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re: moments with dad—ice cubes with warts
When Dad worked in his office, I usually sat in one of his big leather chairs with an encyclopedia in my lap. Occasionally, he took a break. Then I was allowed to bombard him with questions, like where is Africa? Who lives there? Why is it called “Africa? And so on.
One late fall day, I was loaded with questions. Dad was working furiously. I kept my questions locked up inside. My eyes slowly drifted back to the big book.
Coming from the window, I heard a curious noise. Tiny little white balls crashed against the glass. I crept to the window. Many of the balls landed on the sill. From there, they jumped to the ground and disappeared among dead flowers.
“Dad! Dad! Come look! I’ve never seen this before.”
He joined me at the window.
“Look how they bounce! Do they have air in them?”
“No,” he said, “they bounce because they are very hard.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “You want to make a bet?”
“Sure!” I said eagerly.
“I’ll give you a dollar for every little ball you bring to me.”
I took off like a rabbit surprised by a bobcat. Not many of the balls wanted to stay in my small hand. I tried using both hands held together. I couldn’t believe my luck. In no time, I had seven in my hands. I closed my hands, but found that I couldn’t open the door with my fists. I poured the tiny jewels into one hand and strutted to Dad. Triumphantly I yelled, “Seven dollars, Dad, seven bucks!”
“That’s terrible,” he grumbled but smiled. “Are you sure there are seven in this cute little fist?” He cupped my fist with his big, warm hands. “If you’re sure, then show them to me.” He removed his hands.
“Here!” I said proudly and opened my fist.
Nothing! Empty! Gone!
I turned my hand over. I looked on the floor and up my sleeve. Nothing.
Dad laughed. “They all melted.”
“Sorry, I’ll be right back.” I hurried outside, caught four, put them in my hand, and ran as fast as I could back to him. I opened my fist. Four little water drops was all I had to show.
“Wait, please!” I went to the kitchen and grabbed a handful of ice cubes from the freezer, stepped outside, caught four more, ran to the office, and showed Dad my prize.
He said, “Very good. No, not so good, actually, pretty bad. You can’t give them to me.”
“Not fair!” I shouted. “See? There are four.”
He laughed. “All I see are ice cubes with warts.”
I conceded. But I had one more idea. I stuck my hands into the freezer for a while. By the time I got outdoors, the precipitation had stopped. A little disappointed, I returned. “Tell me, Dad, do these things have a name?”
“Graupel,” he answered. “Now tell me this. Why didn’t you just open the window?”
Irritation drives change
What irritates you is what drives you. What better proof could you ask for than the presidential election of 2008? People were so irritated with George W. Bush that they quickly turned to Barack Obama, not so much because they were for Mr. Obama but opposed to the Bush doctrines.
Further evidence can be found in their similar irritation with Mr. Obama’s policies in his first year. So much so that they elected a little known Republican in what could easily be called the most liberal Democratic state in the union—Massachusetts.
The great Italian philosopher, Yogi Berra, once quipped that, “The trouble with the future is it ain’t what it used to be.” Boy, was Yogi right, but why?
The various institutions in society all subscribe to a system that is governed by rules. It could be the rules you face at your job or business. Even if you are self-employed, the people who contract you for various services expect certain behavior.
Rules exist in school, in your religious faith, in your family, and in society. Breaking these rules, as we Catholics would put it, could be a venial or a mortal sin. In society, it could result in a misdemeanor or a felony. In business, it could mean getting written up or fired. In the Catholic faith, it could mean confession or excommunication.
As children, we are totally innocent. When my beautiful grandbabies, Ashley and Ava, come to grandma’s house, they know the place is theirs. Our pots and pans are their pots and pans. In their minds and ours, it is simply understood.
The more comfortable they get, the more rules they are comfortable breaking. I see it as them seeking their independence and establishing their own kind of branding.
When my sons asked about tattoos and ear piercing, my response was simple: Where are you going to sleep? We have rules in this home. If you do not like them, do not let the door slam on your way out. Period.
What really drives most decisions in life is irritation. People will only change when they are so irritated with how things were that they will make changes at any cost.
Thomas Edison was so irritated at reading by candlelight that he set about the process of inventing the light bulb, failing nearly 10,000 times before he got it to work.
