Saturday, August 31, 2013

to being hell in the home!

This age thing is a hoot!  For the first time in my life, I have a viable excuse for not being able to find the phone!  Or for not doing something just because I should!  Of course I realize, this is a valuable card, and I may be playing it too early!  Hopefully, I will have lots and lots of time to mature to true and complete old age--crotchety, loud, and wanting only to talk about my peristalsic escapades!  Or maybe, I'm already there.  Hmmmm.  Anyhoo.  We just visited our aunt in the local nursing facility.  She's 93, and as sharp as a tack.  She hears better than I (not a big surprise, that!).  She remembers much more than I (see previous parenthetical expression).  If she could walk better, she'd probably outdo me there, too!  Unfortunately, an accident has left her mostly dependent on her wheelchair, and unable to take care of herself, she resides comfortably at Jenkins Care Facility (doesn't that sound so much better than "nursing home"?).  I have to say, they get it there.  First, they believe that this is not a "room for rent" but a home for the residents.  They allow the rooms to be painted and decorated according to the wishes of their tenants.  Sometimes, this may prove to be somewhat questionable (ask about the lime green room with the bright red curtains), but if it makes someone more comfortable as they finish their life, I say BRAVO!  On occasion, they have happy hour--with real, honest to goodness booze.  I say BRAVO!  The staff is incredible, treating each person like a human being, not a charge to be cared for.  Again, the B word.  In short, the transition from being to not being is done with grace and dignity!  Bravo!!!!!
Now imagine, if you will, how that will change when I get there.  I'm planning on stashing bottles of Amarula every place I can find a hidey hole.  Every Monday afternoon, just after I cheat at Bingo, I'm organizing wheel chair races.  Tuesday will be for exotic dancers (with people assigned to describe what is happening for the visually impaired!)  Wednesday will be choir practice, with only bawdy songs to be sung.  Thursday is field trip day to a local winery.  Friday, a day of rest and relaxation (translation--massage and hot tub!).  Saturday, dance the night away (or roll, depending on your method of perambulation!)  Sunday it's sleep through church day followed by time to totally upset the relatives who have come to visit!  Yup!  I've got it all planned!  You know, it truly gives me something to live for!  (And Loren, if you're reading this, I would suggest retirement before I get there!) 
Now, if I could only remember where my keys are....  Geezerdom?  Here I come!  And if I ever forget to tell you, you ARE loved!

Friday, August 30, 2013

That time of the....year

It's almost as if someone had posed the vegetables on their kitchen counter.  Red and yellow tomatoes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers...hmmmmm.    I've mentioned my proclivity for playing in the dirt.  I truly enjoy when that play yields results.  There is nothing like the taste of a tomato fresh from the vine.  In fact, I recall my sister and I used to see who could get to the ripest tomatoes first--not to take into the house--to eat, like an apple!  The majority of our yellow cherry tomatoes NEVER make it into the house!  But that's okay!  Right now, a huge kettle of tomatoes is simmering on the stove.  I'm about to fry some bacon for my first BLT of the year..  (Being in Africa has cut into the BLT eating frenzy, so it's time to catch up!)  We're looking for the neighbor's recipe for cucumbers gone wild--you know--the ones you could use to fend off wild beasts they've gotten so large?!  He has this recipe that makes them taste just like the red apple rings we used to eat!  I'll report back!  Next winter when we're eating chili, I'll remember the 90 degree day we picked the tomatoes for the chili (and proudly swear because it's so Grand Coulee cold!).  Hopefully, your play has yielded wonderful results, your life is full of amazing tastes and smells, and you know you are loved! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

