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Of the thousands of News "Nuggets" that are added to our databases each day, we try to select weekly a few that we feel challenge and inform our viewers/readers the most.

Recent postings from our clients....

Catch Them Doing Something Right

Thumbs UpIn 1988 I had the honor of being the Early Morning Speaker at the National Safety Congress at McCormick Place in Chicago.  One of the points I tried to make was that the best way to get people working safely is to catch them working safely and compliment them on it.  Throughout the twentieth century we did just the opposite.  We were busy passing out a book full of safety rules and then spent our time looking for violations.  When we discovered somebody doing something unsafe or wrong we pounced upon them with a lecture on safety just as if we had discovered a treasure. Sometimes we had a hearing and disciplined them. I first discovered the value of this idea when I wrote a series of children's books on positive living.  I challenged each teacher to take a list of all their students and set out to somehow catch each of them something right and then commenting favorably to them about it. If this is done with bystanders present all the better.  I've had teachers call me with reports about how it took them weeks to find some students doing just one thing right but when they discovered it and they commented upon it then almost immediately they found that same student doing another good thing and another and another. I have had some teachers so thrilled with this discovery that they would be in tears with joy. There is nothing new about positive reinforcement but have you tried it with the people you deal with every day?  Why not give it a shot? I met with a safety person in a rather small manufacturing plant last week and he told me that they had just gone one year without an injury for the first time in their plant's history and he said that if he had to give credit to one practice for this breakthrough he would say that it was the positive reinforcement that he offered each worker in regard to safety.

How The Years Fly Bye

Art and Jean FettigJean and I will have been married over 90 years as you read this. (Not all of those years to each other.) I was married 39 years previously and she was 35 years.  May 19th we will have been married 16 years together.  We met online. I lived in Battle Creek, Michigan and she lived in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  It was 1998 and I had just given a speech at the National Safety Congress and some fellow asked me if I would like to travel to Australia and give a series of Safety Speeches.  He was just checking on fees and availability and such. It was a very tentative thing but it led me to check out the Internet for information on travel in Australia. Jean had just sold her travel agency and was helping the new owner and she knew a lot about Australia and darned if, through the miracle of the Internet, we got together.  She asked me a lot of questions and I asked her a lot of questions and in time we stopped talking about travel and started asking about each other.  

Well, we both must a liked the answers we were getting from each other because we soon got together and we've been together ever since.  That prospect never did hire me to speak in Australia.  We went there later as tourists.  In fact, it seems like we went almost everywhere together. To the Artic Sea at Norway, To England and Turkey and Greece and New Zeeland and yes, all over the Carribean and Hawaii and many of the New England States and a mess of National Parks and I worked for the Army and Navy and Marines and Air Corps and for so many wonderful organizations. We rendezvoused in Mexico City, honeymooned in Wyoming and Estes Park, Colorado and gol dang, come July our collective age will be 170 and we ain't done travelin' yet.

I figure our sixteen years married is a good start.    

Lee Alan on WXYZ's Club 1270

Club 1270Lee Alan Facebook Posting, "OTHER DAYS - NEW YEARS EVE 1963 - Thanks to Jim Feliciano for posting this of (L to R) me. Brenda Lee, brother Joel Sebastian on the pilot for Club 1270. Notice the Brenda is holding "Thee Lee Alan Fined Toned Horn" At the opening of the show I was dressed as the New Year. Joel; introduced me wearing a DIAPER Ha! . We had a 49.6 percent share of audience watching television - 1.49 million people"

A Dimmed Point of View

ThinkingAsked to describe my point of view I might reply "Dimmed."  There is a whole lot right now that is going on in this world and I haven't a clue.  Now if you asked me what I thought about The Abortion Bill I would say I think we ought to pay it.  Or The Cambodian Position, I'd say I never tried it. But if you asked me about Trump and the Russian's messing with the Election I might say, "I thought the election was over."

