Good, Fast, Cheap . . .

Pick only two . . .

           Of the countless columns I’ve written for newspapers and internet, three have remained favorites with readers and repeated every few years.

           One is of Alcoholism, another of a doctor’s unusual advise for young pregnant women, and then this bit of foolishness. I’ve titled it Good, Fast, Cheap, with the admonition that you can have only two. Never all three.

           Of course, when we need some household job done, we want all three. Why not? We’ll shop around and find someone who will give us Good work and materials; Fast in completion; Cheap as possible.

          It was a friendly Handy Man who told me about those words. He grinned and said, “Everyone wants those same three things. They want their job to be GOOD, FAST and as CHEAP as possible, But Ethel, no one ever gets them all.” I could see no reason why not, so he went on to explain.  

               “You can have your job GOOD and FAST, but no way will it then be CHEAP.

               “And if GOOD yet CHEAP is of vital importance, you can get those two terms, but your job wont be FAST.

                 “But, if FAST and CHEAP is necessary, there’s just no way you will get as GOOD a job as it could be.”

            I was baffled. He still grinned as he explained, and I finally had to agree, and grinned along with him.

           This is how it goes. The man you hire seldom does all the work himself, but hires other men, such as Plumbers, Electricians, and such, to do the work where they are experts. And, if you want the best workmen to do the job, and do it Cheaply, you have to catch them when their type of work is out of season, or they happen to have no assignments.

             When they’re idle they will sometimes work at a lower pay rate. But the catch is, you have to ‘grab’ them when they ‘happen’ to be free, or have a day or two ‘off’, and be happy to do your work. Experts are seldom idle, and so there is no promise of time, and there goes the FAST part.

              That’s how it goes, he told me. Getting GOOD material is always available, but GOOD workmen do not come CHEAP, and so your job wont be FAST.

              And he went on, “I can give you FAST and GOOD, too, for I can always get good materials and good (experts) can be called from other jobs, but I will have to pay them what they are earning, or more, to get them to come. And so there goes CHEAP.”

           Relentlessly, he continued. “So you want it Cheap and Fast, again that will be easy, but I will probably have to get Cheap (unskilled) workmen who are more often available, and so I can’t promise the job will be as GOOD. (well done) as if done by experts. And you might have to take medium grade material to meet your cost requirements.

            I had to laugh. Try as I did, like it or not, there is no flaw. The Good, but Cheap, wont be Fast, and depending on the size of the job, might take six months to a year to get done. The Good and Fast, you can get almost any day of the year, but it wont be Cheap, and the Fast and Cheap wont be as Good.

              If you want first class material, installed by experts, and not just learners,  and, at the same time done within a week or two, Cheap is the one that gets tossed out the window.

            Whether you have a small household job, a skyscraper, high river dam, ocean liner, or an airplane, it matters not, for when you get down to basics, it’s all the same. The three choices are facts of life.  Immovable.

           Public buildings are usually GOOD, but the other two, FAST and CHEAP, are seldom considered or simply get lost along the way. After all, it’s our tax dollars that pay the price, and the only way we can complain is how we vote the next election.

           We have no recourse, but to pay the price and hope the job lasts at least for a few decades.   We can bargain back and forth in our household jobs, but when politics get into the negotiations, the Fast and Cheap, I fear, are never even considered.                                                                                      

A Machine Called Ethel

I am in it, but not of it . . .

I’ve written often of who I’ve been, but now find it most important to find out who I’m in the Process of Becoming. and find that everyone, aware of it or not, is doing the same. I take this seriously and think back on Shakespeare’s so oft-quoted words: “To thine own self be true,” and wonder, just who and what is my True Self.    

To begin with, we became what our parents and early teachers made of us. What else? But by the time we’re in our teen years, many of us find we don’t fit into their pattern but try to conform, guiltily thinking that to be different must be wrong.

The Process to find our own True Self is difficult for young people, but in some manner, (with me it was books), many of us find that we are not wrong, only ‘different’. And that’s alright. for if we’re uncomfortable with who we are, we, and no one else, has the power to change  or help us change to fulfill our inner deams.

