Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs. Welcome to the world of the noncommissioned officer, the ultimate in hands-on, front-line leadership: the three meter zone where the work of the soldier occurs. ... a full fledged study of leadership for NCOs, by an NCO.
Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal



Paul Schneidmill


Several months before my fiftieth birthday, I told my wife I wanted a birthday party.  I believed that such a festive event would be fitting for someone (namely, me) who would be arriving at the half-century milestone mark.      


As the last two weeks preceding the beginning of my birth month (September) began to loom and subsequently fade in my rear-view mirror, it appeared that my bride had not taken my request seriously.  I’d not observed any preparations being made, nor had she received (or even asked me for) a guest list.


Around the middle of September, I told my lovely treasure that it didn’t look like I was going to have a birthday party.


“You really wanted a party?” she asked “We’ve been so busy that there hasn’t been any time to plan a party.  Just give me a list of a few friends and I’ll contact them to see if they can stop by and have some dinner with us that day (Sunday, September 25, 2005).”


That wasn’t what I wanted (I silently sulked).  That was her plan, not mine.  So, therefore, being the skull-headed person I can sometimes be, I decided I wouldn’t comply with her request and resigned myself to having a birthday that would lack the unique significance a milestone-type birthday was deserving of.


A few days before my diminished-in-recognition birthday arrived, I invited my Pastor and his wife to join my family and me for lunch a birthday lunch after our worship service.  They had just celebrated a Pastoral anniversary and I’d wanted to take them out for eats, so here we could kill two birds with one rock.  After all, it was my birthday and I wasn’t having a party so I could at least pick the restaurant.  They graciously accepted.


My wife had purchased a huge cake to share with our church family members in “recognition” of my birthday after the 11:00am service.  I watched a cavalcade of people parade by the cake table to receive their slice (or two) of cake.  My already glum attitude was enhanced by those who smiled at me, offered the cursory Happy Birthday assortment of remarks (“Have many more,” etc), while their eyes were saying, “I really could care less, just give me a piece of cake.”


After that ordeal was over, my Pastor’s wife (First Lady Constance Watson) stated she had an emergency to attend to, but wanted to still go out and eat with us and asked if we could postpone the activity till later in the afternoon. 


My wife and I acquiesced…though I did so half-heartedly.


My family and I went home to await a telephone call letting us know when the Watson’s would be ready to go eat.  My son and I watched football and as the hours went by, I became agitated.  I wasn’t having a birthday party, and now, I was not going to be able to have what was supposed to be my birthday lunch, until sometime in the evening.  As time passed, my patience got tired of putting up with me and left me in an ornery and dejected state.


About 4:15pm, my wife received a telephone call from the Watson’s.  She stated that the Watson’s could not meet us at the restaurant of my choosing, but suggested another restaurant.


“Oh, great,” I declared, “No party and my birthday lunch location will not be of my choosing.”  “What a jacked-up milestone birthday this is!”


My wife sought to comfort me by telling me all would be well, even though she would not tell me the name of the restaurant because she knew it was one I would never have selected.  Unfortunately, her efforts to comfort me had virtually no success.  I was so far beyond comfort, a Sealy posture-pedic, Serta, sleep-Number bed mattress couldn’t have comforted me during this time.


When we arrived at the “restaurant” (a southern-cooking eatery), I looked like a man who had taken a swim in Lake Misery.


I was led inside to a private room filled with friends and family waiting to give me a surprise birthday party.  There was balloons, another birthday cake, food, and I even got some gifts! 


I was happy, overjoyed, and simultaneously felt bad about the awful attitude I’d displayed up to that point.


Fortunately (after apologizing profusely), I learned a valuable lesson:


“You can’t always get what you want”…but it may be much better than you expect…




“Things are not always what they seem”…because what appears not to be, may turn out to be something wonderful…


I applaud my wife, kids, family and friends for collectively executing a surprise birthday party utilizing excellence in operational security (so I wouldn’t find out) second only to the nation of Turkey when they detonated a nuclear device several years ago without any other nation’s intelligence community having knowledge beforehand that Turkey was intending to do it.


Finally, I appreciate and thank my wife for being my best and truest birthday present ever. 


I refer to her that way because we were married two days after my birthday, fourteen years ago.                                 


Paul Schneidmill ©  Copyright 2005