Thoughts from my Echo Chamber

Like many people in the U.S., I’m caught up in the aftermath of the 2016 election results. Normally, I write about my observations about life from an every day, non-controversial point of view. This is the first time in almost six years that I have felt compelled to share my thoughts about any topic surrounded by a polarizing minefield of thoughts and opinions – the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

I don’t know that there’s ever been an election in my country that has affected so many people on such a deeply personal level. As I’ve been trying to understand my own reaction to the outcome, it’s occurred to me, that in many ways it’s as much about business as it is about political agendas.

I could be wrong, but I believe that one of the reasons PET won the election was his ability to ignite the fear and promise hope within the hearts of working class Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. Although I don’t, and never have held a blue color job, my story has more than a few parallels than one might expect. Our political and business landscape has adversely affected more than the grass roots laborers of the country, and it’s been happening for a long time.

Thoughts from My Echo-Chamber

I know it’s dangerous to form opinions from within our own personal bubble, but we all do it to one degree or another. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my own personal experiences have had a very common thread; it’s upon this common thread that I base my opinions and share my thoughts.

I deeply care about our environment, education and human rights. I’m far more liberal than I am conservative – but at the end of the day, if I’m not able to put food on my table or provide for my family, the larger issues move into second place. That doesn’t make me selfish, uncaring or uninformed, it just makes me human.

The “American Dream”

Here’s the thing, the “American Dream” of providing a better life for future generations started dying on the vine a long time ago. As a point of reference,  I began my career during the Reagan administration and at that time, I was already part of the first generation who would never make more than their parents.

It wasn’t easy, but I eventually landed a good job with a small, family owned printing company in Omaha Nebraska. They paid me a fair and equitable salary, offered training opportunities that to this day are unparalleled in my experience, as well as the way they invested in their employees and advancing technology on a regular basis. That was until, they were acquired by a British holding holding company.

Raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Morale plummeted, growth slowed and the only people who were experiencing financial prosperity were the board members of the holding company.

History Repeats Itself

Eventually my loyalty to the original owner of the company ran out. After a couple of years without a raise, increasing demands to work longer hours and the  realization that I was missing out on my children’s lives, I moved on.

My next job was also with a local, family owned business. I found balance, an opportunity to learn and grow, my pay increased at a rapid pace and I found myself trapped in the land of “golden handcuffs.” Earning more than what my position was worth was a huge conundrum, and one that I knew would catch up with me eventually.

It did, we were acquired by a U.S. based holding company. After the announcement and the obligatory, “nothing will change,” comments, people were still nervous. They sought me out for counsel because I’d been through it before. I assured them, and I believed, that life would go on as normal.

“My last experience was with a British holding company, this is a U.S. one, so I’m sure it will be a much different, they really sounded like they care about employees and customers.”

Ha! And my apologies to my friends in the U.K.

Shortly after new “leadership” took over, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Sound familiar? In addition, we started to experience the loveliness of “right-sizing, “salary aligning” and “process transformation.”

Translation – people who had been there a long time were laid off, “salary aligned,” and outsourced. Holy buckets, when I think about all of the consulting fees that were paid out to make those changes happen….

The Writing was on the Wall

I’m no dummy, I saw it coming so I started looking for a new job long before the actual mass layoffs began. I was thrilled to land a position with a company in PA. There was some hesitation on my part, because they were owned by a private holding company, but took the risk because of assurances that they were financially stable. Two months after I started, they filed for Chapter 11. So once again, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

In spite of the Chapter 11, I put my house in Omaha on the market and moved my family to PA – in 2008, toward the end of the housing bubble. Long story short, I ended up losing both my house and all of my savings trying to avoid going into foreclosure.

As I do, I tried to make the best of things, but after four years of no raises, no bonuses and a less than ideal working environment, I took the route that many have tried before me; I started my own business.

It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds

To be honest, starting my own business wasn’t my first choice, it was my only choice. I didn’t want to uproot my youngest son and there were no jobs available in the area. There’s so much that I could share about this topic, but I’ll save that for another time.

In October of 2014 I thought the best of two worlds had collided and I accepted a full-time position with a company in California. I was able to work remotely and maintain my steady freelance work in order to make ends meet.

