Archive | February, 2016

My Doomsday Book

25 Feb

I have a Doomsday Book.  It’s not fancy.  It’s just a three-ring binder with page protectors.  Documents fill the page protector.

Whenever I have a surgery or am undergoing anesthesia, the Doomsday Book moves from the cabinet containing my important papers to the island in the kitchen.  The move allows ease of access although daughter knows where it resides.

Unlike The Doomsday Book ordered by William the Conqueror that surveyed the “underlying structure of England” (Churchill, 1956, p. 127), mine includes a statement of my final wishes and financial affairs such as

  • Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Durable Special Powers of Attorney in the event of my incapacity
  • Pre-Paid Funeral Plan and obituary outline including contact information (There will be no gathering of the family at the funeral home to select casket, etc. It’s already done.)
  • Evidence of my military service (DD-214)
  • Instructions for burial at sea
  • A copy of my Last Will and Testament with contact information my attorney (Upon notice of my death, the attorney knows what to do.)
  • A copy of my inter vivos (living or loving) trust including a list of all property already transferred into the trust and contact information for my attorney and my successor trustee (Upon notice of my death, my attorney and successor trustee know what to do.)
  • Life Insurance Policies (active and in force) with contact information
  • The latest financial statement for me personally and for my inter vivos trust (This includes bank and brokerage information.)
  • Directions to locate and access my passwords
  • The location of Safe Deposit Box keys
  • Any special instructions and final messages
    • Scholarship Opportunities like the United States Navy League Scholarship
    • Service instructions

The underlying principle was KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.  I wanted all the important documents in one place with contact information.  Disability and/or death is stressful enough on the survivors without requiring them to wander through a morass of documents looking for these things.  It’s simply common sense and preparation.  It’s lifting a burden from the family that they shouldn’t have to shoulder.  I’m even considering giving my attorney a copy of the Doomsday Book.

I’m not worried about creditors.  The bills will continue to arrive.  If I’m dead, my attorney and the executor of my estate can handle those.  If I’m incompetent to handle my own affairs, my power of attorney kicks in.

Everyone should have a plan.  If they don’t, typically the state imposes one either through the intestacy process in the event of death or through guardianship proceedings in the event of incompetency.  It’s your choice.

I’ve encountered clients who are meticulous in their financial affairs but who won’t even consider having a last will and testament because that means that they are going to die.  I have difficulty understanding their reasoning.  They won’t begin a project until every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed with a written contract that spells out expectations, requirements, and consequences and includes a project management calendar identifying commencement and completion dates with important progress dates clearly indicated; yet, their death will leave their family lost in the wilderness with no plan whatsoever.  I don’t want that to happen to my family; therefore, I have a plan and a Doomsday Book.


Churchill, W. S. (1956). A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.

Math Reflections

11 Feb

Clearly, children today are brighter than I.  A fourth grade student asked for my help with the following problem:

A certain rectangle has an area of 30 square inches.  The perimeter of the rectangle is 34 inches.  How long are the sides of the rectangle?

Admittedly, I am not the brightest crayon in the box.  I still possess some recollections of my years in public school.  Math was not a friend.  I recall struggling with math throughout my twelve years in school.  It seemed to take forever to grasp the basic principles: adding, subtraction, multiplication, division both long and short, fractions, decimals, and units of measurement.  Weren’t the first eight years spent in grasping these concepts?  Don’t you have to understand the concepts before applying them to the most dreaded problems of all – story problems?

I admit to some degree of functional fixedness regarding math.  In third grade, Mrs. Shoop would write problems on the board such as

Multiplication Addition

I hoped for the 8 times 8 problem.  Multiplication I could handle; addition was always difficult.  God understood my challenge and arranged for me to get the addition problem.  While other students were rapidly writing the answer to their assigned problems, I struggled with 8 plus 8 is 16 plus 8 is … 24 plus 8 is … 32 plus 8 is … 40 ….  Each pause got longer.  Eventually I would be the last student at the board.  My effort would have ended at 49 plus 8 because my nerves would have gotten the better of me and throw in an addition factor other than 8 simply to exhaust my limited supply of confidence.  Mrs. Shoop would then point out that these are exactly the same problems whereupon self-confidence would be reduced to zero.

I now recognize that from the beginning there has been an element of algebra in all problems.  The unknown, the answer, was always sought.  However, a formal introduction arrived in Mr. Robert McVey’s ninth grade algebra class.  Mr. McVey described what math can do for us and provided plenty of examples and help in understanding this subject.  One unknown; two unknowns; polynomials; slope; graphs; quadratic equations; factoring; inequities; and, most importantly, how to interpret story problems and set up the equation all became known with Mr. McVey’s guidance.  I won’t say it became easy, but I, at least, had some idea of how to address basic math problems.  (He frankly scared me with tales of going to the meat market to get butcher paper in order to do math problems in college.)

