Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas Music

By the time you read this, many of you may have already had your fill of Christmas music as so many retail establishments began to blare these songs over their loudspeakers soon after Halloween attempting to get you in the gift-giving spirit in order to whisk dollars out of your hands and into their holiday cash registers. But even though Christmas is over, I felt compelled to visit it one more time from a nostalgic perspective.

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Earlier this year, I wrote about all the different types of music I had grown to love and enjoy over my lifetime. Soon after Halloween as I too began to hear Christmas music played, I realized that I had not mentioned this particular variety. And unlike the other music genres I wrote about, Christmas music is one that has endured my whole life.

My earliest recollections of Christmas music are of singing them in church as a youngster. With high anticipation of that magical day, I would happily sing the songs each Sunday, as we got closer to December 25th. Outside of singing them in church, I can’t recall if my mother had Christmas albums that she would play at home. Once I was in high school, due to family logistical reasons, we began to open presents on Christmas Eve and I remember we would sing a Christmas Carol or two before the present opening began.

When I got married, I realized that I had not brought any recorded Christmas music into our marriage and so I had to begin to remedy that.

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This was probably the first recording I bought of Christmas music. But recognizing that I couldn’t just listen to the same tape over and over, I knew I needed to add more to our collection. Since going out and buying a large number of tapes was not in our budget, I decided that I would add one new recording each year for Christmas.

It’s a good thing I couldn’t afford to rush out and buy a large number of cassettes, as it was about this time that music CDs began to be released, a much better quality and durable media. But using the same strategy, I purchased at least one new Christmas CD each year.

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Back before the day of XM radio, Pandora, and even before the Internet, radio or your private collection were the only two sources of recorded Christmas music. Fortunately, a local radio station played non-stop Christmas music from 6 PM on Christmas Eve until midnight on Christmas Day. As our music collection slowly grew, it was this radio station that we relied on to listen to as our kids opened their presents on Christmas morning.  And listening to the radio helped me identify the music that I would want to collect.

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It was listening to the “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” that got me interested in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. And for a while, this love grew into an annual pilgrimage to a live performance that my daughter and I would attend. This ballet and its music are still special to my daughter and me as is the wooden character upon which the music is based.

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And it’s this music she and I listen to as we wrap presents early in December.

Over the years, our Christmas music collection has grown to include many different genres:

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Some religious favorites such as “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger” as well as traditional songs such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells.”

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When I became interested in New Age music, I collected some Christmas recordings of that style as well.

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For many of the years that we visited Starry Nights, a drive through display of Christmas lights, we would receive a recording of Christmas songs by local artists.

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My introduction to Jazz music prompted me to collect some Christmas recording from Jazz artists as well.

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And when this movie came out, its sound track offered a great compilation of a variety of Christmas favorites.

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But in spite of having a large selection from which to chose from now, there is one song that I love the most, one that I can’t hear too much, one that I always wax nostalgic upon hearing with images of approaching a snow-covered country home with single lit candles in every window: “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Being my favorite Christmas song, I have collected recordings by Wayne Newton, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Reba McIntire, and Rosemary Clooney trying to find just the right one.

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Maybe it’s the loss of something I’ll never reclaim that prevents me from finding just the perfect recording, the one that I will exclaim, “Yes that’s it!” But even so, I know I will continue to try because I know that it is I longing for my family and I to be home for Christmas, now and always.

Love of My Life

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This week we will celebrate our 36th Wedding Anniversary. Or maybe I should say Tuesday will mark the 36th anniversary of our marriage as I have written in the past how hard it has been to celebrate our anniversary just three days before Christmas. This year I’m sure will be no less hectic with festive Christmas parties to attend, gift buying, and family home for the holidays. So before all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I want to take pause to reflect on what my wife and my marriage has meant to me.

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Simply put, this woman is the love of my life—and always will be.

Since starting this blog, I have written a number of posts about how special my wife is. And at the risk of repeating myself, last year on our anniversary, I wrote about what a treasure my wife was, not in the sense that she is a possession, but that she is the person I treasure the most.

By today’s standards, we married young and so we have had the opportunity to celebrate a number of anniversaries together. In fact, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary, I recognized that I had been married for over half my life—a most wonderful realization.

