Tag Archives: Henneke

Mr. (Not) Right

Welcome to Team Henneke, where everybody not only wants to be right, but needs to be right.

No way will we give into the other person because that would be — wrong.

We have to be right about everything, it seems. Including the exact date when dad first reached puberty, the number of times he posts on Facebook each day, who did the last load of towels and the proper location for toothpaste on the bathroom counter. mr-right

At our house, folks exercise their right to be right in practically any instance. It could be during a blessing on the food, during a football game or in a room full of VIPs.

As for me, I can’t say here if I am right or not, because somebody might take issue with it. Because it’s my blog, just pretend that I speak the truth for the next 30 seconds.

It doesn’t matter to me as much if I win a debate. I don’t care to defend any allegations that somebody does more housework than me. Or that nobody believes me when I deny any responsibility for using the milk jug as a doorstop.

Actually, it’s quite entertaining to purposely mess with those who have to be right. It shakes them up, makes them question the very reason for their existence.

The key is to calmly state any of the retorts listed below and walk away.

1. The sun won’t come up tomorrow.

2. I don’t owe you any money. If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

3. Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m not at my best under general anesthesia.

4. I firmly believe Congress will do the right thing.

5. Nobody has shown any conclusive evidence that leaving mayo out for six hours can be harmful to you.

6. That Billy character on Family Circus should do stand-up. He’s that funny.

Now that I know my place, I don’t always need to have the last word. Unless you disagree with me, then I will have speak up.

Because, let’s be honest. It’s the right thing to do.

Why I don’t care if you read this (for now)

You 10 readers used to keep me up at night.

I used to pour over the blog stats fretting about who showed up on my blog and how they got there. What if I added the wrong keywords or (heaven forbid) give enough back links?

For a long time, you came to the blog in droves, and it was fun living my alter ego as a two-bit blog celebrity. I tried to act nonchalant when my kids reported more comments to them about my blog.

Now I’ve reached a point where I hope to write more and care less. It’s taken a long time, but I think I’m finally there. I’ll still share on Facebook and Twitter, and still be grateful when you visit. But letting go of the numbers, a process many months in the making, has been extremely therapeutic.

If you still come to visit me here, glad to have you.

Who knows what you’ll find when you get here. The writing most likely won’t be gooder than other writers. But it will have honesty, maybe make you smile or identify with a lesson that I learned. And like always, I never write longer than my attention span. These days, that’s usually not longer than success as a GOP frontrunner.

This whole discovering who I am is taking longer than I thought. Some day, I’ll finish the idea I had for a children’s book. I might even compile of these essays into book form. I’ll keep reading powerful writing, such as this this eulogy on Steve Jobs.

But for now, I’ll just keep writing. Judging by how often I look at these pics on my desk, I’ll have plenty of inspiration.

Lacey, Lindsey and the dog inspire me just as well. You're just on the opposite side of the desk.


Don’t tell mom

I wish my Swiffer mop looked this nice, but you get the idea.

Listen up, boys.

The following is Top Secret, Eyes Only, Guy Clearance. Under no circumstances is this to be divulged to mom or your pants will self-destruct during a school assembly. Not even Ethan Hunt will save you.

Don’t tell mom that I’ve vacuumed faithfully every Saturday since I’ve been here or it will blow her mind.

Don’t tell her that I’ve swept (and mopped) the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom floor on my hands and knees, kept the counters cleaned of any debris and the garbage emptied. Her head will explode.

If the police raided my apartment right now, the dishes would be done, all the lights would be off and there would be no naughty movies anywhere. Lab tests on the van would reveal no sign of Taco Bell crumbs. Or any food particles from my time here in Billings.

On second thought, let’s tell her a few things so it won’t mess her up too bad. Tell her that I probably should wipe out the fridge at some point. And I’m making liberal use of paper products to minimize the dirty dishes.

That’s all she knows. Don’t tell her that I washed and dried all my sheets and have only a tiny bit of laundry left to fold. I cook as well in places other than the microwave, say my prayers and get to bed long before the sun rises in the morning.

One more thing. Do tell her that I love her and miss her. That, I do want her to hear.

Read my about page to know we are operating two households for the next few months.


Will the real Mike please stand up?

Before I left home for this new job, my wife gave me some advice.

“This will be a great chance to recreate yourself,” she said.

Fun-loving Mike? Good.

Goof-off Mike? Not-so-good.

Be gone with you, demon spirits of the orange Tic Tacs. Be healed of the old Mike and bring on Mike 2.0. Make him Peter Brady with his new-and-improved persona.

Now that I am separated temporarily in another timezone, I’m going to do something very daring. I’m going to respectively disagree with her, to a point.

I don’t want to be new with extra cleaning power, I want to be the best person I was designed to be on this Earth. This came from a quote while watching a broadcast on Dell Parsons. It came from a BYU professor and has stuck with me ever since. More or less, it says this:

Be the person you were designed to be.

That means I am a person of divine potential, capable of greatness here on this Earth.

Maybe I won’t change the world as much as visionary Steve Jobs. I won’t be known for any inventions or the right sequence for removing all the tags on new shirts.