with my dad

I've mentioned my mom.  I've mentioned my in-laws.  You know my espoused.  But I haven't talked much about W.A.  That would be William Arthur...the man after whom I was named...the man whose chromosomes I carry.  Dad was a business man.  When I was born, he owned the Red and White grocery store in Waubay, SD.  Big time.  He did his own butchering.  He made enough money to support a family of four.  But it wasn't to be what he would do the rest of his life.  When I was five, we moved to Lidgerwood, ND (a significant increase in population) and dad opened a Skogmo clothing store.  It was truly a mercantile kind of store, selling everything from ladies undergarments to threadgoods to buttons.  We even lived in the back of the store for a while.  It was here that I learned how to make change.  It was here that I learned I had a proclivity to sell.  (Translation--I had the "gift" of gab and could schmooze the little old ladies right out of--or in this case--into their drawers!)  When I was ten, we moved once more.  This time, to Canby (double the population--2000!)  Another Skogmo store.  Dad was the consummate business man.  I often remember conversations of "losing a day" in terms of sales and to this day don't understand what it meant, but he did.  We had a nice house.  We had clothes as needed.  We ate well.  I was content.  My sister made great friends.  Canby suited us.  But Glenwood, there was a Skogmo store, so off we go.  It was fine with me.  But big sis, well she wasn't so keen on the idea of leaving her friends.  And then, of course, there was her little brother who was a true hemorrhoid and embarrassed her to death every chance he could.  Not the easiest of times for her!  But dad was successful once again, and off go both children to college.  Now, during this entire growth period, you have to understand dad was not what you would call demonstrative about his affection for me.  I knew he loved me.  He would defend me to the death.  I think it was hard for him that his son preferred music and drama to hunting and fishing.  But he NEVER said or did anything to make me feel less of a person.  And there was that time he threatened one of my teachers for implying that I had stolen a set of keys, but that's a different story for a different time!  Suffice it to say, he had my back!  The year we got married, dad fulfilled a life-long dream.  He bought a liquor store in Brainard, Minnesota.  Easy money!  Except for one thing.  When he bought the store, there were municipal limits on the number of liquor licenses, so there was little competition.  One month after buying the store, the city changed its liquor requirements and eliminated any limit to number of stores.  Dad lost his shirt.  Dad lost his drive.  Dad lost his desire.  Dad would get up in the morning, sit at the breakfast table, and according to Miss Loosewheel, just cry.  Even now as I write this, I can't imagine how he felt!  To have spent your life building up to "the event" and then have it kick you square in the filberts!  After that, he went to work in a paint and glass store, and when he could, he retired.  The liquor store didn't kill him.  It did kill his dream.
But what kind of man was WA?  Quiet (quit that--he really was my dad!).  Absolutely hilarious!  Moral!  He had this gleam in his eye...and could zing you without a warning.  You would have loved to call him friend.
As he aged, he lost his ability to walk--his feet were numb--and it was impossible for mom to care for him, so he went into a nursing facility here in town.  They over medicated him to start, and while it was a terrible thing, in retrospect, it had its amusing moments.  For a while, he constantly complained about his hotel room, and couldn't he get an upgrade.  He would forget things (imagine that!).  When mom broke her knee and had to be in the home to recuperate, they shared a room--for one night.  Everyone thought it would be better if they didn't stay together!  When mom went home across the street from Jenkins, the staff there would bring dad over EVERY day so they could spend their days together.  Eventually, an aneurysm got the better of him and he died.  I spent that night with him.  He was in such pain.  I held him.  I talked to him.  I told him I loved him.  The next day, mom and Cathy came to relieve he so I could get some rest, and he died while I was at home.  Thankfully, I remember the joy that he found in friends.  I remember the provider who always put his family first.  I remember the first drink he bought me (even though I wasn't 21 and scared I would be carded!).  And I remember the gleam!!!!  I wear his wedding ring on the chain Cath gave me for our 10th anniversary!  He's always with me. 
That's my dad, and he would want you to are loved!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