The guy that invented the bar code they use at Publix and Wal-Mart invented it in the early eighties. Imagine how ticked off he was that it took nearly twenty years to get into every retail store. Irritation drove it all.
My Aunt Olga used to always double check her grocery bill when she unloaded, despite the fact that she was making her purchase from her own brothers, Arthur and Eli Mack at Mack’s Cash and Carry grocery store. More often than not, she found errors in favor of her brothers and always made it right. Imagine how ticked off she was that it took so long for the bar code to finally become a reality. Where was it all these years?
Irritation leads to inspiration and to insight, and that is the stuff that drives change.
I recently gave a speech to a group called Community Vision in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Florida. They owe their entire existence as a nonprofit leadership institution to a man named Tommy Tompkins, a local builder who became so irritated with the sight of graffiti that he formed Community Vision to combat it. The group has blossomed into a much bigger organization with multiple causes, but it got its very inspiration from Tompkins’ irritation. Go figure.
Irritation or not, unless you integrate these new ideas into action, it is all for naught. Most companies, governmental agencies, not-for-profit groups, associations, and churches are hung up at this level. They do not know how to manufacture their insight into implementation in the real world.
Our goal in life should be to push for this last step, but the only way to accomplish that is to answer the question of “why” you want to do it to begin with.
When your values are clear, these answers come quickly and easily. No, I will not permit tattoos in my house. No, Aunt Olga would not allow herself or her brothers to be shortchanged. Values clarify and define the actions you take.
Make measurable progress in a reasonable time. How long is it reasonable for your child to spend in the first grade?
Answer: one year—measurable and reasonable.
re: questions for the City of Rio Rancho’s chief
I have two questions that as the City of Rio Rancho’s chief operating officer you should be able answer. Therefore, I look forward to your prompt reply.
Let’s start my question with a plausible, but hypothetical scenario. I am a builder/developer. I want to build/develop a small shopping center in Rio Rancho. I have a site, and I am in negotiations with the property owner to acquire the land, although I don’t as yet own it. Furthermore, I have not obtained any zoning approvals for my proposed development, let alone conducted any environmental studies that may be required by the state, county or city, and needless to say, I have no plan approvals, construction permits, etc. In my mind I am certain that I will be able to conclude the sale of the property in the foreseeable future and don’t want to “waste” time, so I begin site exploration/preparation—in short, I begin moving dirt. The City of Rio Rancho becomes aware of what I am doing and the fact that I have not followed any of the procedures set in the ordinances for building a shopping center. What would the city do? In this situation, as in past situations where some or all of the above cited failings existed, the city would order me to stop work, and if I didn’t, in all probability they would go to court and obtain a “cease and desist” order, forcing me to stop work until all the requirements mandated by the city are met. In this situation, the city’s actions are not only warranted but prudent.
Now, let’s take a real life situation—Green2V. This “company” does not own the land where they “plan” to build their solar collector factory. In fact, it is uncertain if the city yet has title to the land from the state so they can sell it to Green2V. The city has yet to approve the project in order for Green2V to “obtain” IRB financing to build the plant. Obviously, Green2V has not yet submitted anything concrete to the city; consequently, they have not received any required approvals for any zoning change requests, site plan approvals, environmental studies, etc., and have hence not applied for any of the required permits. In short, what has occurred is exactly what I described in the scenario above. So why is Green2V being allowed to “push dirt” at the site of their proposed plant?
Now, to my questions: Why, under your watch, is such disparate treatment being permitted? There are numerous small builders/developers who have built or wanted to build here in Rio Rancho, and they were made to comply with all the rules and regulations before a single shovel of dirt was allowed to be turned. So why is Green2V being given such latitude, when there is still so much uncertainty concerning their viability? I bet CNM, UNM, and the developers of the Home Depot and Lowes Building Centers sites had to comply with all of the city’s zoning and permitting processes before they were allowed to begin to “push dirt,” and these are well established entities that have solid fiscal records.
I and a whole lot of citizens and developers of our fair city are looking forward to your answer to these two questions.
—Harry Gordon, Rio Rancho
re: my mom Denise Miller
My mom is a lot like other mothers. She is a wonderful cook, keeps a beautiful home, loves her family like crazy (she is a mother to five and a grandma to 11, with one more on the way). However, my mom has an extra special quality—she has never met a stranger.
