Humor is (almost) always appropriate

I have found throughout my life that having a good sense of humor can be a life saver, sometimes literally. I’ve read that having a good sense of humor has even saved marriages! Can you remember any times when you got so mad, and you WANTED to stay mad at your better half, but you couldn’t remember why? And then, out of nowhere, one partner says something funny (which often time refers to a common experience the two of you have shared) and try as hard as you can not to, you burst out laughing and low and behold the crisis is averted. Laughter and crying are good for the soul and they both help one return to an emotional equilibrium.

I remember an event in my life when my mother was so mad at me that I was lucky I could run faster than her! Actually, I didn’t have to run, but I did have to leave immediately. My mom was suffering from dementia and I could not leave her home alone. It was time to find her an assisted living facility. Those of you who knew or have heard about my mom know that NOBODY told Alberta Blanche Sanders what to do or what not to do! Except, that, on this occasion I was dropping her of at an assisted living facility for good, it was going to be her new “home”. She got into her room, took a seat, and I brought in her suitcase. (The assisted living facility had prepped me for this moment, telling me that when I dropped her off to be ready to leave and not look back, no matter what). Sure enough, my mom got infuriated with me when she inquired about the suitcase and I told her that this was going to be where she was staying. I brought the suitcase in from the car, set it in her room, did an about-face, and began to walk out. She cursed me out like a drunken sailor, but I just kept on walking…I came by the next day right after work, petrified of what abuse I was about to recieve when she saw me. As I walked into her room, she looked up at me with a big smile on her face and said, “Son, it is so great to see you, thank you for coming to see me! (and she was not being sarcastic)”…and then came the dementia silver-lining moment…she said “You know, yesterday I was as mad as hell at you, but I can’t remember why!”… I followed with “Gee mom, I don’t remember you being mad at me at all! Oh well, I’m here now!” We hugged and all was well (and forgotten).

On to the topic of humor….a friend of my wife’s says that her boss emails the entire workforce a joke a day just to keep everyone’s spirits high…what a great thing to do during these times when we can feel isolated because of Covid-19 restrictions. So, I end this post with a joke that was shared with me yesterday, hopefully you well enjoy it too. Joke follows:

An Italian mother comes to visit her son Anthony for dinner.  Anthony lives with a female roommate named Maria.
During the course of the meal, Mama couldn’t help but notice how pretty Anthony’s roommate is.  She had long been suspicious of the relationship between the two and this made her more curious.
Over the course of the evening while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between the two than meets the eye.  Reading his mom’s thoughts, Anthony volunteered, “I know what you must be thinking.  I can assure you, mother, that Maria and I are just roommates.
About a week later, Maria came to Anthony saying, “Ever since your mother came to dinner I haven’t been able to find the sugar bowl.  You don’t suppose she took it, do you?”
Anthony answers,”Well, I doubt it,but I’ll email her just to be sure”
The email read:

Dearest Mama,

I’m not saying that you took the sugar bowl from my house and I’m not saying that you didn’t take it.  I’m just saying that it has been missing since you were here for dinner.

Love, Anthony

Several days later, Anthony received an email response from his Mama.  It read:

Figlio mio,

I’m not saying that you “do” sleep with Maria and I’m not saying that you “do not” sleep with her.  I’m just saying that if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the sugar bowl.

Love, Mama

MORAL: Never lie to your Mother

That’s all folks, keep LAUGHING!!!

Leadership – You Gotta BELIEVE!!!

Friends, those of you who know me personally know that my favorite topic is LEADERSHIP. However, that topic is so broad that I like to talk about it by taking baby steps, or one bite at a time. I also like telling stories, so today I hope that my story can highlight one very important concept included in any discussion of leadership, or more specifically, what great leaders DO!

Leaders MOTIVATE, and better yet, INSPIRE others to perform to their highest potential, and beyond!.

The funny thing about performance is that it isn’t always consistent. We are human beings with feelings, emotions, and are entitled to have that bad day once in a while. But, the best leaders understand all of these things, and they figure out what it takes for their “team” to bring their best game every time they are challenged. You may have often heard the phrase, “That’s why we play the game.” This phrase is often used in an attempt to explain how a here-to-fore winless team can beat a here-to-fore undefeated team.