I used to figure I was pretty well out of it when it came to current affairs but now I must admit that I'm all the way out of it.  It seems so useless to follow the news today when there is so much misreporting and lying going on. In 1936 there was a hit song by Fats Walters titled "It's a sin to take a lie."  I was seven years old then and somehow it was ingrained into my subconscious mind. I feel lost when I listen to commercials. I no longer read any of them online. When I try to pull up a news story I get so many commercials that it is just about impossible to actually read a story and when I do I find the Lead or teaser that led me to consider reading the story actually was a big lie. Pure unadulterated B.S.  It wasn't really a "jaw dropping" story at all but a ho hum waste of time.  When asked if I am over the hill I respond, "What hill?" and if someone follows up I realize that it really isn't worth a hill of beans.  

Science Shows there are Huge Benefits for being an Optimist

Water GlassDerrick Carpenter recently posted an article on verywell.com that listed some of the many scientifically proven benefits that optimists, people who see a glass half-full rather than half-empty, enjoy. First, they’re much happier than pessimists. They also live longer—eight-ten years longer and this additional decade seems to be lived in good health. In addition, they have better and longer-lasting romantic relationships, are healthier, more successful and bounce back from adversity faster and stronger than pessimists. Optimism is all about our attitude and, guess what? We get to choose our attitude. As psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl put, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If we exercise that freedom wisely and choose optimism, our lives will be much longer and far better. If you would like to read Mr. Carpenter’s excellent in its entirety, click on the following link

Rosa Ybarra and Gary Westbrook - One of many after hours gatherings

Gary Westbrook and Rosa YbarraThe camaraderie of co-workers was always evident at work and after-hour gatherings.

There are Things You Can do to Make Yourself Happier

RelationshipsA recent article by Jane E. Brody, which was posted on newyorktimes.com, pointed out that by regularly engaging in activities that promote positive emotions, we can become happier and healthier. Some of these activities include:

Do good things for other people. In addition to making others happier, this enhances your own positive feelings. It can be something as simple as helping someone carry heavy packages or providing directions for a stranger.

Appreciate the world around you. It could be a bird, a tree, a beautiful sunrise or sunset or even an article of clothing someone is wearing. 

Develop and bolster relationships. Building strong social connections with friends or family members enhances feelings of self-worth and is associated with better health and a longer life.

Practice resilience. Rather than let loss, stress, failure or trauma overwhelm you, use them as learning experiences and steppingstones to a better future. 

The good news is that each of these activities is very doable. If you would like to read Ms. Brody’s excellent article in its entirety, please click on this link

All I Want Is My Three Front Teeth

TeethAfter nearly half a century of professional speeches I've had almost everything happen to me, but recently I had a new experience.  I was speaking for seniors over at Solty's Adult Day Care Center here in Hillsborough. I had a warning signal the night before but I crossed my fingers and kept my date with that group.  I was just about to my closing segment when one of my upper front teeth went flying out of my mouth and across the room.  I smiled a big ugly smile and sang the song Judy Garland sang in the movie "There's No Business Like Show Business"  "Be a clown, be a clown, all the world loves a clown.  Be a poor silly ass, and you'll always travel first class."

I had everyone sit in place and examine the floor around them searching for that tooth. We all continued searching for my tooth. Everybody was so nice and cooperative about it.  I carefully walked over to my table and started the music for my closing number which was the I Love You Waltz.  I glided across the room addressing each of the attendees personally. We cleared a safe path that we double checked for my tooth and the attendees walked into the dining room. Then a couple of the staff came with flashlights and we all crawled around on the floor checking out the whole room.  Finally, one of the ladies searching under the chairs along the wall called out excitedly, "I found it." And we cheered and I put that little tooth in a little plastic bag and later in the day, a life saver, Dr. Daniel Cheek, DDS, worked me into his schedule and he cleaned and polished the tooth and then gave me back my smile.

I'm sure glad I no longer take myself too seriously.  The way it worked out, we all had a good time.

Trump Praises Australia's Single Payer Healthcare System

President Trump claimed a victory Thursday after the House approved a more free-market approach to health care. Then he capped it off by praising a country with government-run, universal health care.

