I have always found the phrase “be prepared” of special interest, perhaps due in some small part to my enjoyment of musical satirist Tom Lehrer’s song parody from the 1950s.  If you are not familiar with his work, here is a link, hope you find it enjoyable – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSwjuz_-yao.

Recently I had a birthday.  I had stopped celebrating several years ago as the candles were setting off the smoke alarms.  But this year promised to be something special as my son had flown in from Boston with one of my grandsons to celebrate with us.  And “special” it was, although not quite as I had envisioned even though the cards and emails from over one hundred of my social media friends were certainly appreciated.

Several months ago I had coincidently scheduled a doctor’s appointment on my birthday as I try to make those appointments early Monday morning so that I may travel to clients Monday afternoon.  This appointment was for my regular six month check-up but when the doctor looked at my chart and noticed that it was my birthday he decided to do something that he thought was “special” so he drew a smiley face on his exam glove for my prostate exam.  He found this quite amusing; I did not and should have known then that the day was not going to go as had been expected.

After the exam I returned home to pick up my son and grandson to meet my mother-in-law for breakfast. The meal turned into an unanticipated extended event as, after waiting for our food for forty-five minutes, an “extra-special” treat when one of the diners is a three year old, our server realized that she had not turned the order in to the kitchen.

Now rushing to complete a few last minute errands before taking my son and grandson to the airport for their return to Boston, a phone call from my wife informed me that my mother-in-law had fallen on returning home from breakfast.  As she had struck her head, the paramedics were taking her to the only level-one trauma center in the area, the county hospital 35 minutes away.  I drove the kids to the airport and raced to the hospital to join my wife where I sat for the next seven hours while Grandma was immediately examined but then left virtually unattended for the next five hours until admitted for overnight observation.

My mother-in-law is fine, a hairline fracture of her nose, some bruising and injured pride and vanity.  But the day was shot, no “special” birthday celebration for me.  All I had time to do was snarf down some fast food, race home and pack for my 6 AM flight the following day.  Fortunately, I am a follower of the creed “be prepared” and had updated all of my client files and materials for my trip several days in advance so that no serious harm was done, just minor annoyances in the great scheme of things.  And I did have the opportunity while at the hospital to make some new friends – but more on that subject in a future blog.

The point to this lengthy introduction is that the world will constantly throw things at us that we do not expect.  To survive we need to be adaptive and flexible and that can only be achieved by being prepared.  That is true in the homebuilding business as well as in every other aspect of our lives. Continue reading


My grandmother was a very interesting woman.  Widowed at an early age, she supported herself by working and supplemented her social security by continuing to work well into her late 70s.  She lived independently until she passed on somewhere in her late 80s –  no one in the family is certain of her exact age as she used to continually shave the number.

She was an excellent cook and prepared and served many of the holiday meals including the best lemon meringue pie I have ever had.  When I was older I had to hand grate the lemons and left with many a bleeding knuckle or finger.  But unfortunately her recipes did not survive her passing as when giving out a recipe she would leave out vital ingredients – my mother believes that this was intentional.   

Nana taught me to play canasta and was always cautioning me to play conservatively and never to be greedy by waiting to lay down a meld until I could pick up the pile as the downside was getting caught holding a big hand.  She was fond of using adages and wise sayings that she claimed had been passed down for generations, many of which had outrageous and dire consequences for inappropriate action.  In later years I learned that she had made most of these up in her head on the spot as she believed that proper child rearing justified outright lies if they proved her point. But regardless of her honesty, I believe that she was concerned only with my well being as her intent was to prevent me from coming to harm.  For the most part it seems to have worked as I have survived to this point in time by following her advice and that provided by my parents and teachers.

beains in your nose

There are two especially memorable items of advice that Nana gave me.  The first was “Don’t put beans in your nose”.  To this day I have remembered and followed that advice although, to be honest, I do not believe that I would ever have considered inserting beans or any other food substance into my nasal passages if she had not cautioned me against it. The second was “Always put on clean underwear, God forbid you are in an accident”.  Thankfully I have never needed that advice but it has stayed with me.  And I have come to realize that everything we need to know for successful homebuilding and success in life overall we should have learned as small children.

Here are a few examples of my grandmother’s wisdom that I believe are especially apropos for the homebuilding and residential development industries, with translations included:

Don’t put beans in your nose (similar to “Don’t put your finger in the electrical outlet”).  Translation – don’t do anything stupid; think before we act. Continue reading