with gratitude

Being old, my memory is at best sketchy.  Billfold, cellphone, car keys and sometimes clothing have a way of transporting from where I think I left them to an entirely different location.  Hide and Seek becomes a totally different game for the mature player!  Unfortunately, that also means I forget some esoteric things as well, like how deucedly generous this community is, and how important it is that those of us who have the ability also have the responsibility to give back!  I had the privilege to help pack for our local PACH (people against childhood hunger) program last evening.  What an amazing thing this group does.  No child can be expected to learn when mal-nourished.  We put up over 200 sacks of food for youngsters who otherwise would go without over the weekend.  As a former teacher, this program just makes sense.  But to get the true picture of yesterday afternoon, you also have to see the 20+ volunteers who joined us to pack.  Each was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo "U n I"--the theme for the 2014 United Way campaign.  This was a group of employees of varietal companies throughout the city who have offered to volunteer their time to raise money for the United Way--a charitable organization for which I have great affinity.  This group supports over 30 different agencies in the community dedicated to helping make life a better thing!  From birth to its ultimate conclusion, they support programs that offer assistance when needed, mentoring when available, and activities both physical and mental to stretch our youth,  And I truly believe someone close to us has probably benefited from the work this organization does.
So I guess this becomes a two-fold rant!  First, a thank you to everyone who goes out of their way to give back.  You make me so proud to be a community member.  You in essence are establishing a legacy of generousity!  "U n I" can make the difference.  Second, if while you are making the difference you make, you could build an application I could attach to my billfold, phone, keys (and at times underwear) so they would alert me to their location....
Give until it feels good and know you are loved!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

with jet lag

So.  You get cocky, you pay the price.  Woke up yesterday morning raring to go!  Slept on and off the night before, but felt absolutely amazing.  No jet lag for this child.  Morning goes by; go for a run, have our usual coffee and puzzle session (it's good to get back into a routine!), played a little in the garden, had lunch, went to play bridge, visited our aunt, made cole slaw (withdrawal--hadn't had any for over two weeks!), and headed out to supper to celebrate our anniversary with our niece, nephew, great niece, great nephew, and sister-in-law.  Get about 10 blocks from home.  HIT THE WALL!  It was if someone had literally reached into my body and taken every ounce of energy I had.  Did manage to finish a delightful supper with amazing people, but didn't get farther than my chair when we got home.  I'm not sure I even felt the seat match the seat before I was dozing!  Sometime during the night I did manage to wake up enough to transfer to the couch.  Thankfully, I was alert enough to realize I wasn't in the bathroom when I should be, so did get up a couple times, but back to never-never land in a hurry.  Woke up at 5:00 this morning refreshed and raring to go.  Question--how long will I make it today?  The pool is open.  I've got 3:00 pm!
I have discovered on our trips interesting concepts of travel.  When we were in Nova Scotia, there was a poster in a bookstore that said, "Life is like a book.  If you don't travel, you're always on the same page."  I liked that.  I truly believe any time you leave home (doesn't have to be Africa--could be Kranzburg!) you get a different perspective on life.  (Ah, have you heard my giraffe story?)  On the plane from Zambia to Mfuwe (just north and east of Kranzburg!), we were given a water bottle, and on it was written Ukuhamba Kukubona.  (I know--deep, huh?)  Thankfully, there was an English translation--"Traveling opens up a window to the world."  We saw things out our window that were amazing!  We saw people out our window that were so different than we, and yet, so alike in so many ways.  They talked with their eyes and their faces.  Their smiles said welcome to our country.  There body language said we're glad you're here.  And it struck me that I don't always do that.  I take things for granted.  I take people for granted, and I don't often enough say I'm glad you're here!  Well, with my perspective changed and my windows cleaned, let me tell you--I'm glad we went.  I'm glad we're home.  And I'm glad you're here!!!!!  May your book's pages be turned, and your windows remain open!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A fortnight of quatrains

First, an apology!  I'm sorry to have missed the last 14 days.  When I started this process,I told myself I would blog every day for a year.  Of course, that commitment was proffered with the realization that we were headed to Africa for a two week period, and at least a majority of those days would be sans Internet.  (It is difficult to connect in a tent with illumination provided by candlelight and flashlight!)  The next best thing would be to keep a written journal and then transcribe it upon my return.  The best laid plans...  Instead, what you get is the trip in doggerel form--each day synopsized in four 4-lines of rhyme (one could truly never call it poetry!).  So here it is, broken into days by Canto's for you to vicariously experience our experience in the Dark Continent.  Enjoy with the knowledge that you are loved!