Everyday my mom runs through Placitas, and—odds are you have seen her—she is the one waving. She waves at the kids on the bus, at the police, and at every car that drives by. Recently she told me how a police car stopped just to tell her that there has been reduced speeding because of her. People are slowing down to wave back (and I would like to think, to keep her safe). At Easter time she wore bunny ears, she dresses up for Halloween, and she wears a Santa hat at Christmas. She does all this while continuing to run. I am real proud of my mom for many reasons, but most of all, I am proud that she loves others no matter what. No matter who you are, she will smile at you, all the while making this world a better place, one wave at a time.
re: recent events concerning the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District
It had to be one of the lowest, sneaky, and underhanded attempts at shoving a new property tax increase down the throats of the taxpayers in Sandoval County I have seen.
On May 4 about 4 p.m., I received a call from a friend letting me know that there was a property tax vote being held in Bernalillo at the Our Lady of Sorrows Church gym. The attempted property tax increase was spearheaded by the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), which encompasses Bernalillo, Placitas, Algodones, and some parts of Sandoval County. What their mission is and what they do, no one seemed to know.
I had no idea that a vote was on a proposed new property tax that day. Upon finding out that the CSWCD was asking for a quarter mill levy on all property in their district for the next 10 years, I immediately voted no for the tax. I spoke to many people at the gym who were angry at the proposed tax and the fact that the tax proposal was not publicized. And to add insult to injury, the people running the sham election ran out of ballots and had to obtain more. People waited patiently in line, but the outrage of individuals was apparent.
I called every person in my cell phone directory and others did, too, to inform friends, family, and neighbors and urge them to come out and defeat this proposed new tax. By 5 p.m., the church parking lot was full, and there were hundreds of people inside and outside the gym.
The CSWCD did not advertise the vote or attempt to inform the voters, other than a small ad in the legal section of the Journal and Observer. The CSWCD tried to sneak a new tax through. Not only was this attempted tax rip-off outrageous, it was just wrong....
For the record, the vote was 507 against and 49 for the tax. The attempted property tax increase was soundly defeated. Thanks to the voters who just said no, and I urge voters to be ever vigilant in the future.
—William M. Mast
re: passing of Frank Hawks
Last week, I lost a very dear friend, and the Placitas community lost an invaluable resource and priceless treasure. From the first visit Nancy and Frank Hawks made to New Mexico back in the mid-nineties, I believe Frank was smitten with both the beauty of our landscape and the genuine “niceness” our people.
Frank’s enthusiasm for all things New Mexican reminded me of a lecture I attended on New Mexico a number of years ago. The lecturer provided a brief overview of our history, landscape, peoples, etc., and then as he began his talk in earnest, he shared with us that “New Mexico is unique in so many ways, but perhaps first and foremost, it is one of those places that either embraces you or spits you out.” I am sure you will agree with me that New Mexico certainly embraced Frank. He happily involved himself in efforts to improve our community, such as his active participation on the Placitas Recycling Board. For nine years, he gave his time and talents in planning and maintaining the recycle yard. He was the vice president of the Optimist Club de Sandoval and loved working as the bicycle safety director and held Bike Safety Rodeos for Placitas children. He also worked with Gary Miles’ program, Bikes FUR Kids, refurbishing bikes for children in eastern Sandoval county. The Placitas Community Library was another of his favorite places to lend a hand, especially during the Fourth of July parade.
Frank was the one who you would call when it was time for the seasonal changeover from heat to coolers and the reverse. He was also the “go-to-guy” if the question involved virtually anything having to do with building. Frank was the source of knowledge—be it additions, modifications, window replacement, installation of carpeting, advice on plumbing, electrical. His knowledge of all things related to houses was seemingly limitless.
Every time I look around my home, I realize that Frank, with the help of his good friend, Tim, installed that wall-to-wall carpeting. Once, quite early in the morning, he dropped what he was doing and came down to repair a really pesky leak under the kitchen sink. On another occasion, he installed those really nifty doorknobs, replaced the doors, pantry shelves, and the plastic closet dividers. The sheer number of phone calls expressing sympathy which Nancy and her family received from members of the community paint a vivid picture of how meaningful were the contributions of this genuinely fine man.
I know you will join me in a memorial service in July at the San Antonio Mission in Placitas. Until then, I am reminded of a combination of New Testament verse and poetry: “Rest now, and lay down your burden, oh good and loyal servant.”