Go All In … Dwell … Just For One Hour

I invite you to a reflective experience. This is a church service. It is an hour of prayer and praise for you, no matter who you are. If you are part of this busy world, you need this experience. If you are having a difficult time in your life, personal or career-wise, this is for you. If you need to find some hope on which to cling today, right now, and in the future, this is worth your time.

But I suggest some prep work. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will make a difference. First, tell the world to leave you alone for an hour. That may be impossible, you say, but make it happen. If you have a set of headphones, then use them.

I’m asking you to go All-In. By that I mean, risk taking the opportunity to simply let a worship service unfold without worrying about the clock or anything to distract you. Don’t judge anything you see or hear until the end. It is important that you listen and watch until the very end. If you are nudged out of your comfort zone, then be patient. This service is about opening up communication channels at all levels of your life. It asks nothing of you except to receive in faith that you are loved.

Dwell. Yes, dwell on every word of the praise hymns. Think about the writers of the words and the tunes as they crafted a message for you. There are many visuals. Soak them up. Let your heart be open. Think about the many musicians and singers you can hear but not see. Think about their motivation to share their gifts with us.

The sanctuary is mostly darkened, but watch for slight movements. It is a holy place with a holy message, but let your private dwelling place be as holy for just an hour.

There are a few other things you can’t see. You can’t see the small section in front and to the side where a leader is signing for the deaf. It is a beautiful sight to watch the rhythm of the hands conveying the message that others are hearing. There’s are always a few people sitting among the deaf who can hear but are practicing their skills at sign language. I wish you could see the signing in the context of the music.

Why am I so insistent that you not only spend an hour listening and watching but also assuring your environment is such that you won’t be disturbed? Because I am guessing you have not spent an hour alone like this in a very long time. And I know that you need these moments. We all do.

We need to think and to pray. We need to make decisions of all types. We are spread too thin, and we’ve made the decision to let that happen in many cases. We feel pulled in all directions, in control one moment, and enmeshed in chaos the next. There is an image we try to project and protect, but this hour is about surrendering all that stuff to just dwell in the moment so we can be refueled and rejuvenated. And most of all to be at peace knowing we bear nothing alone.

If you are a community leader, by far the majority of my readers, then be sure you watch until it’s all over. And then just envision what your community can be if we only … well … communed and prayed together. Imagine a community that knew the events of the world won’t define them but rather that they are influenced by a Higher Power they draw upon with fervor and sincerity.

So, please take me up on my invitation. I communicate with a lot of people I’ve never met face to face. However, I feel a kinship and really care about your well-being. And I trust that you care about mine.

Many Thanks!

Lewis

How Do I Feel About Growing Old With You?

Today is Linda’s birthday. The Big 70. I follow next month. It has been a long but fast journey since we turned 18 when we met. At that age we did not think about reaching this stage in life. It was all about a wonderful courtship progressing with excitement and daily signals of affirmation at just the right pace and punctuated with “pinch me, is this for real?” moments.

However, about 11 years later and 8 years into a marriage, we were afforded an opportunity to ponder many questions to make a good marriage a great marriage: a safe environment to delve into deep personal questions that challenged a relationship. Self-image. Money. Sex. God. Children. In-laws. Death.

But the one question that caught us off guard was “How do I feel about growing old with you?” It was the prelude to confronting death in a safe, constructive way. We encountered some discomfort but conquered the subject with trust and openness, like the friends we were before we were lovers. Our lifelong relationship salvation has been to stay in that friend-zone and to sound the alarm if we veer so that we can return.

Even though we had been married for 8 years at that point, and our wedding vows just as sacred, I was floored as I came to the realization that we were married for a lifetime. Until the end. I was in awe that the pinnacle of marriage was the ascension from the altar, ever-growing and a little bit ahead of every step.

And a spiritual thing. As we approach 50 years of marriage and into our 7th decade on earth, the cumulative effect washes over me. Not just one year of marriage 50 times over. Strong spiritual arms have been wrapped around us since the day we met and have never let go. And will never let go as we asked for the firm Hug each day.