It all begins inside the human mind. A big factor of whether a team can win is if the individuals on a team BELIEVE they can win. Think back to 1980, and the “Miracle on Ice”. The American Olympic ice hockey team beat the Soviet Olympic team by playing “over their heads”. On paper, the Soviet team was much better, but they did not win. The Americans BELIEVED they could and would win…every one remembers during the final seconds of that game sportscaster Al Michaels saying “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!!!”

I would like to share a true story that I experienced to illustrate how I feel emotions and inspiration work to improve an individual’s performance….the story begins in Secane, PA at my local Pricerite grocery store.

Let me begin by stating that, for better or worse, I have been told that I look a lot like the University of North Carolina’s head basketball coach, Roy Williams. I’ve been confused for him by bartenders and others who meet me for the first time. My favorite encounter was at an event where I walked up to the bar and the young lady (they are all young to me now) said “What will it be coach?”. (I knew she thought I was Roy Williams, but I played along as I have, in fact, coached many teams in my life so “Coach” as a title applies to me (as does bartender, minister, uber/lyft driver, director, assistant professor, colonel, etc.)). I replied, “I’d like a double IPA on tap if you have it.” She replied, “Coming right up Coach!”. She drew the draft while I fished out my wallet and as she approached me with the beverage and saw me ready to pay she said, “Put your wallet away, this one’s on me Coach!” I said thank you, took the drink, smiled at her, and stuffed the bill in my shirt! I digress… back to reality in Secane, PA at Pricerite….

I walked into the store heading down the first isle and an elderly man who looked a little down on his luck approached me and said with a very wide-eyed look, “COACH?” I saw that my presence (actually, in his mind, Roy Williams presence) had bouyed his spirits a little bit. I decided to play along. I nodded my head, drew closer to the gentleman, pulled out a piece of paper and pen, and signed a very scribbly “Joe Sanders” and gave it to him. As I handed him the “autograph” I wished him a good day and asked him to keep this on the “down low” while I was in the store. I could see he was excited and I didn’t want to burst his bubble.

Shoprite has many isles and I believe I crossed this man’s path at least 5 more times that day in the isles, each time we nodded to each other and occasionally winked at our little secret ;-). As he left the store I was in the check-out line. We both exchanged glances one more time and gave each other a thumbs up….we were both going to have a good day after this!

Now some would say that I was wrong to “lead this man on”. But before you judge me that way, consider this…at West Point, where the honor code states that ” a cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do”, we learned a term called “social honor”. We all took “cadetiquette” training where we learned how to write thank you notes and learned about social honor. (Frankly, I think part of it was so that we as cadets, fearing the penalty of expulsion for telling a lie, didn’t tell some officer’s wife that dinner that she prepared for us as guests in her home tasted terrible! The truth shall set you free!).

An example of using social honor would be when you receive a present from your grandma that she took months to knit. You think the sweater looks hideous, but you tell grandma that you love it. Why? Because you do not want to hurt her feelings AND you are not personally gaining by telling the lie. Or how about when my mom, who had dementia, asked if I had seen my father recently (he had died three years prior). I told her, “Sure mom, I just saw him the other day, he’ll be here soon!” She forgot the whole exchange. I learned the hard way the first time she had asked and I told her dad had died three years ago, she relived his death as if it had just happened. I caused her deep pain and decided I would never tell her the “truth” again if it was going to hurt her feelings. That is what social honor is all about, not hurting someone while not gaining from it yourself.

So, the topic here is LEADERSHIP and how good leaders MOTIVATE and INSPIRE others to perform better than they normally would. I’ll just say this…… when it comes to Roy WIlliams at the Shoprite in Secane, I would be willing to bet that the gentleman who “met Roy WIlliams” that day had a better day after meeting Roy, and if he were on a “team”, he would have performad better. Why? because he BELIEVED, and BELIEFS start in the mind! No harm no foul, he had a better day and I did not profit from the exchange.

