OMG …THE SUBJECT IS LOVE!

I don’t know what got me started on this—well, actually I do.  It was YouTube, but hold that thought for a paragraph or two.

I do a lot of looking back lately.  I suppose that is natural when you reach the final years of your life. Oh, don’t get me wrong—I hope to be around a while yet. There is a line in a song called Bookends, by Simon and Garfunkel that wraps up one’s existence rather nicely:  “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.” 

So I have lots of memories, both good and bad, but mostly in between those two ends.  This is probably the normal course we all take.  We experience highs and lows, but between them are the day-to-day events and happenings we treat as routine.  But I have learned this is not necessarily correct. 

My mother used to say, “Things that matter little, matter much.”   Likewise, things routine may be routinely unique. They are the building blocks of one’s life. Our attitude may be routine, but it is the foundation of our character.  Our character may be routine, but it is the formative element of our personality.  One thing builds upon another, constructing the colossal structure called “me!”  “Me,” as you well know, is complex and one “me” is never duplicated; no two “me’s” are ever alike. And this leads off to where I am going.  Count on me to never take the direct route.

I often get snagged into watching amateur videos on YouTube.  This Internet site is one of the truly beneficial media today.  There isn’t a topic you can’t find on YouTube, whether it’s an instructional video on how to replace the ice maker in your refrigerator, or the brakes on your car, or a bountiful menu of human interactions.  The latter present an endless stream of life’s happenings among all us “me’s.” These include personal videos of things like soldiers coming home unexpectedly and surprising their loved ones … or guys planning out and playing out their marriage proposals to their unsuspecting significant others … or the same couples a little later on announcing “we’re pregnant!” to their elated parents.  It’s all there—the tears, the smiles, the wide eyes … you know, all the routine stuff.

What surfaces from many of these recorded events running on YouTube, at least for me as I look back, are the special emotions and feelings that life assigns only to the young in love.  You can see it in their body language, how they look at each other and the things they say.  This special stage in one’s life features all kinds of unique feelings never to be duplicated again.  Sure, love can carry through endless years of a relationship, but it never again spins the inner sparkle that whirls around two young people who have newly discovered a friendship for each other that goes beyond–well, let’s just say beyond routine. There really are no words to describe it.  This feeling, however, is a memory that will be left, should you choose to preserve it.

*****

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OUCH!

Pain, I’ve been told, is a good thing.  It is the body’s way of informing you that something is wrong. Well, I have gotten the message and it’s been painfully clear.

One late night in April of 2020, I fell asleep while sitting in my desk chair.  This was not unusual. I was probably busy doing something at the computer, maybe even writing a posting for this blog. I really don’t remember.  Anyway, being the restless sleeper that I am, I apparently changed the position of the chair from facing the desk to facing the empty floor behind me.  Still nothing unusual here, except that my weight must have shifted forward.  When this happens while the chair is facing the desk, as it often has, I usually wake up after I have fallen forward and planted my face in the keyboard.  Luckily, the letters rarely suffer any damage, nor I.  This time, however, the desk wasn’t there to break my fall—the hardwood floor was.  I awoke a nanosecond before I landed on my cheekbone.  When I came to my senses, most of them were gone.  I could not feel or move anything below my neck.  It was, needless to say, a horrifying experience.  Fortunately, it was not permanent.

To make a long, arduous story short, I am back on my feet, although walking with a cane, still in therapy and gulping down two loads of colorful pills every day.  While I have made tremendous progress recovering from my fall, there remains one constant: pain.  

I have a history of tolerating a high level of pain even to the extent that my dentist has volunteered to take a shot of Novocain in sympathy while I let him drill away at me teeth without any.  But this year’s been different.  It’s not so much the level of pain.  It’s the fact that it never goes away.  Among my many medical issues symptomatic of my age and surgeries, something is always hurting.  After a while, I admit, it wears you down. 

Mornings are especially challenging. Muscles and joints grow stiff while the body sleeps and they resist attempts to move when it’s time to get up. But looking on the bright side, opening my eyes in the morning and knowing I’ve been granted another day, well that gives me incentive to get bending.