Health insurance and other benefits were among the multiple reasons the position was appealing. I’ll be honest, insurance through the marketplace isn’t exactly cheap if you are making a “decent” income as a self-employed individual.

Here’s where the common thread continues, the company was owned by a private holding firm. Based on my experience, I should have known better. Soon after I started, new “leadership” was brought in, and raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

On April 29th, 2016 I received Fed Ex delivery which contained a check for two weeks severance pay and the notification that my position had been eliminated in order to provide better customer service. Truth is, my position was outsourced – not overseas, but to an agency.

Health insurance you ask?

The company was very “generous” and extended me the opportunity to continue my health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). They had to. The cost to me was $950 a month.

Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

It’s not just Politics, it’s Life and Livelihood

I’ve been through more than a few ups and downs in my life, we all have.

My guess is that Donald Trump, nor any of the individuals that he’s nominated to lead key government agencies, have ever experienced the shame associated with the realization that your child is wearing shoes with holes in them  – simply because they don’t want to add to your financial burden, and “it’s not that cold out.”

I’d be surprised if any of their children witnessed their mother being served papers by a Sheriff because she had to proceed down the path of foreclosure on their beautiful home.

I also doubt that any of them have experienced the absolute humiliation of being interviewed for private insurance, only to be denied. Let me share a glimpse of what it’s like.

If you want private insurance, outside of the health care marketplace, you must meet certain criteria. So, a stranger from an insurance company calls and grills you about every aspect of your health history.

My experience went something like this:

An hour (yes an hour) into the interview, I was asked, “what was the last reason you went to the doctor?”

A reasonable question, to which I replied, “I had a couple of warts removed from my leg.”

“So, you have a history of genital warts?”

“No! The warts were on my leg, specifically my calf.”

This spun off into a line of questioning that was too invasive and humiliating to write about.

My denial of coverage letter included some nonsense about being predisposed to genital warts in addition to just the normal life/health conditions that come along with being a woman over the age of 45.

Thank goodness for the affordable health care act.

I Understand Why Trump Won the Election

He promised people he would “fix it.”

So, to that end, he’s assembling the richest administration in history and putting the future of the working class into the hands of people who have never come close to experiencing their pain?

I don’t get how anyone can think this is a good thing.

As I watch the deck stack in favor of the business models that led to the housing crisis and in my mind are behind the widening gap between the elite and the struggling, I’m disheartened beyond words.

I do believe we can join together as human beings to address many issues around the environment and human rights, in spite of PET – I’m not so sure we can have the same influence when it comes to business and our ability to earn a living and maintain affordable health care.

I hope we do, I’m just not sure how to go about influencing change in that arena.

We’re on the Same Side

Let’s not forget, that we’re all on the same side. We love our families and we want the best for them.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but as an eternal optimist, I look at this time in history as an opportunity for good outcomes in the end. As a realist, I can’t help but think it will be a painful journey.

Let’s all join together, in whatever way we can to move forward in a positive fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the shouting.

Thanks for listening, after getting this off my chest,  maybe now I can get back to regular programming.

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GMO Awareness Survey – College Research Project

Are GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) good or bad?

Supporters believe GMO foods are the next best hope for feeding the planet while critics believe that genetically modified foods are unsafe and are an underlying cause of many of the health and environmental issues in the U.S.

My youngest son is a student at Drexel University and is curious to learn more about how well people feel they are informed about GMOs and whether or not they are concerned about them.

Please help him with a research project by answering a few questions about GMOs.

Two Steps Forward & One Step Back = A Giant Leap Forward

We’ve all experienced times in our life when it feels like everything is going in the wrong direction and you can’t turn around without facing another obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. Then, when you least expect it all of the pieces fall into place and both the present and the future are bright and beautiful.

Things got off to a rough start in 2014. I can’t say it was much fun to experience the major winter storms, a terrifying blow out on the interstate, three separate power outages, multiple nights without power, more than a few unexpected (and expensive car repairs), and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

It  would be an understatement to say I was less than positive after the long winter, I was downright depressed. I’m affected by seasonal depression and this year the state of sadness lingered well into the spring. Thankfully I learned about the teachings of Louise Hay just when I needed it most.

