The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

In memory of my friend

There’s a hole in the universe tonight.

Rich Rusk was a dear friend.  We fought for social justice with Come To The Table and with the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee.  We went to Rock Hill to meet a reformed Klansman.  We went fly fishing.  We held our own private remembrance services for Sam Hose, in Newnan.  This was an active friendship.  We didn’t just sit around and tell stories about Alaska.

True friends don’t come around very often, but Rich and I were fast friends from the day we met.

Rich came to Newnan with representatives from Southern Truth and Reconciliation and the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee to talk about the Sam Hose lynching in Newnan, which occurred in 1899.  Someone was so concerned that Come To The Table was discussing Sam Hose that they called the sheriff.  Undaunted by the presence of law enforcement, Rich shared the story of the Moore’s Ford massacre and how the memorial committee sought reconciliation in the Athens area.  He thought we should do something similar to commemorate the lynching of Sam Hose.  We met at the lynching site each April 23 to say a prayer and leave flowers.   We would remember, whether anyone else did or not.

Rich was a writer.  He called his first book, “As I Saw It”, a tape-recorder book but anyone who knew Rich could hear his voice.  He wrote this book with his father, Dean Rusk, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  He said he wanted to write another book.  He also wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and made it through several sections.

Rich was passionate about the environment and he loved fly fishing.  He enrolled Bob and me in a course at UGA so we could learn, too.  He knew we would love fly fishing. He and Janice took us to a Trout Unlimited banquet.  We took one trip to Blue Ridge to fish, in December, in the snow.  I’m a girly girl, but I put on waders and went out in the river.  I prayed I wouldn’t have to touch a fish, though I loved standing in the river, in the snow.  Bob caught a fish, but he didn’t want to touch it, either.

Rich loved anything outdoors.  There was one Saturday where he and Bob left Janice and me at their home to review the Moore’s Ford scholarship applications.  Janice and I had a fun day inside while Bob and Rich kayaked down the river.  Bob rolled his kayak and lost his glasses, and that trip was ever after known as the time Rich tried to drown Bob.  We were always kidding around.

Then there was the trip to Rock Hill to meet Elwin Wilson.  We loaded up in Rich’s van and drove to South Carolina, fascinated by the idea that someone who had done so many terrible things could reform and make peace.  We wanted to enlist Elwin’s help in getting the FBI to reopen the Moore’s Ford case.  We were successful in getting the case reopened, but no arrests were ever made.  Rich never gave up.

Rich was passionate about the environment and climate change.  He called a couple of years ago and said he was riding a bicycle from Athens to somewhere in south Georgia, with Waymund Mundy and two other people.  I thought he was kidding but we invited them to spend the night at our home.  I don’t think any of them made it the whole way on the bikes, but it was a fun evening.

When my friend was moving to Athens for graduate school, I called Rich in hopes he would have a rental that would work for her.  He didn’t, but he made some good suggestions.  That would be the last time I would speak with him.

My mother is at the age where she goes to a funeral every Saturday.  I’m just not ready for that.  I’m not ready to be old.

Rest in peace, my friend.  We will miss you.

Remembering

“Four shirts, four pairs of pants, a snow machine suit, and I’m still cold.”  Thus began my journal, on this this day in 2000. I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, flying a 1946 McDonald Douglas DC-4 delivering fuel to remote villages.  This contract pilot stent may very well be the craziest thing I’ve ever done and sometimes I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Why was I in Alaska?  Money.  Insanity.  Opportunity.  Adventure.  I already had a class date with Netjets of February 8, 2000.  I had sold my flight school and would finally get the airline job I had coveted for 30 years, and I really had nothing to do.  A month in Alaska would help me cover the gap.

I got my DC-4 experience flying night freight for Custom Air Charter out of Hampton, GA.  Not many people want to fly 60 year old airplanes, at night, without radar and at fairly low altitudes. Bob McSwiggan’s attitude was that radar “only scares the pilots.”  He was the owner, and besides owning a freight airline he is a tap dancer!  But that’s a story for another day.  The photo is not the DC-4 that I flew, but you get the idea.  In Atlanta, I flew the Carvair conversion, which you can see here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FfOmlb4SAU.