But maybe I can make somebody smile. I can be happy, positive and enthusiastic.

And if that’s enough to brighten the day of somebody around me, especially my family, then that’s the right Mike for me.

In a strange land

It didn’t take long for the homesickness to hit, the kind that twists your stomach into 400 knots.

It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot, late at night with a hint of a warm Montana breeze. To my right, a small group of teens were huddled around a truck.

While my wife was talking, I thought back a few minutes earlier driving down Grand Avenue, one of the main streets here. The road was packed with students, packed in numerous vehicles following a football game that just finished.

I drove slower than I should down Grand Avenue, searching for a particular road I needed. One car filled with students ripped around me on my left. Evidently I wasn’t going fast enough, because one of them leaned out the window and shouted something that appeared kinda rude.

Back in the parking lot, my wife was talking. After 30 seconds or so, she paused.

“Are you there?” she asked. “Why aren’t you talking?”

A short pause before I could keep my voice steady enough.

“I was afraid if I spoke I might start crying.”

Even now, I’m disgusted with myself that I allowed myself to mope. The people are so nice here. Employees at work were kind enough to send my wife a bouquet of flowers and stole into my apartment with some groceries and supplies I needed.

I don’t think it was by accident, but a thought flashed into my mind. It was my young college-age friend back home. He just found out he has a brain tumor.

When I talked to him on Facebook later that night, he was surprisingly upbeat. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “You play the cards you were dealt.”

Hmmm. I’ll wondered if I would be so faithful facing that trial. If I couldn’t even handle this trivial change, how would I ever cope with something that grand.

This is where I need to be. No question in my mind. Doesn’t mean there won’t be a breaking-in period though. It’s happened with other moves before and will probably happen again.

Finally I hung up and walked into Wal-Mart. Before I went home, I set my GPS for another building. Surprisingly I found it in less than five minutes, with no additional insults hurled from students.

I pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to the familiar tan building. Lights lit up the parking lot and most of the facade of the building.

My eyes settled on a sign on the outside of the building. Some of the words on the sign jumped out more than others:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I paused and smiled. I was home.

Chasing the perfect ending

I wanted my last Saturday as the Sunday editor for the Democrat-Herald to be picture perfect, something that would make filmmaker Ken Burns beg me to tell my story.

It certainly started out that way, before the night imploded. Two co-workers brought pie, I finished my final column for the Sunday paper and we got word of a great story involving a 60-year-old surfer dude saving the day near a Newport jetty.

Tracking him down for an interview usually takes an old priest and a young priest, a rabid guinea pig and 20 phone calls to friends on Facebook.

Not this time. He actually called me back in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy, Publisher Mike McInally advised me to embellish how I reached him. So as far as you know, I called in a favor to my soothsayer bookie in Tibet.

Not only did we land a very good story with a great photo by Jesse Skoubo, I would still had pie left to eat out of the carton after everybody else left for the night.

Maybe they would make a statue of me for the front of the paper. Future tours would include stops at Mike Henneke’s desk and bow down in reverence where they tiny toilet used to sit. This means I better make time for Matt Lauer.

What’s this? Have to remake a page before deadline because a story was three days old. There’s two more blunders in the Lifestyles section that needs to be fixed. And there’s a glaring error by me on the top of A1.

Suddenly my picturesque little woodland scenario has turned into the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.”

My Walt Disney ending turned into something like this.

What a way to go. Suddenly I can picture myself getting escorted from the building and the company tearing up my last paycheck.

Today I came home I came home to find my wife and youngest son reading my column at the kitchen table. I walked back into the bedroom, in preparation for my traditional Sunday nap.

Before I went to sleep, Spencer walked into the room, carrying the section with my column on the front. He had it folded over where I could see my picture on the front.

“Could I keep this?” he asked. “I want to show it to my teacher.”

I looked at him and smiled big. Maybe I found my perfect ending after all.








Parents on puppet strings

One day I woke up and the kids were in charge. It’s the weirdest thing. At one point, it was pretty obvious in America that the parents were the bosses, the grand kahunas, the big cheeses.

The kids were under our responsibility, obeyed our rules or faced consequences. There was no negotiating or collective bargaining with parents. We didn’t owe them any gifts, favors or inheritance.

Now kids run the place. We seek their permission, ask forgiveness for not writing the check fast enough. Let’s just hope we don’t have to speak to their lawyers.

We wonder if we were too hard on them, demanding that they do their homework on time. To make it up to them, we sign over our stocks with hopes that it will make them happy.

In the store tonight, my wife was standing next to a mother and her child sitting in a shopping cart. He was probably less than 5 years old.

The discussion continued to escalate until he uttered these words: “I’ll cry if you don’t give me what I want.”

Sometimes it happens when they get older. On a regular basis, I will ask my 17 year old to perform a household task.

“If I do “X”, can we go to the store?” he’ll ask.

No, I reply. You’ll do it because that’s part of your responsibilities as a member of this house.

And if you don’t like it, have your lawyer call me in the morning.





