Category Archives: Adult Children

The green belt as a nice backdrop…

I can’t count the times these letters have touched on or skirted environmental points over the years. It’s an important touch-point for me and one of the few hot button issues that I consistently push.


March 11, 2013

Ellen/Reid: The trees out back are beginning to bud, a sure sign that before long we will be completely shut off from view of the units 75-100 yards away. Felicia nosed around at some other single floor condos and she couldn’t find any that had the appeal of ours. The green belt is a nice backdrop, and I suspect that of all the units here, we have the best in that respect. What

The green belt is safe refuge from marauding feral cats for the birds that visit our window feeder. We have a room with a view - and it's all green.

The green belt is safe refuge from marauding feral cats for the birds that visit our window feeder. We have a room with a view – and it’s all green.

we don’t have is the warmest unit around. That’s what got us looking around at potentials. Heat rises, and it rises quickly up and out of the room where we want to stay warmest. The fireplace has been on almost non-stop and Felicia vegs in front of it most evenings while I stay Continue reading


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A public display of private affection…

Today's letter to mom before it was tucked into the envelope. Some aren't sure if letters to her are worthwhile. Not me. If a letter gives her a few minutes of enjoyment, what's wrong with that?

A blog is an odd beast.  It is an open book to whatever the topic is.  Although mine has yet to catch on with the masses, in theory this post could make its way around the globe in the time it would take you to read this whole shebang.  Maybe faster.

What is doubly weird is that this blog is all about what would be, under most normal circumstances, a highly private matter – the personal correspondence between a father and his children.  But here they are, reams of letters, for all to see.

As it has occured to others, how do I reconcile a public display of private affection that others can see, too?  That is a fairly pointed, but fair, question.

I guess the short answer – you will be spared the long version – is that this whole exercise is an object lesson on how one dad goes about the business of family business.  By necessity, you ought to see what the hell I’m talking about in the most graphic of terms – the literal pages themselves.  I’m not above slicing out paragraphs that are solely intended for Ellen and Reid only.  I’ve done so with regularity.  You see most of the dirty laundry but not the whole washer load.  That might change, but not right now.


Bridger update: The list of tentatives continues to grow.  If everyone went who has voiced an interest, we’d be at 10 right now.  I’m going to do two things: there is a rustic ranch B&B on the outskirts of Pinedale that will provide affordable rooms the night(s) before the trip.  They might also help arrange pack animals (horses or llamas) but I do not know the pricing.


My brother thinks my letters to my mother are a waste of time.  The staff at her facility don’t think she grasps everything.  But she doesn’t have to grasp it all.  She just has to grasp a few things.  So, I will continue sending a Friday letter to my mother.  Here is today’s letter to her.

October 22, 2010

Mom: We are smack in the middle of Indian summer here.  The weather has been glorious.  Not too hot, not too humid, just right.  I see that the weather in Grand Island is pretty good, too.

Man, Nebraska really got taken to the cleaners by Texas.  I thought for sure that was a game the Big Red would win in a cakewalk.  But nothing should surprise us any more about that team.

Ralph says you’re doing pretty well these days.  That is good to hear.  And it was good to talk to you the other day.  I need to do a better job of calling you.  I promise to do better.

Been riding the Harley a lot.  It’s much more fun to ride when the weather is cool but not rainy.  Rode through the mountains last weekend and it was very pretty.  The leaves are changing and the mountain streams looked clear and cold.  There was not as much traffic on the roads as I thought there might be.  That made for pretty good riding.

I have to admit to having ice cream these last few days.  I went to the grocery store the other night and made a trip down the ice cream aisle.  They had some on sale and I wilted.  It makes me feel guilty to eat it but it sure tastes good.  It’s all gone now.  Urp.

Now that it’s cooling down around here it’s time to begin to bake bread again.  My house just gets too hot when the oven is on during the warmer days.  But with the temperatures cooling it makes the kitchen that much more comfortable for baking.  I should send you a loaf or two.