Performing Kind Acts Makes You Feel Wonderful

BalloonA story by Justin Pazera about a very kind act was recently posted on abc15.com. The story began, “…when 12-year old Vanessa, who lives in west Phoenix, wrote her address and a wish for books and on a balloon and let it go. Several days later it landed 20-miles away in Mesa.” Two sisters, Kathy Schumacher and Barb Mattingly, found the balloon and decided to make the wish come true by sending Vanessa the books she asked for. Then Vanessa decided she wanted to meet the two ladies who sent her those books. Last week, the three met in a small conference room in the Phoenix Library. “Barb and Kathy brought Vanessa's balloon to give back to Vanessa to one day show her own children that wishes really do come true.” When the three met, Vanessa said, “I have a lump in my throat right now.” She went on to say, "I thought that nobody would actually buy me the books but now I see there is kindness in this world. The two sisters said they're just happy the balloon landed in the right spot. "’Just do something nice,’ says Barb. ‘It makes you feel good. And if you can make a child feel good, just do it.’" If you would like to read this entire wonderful story or view the video clip of their meeting, here’s the link

This Could Happen in Arizona

Jack ZawadskiJack and Bob were together for more than 50 years. When Bob died, the funeral home refused to accept his body after learning he was married to Jack. Can you imagine a crueler time to discriminate against a person than when they’re grieving the loss of a spouse?

LCM ALUM Annie Skivington serving in Hungary

Anni SkivingtonAnnie Skivington, a graduate of ASU with a major in landscape architecture, is part of the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission program (YAGM). We have had several students selected for YAGM over the years. Julie Gerrish is currently serving in Senegal. 

Annie is serving in Hungary in a small town near Budapest. Click on the video to hear Annie describe her time there (she returns home the end of this summer) and see some of the people with whom she lives and works and some of the experiences Annie is having. 

A Season of Renewal

SparklerI was looking through some of my older poems just recently and came upon the following. Somehow it sounded like something we might think about today.

A Season of Renewal
(c) Art Fettig

Perhaps the greatness of America is seasonal in nature. 
And far too long, we, as a nation,
Have languished through a sleepy summer to a fall.

Now, our President reminds us of the cold, hard truth
That winter is upon us and we must get back to work with gusto,

If we are to survive --- and thrive.

Now, as we brave the frigid, bitter truth, we are reminded
That America was once truly “One Nation Under God,”
And now we must return to Godlike conduct,
As we relearn the truth that there is dignity in work
And pride in doing well.

So as we strive together, struggling, making sacrifice,
Renewing our commitment to our country --- to our fellow man
And to ourselves,
We will witness, yes, we will witness the rebirth
Of the greatness that is America.

Spring will come once more to our land
And with it hope, with liberty, justice and opportunity for all.

For that is America. 

Smith, Matthew

Reporter.

Whose Business is it how You Order Your Steak?

SteakThe Wall Street Journal recently ran an article written by Hilary Potkewitz titled, “Steak Without Shame.” The article recounted the experience of a woman in an Omaha steakhouse who informed her server that she wanted her steak well-done. Here’s the dialogue that followed: “The server, incredulous, asked if she was sure. (She was). ‘So that means it’ll be cooked all the way through.’ (Yes). ‘No pink in the middle?’ (Correct). ‘The chef will probably need to butterfly it.’ (That’s fine). ‘Your entrees will take longer to come out.’ (That’s OK). ‘You know you could just eat a hockey puck covered in blue cheese instead of wasting a steak.’” And, woe is me, if you have the audacity to order catchup or A1 Sauce to complement your well-done steak. You’ll probably draw some stares and snickers from your fellow diners and even catch some grief from the people sitting at your table. What I want to know is where these “steak Nazis” get their authority to judge others on how they order their steak? I can see judging people regarding how they treat children, senior citizens and pets, but how they prefer their steak should be nobody’s business but their own. What do you think?

Talents and Opportunities

ListeningOn a scale from one to ten how would you rate your lifetime achievements so far?  Given that you were blessed with certain talents and that you have made the effort to discover what your talent or talents are, how would you rate your accomplishments to date? What have you done recently to hone those talents, to put them to work for the good of all humankind?