Canto 1

We're up awfully early,at ten minutes to four
Our luggage is loaded, we head out the door.
The plane leaves at six--we're exactly on time
An auspicious start for this travelogue rhyme.

From here to Detroit, the plane ride is fine
Six hour layover, on breakfast we dine.
Then on to Atlanta and plane we do swap
We wait on the tarmac for rainfall to drop.

The captain informs us we're on a long flight
I'm hopeful the crew will get it just right
Johannesburg later, we're pressed no for time
Great people solve problems--we cut right in line!

It's been 15 hours, this leg of the flight
We've lost a whole day and most of the night
Great row mates and movies help time to elapse
But legs and my buttocks think this ride is the craps!

Canto 2
Directly from this flight we're back on the plane
Lusaka does beckon, more sitting the bane
We're met at the airport by company nice
To take us to lodging, and this will suffice

But first to the offload, our luggage to get
There's just one bag missing from South African jet!
Thank god for some planning, an outfit I had
We're off to hotel, and then off to bed.

Or so went the planning, my patience quite thin
The staff says they,re sorry, no room at the inn!
Now picture this concept, for tired we are
They tried to explain it...they didn't get far!

Eventually room for the travelers appeared
Avoiding catastrophe both of us feared
Whoever has opined the trip's half the fun
Had better be praying I don't have a gun!

Canto 3
The luggage can't keep us from going to play
Oh wait, our next plane ride is hours away.
For reasons uncertain we're not on the plane
Our traveling companions were taking...insane!

Some juggling, persuading, the problem they fix
We're off to Mfuwe, then out to the sticks
The transport?  Toyota.  Land cruiser, no goof
It's perfect for Billy to sit on the roof!

Our lodging?  Perfection!  An optimum blend
Of rustic and comfort and staff to depend
And then for this writer, it's giggles and laughs
And a tear here and there for sighting giraffes!

Add to this some elephants, mongoose, baboon
Impalas and puku and kudo so soon
And later that evening, with spotlight in hand
We're looking for wildlife...a leopard we land.

Canto 4
The next day elusive  pontoon we do find
And into the park with one thing in mind
The lion eludes us but never you mind
Giraffes and some zebras by gosh we do find.

Now here's something really important I learned
The term that was zebra by language discerned
But thanks to this lesson that made lots of sense
'Tis zebra (rhyme Debra) I'm sad I'm so dense!

More wildlife and scenery do pass by our eyes
The herd of cape buffalo. Delightful surprise
Then back cross the river to rest and relax
I' m tired and happy and those are the facts!

Then sitting, relaxing, some thrashing I hear
I look straight ahead and what should appear?
An elephant crossing the river so near
My breath it was taken...a memory dear.

Canto 5
Good bye to this wonderful place we did stay
Goodbye to the friends we made long the way
On to the second camp..this time it's tents
A little more rustic if that makes some sense.

The trip to location five hours I surmise
Was our introduction to their tsetse flies
Prolific, obnoxious, they're ugly to see
I stop to "check tire", it's swat, swat, and pee.

The tents are like houses, by staff we are spoiled
The food is fantastic, this machine is well oiled
And toilets?  There are two with a unique spin
If shovel is gone then there's someone within!

From here on it's walking we're off to have fun
But something is different, Isaiah with gun!
Experience our teacher an elephant nears
We're happy Isaiah and Jason no fears!