Looks like I will be in Minneapolis for Thanksgiving to see both Ellen and Reid.  My plane ticket was bought this week and I’m really excited about going.  Ellen has already told me that I’ll be the chief cook for the weekend and Reid wants to help with the cooking, too.  He’s pretty good around the pots and pans.  Ellen isn’t much of a beef lover so it will be turkey the entire time, although her main request is for me to make breakfasts.  It’ll be pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs and bacon.  Her husband Tim can eat like a horse, as can Reid, so there will be no shortage of food.  I’m glad you will be in Ralph and Gayle’s house for the holiday.  Maybe there is a chance Joe will get out there, too.

Things are going fine at work.  Busy and hectic, but there’s nothing new about that.  I like what I’m doing these days but there’s a lot of it to do.  You be good, stay warm, and watch for another phone call real soon.

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The most important letter a father can write…

A few days back I sent Reid a letter with my advice and counsel following his nice review with an ad agency superior who is a few rungs up the ladder.

This sort of note is the most important letter a father can write.  It is a true one-off.  I’m not so much lecturing a son as I am talking to a grown man who is on his way.  Whatever path he follows is really of his choosing.  I can only weigh in with what I perceive from a distance and apply the twists and turns from my own experience.  My job is to be supportive and point out the pros and the equally plentiful cons.

In the final analysis, it’s all up to him.  But he should know I’m there for him every step of the way.  He’s gotten this far totally on his own.  He’s fully capable of taking the next steps, too.  With a little nudge from his old man.


October 13, 2010

Reid: I’ve got to hand it to you, that was good news yesterday about your meeting with the upper crust.  You’ve come a long way in not a whole lot of time, and they seem to have a good bit of confidence of what you’re doing for the agency.

I wouldn’t fret too much about the raise.  It is still a raise, and probably in line with what a lot of stressed-out businesses are giving these days.  It could be the opposite, trust me.  You have to put your one-on-one conversation in the context of where you were about this time last year, and it is a great sign of their faith.  As for the promotion, that will probably come in due time.  My guess is that as the economy has failed to perk up let alone motor along, agencies are the first to feel the pinch when companies tighten the purse strings.

You should keep doing what you’re doing with _______: working hard at your day job, yet looking for every opportunity to remind them that you have good skills, that you are ready for whatever next step there is, that you have other things to offer other elements of their business.  They apparently are starting to notice those things, too.  You should be far from panic mode at this moment.  Far from it.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters.  From what I know of the PR and ad business, that is the lay of the land.  People move and gravitate to the next best thing.  That is just the way and the reality of that world.  I would be cautious about the come-ons and promotions you get from other hiring firms.  You’ll need to be judicious about who you talk to.  Is there someone outside the firm that you might talk to?  The grass can seem to be awfully green on the other side of the fence but make sure to talk to people before you jump the fence to someone else.  Do your diligence on whoever might hire you.  Are they are strong player in your field?  Do they have the pockets to be a player in advertising?  Is the situation right for you?  What’s the buzz about other shops that you might want to investigate a little more closely?  I suppose that’s where the local ad trade rags might come in handy.  I assume, too, that you read those.  You can read a lot between the lines.  I don’t know if Bruce or Bob have any inside information but it might be worth a shot to call them.

I’m not as keen on a move to NYC unless there is something solid there in terms of income and responsibility.  New York is an expensive town and unless you are pulling in some good bucks and have the right situation for your career, I’m just not sure about it.  But on the other hand, you’re young, you don’t have lots of belongings to move, you’re not married (that I’m aware of) and you can always cut and run for another situation back closer to the heartland.

All things considered, things seem to be moving in the right direction.  You have some options that you didn’t have even a year ago.  I’d endorse looking around if you’ve thought about the current situation and see no other roads that you can take to further yourself.  Hey, a raise is better than nothing.  Just make sure you don’t jump ship until you know you can land safely elsewhere.  I’m proud of what you’ve done and how you’ve done it.

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Falling upward…


My friend Bob sent this photo of my letter to him, plus the $1 I grudgingly owed him for a lost bet.


It has been some time – a few months anyway – since I’ve written a letter to only one of the kids.

Now is the time for another.

Reid has done a better than admirable job at his gigantic ad agency in Chicago.  The advertising game is a harsh what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.  He has persevered after his primary account was lost to a competitor.  He made himself valuable with his attitude and his intellect.  The account went down but he fell upward.  And that is a great thing.  This week he got a raise and a shift to other big accounts.  Maybe he didn’t get all he was after, but I am very proud of his stick-to-itiveness.  This is a kid who, early in his agency career, got axed along with a slew of line staff at another shop.  At a tender age he became a graduate, with honors, of the school of hard knocks.

I’m not sure when the letter to him will ultimately surface on this page.  I will ask but that will be his call.  Yet that is the prerogative of dads and moms: tell their children when they have done something that is good and, secondarily, pleases their parents.  That is the gist of the note to Reid.


Bridger Wilderness update: Hey, I’m up to one companion for the July, 2011 trip.  My cousin Tom Andersen from Oregon, is on board.  Bring it on, Tom.  Hey, there’s room for plenty more wanderers.


But it’s Wednesday, and we’ll reach a bit further into my bag of tricks for an older letter to the twosome.

July 9, 2007

Reid/Ellen: As weekends go on the old 1-10 scale, I’d have to give this one a 3.  This is Murphy’s Law as relates to weekends: whatever could go wrong did go wrong.  And once it goes wrong, it really never gets right.

It started when I took the hog in for its 30,000 service — 30,000 miles, can you believe it? – and since the Harley dealership (i.e. crooks) didn’t have loaner bikes, I rented a Dyna Wide Glide for the day at an alleged steep discount.  Anyway, the bike didn’t have a windshield, so it was nice to feel the wind, and bugs, in my face for a change.  I went home and laid around then thought ‘what the heck, I might as well get out and ride’.  So I went northeast of town to Lowe’s Motor Speedway, an absolutely enormous venue that can sit 200,000 for stockcar (i.e. NASCAR) races.

On the way back, it clouded up, and before I knew what hit me, the rain was coming down sideways.  If you’ve never been on a bike in the rain without a windshield, the best way to explain it is that raindrops feel like needles.  In the space of :30, my face was utterly exfoliated.  It was raining unbelievably hard, and by the time I got to shelter under the first Interstate bridge, I was completely soaked.  But it was very hot, in the mid-90s, although the shower cooled it down a fair amount.  Seems we had a microburst which shoved down trees and powerlines all over the city, and by the time I got back to the Harley dealership (i.e. crooks) I’d navigated through standing water and was mud from head to toe because of all the traffic ahead of my kicking up dirt and debris.  And if it’s not enough to catch raindrops, try some sand and stones at 70 mph.  That gets your attention.  Now I’ve been in rain before and really don’t mind it, but this was incredible.

And that was the high point of entire two days.  Against my better judgment, played golf yesterday, and it was more of the same you’ve heard me whine so often about: bad, bad, bad.  Shank, shank, shank.  It’s sickening.  Reid, I may give you my clubs when you and Rachel are down here.  I stink.

Am supposed — supposed — to go in today for a skin treatment called Levalan.  It’s where the dermatologist slathers your face in some gunk and, as he says, you sit in the lobby for an hour or so to “let the marinade work” (his words), then you sit under some blue light for 90 minutes.  It turns your skin bright red — they say absolutely no post-treatment sunlight for 48-72 hours — and in theory it’s supposed to rid your skin of pre-cancerous cells.  I’ve had what they call squamas cell carcinomas taken off in recent weeks and this is supposed to do the trick.  But when he uses words like marinade and sort of laughs off the treatment, it makes you wonder.  So, I’m getting a second opinion in the very near future.

Did bake some round Italian loaves Friday night and dropped them off to some folks around the office on Saturday morning before the deluge.  I dunno, Reid, these loaves are good but my gosh, it’s a three-riser and takes roughly 5 hours from start to finish and didn’t take things out of the oven until 11:30.  Hardly worth it.  But damn, it makes good toast.

Okay, here’s the skinny on Grandma’s birthday.  Uncle Ralph has made arrangements for photos on Friday at 2:00.  I don’t know why he didn’t get this figured out for Saturday, but that’s the way things are.  Can you guys make that?  If you need plane tickets, go ahead and make ‘em.   FYI…with Joe’s wedding in January, it seems plane tickets may be $1,100 according to Ralphie.  That may change our plans a bit.  Let’s reconsider making that trip.

Be good, be safe, have fun.

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When mundane is the best you can do…


The old girl finally has her N.C. license plate, yet another sign of the apocalypse: my Southern roots. The Oct. 11 letter will deal with okra, cornbread and a mishmash of N.C. roads.


There was nothing in last week’s letter to generate much more than a yawn on the part of the kids.  It’s not possible for a letter to be much more mundane.  There just didn’t seem like there was a hell of a lot to it.  But I suppose it did the job in that it spawned a batch of texts and calls between the three of us about the holidays, about work, and their grandmother.  Not that the letters are Gold Star quality every week.  Some days mundane is the best you can do.

But mundane might be welcomed by other people.  Case in point: a young woman in Raleigh sent an e-mail spoof to a friend about her escapades with an unknown number of guys – naming names and anotomical data, of course – and before she knew what hit her, her handiwork did an exponential number on her; 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc.  All the way into the millions.  She became an Internet sensation and even made cable TV news.

In a morbid way, maybe the object lesson is that salaciousness is the quick and dirty way to spread the word around.  I’m not at that point yet, but when I feel the urge to exponentially increase my readership, you’ll be the first to know.


October 4, 2010

Ellen/Reid: This is the first morning since I don’t know when that I’ve worn a jacket to the office.  It’s on the cool side and a bit rainy although it will let up here shortly.  Ellen, I noticed in your picture of Henry that your leaves are down.  That’s just how much further along you guys are compared to the Carolinas.

The big news is the extension of my full time employment.  Just when I was ready to give up the ghost a call comes in from HR to inquire if I would be amenable to the extension through roughly mid-November.  My response was ‘of course’.  However, it’s on a rather unfortunate project.  The bank has a backlog of many, many letters of complaint and comment from customers and others, and the decree has come down that we will whittle the pile down.  Enter Dave into the picture.  I am about to become a letter writer, but nothing along the lines of the notes you get.  Rather, these are formulaic letters that must pass legal muster.  But I should be pretty good at it and have hit the ground running fast.  I’m glad to have the extension and the work, and who knows where else it might lead to.

But Tuesday night I have something of an orientation at REI.  I inquired some time ago because I like the store and the subject matter.   But half a glass full is better than none, and without knowing if or when the bank situation might improve, what the heck.  The only ticklish thing is what will come of Thanksgiving in the Twin Cities.  That’s the one drawback to this master plan.

We rode to Savannah this weekend for a budget-minded trip to celebrate my reprieve at the bank.  What we didn’t know was that it was Octoberfest and the town was packed to the rafters with revelers.  We stayed at some budget-minded place well south of the downtown.  One thing about Savannah is that the riverfront has typecast restaurants which all tend to serve the same type of fried seafood which is okay but the better eateries are outside the mainstream so all the unknowing tourists get jammed into the same general vicinity.  But it was still fun and it’s nice to be on the river and watch the boats go by.  The first highlight was riding SC 321 all the way down from Charlotte to Savannah.  A great road, and it puts you very close to the populace which is half the fun.  The second highlight was riding over to Tybee Island which is just east of Savannah.  It’s very nice and while far from fancy is the antithesis of the more well-know spots such as Myrtle Beach, Oak Island, or even Hilton Head.  The ride at highway speed on the Interstate on the way home was a downer.  You just don’t get to see anything other than traffic, traffic, traffic.

Talked to your grandmother the other day.  She is just having a rough go with things.  She has this mind set that it is her against the world.  I posted a photo of her and Ralph and Gayle and at least she’s smiling for a change.  The change in medications is helping a little bit but it hasn’t smoothed over all the rough edges.  As long as she continues to make progress, that’s fine with me.  In some ways I’m distressed at not making the trip to Nebraska – I would already be on the road this morning – because I’d like to see her.  It’s hard for me to think about her out there but she is in a better place than before.  I probably will not get out there for Christmas.

