MOM & DAD …GOTTA LOVE ‘EM…GOTTA MISS ‘EM!

***  A note to  my fellow indie-authors/publishers follows this post  ***

MomandDadjpg

As a parent your main mission is to raise your children so that they become caring and contributing people in society and the bonus you hope for is that their lives are fulfilling and their successes exceed yours.  How blessed I was to have great parents.  How awful it is that I have gone through a good portion of my adult life without them.  Oh the conversations we could have had…and the fun too—can’t forget the fun.  Imagine having conversations with your parents later in your life when you’ve accumulated the same kinds of experiences they had.  While I was constantly in awe of my parents and how smart they were, my father often told the story about Mark Twain’s relationship with his dad:

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.  

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Throughout my life as a parent, I found myself sensing how much I sounded like my mother and father. There were so many times I had to stop in the middle of what I was doing and wonder if my father was actually standing there beside me, laughing to himself and mumbling something like, “See, son, some things don’t always work out the way you want them to…so deal with it.”  That must be another lesson I was learning from my mom in the picture to the right. I know we were at the zoo, but I cannot remember what I had done wrong.  Regardless, as unhappy as I appear, I’d easily relive the moment given the opportunity.

It is especially sad when you lose a parent suddenly, with no warning.  I realize it is no less a loss for those who have had a parent simply age and eventually die than it is to have one pass unexpectedly.  A loss is a loss.  The former has an advantage since you, hopefully, have opportunities to share your thoughts before your time together ends. The alternative doesn’t come with that advantage.  I had it both ways.  My dad died unexpectedly and way too early.   I didn’t have a chance to have any conversation with him.  My mother, on the other hand, lived far beyond any of the women in her family, although I was impatient with her as she aged and slowed down.  Yes, guilt!

Fortunately, I do not dwell on the hardships and regrets.  There are enough fond memories to far surpass them.  The picture below is just one example.  My dad spent his day leaning over a large draftboard, meticulously drawing the blueprints his company would need to manufacture the tachometers they made for ship engines and large printing presses.  He always wore a suit and tie to work–back then, most men who worked in a business environment did.  Given the kind of work he performed, a long tie would have been a nuisance and always in the way.   As a result, my father wore nothing but bowties—the ones you tie by hand, not the ones you clip around your neck.  Rosemarie wanted to learn how to tie one so he gave her a lesson and, lucky me, I got this priceless picture.

EWK-RK copyI cannot help but think about how my mother and father must have felt when they were the age I am now. That would be a little difficult for my father since I have lived eight years more than he did.  Meanwhile, my lifespan will tie my mother’s in another two.  My goal is to top my grandfather who made it to 84.  I have a decade to go to break that record.

As an older person, I don’t think many envision the elderly as being sentimental about our parents. In fact, sometimes I think younger folks can’t even believe we still think about our parents.  I do…constantly.  My wife does the same with her parents.  We both often fantasize how wonderful it would be if we could have just one more evening together with them and share memories and talk about all those things we never talked about.  Like many, the first thing I’d want to tell them is how much I loved them and how grateful I am for everything they did for me.  Perhaps they knew; maybe I showed it in some way.  It’s selfish on my part, I guess, but I just want the good feeling it would give me to let them know the tremendous impact they had on my life…and, oh  yeah, they should also know that I thought the 26” Schwinn bike they got for me was the coolest.

*****

A note to my fellow indie-Authors/Publishers:  There was unusually good response to a posting I did  some weeks back dealing with self-publishing.  While I am strictly self-taught and there are plenty of folks more knowledgeable than I am, I decided to at least share how I go about publishing on my zero-based budget.  There are three initial pages on my website and I am about to start a series specific to certain topics.  If you want to see if anything I offer helps you, great!  My website is easy to get to:  http://marckuhn.com.  It is not a secure site because I cannot afford the fee GoDaddy charges to make it so.  However, there is nothing harmful on the site except a few pictures of me. Click on the green “click here” at the top of the home page to get to the pages on self-publishing.  I have posted my first lesson on setting up your manuscript for those who are new to the process.  Click open that same green arrow then look to the lower right for the lesson #1 link.

