burnout Vacation; Can Retirement be Better?

woman wearing sunglasses and sun hat
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Clark Griswold:
Despite all the little problems it’s fun isn’t it?

Ellen:
No. But with every new day there’s fresh hope.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

 

Like many people, you may have gone on vacation, or perhaps you plan to go on vacation.  So, what constitutes a vacation? And would retirement be one extended vacation? Webster’s defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation, a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee, a respite or a time of respite from something.

So, did this actually happen? Did you totally go off the grid for that period of time when you had a choice? Probability suggests you checked your email, perhaps late at night or first thing in the morning before the family woke. A little quality time with your iPad perhaps.

 

Why do people go on vacation? Chance of pace? To get away from it all? Family pressure? To de-stress? Perhaps test what retirement might feel like?

 

Perhaps you hope that this de-stress hormone lasts for at least as long as the vacation itself. Or that you can you store the de-stress hormone up as easily as the extra weight you may have put on from the extra consumption of alcohol, fats, carbohydrates that you would have otherwise avoided.

 

In a 2018 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1500 US workers, two-thirds of the respondents said that the mental benefits of vacation disappeared within a few days. So the vacation calmness disappears far before the weight loss does.

 

The reasons for increased après-vacation stress can be obvious. The workload undoubtedly accumulated in your absence, things moved on during your gallivanting. Now you must move double time to catch up and all of that stress filled time you spent before the vacation appears not to have been enough to keep you ahead.

 

If you feel stressed before the vacation, and even more stressed after the vacation, then one starts to wonder about the efficacy of going on vacation in the first place.

 

This becomes a good time to talk about burnout. In the 2015 edition of Acta Psychopathologica, work-related stress occurs when the demands of the work environment exceed the employees’ ability to cope. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 states that disorders precipitated by specific stressful and potentially traumatic events in the workplaces are included in a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stress-related Disorders”. Mind you, this abstract was dealing with the police in Italy.

 

If you sprain your ankle playing tennis for the first time since forever during your vacation, you likely know RICE, rest ice, compression and elevation. The same RICE can identify burnout with Regret, Inefficacy, Cynicism and Exhaustion.
Over 40% of California lawyers would do something different if they had to do it over again. This constitutes a high level of regret. Lack of actualization can lead to a feeling of inefficacy, and difficult as it may seem, burnout indicates even higher levels of cynicism that what you normally have. Exhaustion likely originated during articling and never dissipated.

A number of firms insist upon employees taking vacation. The firm’s rationale could range from an actual concern for employee health or for the ever expanding health benefit costs. If an employee leaves as a result of stress, there comes the extensive cost of locating, rehiring and training new staff. Far better to maintain the mental health of the existing staff.

In addition to vacations, employers should be considering breaks during the work cycle. Standing up and getting that wilted salad to eat in front of the computer does not cut it. An employee requires greater dedicated time to mental breaks along with physical activity on a regular basis. The same APA study found that staff became far more productive and content with their position when employers cared about employee’s mental health.

 

 

#retirement

 

Retirement Untethered: Devil’s Playground

clear glass jars on white wooden shelf
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After travelling out of the country, we self-isolated. This is sort of like retirement. Twice the husband and half the income. So of course I organized the pantry.

An idle mind is the devil’s play ground. I thought about organizing items according to ability to open them. Perhaps cardboard on one level, bags on another and cans on a different another. Using mind-mapping, I decided on three levels. The first level would be food regardless of packing material. Salmon and pasta. The next level would be stuff you put on food. Tomato sauces, panko crumbs. The top level would be stuff you put on food, but probably shouldn’t. Things like syrup and jams.

Fortunately, my wife only laughed. Retirement looks positive!

 

Retirement Untethered: Practice

hand washing
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I had a good chance to see what retirement might look like when we were sequestered for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 requires serious action. But, admittedly, there are the occasional lighter aspects.

After a British Columbia board meeting, my wife and I decided to fly over to Phoenix to see some friends just for a few days. Of course, after we arrived then the talk about shutting the border came up, so he headed home. I’ve always used the hand sanitizers at airports, but now they seem to be set at jumbo ejection discharge. I struggled to wipe it all over my hands. With all the foam still covering my palms and back of my hands, I felt I couldn’t walk away from the hand station since I am sure everyone would be askance as  to whether foaming at the cuticles was a new symptom. I resorted to cleaning up to my elbows.