OUT ON A YULE LIMB!

The day has finally come.  I would have never believed it was possible. If you have visited ‘round these parts of the Internet at this time of the year you may have the slightest memory of the annual debate my wife and I have every Christmas. It’s a cantankerous bickering we engage in, sometimes in private, others time right in the middle of holiday shopping in the busiest of locations.  And what is it we so passionately argue over?  The Christmas tree!  Rosemarie wants an artificial one; I reject anything but the real version…always have, always wiwiwiwiiiiii.  And so, this year, holiday season 2020, it has come to this:  we spent the afternoon decorating our Christmas tree…an artificial Christmas tree.  Oh the humanity!

I guess I should count my holly jolly blessings.  After all, I have won the great Christmas tree debate 52 times…in a row!  There were several factors that influenced my relinquishing my reign this year.  First of all, I’m old.  Lugging a heavy log in and out of the car, then in and out of the house does not seem as easy this year what with my spinal and back surgeries.  I am not as agile as I used to be and certainly not as strong. 

Then there is the issue of appearance.  C’mon admit it—a fake tree always looks fake…except lately.  The technology and manufacturing process have really branched out.  Some of these trees actually look real if you don’t get too close. And the ones that come pre-lit—well that’s a game-changer.  If I don’t have to string lights on the tree, you’ve got my attention.  And yes, we got a pre-lit tree.  And get this:  it has a remote control that allows you to choose eight different patterns of lights—white only, colored only, a mix of both blinking or fading in or out.  Gadzooks, it’s a cosmic Christmas experience!

The only thing that’s missing is that holiday smell of pine that works its way through the house.  Guess I’ll have to buy a smelly candle or two. Meanwhile, as I do every year, here are pictures of our annual arbor endeavor…shown in both white lights and color.  Note, even the woody driving through the branches has an artificial tree lashed to its roof this year. 

HoHoHo Everyone

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The Holidays go Viral

This is a bizarre holiday season that is unlike any we have ever experienced.  The coronavirus presents a formidable Scrooge and we have no choice but to utter bah humbug in agreement.  Rosemarie and I, as the senior members of the family, have traditionally hosted most, but not all, of the dinners.  Some credit must go to our having a table that opens for 12 place settings upon which we place family recipes that have been perfected over the years.   Regardless, there will be no holiday feasts at our house this year, nor will we attend any festivities that may be planned elsewhere.  We are extremely virus-sensitive.  Not only is our age a factor that leaves us vulnerable, but we are both having health issues that are not conducive to fending off the virus.  

Even without the virus threat the holidays would have been a logistical challenge this year.  Rosemarie and I left Fort Lauderdale after 28 years and moved across the state to the Gulf side.  Now, the family is spread all over Florida, from Davie to Jacksonville to Naples. 

So, what to do?  Well first, I am insistent that Rosemarie and I carry on with some semblance of holiday celebration if only between the two of us.  I am a traditionalist and big on nostalgia.  The thought of Thanksgiving without turkey or Christmas without presents under the tree is…well it is unacceptable is what it is.  So, the two of us—just the two of us—will proceed accordingly.

The first item on our holiday to-do list is the annual debate—make that, robust confrontation—on whether or not we buy a real or artificial Christmas tree.  I’m the naturalist and have insisted that only God and Santa Claus can make a Christmas tree and, as such, nothing but “live” shall bless our humble holiday home.  I have won the battle a relentless 52 years in a row.  Yesterday, we pondered a 7-foot phony tree on display at Costco.  I agreed the tree-making technology has improved impressively and this tree came with the lights already installed—a game changer for me.  It was the closest I’ve come to giving in to Rosemarie’s preference…but maybe I need more time.

Next, I will have to make sure everyone in the family is familiar with Zoom or Skype since we will want a video link Christmas morning.  We can have a rehearsal on Christmas Eve when all the grandchildren open the pajamas we will have sent them.  This is a Christmas tradition that Rosemarie and I are charged with every year…and yes, all but one pair have already been ordered or sit in a box in our closet waiting to be wrapped and mailed.  It’s hit or miss all the time as we guess right or wrong on sizes.  It’s easier once each child stops growing.