OK, OK, you could say that I distorted the concept of social honor when I accepted the free beer from the female server as I technically “gained” something by going with the Roy William shtick, but hey, I never listed “angel” in my list of titles. Get over it.

Drive on soldiers, stay safe!

And remember, don’t stop BELIEVING!!!!


Following the Data – A simple application for daily life that will make you healthier! – One ounce/gulp

You may have heard the following riddle:

Question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

Answer: “One bite at a time”

That is often used when there is a huge tusk, I mean task (pun intended) ahead that is so overwhelming that you don’t know where to start. That is NOT what today’s discussion is about.

Today we are talking about those EASY tasks that we never seem to approach, but that are very important to our health and welfare in the long run. We procrastinate, thinking that there is “always tomorrow”, but why wait till tomorrow? As we should have learned, especially in these trying times, is that tomorrow is never guaranteed. So, what can you do today to help get on track?

Let’s look at one simple use of data science. (As I speak the whole world is talking about how we must use the existing data to beat the coronavirus, so this seems to be timely to me, especially since most of us are supposed to be staying at home)

Let’s begin….You’ve all heard that the best things in life are free. So let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good” and talk about “water”, which, compared to other liquids, is relatively free and is delivered right to your own kitchen and bathroom sinks.

I’m guessing that most of you know that the consumption of water is one of the most essential elements to leading a healthy life. If that is the case, why do so many of us disregard the advice to drink “8 – eight ounce glasses of water a day”? Even worse, how do I get my head around “64 ounces of water a day”?

Stay tuned sports fans, your life is about to improve, thanks to the Colonel’s use of data science!

Today (with an abundance of time on my hands), I decided to tackle the “64 ounces a day” dilemma.

So, we all know (I had to look it up) that there are 8 ounces in a cup. A cup is much easier to quantify than a “glass of water”, so I decided to do a very simple experiment. I measured a cup of water with a measuring cup and poured it into my oversized glass. I realized that the glass would hold more than one cup, so I added another cup, giving me a 2 cups of water. I then drank the entire glass of water (16 ounces) all the while counting the number of swallows it took me to comsume those 16 ounces. It took me 14 swallows or gulps.

We now can used this data to make quantifying “64 ounces a day” a very easy task. If 14 gulps is the same as 16 ounces (for me it was), then the total number of gulps needed per day is calculated as follows: 64/16 = 4…..and 4 times 14 =56. So, for me, I need to drink 56 gulps of water a day to maintain a healthy level of hydration!

Now, along the theme of not letting “perfect” be the enemy of “good”, it is better to drink a little more water than less, so my engineering and estimating experience tells me it is OK to round up a little bit and just say that I need 64 gulps of water a day, equivalent to the number of ounces. Oh, and yes, since my glass holds 16 ounces, I could just have easily just chosen to drink four of my big glasses of water a day. Do the math, but more importantly, FOLLOW DR. FAUCI AND DRINK WATER!!!

Keeping it all in perspective!

For me, this topic has some very real, and in the beginning, very sad memories. But the theme today is to not give up hope… other words… THIS TOO SHALL PASS!

Let me get through the sad part first to make a point……

On August 7, 1987 I received both the most exciting AND most terrifying news. After my wife had had two beautiful daughters, my very first son was born! These were exciting times! I had just resigned from my active duty military officer position to take on a new career as a stock broker (not knowing that just two months later we would experience the largest one-day loss in the history of the stock market). I was supercharged with excitement! I had plans for this young man….little league sports, going to sporting events, a possible future West Point cadet (I am a 1976 grad), and all of the other things that dads like to do with their sons! Little Ian Joseph Sanders was going to be a rock star!

The mood quickly turned from exuberence to fear when the doctor told us that our little angel “appeared” to have Downs Syndrome. It was going to take two weeks to verify the results of the blood work before we knew if the doctor’s thoughts were verified. I remember often praying to God to please “let him be a normal baby”. Prior to learning the blood test results, I took a trip to my alma mater and stood in front of the Cadet Chapel at West Point and looked out over the great expanse of the Cadet area with the beautiful and uplifting view of the Plain, Trophy Point, with the Hudson River in the background. West Point always inspires me, and I needed inspiration at this point in my life.

Fast forward…..Ian DID have Downs Syndrome and we soon learned what a blessing he was to our family! He did have many medical issues, but your baby is your baby, you love them and that love grows more and more over time. Ian had 5 surgeries before he was even two years old. The first, was open heart surgery when he was only 6 months old and weighed only 11 lbs. Historically, one of three babies at that age did not survive that surgery. I remember while in the waiting room at NYC Medical Center a doctor coming out and informing another set of parents that their baby had not survived the surgery. It struck fear in my heart as I watched them break down and awaited the news about my own son’s fate.

A little later, our surgeon came out and informed us that Ian had done very well! We were on Cloud Nine! Prior to that we had resigned ourself to the thought that God may choose to take Ian that day and we would accept whatever happened.

Ian had four more surgeries, one on each ear, and one on each hand in the upcoming months. By the age of two, he was on his way! His sisters Jillian and Bryn (who were older than Ian) and then later Kelly all loved their brother.

I wont focus on the details, but Ian passed away before his third birthday from pneumonia. He went into the hospital on December 23, 1989 and his mother joined him three days later as she also had contracted pneumonia. We all decided that we would put Christmas on hold that year until Ian came home from the hospital. Christmas and New Year’s Eve came and went. Ian’s mom was released from the hospital on January 3, 1990 and we were told by the doctor that Ian would be coming home soon!

We were all excited to “restart” our Christmas celebration (nobody had opened one present…we wanted our little guy there!)

On January 6, 1990 Ian’s mother took the call while I was out delivering newspapers. She was told very abruptly that “Ian had expired” with no further explanation. I got home from delivering newspapers and was greeted at the door by my father-in-law who gave me the bad news.

I cannot begin to share the grief that we all felt…only those who have lost a child would understand.

But , the whole point of my message today begins right now….

Of course, my first thought was disbelief. I remember one particular moment that actually got me back on my feet….I remember praying to God to “please bring him back, bring my son back, Downs Syndrome and all!”

Right after that prayer the big AHA MOMENT hit me….I realized that, in a span of less than three years, I had prayed to God for OPPOSITE outcomes!!! In August of 1987 I prayed for a “normal” baby, and then in January of 1990 I was praying for my Downs Syndrome baby back! It hit me that I was not in charge and that I had to accept what had happened. My healing began.

Today, all memories of the times with Ian are good ones. I feel blessed to have spent 29 months on this earth with him, and his spirit is alive and well in all who knew him!

Which leads me to totay’s point….this Coronavirus is scary and indiscriminate. It can lead us to deep depression if we allow it to. Now is the time to keep it all in perspective,,,,, this too shall pass, and it might not be on our timeframe….but we must be patient…haste makes waste and we must support each other, practice safe health habits, and love one another….from a distance.

Now what do I do? The Whole World is Turned Upside Down!

Bull Shit…there is plenty to do if you really think about it. If you are like many people who are inprisoned in their own home most of the time now, use this time to plan your future.

Start with what you CAN and CANNOT control. This is not a CDC lecture, you all know what to do to stay away from the perils of the Coronavirus….this is about what to do while we all wait for this terrible period to end. The key theme is to NOT let physical isolation create emotional isolation!

Some thoughts….

  1. Get up and make your bed right away in the morning! You will be less likely to dive back in when you feel bored!
  2. Use this time to improve your eating habits! You can’t go into restaurants, so buy healthier food and eat it!
  3. GET OUT of your closed quarters and WALK every day! And after you walk, do as many pushups as you can right before hitting the shower.
  4. Call your relatives and friends on the phone every day….call the elderly neighbor that moved away who has no family. Go through your address list on your cell phone and make those calls. SHAME on you if you don’t.
  5. USE social media (facebook, twitter, etc) to share good news stories and ideas. Today I took a video from my condo of the American flag blowing in the breeze while blasting Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” song and posted it on my Facebook page….lot’s of likes and “Thanks”
  6. Go through your finances and eliminate expenses that are useless…like that weightloss gym that you pay monthly for that you haven’t been to in years….come on, get serious….see point #3 above!!!….you have TIME now to revisit where your money is being wasted!
  7. If you have federal student loans, log in to your loan servicer on line and request a “coronavirus fiorbearance”. it’s good for your financial picture as congress as passed relief allowing no interest or late fees and you’ll get to skip at least one payment!
  8. Don’t sleep all day….stay active as much as possible and get to bed early, and sleep all night instead! It’s much better for you.

