Tuesday, February 21, 2006


It is truly amazing how a country boy can get out and see how the other world lives. Riding in a limo, talking into a camera and then being part of a TV show. I have to admit that I was a little concerned about being in the audience of the Ellen show. I can't dance, even though Bobbie Jo thinks I can, I was afraid somehow I would get caught up in the dancing part and make a fool of myself. Fortunately it didn't happen and as a matter of fact, I really got into it. There is so much enthusiasm and excitement, it is unreal!! It would be hard to just stand there and not move at all. I was also impressed with all the "behind the scenes" things that go on while the couch potatoes watch a commercial. Some people came up and ran a lint cloth over Ellen's coat, another time someone ran up and redid her hair. Sometimes she just sits and talks with the guest but usually something is going on. Very efficient!
The day before the actual taping of the show, Kim and Jerry Pace, Vicki and I taped a short segment of thoughts for a long and happy marriage. Not a difficult assignment, right? I didn't think so. But it turned out to be a real challenge. Looking into the lens of a camera and trying to say things to Alecia and Jerrod that I felt they should hear was difficult. The script was written, memorized and then cut up by the producer so that it was not coming from the heart. After several retapes, I finally got it to sound ok. Vicki did not have near the trouble I did. All in all I think we did an pretty good job.
Of course the "big number" for the day was when Alecia and Jerrod came out to be the stars. And stars they were! I am so proud of them. They were superb!! And our little segment---well, I think they were suprised and moved.
We went on the Oregon, Washington, and Northern California so we didn't get to watch the show until we watched it on video. It was awesome! It's really hard to believe what all has transpired this past year. It all seems like a dream---- and I plan on waking up May 20!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Ah yes, that golden age when waking up to "What do I want to do today?" has arrived. For some reason it hasn't hit me yet. I guess it's because I am still incredibly busy. I keep telling myself that I can wait until tomorrow, but it's harder than you think to break a routine of 40 plus years. I'm practicing patience, but I want to get it done now. I am able to just stop and do things with the family. And not feeling guilty about it is really nice. That part can only get better.
But does anyone know for sure why it's called retirement? (And don't even think about making up some bonehead story. And I know that's asking a lot!) All your life you "tire" and then you get to "re-tire". Sounds like something on a car. Worn out and then get new tread. Oh well, the thought just hit me. You know, it's really kinda strange, knowing I never have to go to work again. I don't have to take a vacation day to get caught up on the farm work or repairs on the apartments. I don't even have to take vacation days to go on vacation. Wow, how cool is that?? No more being forced in on a Saturday or having to work Christmas day. And of course no more of that torture of going to the roof in all kinds of weather. Of course, no more paycheck either, but if done right, that is just a minor inconvenience.
Yep, the more I think about it the more I realize just how nice it is. So long as my health holds out I think this could really be unbelievable. I am already planning some trips in the fall and spring. Maybe go back to Baltimore and try to find the Whitaker beginnings. Stay a day or two or what the heck maybe decide to stay as long as I like. That seems almost too good to be true.
RETIREMENT--I think I'm going to like it!!!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The roof, the whole roof, and nothing but the roof,--so help me

I've had several responsibilities in the maintenance world and some have been pretty nasty(ex. cleaning out grease drains and toilets.) Facilities Maintenance has gradually contracted these jobs out and most jobs are not too bad. For the past year I have been assigned to take care of the heating/cooling equipment on all the roofs of the plant. When I started working at Toyota in 1987 the total area under roof was over a hundred acres. Now no one seems to know for sure but the plant has almost doubled in size. That makes for a lot of walking. The other night I was sent to start two of the units on the 3000 building roof. One was on the extreme south end and the other on the extreme north end. Do I reset one unit and then go down to the floor and up the stairs (72 steps) to get to the other end or simply walk from one unit to the other? I have to go up and down the stairs on average about 8 times a night, I decided just to walk the roof. Just for the heck of it I tried to stretch my step to make sure I made 3 ft. steps. Just over 600 steps (1800 ft) one way, 3600 ft total or about 1/3 mile. And that's just one roof!! There are other unit failures on all the other roofs too. Up and down all those steps and walking across the roofs should make one in real shape, but I sure don't feel like it. I still have to stop at the top of the stairs to catch my breath and I still have 5 more months to go. It won't come quick enough!