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THE F*BOMBING OF MRS. MAISEL

MaiselBombs

Well, here I go again with another dissertation on the F*Bomb.  It’s like I can’t get it out of my system….or maybe it should be that I can’t get it in.

I thought I’d inch my way back into the popular arts this evening.  This is a place that I have pretty much abandoned once I retired, at least when the venue is television.  My temporary re-entry was made up of watching three episodes of an amazon prime series titled, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. This program has piled up an overflowing mantle of awards, including three Golden Globes, a SAG Award, and six Primetime Emmies.  The writer-director  of the series is Amy Sherman-Palladino who also gave us The Gilmore Girls.  I thought I had done a good job selecting what promised to be an outstanding series.  I thought.

Now comes the troublesome part.  I’ve confessed this before so some will find this posting to be a here-he-goes-again moment.  I have, let’s call it “a sensitivity,” to the F*Bomb. I think this is a result of the culture in which I was raised.  I realize it is merely a word, a collection of letters placed in a specific order to form the word that represents the sound, F*ck.  Stay with me here.

During the 1950s, the word simply was NOT commonly used, at least in public and especially by women. I’ve thought long and hard about this and, NO, the F*Bomb was definitely NOT expressed back then as freely as it is today.  This brings me to the point at which I take issue with all the contemporary entertainment writers who insist on sprinkling the F*bomb throughout their scripts as if it were seasoning liberally applied from a saltshaker.  It is especially annoying when the script represents a time period like the 1950s, as does The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  I am not stupid.  Today’s crop of writers thinks it is cool and hip (there’s a word from the ‘50’s) to say F*ck in just about every paragraph, so much so that to someone like me it is beyond sounding provocative and simply sounds stupid and irritating.

FBombAmy Sherman-Palladino is such a writer.  She was born in 1966.  She was not around in the 1950s and her perception of how people spoke back then is entirely WRONG. When her peers, and anyone younger, watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel they think nothing of the proliferation of F*bombs.  When someone my age is exposed to her writing, it loses all credibility and is actually insulting.  She may just as well place a cell phone in every actor’s hand as they role-play what they think is representative of the time period in which Mrs. Maisel takes place.

Now certainly, it is ballsy (how do you like that word?) of me to criticize Ms. Sherman-Palladino when she is a super successful writer and I remain a starving one.  But I am upset.  I wanted to get involved with a good series—an award-winning series—and have something to look forward to watching over the next several weeks. But, after viewing three full episodes, I left in the midst of an entirely unbelievable stretch of a scene in which a sober Mrs. Maisel auto-programs herself to suddenly do stand-up at a wedding. Her performance rivals any routine by shock comedian Andrew Dice Clay, to the extent that she asks the wedding’s attending priest to declare to everyone that she did not “stoke” him.  It is a scene that is simply unreal, one that is the product of a writer not familiar with the time period, period! And, no one, except a wonky critic like me, would make a fuss about it because it abruptly breaks the rhythm of what was otherwise a compelling performance.

Maybe I am a prude and do not wish to admit it.  But hey, my one book has a naked lady on the cover.  How much of a snoot can I be?  It is just that the F*bomb has become so much a part of our contemporary language that it can be heard anywhere at anytime by anyone.  My children and grandchildren use it freely all the time, whether I’m present or not.  The Atom Bomb Explosionproblem comes to life when a writer decides to overwhelm you with it.  Good writers pull and tug at every word in their scripts, always questioning whether or not a word is the correct one, does it serve a purpose, does it belong? Too often the F-bomb gets an unearned “yes” for each of these questions.

Imagine for a moment if The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel went through its entire season without once dropping the f*bomb.  I bet it would have still won three Golden Globes, a SAG Award and six Primetime Emmies.  Kah-boom!