As for gifts for Rosemarie, that gets more difficult each year. Other than a big ticket item–say, a cruise which is out of question right now–she’s getting to be a challenge. Now that she is retired clothes for work aren’t needed and I can buy her only so much knitting wool or artist paint. Yikes, I’ve got to get thinkin’ on this one.

Well then, there’s my plan for this year’s viral holidays, so far.  I am not sure I’ve embedded enough HoHoHo yet…guess I’ll have to work on that.

*****

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Thank you Bill The Dog

I’ve put off writing this particular posting.  The topic is not a happy one.  In fact, I’ll make the assumption that many of you have gone through the same experience.  And that is, having to put down your pet dog or cat.

Bill The Dog, as I have always referred to our 14-year-old Maltese on my postings, has been a member of our family since he was just a few weeks old. He followed Nicki, a Golden Retriever, who we also had to put down, but after only six years.  She developed throat cancer which eventually did her in.  I took her death heavily after she was put to sleep while my son and I held her.  I had never had a dog before so this episode in my life had a heavy impact beyond anything I expected. 

Bill’s death was a little different from Nicki’s.  Bill lived a normal life until age began its nasty annoyances. He had issues with arthritis, but what eventually had the greatest impact were his loss of both hearing and sight.  It was heart-breaking to watch while he would walk into walls and furniture or just stare into space.  Meanwhile, his plumbing broke down, causing daily messes that had to be cleaned up.  Rosemarie, bless her, kept the hugs coming and put up with the inconveniences.

Over the past few months, Bill developed a hacking problem that caused his ongoing panting to become audible throughout the house, especially at night when things were quiet.  He and I stayed up together on his last night…I had no choice since I am a light sleeper and could not escape his struggle to breathe. We bonded with a final bath I gave him after he messed on the floor and then proceeded to get it all over himself.

Exhausted after hours of panting heavily, he finally fell asleep around 5 in the morning.  It was off to the vet first thing after he woke up.  We left him there while they did a few tests and scoped his airway.  The results were no surprise.  His quality of life had reached the decision point and the humane choice had to be made.

Bill the Dog brought innocence into our household. While we struggled and stressed over the usual issues and ordeals of family life, Bill remained ignorant of the chaos and chose to stay cute, cuddly and showing pure happiness when someone gave him a treat. Unless you have had a pet for some time, it it difficult to explain the attachment that develops.  That first time when you arrive home and your pet is no longer there to greet you…well, that says it all.

*****

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WELCOME HENRI!

Since we moved last January, Rosemarie’s interest in birds has taken flight, pun intended.  There is a bountiful supply of her feathered friends to watch because our new home backs up on a reserve.  This is an area of land that the state has set aside for just being woodsy and remaining so.  This is just fine with us and I guess with the birds too.  It has, however, resulted in a new line item in the family budget, precisely a monthly 40-pound bag of wild birdseed.  So now the daily routine around these parts includes a refilling of the bird feeder and a few moments or more observing the initial feeding frenzy.

Flashback now to the late 1960s when Rosemarie and I got married and Freidmont moved into our kitchen.  Freidmont immigrated from Rosemarie’s family to ours.  Freidmont was a parakeet, but not your average, everyday parakeet.  Nooooserrie.  Freidmont could push his toys around the tabletop; he would sit on your shoulder and nibble at your ear and enunciate perfectly phrases like “hold me” and “pretty boy” and “love me” while he held your finger, fluffed up his feathers and masterbated. WHILE HE DID WHAT???  Yeah, that!