Canto 6
Warm water awaits us as early we rise
Today's filled with walking, it's this we surmise
In search of illusive king of the beast
We pass by the carcass of buffalo feast!

But wily this feline, eludes us once more
It' eight miles of walking and still we don't score
But lunch is amazing, siesta time near
The day is half over, it's time for a beer!

When memoirs are written, I'll stress this a bit
I ate something found in elephant ( story best told in person!)
The afternoon walk elicits a smile
Cuz searching we go for some crocodile

Into the river, it's barefoot we search
If they find us first, we'll be left in the lurch
Then sundowners habit,it's loss I will dread
Meal fit for a king, and then off to our bed

Canto 7
It's early to rise for today is the day
They take all our crappers and shower away
We hike point to point and when we reach camp
It's all been reset...right down to the lamp.

But not without sorrow , the morning hike done
It seems that the others have had some great fun
No matter what effort, we truly tried hard
Three miscreant creatures can't find the lizard!

Siesta time reaches, it's quiet and nice
For thinking and writing, no need to state twice
The habit of afternoon nap could catch on
but writing takes time, and slumber time's gone

Wherever we go.  Whatever we do
The animals rare, we see a gnu
When on our trip home, the eland appears
But one things still missing...a lion my dears.

Canto 8
For all those observing, you'd probably say
Not my day for toast....or water ballet
The former!  Burnt offering to minimize strive
The latter?  I am dry with great thanks to my wife!

The river before us we proudly do ford
The Chevrolet antelope don't say a word
At tea time the view from the bluff is divine
Alas my dead batteries cause me to whine!

I sit here now writing neath mahogany bloom
Aroma amazing, could sweeten a room
The river is flowing within vision's sight
At least for the moment, everything's right

Tomorrow with sorrow we bid camp adieu
Krystabel, Geoffrey  Issiah .too
They'll take down the tents when we hit the road
But no one can minimize memories bold!

Canto 9
It' on to the road that's tsetse fly heaven
As usual, we're gone ere the clock strikes Seven
I may be oblivious, may be inured
But flies aren't as bad, they're mostly endured.

The trip goes quite quickly, of course there is lunch
Jason has learned how to handle this bunch!
We're nearing Nsefu, the river we cross
The hippos are fighting, the crocs think they're boss.

The camp is amazing with wildlife galore
There are elephants, baboon, Puku out our door
There's water that's hot and the shower's inside
There's beer in the fridge, my smile I can't hide

Following tea time we head out for more
It's rover for touring to see what's in store
We stop for a genet, full vision we take
And hooded the cobra...our very first snake.

Canto 10
The memory's exciting, a leopard we spot
And speaking quite frankly, some spots mean a lot
Giraffe are amazing, both he and some she
The smile on my face is as big as can be!

A sobering sidelight, two elephants found
That poachers have murdered for ivory round
It's hare to believe that what we have seen
Was human in action, no sense can I glean

The lunch it is filling, we share table tall
With Ollie, Irene, Lynn, and author, p. hall
I'm anxious to try a novel he wrote
Will do so directly...I'll write me a note!

A record for setting, a record indeed
The number of genets sweet George did exceed
A porcupine siting right after the civet
Some pictures will do but it's better to live it!

Canto 11
Five thirty arrives, knock knock it is heard
To breakfast we go to get the good word
Direction will change, something new we will see
How little we thought that it better could be!

Hyenas on beaches and lions right there
Giraffes in the area, I can't help but stare
Then lion the second does amble right by
Whilst batteries I'm changing, the rest get to spy.

The on to the hot springs, two lions await
We're paddling footsteps, the heat does feel great
The morning, amazing, it truly will stay
In memory most happy.  It's why we do play!

