Sunday, October 31, 2021

Social Clubs

I promised the last post would set up this post and be related to retirement. If you have ever been in a McDonald's in the early morning you have probably seen a table full of retired men having their coffee and solving the world's problems. I think I have seen these groups in almost every McDonald's I've ever visited. Recently I saw a similar group at a Panera Bread. Before retirement, I admired these social clubs and thought I would join one someday when I retired. I figured it would be nice to meet regularly to work on the world problems with other like minded scholars. Back in my hometown of about 800, there was a similar group that met at the local convenience store that had a small sitting area. This was known in town as the "Learning Center". I guess it was named well because they learned about everything going on in town and with each other.

I've seen some of the McDonald's social club that look like they meet daily. I saw one club adjourning for the morning with the statement of "See you next Wednesday". So, different social clubs must have different meet times and frequency. I guess instead of a social club they should be call a McClub. 

Studies have shown that socializing in retirement is good for a retiree. Some retirees are heavily involved in volunteering, part time work, church work, etc. Some also have regular social engagements such as McClub meetings, golf outings, brunch gatherings, etc. I have yet to join a social group and need to start looking. My question would be, how do you go about joining a McClub? Are there rules that say you have to be invited in like the Mason's? Can you just go up to the table and ask what the membership requirements are? I don't know if some of the McClubs are made up of lifelong friends or if they all met while getting their senior coffee at McDonald's. 

I'm very interested in getting with one of these groups and working on issues such as climate change and global hunger. I believe it was a McClub that was responsible for getting the first man to the moon, but I'm not sure. I would also enjoy talking about the weather, grandkids and the price of the senior coffee if that is where the conversation leads. 

Are you involved in a McClub or something similar? Do you know the secret handshake or secret rules to join a McClub?  Does your town have a "Learning Center" where all the local scholars meet regularly? Any unique social gatherings out there? I do attend two metal detecting club meetings a month as part of my social engagement in retirement. Do you attend hobby club meetings as a social engagement?  

Monday, October 25, 2021

Mick, Mack or Muck

 I have a friend who has given me a hard time about how I pronounce McDonald's. In thinking about it, I know I'm saying it correctly and he is the one that is wrong. I found this on a Google search:

The words ‘Mc’ and ‘Mac’ mean the same: "son of".

It’s either pronounced as ‘Mc’ without any sort of gaps or elaborate expression between the letters M and C, or ‘Mac’ with the space between M and C being occupied by an American ‘a’ sound. Generally surnames starting with ‘Mc’ are more likely to be Irish, whilst surnames that start with ‘Mac’ are more commonly Scottish.

I pronounce McDonald's as Mack Donald's. It only makes sense. Mick Donald's or Muck Donald's does not make any sense and is clearly in violation of the above description. Obviously Mick and Muck would change the meaning of the Mc for sure. Plus Mick sounds like a boxer and Muck sounds like a coal miner. While Mack sounds like the name of a guy wearing a white apron and hat while cooking hamburgers at a grill in the 1950's. My friend, if I remember correctly, says it quick but I still hear Muck Donald's. This is clearly wrong. Maybe it is pronounced differently in different states. I did grow up in Texas, so maybe it is a Texas thing. I've been questioned about my use of "fixin to" also. I lived in southern Illinois at the time, and our neighbors were perplexed about the statement "We are fixin to go to town". "Fixen" has to be a Texan or Southern thing.

Back to Mack Donald's. When I think about their menu, there is a variety of Mc sounds in there. A McFlurry is clearly a Muck Flurry. A McMuffin is clearly a Muck Muffin. I'm even good with Mick Flurry or Mick Muffin. But, Mack Flurry and Mack Muffin just doesn't sound right to me. I don't think the Mc rule of "mac" pertains to these as they are made up pretend words. Maybe McDonald's shouldn't make up all these extra names. 

This is a silly blog post, I know. But, it will help set up the next blog post that is related to retirement, I promise!

How do you say McDonald's? Are there other local sayings such as "fixen to" that have been brought to your attention as you travel to different regions? 

Maybe I should avoid the whole controversy altogether and just say "I'm fixen to go to the golden arches".

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

On The Receiving End of Charity


This is the time of year that our mailboxes are full of requests for donations to many charities. We get requests frequently from St. Judes, MD Anderson, Shriner's and many, many others. There are many requests from food banks and various "feed the hungry" organizations. We have given often to some of these organizations such as St. Judes and Shriner's. It is always hard to see children suffering from disease at such a young age and just breaks my heart.

When writing my check to these organizations I don't give it a tremendous amount of thought as to the impact it may have. I'm embarrassed to say my checks are not large but I hope that if thousands or tens of thousands give just a little, it will all add up to help the cause. We often listen to Christian radio stations and they seem to have fundraising drives on a regular basis. There are a lot of needs out there and I'm sure it is tough competition for all the charities chasing your donations. I shop often at charitable thrift stores, so hopefully my purchases will result in providing small amounts to assist in these causes. 

My family has been fortunate over the years and has not been in need of charitable assistance. Other than the government cheese and butter I remember getting from the back of a truck when I was a kid, I can't think of being on the receiving end of charity over the years. Does anyone else remember the cheese and butter? We lived in a small town of about 800 in Texas and it had to be mid 1970's. The word would get out the cheese and butter truck was in town and everyone went up and got a block of butter and block of cheese. Good stuff! Everyone got it, no criteria that I can recall, no income limits or anything else. Just free cheese and butter!