So here I was sitting in my thinking chair outside in our screened-in lanai (that’s what they call our patio in this fancy-schmancy community we live in) and I gets to thinkin’ about how much Rosemarie loved old Freidmont back in the day when he used to–well that’s been discussed already.  But golly-gee-whizz she enjoyed that pet so I thought what a great surprise it’d be if I got her a new parakeet.  And that’s how Henri was purchased, boxed up and taken home from the Petco Store down the street.  By the way, did you know there’s a shortage of parakeets goin’ on right now.  Yep, I had to go to three pet stores before I located Henri.  By the way, that’s Henri in the pictures.

Now I’ll tellyuh, Henri succeeded right off the bat, at least in one way–Rosemarie sure was surprised when she discovered him, sitting on the third-floor perch of his new, blue 3/2 wired bird house with water view and free wifi.  And I was a bit surprised, too, when I heard her talking to our niece on the phone.  “Yeah, a parakeet,” she was sayin’, “I’ll never know what was going on in that man’s brain when he bought me a parakeet.” 

Oh well, a bird in the hand is worth…what the hell is a bird in the hand worth these days?

*****                             

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PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO MEET, THOUGHTS TO THINK

If there is ever some kind of sophisticated review of my works I am confident that the term, “profound,” will be noticeably absent. That said, here’s a summer rerun of a little ditty that I wrote. It appeared here on my blog back in May, 2013…

I’ve got places to go but I don’t know exactly where.

There’s no sign on the road, or map to get me there.

All I know is that I can’t stand still because things move on,

And I’ve got no choice but to be there or else be gone.

No, I don’t know when or how, or if I must pay a fare.

All I know is I’ve got places to go and I’ve got to be there.

                                       —–

I’ve got people to meet but I don’t know who they are.

There is no list of names; some are near, some afar.

They come from different places and do different things.

Some are simple and humble, others might be kings.

No, I do not know when or how, or if I must pay a fare.

All I know is I’ve got people to meet; I know they’re there.

                                           —–

I’ve got thoughts to think but I know not what about.

Some are simple, others more complex no doubt.

They all demand some quality time within my mind.

I suspect some individual attention of some kind.

No, I don’t know when or how, or if I must pay a fare.

All I know is I’ve got thoughts to think, should I dare.

                                           —–

So I’ve got places to go, people to meet, and thoughts to think.

I been given no directions, no compass or charted link.

The people are diverse, the places everywhere and the thoughts are deep.

I don’t know where I’ll go, what I’ll say, or how far I’ll leap.

No, I do not know when or how, or if I must pay a fare.

All I know is these people and places and thoughts expect me there.

                                      *****

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$$$

So there’s this wheelchair, the one that sits in the bedroom waiting to see if the paralysis I suffered after a fall and subsequent spinal surgery last May returns and forces me to give up my walker and take a seat. This chair haunts the hell out of me, but I have no place to put it where it can’t be seen.  In fact, when I first laid eyes on it, it had a pretty profound effect on me.  I wrote about it in my June 24th posting on this blog. Today, the chair continues to be an intrusion, this time because I got to see how much it cost.

Folks on Medicare get a monthly statement that itemizes their medical expenses. It includes the cost submitted by the caretaker or provider, whether or not the Medicare Gods will sanction payment and how much.  The claim is always set substantially high by the doctors, hospitals and other providers because it is normal that Medicare will pay only a percentage of it. It’s a ridiculous game.

Unfortunately, part of our American culture is greed.  Many folks have no problem asking an exorbitant  amount of money for something they are selling.  They hope to get more than the item is worth…and often they do.  The entire medical industry is super greedy.  I’ve have had a pretty robust accumulation of medical bills this year. I am sure my caretakers will say the claims are accurate and justified. Uh-huh.

The cost of my wheelchair showed up on the Medicare statement I got today.  I won’t bother detailing the cost of the chair itself (the claim was in the thousands) along with an incredible list of options that came with it.  In fact, this wheelchair offered more options than a new automobile.  I’m surprised it didn’t come turbo-charged or with mag wheels.  It did however come with a “supplemental” back for the chair that I have never installed.  It, too, sits in the corner of the bedroom, still wrapped in sealed plastic, That’s it in the picture.  It’s a basic cushion that’s 20 inches wide, 17 inches high and 2½ inches thick.  How much do you think the provider billed Medicare for this item?  No, you’re wrong.  Medicare shelled out $260.92 for it.  The provider originally claimed it cost $425.55.  No wonder medical insurance is so outrageous.

Stupid me thinks the cushion–and all the other goods and services in the medical biz– should be priced the old fashioned way:  calculate the cost of the item to manufacturer and distribute, add on a reasonable profit and slap a price sticker on it.  “Reasonable” is the operative word there. But you know, as I do, trying to lower medical bills these days, well good luck with that.

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The Pope’s Stone, Retooled

PopeStarCovFinally! I get to check off one of the older items on my To-Do List! Eight years ago I published my first attempt at writing an adult novel. It was titled THE POPE’S STONE and while any writer’s first novel could be considered a practice piece, I was more than happy with my efforts. Certainly any professional writer would rip it to shreds, but I was pleased with myself since up until that point I had written only a few children’s books which were a lot shorter and a lot less work.

“POPE” is a historical novel which, I think, involves a lot more effort than a piece of straight fiction. The latter is a matter of dumping your mind and guts out onto the pages. A historical novel lets you take some fictional liberties with history if that helps the story move along, but you better have most of the real stuff spot on or you blow your credibility. I spent an enormous amount of time making sure the historical events and locations in POPE were accurate.

So, what was the big “to-do” that had to be done with THE POPE’S STONE? Well, the one point of criticism that stood out was that readers found some of the chapters too predictable. They also had some difficulty keeping up with time and place. The story involves two descendants of a family who live a century apart, yet their lives and all the events and experiences they have parallel each other. To emphasize this, I originally flipped-flopped the time and location chapter-by-chapter. So when you read about a particular circumstance of descendant A, you knew descendant B would experience a similar scenario in the chapter that immediately followed. This sounded like an approachable model to tell the story but readers found it otherwise.

So, what to do? After a few years of procrastination I got to thinking the only way to answer the criticism was to break the book into two parts, one for the earlier descendant and part II for the latter. This did not reduce the concept of how the two lives mirrored each other, but the separation of chapters made the story less repetitive. So I set about maneuvering the chapters accordingly and made adjustments to the text when and where they were necessary.

That’s my story and this time I’m stickin’ to it. THE POPE’S STONE, Second Edition is available via amazon.com.  Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FP7Q6CV I

Or, is necessary, search “The Pope’s Stone, Second Edition, Kuhn.”

*****

 

Posted in history, Indie Publishing, self-publishing, Uncategorized, WRITING | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FEET DON’T LEAVE ME

Senior using a walkerI got to wondering last week how many walkers must be out there in our world these days? Yeah, I know…weird!  I had just taken delivery of a new one while I was in the hospital last week.  I joined the walker ranks a few months ago, although I still have hopes that I may one day walk again without one. I never really pictured myself having to use a walker. I doubt anyone does.

Once you step into the walker environment you are fair game for related consequences.  There are also wheel chairs to contend with and inauguration into the I’ve fallen and can’t get up populace. I am sad to say I’ve been there/done all of these.

One way I noticed the walker influencing me was that it made me more observant of where my feet are and where they are about to go, things taken for granted previously. Now, of course, using a walker is no Olympic fete, but it is imperative that you stick every landing. Falling on your own is bad enough, but falling with a walker is worse because it is usually face first.

I originally purchased a fancier walker model–one of those that comes with a built-in seat and storage box. It was a snazzy maroon. I did not get the turbo-charged model but it sure felt like it. The problem with these more evolved walkers is that are maneuvered about on four wheels. The standard army walker has only two wheels with the back support legs being wheelless. Four-wheel models are for only the more advanced users because you may as well be on rollerblades.

Walkers offer lots of possibilities when it comes to supplemental gimmicks. True, some are a little contrived like a bulb horn so you can honk your way through a crowd. I have a wire basket attached to the front of mine so I have somewhere to store my phone. It has a built-in cup holder that comes in handy.   I suppose I could install a GPS system too or maybe even a gizmo that calls for an ambulance next time I fall. There are all kinds of possibilities.