Flying a DC-4 was romantic and exciting, but it was hard work and sometimes dirty work.  The radial engines leaked oil and sometimes quit unexpectedly, but I loved those R-2000 engines.  On the ground, you had to climb on the wing and put a stick in the fuel tanks to confirm the fuel levels. In the air, you had to keep your eyes on the gauges and periodically pump oil to the engines. The instruments in the cockpit were appropriate for the 1940s.  It was just plain fun.

I got a call from a pilot friend in December to fill in for one of the pilots for Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks.  There aren’t a lot of qualified DC-4 pilots and initially I said no.  He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse –  I would be guaranteed 8 hours a day flying time, a ridiculous hourly rate, a generous per diem, plus a place to stay.  Off I went.

The place they gave me was so dirty that I washed my feet in the sink after I took a shower.  I lived off chicken pot pies that I could heat in the microwave.  The high one day was a whopping -17 degrees and another was -20, but I saw spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis and I went to places you won’t see on an Alaskan cruise.  Cruises won’t take you to Beaver, Kobuk, or Alakaket.  We flew kerosene, gasoline, and propane.  When we weren’t flying fuel, we’d fly snow machines to these same remote villages.

I learned a lot on that trip, and will now summarize a few of those lessons:

  1. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, especially when you are that far north and that far away from civilization.
  2. Boots certified to 40 below don’t really work that well past -10.
  3. Always take shower shoes. If you can’t eat in the kitchen, you really don’t want to put your bare feet in the shower, either.
  4. People who live in remote villages work on a different timetable than those of us who like cities.  They won’t accept fuel during lunch hour or on weekends, but they’ll take a snow machine whenever you can get it there.
  5. When you’re in a different place with a different culture, don’t expect to feel perfectly at home. It takes an effort and you need to respect them.  When a native decides to give you a baseball cap, accept it with kindness and treasure it.
  6. A 2300’runway, covered in snow with mountains on either side, is a challenge when empty, but even more when the aircraft weighs about 50,000 pounds.
  7. Appreciate your ground crew. They are the ones who get to the airport at 0400 to put heating blankets on the engines.  Without them, you wouldn’t fly.  You don’t like to get up that early and you know you don’t like being that cold.
  8. To expand on #7, appreciate everyone and everything around you. We’re all in this world together so let us work together to make it a better place.  Together, we can.
  9. Remember this. Whatever it is, you can do this.  Whatever your situation, it is not worse than -27 and no ladies restroom (actually, no restroom) in Anektuvuk Pass, Alaska.  It will get better.  You will get to warmer weather.
  10. Look at life as an adventure. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience life and to meet new people.  Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you will gain a new perspective.

Finding these pages from my journal was a tremendous treat.  Sitting here warm and safe in our home in Macon, Georgia, I can’t believe I actually did it.  Am I the same person who took off that day for the trip of a lifetime?   Would I do it again?

I just don’t know.

Reflections

As we move into the New Year and our commitments to our New Year’s resolutions fade, I intend to make 2018 the best year ever.  The lessons we learned during Hurricane Irma and during my recovery from rotator cuff surgery have caused us to refocus and really engage with the people around us.  That’s my only resolution.  Engage.

We were thrown for a loop in September when my recovery required more time off than we expected.  The disability insurance company disagreed with my doctor on work restrictions, so I’ve been without a paycheck for a significant amount of time.  While we weren’t able to give extravagant gifts this year, one of our grandsons said that my presence was his best present ever. Quite honestly, I have enjoyed being able to totally engage with family, without the demands of work being constantly on my mind.

We were all set a quiet for Christmas until we received a phone call from a judge’s office on December 23.  The judge wanted to know where someone could go for Christmas dinner.  We weren’t sure, so we all said, “we will feed them!”  This was just the first step in what would turn out to be a very special holiday experience.  The judge gave us the information and we set out to help this family.