Well......things have flipped on me and now my wife and I have been and are currently on the receiving end of charity. When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2021, our lives were turned upside down. She is being treated at MD Anderson Cancer center in Houston, about 8 hours from our home of Oklahoma City, OK. We traveled back and fourth by car and plane for 6 trips for appointments, surgery and follow up. We stayed in hotels during those trips between 3 and 14 days at a time. Beginning the first of this month (Oct) she started chemo that is a 5 month period, she takes a 4-6 week break then another 1 1/2 months of radiation. Due to the frequency of the treatments and how she would feel, we knew we would be camping out somewhere in Houston for 6 1/2 months total. We expected it to be costly.

Here is where we flipped to the receiving end of charity. A niece of ours (Thanks Holly!) set up a fundraising effort on something called the Meal Train to help offset the cost of meals while we were in Houston for treatment. This was unexpected by us and greatly appreciated. She raised over $1,000 with her effort and the money was transferred to our account. We withdrew it, stuck the cash in an envelope specifically for our meals in Houston. We were blown away by the contributions and are extremely thankful. A lot of the donations were from friends and family, many who had experienced dealing with cancer or had close family that had dealt with cancer. 

Before heading to Houston, we had put our name on several waiting lists for free housing specifically for cancer patients that lived outside the Houston area. We had not heard from any, so we went ahead and leased a furnished apartment on a month to month lease. It was cheaper than a hotel and would be more comfortable with a kitchen and living room. Cheaper than 30 days in a hotel but still expensive. Four days into our stay in the apartment we get a call from one of the apartments that had availability. We accepted the apartment and moved in the next day. We were able to get a partial refund on the furnished apartment as they were able to lease it again.

So, here I sit in our charitable "free" apartment and we are both so thankful for it. It is nice, it has everything we need for a comfortable stay. We are limited to 3 months, but got very lucky and were able to secure a similar apartment with another charity for the next 2 months. The contributors to these two charities have provided a tremendous blessing to us during this time. We will forever add these two charities to our giving list! The apartment complex we are in has about 46 apartments, all filled with patients and caregivers of MD Anderson and other hospitals. Our current one is Hospitality Apartments and our next one is The Ballard House. I can't say enough good about them both. 

So, next time you write a check or send money online to a charity please know that your money will help someone in need. I hope you never need to be on the receiving end but if you do, I hope there is a charity there to meet your need and make life a little better for you. I know the two that we are using here in Houston have been a tremendous help and have taken a huge burden off of us so we can concentrate on getting her better. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Chasing Sardines


I saw this in a daily devotion from 2014.

Some years ago, three hundred whales were found marooned on a beach. Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. Now, that’s an amazing thing. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creatures were ultimately led to their doom.

This can be applied to each of our lives. Throughout our working years we often chase the sardines of a pay raise, promotion, and awards. We can chase the sardines in other areas such as sports trophies and awards at the adult softball league or something similar. We can chase sardines in almost any areas of our lives and not paying attention to the bigger picture. Most of the time our pursuit of the sardines is for our own ego or to impress people whose opinion really doesn't matter in the long term. The ones that matter are our friends and family. They are the ones that surround us long after the working life or softball career are long over.

I got caught up a little in my career of chasing the promotion sardines. I took on extra tasks and responsibilities to prove that I was ready for the next level. I moved my family a few times in pursuit of the sardines. The move for my first promotion was from Ft Worth to Oklahoma City and still not too far from family and didn't affect us too much. The second move was to St. Louis and put us at least a 9 hour drive from family. This move was the one that made me realize that I was chasing sardines. I enjoyed the job, but the stress of being that far away from the things that were important to us was too much. When I looked ahead at where the sardines would be next, the next promotion would have more than likely taken me even further away and demanded more of my time. My wife and I made the decision to backtrack a little and we were lucky that I was able to move back to Oklahoma City where I spent the rest of my career and now we are enjoying our grown kids and granddaughter in retirement. The move back was tough on the ego but quickly became one of the best career decisions in the end. I wound up getting promoted again and had a very fulfilling career on that track.

Looking back, if I had continued to chase the promotional sardines, I would have likely ended up in a high cost area that would have eaten up most of the pay raise and I would have put my family in another new place with no friends or family to rely on. I would have added a few dollars to my monthly pension, but certainly not enough to make up for the hassle of moving across country and stressing us all out.

Sometimes we all need to chase sardines so that we can eat, much like the whales above. We just need to make sure we are aware of the surroundings as we do so. As long as it is in the deeper water, with a real purpose and without danger to ourselves or others. The problem comes when we focus so much on the sardines that we don't realize what is going on around us and all of sudden we find ourselves trapped and in trouble.

When I think about things that people focus on to the detriment of other people or things, many come to mind. Some people will sacrifice everything to be the best. People will hurt others to climb the corporate ladder. People will sacrifice everything to be the best gymnast, best golfer, best basketball player, etc. I'm all for being great at something, but sometimes it has it's toll. Simone Biles recently had emotional issues and she is a gold medal gymnast. Another gold medal winner, Michael Phelps, has spoken about the emotional toll he has faced. Both are good examples of chasing sardines but paying a price. They worked and sacrificed for years to get a gold medal and now are both probably thinking about the things they missed when they were practicing 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There is nothing wrong to being committed to something or being committed to getting better at something. Balance is the key. 

Have you chased sardines to the point it got you into shallow water? What was your mindset at the time vs what it is now? Do you think we chase fewer sardines as we get older and wiser?