If you’re not familiar with Louise Hay, she’s a metaphysical lecturer and teacher who believes we all have the power to heal what’s broken in our lives and attract positive outcomes by changing our mental patterns. Positive affirmations are an integral part of her teachings and work.

Her book inspired me to find a positive way to cope with my feelings of depression and hopelessness. It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day. It somehow morphed into an online journal and 125 consecutive days of writing.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote a positive saying of my own. Each piece of art also has an accompanying journal entry that ties into the saying.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

In addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I changed my approach and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

water color backgrounds

For the most part I used every piece I created without trying to make each one “perfect.” I used my mistakes as opportunities to create “happy accidents.”

I accept a helping hand

I was able to correct a fair number of misspellings by turning the letter into a flower or butterfly, however there ended up being more than a few that couldn’t be used. In some cases the background was too dark and in other cases I just didn’t like my choice of words.

Initially I ripped up the pieces that didn’t work and tossed them into the trash because I didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake and the lack of forward progress. Then one night it occurred to me that there might be some value in them and I began to store the tiny pieces of colored paper in a plastic sandwich bag.

Trees were a recurring theme throughout the project so it seemed appropriate to find a way to create one final tree out of the scraps. My original idea was to draw the tree trunk in ink and create the leaves out of the paper fragments.

Tree of Dreams Sketch
As tends to happen in art (and in life) the plan changed with new information and experiences. As I experimented it became obvious that the entire tree was meant to be created in the form of a collage.

Tree of Dreams and

3
The next step included glue – not for the feint of heart. The process took several nights of gluing, patience, and guts. I was happy with the outcome but it didn’t feel quite finished.Tree of dreams without background
At the risk of ruining several hours worth of work, I decided to add a background.

13
After the first installment I was certain I’d made a critical error and my choice would result in ruining the beautiful tree. The orange was “too orange” and nothing felt like it was blending together in a way that made sense. After all of the forward progress I was back to wondering whether or not the collage would turn out well.

I seem to be wired to keep going even when it feels like there’s no hope in sight and so I kept gluing. The final outcome couldn’t be further from my original vision and I also couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Tree of dreams final

I’ve learned a lot about myself and life through art. It’s not about where you start or even where you finish. It’s how we handle the collection of steps along the way that sometimes feel all wrong but end up leading us to exactly the right outcome.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Wonderful Moms, Especially Mine

I’d always assumed that Mother’s Day was started by Hallmark, but it turns out that’s not the case at all.  There have been various precursors to the spring holiday that can be traced back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans.

It’s amazing to me how many historical people I’ve never heard of and the creator of the American version of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, is among them. The holiday became official in 1914 and interestingly she ended up spending the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar because it turned into such a commercialized celebration. 100 years later it looks like the holiday is here to stay.

It’s interesting to note that the roots of the holiday were started by her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, who in the years before the Civil War, helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

I am blessed to be a mother to 3 wonderful children and I am also blessed to have an amazing mom, who inspires me in so many ways. She is a beautiful person both inside and out. She is a passionate and loving person who gives tirelessly to her family, friends, and to the St. Louis Volunteer Committee.

Three lovely ladies in Nevis

She loves music and has a special knack for entertaining and preparing fabulous meals. We not only love each other, we like each other. 🙂 One of our favorite activities to share is biking in Minnesota. My mom can out ride many people half her age, which I think is pretty darn cool!

break from biking in Minnesota

Over the years I’ve learned many valuable lessons from my mom, I think the most important one is that mother’s provide a safe haven for their children – no matter how old they are. She’s been there for me every step of the way and I know I can always count on her.

Thank you mom, for being you.

I love you.

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Author’s Note: on this Mother’s Day Weekend, it seems fitting to share one of my recent entries in my affirmation journaling project.

I Keep My Children Safe

This may seem like an odd personal affirmation, but as a parent, there is nothing more important to me than my children. Although, as a human being I sometimes wonder if I’ve been a good mother.

I’m flawed, have made mistakes, and there are more than a few things I would do differently. My guess is that my parents and their parents before them feel much the same way.

I think one thing that is different, is that with each generation, at least in my experience, we become more willing to talk honestly and openly with our children about our hopes, dreams, fears, and failures. We’re more willing to talk openly about our humanity.