We have initially been formed into what others wanted us to be, but for a successful, happy maturity, we must ultimately learn to respect, accept and finally love our difference.  And to  find out who and what we do want to be..  

I tell my journey. I was born one of five siblings, and different from all. I was pure Svenska, with white, straight hair, and surrounded by a dark curly- haired family. Mama must have felt God had made a mistake, but I would have fit smoothly into my paternal Swedish lineage, and thankfully, finally became mature enough to know I was not wrong, just had been born with my own Scandinavian genes.

Little by little, I learned I was not unique, and that there were many with my same physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual propensities. Needless to say, it was a deep relief to find I was not some odd, unique being and far from being the only one.

It was a blessing to me that from childhood I was a reader, and my father never once complained of the many trips to and from the Murray Library  that  I carelessly asked of him. It was an eye-opener to me, and shook me to my core, to find books explaining the thoughts and lives of thinking people from the different countries of the world.

There, but a mile from home, was where I found that I was not wrong, only different, and more important, held the power and shown the way to become the person I wanted to be.

Aware or not, we’re all Beings In Process, and I wish Teachers could let young students know that every second of the day, everyone is in the Process of Becoming a different person. And, of prime importance, it is everyone’s choice as to the kind of person they are becoming.

There is not a one of us who wouldn’t like to go back and live our lives over again, but with the wisdom we have gained along the way.  Not to be, I know, but when we reach the last decades of our lives, we don’t wish to be another  Einstein, but to have allowed our True Selves to meet and work with those who entered and continue to enter our lives.

So I ask myself. ‘Ethel, who are you now becoming?’  For none of us are through with the Process, which will continue until we enter The Next Room, where the machine, no longer needed, is discarded and Spirit, that ever-present inner Source, reveals Itself. 

I think I’ve caught a glimpse of the Goal, and shiver as I know that if I allow and grow, we all will, in some Higher Next Room, become One With The Source of All. You know that, too?   And that we’ll someday meet each other There?   What a blessed Process.


 A few years ago I penned a small booklet I titled A Machine Called Ethel, and though I’d make changes in it to-day, the concept stays firm. I walk, talk and live in a ‘Machine’ called Ethel, but I Am not that machine. I use it, take care of it, could not continue in a physical body without it, but I am not it and it is not Me.   I think you’d like the book.

Please email Ethel if you would like a copy of ‘A Machine Called Ethel’.


Let’s See, Who Shall I Be Today?

Who are you ?

Sometimes I’m asked, “Who are you?” and I’m tempted to reply that I’m lots of Ethels, and which one do you mean?

The name Ethel Bradford, only means I belong to a family of Bradfords and ‘labeled’, so people can tell me apart from others. And that Ethel has been daughter, wife, lover. mother, grandmother,  and twice a great-grandmother.

But you know, as I do, that all those ‘names’ are actually only labels, tags you might say, explaining what role I played or play in some one else’s life.

None of them relates to the Ethel who responds, or hangs up, on those who try to beguile or fill me with fear in order to get me to vote for the one who is paying them to make the calls.

And still different from that Ethel who tries to explain to another phone-voice, that I never buy or give money to those who ask by phone. And you wouldn’t want to know that Ethel who was once told, (in today’s explicit words) to perform some anatomically impossible act. Yes, I knew the words. but was shocked to hear them  aimed at me. I was tempted to respond in the same lingo.  I didn’t. but that too, is another Ethel.

To some I’m a Teacher, and there I smile, for I always learn more than I teach, because the teacher must ‘dig’ for more information than ever used, while all the students have to do is listen, doze, or not even attend.

I’m a different Ethel when met with anger or resentment, than with arms of love. Yes, and there are Ethels that I don’t especially like, but, at times we all play such roles, too.

I remember back when I was my Dad’s Flicka, his little Svenska girl, and though I didn’t know what those words meant, I knew it was an Ethel I liked being.

I’m not sure who I was to my mother, for she could not accept the Ethel who could not unquestionably follow her steps. I was a different Ethel than what she wanted, expected, and sadness came to us both. It caused me to try to give my sons deep character training, but also the freedom to use those values in whatever System they chose. And that my love for them would not vary an iota.