The challenge of chronic pain is to learn to live with it.  Some people pop a lot of pain pills to get through the day.  Many of these folks become addicted, only adding to their suffering.   Others look to holistic alternatives for relief.  Some experiment, as I did with medical marijuana (no, it didn’t work for me). Still others trudge on, hoping some day the pain will simply go away.  I am in this latter group too.  I take an occasional pain pill but I am careful not to rely on them for everyday relief, which they don’t always provide anyway.

I sympathize with people who suffer with chronic pain.  It has the capability of taking all joy out of life and leaves you not only physically hurting, but emotionally exhausted.  Having experienced almost total paralysis, albeit for a short time, I look at my battle with pain as a much more manageable challenge.  I often think of the old joke about the guy who keeps banging his head with a hammer. He’s asked why and answers, “because it feels so good when I stop.”

*****

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THE REWRITE…IT MAKES THINGS RIGHT

I am at a new stage of my so-called writing life.  I am RE-writing!  It’s true what they say about writing a book—you are never really finished with it.  No matter how many times you pick it up, you find something you want to change.

Writing a novel is a pretty daunting experience. “Daunting” was my first adjective of choice.  Others that crossed my mind were “unnerving,” “formidable” and “intimidating.”  They all apply.  Go ahead, write a novel and I think you will agree any of those words describes the process.

When I published AGAIN (yes, that’s the title of the book) three years ago, I declared it would be my last book.  I have written 11 since I retired back in 2008.  I would have never predicted that.  I hasten to say I have no expectation of ever seeing one of my books on the bestseller list.  This conclusion has nothing to do with low self-esteem or humility.  It is simply the fact that my books don’t get much publicity and I am willing to admit I am probably a pretty average wannabe novelist.  Other excuses: I got a late start doing all this; I haven’t studied the craft that much; I have attended only one writer’s conference and I haven’t read as many books as those young whipper-snappers on the amazon fast track.  

So what motivates me to spend hours pecking away on a keyboard?  While I am human and, of course, I would love to see one of my books stacked on a front table at B&N, I simply enjoy the writing process.  I have always liked projects, especially building things, despite my almost failing woodshop in middle school.  But writing a novel is like building.  You start with a foundation—the plot—and proceed from there, pounding the keys (the nails) until it all comes together and the doors open and close without squeaking.

The beauty of being an independent author/publisher, especially of books that hardly anyone has read, is that I can go back over my books and make changes that no one will notice.  Nowadays, with the convenience of the POD concept (print-on-demand) I can rewrite my books, fix any errors, change a word here and there or even do radical surgery.  There’s no one in the waiting room waiting, and if a reader does pick up a copy after the patient is rolled out of the recovery room with new parts, well, they won’t even feel guilty for not having sent a get-well card.  

So that’s what I am doing right now—playing doctor.  My first major effort writing a novel was THE POPE’S STONE.  For a first novel, it has been read by more people than any of my books.  That said, there was a theme to the criticism that several readers expressed.  Since the book deals with the parallel stories of two characters who live a century apart, some readers found it difficult to keep track of the when’s and where’s of the story line.  That was because I structured the book so that there was a constant back-and-forth from one character to the other.  This meant that the time periods also kept bouncing to-and-fro.  Readers got confused! 

THE POPE’S STONE, Second Edition has hardly any changes in text, but almost every chapter has been uprooted and repositioned.  This resulted in a revised, two-part book that makes a lot more sense and reads a lot more smoothly.  It was a challenge, but fun tearing down the book’s structure and rewelding it into a new floor plan.

Currently, I am finishing up a rewrite of AGAIN.  It’s a better book this time and given the unusual concept of the story, I am pleased with the adjustments I made.  Most of them were compliments of a rare, thorough editing of the book donated by a good friend.  It was a ton of work because he came in with a wrecking ball and smashed things up just about everywhere, leaving the book dripping with red ink.  Hopefully I mopped up everything and I won’t need to reread AGAIN…again.