Of course there have been some interesting times also. Like the first time I was sent to the roof. I was still in the maintenace training program for 4 hours and on the job for 4 hours. The 3rd shift team leader (night shift) sent me to the roof and verbally gave directions to the unit that was in alarm. I went up the stairs and walked right to the unit. I corrected the problem and feeling quite proud stepped out of the unit in the dim lit shadows of the roof and headed back. It wasn't long before I realized I was lost. Had I stepped out and turned the wrong way--maybe just made a wrong turn? All I knew was that it was dark and all the roof looks the same at night. Where were the stairs? Now--what to do? Call on the plant radio (for all to hear and then be harrassed forever) and ask for directions---no way! Use your head, man. There has to be a way. Ok, I'll just get on the Security Services channel and let them know I need assistance. No one in Facilities can hear the transmission unless they are accidentally on the Securities channel. I tell him what unit I am in and an officer heads my way. I anxiously wait and within a few minutes a figure emerges in the distance. I practically run toward him and let him know that the problem has been solved but thanks for his help. Then I follow him down to the floor. Problem solved. Well not exactly. The stairs he and I came down were at the opposite end of the plant from where I went up originally. Just a few thousand feet away (bummer)--but nobody ever knew that I got lost on the roof!!
Or just the other day, I went up to the roof to check on a problem unit. The huge fans that operate in the unit were on and I had to go into a separate room (8' x 10'). The door opened into the room but the air pressure was so strong it took all my strength to force the door open. Once in, I could not hold the door and it slammed shut. Check all digits--10 is a good number.
I fixed the problem and started to exit when I noticed that the door handle on the inside was missing. Give me a break!! It was nowhere around so somebody knew it was broken. This made me mad for a second until I realized this could be serious. After checking the area for skeletons, I decided I had to find a way out. With no handle, the door would not open. So once again--think man, think. Don't panic! And then it hit me. I'm wearing a radio so I called and asked the team leader to go to the computer and turn off the fans so I could complete my job. Moments later the large fans went dead and the door drifted open.

Well, enough of the roof--it's a job with it's highs and lows.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Memory--bits and pieces

Every now and then I start to remember days gone by and the exciting and fun things I got to do just for being a Dad. I chuckle to myself and think "That would make a great blog" and then it leaves me as fast ice on a hot August day. I still remember bits and pieces but somehow they just don't always go together.
Ex. Matt, myself and Jeff Sparks were fishing at Uncle Jeff's lake one cold rainy day and nothing was biting. For some strange reason that has left me, Matt and I left while Jeff stayed to fish. I distinctly remember driving down the highway and looking down at the lake--and at Jeff huddled up from the cold and rain soaked to the bone. Why on earth would we leave him that way? I really feel bad about it but I also remember that Matt and I laughed out loud as we drove by. Oh well, he's probably a better person for it!

But occasionally I have a thought that does not leave entirely. One would be the night that I was coming back into the house at about 2 am from the shop. Why was I doing out in the shop at 2 am? Probably 3rd shift and trying to stay on the same routine. Anyway as I start to go in the house I look up and see the stars of the Big Dipper. Alecia and I use to look for the Big Dipper at night and I immediately thought--I wonder if she can see the Big Dipper up in Duluth? (but she had better not be up at 2 am doing it) A few days later she called and said that she and a friend were out walking and looked up to see the Big Dipper and she told the friend about our sky watch. When I asked her what day she saw it, I knew it was the same night. So far and in a way so near--Kinda puts a lump in your throat.

And who can forget the great sleigh ride down the hills of Terry and Donna Levi's farm. It was picture perfect. Plenty of snow and easy to pack down. Bobbie Jo was in grade school--maybe- and the hill was rather steep. Matt was older but still needed a parents watchful eye. There was a small gulley at the bottom of the hill so I positioned myself in front of it. Why did we build the track down the hill leading to a gulley in the first place? Oh, well. I had caught both Matt and Bobbie Jo a couple times but just as Bobbie Jo was making a final trip down the hill, Matt decide to ride down in the loose snow off to my left. As I took my eyes off Bobbie Jo for an instant to check on Matt, the sled and Bobbie Jo went whizzing by just inches from my nimble fingers and into the gulley. As I looked around, I saw the sled almost vertical and Bobbie Jo's feet up in the air. I think there may have been a look of horror on her face also. We were there all afternoon and this is all I remember.