But wow! We confronted and embraced the idea of growing old together at what now seems a very young age, but dang if we haven’t ended up turning 70 together!

I find myself pausing to simply bask in the moment.

So, Happy Birthday, Linda. We celebrate your milestone still hand in hand. Sometimes I got ahead and pulled you along, and more often it was you grasping my hand without having to say, “let’s go.” It has been a lovely stroll.

I Love You!

Lewis

Dear Class Bully … I Need To Tell You Something

It’s summer, and another miserable year has passed watching you bully people in and out of school. It’s not so much me any longer since I ignored you in elementary school and finally faced up to you in middle school. You mostly left me alone except for laughing at me occasionally and letting me know I am not in your circle of friends. But I watch you bully others. That bothers me just as much. Maybe even more. I need to tell you something.

You need to know how it feels to be bullied. Every single day is dreaded. I can’t say I’m ever happy knowing that you will eventually come along to say or do something cruel. The bullied feel lonely and many times unsafe. We see how your cruelty continues to be more severe, uglier each year. Sometimes at night in bed, I can’t sleep, replaying in my mind something you said or did that day. I often feel ill.

I consider you to be dangerous.

I would never harm you, but I must tell you that at times I wish you harm. If only you could feel for one moment how you make other people feel. Threatened. Singled out. Distracted. Lousy. Worthless. Angry that another person can have that kind of influence.

I would never harm myself. But I must tell you that I think about it. Sometimes I want to do something drastic to show you how much you have hurt me. But then I realize how many people love me deeply and how I would hurt them. That won’t ever happen. Yet there are days you have put me in that zone of despair. And I resent it.

Most of all, I wonder what made you this way? Deep down I question whether you are a happy person? Do you act this way to cover up something? Do your parents ever ask you if you are being bullied or if you are a bully to others? My parents do. They read the news. They worry about me when I am sad or simply just quiet. They know when something is wrong. If I were a bully like you, they would be right in the middle of finding out what is going on with me.

They also speak up quickly if I say anything offensive about another person. They have taught me to respect others. They encourage me to look for the person in the room who needs a friend and to be that friend. They have taught me to look for the good in others. And yes, I even see the good in you. You are good looking, you are funny and you are smart. But there is much more involved in building healthy relationships, my parents say.

I want you to know that I don’t need you as a friend or to be in your circle of friends. I have my own. It seems strange to me that your friends are much like you, although you are clearly the leader. What part of you enjoys that growing spiteful teasing of others in front of your friends? That seems sick to me. I wish you would seek some counseling. I wish your friends would stop supporting your behavior.

While I don’t need you as a friend, I wish we could be friendly. I have only a few deep friendships, and I am perfectly fine with those few, but I want to be friends with everyone. It’s not a popular thing. It’s a human thing. I don’t want to have any regrets in life, especially on the simple things like how to treat another person.

I want you to be thinking about something over the summer. The day school starts, and every day after that, I am going to call you out for bullying. I will be reporting you to the School Resource Officer or the Principal. I would normally try talking to you personally, but my attempts in the past have only led to more harassment from you. I will stand up to you, because I think you need a mirror held up to you.

I don’t want anybody you bully to seek revenge. I will risk outing your behavior and report you to the authorities before something happens, and then I regret not doing something. And before you, your friends and your family are overwhelmed with a deeper regret for being responsible.

Yet, I will make an equal effort just to be friendly to you and to persuade you to do the same with me and with everyone you see.

It will be your choice.

Your Classmate.

The Next Improvement Step in McKinney Governance

I have high expectations for McKinney with the new City Council members now seated. However, the improvement steps won’t be nearly complete until there are a few new faces on some of the Boards & Commissions. And a few recommitments. I trust that some changes are about to be made.

This is not a new gripe for me. I have blogged about some members of the McKinney Economic Development Board and the Board of Adjustment in the past. What we don’t need is anybody on McKinney Boards & Commissions that melt into sheep-boards like they have at McKinney ISD. We don’t need people looking after their friends or are self-serving.

