Me and my big mouth…

Have you ever had one of those seemingly innocent conversations that, in hindsight,  ends up costing thousands?  If you have…welcome to my world.

Literally a few months ago Connie and I were sitting in our living room when I mentioned that it’d be nice to replace the carpeting in our living & dining room.  It was at least fifteen years old, had survived three daughters running across it, had absorbed multiple spills, had obtained a black stain about the size of a quarter that I think was asphalt and was an easy target for one rogue cat that had occasional bouts of the stomach flu…spitting up juicy hairballs.  It started its career as a pristine, beige in  color, medium pile carpet.  It ended its life as a well-worn speckled beige-like floor covering.  What began as a “thought” took on a life of its own.  Not only are we getting new carpeting in the living and dining room but also new flooring in our entryway, half-bath, kitchen, up stairs bathroom and carpeting up the stairwell and upstairs hallway.  Its true.  Most of the flooring in our home on the main and second level were from the 1990’s and (wait for it….) 1980’s.  While showing its age, fashion-wise, it was holding up fairly well considering all of the traffic that our and the previous families had put on them.  No sooner had we brought up the idea of getting bids on the flooring when Connie brought up the fact that our furniture in the living room was past its prime….so we went furniture shopping as well.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Between trying to match fabric samples verses carpet samples my right-brained analytical wife went into overdrive.  A new couch, chair, end-tables, coffee table and entertainment center are inbound to the Palatial Estates.  I honestly just lost interest and turned the decisions over to her.  Here’s another little deal….you can’t have new furniture and carpeting without….wait for it….a new paint job in the living and dining rooms.

So…the floor guys are here now.  They’re not being quiet.  There were around three or four layers of older vinyl flooring beneath the one that we thought was way past due.  They’re pounding the life out of our kitchen floor.  Literally…hammering away on it like their very lives depend on hammering away.  Stripping, sanding and hammering.  Our refrigerator and stove are in our dining room…as is the breakfast bar and kitchen table.  Its all a mess.  A big, noisy mess…so be careful of what you say. 

Our living room…full of kitchen stuff while Connie paints the living and dining rooms a different…more relaxing shade of….tan? Beige? I don’t know.  She’s hosting a party here in four days.  She’s just a little stressed out.

Onto another topic (stay with me now…its been two full months since I’ve blogged so deal with it).  I was removing the leaves from our ancient oak kitchen table when I had one of those “jeez…just think if this table could talk” moments.  It all started back in 1988 when Connie and I were newlyweds.  A co-worker had this old table that she wanted $100 for.  She had bought it from a farmer then stripped the paint off.  Stained and varnished it looked pretty good to us… being poor,  and needing a table we jumped at the chance and our seller threw in four chairs from a former pizza place.  What a deal!!  Our new table was built to last, hefty and if you accidently grazed your sock covered foot on one of its thick oak legs then you probably broke a toe as the table always held its ground like a fortress of heavy oak against that puny little toe.

The table is over a hundred years old.  Built to last.  Its seen multiple moves from rental house to apartment to first home to this home.  It was with us before we had kids…but not before nephews acting silly with Grandpa.

Connie with our nephews and Dad. Do you like our fashion sense? All that really mattered was family. We didn’t have much…but we had each other.  1989

Its seen our family go from two, to three, to four and eventually grow to five.  Feeding a young one in a highchair as we had supper.  Wiping up spilled milk as it ran between the leaves and onto the floor.  Thousands of meals.  Plenty of talk…lots of laughter and maybe a few lessons learned along the way.

Dad with Karalee and Jordan…drawing pictures for each other.

Many a birthday parties and holiday meals were shared upon this table.

Later on as we gained a dining room it became a “kids table” during the holidays.

Did I mention that it was built to last? I don’t think very many tables these days are made like this one. Its oak…solid…no particle board.

The holidays were probably your most used times…holding court as others mixed up ingredients and frosting.

If you ever want to get a message to me….leave a note on the kitchen table. I’ll get it there.

Once the kitchen flooring is done the table will return, minus any leaves.  We simply don’t need that large of a table.  In its heyday it held fifteen of us one Thanksgiving, though now it’ll just be the two of us…again.  Its kind of weird how things in life circle back around like that.  Weird and yet reassuring.  I hope it finds another good family after we’re done with it in a few years.

Thanks for coming along.

God Bless you,

R

 

 

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I walk with giants

A blog 28 years in the making….RETAIL…LOVE IT or just keep doing the job…either way you’re probably okay.

This month marks the twenty-eighth year that I’ve worked for the same company.  Mind you they’re not continuous years.  My first stint lasted fifteen years, eleven months when I left the company.  My second stint has lasted since May of 2005.  All in all….its been a good ride.  Some days are better than others…that’s probably true of any job.  The majority of my time has been in the position of middle-management, just important enough to be held accountable for many things but not everything.  It’s safe to say that no two days are the same.