There’s part of me that would love to be able to keep my children from ever having to feel pain, whether it be emotional or physical. But I also know that’s not realistic and that at some level, painful experiences are part of life and need to happen.

The emotional pain somehow seems the more difficult to handle, both as a parent and as a child. With a physical injury, there are ways to predict and anticipate when the healing process will be complete and we can get back to the activities we love. With an emotional injury, the healing process is far more uncertain and unpredictable.

I can’t keep my children from experiencing pain, but I can keep them safe.

I give them a safe place to talk, to grieve, to “be.” They don’t talk to me about about every situation but they know I’m always here with open arms, unconditional love, a shoulder to cry on, and always, always accepting and respectful of their feelings. They also know they can count on me for honesty and constructive, but maybe difficult to hear feedback and input when it’s needed.

Keeping your children safe isn’t so much about protecting them from harm as it is being there for them when they come in harm’s way.

I keep my children safe

The Hatches are Battened Down

In spite of the ongoing coverage of the the latest hurricane making her way up the east coast, I was oblivious to the news until Thursday afternoon.  Thank goodness I embarrassed myself at my hair appointment by responding to the question, “are you ready for Sandy?”  by asking “who’s Sandy?” so I had a clue that something was going on before anyone else asked me.

I decided it might be a good idea for me to turn on the news and find out more about the storm and what to expect.  Is it wrong for me to admit that I had to use the TV Guide channel to locate the local news station?  I quickly became absorbed in the reports of the storm and the predictions of high winds, widespread power outages, and potential flooding.

Fifteen minutes into the broadcast, my musings as to whether or not my trip to Raleigh would be affected by the storm, the phone rang.  I didn’t need to look at the caller ID to know it was my parents.

“Hi there, so do you know what’s going on around you?” asked my dad.

“Oh, you mean about Sandy, the storm that’s coming up the coast?”  I replied (quite pleased that I actually did know).

“Have you gone to the store yet?”

“No, I was planning on doing that tomorrow,” I said.

We chatted for a while and discussed what supplies I should buy, whether or not it would be a good idea to use the gas grill if it was on the porch, and options for traveling to Raleigh if my flight on Tuesday is cancelled.

I realized I was holding my breath and interrupted my dad, “Ok, so I wasn’t freaking out before but now I am.  I’m going to the store to stock up and I’ll figure the rest out later.”

“Just one more…..”

“Bye, I’m going now..I’ll call you when I get back from the store.”

While shopping for bottled water, bagels, pop tarts, and really green bananas (that are already ripe) my landlord Jeanne Marie left me a voice-mail to make sure I was aware of the storm and knew how to prepare.  It seems that my reputation for being in my own little world precedes me.

She also sent me a checklist of things to consider and I’m happy to say that the majority of them are covered with the exception of filling the tub with water.  Unfortunately I’ll have to ignore the caution against using candles because by the time I got to the store there wasn’t a C size battery to be found.  However, my gas tank is full, I have two hundred dollars in cash, and there’s a good old fashioned can opener in my silverware drawer.

Jeanne Marie called yesterday and she was impressed to know I was so on top of things. Not only were we stocked up on water, Christian and I had already moved anything up to and including the trash cans, that could turn into a missile from the backyard onto the porch.  I had to confess that the only reason I was on top of things was because I’d had a hair appointment the day before and that my parents urged me to get to the store.

trash cans on the porch_preparing for Sandy

I think Romeo knows something strange is going on.  He stood still as a statue in front of the screen door and finally nosed his way out onto the patio.

He stood guard and watched intently while Christian lowered the basketball hoop down on the driveway and weighted it down with bags of sand.

basketball hoop laying in the driveway_preparing for Sandy

I have to wonder what was going through his mind and whether or not he realizes that his 13 pounds of bravado wouldn’t be much of a match for a a 50 mph wind.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that phrases like “we’re far enough inland…” and “maybe it’ll be more like a nor’easter…” are part of my vocabulary.