My suggestions to consider before appointing/re-appointing the current slate of Boards & Commissions:

  • Are you truly independent and willing to serve the entirety of McKinney with considerations for the citizens today and in the future?
  • Can you commit to doing your homework before meetings AND faithfully attending meetings?
  • Are you wanting to serve on this board solely as a stepping stone to run for City Council in the future?
  • Is there anybody in McKinney for whom you fear consequences if they don’t like your comments, recommendations or vote?
  • Do you have the ability to say NO when your conscious tells you the deal in front of you is not wise or in the best interest for McKinney?
  • Do you understand the Council-Manager form of government?
  • Do you understand the Open Meetings & Open Records Laws and are willing to abide AND to call out your colleagues when you know a violation is taking place?
  • Do you have a strong personal code of conduct irrespective of any written Code that might include many or all of the items many Codes as in this example?
  • Related, is your nature to raise the bar or let others around you to set your standards?
  • Do you have the ability to ask good questions that are necessary to evaluate an issue and be equipped to make an informed decision?

A list of the current Boards & Commissions can be found here.

If you are teachable and diligent as a student of government, and are of good character and can give an affirmative response to the questions above, please apply. You are greatly needed, and you can be an integral part of improving McKinney to be the most balanced community that can be found. I’m just a citizen blogger with 44 years of experience in municipal government. But I will do anything within my power to make you successful. LFM

La’Shandion Shemwell: A Story of Redemption

How could a person with a questionable history end up being elected to the McKinney City Council? His opponents were relentless in pointing out his undeniable flaws, all in the past, both in the initial election and the run-off election. He is in District 1, mostly the older part of McKinney. I understand he lives in public housing. I could not vote since I don’t live in that district. The first time I saw a picture of him, I wondered if he had many supporters. I heard nothing bad about Mr. Shemwell. In fact, what I did hear was encouraging. He is a barber by trade and a man on a mission to lift up the standards for youths in his passionate side-ministry. So I just watched. And he won.

My 14-year-old granddaughter was with me at the standing-room-only Council meeting Monday night when three new members were sworn in. The new mayor had been sworn in at a previous meeting since he did not have a run-off situation. It was a lively night, full of celebration and gushing with compliments for those going off the Council and those being seated. Lindsey got to see first-hand how hope and goodness and vision starts out with every expectation that things will improve in the future.

There were many highlights, but La’Shadion Shemwell
Shemwellstole the show. Gratitude to God and family came from the lips of most of the newbies. But you simply must watch this clip of the meeting at the 40 minute 48-second mark. I’m expecting that it will make your day as it did those of us serving as witnesses. I think it is a sign of things to come for McKinney governance and leadership.

There’s a new sheriff and posse in town, and the changes will be noticed near and far. LFM

You need Internet Explorer to view the clip:

http://mckinney.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=3930

I am a

00:40:49 mountain, I am an eagle, I am a lion,

00:40:56 down in the jungle. I am a marching

00:40:57 band, I am the peo

00:40:57 band, I am the people, I am a helping

00:41:03 hand, I am a hero. If anybody asks you

00:41:09 who I am, stand up tall, look me in the

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that start up in the

00:41:17 sky, I’m that mountain peak up high, I

00:41:32 made it. I’m the world’s greatest. I’m a

00:41:33 little bit of hope. When my back is

00:41:34 against the ropes, I made it, I’m the

00:41:35 world’s greatest. I am district 1, thank

00:41:38 you

Thank you for taking care of us!

When I’m at a big luncheon or similar situation, I find myself watching the faces and demeanor of the servers. I can’t remember when I started doing this, but it was a long time ago. Perhaps it was after reading William F. Buckley’s An Attitude of Gratitude. It is more likely that it’s part of my DNA since my parents had that nature. I find myself having a need to thank the servers in a genuine tone and then seeking them out afterward to thank them again. What I don’t know is whether I do this for the server or for me. It could easily be me doing the serving. My blue-collar upbringing, then college, and then my wife have shaped my every step. Mentors have opened doors, and a few pushed me through those passageways.

A colleague of mine, Ron Holifield, has been placing a big emphasis on Servant Leadership. My first introduction to that particular topic came years ago from another good friend and colleague, Dan Johnson. In a leadership course, he talked about Robert Greenleaf who coined the term. Greenleaf got his idea after reading a book by Hermann Hesse who authored a book about a journey.