Over the years there have been many changes in retail.  When I started back in June of 1985 whoever thought that customers would want our store to offer free wifi?  Or bottled water sold by the case?  Bud Light was only three years old.  We still took rolls of film and sent them off to a regional photo lab where they took two days to get processed.  Movie video rentals were something new to the business.  We had special weekend hours.   Who’d want to visit a store after 9 PM?  What’s a Super Target or WalMart Super Center?

The following is a list of what’s changed and what hasn’t.

Changed:

  • Customers.  They’re in a rush these days.  Plain and simple.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a pack of smokes or cart full of groceries…they want to get in and out as fast as they can and they’re not concerned with letting you know if they’re not happy.  It’s a grittier age.
  • Employees.  It used to be that when I hired new employees you could count on one or two being exceptional, two or three being good and the rest being average.  Currently the attrition rate of new employees is alarming.  When I hire now I know that many will leave within a few months.  We’re not alone in this predicament.  It’s so very difficult to hire and keep employees.  I don’t know if it’s the economy, the low unemployment rate or the culture….but it’s hitting all facets of the job market.
  • Products.  There are so many different variety’s now.  Thousands!  Remember old plain Triscuit crackers?  There are dozens of different flavors now all vying for a place in your shopping cart and they’re not alone.  Multiple flavored Cheetos’, toothpastes, spaghetti sauces, paper towels in “select-a-size” and candies to name a few.  Remember when beer only came in quarts, six packs and twelve packs?  Now your favorite brew is available in practically any size package you could dream of.  Remember pink, blue and light green Charmin toilet paper in four roll packs?  Toilet paper used to be SCENTED.  (I miss the days of lightly scented pale green Charmin)  Gluten-free products, soy milks and range-free eggs?  Who would have thought that they’d be so popular?  Upside down bottles of ketchup for those who need ketchup two seconds faster than the rest of us…we have you covered.
  • Muzak.  We used to pipe in mindless elevator music to our stores.  Nowadays we have practically every genre available and we program it accordingly.  FYI…Hits of the 80’s is my fav.
  • Technology.  What industry hasn’t had seismic changes with the use of technology?  It’s used from everything from hiring, ordering, pricing, scheduling, e-mail, labor control etc. etc.  It’s mind-boggling to think how far we’ve come with its assistance.  I communicate with our employees more with texting and Facebook  than I do in speaking with them personally some days.  The old days of calling their home phone, via land line, and leaving a message then hoping that they’ll get back to me is ancient history.
  • Alcohol and lottery.  It wasn’t that big of a deal back in 1985 when we started selling it.  It is now.  Very, very big.    One of these days it wouldn’t surprise me if we sold medicinal marijuana.
  • Store hours.  Customers want to be able to purchase their products when its convenient for them.  We’ve changed as best as we can.  We used to have special Saturday hours 8-6, Sunday’s 9-5 and limited holiday hours. Holidays are for people who don’t typically work retail and food service.  I don’t mind it anymore.  Its just another day to work and serve our customers.
  • Competition.  I touched upon it earlier though the addition of WalMart and Super Target into the retail landscape has altered things forever.  Add technology into the mix where customers can use their smart phones to look up WalMart’s price then ask if we’ll honor it and it really gets interesting, or ordering it from Amazon and having it delivered.  Who would have thought this was possible.  It makes me wonder where we’ll be in ten years.

What hasn’t changed:

  • Customers.  I love ’em.  They could’ve chosen any store to shop at and they chose us. Many have become unofficial friends of mine.  I’ve hired them or their kids when they’ve needed jobs.  I’ve hugged them when their husbands pass, or draw a funny picture of myself and sent it along with them to give to their wife at the nursing home.  I’ve given rides to some who’s cars won’t start in our parking lot.  I’ve listened as they’ve poured out their concerns about cancers,  sicknesses or a loved one in the hospital…and I’m not alone. I work with folks who, like me, have stayed with the same company and same store for decades.  If a customer has a problem they know that they can visit with one of us and we’ll do our best to make it right.  Customers still appreciate good service and good value.
  • Employees.  I walk with giants.  At 28 years of service I’m one of the rookies when it comes to time spent with our company at our store.  There are three with over 40 years of service and many more with over 30.  Do we all get along?  No.  Most brothers and sisters don’t…but when the chips are down bet your ass we’ve got each others backs.  I love ’em. Another thing that hasn’t changed with the years, hiring teenagers for their first job.  Some are serious, others goofy.  Many have pushed my buttons through the years, but I’ll tell you one thing…this old dog has his eventual day in the sun.  That wise-cracking teenager from 1996 is now thirty-seven, married with three little ones.  I see him occasionally and we chuckle about how he used to act.  “I was your worst employee” he states.  “No…but you had your moments” I reply.  The passage of time helps us to see more clearly what kind of person they really are.  I don’t regret hiring any of them.  Its part of the journey.  I’m very proud of them and how far they’ve come and what they’ve accomplished.  I hope they all know that.
  • Promotions.  I’ve been promoted.  I’ve had various title changes.  I’ve had ten bosses.  The more things change the more it stays the same.  Hustle.  Take care of the customers. Take care of the employees.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Value.  Safety.  I can’t please everyone, but I try hard too.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Two words.  Rowdy Rich.
  • Weather.  Customers hear the word “snow” and we get very busy. Other companies close for snow days.  We stay open.  Nuff said.
  • Products changing.  They come.  They go.  Never a dull moment.  Viagra.  Body wash.  Flavored Ritz crackers.  Seasonally flavored coffee creamers.  K-cups. Sports drinks like Gatorade/PowerAde. Sodas in every shape and flavor. AXE body spray. The demise of English Leather cologne (probably not a bad thing….) and many others.

I’ve been blessed to have worked with thousands of people through the years.  Thousands.  I’ve also been blessed to have been able to work for a forward-thinking, cutting-edge, socially-minded company that has given me good pay, health insurance and a great store that attracts the people of our community.  Several years ago I had a customer who had just moved into our town.  I learned what her name was and I used it when I saw her.  She asked me why I did that.  I replied “I make it a point to learn who’s putting food on my family’s table.”  She liked that analogy because its true in its basic sense.  As we get bigger, leaner and busier I pray that I never forget that.

In the beginning of my career I had a head-full of beautiful brown wavy hair. Nowadays…not so much.

Twenty-eight years in the rearview mirror.  Its been a great ride.  I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!

Take care and God bless.

R

The journey home

As previously mentioned on RICH RIPLEY, the blog, I traveled to Berlin Germany to visit our youngest daughter.  The sights, the food and drink, as well as getting to visit Macy, was well worth the price of the tickets.  I’ve traveled alone to Japan and Germany in the past few months, and what I’ve discovered is that there are friendly folks all over this planet.  Getting through international airports, from one terminal to another and finding my next flights gate can be a daunting task.  I’m not necessarily the smartest guy around (stop and take that in….it just blew your mind!) but I’ve usually been able to find someone along my path to guide me to where I need to go.  Politeness, common courtesy and a friendly smile go a long way in most situations.  The following are some notes that I jotted down during my vacation, flying to and from Germany.

  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: the rule of thumb for any Starbucks situated in a big, busy airport is to only have two employees working behind the counter while a third is seemingly constantly on break (standing on the customer side of the counter-talking to the two that are working).  Scheduling any more than two, or three, would mean that the line waiting for coffee would become shorter than twenty customers.
  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: It amuses me what folks choose to wear when traveling.  I usually wear nicer, but comfortable clothes.  Other folks wear suits or nice dresses, whereas some folks wear wild, brightly colored jogging suits from the 90’s or a combination that looks like they got dressed in the dark at a rummage sale.  I call these travelers wardrobe  “flea-market circus”.  I like the name so much that I might trademark it and start a clothing empire.  “Flea-Market Circus.  When you want to stand out from the crowd but blend in with the clowns”.  Coming soon to a strip mall near you.”
  • While flying into Charles De Gaulle airport in France on my way home:  The French countryside looks stunningly beautiful, so did the English countryside when I flew into London coming over.  I realize that even though I’ve traveled quite a bit there’s more of God’s green earth that I’ll probably never see in this lifetime…but I’m okay with that.  At least I got to see it from “up here”.

I was supposed to fly into Paris Thursday morning, then waltz over to another terminal and make my connecting flight back to the good old U S of A at noon, BUT the early flight to Paris was sold out (remember that whole computer glitch thing at United Airlines when I started this trip?  It was still kind of biting me in the butt.)  The next morning flight into Paris left a 70 minute window for me to: land, get my bag, find the train to the other terminal, find my gate and check in….and totally freak out when this didn’t happen.  Sadly I had already purchased that ticket from Expedia.com (w/o insurance of course) and spent roughly forty minutes on the phone with them (without an international phone plan=$78 phone call).  Long story short I bought a ticket that would leave Berlin early in the evening on Wednesday and get into Paris around 8 at night….where I’d have a SIXTEEN HOUR WINDOW of time to really, really get to know Terminal 2A at Charles De Gaulle airport.  I’m glad that I did since it took me over an hour to make it to the correct terminal on Wednesday night.

Once on the ground and in the correct terminal I noticed that the shops and food stands were shutting down, at nine at night.  I hastily made a purchase of some junk food to stave off hunger though the long night, and connected to their free wifi.  Thank God some of my friends kept me awake by “talking” to me through Facebook Messenger, where it was 8 PM their time in the States though 3 AM my time in Paris.  Connie, the honorable Mrs. Ripley, decided to do our income taxes that night as well…so there were more than just a few messages sent across the Atlantic that night regarding that.

Terminal 2A at 2 AM. Not. Much. Going. On.

Do you wanna know what happened in Terminal 2A the night of my overnight stay?  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • The guy riding a big floor scrubber did hot-laps for three hours right past where I was sitting.
  • They changed the ceiling light bulbs right outside of the McDonald’s.
  • The soldiers armed with automatic machine guns disappeared.  Apparently once they saw me they figured “old Rowdy” had this area under control.
  • Late arriving flight crews walk past, laughing…headed off to a hotel for the night.  Their work is done for this day.

3:13 AM…Hey hey!!  I’m at single digits until I’m taxi-ing down a runway…headed westward home!!

4:17 AM…Hot dog!!  Foot traffic is picking up.  Airport employees and blurry-eyed travelers getting to their gate for their early morning flights are arriving.

5:25 AM….Screw it.  I’m headed down to customs to see if they’ll let me through to my gate.  So tired.  So.  Freaking.  TIRED.

6:10 AM….At my gate.  Six hours til boarding.  This gate is totally sweet!

Breakfast of Champions

 

7-8 AM…Dozed sitting up.  Bobble-headed it.  I don’t recommend it.

8-11 AM…Cannot remember anything.  Been awake for the most part since 7 AM yesterday.

11:30 AM…The gate crew is very nice.  Total professionals and very patient.

12 AM…Got a seat on the flight.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  This planes a beauty.  787 and the seat next to me is empty.  SCORE!! 

I have a glass of white wine.  Then I have another, then a third.  I watch a movie.  Start another and have supper.  I wind up sleeping four hours, which is a record for me on a plane.

Blazing Saddles. One of my all-time favorites

We land in Chicago a little after two in the afternoon.  I travel to the correct terminal, find my gate, get some pizza and root beer then settle in until they call my name for a stand by seat, which I’m told “isn’t available”.  They board the plane.  “Dear God…I’m going to be stuck here until the next flight at 9…and even then there’s no guarantee that I’ll get on it.” Everyone’s boarded…then…my name is called.  They have a seat for me“Do you mind an emergency exit seat?” they ask.  “I’ve been traveling for around forty hours.  I don’t care where you put me, Ma’am.  I’m just happy to be on that airplane of yours” I reply.  I get a seat and a little over an hour later I’m walking to my pick-up truck.  She’s never looked better.  The air is fresh and crisp.  Someone near is plowing, I can smell that unmistakable scent of freshly turned soil as it hits the air for the first time since last spring.  I’m home, and soon I’ll be in the arms of the woman that I’ve missed.  It’s been a glorious week.  Its about to get better.

Thanks for coming along.

God bless,

R

My Germany journey begins

When you have adult children living and working in different countries, and you wish to see them…like I do, you travel to them.  In this case, Berlin Germany.  I’d never been there, in fact, up until a year ago the only other country that I’d visited had been our good neighbors to the north, Canada.  Our daughter Macy has lived in Berlin for eight months.  I hadn’t seen her since we dropped her off at the airport last summer.  It was a tough moment for my wife and I.  Here was our “baby”, little Macy Sue…all twenty years of her…flying off to be an Au Pair in Germany.  My wife and I would finally be “real” empty-nesters.  Our girls would all be quite a ways away.  Jordan in Miami, Karalee in Japan and now Macy in Berlin.  Needless to say our mood during the ride home from the airport and subsequent evening were “subdued”, almost in mourning.  Our kids….gone.  We missed them already.

Fast forward to January when I started booking my visit to Germany.  I’d be going alone, Connie had to work, plus she had gone over the holidays when I was working.  I fly standby much of the time so I go to the airport and hope to catch a flight.  Normally it works out fairly well, but with United Airlines computer glitch the day before all of my options for flying standby to Germany evaporated the day prior to my departure.  My plans went like this:

  • Cedar Rapids to Charlotte; Charlotte to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)
  • Cedar Rapids to Chicago or Dallas/Fort Worth; DFW to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)

It was decided that my best option would be to buy a one-way ticket for a flight leaving Chicago and arriving in Berlin from Air Berlin.  I bought a ticket that way, BUT it wouldn’t use the front end of a connecting flight from Paris to Berlin so I called Expedia.com to see if I could still use the back-end of the return flight Berlin to Paris when I wanted to return home.  Literally an hour and a half on hold with them and I finally reached a person who could tell me “no”, I could not do that.  Airline policy prohibits it.  So, at three in the morning of my departure I purchased a one-way ticket from Berlin to Paris to hook up with my return flight.  Done deal.  I’m good to go!

After arriving at my starting point at the Cedar Rapids airport (at 4:30 AM) I received an email from Air Berlin that my Chicago to Berlin flight had been cancelled overnight, less than twelve hours after I had purchased it,  (I was really, REALLY getting anxious and irritated at this point) BUT the email went onto read “American Airlines picked up the flight, with a transfer to British Airways in London.”  Thank God!!  The trip was still “on”.

My Cedar Rapids to Chicago flight was just fine, I had a twelve-hour layover at O’Hare.  Once you’ve spent time in a big airport terminal, that’s pretty much enough.  I’ve been there several times and appreciate its amenities, though pretty much just waited until my 5:25 PM boarding time.  My flight from Chicago to London went well.  We flew overnight.  I caught a glimpse of the northern lights, which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid growing up on a farm….and I didn’t sleep a wink.  I usually don’t sleep on airplanes, even though it’s not because I’m nervous or anxious.  My day began at 2 AM and it’d be a long, long “day”.

We arrived at Heathrow airport.  The English countryside looked amazingly beautiful and London looked to be a cool city to explore someday.  My layover was only seventy-five minutes, which isn’t much when you’re:

  1. Arriving at one terminal and needing to get to another terminal of a huge airport.
  2. Need to find the shuttle/tram/bus to get to that terminal.
  3. Go through security again. (my tiny tube of Crest toothpaste was eyed closely) AND I received a complimentary pat-down in the home of some of my ancestors.
  4. Locate the gate of my departure only to find out that they wouldn’t post it until forty-five minutes prior to departure. (is it any wonder that we rebelled and formed our own country with airports posting which GATE YOU’RE FLYING FROM in a timely manner?  Just sayin’)

Fortunately I researched the whole “how to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5” question while I was sitting in O’Hare for twelve unremarkable hours and found the shuttle easily.  Terminal 5 at Heathrow is really nice.

I was told that the information desk that I was looking for was “down there in the middle.” Do you see it? Yeah…neither did I when I walked around down there.  Those danged Brits and their dry sense of humor.

As with many of my trips I try to gather as much information as I can to ease through airports and such.  Sometimes it works, sometimes you just go on faith that it’ll work out.  I’ve found that being polite, patient and courteous go a long way when asking for information when out of the States. (I can spot Americans at foreign airports, they’re the ones being loud).

While waiting for my British Airways flight I struck up a conversation with a fellow American from Joliet Illinois.  She was traveling to see a sister in Germany and we had a good laugh about the different things just between the English and Americans.  Our flight to Berlin was boarding so we wished each other a good trip and settled into the (quite) nice British jet.

Once on the ground in Germany, the Tegel airport in Berlin is rather old.  They’re building a new airport but it’s not in use as of yet.

Holy smokes!! England and now Germany, plus I got to see the English Channel.  I got a window seat since I’m a big shot in the States.  True story.

Once I was off the plane I got in line to have my passport checked.  Honestly…the guy really gave me a once, then twice over.  Perhaps he was just super impressed to have ANOTHER American enter his country OR that he recognized me from Facebook, regardless he stamped my passport with the authority of a LeBron James slam dunk and handed my passport back.

Customs!  It’s where they really, REALLY go through what you could possibly be bringing into their country.  Since I fly standby I travel very light.  Small suitcase that holds a couple of days worth of clothes and a small backpack.  I read their customs sign carefully, slowly, making sure that I wouldn’t get into the wrong line and end up causing a commotion.  I had to go through the “green door”.  My qualifications indicted that I had to be screened once I entered the “green door”.  “Dear God!!  What could I possibly have to endure?”  The passport guy was intimidating enough!!  I cautiously approached the green door, glanced around…no one else was even CLOSE to going through this door.  I’d probably set off a series of alarms, guns would be drawn and K9 units would chew on my tuchus. (one of my best attributes!!)  I pushed the door open, glanced around and looked at a guy sitting on a stool.  I looked at him.  Him at me, then he pointed to a gate for me to go through where (wait for it….) MACY WAS THERE!!  Holy smokes!!  Home free!!  Well…not quite home free.  We still had an hours-worth of bus and train rides to get across Berlin to my hotel.  I was so tired but gave Macy what I had left in the form of hugs.

After the bus and train rides we made our way up to my hotel, which was just a few blocks from where Macy lives, and checked in.  I’m not sure how much English the hotel people know, but with Macy as my interpreter (she’s fluent in German) the transaction was done in German.  I had booked the hotel on Expedia.com, which is quite easy.

The view from my hotel window. It’s set in a quiet neighborhood.

My room. It cost around $50 a night.

The lobby of the hotel.

After quickly settling in we went out for supper at a….wait for it…TURKISH PLACE!!  They have these gyro-like things that they call doner’s.  Two words.  DEE.  LISH.

Meat on a pole. MMmmmm….meat.

Macy and our doners.  Say it like “duner”

Around the neighborhood that I stayed, and in fact, around Germany are “stumbling blocks”.  Small, cobblestone sized brass memorials for those victims of the Holocaust. Every stumbling block has the name of the victim, the date of their birth and the date of death.  These blocks are set in the pavement of sidewalks in front of buildings where Nazi victims once lived or worked.  There are around 25,000 stumbling blocks in 600 different cities around Germany.  Its the worlds largest memorial, and its still growing. The name of the death camp is stamped on it as well.

Stumbling blocks

With supper finished I tell Macy that “its probably close to six or seven o’clock” and that I should retire for the evening and get some sleep, I’ve been awake for over thirty hours.  She replied “its four o’clock in the afternoon Dad.”  Regardless…I head to the hotel, take a hot relaxing shower, send out a few messages to family and fall asleep at seven, not waking up until six the next morning.  The hardest part of the trip is over, I have four days with Macy in Berlin.  Let the fun begin!

God bless!

R

My dirty secret…so comfortable

Spring time

Much like the famous migrating swallows who every March return to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano from their winters in Argentina, I too migrate.  I migrate to the Men’s departments of several large department stores, but not to build mud nests and lay eggs (I’m so over that phase of my life….) but to fortify my work wardrobe with a fresh arsenal of fresh ties, new snazzy shirts and black slacks that haven’t been snagged or frayed from use.  Titillating read so far, heh?  Stay with me now.