With so many of our young people coming out of our colleges with brand new diplomas in their hands it won't be easy for many of them to find a slot they can fill where they can put their skills and talents to work.  I talked with a young man the other day who had taken a job in a factory so that he could provide for his children. His talent is poetry and, in time, he just might make a difference in this world. The majority of poets I have met would be starving if they depended on their income from their poetry.

I recently received a book written for Hospice workers by a wonderful lady I met while working for the railroad in Battle Creek, Michigan. It is a wonderful book and I discovered that the most precious thing a Hospice worker might do is develop the ability to listen. For a guy like me who had earned most of his lifetime income from talking, that is, giving speeches, that is a revelation.  THAT WORKER MIGHT BE A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL BUT IS LISTENING HER/HIS MOST VALUABLE TALENT?  I’m discovering that one of my greatest faults and weaknesses is my inability to listen.  

How might you discover your special talent and how might you get started using it?  I started writing in high school. I tried speaking there too but I was eliminated from the Elocution Competition because my humor presentation which won the classroom competition in 4F was deemed unsuitable. It was a wise decision.  4F was a pit occupied by the unpromising.  

As I write this I finally realize that my life would have been a lot less complicated if I had spent as much time reading and listening as I spent writing and speaking.  

Somewhere I read that Hell would be a place where you were shown exactly what your talents were and also shown all the missed opportunities you had been given to use those talents. 

And you can't go back.

Too late smart.

True torture.

Eternal regrets.

Have I squandered my talents and my opportunities?  Have you?  And are we going to do anything to do a better job of using our talents and our opportunities in the future?  

Our Attitude has an Enormous Impact on Our Health

SunriseWe’ve all heard the phrase: “Attitude is Everything.” An article written by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, recently published in The Arizona Republic, points out that this is especially true when it comes to our health. According to the authors, feeling happy and optimistic reduces our risk of just about everything from heart attack to post-surgery setbacks. In addition, a positive attitude also improves our quality of life, even if we’re diagnosed with a serious disease, and promotes resilience which helps us rebound if we become sick. The authors suggest some things we can do to improve our attitude.

  • Cut the Clutter—clear up the messes in our lives like that stack of bills and correspondence on our kitchen table and make our bed every day.
  • Cultivate Gratitude—take the time to thank those around us for what they do and spend some time counting our blessings.
  • Consciously Look on the Sunny Side—focus on the things that are going well in our lives rather than on the things that aren’t.

If you would like to read this excellent article in its entirety, here’s the link.

I Remember It Well

Korean WarRecently I looked at the date on my computer and it read April 9th. Memories came gushing into my mind. 

On April 9th, 1951 I was inducted into the United States Army. My pay for what seemed like a twenty-four hour, seven days a week schedule was $52.50 a month.  I believe it was an additional $15 a month when we came under fire from the enemy in Korea. Of course, from that sum we had to provide our own shaving materials, tooth paste, frequent haircuts, cigarettes, laundry and most often a dollar would be deducted from our pay for the Red Cross. The rest we squandered on villas, booze and wild women. 

I must admit the Army provided our food, our clothing and most often shelter.  I can recall, while training at Fort Bliss, getting dressed up in my Class A summer uniform and riding in the back of a truck into El Paso to discover that the civilian workers on the El Paso garbage trucks were all wearing the same outfit I was. 

The food was... well here is a story to describe it.  A private on KP sees this big truck pulled up behind the mess hall. He goes in to the sergeant and reports, Sergeant, there is a garbage truck outside."  and the sergeant says, "See if it is a pick up or a delivery."       Nuff said.

"What did you do in the war, daddy?"  "I did my time, my children. One Year, ten months and 27 days, with time off for good behavior." 

Oh, those were the good old days.  

'Team:' Work Jargon or is it Real?