Press 1 to read this post

Instead of wading through phone tree hell, pressing zero will usually take you to a live customer service rep.

Only one problem with the smoothie she handed me at the drive-thru. It wasn’t filled up all the way.

Of all the customer service nightmares I’ve experienced, this definitely belonged in the kiddie section. Still I had been shorted, and I thought I would bring it up.

I held up the drink to her with a smile and asked her why it wasn’t filled all the way.

At that point, she had two choices: Either empathize with me, value my concern or blow me off. Unfortunately for her, she chose poorly.

In so many words, she told that’s all I would get. Even though she was still smiling, but her body language said, “deal with it.”

“Really?” I responded, raising my eyebrows, but smiling a little less.

She shrugged her shoulders and immediately began to shut the drive-thru window, effectively dismissing me.

By now, most of you will accuse me of making a mountain out of a smoothie. So it’s a little short. Deal with it and move on, Henneke.

It wasn’t so much about the smoothie, as her lack of caring toward my concern. Had the employee at least apologized, I would have driven away only mildly miffed. But her lack of a response was enough to make me park and go inside to speak with the manager.

The manager instantly apologized, reaffirmed the validity of my concern and immediately offered to make it right. I thanked her, complimented this McDonald’s for its usual high standards for customer service and promised to return.

As companies look for ways to increase revenue and cut costs, employees are expected to do more work with less. Sometimes it’s easy for customer service to be sacrificed, and even easier for us to accept it as a reality.

Not so. Whether you’re piloting through phone-tree hell over a major warranty issue or getting your fast food order correct, there are some tips that can boost your chances for customer satisfaction.

1. Keep receipts and other important paperwork to minimize refund hassles. Nothing diminishes your case more when you can’t produce proof of your purchase. It’s too much to expect stores to take your word on buying the big screen there. We keep all important papers in a file cabinet and important receipts in a separate container.

2. Research your problem. A recent new cell phone began heating up on me as soon as I bought it, so much so, it was almost too hot to the touch. A quick Google search revealed a significant number of other people with the same issue. I returned the phone the next morning for a completely different model.

3. The customer service agent is your friend. Despite your frustration, this isn’t the time for profanity or name-calling. Try to establish a bond with them. Find out their first name or make them laugh. Establish that you’ve been a long-time customer and you hope to continue your loyalty with them. Be persistent but polite.

4. Don’t let the phone tree win: Sites such as GetHuman or ContactHelp are great tools to help you locate the right numbers to call and the average wait time expected for each company.

5. Take your case to social media. Most companies have reps who monitor its presence on Facebook or Twitter. One company gave me a bill credit after I alleged a rep had misled me about me about a promotion. Post a brief case of your problem on their Facebook page, with what it will take to keep your loyalty.

5. Point out good examples of customer service: Take time to fill out a comment card for an employee who got it right. Take time to list the store or employee by name. Most good companies still have incentive programs for employees who receive positive feedback from customers.

6. Don’t be afraid to start over: If you’re dealing with an incompetent customer service agent, end the conversation and call back. There’s a good chance the next person will be more helpful.

7. Accept the fact that you won’t always win: Sometimes it will seem like they don’t care, even if you go all the way to the top. Once I spent several weeks speaking with corporate representatives from Staples over a major shipping gaffe. In the end, I received a check for $25.

 Phone keypad photo from here.





Use the pause button

TV remote image from Yortw's Fickr photostream.

I have a DVR addiction.

There, I said it. That’s the first step, so they tell me.

It’s just that I love pausing things. Love reversing action on the field, watching plays in slow-mo or watching sunflower seeds suspended in flight.

This DVR idea doesn’t work so well with the kids, but I know somebody will change that some day. “Don’t make me pause you!” I always want to say.

Actually for the past few days, I did get to use the pause button during Team Henneke’s great Beachapalooza 2011.

Photo by Lacey Henneke

It happened during Labor Day weekend, when all seven of us went to Forks to see mom and some of the beaches where I grew up. Before we came home, we stopped in Newport for one last look at the ocean before returning home. I’ll be going to Montana soon, and I’m excited about the opportunities and the new challenges there.  But I’ll miss the people here, some of the natural beauty here, and especially the ocean.

The sun was bright Saturday as I emerged from a 20-minute walk through the lush, green forest that leads to Second Beach.  People lined the beach in either direction, some in tents, most with some form of alcohol.

After five minutes of walking on the sand, I sat down on a log to remove my shoes, giving my bare feet full access to the cold sand.

There’s something about the surf that soothes you and takes away all your worries.

Doesn’t matter what’s ahead of you or behind you. The ocean makes it all better.

After carefully tucking my socks inside my white sneakers, I began walking again. A few hundred yards down the sandy beach, I found a pool of water no higher than my ankles. While the crash of the ocean chilled my feet and turned them pink from the cold, this felt different.

This water was warm, so much so, that I walked back and forth like a little kid. As I looked down at the sand, the wind sent ripples through the water.

Didn’t worry about work, bills or relationships. Didn’t fret about anything or open my to-do list.

That’s what happens when you put your life on pause, even for an afternoon. It’s much better than a DVR.