*****

*****

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STUFF

Stuff #1

      I promised I would get back to you on the great diet pill caper that I discussed in my posting for May 8th (Been There Done Fat) … I was actually a little amazed that I lost about ten pounds in three weeks without making any major changes in my diet.  But that’s where it ended.  I started regaining the weight I lost and now I am pretty much where I was when I started taking the pill.  But I have to admit my birthday fell within this time period and well-wishers deposited a healthy (maybe not so healthy) supply of cakes, ice cream and chocolate into my lap…and that’s where it all wound up eventually–in my lap!  And, oh yeah, I guess the batch of chocolate chip cookies I made didn’t help the cause.  Summing up, I felt I didn’t give this initial bottle a fair chance (did someone say “fat chance?”).  After all, it started off with a bang.  So, I ordered a second bottle with the intent of following through a little better…stay tuned to this channel, as they say.

Stuff #2

Rosemarie and I are planning to relax our lifelong tendency to be frugal and wise.  We do have the attitude that if something disastrous were to happen, we really need to maintain some of our meager funds for that possibility.  But given the medical issues we’ve had the past year-and-a-half and the corresponding medical bills, our golden years are pretty much tin so far.  So we have decided to see how much it will cost to have some things around the house redone to make it nicer and us happier…sort of a self-reward for all our suffering.  Good rationale, huh?  The first of the things is the kitchen.  I hate our appliances; Rosemarie hates the cabinets.  With these in mind we stopped by one of those kitchen/bath remodeling stores to ooh n’ ahh at their inventory of impractical kitchen dreams.  We caught the salesperson on the eve of her vacation so she cannot come to our house for another week.  That means we have a while to go before we have any idea how much all this will cost.  This is a bad thing.  I like to act once I make a decision so I don’t have time to second-guess myself.  Funny, I keep hearing ca-chings every time I walk into the kitchen. 

Stuff #3

Every once in a while, we experience what has come to be called a Kodak Moment.  This is an event or some kind of occurrence that is picture perfect, wholesome, or just plain worthy of our appreciation and respect.  They are magical “ahh” moments!  Hallmark Cards puts them in greeting cards, Disney films them and Norman Rockwell drew them.  All that said, I have come to look forward to a Kodak Moment that occurs several times a week.  It’s going to sound strange, but the magic happens during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Baseball team, the Cubs.  I am a Cubs fan and even though I have never lived in Chicago, I have followed the Cubs faithfully since 2015. I subscribe to the streaming of their games on the internet, and I rarely miss one.   During the seventh inning stretch it is tradition at Wrigley for the fans to sing Take me Out to the Ballgame.  Usually, a celebrity of some sort leads them from the big screen in center field.  If not, the Cubs lovingly haul out a video of Harry Cary leading the fans from the distant past (pictured above).  Harry was the much beloved announcer for the Cubs the last 16 years of his radio/television career.  He died in ’98.  Now, while other teams also feature the singing of the quintessential ballad of baseball, Wrigley and Cary hold cathedral ranking when the holy moment of song is blessed by Cub fans.  I discovered the other night what makes the singing at Wrigley so magical.  With all the hostility in the world these days, it is truly an enchanted scene when there is unity, happiness, comradery, comfort and all kinds of other good feelings that seem to bring everyone together in a sense of commonality, if for only a minute or two.  While Kodak film has become a product of the past, at Wrigley there is still a Kodak Moment almost nightly throughout the summer … and each one is a homerun!

*****

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WRITE ON…

Today’s posting is a flat-out advertisement slash venting session. I admit that right away. I don’t want you to misread any hidden agenda on my part.  Since I retired from the radio biz, I’ve written and published eleven books.  I published the books myself because new technologies make it easy and inexpensive, plus you don’t have to sit around for several years collecting rejection letters from literary agents and big publishing houses.

The sacrifice I make for going the independent route is that I lose some of the “legitimacy” of being considered a real author—and maybe even a good one.  The book industry can be a bit snooty at times, though I sense independent authors are beginning to gain some respect despite our still residing below decks in steerage.  That said, it is up to me to do all my own promotion and marketing for my books.  This is no easy task…and a costly one to do it right.

