Sunday, August 28, 2011

Too Much?

I stopped at the diner last evening to find only a couple of tables in the middle of dinner time. This time of year can find business a bit sparce at times. With nice weather, people are out doing things. And we, ourselves, had just gotten back from a car show in Terrebonne and the air show in Madras.

It brought me to an article that I had just read on how casual diners are struggling right now to keep their share of customers due primarily to the state of the times. People just cannot afford to dine out like they used to. It was an online article and I always read the comments afterward, most of which validated the article. Such things as people remarking that they are eating at home as they just do not have the spendable income that they used to.

I drove away from the diner, processing in my head just how much we were losing that night. We had just about as many crew members as we did customers. I jotted down on a post it note in my head to check and recheck the numbers. The dining business can be a very fine line at times.

As I drove down to a 7-11 store to rent a movie for the night, I began to ponder on all of the up and coming benefit events that take up alot of our time. Are we overcommitting our selves there? After all, the business has to make a profit to survive.

This Wednesday is our End of Summer Car Cruise for the High Desert A's. We turn over the profits that evening as a sort of thank you to the group that has become a sort of family to us. They eat at the diner every Wednesday morning and once a month in the evening. We do so many things with the group also, meeting up with some of them at the Terrebonne car show.

On the heals of that, we recently agreed with the Central Oregon Council on Aging to do a benefit breakfast for Veterans on Sept 11. Now, that one does bug me a bit as I found out last week that they are charging for the event. What was suppose to be a benefit for veterans seems to be one for the organization. I logged down another thought post it to talk to them next week about that. If we are providing a meal free of charge, then at least veterans should be free.

The very next day, on Sept 12, we are doing another meal for veterans at Vince Genna stadium. This is a end of summer BBQ for the Band of Brothers. This one seems to have it's stresses of it's own in that we are not sure and will not have a final count until a few days before causing Jim to worry a bit about the processing of the food. If the numbers are high, it will tax him a bit especially with the breakfast just the day before.

On the heals of that, will be the annual Holdem for Habitat World Series event. Our weekly tourney culminates in the first week of October with a two day event. The winner of the second day gets a trip to the Oregon coast complete with a Marine Discovery tour in Newport. By my figures which are not as accurate as they used to be has us at raising over $28,000 with these weekly fun poker tournies. Besides providing the facility and part of the cost of the large prize, we also give away two meals a week to this event. I quickly process that $20 per week times 52 weeks and come up with giving away over $1000 per year.

Then there is the main event of the year, Thanksgiving. We are working with the Central Oregon Council on Aging to take this one to the next level. Actually taking over the Senior Center for the day and turning it in to a sort of mini resort for Seniors who don't have family close by for the day. If it all goes well, seniors will be able to just come in and hang out with volunteers, having their meals at prescribed times and being entertained by local artists. Meals on Wheels would take on the deliveries thus helping keep them nice and hot for the more shut in seniors.

As I drove into the parking lot and parked in front of the redbox machine, I beguin to ponder and fret a bit about it all. How much is too much? Are we overdoing this especially since I had just drove away from an empty diner. Should I be concentrating more on the profit side as after all, without it there would be no events.

And then the dark thoughts began to grip and scratch at my mind. "Just who cares?", I thought to myself. After all, if the diner does not survive and becomes a thing of the past as so many other businesses do, who will remember us? The little devil sitting on my shoulder said, "No one will remember you when you are gone.".

As I got out of my car, a man walking out of the store came over. "I know who you are and what you do.", he said, "Thank you for all that you do for the local veteran's.".

As I waited for the lady and her son who were picking out their movie, I had my head down a bit, processing what the man had just said. Deep in thought, a hand rested on my right shoulder and I looked over to see a young lady smiling at me. "Thank you for all that you do for Habitat for Humanity", she said, "Because of you and people like you, I will be getting my own house next month.".

As I picked out my movie and made my transaction, a warm feeling flushed over my body. And I said my own little thank you. "Thank you, Lord, for reminding me why.".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I thought that I would collect my thoughts as I drove the short distance between Bend and Lapine on Saturday. I was heading first to the Day reunion and then to help out at David Miltenberger's service.

When we swung by Carrie's house, Jay jumped into my car. We had been together at a car show on Friday night and he had his matchbox Cobra with him. So, for a while, we discussed the Cobra and who built it and how fast it was. We talked of how the one on Friday had special seat belts. "Just like the ones they had on the go carts.", he stated.

As we drove by the road to Paulina, he said, "Hey, lets forget about this reunion and go fishing, Papa!". He began to rattle off all of the fish that you could catch there. His latest obsession, Jay can pretty much tell you every fish and where to catch them and what to use for bait. I hope he keeps this sponge mind. I told him that he should use that same trick to better his grades in school. "Fishing isn't like math, Papa.", he explained.