Tonight bitter sweet, safari is done
Can it really have been ten days since begun?
Tomorrow the plane to Lusaka we go
Then homeward our plan, with hope it is so

Canto 12
It's off to the airport, our trip is soon done
We'll miss the adventure, we'll miss all the fun
But wait, as we leave, three lions we spy
And elephant family really close by

The elephants think that the path it is theirs
They make themselves known tell the lions bewares!
Then tusks raised in anger and trumpets do blow
The kings of the beasts?  Oh look at them go!

En masse they do chase them, a wondrous sight
They gave those big kitties a terribly fright
Escaping the rampage, toward us they to come
They rest near our jeep, they bathe in the sun.

A curious giraffe has watched from afar
He too now approaches and comes near the car
A fitting goodbye from a trip now we end
In person the tale gets much better, my friend.

Canto 13
We leave from Mfuwe, "international" port
Lusaka does beckon, we'll be in room short
The Radison treats us much better this time
Nice upgrade to room and a place to write rhyme.

But crossing the street to the mall just away
Is not feat that's easy, no crosswalks you say?
We stand behind locals, we're ready to dash
We make it but barely, we avoid the road rash!

For dinner?  Amazing?  Rhapsody is picked
We've chicken on spit and crumbs they are licked
The food?  Like the rest of the trip--truly great
Then wander the mall to a bookstore first rate.

We sleep really fast but there's no need to rush
The plane leaves near midnight--look at pictures and gush!
Then off to the airport--our flights?  Nineteen hours
But things go like clockwork, we're home to our flowers!

Canto 14
 But how can we end without ringing a bell
To Greg and to George, Merle, Krystabel?
And Jason, dear Jason, our guide and new friend
Our thanks go to you and love we do send.

I wish you had met them, I wish you'd been there
Experiencing joy and the scenery fair
In essence you were there, for frequently thought
How friends make a difference--this lesson it taught

So into the house with all bags intact
The puppies are glad--how sweet they react
Just four lines remain--say it short and sweet
Synopsize in one verse the lesson replete!

I've said it before and I'll say it again
It's not in the journey, it's not in the end
It's truly about from gavel to gavel
The people you choose with whom to travel.

What he said was...
(Inside joke--four of the six of us were hearing impaired, and it made for the most enteraining converations!)  Quite frequently they began with this term!

And there you have it.  Of course, there are a few (over 1000) pictures and stories (about the same number) that could be told and probably will down the road.  For now, it's back to routine and the joy that is normal!  May you all be blessed with experiences that change your life for the better, and always know how much you are loved!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The time has arrived!  As I write, we are ensconced in the motel that will babysit our car whilst we galavant.  You have to understand, we are in our third room.  Room 1?  Television didn't work.  Not a good thing.  Room 2?  Air conditioner didn't work. Even worse! Room 3?  TV didn't work but little billy figured it out!  (Please reserve applause!). We have time before supper so it's off to the butterfly house--a virgin experience for this couple.  Absolutely gorgeous!  I had a hitchhiker almost the entire time there.  Cool!  Then it was off to Spezia's for our anniversary supper.  Last time there we had amazing food and better service.  We asked for Will's section again this time.  Now for the lesson!  I am completely convinced that food is a most important feature of a restaurant.  Go figure.  But the experience can be heightened ( or conversely, lessened) by the service!  Will recognized us!  He remembered we were from Watertown.  And he remembered I drank an inordinate amount of water!  His demeanor was so warm and friendly, we felt important and pampered!  His caring attitude and conversation made the entire experience memorable.  And he gave us an excellent idea for future travel.  What was already a special occasion was raised to the extraordinary!  Why do you suppose we all can't do that when we help someone?  I know Will will remind me that service does make a difference!  He set the mood for an amazing trip!

Six o' clock flights come early!  I don't know how often I will be able to blog for two weeks.  I will, however, keep notes and write when I can!   Until then, always know that this traveler loves you!

