Happy New Year Y’all

Let’s start 2016 expecting we will love it!

To start the new year, to celebrate the beginning of 2016, I give you the indomitable Morgan James singing “Call My Name.” The video is creative, fun, sweet and a bit playful, perhaps even precocious. I choose to start the new year talking about something I love y’all – great music.

Music is always around me. All types. The soundtrack of our lives is one we choose – so choose wisely. If it is sung by talent like Morgan James, well, that’s  pretty good start to a great day.

Don’t forget where you come from

The soundtrack of our lives…. makes me think of the saying “don’t forget where you came from.” I always thought of the saying, the engram if you will, of “don’t forget where you came from” meant the places you lived and travelled, your experiences, your family, friends, your schools, your adventures alone and together, your ancestry.

Example – I was a busboy in a restaurant for years in college, mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, bussed tables, ran into classmates when their parents or grandparents brought them to the restaurant on occasion while visiting them in College Station.  It didn’t occur to me to be embarrassed. And those floors I mopped in college were perfect when I got done. I mopped them with precision, with an efficient pattern, no shortcuts but smooth like a Texas Two Step.

I say two step because indeed mopping is two steps. A chemical reaction between the chemicals in the water when you wet the floor. These chemicals vary based on the surface and the needs (this is not a mopping tutorial, just an explanation) and then a second pass with a dry mop to pick up the water solution that has lifted the dirt. Two steps, you see?

I mopped with dignity and responsibility. I knew that if someone slipped and fell they could be hurt and indeed mopping IS an important task. I respected mopping because of both pride in my workmanship and duty to my fellow humans who walked those floors.

Perhaps some might look down on the job of a busboy, but it was part of many different ways I paid for college. Getting steam burns from the industrial dishwasher was no fun, but again, you learn.

Why was I so good at mopping floors? Because I became friends with the school Janitor my freshman year in high school in Columbus Georgia. I offered to help one day because I was waiting for a ride home after returning from a road game given I was on the basketball team. No cell phones and parents didn’t leave early to take you home so I did extra drills until they closed the gym, and then wandered around the school waiting the one to three hours for a ride. It was a different time.

I wander. A lot. Needless to say I got to know the Janitor because he and I were really the only ones in the building at that time. He liked to talk, but he kept working and never missed or slowed down. I like to learn and I’m curious about pretty much everything so it worked well for both of us. I’d get him to tell me stories about the South as I’d just moved to Georgia from Connecticut. Georgia was like Mars to me. And boy did my yankee accent (at the time) get me picked on. And depending on your race the experiences in the two places were very different.

Then one day I asked my friend the Janitor a question. We had talked often by this time, and I’d offered to help before. He always said “no.” Then he said yes one day. I quickly found out why he had always said “no”. He was proud of his work and didn’t want me messing up. But this one time my friend said “OK kid.” (He called me “Kid” and I called him “Sir” – not sure we ever knew each other’s first names although surely we had exchanged names at some point. Regardless with the age difference I was raised to call my elders “Sir” unless they specifically asked to be addressed otherwise.)

And you know what? “Sir” was right. My initial mopping technique was substandard. I’m from a family of six kids so yes I had mopped the floor plenty of times given the only creatures that outnumbered the humans were the dogs. But when I began mopping for Sir to his amusement, two things happened.

1) Sir let me know directly, but not disrespectfully, that my mopping was maybe C+ material. Candor. (Hint: it’s chemistry and physics combined – not sloshing water around.)

2) Then he taught me how to properly mop a floor. Just the right amount of bleach or any of a number of other chemicals depending on the surface (basketball court versus tile entry way – very different.)

He taught me how and how often to rinse/dry the mop to pick up the dirt. He taught me to let it sit for a minute to let the chemicals do their job. The pickup mop pattern that would cause the least back pain, how to adjust your grip so you grew calluses and not blood blisters. Mostly he taught me how to produce the best results mopping the floor with the least amount of effort because High Schools are large, he was one man, and all of the floors had to be mopped. And mopped properly.

Of my two blog readers, perhaps one is saying “ya, like mopping is that hard.” This isn’t the best video but it does get the concepts across. It’s only missing a true discussion of what chemicals to use when and the ratios. Plus you have to factor in the environment and how long you want the mop to last.

But the other reader, if they truly know how to mop (not swiffer, I’m talking heavy cotton mops and a proper bucket.) well they are nodding their heads thinking “yup, using a mop does in fact require skill and practice just like anything else worthwhile.” You mop a floor differently right after you do the monthly wax machine buffing. Yes, there are subtle differences between time between buffing, adjusting for the weather. Heavier wax in the winter to protect the floor from boots, but a different wax so the wet shoes didn’t slip while the sneakers still squeaked.

Mopping is a skill. I was very good at it. I don’t do it much these days and I’m OK with that. I’m also grateful that “Sir”, the Janitor and I became friends. During school hours we both nodded in acknowledgement whenever we saw each other but he didn’t like to talk with the other students around.

I respected “Sir” and I believe he respected me as well. I think in our conversations over those few years he’d gruffly tell me “Hrmmmm, maybe I’d give you a “B” on that hall. But you weren’t horrible. I’ve seen worse.” he’d say.

Even though it was years later that I finally got the rhythm and technique of using a heavy mop down. By then I lived on the other coast and he never saw his student achieve even “A” never mind “A+” mopping skills.

The attributes that define “where you came from”  also include things like joy, laughter and love. And if so, then should we not also strive to keep those in our lives as well as adding on new and wonderful layers?


Adding this post I realized after over 10 years of blogging I did not have a category for “Love”. Imagine that!

I just added it. This post is in two categories, “Music” and now “Love.” And I do love the music of Morgan James and Postmodern Jukebox.

I find her talent absolutely inspiring. I find the visible joy in everything she says or sings to be uplifting.

The most fundamental element that provides the power for us to carry on against the wind because maybe we love a good fight. Maybe we love a good man or woman. My wife is awesome and yes, I absolutely LOVE her and she gives me great strength. Yet we take these things for granted.

So I have a new category on my blog for love. And I’m going to try and find the things that I love and celebrate those more often.

Here is to 1) Love, 2) Mopping and 3) Morgan James

OK, and 4) probably the most unusual blog post you will read in a while. #peace