Lessons learned from a wet paper

“The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day.” – Wayne Gretzky

Every morning, I talk to my dad and tell him how much I miss him. On Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays, I miss him even more. Those are the “new” home delivery days for our sort-of daily paper. Yes, the paper is published daily, but budget cuts and cost-saving plans now make for a three-day home delivery service. Out of tradition, we still get home delivery of the Detroit Free Press, “our” paper, and just seeing the masthead makes me think of Dad even more.

After a night of downpours and thunderstorms, I woke up to coffee brewing (I so love programmable coffee makers!) and, while on my way to the front door, I wished Dad a good morning.

Hey Dad, I bet you’re going to be ticked this morning,” I chuckled to myself as I opened the door.

I was right. He’d be livid. Heads would be rolling downtown.

My paper was soaking wet, even though it was in a plastic bag.

Dad was a circulation guy, just like his dad. A late paper was unacceptable, unless it was due to a late press run. A wet paper was completely unacceptable. Period. End of story. Trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t win an argument with him over a wet paper. If you were one of his carriers, you would be told to “think ahead.” If there was even the slightest chance of that paper getting wet, you were going to go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that paper was dry – even if you had to triple bag the blasted thing.

I know this because my brothers, sister and I all had paper routes. So did our friends, our cousins and, eventually, some of our spouses. We learned from him how the newspaper “food chain” works. Here’s how (imagine him throwing in an expletive or two for emphasis):

“The carrier can make or break the paper he or she works for. Don’t you know that papers aren’t made for free? Someone has to pay all the people who get that paper on the doorstep every morning. So, the advertising rates are based on the circulation numbers. Circulation numbers are based on sales, particularly home delivery subscriptions. Sometimes content comes into play, but nine times out of ten, people quit the paper because of lousy service.

“So, if people quit over service, how do you justify ad rates? Or if the advertiser gets mad and takes his business to the competition, what do you think will happen? How do you pay people when revenues are down? You don’t. You lose numbers. You lay people off.”

Whoa – that’s one serious business lesson to learn.

Customer service skills were drilled into our heads at a young age, along with the world’s strongest work ethic.

Needless to say, the areas of circulation that were run by my dad were like a well-oiled machine. He knew the people to put into the right places to, in his words (and with his famous nod), “get the job done.”

At the time, I didn’t appreciate having to spend an extra minute on my route, bagging papers “just in case.” But as time has moved forward, and I am out and about in this world, I realize just how important those customer service skills are, and see the value in his lesson.

Sitting here, having a refill of coffee and waiting to get a dry paper, I lift up my mug and say, “thanks, Dad.”

And I will try really, really, really hard not to use an expletive as I patiently wait…

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A quick note to say thanks…

 

Gratitude is the music of the heart, when its chords are swept by the breeze of kindness.  ~Author Unknown

Just taking a quick moment to thank you all so very much for your support. As many of you know, I am relatively new to blogging. The fact that people are reading and responding to my posts is not only humbling but truly rewarding. The past few days I have received so many wonderful comments. Your “likes,” comments, personal notes and constructive suggestions are keeping me motivated.

There have been many changes in my life in the past few years, some good and some not-so-good. Transitioning from print media to other career ventures is just one of the changes and challenges! Personal changes, such as my dad’s struggle (and then his death) from Alzheimer’s; friends dealing with health challenges – both their own and that of their parents’ or children – and then losing friends way too soon have made for the more challenging times.

But the good has totally outweighed the bad. Had not these challenges been laid before me, my faith in God wouldn’t be where it is today. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now – writing. I wouldn’t have met new friends. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reunite with old friends, create stronger bonds within my own family or leaned on my dear friends for strength.

I would not have gained an attitude of gratitude.

Again, I say from my heart – thank you.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Wrapped in a prayer

“Pray, and let God worry.”  — Martin Luther

I absolutely love to knit, and though I’m still a beginner, it is something I really enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember where I initially learned. Memory says my great-aunt taught me, but my mom says it was her. All I can tell you is that as a youngster with a set of knitting needles in hand, I was really uncoordinated and rather confused with the process. So I crocheted instead.