    That’s it for now my friends, I’ll be back soon with more of these Colonel’s Kernals!

    Stay Healthy, mentally and physically!

Fun on the road – the untold rewards of being an Uber/Lyft driver

It’s been a while since I posted here, but I am still living and enjoying life. My first two stories brought me back to my youth…one story of when I was a cub scout and one was of making mistakes as a baseball umpire. Both stories took place in my “formative years”. Today’s story took place recently, like, this year.

One of the norms of growing old is living with a deteriorating body. In the last ten months I have had both spinal surgery and hip replacement surgery. Walking great distances is still painful, so I have resorted to work that doesn’t require me to stand up or walk much….welcome to the “professional ridesharing world” of Uber and Lyft driving….some people do not like driving at all…I am not one of those people. I love driving, always have. Maybe it goes back to my Detroit roots where cars really mattered in life. I remember my dad driving straight through from Detroit to Tampa as a child as we would visit Grandma Stella on spring break in junior high school.

I love meeting new people, love to drive, and love listening to music. I also love to tell stories and my Uber/Lyft passengers are perfect captive audiences!!! Now, I will admit that there isn’t a good story that I do not love to tell, often! My step-daughter, Julie, when she heard I was going to beginning my career as an Uber/Lyft driver, gave me some advice (she knows me quite well)…she said, “You know Joe, not everybody likes to talk, and certainly not everybody likes to hear YOU talk!”…In other words, don’t bore your passengers with your stories!….I replied, “I know that Julie, but I have a perfect schtick. When a passenger approaches the car I first address them by name to ensure that they are getting in the correct car. Then, once they get in the car I ask them if they are late or in a hurry. They usually are very appreciative of that question. Regardless of if they are in a hurry or not, I tell them “Good, because I am a really nice guy, but if you are late I will only be nice to you!”…that makes them chuckle and then I ask them if the temperature in the car is comfortable for them and to please tell me if they want it cooler or warmer. Finally, I ask them if they have a music preference and let them know that I have siriusxm radio. If they are not talking to me after those quick 4 questions, we aren’t talking” (FACT: I have provided over 1100 Uber/Lyft rides and I estimate the 95% + of my passengers ae lively talkers (which certainly doesn’t hurt my tip income).

So, the money is not the main reason that I drive for Uber/Lyft. I mentioned earlier that I love driving, people, and music. The first love is people, and the variety of people that I get to befriend is astonishing. I’ll talk about some of those people (without jeopardizing their identies) in future posts, but I want to tell you briefly about two passengers of very diverse backgrounds just to demonstrate why I love being a rideshare driver.

The first story is about a man and his wife that I picked up at their home one late afternoon who were dressed to the nines. Tuxedo and formal dress. They were headed to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia from a very nice suburban home on a trip of about 45 minutes. After my normal four questions, we were talking. After about 15 minutes of small talk, the gentlemen mentioned that he was receiving an award that night and that he needed to practice his acceptance speech. I immediately turned the music off and stayed quiet as he read aloud. After he completed reading the speech, I asked if he minded if I made a recommendation. He was happy to listen and I made my rewording recommendation. He liked my recommendation and modified his talk. Actually, we did that several times as he continued to modify his acceptance speech. By the end of the ride, he thanked me and said he never expected such professional guidance from his Lyft driver. He rewarded me with a very handsome tip. But for me, I just loved the interaction and the feeling that I had helped somebody.