So for now, we’re as battened down as we can be and it looks like just a normal but blustery fall day.  My guess is that the pretty red and gold leaves on the trees in my neighbors backyard will be shredded and on the ground three days from now.

leaves on trees in backyard two days before Sandy

The wind is picking up bit by bit and if the way my porch curtains are being lifted already, it’s going to get interesting. I’m hoping that we get as lucky as we did during Irene when we only lost power for a couple of hours.  And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my travel plans aren’t completely disrupted.  In either case there’s not much I can do other than be thankful for the people I have in my life who made sure I had my house ready for Sandy and hope for the best.

wind blowing my porch curtains two days before Sandy arrives

I’m not Loyal, I’m Lazy

Last night was movie night, I opened the red envelope slid out the DVD and thought once again about what I consider to be the biggest business bumble in the past ten years, maybe ever.

In July when Netflix raised their prices, I thought briefly and occasionally about quitting them and converting into a Redbox junkie, but I never quite got around to it. 

Then along came the formal announcement about Qwikster and Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, added insult to injury with a pathetic apology and an explanation regarding the split of Netflix services in response to the backlash.

His post did nothing to help me understand why it was better for me, the customer, to manage two separate services, pay twice as much, and receive two entries on my credit card statement; it’s not like I had been lying awake at night wishing they would come up with a new logo for the red envelope. And it made no sense at all when he stated that separating the DVD team off made it possible for them to add video games to their offering. I think the only thing he said that resonated was when he admitted, “In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success.” 

When I first caught wind of it, I thought for sure I had misunderstood; why would Netflix, the company that has been touted for being an innovative and consumer aware organization, do something so anti-customer? The emails I received explaining all of the ‘benefits’ of the change (to Netflix) turned my misunderstanding into a reality.

I realize I could go to the effort of getting things set up so I could download movies or programs directly to my TV, but I really don’t want to and I certainly didn’t want to be forced to. My kids enjoy the instant downloads and watching on their laptop and I love receiving the red envelope in the mail.  We had one convenient account, a queue full of movies and I wasn’t happy about having to make a choice between paying more or choosing between DVD’s and streaming.

A few months after the price increase, three weeks after the introduction of Qwikster, and 1 million lost customers later, Reed came to his senses and Netflix rewound. Reed blogged, “it is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.”   I can only say, duh.

What surprises me even more than the Netflix blunder was the lack of response from the competition.  What an incredible missed opportunity.  From July to October if anyone had made it easy for me to switch, I’d have done it in a heartbeat.  With the plethora of information available about all of us out on the great ‘interwebs,’ I’m shocked that no one marketed to me.

I’ve recently started to see Blockbuster ads, but they’re too late.  I’m once again content and although I may never have the same respect for the folks that run Netflix, I’m not inclined to switch.

If only Blockbuster (or someone) had made it to the dance a little sooner, it would have been one business bumble, not two.

The Morning After

The night Irene hit, I went to bed expecting to wake up to a house with no power and a basement full of water. I figured by morning we’d be surrounded by a moat and the yard would be littered with downed power lines and tree limbs. When I got up to assess the damage, I discovered that both the wind and rain had subsided and it was almost still.

In spite of the relative calm, Annie, my fearless, or maybe neurotic, miniature dachshund, took up her post at the front door.  She started her ‘guard’ duty sometime on Tuesday after the earthquake shook the house and stood her ground until the weather returned to normal on Sunday evening.   

She stood on her hind legs, front paws positioned on the bottom window sill, her nose pressed against the glass, she cocked her head from one side to the other as she watched and waited. I’m not sure what she was looking for, or what she was going to do about it if she found it, but she was persistent. 

Truth is, we were lucky.  Aside from the fact that my front yard and the driveway look like an experiment on how to grow kindling, we made it through Irene unscathed.  Our preparation paid off and the storm didn’t hit as hard as it might have.

The trench drained the water away from the front of the house and we were in no danger of having to swim through a moat to get the mail or the newspaper.  Everything on the porch from the trash cans to the new furniture and even the gas grill survived the driving rain and wicked winds. 

We had no flooding and were without power for only a few hours.  Our biggest hardships were the mini-fridge starting to defrost in the den and being without cable or internet for seventy-two hours.

It’s an experience I won’t soon forget and not one I want to relive any time soon. It felt like a combination of preparing for the destruction of a tornado combined with the potential for power outages that accompany a blizzard.