*****

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MILK, BREAD & LAUNDRY…or why my brother and I don’t look alike

When I was a youngster, home delivery was much more prevelent than it is today.  I’m talkin 1950’s-early 60’s.  There were three main delivery services available in our neighborhood:  milk, bread and laundry.  And, oh yes, lots of folks got a weekly tin full of Charles Potato Chips.  UPS was around then, too, but only for things like department store packages that were few and far between.  In fact, my most embedded memory of UPS was seeing one of its box vans on it’s side down at the corner of my street.  They used the same large brown trucks back then. I think the driver took the turn a little too quickly.  It was, nonetheless, an impressive site seeing an entire UPS truck, packages and all, on its side just down the street.  But I digress.

milktruckMilk came twice a week in glass quart bottles. After you finished a bottle, you rinsed it out and left it on the front step. Then on delivery day, the old bottles disappeared and were replaced with freshly filled bottles.  There was always one bottle of chocolate milk (we were spoiled).  Our milkman came fully dressed in a white uniform and cap. It was Brunniger’s milk (not sure it was spelled that way) and the trucks had a distinctive stubby appearance like the one pictured, except Brunniger’s trucks were mainly dark burgundy with yellow trim.

bondbreadBond Bread was a major brand in the 50’s.  They used a lot of cowboy imagery in their advertising.  Both the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy were featured. Hoppy was my favorite cowboy.  The Bond Bread man carried a large tray with a wide handle that spanned side-to-side.  It was full of baked goods.  He’d bring it up to your front door and the lady of the house would make the big decision between the swirly coffee cake or the chocolate donuts…and a loaf of fresh Bond Bread, of course.

The laundry—that was my job. Every Monday I had to go around the house and change all the beds.  I not only had to take off the dirty linens and stuff them all in one pillowcase, I had to remake each bed with fresh sheets.  It was a hell of a job for a ten-year-old and I hated every minute of it…but it was my assigned job and back then kids followed orders.

After I stuffed all the sheets and my dad’s dress white shirts into a pillowcase, I would leave it between the front door and the outer screen door before I left for school the next  morning.  When I got home the pillow case was gone (its contents would return the following week) and in its place was a package of laundered sheets wrapped in brown paper and a cardboard box containing my Dad’s clean shirts.

launcdryWe must have been rich because not everyone had the luxury of sending out their bedding to be cleaned each week.  Both my parents worked, rare back then, and I know my mother did not want to spend her day off washing sheets.  I also know that not everyone had a ten-year-old kid to change their beds every week.   My brother must have had a corresponding chore of some sort to complete each week but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was.  One side note, to keep my mind occupied while changing the beds, I used to blare the Sears tabletop HiFi record player throughout the house.  We had just about every Sinatra record he ever made which is why today I still know most of the words to anything he sang.

Now, what got me started on this trip down memory lane you ask?  Well, it’s a stretch, but I just finished making a composite picture of my bother and me when we were kids.  Next to each child photo I placed a picture taken when we were adults, both in our 60’s (see below).  I noted to my wife that as both kids and adults he and I never looked like brothers–not even close.  I wondered out loud that maybe Mom was messin’ around with the milkman…or the breadman…or was it the lure of fresh sheets with the laundryman?   Nah, I’m just jokin’.  But that’s how all the above came to be.  The thought occurred to me that I wouldn’t mind having an ice cream man making a weekly delivery to the house nowadays.

pkmkcompst

My brother, Paul, is on top…that’s me on the bottom.

                                                           *****

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JUST FOR THRILLS

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When you are young you are willing to try almost anything.  As you age and witness the consequences of various actitivites, you have the tendency to be less willing.  What is the tipping point for you when it comes to risk?  Will you go mountain climbing? How about skiing? How about writing a book?  Now there’s a daunting challenge for many.  But then, why not jump out of an airplane? Yeah, why not?

For her 20thbirthday, my granddaughter, Haley, decided she wanted to jump out of an airplane. It suits her personality: tanacious, daring, independent, adventurous.  So she and a friend drove to Key West on Monday, sat for a day getting psyched and then drove to the little airport nearby where the big leap would commence.  Her friend was going with her…all the way. She too was jumping.  Now there’s a suportive friend.

Haley tells me there was never a thought of hestitation, a second guess or a waver of decision.  She was determined and apparently had no problem stepping up to the open door of the airplane high above the landing site and following the directions of her jumping partner who claimed having done it thousands of times.

Now, I am a lot older and, yes, a lot more conservative.  Jumping out of an airplane is not the first thing that comes to mind when I am in a thrill-seeking mindset.  Maybe a tame rollercoaster ride might be enough for me.  But then, I will not deny the thought of jumping out of an airplane may have made my bucket list 30 years ago.  Today? Probably not.  In fact, if I could imagine a truly thrill moment, given the recent years of aging issues, I’d probably go bonkers if I lived through a day totally free of pain and on a full night’s sleep.  Talk about thrill-seeking!  In the mean time, here’s the link if you would like to see Haley do her thing.

Parachute

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Hello 2019

newyear

Okay, the Christmas lights are all taken down and packed away.  The tree was picked up off the front lawn and taken away by the Used Christmas Tree truck.  The last of the leftovers were cleaned out of the fridge and I settled down for a long winter’s nap, which for me, lasts about 20 minutes.

So, what to do now?  Ramble on, I suppose.  It’s 20-friggin’-19.  I think my memory began sometime in the late 1940’s.  My very first memory is looking out through the bars of a hospital crib at night. All the lights were out, but I could see a clock on the wall outside the door in the hallway that was dimly lit.  Flash!  That’s it. My first memory that my databank can recall and it was nothing more than a clock on a wall.  I don’t even remember what time it was (does anybody really care?).  I do know my throat was soar and I eventually learned I had my tonsils removed that day.  And so it all began.

And now it’s off to another year.  I have set no goals for this one, made no resolutions and promised no promises.  I choose to simply go with the flow and make necessary adjustments along the way when needed.  I do have three wishes if some genie wants to grant them.

  1. First, I wish my three-year old chronic backache would go away. I surrender. I cry uncle. As Popeye said, “That’s all I can stands, I can stands no more.”  Back: 3, Marc: 0.  I lose. I get it.
  2. Next, I hope my new website proves helpful to independent authors attempting to learn how to self-publish their own books. While I have not been a successful selling author, I have learned a good deal about how to publish your own book.  I hope to share that knowledge with those who seek it out.  I’m still building this new website, but I will open the window and yell out when it’s done.  Won’t be long.
  3. And last, but actually first, I hope my dear Rosemarie and I can make it through the year with reasonable ease as we continue to fend off the challenges—old and new—that insist on disrupting our precious so-called golden years. There are aches and pains to deal with, less energy, bits and pieces of memory loss and a whole list of nasties that plague oldsters like us.  If you think life isn’t fair and you are under 60…well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Meanwhile, I am looking for some kind of activity to replace all the time I’ve spent writing books over the past dozen years.  It’s time to update the ride, take out the old rollercoaster and build some new wild and crazy ride. No, I don’t want to paint or sculpt, although I do  have to repaint a room or two, not a picture.  Maybe I should get one of those big whatchamacallits that you weave big rugs with…a loom?  Y’know, you toss that bullet-shaped piece of wood back and forth within the strings of yarn and you make patterns of weird symbols and before you know it, you got a rug.  I have to think about that…not sure that’s what I want to do.  I really rather make a boat but I don’t have the room…or the water.  I will have to keep thinking.

In the meantime, I’ll end with a bit of a rhyme that appeared in this blog’s space a couple years back, just for grins.  And, oh yeah, a little late, but Happy New Year everyone!

                        ANOTHER YEAR   …a poem

Posted January 2016

It’s really an outrage that we’ve had to start another year.

Why, I was just barely getting 2015 running full gear.

There were so many things I never got a chance to finish.

Things I wanted to do, things I wanted to accomplish.

Like painting a room, fixing the roof, mowing the lawn.

Why, I could have worked all of 2015 dawn to dawn.

I don’t understand–why bring on a new year just now?

If that’s the case, I’ll quit, y’know throw in the towel.

I’m getting too old to do things at the speed I once did.

Sure, there was a time when I did it all, but I was a kid.

I’m a lot slower now and if I’m going to be in the race

It’s a no-brainer, you gotta slow down the pace.

This business of having a new year, one atop the other

Makes me want to stay in bed. Get up? Why even bother?

So for all of you cheering on the new times you so revere,

I ask why be in such a hurry? For me, I wish you…

                                  Happy Old Year!

*****

 

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SELF-PUBLISHING? LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

PRINTING

When it comes to self-publishing, it’s like any other do-it-yourself process.  You will usually make mistakes as you learn.  If anyone is prone to make mistakes when working on something new, it’s me.  I’m a champ at it.  So you can imagine that after 11-plus years of self-publishing there are a lot of things I’ve learned.  Some are easy and quite obvious; others are more elusive and difficult to achieve.  Maybe I can save you from falling into some common potholes in your travels down the same roadways I’ve driven.  First the easy stuff:

  • It is not difficult setting up the basic formatics (I know, not a real word) of a book. Once you know the dimensions of the end product, meaning the size of the page and the margins you want, you simply set up a Word document to match and off you go.  There are things like orphans and widows you will have to deal with, plus getting your top and bottom lines on each page to match up with its neighbor.  It is best to take care of these in the final phases of putting your book together.  You can always pay to have someone do this for you, but if you patiently peck away at it you will learn how to do it yourself, save the money and have instant access to making changes.  Oh, BTW, orphans and widows are those single words or maybe a group of three or four words that end up on their own line, usually at the end of a paragraph, or even worse, on the top line of a new page.  It is best to eliminate them.  One remedy is to rewrite the paragraph, dropping or adding a word here or there to cause the lines to shift or change length.  Or, maybe you just rewrite the sentence they’re a part of, adjusting it so the problem disappears.  Getting rid of orphans and widows can be very easy…or a royal pain.
  • I’m a natural when it comes to writing long sentences or long paragraphs. I haven’t yet learned why I do this, but it drives my one editor-friend nuts.  He prefers thoughts in brief bites and lots of white space on the page.  Another one of my editors actually keeps count of the words I might use in one sentence. He’s always on the prowl for a record-setter.  If one should write “tight”—and you should—it is best to keep sentences and paragraphs short.  It is amazing how verbose we can get on a first draft, later having to eliminate a hefty pile of unnecessary verbiage.  If we had been more prudent from the git-go, hours of work would be eliminated later.
  • It is impossible, at least for me, to publish a book without later discovering a mistake somewhere. This is horrible and it is the first giveaway that the book is self-published, a status that still carries an inferior stigma.  It may be a typo or misspelling but, for me, I never discover all of them when I proof my  own work. This is why it is best to have as many proofreaders as possible. If you have to pay, bribe, bake fresh bread—whatever—you must get lots of proofreaders…or a few really good ones.
  • Never trust Microsoft Word.  Spell and grammar check are okay and I use them, but a word of caution: they are not perfect and can actually make the wrong “correction” or “auto-complete” a word you never intended to use.  I just discovered today that Word  incorrectly changed “prey” to “pray” in my book, so now I had to go back and download the entire file all over again.  The problem is, some editions have already gone out with this error so I’ll look like an idiot to those who catch it.
  • Another thing about Microsoft Word…Whoever set up the page numbering function in the software has never used it. Otherwise they would have changed it long ago.  Now, I know that’s true because there are too many inconsistencies in the page numbering process and in order to eventually master it, you will need a degree from MIT or someplace similar, in addition to having experienced landing a spacecraft on a faraway planet.  I assume if you have achieved that level of skill, you may be able to correctly figure out Microsoft’s page numbering process for your book.  Then, when you change versions of Word, you will probably have to go through the learning process all over again.  There is proper protocol to follow when numbering pages in a book.  I suggest you review some books published by the big-name guys and then attempt to get Word to do likewise for your book.

Okay, that’s enough to digest for now, especially if you are new to self-publishing.  I may add to the list at another time.  If you have a question, click on the “comment” link below and I will try to answer it.  I hasten to add that I am not a professional.  I am mostly self-taught and there are many things I have yet to learn—like how to properly use Metadata to improve search engines finding my stuff.  Some day, that may actually happen.  I am not sure I will know how to handle it.

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*****

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REFLECTIONS

Reflect2018I always get a bit reflective this time of year. Perhaps you do too.   It’s a good time to look back and assess where you are, what you’ve achieved or experienced and then get ready for the next round.  There have been significant changes in my life, most of them physical and mostly associated with my age.  I have made the observation that 70 is a benchmark in many people’s lives.  It is definitely not 60 and most definitely not anything younger.   It does seem, at least for me and many I see sitting next to me in doctor waiting rooms, the decade when the parts start seriously wearing out and energy levels take a drop.  So with that in mind, while attempting to still remain positive and optimistic about my personal forecast, here are this year’s reflections.

The Phone  –  The most annoying non-physical item in my life is the telephone.  The home phone rings incessantly with robocalls or live hucksters invading my privacy, using the instrument I pay for and usually bothering me at the most inopportune time.  Meanwhile, my overpriced, over-updated cell phone does things I don’t ask it to do and when I do, it doesn’t.  I hate it.  They need to make a phone for retired, un-busy, un-networking people like me who just need to speak with someone occasionally or send a message.  Y’know, just basic communications because now I am just a basic person. I shall attempt to get a new, kinder and gentler phone in 2019 …if they still make one.

The Bent  –  I have become a tilted man who walks bent over because my spine is bent over.  I tried not to let it happen, but psoriatic arthritis does not care if you try. It does what it wants to.  The doctors put you on all these expensive pills you see advertised on the national news each night–the ones that always list a gazillion bad things the pills can do to you…and they do.  Mine cause my immunity system to go away and then every year I get some kind of infection that puts me in the hospital sucking on an intravenous bag of antibiotics more powerful thanTide. If I could lose some of my girth that many men my age have accumulated simply by looking at food, I may straighten up a little.  I would really like to make that a goal for 2019. I shall try.

The house  –  It is so much a part of our lives.  We’ve lived in this one for 22 years. It has to be maintained.  When I had strength, stamina and a paycheck, I would take care of taking care of the house. Now, I can’t do as much. I don’t work as long or as well.  Instead, I have to hire people to do the work for me and half the time they don’t do the level of work I would have done if younger.  I know, I am compulsive and hard to please…but that is why things got done. Rosemarie and I debate about downsizing and the thought of living in a changed environment is a tease.  We both sort of want to do it, but the process is daunting now that we have a lifetime supply of paraphernalia to sift through before we even call the movers.   We do not sift as well as we used to.

The Habits  –  Both Rosemarie and I seemed to have dug deeper into them this past year.  She needs “white noise” 24/7 and MSNBC and her soaps serve that purpose.  One side benefit is that she has become quite knowledgeable about politics and how Congress  works…or doesn’t.  While her noise is on, she continues to crochet or play Zelda on her Nintendo Switch.  She has always been a great Zelda fan.  A new edition comes out every 4-5 years and when it does I am usually first in line to get her a copy.  When young men 15-25 or so learn she has played and mastered every Zelda edition, they look at her in awe and bow down as if she is some kind of goddess.  I then return to my two computers in my little office area and there I may remain entrenched until I eventually fall asleep in the chair for half a night’s sleep.  Chair sleeping (my habit) has become all the rage for me, a person long suffering from sleep disorders.  I have discovered that I easily fall asleep in my desk chair and can remain so for up to 3-4 hours.  Sleeping while sitting up helps alleviate sleep apnea. This is amazing. I don’t sleep walk as much now…instead, I sleep sit.

The Books–  I wrote #11 this year.  It is my last book.  I call it my swan sink. Only two people that I know of have read it start-to-finish.  I may also give up this blog.  I have posted over 550 pieces.  I think I am written out.  I have few followers and I appreciate each and every one of them.  But the Nobel and the Pulitzer have eluded me, left me in the gutter like some tattered rag used to check oil levels in old Studebakers. And furthermore…

So those are the leaders of this year’s pack upon which I have spent time reflecting this final month of 2018.  Some may continue on into the new year, others may fade away and be replaced. Change is always a good thing.  I just stopped for a moment to gaze at our Christmas tree.  It is, by far, the most beautiful tree we’ve had in 51 years of marriage.  I can’t explain why.  It has all the same stuff on it that it always has, but this tree just seems exquisitely shaped and decorated. It is totally aglow with smiles and holiday cheer.  I shall hope it is a good omen for 2019, not just for my family, but yours too!

*****

 

Posted in aging, communication, health, home, Issues, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

LONG LIVE THE TREE…AT LEAST UNTIL DECEMBER 25TH.

Treevs

Rosemarie and I had our annual Christmas Tree debate last week:  live tree vs. artificial tree.   If you landed on this space near this time last December you probably read about last year’s debate.  We have it every year.  By now, it’s become a Christmas tradition.

Divorce is never discussed but there is sometimes a few hours of non-talking between us as we each fume for a while and attempt to get our blood pressures back to a reasonable level.  Not to worry, it doesn’t last long and we eventually wind up in a neighborhood lot selecting a live Christmas Tree.  As I loaded it onto the rooftop of the car I sensed an under-breath “wait’ll next year” emanating from Rosemarie sitting in the front seat.

The decision of whether or not to stop buying a live tree and switch to an artificial tree is not an especially dynamic debate.  I take the live position which is highlighted by the principle that you cannot shortchange Christmas and phony is phony and it always looks it.  I also bring up other positives of having a live tree, things like the pleasant aroma in the house and not having to find some humungous space to store an artificial tree.

Rosemarie, meanwhile, argues that we are throwing money down the chimney, that an artificial tree would pay for itself in two or three years and we’d never have to buy another Christmas tree.

My arguments that artificial trees cost too much and they ALWAYS look artificial are starting to wear a little thin lately.  This year many of the man-made trees were on sale BEFORE Christmas and I have to admit the technology has improved significantly.  The appearance of some of the artificial trees is impressive.

There is one other item worth noting, though it doesn’t help my side of the argument much.  This year there’s a shortage of live trees and the result has been higher prices.  I wound up at a fancy garden place we go to at other times of the year and I have never seen–this year or any other–such a consistent inventory of really good-looking trees.  Each one was in it own pan of water and was super fresh.  I actually had a hard time deciding which tree I wanted–they all looked good. That’s never happened before.   It was amazing….and so was the cost for the tree! It was way more than I have ever spent on a Christmas Tree.   Rosemarie, thank goodness, has yet to ask me how much I paid.  It’s one of those Christmas secrets I hope to keep to myself.  Otherwise, next year’s debate will be especially challenging.

Our tree, once decorated, is always a mishmash of holiday memorabilia and a bunch of other stuff collected over the years.  It’s a Christmas tree with too many things on it and probably the most disorganized thing in my life. But hey, it comes but once a year so my nervous system goes on holiday.

Now, in the end, you have to admit, when it comes to debating having an artificial Christmas tree vs. the real thing…a picture is worth a thousand Christmas carols.

2018XmasTreSM

*****

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FAMILY MATTERS…THE BROTHER ISSUE

Just a quick note first… WordPress, like so many Internet services, has to constantly look for ways to implement things that disrupt your work.  In this posting you may notice some words are highlighted and have turned into hyperlinks. I have no control over this that I know of, so please do as you wish–click away or ignore them and read on!

BikerBoysNow, I don’t expect many to stick around for this posting.  It’s one of those long family sagas that I guess I have to get off my chest.  No, there is no guessing–I HAVE TO get this off my chest.  It’s about my brother, Paul, my only sibling.  I need to come to peace or closure as some call it.  It is not a happy story, though one with many happy memories. Somehow, I wish the two of us had more opportunity, or desire, to tackle what it was that held us at a distance once we left childhood.

My brother died over three years ago.  He was two years my elder.  He was the one who inherited the family heart and diabetes issues while I accommodated other, less harmful genes, or perhaps later developing ones.

I think it is true that children adopt certain positions or rankings within the family.  These are sometimes dictated by age, other times by whatever traits have been left on the table for one of the siblings to spoon up and swallow.  My bother was the rebel; I the pleaser.  The roles were well defined and they played out beyond our family years.  More on that in a moment.

PKMKSantaMy mother always told us that she wanted two children so that, unlike her, an only child, we would have someone close with whom to grow old together.  I am sure early on she felt confident that would, indeed, happen—at least based on how well my bother and I got along throughout our childhood.