Well, have to dash back to the salt mines and the new situation.  Before long I should have a determination about Thanksgiving and will be in touch about that very shortly.  You two be good and keep your heads above water.  Glad you’re working hard, Ellen, but is it too hard?

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Someone worse off…

Apologies for the blurred image. I took this cell phone image while on the move after my footsteps woke this homeless man.

Sunday morning about 7:15 , a little later than usual, I hit the streets for a walk at leisure-speed, armed and emboldened by a strong – brutally strong – cup of coffee.  The path is a typical route of about 4.5 miles (Sharon View to Colony, on to Sharon, a right on Morrison, left on Delaney, another left on Fairview, right on Sharon again, then a left on Sharon View and on to home).

The goal is to get the motor running, think about the day and week, and just get outside.

I had some outside company as my walk neared it’s end.  Directly alongside my path and not 10 yards away from four-lane Sharon Road, was a homeless man, asleep.  Or at least asleep until I noisily went by.  Charlotte has a lot of such tired men.

His interrupted slumber was a metaphor.  There is always someone worse off than you.  That’s a point my letter made to Ellen and Reid this week – which is my last at the bank.  There is always someone worse off than you.


Here is last week’s letter to the kids.

September 20, 2010

Ellen/Reid: My plane hit the ground last night about 11:45 and that ended what was really an incredible trip.  It was pretty much the great escape and it was great to see Dave H__________, Bob F___________ and Dave D___________ in Coeur d’Alene.  It’s quite the spot.  Not real high (alt. 2,200 ft.) but still mountainous and the lake is incredibly clear.  The town of Coeur d’Alene is nice although none of us could see ourselves living there.  We boated on the lake, drank wine, played golf, drank more wine, golfed again and ate like nobody’s business, followed by still more wine.  The town was as you might expect, filled with tourists and mountain people.  The golf course was lush and manicured.  We had a young guy caddy for us although we were on golf carts.  Our group really didn’t spray shots all over the place so that left him to clean clubs, fix ball marks and read putts.  Dave H. made a mile of putts on the final day to take the steam out of the rest of us although bob claimed the big bucks.  On a side note, the pro shop did a nice job of displaying Pat’s Stonehouse golf prints and they said the prints really sell well.  Somehow, I need to think of an appropriate way to thank Jane for her planning and enthusiasm.  If you have any ideas, send them my way.

On the way out we flew directly alongside the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming.  From my window seat on the port side of the aircraft I could see the lakes and stream beds where we fished and camped, and other peaks that we traversed or climbed.  It’s just an incredible place.  I will do everything in my power to swing a trip out there next year and of course you all are invited.  As we cruised at 31,000 ft. and the range crept slowly by it seemed to me that of all the places I’ve been to, this is without doubt my favorite spot in all the world.  Not entirely sure why that is since there are higher, craggier mountains.  But nothing on the scope and sheer vastness of this place.

But now it’s back to the real world.  Have an interview later this morning with a local firm and we’ll see how hard they want to kick the tires.  I hope quite hard.  It’s a media relations job.  The firm does environmentally related work and that has some appeal to me.  I am ready to work and am anxious for something to pop.  It’s all about throwing mud at the wall.  There are enough irons in the fire that hopefully something will spring free.  All it takes is one.  In the afterglow of the trip I was moping on the drive down to the office (I have 10 more days here) until I saw a homeless guy sleeping with his face impressed directly on the brick walkway just down the block from my office.  That’s when it occurred to me that there is always someone worse off than you are.  That was a pretty indelible image.  There’s always someone else worse off than you are.