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So how did this woman become the love of my life? Well even though hindsight is supposed to be 20-20, reflecting back for me has not been as clear. It is analogous to one of my favorite things to witness in nature, the growth over time of plants—trees and shrubs in particular. While viewed on a daily basis, there is little perception of change, but when compared year-to-year, the evolution is strikingly obvious. And much like a young sapling that slowly grows into a majestic shade tree over time, so too has my love grown for my wife.

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Our lives together started out much like many other couples, although for us, it was a serendipitous event that brought us together. Following our chance meeting, we dated, became engaged, married, and then started our family.

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As with any new family with young children and not a lot of money, there were times when it was hard. The daily rigors of getting them off to school, of picking them up and taking them to their after school activities, of getting dinner fixed and then getting them settled for the night, all left little time for the two of us and our relationship to grow. And yet it did for as the saying goes, those things that don’t destroy us make us stronger, so too my love continued to grow.

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Over those years, I’ve witnessed our three kids growing up, moving out of the house, stepping off into their careers and starting their own families. These brief words are but a snippet of the plethora of day-to-day events that took place over the years—events too many to be easily catalogued, but yet each and of themselves, events that my wife and I shared together that quietly added richness to our relationship.

When we became empty nesters, our relationship began to take on a whole new dimension as it afforded us additional opportunities. We began to travel together much more.

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We were able to attend whatever activities we wanted to.

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We were simply able to spend more time with each other.

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Now that our kids have been gone from home for a number of years, even the memories of when they were toddlers running around in the yard are beginning to fade and be supplanted by more recent memories of just the two of us.

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But even that is changing again as we became grandparents to three grandchildren within the past year and a half. And as I witnessed my wife wonderfully caring for our children growing up, so too am I now seeing her sharing that love with our grandchildren in a special way.

So returning to my analogy from nature, even though I can’t recall the daily maturation of our metaphorical tree that represents my love for my wife, it has indeed grown majestically over our years together, and our grandchildren are now fresh, young branches shooting out, adding even more to its shade canopy.

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Happy anniversary to my wife of 36 years—to the love of my life!

ISTJ

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Over my 30+year career, I have gone through a plethora of management training programs at work, some useful and some not so much so. In addition, one of my two graduate degrees is an MBA in management. But of all the training I have gone through at work and at the graduate level, I’ve found the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to be the most useful both in my professional life as well as in my personal life. And for those of my readers already familiar with MBTI, you will recognize my type based on the title of my blog post.

For those unfamiliar with the MBTI, it is a personality assessment constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers based on the typological theory published by Carl Jung. Jung theorized that humans experience the world in four principle psychological functions—sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. Providing answers to a series of questions (which one can do online), the MBTI allows an individual to identify their preferences on four separate scales resulting in 1 of the 16 indicator types designated by a combination of four letters. And a typical question that might be asked is: “Would you rather go to a party with a large number of people or stay at home and read a book?”

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Probably the best way to describe this tool is to provide you with an insight into my own type.

The first letter reflects where you focus your attention, either as extraversion (E) or introversion (I). An easy way to assess this preference is to consider whether you are an extravert or an introvert (an obvious answer to the previous question for me being an “I” is I would rather stay home and read a book). But beyond this simple approach, another way to look at it is how you are energized. Are you recharged by interacting with others (E) or are you drained by interacting with others and need to get recharged by being alone (I). Half of the MBTI types are in fact extraverts and we know them most commonly by being the ones doing most of the talking.

Credit: learning-mind.com

Credit: learning-mind.com

And while talking, extroverts can also throw out some pretty outlandish ideas because they think out loud. Introverts on the other hand, think internally and so when they do finally speak, it is usually a well-considered thought. While everyone is either an “E” or an “I”, it isn’t an absolute but rather a continuum along an extroversion-introversion scale and in any given situation; someone can exhibit introverted or extraverted traits. For example, in the courses that I teach, people are often surprised when they learn that I am an introvert since I appear to be quite comfortable with public speaking and am usually most outspoken about the topics. While I may feel drained by the end of the day teaching, I actually get most energized from talking about the topics I teach.

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

The second MBTI letter deals with how you take in information and here is where a scientist like me can really shine. If you tend to gather a lot of facts to analyze a situation or make a decision, then you are an “S” which is what a lot of scientists are. However, if you tend to favor your own intuition rather than gathering facts, then you are an “N.” But someone who is too strong an “S” may gather too much data before making a decision and someone who is too strong an “N” may actually ignore critical facts that conflict with his or her own intuition.

Credit: logicalloss.com

Credit: logicalloss.com

The third MBTI letter reflects how you make decisions based on that information you either gathered or intuited. A “thinker” (T) will typically make the logical decision based on those facts. But a “feeler” (F) will let people’s feelings influence their decision even to the point of making a decision that conflicts with the facts. Being a “T”, I will almost always make the logical decision even if it might hurt someone’s feelings or be detrimental to them in some way. As a result, my peers and employees might view me as a heartless leader. The world needs both thinkers and feelers for balance.

Credit: personality-central.com

Credit: personality-central.com

The fourth and final letter is a bit less straightforward than the previous three and a little more difficult to understand how it affects our behaviors. Within the MBTI framework, it reflects how we deal with the world, either judging (J) or perceiving (P). But a much simpler way to think of it is how we organize our lives. If you are very organized (as I habitually am), then you are a “J” (e.g., a place for everything and everything in its place). If you don’t mind clutter (and sometimes not being able to find something), then you are a “P.”

I have so internalized this methodology that after knowing someone for only a brief time, I can usually guess his or her MBTI with about a 93.75% accuracy rate (only missing one letter out of the 16 different combinations). This is obviously the strong “S” in me coming out. For me, determining the first and last letters are fairly quick as it doesn’t take long to determine if someone is an extravert or an introvert and all I have to see is his or her desk to know if they are a “J” or a “P.” Past-observed behavior is what I typically rely on in identifying the middle two letters assessing someone’s fact gathering tendency and their proclivity to be overly influenced by people’s feelings.

This brief explanation is by no means a scholarly explanation but rather a simple guide to try to cognize MBTI. There are many, many books with much more details on how to understand and use this tool to not only build successful cross functional teams at work, but how to better communicate and get along with your spouse/partner. And there are even studies of MBTI subtypes (e.g., NTs vs. STs and NFs vs. SFs) that can help predict how individuals might deal with a given situation.

The Office Credit: NBC.com

The Office Credit: NBC.com

Soon after going through this training at work, it helped me figure out how to better communicate with my boss. With me being a fact gathering ISTJ, I would go to my boss to present my case for a decision sharing with him all the facts I had gathered. Before this training, repeatedly I would be frustrated because my boss, being an INTP, would not hear the facts because he was already making the decision based on his own intuition. Once I learned how he made decisions, I would still gather my facts to guide my decision but then would go to him and say if we didn’t decide to take a certain course of action, what the outcome would be. This he could hear and would often agree with my decision, the logical one based on the facts.

As I mentioned, the MBTI has also proven helpful in my personal life as well. On more than one occasion, it has helped me in conversation with my wife who is the exact opposite of me, an ENFP (opposites do attract). I know now not to act on the first idea she says as she is thinking out loud.

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And when my daughter announced that she was engaged to a scientist, I was most pleased that she would be marrying someone with a similar MBTI type as me. And a funny anecdote validated this for me.

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Soon after announcing their engagement, they came to see my wife and me and while we were outside in our pool, my wife asked me to bring her some ice to dump in the pool to cool off the water temperature. Before I could explain the fact of why several trays of cube ice would have minimal effect, both my future son-in-law and I were beginning to calculate in our mind the thermodynamic equation for how much ice it would actually take to lower the temperature of 30,000 gallons of water by just a single degree. I knew for certain right then that my daughter had made a very wise choice for a future husband.

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And recently on a trip to California (and what served as the inspiration for this post), I was delighted to learn that my daughter-in-law was also an ISTJ. I genuinely smiled confident that she and I would get along quite well together in the future. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but smile thinking that since she was married to my oldest son (an INTP), that just like in my own interactions with my boss, the two of them would have some “interesting discussions” preceding decisions in the future. But since they both have knowledge of their own MBTI types and how it influences their decision making, I’m confident the decisions they make will be for the best of their family.

Towns I’ve Lived In

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This past July marked the 45th year in which I have lived in Memphis. And although it is not the town I was born in, it is certainly the town I have lived in most of my life and the town I would call my hometown. While it has proven to be a very stable location for me, it didn’t start out that way.