We now know how to ‘batten down the hatches.’  Although I’m still trying to figure out why people were stocking up on microwave dinners at the grocery store when the biggest threat of the storm was the possibility of a two-week power outage.  We also know that after the storm there will be ‘the morning after’ and life will return to normal even if we have to spend a few hours without internet.

Now for the cleanup; that’s what fifteen year old boys are for, right?

Batten Down the Hatches

“Batten down the hatches” is a phrase that makes me think of movies like “A Perfect Storm” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I never thought it would be something I would hear as part of a conversation while waiting in line at the pharmacy, let alone that it would be relevant to me.

I knew there was a hurricane on the way, and that we were likely to get some extra rain over the next few days, but I didn’t realize the potential severity of it until I received a text message from my landlord.

JM: u been watching weather forecast?

Me: i haven’t been. is it bad?

JM: have a peep at the weather channel for Yardley.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me nearly 30 minutes to find the local weather station; I’ve hardly turned it off since.

It turns out that Irene is the size of Europe, and although she’s ‘only’ a category one hurricane, she has already caused the evacuation of over two million people from North Carolina to New England. An unprecedented 400,000 people in New York City have been displaced from their homes to shelters varying from the comfort of a friend or family home to a cot in a high school gymnasium. Eleven states have declared a state of emergency, including Pennsylvania.

In the Philadelphia area, we’re expected to experience winds of fifty to seventy miles per hour and six to nine inches of rain within twenty-four hours.

With that in mind, it seemed wise to ‘batten down the hatches,’ although I did have to take a moment to find out where the phrase originated.

Its broad definition is “prepare for trouble” and refers to the securing of property. The specific origin is nautical and relates to preparing a ship for bad weather. A batten is a strip of wood that is used to hold something in place; a hatch refers to an opening, as in the deck of a ship. A ship’s crew would cover the hatches with a tarp and secure them into place with wooden strips (batten) to protect the ship during severe storms.

Thank goodness for my landlord who guided me step by step through the process of preparing for Irene. I never would have thought to put the gas grill or the trash cans on the enclosed back porch or to dig a small trench outside the front door to help the excess water drain down the hill instead of pooling higher and higher in front of the house.

The trip to the grocery store was surreal, there were more people buying groceries than the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas combined and the level of frenzy matched if not exceeded either holiday. We stocked up on essentials like bottled water, ginger ale, and food. The bad news was they had the same number of flashlights for sale as all the other stores in town, zero, but the good news was that my neighbor had a spare one to loan me.

We’re settled in for the storm and as well prepared as we can be, up to and including the relocation of the mini-fridge from the ‘man cave’ to the den. Now all we can do is wait and see what happens.

I wonder if you can take pictures during 50 mile per hour winds without getting blown away.

 

Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!

I was sad to read today that one of my all time favorite actors passed away.  Peter Falk, best known for his rumpled raincoat, stinky cigar, and that famous question, “just one more thing…”.

“Just one more thing…” meant he was hot on the trail and would soon solve the latest whodunit.

I can picture his bushy eyebrows, messy hair and the signature hand to the forehead as he pondered a situation.  His fans and ardent followers always knew that the question meant the end was near for the unsuspecting and not so clever criminal.

While perusing a few bios about Peter today, I was surprised that while they all refered to the hit television series and several movies, I didn’t see any mention of two of my favorites.

For all of the Princess Bride fans, myself included, I loved him as the grandfather in the movie where ‘as you wish’ means ‘i love you’.  His patience with the young Fred Savage as his grandson is touching.

His character guides his grandson from bored about the thought of a book to clutching his covers as he hears the tale of fencing, escapes, true love, and miracles.  Not unlike his character Columbo, he duped his unsuspecting grandson, into a confession when he admitted to enjoying the book.

I’ve seen the movie at least a hundred times, and every time, I  get a lump in my throat when he responds to the request to read the book again with the three words “as you wish”.

My favorite of all time though has to be his role as Vince Ricardo, a CIA agent in the hysterical comedy “The In-Laws”.  The version from 1979, the funny one in my opinion.

I can’t even begin to bring justice to the description of the zany characters, bumbling mishaps, or its brilliant comedic pace.  I think it’s best summed up with my favorite quote from the movie.

Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!