Team WorkFor the last 20 years, it has been common in the workplace to start an email with “Team.” This became widely used as organizations decided that the team approach lead to more cooperation and higher productivity. But, is your team really a team? Is teamwork a strong workplace value with each member feeling they are a valued team member? A recent Gallup poll indicated that 68 percent of employees are not engaged with their work meaning they’re either apathetic toward their job or doing the least amount to get by. How is it in your workplace? Even if your leadership isn’t on board with enhancing your morale, you spend 40 or more hours a week with your coworkers. Each of us can impact our team daily by being kind and appreciative to our coworkers. What can you do today to help your team be a real team?

Avoid Treating People Like Light Switches

Light SwitchesOne habit that's all too easy to fall into is to treat people like light switches--turn them on when you need their help, then ignore them until you need their help again. When you treat people this way, you send them a very clear message that you're taking them for granted. Once people receive this message, they become turned off about going the extra mile for you and they take their best efforts to where they are better appreciated. To prevent this, regularly visit these same people and ask if there is anything you can do for them and do it. If you do, the next time you need favor, you can be sure that the answer will be yes.

Relationships Work Far Better Than Techniques

InsuranceFor the most part, people prefer to do business with people they like and trust.  That’s why personal relationships are far more effective when it comes to getting people to say ‘yes’ than the mastering of any sales technique. Let me give you an example:  Eighty to ninety percent of the people who go into the business of selling life insurance leave the field within a year. Now let's take a look at a typical beginning insurance salesperson:  Jill, a college graduate who has just completed an insurance company's three-week training program at corporate headquarters.  During this training program, Jill is thoroughly coached on the latest selling techniques.

After Jill has completed her training program, the first person to whom she tries to sell a policy is her father—someone with whom she has an already-established relationship.  Now he probably needs another insurance policy like he needs a hole in his head, but he wants Jill to get off to a good start.  After the transaction has been completed and Jill has a check from her father, he says, “I'll bet your brother could use some insurance.”  Of course her brother, in the interest of maintaining peace in the family, will eventually say yes.  And finally, everybody like Jill has a few friends like me who would rather write her a check than risk losing her as a friend.Eventually, however, Jill runs out of friends and relatives—people with whom she has already-existing relationships. When this happens, she tries the same techniques on total strangers that seemed to work so well on her father, her brother and her friends and what happens?  Doors slam in her face.  Regardless of how strong a person's self-image is, there are a finite number of door slams that a person can endure.  When this occurs, Jill decides that maybe she isn't cut out to sell insurance and changes careers.

It's interesting to contrast the Jills of this world with those people who go into the business of selling insurance, make a career out of it, get rich at it, and eventually turn the business over to their children.  These people don’t even bother with selling techniques. Instead, they invest, up front, in personal relationships that eventually lead to trust and then spend the necessary time and effort to maintain these relationships. After a certain amount of time, they no longer have to sell insurance.  The reason:  Their satisfied customers are out there selling it for them!

The Musical Wheel

Musical Wheel - Art FettigMy daughter, Nancy was on the phone today from California and I was at my computer and the small drawer on my computer table was open. It is crammed full of stuff and wonderful memories and as I glanced down I saw this little Musical Wheel. I turned the little stem on the wheel and told her about the history of that little wheel. First I let her hear it tinkle. Then I laid the base of it on my table and turned the stem.  It played its own stirring rendition of the tune Yankee Doodle Dandy. 

I’d found my first little wheel in a fascinating sort of junk store on the Dixie Highway just outside Pontiac, Michigan in early 1988.

This was not retail material they offered, it was stuff they bought from manufacturers who had parts of things they made and this wheel was something not used in the manufacturing of Music Boxes. They carried all sorts of fascinating things like eyeballs from dolls, miniature drum sticks,tiny springs and all sorts of parts of things, mostly junk in the eyes of most people, but, as you might know, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I'd visit the store monthly with another idea person named George and we'd  brainstorm as we went through the entire store bouncing ideas off one another and having a wonderful idea exchange. 