We enjoyed the reunion, seeing relatives that we don't see that often and walking around looking at the various charts that Sherry had worked so hard on and put up. Jay found that he was listed as just 'Smith' so we corrected that for them. We sat at the table with his 'Uncle Gene', joking and laughing while we waited to eat. When the time came to eat, I only had a few minutes before I needed to leave for the service. I downed my food like a restaurant manager needing to get on to his job, jumped in my car and headed to the cemetery.

I met up with Kathy, David's sister there and we went over the service and what they wanted me to recite. After we talked, the man from the funeral home brought some more chairs and turned on the CD player that played 'Home on the Range'. This special song was written by David's great grandfather, originally as a Hymn.

Kathy and I had gone to school together and shortly another classmate, Don Fredrickson, showed up. Don is a manager at the Ford company in Salem. We stood and talked about the obvious, cars. Soon, David's family showed up. I watched as they all made their way to the small covered area. His wife, Faith, was off to the side, talking with one of her nieces that I knew.

I walked over and said 'Hi' to both of them. Faith seemed excited to meet me telling me that David had spoke of my family so highly. I told her that Marvin would be there and as I spoke, he drove up. As Marvin walked towards us, I introduced them and Faith's eyes lite up. She began to cry as she thanked him for all that he had been for her departed husband. Marvin explained how special David had been to him in those high school years.

I could see that she wanted some alone time with him so I talked with the niece and we walked back to the larger group. I watched as Faith took him by the arm and showed him the grave stone.

I stood to the side and went over the reading one more time. Then, Kathy called everyone over to the service. I watched as the children took places. The girls, Rebecca, Ruth, Rachel, and Charity, seemed to pair up, with two standing up to the side, while the other two sat at the end of the first row. The older boy, Joel, sat between his youngest siblings, Jonathan and Joshua, leaving a spot for his mother between him and the youngest. The middle son, Josiah, stood in the back. "That was were David would have stood.", I thought. I watched Joel as he worked to pick up the spirits of the two younger Miltenbergers. He got Josiah to grin but although Jonathan's spirits seem to lift from the attention of his big brother, his smile remained hidden.

The service was simple, as David would have wanted, with a prayer and then the reading of the obituary and short paragraph from the family. Then we listened and sang 'Home on the Range'. I then began the sharing time which ended up with some of the kids sharing and then Faith. Faith spoke of the great thought that David and her had put into each of the children's names. She showed how each one of them was special and how their names created an even closer bond. I smiled and thought of how it showed the character of David as he was always one who put much thought into things before he did or said something. We all laughed as Rebecca revealed how she helped give Jonathan his middle name. It seems that she had a crush on a boy named Jonathan at the time and his last name became her brothers middle when she made the sneaky suggestion.

We then sang a song that had meant much to David called 'You lift me up'. I listened as the kids, especially the elders sang the song with such meaning. I finished off with a prayer and the group dispensed to head to the grange hall.

I went over to the grange hall and talked for a while before saying my goodbyes. As I walked to the car, the family drove up. I stopped and watched them spill out of their cars. After the service, I had listened to Faith talk to my mom and as my mom spoke of the night that David had accepted the Lord. She talked of his happiness that night saying that he was almost giddy. It brought back memories that I had forgotten about as I remembered that night myself and how incredibly happy he had been. I was thinking of that as I stared at the family as they walked to the hall. Such an incredible group and outstanding legacy for this man and his wife. All different but all having the same touch placed upon them. I wondered who had the greater influence, David or Faith.

I stood and talked with Faith for a while before I said my goodbyes and headed home. I pondered on the different things that his children had said about their father and one theme stood out in my mind. He trusted them. It is something so simple and yet equally hard to do for a parent of a teen.

Sunday morning as I sat at the counter, one of the waitresses asked me of how my day had gone on Saturday. I began to share with her and others around me of how taken that I was of this incredible (I have tried not to use that word too much but it seems to be the theme for them.) family had affected me.

Tony stopped and said, "Hey, why don't you create a new burger. With lots of cheese. You could call it the 'Melting Burger'.....get it....Melting Burger....Miltenberger?".

"I get it, Tone, thanks."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friends and Family

I find myself without much sleep tonight. The coming day is a big one. It will start off with work, then I am heading down to Lapine. First, I will be going to a family reunion. The Day family. My father grew up on the Day ranch that still stands out on Day Road. I believe I have spoken of that before.

Then, I will be speaking at David Miltenberger's service. I agreed to do this when the man who they had expected to speak was not available. It is that which occupies my mind tonight as I want to do it right by his family. I am not worried of what to say per se but more how I am to say it. Especially in the pronunciation of names. I have been to other services where the person speaking has messed up the names and it almost seems disrespectful in a way. Like the night before Phil's service earlier this year, my head is filled with thoughts of David tonight. It would almost be easier as was the case in Gene's where I found out minutes before the service and did not have time to hash out things in my mind.