And sometime who we are is a puzzle. as with me to the one I’ve called Gram. She was my husband’s mother, so I was not her daughter, and yet she said I was her true daughter. It’s an Ethel I loved being, and am glad I was given that role to fill.

And then there’s the Ethel who is a student, for that Ethel keeps me forever stepping through doors that, with just a touch, prove not to be doors at all, but new territory to explore and widen my mind. This has become my favorite Ethel, for she points the way to the Ethel I am becoming as I eagerly step through those false doors with open eyes and mind.

To my surprise, and I wish I could tell every older person, but as I get older, I’m finding an entirely new Ethel. I eagerly reach to her with surprise and ask, where have you been all this time? And I’ve found that I had to wait until years of living, and stepping through those wide-open ‘closed doors’, would be needed to give me the bravery, joy, and wisdom to dare be the Ethel I never before was ready to be.

And the best part of it all, is to find that I, by the roles I play today, am also choosing who and what I will be tomorrow. And to know that this is not a ‘new’ Ethel, but one who’s always been with me, waiting to be discovered.

I’ve caught glimpses of that Ethel peeking out from behind the thousands of roles I’ve taken, but slowly found that no matter what name or camouflage I assume, IT is the real, never changing ‘me’. And, shiver, shiver, shiver, like you, It’s who I Am, always was and always will be. Yes, the names given me will vary but the real, final Role will always be the Ethel who is One with The Source of all. And some day, I hope we’ll meet each other there.


Most Popular Hobby?

Probably not what you’d think . . .

      Most of us have a hobby. Something we turn to and enjoy in our idle time. Knitting has long been a favorite, oddly for both men and women, and other favorites run from skiing, bicycling, walking, painting, ham radio, a new language, and on and on, but not in a million years will you guess what’s rated as today’s most popular one.

I shook my head in disbelief, but when I took a moment to think it over, I decided it’s my hobby, too. Just never thought of it that way.

And the favorite one? For men, women, old, young, rich or poor???? Hold your breath, for it’s Shopping. Yeah, that’s how we spend most of our spare time. and if asked we’d all reply, “Oh, we’re just looking.”.

I agree, we’re just looking, but it’s at shopping centers where we ‘look’ and Shopping is the right name, for it’s seldom we fail to find something we didn’t know we needed, but did.

Don’t scoff and say you never go near a Mall, for that’s  okay, because lots of us don’t do our ‘shopping’ in malls. There are those who ‘shop’ for houses, and it doesn’t matter if they already own one, two or three homes, they spend time looking at houses. Old one, new ones. condos, apartments or duplexes. If they’re on sale, they go and look.  They like houses, that’s all.

Then there’s dozens of hobbies built around ‘wheels’. Motorcycles have long been a hobby for many, but bicycles have now passed them, and close by are racing cars, 4-wheelers, trucks, and then there’s the collectors of antique autos. This is a big one, requiring both space, and money. But just the same, there are lots of lookers, as well as the buyers.

It was the all-purpose shopping centers, where all manner of stuff can be found, and at all hours of the day, week or night, that put the crown on the hobby of shopping.

They’re handy. and have clothes, with many good labels available, as well as hardware, plumbing, car accessories, painting, home repairs, works of art, beauty aids, stationery. You name it, it’s there.

This is where teens go and prowl for it’s where their contemporaries hang out. and there’s always a handy spot to enjoy a soda, ice cream or such while the talk goes on, and friendships made. Retirees flock to the malls for their daily walk, and then spend an hour or two over talk and drinks. Yeah, that’s a great hobby, too.

I don’t know what a former generation did with their spare time, but it wasn’t what we do with ours. And also, can do under one roof, and with one swipe of a Charge Card, handle what it took our parents going to five or six different stores to accomplish. 

Shopping centers changed our lives and hobbies. We casually meet old friends, catch up on the news of what others are doing, and the counters are an ever-changing showcase of what we can do with or in our own homes, wardrobe, hair care, and on and on..

Sound familiar? You’re darn right it’s familiar, but who would have guessed it to be Americas favorite hobby? It long ago nosed out TV, reading, visiting, or any of those former hobbies.   Imagine. And to top off the list, I’m one of them, and betcha you are , too.