My career choice was retail management.  I wasn’t smart enough for many white collar jobs.  Accountant?  Forget about it.  Loan officer at a bank?  Couldn’t do it.  NASA rocket scientist?  Not smart enough AND I look too cool to pull off the whole “nerdy slide rule” thing without raising eyebrows.  I’m not mechanically inclined.  Don’t get me wrong…I can DO outdoorsy stuff and work in the garage, but anything much more than that and I may as well make an appointment at the walk-in medical clinic for forty-five minutes after I began said project. “Hello?  Nurse Marlene?  Rich Ripley here.  Connie wants me to hang a bird feeder on one of our oak trees.  Can you clear an examination room from 10 to 11 o’clock this morning?  Get the x-ray machine warmed up and make sure that you have plenty of gauze, iodine, two feet of thread and a couplea good stitching needles on hand.  I’m feeling really good about getting this bird feeder thing done quickly.”

Anyway…my whole work clothes thing is nice.  I wear good-looking clothes and nice shoes which don’t always look so good when I get home…but the customers and my coworkers seem to appreciate my efforts.  Dress shirts…I have around 28.  I can only wear one at a time.  Ties…over 30.  Same deal as the shirts.  Actually…I have more ties than that.  I can’t stand to part with them, I mean…we’ve been through so much.  A good shirt/tie will last me two years.  A great one, three to four years.  Most of my ties are great.  They’ve been worn through:

  • countless trucks being unloaded in all kinds of weather (our dock is outside).  Blizzard?  Back up it…get it done.  Thunderstorm?  I ain’t made of sugar…I won’t melt.
  • Miles and miles of walking around the store.  MILES
  • Consultations, hiring’s, schedule writings, orientations, meetings, trainings, buying shows, interacting with customers/employees and multiple crisis’…and all the time they’ve hung with me.  I can’t just leave them behind.  After a while…I just donate them.

Then there’s my Dad’s ties.  They’re funky colors and dare I say….retro.  I’m keeping those suckers!  I even put one or two into the Ripley Fashion Rotation every month, they appreciate it and I enjoy having them around.

I ain’t no rooster

So I used to wear my umpire and basketball referee warm-ups to the gym when I worked out, meaning I was dressed pretty much in black from chest to toe.  I didn’t like the idea of spending money for different colored clothes when I was just going to be sweating in them.  That is until I saw another guy…dressed completely all in black working out like I was. Two words.  Dork Alert!  As if I don’t already fight the whole “Duke of Dorkdom” thing with my goofy grin, bald spot and shrill laugh (my mother says that it sounds “intoxicating”) so I certainty don’t need to “pile it on” by doing something so blatantly idiotic.  Sooo…..I went out and bought some new work out shorts, socks and shirts.  I had a dizzying array of fabulously brilliant colors to choose from, many of which would likely been seen from outer space.  Blaze orange shorts?  Why the hell not?!  Hot lime green socks?  Only if they make me run faster….which they most certainly will!!  Nuclear yellow dry-fit work out shirt?  Why not?  The whole ensemble would make me look like a tie-dyed rooster strutting across the work out floor….minus the hens.  For the record I stuck with red and blue shorts that are six inches too long.  Apparently when we’re finally invaded by gangly legged aliens we’ll already have plenty of flamboyantly colored shorts to go around for them.

My secret…brace yourselves…

So my last stop on this clothes shopping craze was Men’s Warehouse.  I was hoping to score a few more ties (my addiction) and dress shirts…but found a pair of jeans.  Now let me say this…since turning 45 (give or take a few years) finding blue jeans that easily fit me and looked good has been a rare event.  If they’re comfortable…they’re too big.  If they look good on me…then they’re too tight to sit down in.  (I’m vain…okay?  Deal with it).  My waist is somewhere in the nether region of thirty-five inches.  Blue jeans skip the odd numbers and either punish you for growing old and fat and entice you to wear the lesser number or swim in the larger number and cinch your belt up two more notches. (First world problemsAm I right or am I right?) So I tried on a different brand of jeans and VIOLA!!  A FREAKIN’ THIRTY-FOUR WAS TOO BIG!!  I tried a thirty-three and it fit well, was comfortable and still had room in the front for me to gorge myself with food and still be comfortable in them.  Their secret?  (let’s be discreet now…I’m beggin’ ya.  I’m not real proud of this….but) The fabric is 84% cotton, 16% (wait for it….) POLYESTER.  Ugh.  There.  I said it….and they feel great.  You can’t even tell without looking at the label (hidden in the inside crotch…thank goodness).  Anywho…that’s who I am now.  A middle-aged man wearing polyester blue-jeans.  Deal with itI’m so comfortable.

May God have mercy on my soul.

Thanks for coming along.

R

 

My colon’s more popular than your colon

Who’s the worst?