By the time I had turned 14 years old, I had already lived in three different towns and my parents had lived in five different towns since getting married. These moves occurred because my father, being a minister, served several different churches early in his career.

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Up until the time that I was about four years old, I lived in Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-e-tish), LA. I have very few memories of living in this town and most of the memories I have are from seeing home movies or old photos.

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This was the house I was brought home to from the hospital after I was born. A few years ago, my siblings and I took one of our SIBSAB weekends there but even standing in front of the house in person, did not resurrect any memories of living there.

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The next town we moved to was West Monroe, LA. This is the town where I went to kindergarten and completed most of my elementary grades.

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We lived in this house with a very large backyard and used to play in the “hollows” that our backyard abutted next to. This is also the town where I had my first girlfriend, R, when I was six years old.

When I was in the fifth grade, we moved to a small town in Arkansas—Malvern. It was the smallest town I had ever lived in (population less than 10,000). Although we lived there less than four years, it is a town I have more memories of since I was 10 years old at the time we moved.

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This is the town where I got my first job, when I was about 12 throwing the town newspaper. My brother and I both had the route together, one of the largest in town, and so Monday through Friday afternoon, we rode our bikes and delivered the weekly paper. Then on Saturday, we had to go around and collect the paper fee, 35¢. Sometimes we would argue who would have to knock on the door and would get into a fight in the customer’s front yard. One of our customers went to my Dad’s church and so called our mom to tell her what happened. We obviously heard about that from our mom.

With the money we earned, my brother and I went in together and bought a mini-bike, which were just becoming popular. These could not be licensed for riding on the road and so with my friend who also had a mini-bike, we would ride throughout the roads and trails in the cemetery near our home. Fortunately the convenience of being there never materialized although one night my friend was helping his little brother get on the seat in front of him when his little brother grabbed the accelerator (twist grip) and they took off completely out of control before crashing into a ditch. Other than a bloody mouth from the fall, everyone was OK.

When I became a teenager, I talked my brother into selling the mini-bike so I could buy a motorcycle.

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By today’s standards, this was not a powerful bike having less horsepower than a riding lawnmower. But it was street legal and so I could license it and get a motorbike license myself. Since part of the paper route was on a highway, my mom didn’t want me to ride the motorbike to deliver papers on a busy thoroughfare so our compromise was I would throw papers while riding my bicycle on the sidewalk along the highway and then come home to get the motorcycle to deliver on the back streets.

In the seventh grade in Junior high school—the first time you could pick classes—I signed up for a course called “Survey” since all my fiends were too. A little misleading by the name, it was actually a physical education course and exposed students to all sports so they could “survey” to see which ones they might be interested in playing. I ran track and tried to play football. I could run pretty fast with my long legs but I didn’t have the strength or the build to be a football player. I tried anyway but the year I was an 8th grader, I was what you would call, a “bench warmer.” We were the junior varsity team (the varsity team was the 9th graders since junior high went up to the 9th grade) and even got to travel for road games, one I remember going to in Benton, AR.

In spite of not getting much playtime, my coach recognized my dedication and so offered to make me a team manager the following year. This meant I wouldn’t be sitting on the bench anymore, I’d be helping the team AND I would get a letter jacket. Unfortunately, we moved that summer and so I never got to. Moving when we did also meant that I had to break up with the girlfriend I had at the time. It seemed the right thing to do since a long distance relationship without all of the technology we have today just didn’t seem practical.

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So it was in July of 1970 that we moved to Memphis arriving at the manse I would live in until I went away to college.

Since I have lived in Memphis so long, it became a town of many firsts for me. It was here where I got my first “real” job selling ladies shoes at Goldsmith’s (which is where I met my wife). It is where I finished high school, went to college and graduate school (twice). And it is where all three of our kids were born, raised, and graduated from high school. In fact Memphis is the only town my wife has ever lived in being a third generation life-long Memphian.

So now that I am approaching retirement, the question is where should we live after I retire? That as they say is the 64,000 dollar question since with three grandchildren already and the possibility for more to come, the real question is can we possibly retire to a town that is close to all our kids and grandchildren. Only time will tell.