Two years was a good span between us.  Paul assumed the big brother leadership role and I appropriately followed.  The difference in age, however, wasn’t enough to stop us from being good friends. We rarely went separate ways. We shared the same friends along with all our activities. 

Paul and I were pretty much always together. If one of us got into something, the other soon joined in. We were both big on trains, real ones and the model ones on a basement platform my father built.  Paul taught me how to always get on the first car of the subway or commuter train.  That way, if the spot were available, you could stand at the very front door and peer out the front window.  The subways are especially cool.  You can see all the tunnels and the stations ahead appearing as little bright specks growing in size as the train approaches each one.  

Despite our compatibility as playmates, that’s where it ended.  We had totally different personalities and dispositions.  We didn’t even look alike.  He was obstinate, bucked authority and usually felt his best advice to follow was his own.  He was exceptionally smart, like my father, but he failed to exploit it.  

Report card night was always tough.  He’d come home with the D’s and F’s and a list of excuses about how bad his teachers were.  Meanwhile, I sat quietly displaying my mostly B’s and A’s and a smattering of C’s, the latter always in math and anything technical.  I loved my brother enough that I attempted to keep my performance low-profile and even chimed in how terrible some of his teachers were.  But I could not help think he resented my decent grades, not in a jealous way, but more because they simply made the evening more difficult for him. 

My brother chose not to hone the superior brain my parents built for him.  He could have easily had a successful, professional career, if he wanted it.  I, of course, went down the other path.  Paul left school his senior year and enlisted in the Navy, followed by a variety of clerking jobs and selling cars for the rest of his life.  I went on to Penn State, struggled but made it through and launched a bumpy but lifetime career in radio that took me to retirement.  Ironically, he never seemed to have regrets about choices he made, although he would have never admitted them anyway.    I always have a list of wanna-do-overs.

When he left for the Navy, I became an only child.  I got the room to myself, the perks of learning to drive and having access to the family car and eventually inheriting a gorgeous hand-me-down ‘53 Chevy from my grandfather. School was going well and I hung with two good friends who remain so today.

PaulKuhn2

Paul at 52 in 1995

As close as we were growing up together, that is all the more distant my brother and I became as adults.  My moving away didn’t help, and phone calls proved tedious.  Neither of us seemed to have anything to say.   We lived in two different worlds now.  I was reluctant to discuss any good news for fear I’d come across as bragging or otherwise putting him down.  He, meanwhile, seemed driven to the opposite end.  Whatever I had done or achieved, he’d had to top with something he did.  It was as though he did not want to give up the big-brother role and needed me to look up to him.  The phone calls were difficult.  They did not occur often.  I would visit him when I went home, but he would never—NEVER—come see me here in Florida.  “Too damn hot,” he’d say.  So the breach broadened as we grew older.                                                           

Eventually my brother became plagued with health issues.  Again, he would follow his own advice and live as he wanted and ignore the consequences.  He was constantly in and out of the hospital during his last few years.  Even his death was contrary to me. The details remain elusive.  He donated his body “to science,” meaning a bunch of med students got to practice on him and eventually he’d be bundled up and put in a piece a donated cemetery ground with others who had done the same, including my father.  There would be no funeral, no memorial service, no family gathering…nothing. Just a lifetime that had passed and, other than leaving behind three remarkable daughters who have successfully countered their father’s otherwise lethargic lifestyle, my brother seemingly left little trace that he had ever been here. 

So what now?  Well, I have compulsively put things in order for myself, as I am prone to do. I have made adjustments to my thinking…made things right, at least for me.  I wish my brother and I had a closer relationship as adults.  But if I have to settle for the portion of Paul I got, I should be grateful.  I miss the boy I grew up with, shared 15 years of my life with, took extraordinarily long bike trips with, built model airplanes with, went swimming with, played Monopoly with, cut grass and shoveled snow with and a bunch of other endless childhood “with’s.”  And intertwined among all these activities is the exclusive family heritage we both share.  These are memories indelible and unforgettable.  And in some ways, Mom, they have made it possible for Paul and I to have lived on together, just as you had hoped for… perhaps not the whole package you envisioned, but for me, enough to cherish for the rest of my life. 

*****

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