On the plane I continued to draft what is a business plan and content for what could be my business web site for PR/media relations/content.  Reid, I should have that to you in short order after some additional massaging.  I’m trying to position myself as something of a hybrid communicator; someone who’s been a writer on the national stage as well as someone who’s been on the PR side of the ledger, too.  Hopefully someone will warm to that pitch.  That’s my niche.  My first client in California likes what I’ve produced so far.  They put it to use instantly.  I met with a woman last week who’s a few years my senior but has had her own little consulting/process change business the past 15 years and she thinks there are good possibilities.  But I have to make hay right now.

Well, that’s about it from Charlotte.  Let me know how your holiday plans are progressing and where you will be in November and December.  Not sure how I can dovetail with either of you but will make it happen if I can.  Hopefully we’ll have other things to celebrate by then.

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A seat at the conversational table…

You don't get to see Reid often...but here's the lad with his old man as we wait for a flight out of Omaha in mid-June. He's a good kid and is the king of digital advertising.

It would be easy to see why most folks perceive I’m overly reliant on weekly letters to Ellen and Reid with a few texts tossed in for good measure (we rarely e-mail each other).  True, letters do a lot of the heavy lifting.  But not all.

One cannot hide behind letters alone.  In a way, the letters are a seat at the conversational table.  Each page gives us an opening on the phone; i.e. ‘I saw this in your letter’ or ‘tell me more about that’ or ‘what’s up with this?…’  The letters give us something to talk about once we get past the obligatory ‘what are you up to?’  ‘Oh, not much’ banter.

At the least they have some advance warning about what’s happening on my end of the spectrum.  Perhaps subconsciously they gain time to process information before their custom ring tones alert them that dad’s on the line.  Better pick up the phone, guys.


Since I’ll be on the road this weekend, I sent my mother her typical letter a few days early.  Nothing earthshaking to share this week.

September 16, 2010

Mom: Now it’s clear to me why skin doctors make the big bucks.  There are lots of people in their waiting rooms and the waits are long.  This morning I lounged for about half an hour before they called my name – and my appointment was at 8:15.  He gave me a good going over followed by a stern lecture about the sun.  He snipped off a little thing on my nose and sent it in for a test and the results should be back in a few days.  We’ll see how it goes.  He underlined the urgency by wanting to see me again in two months.  I’ve become an annuity program for him.  I’ve been trying to wear sunscreen and hats as much as I can.  I think this is residue from my lifeguard/pool manager days back in the swimming pool business all those years ago.  If only we’d known then what we know now.

I’m trying to gear up for a car trip out your way in the next month or so if I can swing it.  I can’t wait to stop by your place and check out your new room – and also check out the food.  If it passes my inspection then it’s good.  No doubt we’ll make a break and head out to some restaurant or ice cream joint that I know you’ve been to.  I’ll stay with Ralph and Gayle, and probably make a side trip to Des Moines to see my friend Steve.  I’ll bring my woolies with me since the temperatures out there will probably be far cooler than the heat we’ve been having here.  Yuck.  But it’s good for my tomato plant.

Nebraska seems to be cruising in football.  Their schedule isn’t the toughest and that may hurt them in the rankings.  Of course, none of the Husker games are broadcast down here and we’re stuck watching Southern teams play Southern teams.  It gets a little old.  I’d rather watch the “name” teams play.  The local pro NFL team, the Panthers, got waxed last week by the New York Giants and already people are saying the entire season will stink.  Probably so.  They’re just not very good.  Hey, they could pay me a million and I’d make a few tackles.

Rode by some cotton fields in South Carolina last weekend while out on a cruise on the Harley.  The locals say they don’t’ see as much cotton grown around here because all the cotton business has moved to China and other factories overseas.  This used to be a big area for cotton mills and cloth and clothing but all you see nowadays are plants that are shut down and shuttered.  I’m telling you when you ride the back roads in the Carolinas you wonder what people do for a living.  It’s depressing.

Hey, Ralph says your new medications are nothing short of wonderful.  That is wonderful.  Glad they finally found a combination that works.

No news from either Ellen or Reid.  But I take that as a good sign that they’re not in trouble (that I know of) and they’re keeping their noses clean and going about their business.  Like Andy and Joe, they are living their own lives.  Can’t wait to see you!

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