Another loss in going it alone is even more important.  As a self-publishing author it is my burden to find good proof readers and editors to go through my books before they are published.  True, I’ve had a few friends help me out with some of my books, but hiring professionals is ultra-expensive and I simply cannot afford them.  Consequently, it is not unusual to find a mistake or two in my books.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur.  I have never expected to become a best-selling author with books flying off the shelves in amazon’s warehouse.  Fact is, I sell very few—make that “hardly any.”  This is partly because my books get very little exposure or publicity.  A few family members and friends know my books exist.  Anyone else has to stumble upon them and be lured in by the cover or have interest in the subject matter.   Oh, did I mention the importance of the cover?  Well, that’s actually the topic for today’s posting.

If I were forced to single out any of my books as a favorite, I suppose I would select DEAD LETTER. Indeed, people who have read it have nice things to say about it…and many of them are people I do not know.  I designed the cover for this book, at least the concept, then I hired an artist to produce it.  I knew at the time that it could be an issue, but it portrays such a poignant scene in the story that I just couldn’t NOT go ahead and use it.  If you read the book you will more than likely agree.

The book is sold primarily on amazon.com.  It is such a remote find on amazon that it will show up only if you do a search for it by listing the book’s title ALONG with my name.  If you don’t add my name to the search you will simply get pages and pages and pages of book covers, many containing neither the word, “dead” or “letter.”  Why a search using keywords “dead” and “letter” does not find my book titled, DEAD LETTER yet finds many without those keywords will be a mystery to me no matter how many time I ask amazon and no matter how many times they try to explain something called an “algorithm.” 

Adding insult to injury, amazon rejects all my efforts to advertise and promote the book (even when I pay to advertise) because the book’s cover does not meet their standards.  What??!!  How can I advertise the book if I do not show the book’s cover?  Here’s the rub: amazon fully shows the cover of the book on its purchase page, but it rejects the cover showing up anywhere else.  The problem?  It’s the distant image of the back of a naked, middle-aged woman standing on the edge of a pier. There is no sexual connotation, certainly far less tame than many of the movies that amazon offers among its inventory.  One other interesting note:  DEAD LETTER is printed by Kindle Direct Publishing, an amazon company.

So there you have it—some of the trials and tribulations of an independent author/publisher. By the way, if you would like to learn more about DEAD LETTER, click on its trailer link to the right. If you would like to purchase the book, click on the cover illustration near the top of the right-hand column. And, If you are pursuing a career as an independent author, I offer you one little piece of advice about the cover of your book:  make no butts about it.

*****

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THE FISHING PIER, WHERE HOPE LIES ETERNAL

I am not much of a hunter.  Nope.  Couldn’t pull the trigger on Bambi let alone take down some huge African beast.  Fishing seems almost tolerable, although I still feel sorry for both bait and fish.  Ironically, I have salmon for dinner almost every week.  It is a bit hypocritical that I don’t quite connect the slaughter of an animal with the slick shrink-wrapped pound of hamburger I toss into my cart at the supermarket.

Speaking of fishing, that’s today’s topic.  Both my wife and my son love fishing.  Living a short distance inland from the Florida coast, you won’t find a fishing hole much better than the Gulf of Mexico and its inland waterways. I do not like to fish. It’s smells awful, it’s painfully boring and frustrating if the fish aren’t biting and when they are, I usually pull up something too small to be legal and the hook is stuck in the fish’s eye to boot.  Nah, fishing is not for me.  There is good salmon to be caught at the supermarket and it’s already been cleaned and fileted.

Despite all this, I go fishing much more than I wish to.  When Rosemarie goes fishing I usually schlep along.  First of all, I am a duty-bound husband who doesn’t like his wife traveling alone.  Secondly, see first.  So, I carry the bait bucket for her and a chair for me.  She fishes, I sit.  Like a kid in the back seat nagging “Are we there yet?” I am constantly asking if it’s time to go yet.  

One of the more favorable places we go fishing is the fishing pier.  I have spent a good portion of my life accompanying Rosemarie to a fishing pier.  There is one just a short drive from where we live.  It’s a phenomenal place for people-watching. With that in mind, I have made some observations: people go to the pier either to actually fish or sightsee.  There are more of the latter.  These are couples or whole families with grandma in tow.  The unexpressed goal is to walk out to the end of the pier.  This is the destination of just about everyone who sets foot on the pier.  It is here that the newly arrived will oooh and aaah at the glistening ocean water and the horizon off in the distance, then turn around and walk all the way back to the beach. Oops, almost forgot, this particular pier generates a crowd each evening and rewards it with the best seat on the water for sunset watching.

The other group of folks on the pier—including Rosemarie—have come for an entirely different reason.  These are church people.  To them, the pier represents the Cathedral of Hope.  In fact, I have found that the fishing pier truly envelopes the entire concept of hope.  Every person who walks its planks with rod in hand does so with impassioned hope and anticipation. They expect their efforts will result in a bountiful cluster of wiggling fish destined for the dinner table, accompanied with bragging rights.  It rarely happens.

On the fishing pier, hope lies eternal. As for the fish?  Well, the great majority swim away to live another day.  This is life on the fishing pier.  The people who engage its fantasy are exceptionally friendly and supportive of each other.  Bait and gear, and anything else for that matter, are readily shared.  Cheers and envy are exchanged if an actual fish is harvested successfully.  And when it is, motivation to fish on is stimulated and hope is heightened even more.

The fishing pier is host to, and nurtures, what is truly an exclusive angler’s society.  There is no entry fee or loyalty pledge needed…just rod and reel, a twitching shrimp as bait and the ever-optimistic anticipation and hope that this will be the day.  I am not a member. Eventually, I fold my chair, grab Rosemarie’s bait bucket and walk back to the car.  My hope is that the Dairy Queen we pass on the way home, will still be open.  

*****

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THE ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY “CORRECTION”

Originally Posted on May 27, 2017  by Marc Kuhn

American cemetery in Normandy,France.

Many Americans routinely spend their three-day holiday weekends with family, sometimes traveling or just gathering for a special meal or picnic. Many others go shopping because retailers looovvvvveee  to run sales during a holiday weekend.  Such are the activities of many Americans this weekend as we honor Memorial day.  Notice I said “honor” Memorial Day, not “celebrate.”    “Celebrate” is not the correct term for this particular holiday.   Fewer and fewer Americans understand that.

Each year at this time, I hop up on my soapbox to remind many in the younger generations, and I’m sorry to say some of my peers too, why “Happy Memorial Day” is simply not the proper greeting to use for this holiday. With that in mind, here again for 2021 is my annual posting for Memorial Day…

arlintoncem

I am a traditionalist.  You remember the song, Tradition, from Fiddler on the Roof, don’t you?  “And how do we keep our balance?” asks Zero Mostel.  “I can tell you in one word,” he says–-“Tradition!”   Now, when it comes to certain holidays, especially the patriotic ones, I went to the School of Normal Rockwell where I learned how to observe them.  That said, here is my take on Memorial Day.

Cem3

First of all, many of you have it all wrong.  This is NOT a joyous occasion that we are honoring this holiday weekend.  What was originally called Decoration Day was established by a group of Union Army veterans in 1886 following the Civil War.  The former soldiers thought it would be appropriate to set aside a day to honor those Americans who had died in service to their country.  Veterans of the Confederate Army did likewise on a totally different day.  Eventually, the two holidays merged into one, now called Memorial Day.  It is held on the last Monday of May.

Crosses in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

It is tradition that American military graves are decorated this day.  Those in Federal cemeteries in the United States and abroad are usually adorned with a small American flag.  When I was a kid in the 1950’s, I remember seeing lots of American flags on Memorial day.  They were hung on poles or were draped from window sills, porch railings and anything else that one could be tied to.  Almost every household displayed a flag—and I lived in a row-home neighborhood so you can just imagine the sea of red white and blue that ran endlessly down the blocks, one after the other.  Of course, World War II was still very fresh in the minds of Americans, especially anyone who had lost someone in the war.  Most storefront windows also displayed flags back then, not sale signs.

No shining academic record do I hold, but I cringe when I hear a young person today who does not know the difference between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, let alone any of the great conflicts that followed them.  I am not making that up.  I realize that I sound like an old curmudgeon when I criticize “these kids today” who have no concept of the sacrifice their forefathers made for them.  There are many adults too who have gotten caught up in the redundancy of how Americans celebrate their historic events.  As such, we treat all holidays pretty much the same: big retail sales, family gatherings and sporting events.