The man had lost his job and his truck.  He told us he just wanted to give his wife a Christmas tree and that it didn’t matter whether there were any decorations; a tree would be fine.  After some prodding, we found out a little more about the family and their needs, and we went about arranging for some nice surprises that would brighten their holiday.  Several friends contributed so that everyone in their family received gifts and had a delicious Christmas dinner.

Just when I thought we could relax, my daughter asked us to help hang curtains at Camp Twin Lakes, a camp for children with special needs.  The camp was replacing the window blinds in all of the cabins with fabric curtains.  Corded window blinds are the cause of about 25 preventable childhood deaths per year, and the death of Elsie Mahe has brought this danger to the forefront.  Elise’s father is the former NFL running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, Reno Mahe.  My daughter arranged for the fabric and the labor to sew 450 curtains in the cabins at this camp.  How she did this is beyond me, but there are some very generous people out there who were willing to help.

On New Year’s Eve, the six of us went to Rutledge, Georgia, to hang the 144 curtains that were ready.  It was a cold, wintry day, and there was no cell service at the camp.  The cabins had heat, but no television and no wireless coverage.  We were forced to connect with each other.  Everyone had a task and we focused on what we were supposed to be doing. Even our four-year-old granddaughter had a job and the time flew by.   As we talked and walked through the woods, without the distractions of electronics, I couldn’t help but reflect on the special gift of this day.  That we were all working together on a huge project was a great gift, perhaps the best gift of the season.

As we begin 2018, I invite you to look for opportunities to step outside and help someone else.  Whether you choose to volunteer somewhere or donate to a food pantry, serving others in a volunteer setting can help you gain confidence and make a difference, or even learn new skills.  It is even good for your health.

 

 

Women in the Cockpit

I am a pilot.  I learned to fly to fly before I learned to drive.  I started to work when I was 13 years old and saved every penny I made to pay for my flying.  It was my dad’s airplane, but I had to pay for part of it.  That’s who he was – a “you don’t get something for nothing” kind of person.  By the time I was 16, I was holding down three jobs and was still an A student.  I wanted to fly in the military, but they didn’t allow women at that time.  So I stuck it out and worked hard.  I detoured my career, was successful enough to retire at 43, then pursue my passion.

I never asked for special treatment.  I never complained, when I was flying night freight, that some of the freight hangars didn’t have women’s restrooms.  I used the men’s room and never thought twice about it.  When we had to unload truck transmissions in Detroit, I used the pallet jack and moved the transmissions along with the guys.  I’ve climbed on the wing of a DC-4 to measure the fuel level in the main tanks, and I’ve pumped oil out to the engines during flight.  I’ve flown powerful people into Aspen, Colorado, where every approach requires precision and finesse.  I’ve flown into East Hampton, New York, and into Ocean Reef, Florida.  These are challenging runways, short and narrow, not runways that are two miles long.

Today, in the “Pilot Communications Network” was an email forwarded from Leonard Brunasso, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot who is now a check airman for Omni Air.  The email was titled “The Age of the 707/DC-8” and it begins, “Those were the good ole days.  Pilots back then were men…”  You can just guess how far it went downhill from there, as he went on to insult every category of people except for white male pilots. From what I can gather, taxpayers paid for Leonard’s flight training, as he was an Air Force pilot.  He refers to pilots “in the good ole days” as real men and refers to flight attendants as stewardesses who appreciated a little sexual harassment, and were “proud to be combatants in the sexual revolution.”  He went on to say these women didn’t have any “plastic or composites” in their pectoral regions.

Rarely am I offended, but having been subjected to blatant sexual harassment and abuse in the cockpit, I have a few things to say to Leonard.  I am beyond angry.  I am furious.  I am sad.  I am, unfortunately, flooded with memories of clowns just like this guy who didn’t think I belonged.  The ones who objectified women.

I’ve taught over 1000 people to fly and I have an impeccable record.  I’ve shared my love of aviation with literally thousands of people.  During nursing school, I would instruct in the wee hours of the morning and then go to the hospital in Charlotte for clinicals, then I’d go to the airport and fly afterwards.  And I kept my grades up while I was doing it.  I am as proud of my RN as I am my ATP and CFI.