As the years progressed, I became quite proficient at crocheting, but I always yearned to knit. Then I was busy raising four kids so the crafts, needles, yarn and such were stuffed in boxes and forgotten about.

It was so enthralling to watch someone just knitting away – witnessing something beautiful being made in brilliant color and a soft, comforting texture. So, about five years ago, I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself.

A simple kitchen dishcloth was my first successful project, and I have a drawer full of them to prove it! From knitting dishcloths I learned to make a baby blanket – which was simple because it was basically the same pattern with more stitches. And from that blanket I started making Prayer Shawls.

When I’d accompany my mom to my dad’s doctor appointments, I usually brought my knitting. It helped soothe me, because anyone dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient knows that with each doctor appointment or test, the family will most likely hear that the is patient getting worse, not better. And so one of the first prayer shawls I made, I gave to my mom.

The beauty of a prayer shawl is that you can choose to make it for someone in particular (which I have) or make one and donate it to total stranger (which I have done, too). I made a soft-pink shawl for a neighbor with breast cancer, a few shawls for relatives, and a few for several for people that I never met.

Beginning each shawl, I’d thank God for the ability to use my hands for His work, and then to ask Him bless the person who would receive the shawl. I’d pray for the recipient to feel God’s comfort, seek His grace, and that when they needed a big hug from God, they’d put the shawl around them and feel His touch.

Last July, my mom and I were getting my dad admitted to a nursing home. I can’t even begin to articulate the sense of loss we felt. I tried so hard to keep my composure, but once I got home, I completely broke down.

I went to visit Dad the next day, and there was a brown throw on the chair at the foot of his bed. I picked it up and handed it to a nurse’s aide, explaining it didn’t belong to my dad.

With a gentle smile, she said it was in fact his.

“Someone makes and donates prayer shawls to our new residents,” she explained.

With tears in my eyes, I covered my dad with this shawl that was made with the love and prayers of a total stranger. Maybe the knitter went through placing a loved one in a nursing home and knew extra prayers were in order. It was in that moment I realized just how comforting a prayer shawl is to the recipient.

I just wish I could personally thank the person who was so generous with their time and talents. I’m guessing the best way to say thanks is to pay it forward.

Have you made or received a Prayer Shawl? Feel free to share your story.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Forward Motion

A year ago at this time, we watched my Dad steadily decline, succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The good days were becoming good moments, and those moments were few and far between.

Watching him go downhill was so difficult. Physically, he was strong and healthy. Mentally, the simplest of instructions were a challenge. Simple things we take for granted daily – like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes  – were tasks that he not only couldn’t do, but he couldn’t even understand what he was being asked to do. I remember assisting him by putting his shoes and socks on one morning. There was a brief moment of frustration in his eyes, almost like he was communicating that I shouldn’t be helping him, as he’s the dad. Maybe he briefly remembered tying my shoes when I was little? I don’t know. All I do know is that as our eyes met, mine welled up with tears while helping him, knowing that if he did have any idea what had been going on in his life with this disease, he’d be completely and totally humiliated.

For instance, Dad was 75 years-old. He worshipped nearly every single Sunday of his life. Seventy-five years of Sundays! But, on Easter Sunday last year, he didn’t even get the concept of being in church. Standing and sitting for readings and hymns completely confused him. He didn’t understand Communion – in fact, he made a scene so loud in the sanctuary during Communion that my poor mother hurried him out of the building, my sister trailing not far behind.

I think a good portion of the congregation was in tears witnessing this event. Many had known my dad for years, and they watched the steady downward spiral. It was no secret – his ability to live at home – with my mom caring for him – was coming to an end. A nursing facility was on the horizon for him – or so we thought.

As we move forward in our “first year without him,’ we now come upon Easter. It will be hard attend church and not think of the heartbreak we witnessed last year. But it will be even harder to see his name in the bulletin, as it will be amongst the long list of flowers ordered by those of us missing loved ones. His name will be listed under “In Memory of …”

There are just some things you are not prepared for when you are moving forward.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb