“A Day for Mike”

A fellow home-towner from Waterloo and public relations consultant, Kelly Moore, asked me to pass something along about an event that is coming up on Sunday. I will do that, but a story to tell you why this upcoming event is being held, needs to be told.

Mike Wasike was being a Good Samaritan.

A native Kenyan, Mike and his family settled in Des Moines, where he was working two jobs to provide a stable living for his family. You know, the same thing that all of us do every day: wake up, kiss the kids, head to work, grind it out, head home, dinner with family, and head for bed.

It was an ordinary day for Mike this past February when he came up on three teenagers who he assumed needed help. He gets out of his car to see if the kids needed help.

They didn’t need help.

Nor did they help him.

It was a car-jacking.

The teenagers brutally and savagely assaulted Mike. Wasike was left for dead. In an odd way, with the current discussion of bullying, whether online or in a locker room, individuals who commit acts of violence in the nature that was done to Wasike, are the worst bullies to society.

Mike Wasike is currently in a rehab facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Blind, paralyzed, and unable to talk, any semblance of normal life is irreversible. Thanks to three individuals who chose to be bullies on that cold February night.

The emotional and financial toll is huge for his family. I didn’t have to tell you that. We’ve seen it so many times on TV, read it in the newspapers, and heard it on radio.

A group of volunteers and the congregation at Maple Grove United Methodist Church took it upon themselves help Wasike’s family and him.

On Sunday, November 17th, Maple Grove will host a charitable auction at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center (aka Vets Auditorium) in Des Moines from 3pm to 6pm. It is free and open to the public. There will be auction items that will be up for bid, music by the Waukee Big Band, and making get well cards for Mike.

The proceeds from Sunday’s charitable event will go to financially help Mike’s family and go to provide continue rehabilitation and care for Mike.

You can learn more about how you can make a freewill donation or would like to do more to help Wasike and his family at the TeamWasike website.


Sage Advice

Unlike my generation, our parents generation are the last ones to be able to remain with one employer for an entire career.

Thursday, December 22, 2011 will be another day for my mom.  She’ll head into work, order parts for the 2012 combines, review the plans, and then send them to the engineers for their final sign-off or make changes. 

When 4:00 p.m. comes, she’ll pick up her purse, lunch bag, and a few things, and head out the door…for the final time. 

Since the day I was born, all I have ever known about my mom is that she worked for John Deere.  She’s been there since January 1972, four years before I arrived with small fanfare at on New Years Day 1976.  Nearly 40 years she has been with one employer. 

Think about that last sentence.  She’s one of a rare breed that stayed with one employer most of her working/career life.  Not many people today will have the luxury and the fortunate opportunity to stay at one place. 

My mother and I had a long discussion last year about our futures.  Now that I’m working again, my mother is preparing to leave and is in search of doing something to stay busy, possibly volunteering.

For as much as my generation vent our frustration about trying to find that “perfect job (or career)”, my mother has been through the roller coaster ride of nearly 40 years at one employer.  When she graduated from college, the career that she was aspiring was not available at that time, so she took a job with John Deere and gradually moved up the “career” ladder.

The problem was, as she pointed out, her “job” was never a “career” in her eyes. 

"The Waterloo Boy" was one of John Deere's first well-known line of tractors.

She was growing frustrated with my inclination to be defensive when someone tells me “…you need to be a (fill-in-the-blank).  I think you are perfect in it!”  It was already hard enough being told throughout my 11 years in the workplace that not having a business degree like everyone else was not going to land me a job.  I was growing tired of being told to go into this job and that job because it’s either the “in” thing to do or because it’s easy.

“Have you ever stopped yourself and asked ‘what do you like about yourself?'” my mom asked. 

“I don’t know.  If I don’t figure it out now, I may never land a job.”

“I’m not talking about a job.  The last time you were between jobs, you were looking for a “job” and never took the time to reflect on your life’s goals.  You were scared and wanted to get back on your feet.  Now that you are between jobs again, stop thinking about “a job” and treat this break as a journey to find your calling.  Not your father’s calling, your friends, or someone else’s calling.  Your own.  It may take longer than you expect, but you let your fears and apprehension get in the way of being yourself.” 

She was right.  I have gotten in the way of being open-minded about what new avenues to take, resorting to being told what to do and what industry or career to go to because “everyone else is doing it.”

In this world of experts, self-help books, and surveys dissecting the difference between Generation X and Y, our parents, outside of our friends, might give us the best advice about how to navigate the troubled waters of life.  Old fashioned?  Yes.  Sometimes out of touch?  Of course.

We tend to take our parents’ experience in the workplace for granted.  They have seen the transformation of the workplace from typewriter to computers and from board meetings to videoconferences.  They have also witness or being subjected to the culture of office politics, which can be cruel and unforgiving.