I bought a couple of these little musical wheels for about 20 cents each.  I’m a professional speaker, a motivational humorist and I am always looking for stuff a client might use to make a point. For instance I put together a dozen little cards for an auto company. We pasted little items on cards to reinforce some point. We sent them out once a month with something different pasted to a card. Something like an eyeball saying “You only get two of these, use them wisely.”

After carrying that little musical wheel in my pocket for a few weeks I went back to the store and bought a hundred.  When I gave a talk on leadership at Notre Dame University for students I talked about how the President of Grand Trunk Western RR had changed my life.  He spotted my talents and then gave me permission to just do my thing to change attitudes and improve performance.  I said that he was a sounding board for my talents.  

I gave each of the students a musical wheel and first we all turned the wheels together and I asked them for the name of the song it played.  One by one they figured it out.  Then I had them hold the wheels up and a hundred wheels tinkled in the classroom.  Then as I challenged them to become sounding boards for others talents I invited them to hold the wheels on their desk and turn it. The desks served as sounding boards and the room was filled with music.

My Mentor, Herb True, Ph. D. and Anita Jacobs PhD, both professors at Notre Dame and St. Mary's  were in the room and later, at lunch they both agreed that this was the most powerful hand-out they had ever seen.  I rushed back to that little junk store the next day and asked the fellow how many of these little wheels they had and he replied, "10,000."  I dickered with him on the price a bit and got him down to a dime each, that was $1,000 and I bought his whole stock.

In 1988 I was speaking at the National Safety Council’s Early Morning session and I would estimate the audience at 2,000.  I gave each attendee a little music wheel  and repeated the above material.  McCormick Place in Chicago was filled with 2,000 tinkles and then with the use of their chair backs as sounding boards  music swelled and so did my heart.  I challenged them to take this little wheel and put it where they would see it every day and then to try and discover the music that is hidden in each person they come in contact with and to act as a sounding board for others talents.

What happened to those 10,000 little wheels I purchased back in 1988?  I have doled them out very carefully to many thousands of teachers, to safety leaders, to college students and others I have found in positions where they might have the challenge and the opportunity to touch the lives of others.  How many wheels left?  Perhaps twenty hiding from me in a drawer up in my music room.  They are waiting for my call when just that absolutely right opportunity arrives. I'm certain I will recognize it when it comes.  

“Music hath charm to soothe a savage breast."

A Mini-second Slower

ClockI had a really nice visit with a friend of mine today who knows more about humor and comedy then anyone in this whole world that I know.  We talked a few minutes about timing and in comedy the difference between a great laugh and a smile is just the matter of waiting a mini-second for the humor to sink in.  A mini-second seems like a year as you wait patiently for that laugh.  If you go ahead without the delay then you step on the laugh and it seems impolite to laugh when you start talking again too quickly. Or possibly, and quite likely you never stopped talking.  It takes courage to wait for the laughter. I started thinking about timing.  There is a line in the song Bring On The Clowns that says, "Isn't it rich? Isn't it queer, Losing my timing this late in my career?" We both agreed that it is tough keeping your timing when you are not given the opportunity to fine tune your material several times to get it right and to keep it working.  I remember when I first started speaking as a professional.  If wonderful things happened then I would get a booking once a week. Then one week I had three bookings in one week and I got to do mostly the same material at each banquet.  I'd say that I advanced light years by the end of that third presentation.  I was no longer fumbling around remembering the material, the material was already there in my mind ready for delivery and I could enjoy the ability to work on timing, waiting for laughs, and with that came the opportunity to ad lib and get two and three and sometimes four laughs out of the same bit of material.  My friend told me that it was getting tougher and tougher in the humor speaking business and that now, each talk was a real challenge.  

Now I'm not ignoring the position of you, the readers of this newsletters.  I know that almost none of you will ever try to do stand up comedy or even become a humorist, however, I believe that almost all of you have to get up on your feet and stand up in front of an audience or fellow workers and if you can make opportunities for yourself to do it three or four times in a week and if you will try to insert just a bit of humor into what you are doing you will experience a new breakthrough for yourself.  But of course, remember, that nothing happens if you do nothing.  Once I got my speaking skills in order I could not believe how many doors opened for me in my career.