Even with the memory lapses, it's great to be a Dad!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

WCL Revisited

Yes the 2005 WCL has begun with a small scrimmage game. And it might be worth mentioning that there is only one player who will not go rover, but simply goes out. I won't give out any names but her initials are Momma-Whit! And the last game was really close, as Bobbie Jo made a last ditch effort to hit the post and go out from about 10 ft away. Great effort but Momma-Whit held on and went out.
In all fairness, I guess it should be noted that Momma-Whit hit a quite remarkable shot from an outside wicket and straight thru the middle wicket. Of course her estatic behavior changed very quickly when someone knocked her ball to the other end of the court and as a mallot hit the ground and that same someone mumbled "that's why I hate this game!" Hey, that's part of it!
But anyway, the season has begun and with any luck at all, the rest of the participants will be able to attend future games during the summer with a World Championship Tournament in early fall. We may even have trophies this year. You know, maybe MVP or something like that(to someone who really deserves it) Let's just wait and see. I see a lot of emerging talent so this should be a really great season!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Writing On The Wall

As a Skilled Maintenance man in the Building Group, for a large auto manufacturing company, I am required to keep everything running from heating/cooling, to telephones, to production equipment, to making cars. But also included are relief station repairs (also known as the” john”.) Occasionally we are called to remove or paint over graffiti. Some is filth, but most is of the anti-company variety.
While repairing a commode, I noticed the following written in the mortar seam of the concrete blocks.

Today Jesus is your Savior. Tomorrow He may be your Judge.

Since I am a Christian, and there had been no complaints, I decided to ignore it. A few days later I came back to check my work and someone had written an addition.

Does He write on the wall?

Since it was near the end of my shift, I decided to come back the next day and paint over all of it before someone called to complain. When I came back with my spray paint, I was amazed that another comment was added.

Yes – Read Daniel 5:5.

With such a good response, I couldn’t bear to remove it, and there have been no complaints about it since.

"In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote."
-Daniel 5:5

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Holey Outhouse

I guess everyone who grew up on a farm or anywhere without indoor plumbing has a tale about the infamous outhouse. Ours was nothing fancy, two seats--one large and one small. It was wood frame with a metal roof. The building sat over a 4 ft pit. If anything fell out of you pants and down into the pit, it was a major decision if it was worth going after. Usually not. However my wallet made the trip down and had to be retrieved with some skill and luck using a fishing pole. After gingerly removing important papers, maybe a dollar or two and my drivers license, I just tossed it back down in the pit.
Another thing about country outhouses is their ability to constantly attract wasp. It was going to be a bad day when you are seated and resting and suddenly realize a nest of wasp is just inches away. For some reason, we never had anyone assigned to keep the outhouse free of the nasty insects!
Also this was before toilet paper was popular and the Sears Roebuck Catalogue was a reality. It was hung over a wire so the loose pages would hang down. As it was needed, a page would be torn off. Of course in the course of a year, all the "good" pages would be used and then only the slick pages would be left. I think you get the picture!!! These were hard times, particularily in winter. It was bad enough to have to scrape the frost off the seat, but a hole in the tin roof let water drip right on the Sears Roebuck. The thumping sound echoing around the outhouse let all within earshot know that someone was trying to break loose a page or two from a catalogue frozen hard as a rock!!
With that as a background, now for a real life story. It was a cool, crisp October morning and I had to answer the call of nature. I had been feeding the calves in the barn about 500 feet away. I was completely unaware that one of my older brothers had finished his chores and decided to do a little target practice. He had bought a bullseye target in town and nailed it to the north side of the outhouse facing our house. He then checked to make sure no one was in the outhouse. Then he went inside our house and gathered the ammunition and gun. While he was in our house, I proceeded to enter the outhouse without knowing I would soon be a target. When my brother came out of the house, he immediately drew a bead on the target nailed the the outhouse, forgetting of course to re-check for occupants!! The first crack of the rifle and the splintered wood hitting me was frightening but more of a shock than anything else. The second shot sent me head butting the door and rolling in the grass head over heals with my pants down to my ankles!! The two things that saved me were that he had nailed the target high and that he was a miserable shot. Both shots were high on the target. I don't remember what I said but you can bet that I was madder than a hornet!! How could anyone be so stupid!!!
Well, hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.