At the same time as the service, the Bend South Little Leaguers will be battling for the Northwest title against Montana. I am so grateful for the DVR and I will keep the radio off on my way home so that I can experience their fight just as it was live and with no commercials. It was fun watching them play Washington the other night. Jay was not able to watch that game as he was out with is youth group so we watched the highlights on the computer. He said it felt weird to see his friends and their families on ESPN.

Now, while thoughts of the full day waft through my head, my nose distracts me as I sit next to the open window of my room. Every night around this time, a wild animal roams close to the house probably foraging for food. By the rank smell, I would say it is either skunk or raccoon. I have looked around for it before but it keeps itself hidden pretty well. It just cannot hide it's smell.

Jay and I drove Judy's car down to the show at Erickson's last evening. I went up and signed in and as I turned around, I met up with a familiar face but behind sunglasses. He smiled and said, "You don't recognise me, do you?". As he took off his hat, I realized who he was by his distinguished head as he spoke the words, "Les Stiles". We talked but the speakers were in our ears drowning out the conversation. I did catch that he was there in his 1964 1/2 Mustang, however, so we walked over to take a look at it. It was truly a beauty and I could tell that Les was very proud of it. It had been well cared for and I told him that he should enter it in the show. He smiled and said that it was dirty. I laughed as it was much cleaner and brighter than many of the cars around it.

We stood and talked around his Mustang and he talked of possibly joining a club of some sort in his retirement, but was not sure what do join. I suggested he consider checking out the Band of Brothers which got us talking of our time in the service. Les shared with me of how he had started out enlisted and then went to OCS and finished as an officer. I told him that something similar had happened to me but when I was asked to go to OCS, I was already married to Judy. I remember well telling the Captain that I would rather be married to her than to the Navy. Les smiled and said, "You made the right decision. If not for that, you may have not known this fine young man next to you (referring to Jay).". That drew my mind in all sorts of twists. Would I have been there speaking to him? Would I even be living in Bend? It is funny how decision such as that can alter ones future.

The show was fun and I ran into quite a few old friends that I had not seen in a while. I stood talking to two of them, Art and Celia Sanchez, as the various awards were being passed out. Art was one of my instructors in college and ended up being a close friend. We even collaborated on a computer program way back then when I did such stuff. He now works for a large company as a computer analyst. We laughed and talked of how things change along the way. We left promising to get together in the future.

The smell is fading which tells me that my friend outside has probably moved on to the next house in his nightly foraging. My head is still filled with thoughts of yesterdays and more of tomorrows. What decision or event today may change the very course of tomorrow. I guess that it just a part of the excitement of the ride we call 'Life'.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Brothers

We had a great meeting today. It started off with two of the Bend South Little League team that just won the state tourney last Saturday. The vets were excited to meet the young guys and gave them a rousing welcome. One of the guys grabbed a hat and started collecting money to help them get to their next tourney. The guys were generous and raised nearly $250 with a quick pass of the hat.

I then asked the boys if they would like to meet Dan Fouts. Dan was there with his Great Uncle who is a regular member. Judy was standing with the mothers who started to cry when they saw the outpouring of the veterans who wanted to help. As I was introducing them to Dan, Judy informed them on who he was and they began to cry even more. Dan was great and engaged the two young guys in conversation.

Next on the agenda was the National Guard. I was called last week by Major Wulf who said that a few of them would like to join us for today's meeting. They too were given a rousing welcome by the appreciative vets who enjoyed having them join them. Afterwards, the guard members asked me if I could get Dan to take a picture with them. Dan graciously agreed and while Zin moved on with the program, I got the Guard members together for their picture.

I then realized the Colonel Brock was reading the letter from his son in Afghanistan. He had told me earlier that his son had written a page and a half letter in appreciation of the help that the brothers had given him and his comrades. I listened as a proud father read the letter from the Captain son that he so much pride for.

With all this happening, the meeting had a special feel to it. The smiles were brighter and the jokes were louder. Dr. Carnahan joined us for the day and I introduced him to the ones who had not met him. The Dr was one of the men who helped get the VA clinic started here in Bend and is held in high esteem in the veteran community.

We also talked of Bob Maxwell leaving tomorrow for France where he is to walk where he fought in WW2 including his first time back to the spot where his courageous actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The retired British officer, David, showed up and I was able to give him the last of the Battle of Briton coins that were given me. I was excited when he informed me that his father had fought in the battle. This gave this award an even better meaning. I know now that the coins have gone to the right people.

After the meeting, Zin, Ray, and I got together to discuss our getting a 501C coverage for the group. Someone informed us that we needed to get this because we were doing so many things to assist people. We agreed to match the $250 raised by the veterans at the meeting.

Add in the $100 raised in the evening by the poker players and we have raised $850 to help these young players and their families on their trip to the regionals this week. A truely profitable day in far more ways than one.