Angels Often Come in the Form of Total Strangers

AngelsA friend from Michigan shared this story with me and I want to pass it on to you. “There are extra nice strangers in this world. I hit a deer this morning and the front-end damage to my car included a destroyed radiator. While waiting for the deputy to arrive to take the report, a nice lady named Dana stopped by to ask if she could help. I told her that I was just waiting for the sheriff and because the car was non-functioning, I was getting cold. She stated that she had to drop her kids off at school, but would come back and let me warm up in her truck while I waited. The deputy was there by the time she returned...with a large cup of coffee for me to warm up with. She had been on her way to work and had called in to say that she would be late. Wow! I thanked her for her kindness and sent her on to work. In addition, Dana made a call to her mother-in-law, who lived basically across the road, and she invited me in while I waited for my ride home to pick me up. Two very nice ladies. They were my angels this morning.”

The Tap Dancer

Art Fettig Tap DancingIt was 1978 and I was almost fifty. My daughter, Nancy, twenty- two. . I had a booking to do three early morning speeches in the grand ballroom of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago.

They would cram a couple of thousand people in that room for my sessions and I was dedicating every spare moment of my crowded life into preparation. As a professional speaker, I had become known for my unusual, memorable closes. I had planned to use my popular “people” close which I did with a musical background playing.

Then on the second day I planned to use a new verse I had written titled, My Brother’s Keeper. For the third day I had a wild idea. I wanted to learn a simple soft shoe dance to do to the music of Bye-bye Blues. I worked out words and the timing and in my mind I could see myself tap dancing onstage with my lovely daughter, Nancy at my side.

In my imagination it was spectacular. About a month before the booking, I took a deep breath and approached Nancy with the idea. To say that she gave a cool reception to the idea would be a real understatement. After a few days of coaxing plus the promise of a monstrous bribe, she consented to join me in the basement rec room together with a tape player on which I had our proposed music.

I explained that we’d need less than a minute of actual dancing in the arrangement I had written and I played the tape and did the go-in that I had prepared.

As we got to the point where I visualized the dancing, I cried out, “Now! This is where you come onstage in shorts and black tails, toss me a cane and a top-hat and together we go, ta ta ta ta - tata - ta-ta-ta - tatatata - ta ta-ta.”

“Dad,” she said in disgust, “do you mean ta ta ta ta - ta ta -tata?”

“Yeah!” I said. “Something like that. Just something that will look smart and absolutely show that I know how to do the soft shoe with you.”

Nancy told me to shut off the music. She hated that music. It was old fashioned. It was stupid and it just wouldn’t work.

“We’ll try to make it work for us.” I pleaded.

I won’t go into all of the gruesome details, but we struggled with it for a full hour and the next evening we struggled even harder and finally after another hour of struggle. I was awful.  Nancy suggested that I sit down and listen to what she had to say.

“Dad, “she began. “I love you and I think you have a wonderful talent for giving speeches, but a dancer you are not and a tap dancer you will never be.”

Coaxing didn’t work. Bribes no longer had any effect on her. Her mind was made up. I was a klutz. I didn’t know my right foot from my left. I was positively hopeless. After two hours of struggle, I was not one bit better than I was to start with. She was right.

She finally summed up the situation by saying, “And not under any circumstances would I be caught dead dancing with you in front of two thousand people onstage at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.”

I got the point. I was heartbroken. My dream was fading. I tried half a dozen times to veto her edict without success. Eventually I gave up my dream and replaced the soft shoe idea with a wonderful story.

Nevertheless that old dream of tap dancing remained in the back of my mind and continued to haunt me. Every time I saw an old Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movie, every video that shows Sammy Davis Jr., or Tommy Tune dancing brought back that dream and made me wish that I might have done that wonderful close.

The years passed, I got older and grew an enormous pot belly and the chances that I would ever fulfill my tap dancing dream diminished with each added pound and passing year.

My wife, Ruthie, contacted cancer and after a nine year battle, she died. At first, I mourned and found some solace in half gallon binges with ice cream.