The story was about a group of people on a long pilgrimage to seek a great master. The storyteller is laboring with his baggage on the journey when a small man comes to his aid, picking up some of his bags and carrying the load. At some point near the end of the journey the helper disappears, which irritates the pilgrim. Soon after they all reach the top of the mountain. When they meet the master, the man is surprised to learn that it was the master himself who appeared and carried his burden.

These kinds of stories fascinate me. And motivate me. I’ve got many. About 3 out of 4 times my wife Linda goes grocery shopping, half of her time is spent shopping. The other half is spent seeking out a person who needs help. One of her best friendships today started at Wal-Mart years ago with a simple comment turned into an hour-long conversation. And that was just the beginning.

I don’t know if they still do this, but under Ron Whitehead’s leadership at Addison, the councilmembers and CMO staff used to host a cookout for all city staff. A simple gesture with a profound impact.

So, today comes another story. It started my day with an early lift, like a devotional to ground me and to infuse me with gratitude. I’ll let it speak for itself.

theeagle.com

Texas A&M students serve custodial staff at luncheon to show appreciation
STEVE KUHLMANN steve.kuhlmann@theeagle.com

For nearly 20 years, Roslyn Adams has served the students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University as a member of the custodial team, but Monday — even if for just a few hours — she and her peers got to take a break and enjoy each other’s company in the Bethancourt Ballroom of the Memorial Student Center.

More than 500 members of the university’s custodial staff, employed by custodial, grounds and maintenance service provider SSC, were honored during the annual Custodian Banquet, which featured a catered lunch, raffle, music and a photo booth.

Adams said the student-organized event is a meaningful gesture from those she and her co-workers serve on a daily basis.

“It just shows that somebody around here appreciates us for what we do,” Adams said. “These students don’t have to do this, but they went out of their way to do it, so it really means a lot.”

Freshman Madeleine Williams, a member of the Student Government Association’s Custodian Banquet committee, said helping to plan the event has been special to her as she has been able to interact with custodians throughout the year.

After nearly seven months of preparation and fundraising, Williams said, it was rewarding to see the custodians enjoying the event.

“It really is just a small way to give back to them for serving us every day,” Williams said. “It’s cool to have this opportunity to make them feel special for a day.”

In addition to helping serve the food, busing the tables and visiting with the staff, the students were also in charge of cleaning up the space once the event was over.

Brandon Placker, who has worked at the university for roughly seven years, said while many of the people he comes into contact with on a daily basis are kind, the nature of their work remains largely thankless. Placker said he is appreciative of the students’ efforts to show their gratitude.

“To know that people actually care, it means a lot,” Placker said.

Sincere Johnson, who has been on the job just over 10 months, said she particularly appreciated the free, on-the-clock lunch.

“They saved us money today [since] we didn’t have to go buy lunch, and it was nice to see all the other people I’ve worked with before,” Johnson said.

Ted Dawson, regional manager for SSC, said with more than 23,000 square feet of facilities, it is a rarity for all of the employees to get together.

“It’s great because a lot of these people have known each other for years but may not work together anymore,” Dawson said. “For them to do this for all 550 of our employees is absolutely amazing. It really shows how much the university cares and thinks about the custodian staff.”

Distractions

The reason I went dark from November 11, 2016, until now is that I have been distracted.

Not all distractions are attached to bad reasons. But they are distractions just the same.

Maybe it started with the presidential elections. The person I voted for won the election. I was surprised and ecstatic. I predicted if he won that he would be a train wreck. If so, let ‘er rip! I’m tired of talk, talk, talk. Dumb Republicans had eight years to groom a candidate but let an Independent steal their party. They got what they deserved.

But after I suffered for eight years and never complained publicly, I’ll not spend a second listening to the whiners who want to protest at sufficiently loud levels as if the more noise will rewind history. Rally all you want. I can’t hear you!

I equally despise Republicans and Democrats. And most of all, the Tea Party. But I do have one good thing to say about the TP (and only one), which I will save for a future blog.