My guess is there are gazillions walkers in use today.  Somewhere out there is an individual or two who own the factories that pump out all these walkers. Walker design and manufacturing are really quite simple.  After all, it’s not brain surgery.  Imagine how rich these people have become simply  by stumbling into a good thing!

*****

 

 

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Roach

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I have come to respect the impressive ability the cockroach has to follow me wherever I go. No, I am not kidding. Cockroaches have lived in every house I have lived in. I guess I should be flattered that they appreciate my taste. It is, I hasten to say, an adversarial relationship we’ve always had. They attempt to overrun every room in the house while I stand by with a can of Raid to fire at will. I usually win–the battle, not the war.

 

It’s not a likable subject to approach,

This war between me and the roach.

It’s simply horrible and more than I can bear

When I find him roaming my drawer of silverware.

If that’s not enough to quell any attempt to be congenial,

Imagine how I feel when I discover he’s been in my cereal.

He’s too fast to catch by hand, too squirmy to squash by foot.

I might get off a lucky shot of bug spay if he’d just stay put.

Then he’ll scurry about for a place to hide for a few minutes more,

And the next day I’ll find him upside down on the kitchen floor.

Oh the humanity! Oh the cockroachery! this battle will forever cry

I may vanquish some, but the mighty cockroach will never die.

AdobeStock_323924464 (1)

*****

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MAMA SAID

Marc005I suspect most mothers have a few words or phrases they repeatedly toss out from the pages of their childrearing playbook. Early on as toddlers, “please” and “thank you” were coaxed out of us anytime someone gave us something. The cue from mom was always, “What do you say?” The goal was to embed the proper response in our brain, enough so that “pleases” and thank yous” rolled out of our lips as instinctively as Pavlov’s dog salivated when a bell was rung. My mother must have done the job well since I have spent my entire life expressing my gratitude to anyone who does something on my behalf, no matter how inconsequential. If the mailman were to hand me a stack of bills I’d no doubt issue him a verbal “thank you!”

But it was one of my mother’s more profound phrases that lives on, forever deeply instilled within one of the older, dustier vaults of my brain. And here I am today yet being confronted with it once more. Whenever and whatever it was appropriate to the circumstance, out it came…and still does: little things matter much! It’s a simple concept that has become a no-brainer to me. It came to mind today when a good friend and past colleague and I were discussing the hiring process we used to put people through. I told him if someone came to an interview without a pen I interpreted that as a person who did not pay attention to detail. He said likewise if a job candidate failed at the smaller tasks presented, it was likely he/she could not handle the bigger, more important ones.

Details can, indeed, come back to bite you in butt. But there have been times when I envy those who look at the big picture and don’t get lost in its elements. My brother, always my exact opposite, breezed through life with a “what, me worry?” attitude. I couldn’t handle living that way. I fret over everything and, as such, I have great anticipatory skills. I always foresee all the possibilities a project might present and I am rarely without a plan B…and sometimes even a C.

I have learned many times over that Mom was right–little things do matter much, but it can go both ways. Case in point, my son is currently on hand to help with chores I am not able to do as I slowly recover from a bad fall. He and I do not work well together at all. I need to be in control, always displaying exactly how I want things done. Why? Because years of experience have taught me how to avoid mistakes. But to my son, every LITTLE nudge, every LITTLE direction I offer is taken as MUCH like a bolder tossed at him by a compulsive dictator, a person whom, he says, he will never please. That little comment hurts much and, as a result, I find myself not asking him to do certain things that I can get around to doing myself later on as my recovery progresses.

The lesson I still, after all my years. have problems accepting is letting go sometimes. It means thinking about the little things is not always relegated to just the details, but to people as well. Another phrase comes to mind and that is, people like me would sometimes be better off if they’d stop making much ado about nothing.

*****

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