Finally, I got sufficiently disgusted with my weight and physical unfitness, I went on a reconstruction program. In all, I guess I must have lost some fifty pounds or more and with it that ugly pot belly.

With that weight off, I felt so light that I felt like skipping. I felt like just flitting around. My feet were like feathers.

It took a while for the possibility to return to my mind, but one day, after my sixty fifth birthday, I joined a senior center and when I checked the list of programs they were offering, I spotted one that said, “Tap Dancing for Seniors." The instructor was Sherri Rarick.

Imagine, Sherri Rarick, the same wonderful woman who had taught our Nancy to dance so many years before.

I called Sherri. “I see you are offering a tap class,” I said, “I was wondering if I could take your class?”

“Certainly!” she replied, “We’ll take anybody.”

Then for an hour each week I submitted myself to a session of complete humiliation. There were about twenty women in our class and me. The women were so cute flitting along so beautifully in time with the music and there I was stumbling around like a complete klutz.

If you are reasonably coordinated, then I’m sure it will be difficult for you to understand this, but my feet and my mind seem to have a broken connection.

I’d visualize a step and see my feet going in the right direction in the proper sequence. Then as I tried to do the step, my feet, as if they had a mind of their own, would go off in a completely different direction.

It made no sense at all to me and it was a source of great disappointment and frustration.  At the end of the six week course, I did not sign up for another term.

I had gone to Chicago and purchased a pair of patent tap shoes. Then one afternoon, I was looking for something in the basement and I discovered a miniature plywood Ping-Pong table just 3’ x 4’ in size. On a whim, I took the fixtures off it and brought it upstairs for a minor experiment.

I placed it in front of my television in the den and put on my shoes. Then for about a half an hour I tried the steps I had learned. Then I tapped my way around the board searching for something that might work for me. 

I’ve played at playing the drums since I was a kid thirteen years old and so rhythms are not something new for me. I tried out a couple of old beats and I soon discovered that if I did a step very much like running in place it sounded just great. In fact, the heel and toe taps seemed to magnify everything and with a little practice I found that I could do a whole series of variations on that one step.

Within a week I had located a CD of Louis Armstrong and his all-stars playing a blazing rendition of Tiger Rag. My original goal set over twenty years before was to do a slow soft shoe. But now that I had discovered this new step, I felt that instead of a sedate soft shoe, I could set my sights much higher and go for a higher goal.

I practiced with just the last one minute of Tiger Rag. Then I put it onto a cassette tape several times for practice sessions.

One minute might not seem like a whole lot of time, but as Mark Twain used to explain; time is relative. It depends on whether you are kissing a pretty girl or sitting on a hot coal stove.   I soon discovered that you can deliver a whole lot of variations on a running step in just one minute. 

Describing a tap dance is a little bit like trying to tell how a melody goes with just words, but I will try to put a picture in your mind of just how the dance goes now after a couple of months of daily effort.

While the music starts out fast and just gets wilder, I start out slow, just tapping around like I’ve just discovered the taps on my shoes.

Then I begin to experiment and try them out a bit. At the end of the first chorus I double the speed of my steps and it’s not bad. I do a couple of turns and then I put my hands in my pocket and kick my feet out to the sides just sort of enjoying the experience.

There is a certain jaunt to the theme of the music and I seem to be caught up in the music. There is a break, I stop for an instant, then that jaunt takes over and suddenly my feet are flying. My arms begin to swing in circles and I look a bit like a two bladed helicopter that is about to take off.

Again there is a two beat break and I stop as I holler out - “Big finish.”

I now double the steps of my flying feet and my arms are flying twice as fast now and as the song comes to an end, on the final five beats, I throw out exploding caps that accentuate the beats with Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! 

I guess you had to be there and I will never forget it because when I first did it in front of an audience of seniors, they went wild. Later I did it to close a presentation for the United States Air Force and they caught it on video. Now I know I still can't tap dance. I remained a Klutz. But I was demonstrating how we should never quit trying new things.    You can see it on Youtube by CLICKING ON THIS LINK.

 


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