I learned instrument flying with nothing more than needle, ball, and airspeed.  I’ve made the decision to go or not, when flying fuel to some of the most remote villages in Alaska in a DC-4.  I’ve manually calculated how much fuel to take on, and looked at prog charts to see whether it was even safe to go.  I didn’t have dispatch to calculate weight and balance for me, tell me how the weather was, and determine whether I’d be released to fly or not.  I made those decisions, on my own.

I worked my way into the cockpit with my skills and abilities to fly.  I’ve been pinched, grabbed in inappropriate places, and even been physically assaulted by other pilots.  I’ve been asked whether I ever felt guilty taking a job away from some poor man trying to feed his family and when I’ve adjusted the temperature in the cockpit, I’ve been asked if I was having hot flashes.  I knew when someone was having fun and when the line was being crossed.

When I first became a flight instructor, there were only about 4000 women in the US with commercial pilot certificates.  I was one of the youngest, since I was only 18.  Today, 40 years later with my Airline Transport Pilot certificate, I am one of only about 8000.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve got more than 45 years in the cockpit plus I’ve earned a PhD, started 3 or 4 successful businesses, and have tried to be the best person I can be.  I’m happily married to a retired Delta pilot who recognizes and appreciates my brains and my talent.

I want to say all kinds of ugly things to Leonard, but it would do no good.  I just hope that someday, this brand of pilots is replaced by kinder, more respectful human beings, by people who don’t care whether you are male or female, provided you can competently perform your duties in the cockpit or in the cabin.

Honestly, I just wish people would accept other people for who they are.  Be kind.  And stop spreading messages that promote hate.  Can’t we all just get along and treat everyone as human beings?

Can We Repair the American Savings Crisis?

By Dr. Tim Price, CPA, Faculty Member, School of Business, and Dr. Suzanne Minarcine, Faculty Director, School of Business, American Public University.  Originally published at http://onlinecareertips.com/2017/06/can-repair-american-savings-crisis/ 

The United States historically has had one of the lowest savings rates in the industrialized world. Arguably, the biggest contributor to this phenomenon is consumerism, the idea that everyone should always acquire more goods and services.

Consumerism is so ingrained in our culture that we no longer notice its effects:

Constant Advertising Encourages Spending, Not Saving

We are bombarded with advertising that encourages us to shop. We’re offered low interest rates on vehicles and we’re told there is a drug to fix whatever ailment we might have. Credit card offers arrive in the mail almost daily, each with its own incentives to make purchases.

Are you too busy to cook but don’t want to eat out? There’s an advertisement for that, too.

Consumer electronics are nearly obsolete before they ever hit the market. For example, Apple releases a new iPhone almost every year, and we need to buy the latest and greatest version, of course.

We are constantly encouraged to spend, no matter what we are doing. Go on Web browsers and social media, and ads will pop up based on your browsing history. We are targeted for spending.

The dollars spent on advertising in the U.S. are significantly higher than in any other country. The spending feeds on itself; you fall into the trap of buying more goods and services to keep up with your neighbors and friends.

How Can We Encourage Americans to Start Saving?

There is much discussion about low U.S. savings rates, but no one individual or group is actively promoting ways to increase them. For example, U.S. policymakers could add tax incentives to encourage savings. Other suggestions include increasing the tax-deductible amounts on IRAs and 401(k)s and making some or all of your interest and dividend income tax-exempt.

For regular savings accounts, the money is taxed before it goes into savings. As interest accrues and the money grows, taxes are paid annually on the amount of interest earned.

Savings needs to be encouraged. Personal finance lessons should be embedded in the messages children receive from an early age, as early as kindergarten and extending into adulthood. Lessons in personal finance could be incorporated into school curricula, like science and math.

Low Savings Rates Means Less Saving and Less Money for Loans

At a macro level, low savings rates foster an increase in consumer spending, which spurs economic growth. However, it also means less investment in the economy, since your dollars are going to consumption rather than savings and investments. Less money in savings means banks have less money to lend.