The fourth grader’s problem wasn’t the type of problem I had to deal with until Mr. McVey’s algebra class in high school.  I plugged my data into the formulas for area of a rectangle (area = length x width) and perimeter of a rectangle (perimeter = two times the length + two times the width).  I isolated one of the unknowns (l = [34 – 2w]/2 or l = 17 – w) and substituted that into the formula. As I began to solve for “w” it became apparent that “w” was going to be squared.  As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise … surprise … surprise” (Gomer Pyle: USMC, 1964-1969). Fourth graders handle quadratic equations!

Clearly, fourth graders today are brighter today than I.


Ruben, A. (Creator) & Nabors, J. (Actor). (1964-1969). In Leonard, S. & Ruben, A. (Executive Producers), Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C. [Television Series] Culver City, CA: Desilu Studios.




4 Feb

I am a dunker.  I like hard cookies.  I love to dunk them in coffee, tea, and milk.  I especially like hard oatmeal raisin cookies.  There’s even a family story about losing my first tooth while enjoying an oatmeal cookie in Dunkirk, Ohio, in route to the Ohio State Fair.

A friend made oatmeal raisin cookies.  Frankly, I was disappointed.  If the oatmeal raisin cookies were brought into close proximity of coffee, milk, and/or tea, they disintegrated.

I acquired my friend’s recipe and compared it to mother’s recipe.  I compared my friend’s recipe with the recipe on the Quaker Oats box.  On the surface, while not exact, there appeared to be no significant difference (a little more oatmeal, a little less flour, etc.) among the recipes.  Yet, my friend’s cookies collapsed in the presence of coffee, tea, or milk while neither mother’s nor the company’s did.  What a distressing state of affairs!

Now, I readily admit that I’m not the brightest crayon in the box.  There had to be answer, and I set out to discover it.

It made no difference whether the liquid was warm or cold.  The cookie crumbled!

I discovered that my friend did not like raisins straight from the box; therefore, whenever raisins were called for in a recipe, the raisins would be “plumped” in some warm water before adding them to the recipe.  Would plumping raisins make a difference?

Whatever had happened to the oatmeal raisin cookies was contagious.  The chocolate chip cookies now crumbled also.  Curiously, I discovered a pan of soaking raisins was on the stove.  I looked for the oatmeal raisin cookies; alas, they could not be found.  There were no raisins in the chocolate chip cookies.  However, I did discern that the oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies shared an oatmeal base.

Perhaps some cookie deity required a raisin sacrifice before cookies could be made.  I researched religious practices but could find no deity that necessitated a raisin sacrifice before making oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookies.  I did, however, suspect that the California Raisin Board might have been behind this practice because the Board sponsored a series of commercials with animated raisins singing “I Heard It through the Grapevine.”  Perhaps this raisin sacrifice thing was an imbedded subliminal message in this advertisement, and my friend was especially susceptible to this message.

From my friend’s cookbook I followed the cookie making process for the following:

Cookie Soaking Raisins on Stove
100 No
Banana – Oatmeal No
Butter Balls No
Buttermilk No
Cherry Winks No
Chocolate Chip Yes
Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake No
No Bake No
Christmas No
Cut Out No
Soft Sugar No
Czech Kolaches No
Hungarian No
Oatmeal Raisin Yes
Peanut Butter Drops No
Pumpkin No
Skillet No
Snicker Doodles No

Not all oatmeal based cookies required the ritual sacrifice of raisins.  This was strange indeed.  (Some of these were dunkers; others were not.)

Furthermore, I noticed that should the oatmeal raisin be packed for freezing or shipping, the molecules of individual cookies began holding hands with the cookies touching them.  Consequently, even when completely thawed, each cookie bore evidence – a little additional cookies here … a small hole there — of having been in intimate proximity with its neighbor.  (Could this have been alchemy’s beginnings for turning base metals into gold?)   I imagine if left alone long enough they would have been rearranged into one, large cookie mass.  (Break off a chunk of oatmeal raisin cookie.  Beware: they crumble in proximity to moisture!)  It was most perplexing!

If I wanted an oatmeal raisin cookie to dunk, I either made it myself or purchased it from a bakery.

*           *          *

Many years later, I discovered another oatmeal raisin recipe.  This recipe added raisin juice to the dry ingredients to make a “thick” batter.  Could this be the reason that my friend’s cookies disintegrated when coffee, tea, or milk was near?