  • During the NCAA basketball tournament, in a game between Northwestern and Gonzaga, the officials missed a pretty cut and dry goaltending call.  You’d expect reporters and especially the fans of Northwestern to come unglued, which they did.  What’s so disappointing to me is the reaction of some basketball referees.  I belong to several websites that you need to be an official to belong to.  Most of the things that are discussed on these sites are videos of plays that are unique, or just officials wishing to get other officials opinions.  What I’ve found is that some officials are the absolute worst when one of their brothers screws up.  Its like they’ve never missed a call in their career.  Did those officials miss that call?  There’s no question that they did.  Are they feeling poorly about it?  Probably.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters

  • I’ve been dumped by my Little Brother from Big Brothers.  More accurately…he and his mother have fallen off the radar.  Everything that we’ve tried hasn’t yielded any response from them.  Its a shame.  18 months of building a relationship with a kid with no positive male role model and then (puff)…its done.  Ended.  Not even a “goodbye”.  We had a lot of good times.  Movies. Dinners. His first baseball game and car show, and lots of talking.  Figuring out the world, school,  people and going over interview questions for his first job interview (he got the job).  I honestly don’t know what caused the sudden shift of him not wanting to get together.  I have an idea, but nothing concrete.  One idea is that he just turned thirteen, and he’s a quiet kid to begin with.  Those teenage years are tough, maybe he just didn’t want to engage.  Another reason may be that he told me that he and his friends were stealing and got caught.  I told our case worker, then was instructed to tell his mother.  I did.  She thanked me, and that was the last time there was any communication between us that wasn’t just me asking if Logan was available to go out.  Long story short…I wish them well.  I hope Logan does great at whatever he chooses to do.  One telling observation is from a year ago when we were on our way to dinner.  I asked him about his dad (who lived in another state and was rarely brought up by Logan).  Logan’s easy-going demeanor changed immediately to agitated.    He curtly replied “we don’t talk about him…” and since then…we hadn’t.  I hope that he’s okay.  I’ll get a new Little Brother this Spring.  More than likely…with a few issues to go with him.

Dieting…

  • Let’s just say that if you’re the type of guy who doesn’t eat a lot of fiber then increases it dramatically one day…your lower intestine will not appreciate it.  It’ll take a look at the large influx of veggies, fruits, nuts and berries that you gobbled up then swoosh them out the back door.  Literally.  Swoosh.
  • Since the swooshing of the berries, or as I call it “Black Friday”, I’ve lightened up on the fiber and eased into it.  I still cheat and eat some bad for me food (when your blood is 7% Frito-Lay you can’t just go cold turkey…) but I’m coming around with smaller portions, leaner meats, and (yes) fruits, grains, nuts and veggies.  Moderation my boy….moderation.
  • I lose a few pounds then put a few back on.  Its difficult when my lovely bride, the honorable Mrs. Richard Ripley, tells me that there’s “summer sausage and three different cheeses in the frig that’ll get thrown out if no one helps her eat it”.  So yeah….my goal is to lose fifteen pounds by next October through better eating habits and exercise, cheese and summer sausage be damned!

My colon is famous!!

  • I have a colonoscopy later this month.  I had to have one anyway, and since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month I decided to use our company’s Facebook page to promote the two together (good seats are still available…especially front row).  I don’t like to brag…but my colon is getting quite a bit of air time on Facebook.  Like over 1100 views since Monday.  I’ll venture a guess that my colon is probably the most popular colon of any of my high school contemporaries….so suck on that Ken Glaser! (a classmate of mine who was popular from kindergarten thru our senior year.  Ken’s good.  I think he’s an accountant now.  No hard feelings aye Ken?)  Anyway…the prep will be the worst part of it.  I’ve had them before, but a long time ago…back when they had a person use enemas.  Lots of enemas.  If you’ve never had an enema before I’d suggest that you put it on your bucket-list.  They’re a blast!

BASEBALL IS COMING!!

  • I’m working my way through the baseball rule book.  Its boring, but a refresher is necessary.  Baseball has so many rules with exceptions during many situations that, if you’re on top of them and can recite the rule to the coach when he’s pissed off….its a great thing.  My spring and summer nights are starting to fill up with baseball games.  This season I’m totally off the varsity grid, I’m only working sub-varsity and USSSA baseball.  They’re in my comfort-zone.  I’ve worked the varsity level for a couple of years and decided that the travel, late nights and temper-tantrums from coaches weren’t worth it.  Its not that I don’t get a few coaches that go sideways on me at the USSSA or sub-varsity level, its just that I handle them better AND I’m usually home by ten at night or much earlier.

Thanks for coming along!

God bless!

R

 

 

Its in the books….2016-17

Unless the folks in charge of officials suddenly realize that they’ve left me out of sub-state or state action, my high school season of officiating basketball is over until November.  Its kind of a melancholy moment, realizing that you’re not thought highly enough of to get the “great games” but honestly….I’m sore and tired.  My whole body hurt by the time the season ended.  Oh….by the way…yours truly got three post-season games.  My season ended with a flurry of six games in six nights, with the furthest being an hour and a half away on a Monday night.  Regardless…here are bullet points of my season:

  • Last season I assigned five technical fouls.  This season only one.  I could have had three more very easily but chose instead to talk to the coaches, to calm them down.  In hind-sight…I should’ve whacked ’em.  All three were sub-varsity coaches behaving poorly.  I did the game no favors by letting them pace the sideline, holler like they were coaching the Bulls and question every call.  I applaud their passion, though want the game to be the show…not the coach.
  • I had a (wait for it….) good season.  Only one regrettable moment where I put the ball into play without my partners being ready.  Sounds innocent enough….right?  WRONG.  DEAD WRONG.  I lost sleep over that brain fart.  Lesson learned.  It won’t happen again.
  • I worked a game with the flu.  I thought that I was going to die on the way home.  Didn’t. 
  • I worked a weeks worth of games with a cold.  It felt like my legs were tree stumps. When I work games with a cold I don’t take cold medicine….I gotta keep my focus,  even if I feel like a baby treats a diaper.
  • We have a new partner on our three-man crew for next season.  His name is Jon.  Jon works out and eats right.  Jon’s built like a brick ****house.  Our other partner is fifteen years younger than me and works out too.  I think that I’m in for some serious body-shaming this upcoming season if I don’t lose ten pounds and get into the gym soon…and stay there.  (dammit!!)
  • No sooner does my high school season end for 2017 when…eleven games for 2017-2018 show up in my email.  Eleven!!  (This is how nerdy I am…) I’m looking forward to them already.  Most are teams that I’ve done before though there are a few new ones there.  Good road trips type of games.  I.  Can’tWait!!

Photos gallery of this past season:

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that's it.

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that’s it.

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us...at center court? I didn't think so

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us…at center court? I didn’t think so

Pregame....just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

Pregame….just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

This night we're in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

This night we’re in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never....

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never….

On our way to Cedar Falls

On our way to Cedar Falls

At our first tournament game.

At our first tournament game.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset...again.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset…again.

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall's Convey three times in a row. Loved. IT.

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall’s Convoy three times in a row. Loved. IT.

Baseball starts in two and a half months.  Time to get into the rule book.  Sadly…my real love really begins on December 5th….for now.  More games should be assigned soon.  Thanks for coming along.  God bless!

R

On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.
Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.
Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 
It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.
Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

Thank you for commenting. Yes…I am a wiseass

Its that time of the season when my body is constantly aching.  My legs, calves, ankles, feet and lower back are all requesting a steady diet of Advil.  All of the games that looked great last May and June when they were assigned to me have lost some of their shine in the present.  Don’t get me wrong, I still want to work them and love officiating its just the price that’s paid to work them.  The road trip there, up to an hour or more.  The boredom prior to the game, we’re there an hour before tip off and there’s only so much the same three crew mates can talk about.  The drive home and subsequent short night of rest before going back into work at 5:30 AM.  I love it…though it takes a toll.  Its that toll that prompted me to write a short Facebook post about what I’d like the fans, coaches and players to know about the games that I work.  I wrote it for family and friends to read.  Maybe a hundred people.  I wrote it in my usual witty wiseass way making a few valid points along the way.  It started getting shared immediately.  I changed my privacy settings to Public so that others might be able to read it. As of this morning its had almost three thousand likes and shares EACH.  That’s INSANE.  I’ve blogged seriously for several years and have never had a reaction like this.  Its been shared over-seas.  Its been written about in the Des Register.  I’ve had officials from all over contact me and thank me for writing and posting it.  There’s a movie deal in the works….(I’m lying now).  Seriously though, it’s perplexing to me how its resonated with folks.  Over five hundred comments, ninety-nine percent of them extremely positive.  A small fraction of the comments were negative.  I only deleted one, he was abusive. I kept the other negative comments to show readers what referees are up against.  Idiocy.  We’re up against idiocy.  A few folks wrote that I needed to “get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat” or that I was being “thin-skinned”.  A long time coach questioned my motives.  Most readers of that post understood that I was being funny with a thread of truth that ran throughout.  For a  few others I commented that I had originally written this as a humorous post only for family and friends to read…not for the old ball coach at Cornstalk Community High to take as the Gospel.  Relax folks…if its on Facebook it’s not necessarily meant to be taken seriously…especially if its from yours truly.

Its been a good season.  Post-season officiating assignments are being released tomorrow with more games released later this month.  Its a honor to be assigned post-season games.  Fingers crossed I’ll get the call.

One sad note, our crew chief Joel is stepping aside.  Arthritis in his knees is making the games that we officiate together a painful burden.  He’ll still sub in for games when he can, but his departure is leaving a big hole.  He’s a big reason that I’ve gotten as far as I have in such a short time.  While we’ve gotten a replacement for him, and Jon will fit in just fine, we’ll miss our friend.

Dan, Joel and I

Dan, Joel and I

Until later please keep in mind that I am:

#1..a wise ass.

#2…see #1.

#3…don’t believe everything that you read on Facebook.

Fortunately for me I was asked to referee for the Special Olympics basketball tournament again this year.  Its one of the highlights of my season.  True story.

God bless.

R

 

Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R