Jewish star

But wishing someone a “Happy Memorial Day” is…well, it’s just not correct. Think about it. If your neighbor recently lost a son or daughter in Afghanistan, would you feel comfortable wishing them a “happy” Memorial Day?   This is a sad day, a solemn day when Americans should take a formal, structured time-out to think about and pay tribute to the thousands who died so that we and many others who aren’t even Americans can continue living in a protected and free environment.  Unfortunately, a lot of that thought process is gone from this holiday.  Memorial Day does not impact as many of us in the same manner as it once did.  It is no longer relatable to all of us.  It is no longer as relevant.  It is fast becoming a tradition lost…and it leaves us, as Zero Mostel said, out of balance.

*****

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THE INTERNET GAME…BEEN THERE DONE FAT

Forgive me. I’ve done it again.  I didn’t click on the “Skip Ad” button.  Instead, I let some guy in green scrubs convince me he is a doctor who has devoted his life to discovering why traditional dieting methods do not work.  Well, surprise surprise!  I knew that. I didn’t need some Internet doctor to tell me that.  But I let him.  Yep, I even let myself watch his entire presentation.  It was so typical of what seems like hundreds of similar videos I’ve watched on YouTube.

These video diatribes are all the same.  They’re made up of the following elements:

  • An expert, usually a doctor or nutritionists
  • A confession by the expert regarding how he or she was once overweight and tried every diet routine without any success.  Said expert decided to take the matter into his/her own hands.
  • There is some contrived name for the condition you are suffering from. It could be “leaky gut,” “cell hell,” “fat packs,” “flop glop” or whatever.
  • There’s almost always a number involved….5 usually is that number.  The expert explains there are 5 things you: shouldn’t do or shouldn’t eat; should do or should eat. All 5 are then explained in detail.
  • There’s a back story.  This segment is long and repetitive. It explains all the things that are wrong with other dieting methods and why.  It then illustrates how the expert went through all kinds of research and testing that led to several definitive conclusions…once more, usually 5 of them.
  • By now you have just about accepted belief in everything the expert has told you.  You are ripe for pickin’ and the guy in the green scrubs knows it. Time for the big reveal.
  • The expert concludes there is a formula of elements (usually 3 this time) that, when combined, will have you consistently losing weight over the next 3-to-6 months. Considerable time is devoted to explaining the particulars of each element, none of which has a name you can pronounce.
  • Dr. Whatsizname knows that if you have stayed with him this long—and it will seem like half a day–you are ready for the even bigger reveal: the cost! Now, not to worry–the initial price is always outrageous.  But since you have devoted so much of your time to the good doctor’s presentation you are to be rewarded with a special price for today only.  No matter what amounts of your hard-earned money are requested, the final price for a 30-day supply almost always is $49.  If you purchase a 3-month supply, you can get an even lower price.

Okay, there it is and it is what it is: usually a thoroughly compelling presentation that is overwhelmingly convincing that you have finally stumbled upon the ultimate remedy for getting rid of all that fat you’ve accumulated over the past few years.  Yep, in 90 days you will weight less, be healthier, and feelin’ a whole lot better about yourself.

Forgive me.  I’ve done it again.  I will check back with you in 30 days.

*****

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THEY’RE BACK. IT MUST BE SPRING

Spring, in case you didn’t notice, arrived a few weeks back on March 20th.  Here in Southwest Florida it is difficult to detect spring and fall. Both seasons slip seamlessly in and out each year without providing any real “ah” moments in weather conditions.  Summer temperatures begin around this time of year and will pretty much heat things up until October.  November through March are the months during which we like to call our frigid friends who live up north and tell them how outrageous the weather is down here.

I do miss spring and fall, however.  If for anything, they provide a sense of timing.  Often it is difficult remembering when certain events took place.  Clothing, annual flowers and changes in temperature concurrent with the changes in seasons provide blips on the radar to help clue you in when and where certain things took place. Where we live memories can get lost in indistinguishable timetables with no particular climate.