For a long time, I have cherished silence. That need is growing. I opted to send my sister-in-law in my place on a family cruise at the last minute in early March. I spent a week in silence, just working. I watched zero on TV, and still have not turned on my office TV. I deactivated my FaceBook account and still have not reactivated. Same thing for LinkedIn. And Twitter. I do get plenty of news alerts that I read since news is one of my primary businesses. Silence is golden to me.

I am distracted by McKinney politics. Well, until I checked out a few months ago. McKinney is run by an underground that key people in the know will not deny. They also won’t do anything about it. In fact, they have winked for so many years that newbies know no difference and aren’t about to mess up the favoritism playpen. That might change with this upcoming election. Hope so. But it’s going to take some major changes on the Council and inside City Hall.

It bothers me that AG Ken Paxton is abusing the legal system to save his hide. I’m sitting in the middle of Collin County, his Mother Ship, and his nature of doing business up here is legendary. He is bad, but his worshippers won’t admit it.

It got distracted by Bruce Springsteen standing up in a foreign country and telling the world he came to them as an embarrassed American. I was okay with his rants and others before the presidential election, but I was ready to puke when he (and others in the entertainment industry) wouldn’t give it up after the election. After listening to him every single day for decades and giving my family instructions to bury me in one of my Springsteen shirts, he is dead to me. He does not exist. But, honestly, I am grieving. You would have to know what his music and performances meant to me to understand.

Perhaps distractions are affecting me differently since I am turning 70 this year. I don’t feel THAT old. My mind says I am much, much younger. Or so it seems. But my preferences are to stay in my cockpit of two computers and ten monitors to work, think, analyze. And maybe even start writing again.

I’ve sworn off going to conferences. The last one I attended included me falling off the back of the stage just before I spoke. The one before that I forgot my conference clothes and came back from Houston before it even started. The one before that I had to return just before the conference started due to my mother’s impending death. I think the message is clear: stay in your cockpit, Lewis!

I have had some health distractions. Nothing serious, yet, but true distractions.

When I said that not all distractions have been bad, I was particularly thinking about a project I am working on with a client under new city management leadership. It is a multi-year contract to provide an entire series of budgeting, long-range planning, utility rate studies and more. I am considering it to be my final exam regarding just about everything I have done in my 44-year career. I am having a blast.

I started part of this approach years ago, but now I have a real application. I am calling it McLain’s All-In, Top-Down, Visual Skinny Budgeting or Skinny Budgeting (I was using the term before Trump picked it up). If I could work “No Stone Left Unturned” into the title, I would do it. More on that subject over the next few months. It is a dream project for an analyst like me.

Related, I have closed my Confidential Sales Tax Reporting & Analysis work to only current clients until 2018 so I can focus on just them as well as my new project. I have a great client base of 15 cities plus DART that includes 13 cities.

In my career, I have done hundreds of workshops, presentations, and analyses for no compensation. Willingly. To serve the entire municipal family is an honor. I am changing that slightly. I won’t be doing any presentations in the future. Too many rude people in the audience checking their phones for messages or talking.

The exception will be a workshop I am going to do in a few months to promote Skinny Budgeting. I won’t be seeking new clients for anything other than fee-based training. I just want to see the approach used in governance and fiscal policy decisions.

On the other hand, I love one-on-one conversation. I am happy to meet with anyone willing to come to McKinney to chat over a cup of coffee. I also will usually respond quickly to an emailed question on just about anything within my knowledge base, which is narrowing. I treasure my pen pals.

My blog will provide a considerable amount of my thoughts and analyses for those who sign up through http://www.citybaseblog.net. I feel called to write, but the time competes with everything else I do.

Otherwise, I plan to take care of my CityBase subscribers, my Confidential Sales Tax Clients and my one Skinny Budgeting client.

I’m not sure about where I might head blogging about McKinney politics. If the governance and culture do not change, McKinney politics will be dead to me. Not worth it. Life is too short. But I am hopeful that some will leave and go crawl in a hole somewhere. And that some staff who are part of the underground will be run off. We’ll see. LFM