The investment void is being largely filled by other countries. But there is no guarantee they will continue investing in the U.S. Many economists fear that if the U.S. does not get its federal budget deficit and national debt under control, foreign investors will flee or demand much higher interest rates.

Japan and Germany Have High Savings Rates but Less Economic Growth

It is interesting to note that countries like Japan and Germany have the opposite problem because they have high savings rates. However, that results in less consumer consumption and lower economic growth rates.

Consumer patterns are very different in these countries and putting money into savings accounts is encouraged. This cultural practice also contributes to the trade imbalance between those countries and the U.S.

The next generation is not likely to see any change in the situation unless the U.S. takes drastic action to reduce the deficit and national debt. If we do not, foreign investors will stop investing in the United States.

About the Authors

Dr. Tim Price is a faculty member in the School of Business at American Public University. His teaching interests include accounting, economics, finance and statistics. Tim holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and an M.B.A. in Business Administration from the University of South Florida, as well as a B.S. in Accounting from Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Suzanne Minarcine is the faculty director for the School of Business at American Public University. She currently teaches strategic management and entrepreneurship courses.

 

A Grieving Grandmother on Mother’s Day

I cannot fathom the grief of a mother who has lost a child.  I look at my own children and how deeply I love them, and how much I’m willing to sacrifice for them, and my heart is filled with a passion that I cannot describe.  I love my children more than life itself.

I’ve often said that being a grandmother is even better than being a mother; a grandmother is the best thing I could possibly be.  The love I feel for my children is magnified in my love for my grandchildren, but part of that is because I’ve survived the teen years (let’s go ahead and admit that teens are not 100% lovable!) but I would still go to whatever lengths necessary to protect my children.  In my older son’s words, “We didn’t need Rambo in our family; we had Mombo.”  Any mother knows how much mothers everywhere loves their children and the lengths we would go to protect them.  Except when we can’t.

I’m in a special category of grandmothers, and I didn’t want to be here.  I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t want to be here.  No one wants to lose someone they love, yet  I am a grieving grandmother, times two.  I’ve lost my first grandson and I’ve lost my first granddaughter.  I’ve been to hell and back in the process.  Both were tragic, needless deaths.  Both are – and yes, I speak of them in the present tense because their spirits are very much with me – the children of my only daughter.   She’s a great mother, a better mother than I was when she was young, and I can’t begin to imagine her suffering.  Mother’s Day is not a happy day for her, though she needs to put on a happy face for her three living children.

There’s part of me that wants to quote Sheryl Sandberg in Option B, and say that Glenn and Carly would want us all to be happy and celebrate the day.  It made both of them sad when we were sad or hurt, regardless of the reason.   They were sensitive children.  We aren’t honoring their memory through our tears.  Yet knowing this doesn’t stop the intense pain.  Supposedly it will get easier with time.

As a grandmother, I grieve for my grandchildren and  I wonder who they would be now.  Would Glenn drive me around in the Porsche, or would he prefer the Cadillac? Would he still think I’m the smartest person in the world?  Would he still be delighted by everything his Bebob said?  Would Glenn love Punkin as much as his siblings?  Would Carly still love ballet?  Would she still be so opinionated and such a daredevil?  Would she still snuggle with me?  My answer to all questions is yes.

But as a mother, I grieve most of all for my daughter.  She’s not herself and she will never be the same person who brought Glenn home from the hospital.  I see her struggle.  I see her pain, sometimes written on her face and all over her, as visible as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.  Sometimes she puts on a brave face, but behind those beautiful blue eyes is a broken heart.  As a mom, I can’t put a band aid on it and make it better.  This is something a mom can’t fix, and that compounds my grief.

How will I spend this Mother’s Day?  I’ll be on a plane for part of it, then I’ll be home.  I’ll put on a brave face and will be grateful for the day and for the people who love me.  I’ll be there for my daughter, and for her siblings who also hurt – though in a different way.  I will celebrate the lives we have and those that we’ve lost, and I will hold my family just a little closer.  I will be thankful for the time we had, and I will pray that other people will be sensitive to our emotions on this day.

Happy Mother’s Day.