Then there are the animals. They left last fall and, much to Rosemarie’s delight, returned over the past few weeks.  We’re talking field rabbits, ducks and a huge flock of birds including Morning Doves, Grackles, Threshers, Blue Jays, Moorhens, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Mocking Birds and Cardinals.  

Now, while all these arrivals have been going on outside, there’s been several departures inside.  It’s been a rough year in our little household because it got even smaller.  Bill the Dog died, Toni the Cat moved to Denver with our one granddaughter, and our attempt to keep three Parakeets thriving in the corner of our kitchen failed miserably.  Consequently, we are pet-free for the first time in years. “Oh happy days,” sez I, although Rosemarie’s sentiments are to the contrary.  She’s totally pet-friendly

But hey now…there are the birds!  Rosemarie’s maternal instincts have taken flight ever since our feathered friends began returning.  Each day she sets out saucers filled with wild bird seeds under the bushes just outside our screened-in patio.  She hangs a bird feeder higher up but most of the birds prefer eating at ground level where they find a rabbit joining them most days.  Rosemarie, meanwhile, has mastered recognizing most of the birds and has even assigned a name to many of them.  They all seem to go along with it and why not?  She’s their meal ticket straight through to next fall. That’s a good feeling.  I know, because Rosemarie took me under her wing years ago.

*****

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The Pipes Are Calling

One of the more difficult problems I have nowadays is giving up a lot of the household maintenance jobs I used to do myself.  Given my new physical limitations there are a lot of jobs I can’t do any more or I can no longer manipulate the tools it takes to get them done.  Good example:  I have some balance issues so Rosemarie won’t let me use the nifty 12-foot ladder I bought for the tall ceilings in our new home.  I didn’t bother to ask about the circular saw.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a few plumbing issues that I would have normally fixed myself had I not become a little disabled.  So, I hired a plumber.  My few plumbing projects turned out to be estimated over a thousand dollars.  Well then, it was time to prioritize so I had the plumber do only one job and that was replacing two leaky water valves feeding the faucet on the kitchen sink.  The bill for that was $285 and I still had an electrician coming in another hour to do some rewiring.

All this was a rude awakening as I pondered the cost of getting everything on my to-do list done.  Part of the kitchen sink issues was the faucet itself.  It’s one of those high arched faucets with a single lever at the base.  The latter is busted.  The entire unit needed replacing.  “Ca-Ching” goes my mind.  If the two valves the plumber replaced were $285 and a new faucet of this type runs $200 or more, how much more will the plumber charge to remove the old one and install the new one?  Hmmm.  I decided to punt for the evening and deal with my little dilemma in the morning. 

To know what’s involved with the faucet challenge you need a little background info.  Both Rosemarie and I have had spinal surgery.  That, along with old creaky bones seasoned with arthritis, have limited our ability to crawl inside the cabinet under the sink, then maneuver into a position that allows full view of the hoses going into the bottom of the faucet and…and…and then being able to manipulate the wrench and other tools necessary to do the job, PLUS inform 911 that one or both of us are down and can’t out of the cabinet let alone get up from the floor. 

Nonetheless, we made the decision that we would attempt to do the faucet job ourselves. I’ll tell you right away that we accomplished the mission.  Was it easy?  Welllllll, it took half a linen closet of towels, not to soak up water but to cushion my body and prop up my head while I squeezed myself under the sink.  Rosemarie, being the RN that she is, slapped tools in my hands as needed, positioned and held the above-surface parts of the faucet and asked me a thousand times if I was okay.  

So out of our adventure under the sink, blossomed an idea that any of us are free to pursue.  I am sure you are familiar with the “For Dummies” concept that has sold millions of instructional books and video presentations.  Well, as I had to pre-plan how I would attack my faucet challenge, including exactly how I was going to get in and out of the cabinet, work my arms and head around the various pipes, hoses and garbage disposal, and then have a way to get myself standing again once the job was done—all these elements had to be taken into consideration for my age and physical limitations.  Wouldn’t the same be true for all kinds of tasks for people in my stage of life?  Hence, why not take the gazillion “For Dummies” projects and rework them “For Oldies?”   There’s a huge senior market just waiting to re-open their household job jars if they just had a little help with the details…and someone to slap the tools in their hands.

*****


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