Our parents do know best.  We have to give them time and the space to convey it to us. 

This Christmas will be different.  For the both of us. 

Different Roles for Father’s Day


A doting uncle can't help but to smile when he sees his adorable nieces.


I’m not a Husband/Boyfriend or a Dad…yet.  Hopefully I dream and will become one soon.  When it comes to fathers (Father’s Day) and mothers (on Mother’s Day), there is a lot of sentimental images and thoughts that comes to mind for a lot of people. 

I won’t lie, I wished I  would have a family of my own now, but a couple of things this past week served as a nice reminder that I’m already among family, in two different roles. 

Uncles are meant to be the class clown, the benevolent supplier of candy, ice cream, kisses, and sometimes money, and the guy who gets conned into letting the niece and nephew get what they want…as long as the kid(s) doesn’t disclose that Mommy and Daddy has already told them ‘no.’  Uncles are also charged with playing games with kids.  Soccer, t-ball, and riding bicycles are among numerous things I can do.  Put me in front of a Wii, and my 7-year old niece is akin to the New England Patriots teeing off on the Sisters of the Poor:  you can compete, but you will never win.  Especially with her. 


Very blessed to have a "family" where I live, even if my family is far away.


A friend is the individual who is there when you least expect it, always there when you need them, and the face that gives you comfort and clarity.  There are friends who have parents, who have lost parents, and who are far away from them.  Regardless of status, you are a member of a community that provides a “family” and reminds you that you are never alone. 

My family is visiting me in two weeks as I’m going to receive a volunteer award.  The 4-month old has figured out how to suck her thumb, know when it’s bedtime, and get cranky.  The 7-year old expects me to fill her new kiddie pool and put on my trunks and wade in it with her. 

I attended a memorial service for a friend’s brother a few days ago.  I’m usually  a person who can shut off my emotions and be stoic as well as be a shoulder to cry on or offer comforting words.  It was me who needed some comforting words.  I hate seeing my friends in pain.  I take that more personally than if it’s my family.  My friend said something that I forgot two years in an email.  Your family is the people who are around you.  Doesn’t matter if its immediate family, significant other, or friends. 

If they care about you, then you have family. 

Christmas Has Different Meanings for All Mankind

The snow is starting to taper off as I watch through the window in my Mom’s house.  Christmas Eve draws to an end as Christmas morning looms near the horizon.  In some way, I wasn’t ready for this holiday season.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t plan for it.

Anyhoo, Christmas at home has taken a different spin these days with my family.  In Waterloo, it could be the final time that my grandparents and other members of my family will rent a room out at the local YWCA Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  We have been doing that for almost 15 years.

Most of my cousins have gotten married and will be traveling to spend Christmas with their in-laws.  Some of them live out-of-state, and will not be able to come back. My sister, her family, and I are spending Christmas with Mom in the Quad Cities.

It feels like an end of an era, but the facts are real:  my cousins and I are no longer kids.  We’re adults now.  We can’t always go back home for everything:  holidays, weddings, funerals, or whatever comes up.

Christmas as a single person, does bring some regrets.  Not having a family of your own, no one to share the holiday with that isn’t your parents, siblings, and a goofy uncle or two.  For others, Christmas presents a wide range of emotional responses.  A painful or life-changing experience can make the holiday season be tough to get through.

For those who are less fortunate, Christmas, in the terms of materialistic means, may not be of importance.  Survival is.  Finding a place to stay warm, put food in the belly, and finding their way back to a normal life.

Christmas is defined in different ways and meanings for so many of us.  The only advice I can give to you on this Christmas is “take care of yourself.” We tend to get caught up with everything and everyone else, except for ourselves.

Act Like You Mean It

Midwesterners can be nice and honest, but jealous and petty at the same time. One family from Florida found out the hard way in North Dakota.

It’s unfair that the Midwest, which includes Iowa, continues to be bad-mouthed and stereotyped.  We may not like it and we work hard to change that image.  It’s no secret that the Midwest continues to be portrayed as backwards, simple-minded, and a bit closed-minded.  That hasn’t been the case over the past 20 years.  We’re more progressive, forward-thinking, and trying and bringing new things to improve the quality of life here in Iowa and the Midwest.

Sadly, one thing we do need to change is how some of our fellow Midwesterners treat newcomers.  We say that we’re welcoming, but in the case of this story in North Dakota, it doesn’t help our efforts a bit.  Especially in some pockets of the Midwest.

Good, decent, hard-working, and gossipy and jealous-hearted as hell?  That’s what the Yahoo story ha s reported.

We’re better than this.  Frankly, to those who are still closed-minded,  you are better than this.

What do you think?