The next passenger was one of much less means. I was in Wilmington Delaware and picked up a young lady who had a 1 year old baby in a stroller. When I arrived at the Walmart to pick her up, she looked frazzled, she looked pressured. I opened the door for her and her baby and she thanked me. Immediately after we began the ride, and before I could give her the final 3 of my questions her phone rang. It was a male voice giving her grief for taking Uber and she yelled back that the bus never showed up and that she had no choice. She hung up on the man and then told me that she was indeed in a hurry. Her destination was listed as “Money till Payday”. The situation certainly told me that she was not a person of means. When we arrived at the address of “Money till Payday” we only found a bus dispatch location, no business anywhere looking like what she had expected. She began to panic in the back seat.

I turned the engine off and told her not to worry. I told her that I was going to take care of her. I told her to take her time, make some phone calls, come up with a plan that worked for her, and that I would take her anywhere she needed, for free. I saw her shoulders drop with relief and she thanked me profusely. It took almost ten minutes for her to come up with a plan, but I took her several miles to her new drop off location, jumped out of the car, and opened the door for her. She said to me, “Sir, thank you and God Bless You and your family, you have no idea how you much you have helped me and you just made my day”. She pushed her child in her stroller with a proud confident walk. I felt rewarded to have been a part of her day.

I have been blessed in life and no amount of income can replace the great feeling of helping someone in need whether they are rich or poor, we are all human and deserve to be respected and loved. Thanks for reading…ttyl! .

Back in the Day

Most people in America know that Little League baseball is for children up to the ages of 12. Where I grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area after 12 you could play Pony league which was for 13 and 14-year-olds and Colt league which was for 15 and 16-year-olds.

While this story is about baseball,  it’s more about certain things that you can do and not do in life with respect to authority,  decision making, and relationships. That may sound kind of deep, but it’s not so let the story begin…

When I was in the Pony league at 14 years old and playing for the Tigers we were playing the Orioles. I remember one play when I was coming around third base heading for home and the catcher had the ball while I was still about 10 feet away from home plate. I had no other choice but to try to run him over and make him drop the ball which I did and he did. I was safe at home plate, scored a run,  and the manager of the other team (who just happened to be the catcher’s father) came out screaming and yelling at the umpire and me. Back in the day you could run over the catcher if he was in your way, so I was safe, the catcher was hurting, and the manager/father was angry.

The story gets better when, the very next year, I became an umpire at the age of 15 and umpired for the Pony league. One day I just happen to be umpiring an Orioles game and as luck would have it, my favorite catcher played as a 14-year-old in that league. His dad was still the manager which had no bearing on anything in my mind.

I remember one time late in the game when said son/catcher was batting and he hit a fly ball to centerfield. From behind home plate it looked to me like a sure out and I failed to run down first baseline to get a better view of the play. As the only umpire on the field, it was my responsibility to get the best view of the play at all times. But, it was a very hot day, and I didn’t feel like running to get a better view especially as it initially looked like the center fielder would make an easy catch…..The centerfielder came running in and made what we call a shoestring catch and  held his glove up in the air with the ball as he tumbled forward. I gave the raised fist “OUT” sign after which the manager (Dad) , came running out on the field screaming at me. He told me that the ball had been trapped and that his son was safe ….I had called him out and I was sticking with my call. The manager ranted and raved and made the mistake of saying the “F” word….., at which point I ejected him out of the game with a dramatic “you’re outta here” motion. The man, at least twice my age and spewing anger that had lasted since the previous season when I had roughed up his son, kept yelling and would not back down. Amidst all of his ranting and raving, I calmly turned to face him directly, and in a normal tone of voice gave him five minutes to leave the field or his team would forfeit the game. Seeing that I wasn’t kidding, his other adult coaches restrained him and escorted him out of the area.

After Dad left the field the play the game continued and ended peacefully. Right after the game a friend of mine (Butch Wingfield) who had been watching the game came up to me and said to me “You know you blew that call right?” He said the centerfielder did not catch that ball in the air and that it had bounced about a foot in front of him. I said well that may be true,  but you’re not allowed to swear at an umpire so that’s the way it is.

Teaching point for me as an umpire is you cannot stay behind home plate no matter how tired you are you must run and get a better view of the ball. The teaching point for the manager was a judgment call cannot be protested and you cannot swear at an umpire, even if said umpire kicked your kid’s ass the prior year. Back in the day that was my story and I’m sticking with it.