Early Sunday Morning

Oh, let the water run just a little while longer on the front yard.  You'll remember to shut it...And then, Morpheus hits.  That's one section of yard that will not need watering for a while!  The coffee is made, and another week looms on the horizon.  For us, travel and adventure.  Realize, part of that adventure includes a six hour lay-over in Detroit.  Don't know what we were thinking when we agreed to even stopping in Detroit!  Last time, we were there for 12 hours and missed an entire day of Viet Nam.  (Okay, it was an entire night, but it sounds so much more dramatic to say day!)  That's a story best told in person, but we're keeping our fingers crossed this time.  What excitement will you find?  Where will life take you?  Isn't that the best part?  Not knowing what lies ahead?  Think how boring life would be if we knew!  May the week be filled with positive energy and amazingly rewarding adventure.  May you be blessed with laughter and love.  And may we get out of Detroit on time!  Know you are loved!

Saturday, August 10, 2013


The day before the day before the trip!  Miss Loosewheel taught me at an early age never to wish my life away.  What happens today and tomorrow could be the best things in my life.  But it is sooooooo hard not to wish we were ensconced in our hotel room in Sioux Falls, not sleeping because of the excitement of getting up at 4:00 am and heading to the airport!  So I will patiently (or not) await the arrival of the day before with hopes that amazing things (of the good nature!) will keep me occupied until then.  I am somewhat perplexed as to how often I will be able to blog whilst away.  It's hard to connect without electricity and/or access.  I fear I will have to journal and transcribe when the opportunity arises!  Should you miss a day, don't fret--it will magically appear when possible.  Here's to the good things and a prayer for the day to pass beautifully (and quickly!)  Always know you are loved!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Catharsis, thy name is cleaning!

I didn't understand it.  When we were growing up, whenever Miss Looswheel was angry with her spousal unit, frustrated with her daughter, or just plain torqued at her son, she would clean.  The kitchen floor would glisten.  The cupboards would be organized.  And oh, the toilets--you could literally see yourself in them, should you care to look!  I'm absolutely certain that I had a great deal to do with having the cleanest house in town!  But it just didn't make sense to me.
Fast forward a few(?) years.  Genetics is a powerful tool!  I am not what you call an immaculate housekeeper in my basement kitchen, or basement for that matter.  Out of sight is out of mind.  And, if you would have seen the basement, you would have said I must be out of my mind!  Two precipitors have changed its appearance.  First, my sister is coming to stay with the dogs whilst we traverse the upper northeast quadrant of Zambia.  She IS an immaculate housekeeper, and has an affinity for washing clothes.  I thought I would be gracious and at least clear a path to the machinery.  Call it my overwhelming generosity!  (Or guilt, if you prefer!  Have I mentioned Miss Loosewheel lately?)  Anyhow, one can get from the bottom of the staircase to the washer without tying a rope around one's waist to find the way back! In fact, I truly believe you can do it without stepping on anything but floor!  Amazing.  Once the kitchen is spruced up, I will feel confident in our departure.
But another amazing revelation has struck!  I am worried about the health of a very close friend.  We have been confidants, confessors, and admirers of each other's cleverness for longer than I care to mention (40+ years!)  She currently is taking the rest cure at the hospital (please see my tongue coming directly through my cheek.  Rest?  Hospital?  Never happen!)  She had an emergent heart procedure last night, and is in the excellent care of our local medics.  But the mind wants to wander to what-ifs, and knowing they are stupid and avoiding them are two totally different things.  So I cleaned!  There were clothes to do.  There was a floor to find.  There were boxes to empty and take to the recycle bin.  And it kept my mind busy.  And positive.  And the time passed, and I had time to process the fact that worrying was useless.  Unless you were Miss Loosewheel's son.  You see, mom always maintained that if she hadn't worried about something, it would have happened.  Remember that comment on genetics.  Apparently mental illness runs in families!  Anyhow, the basement is clean, the friend is on the mend, and I have catharted!  All in all, a pretty positive day!  And you are loved!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

old farts

It could well be a millennials worst nightmare:  starting the day with 51 geezers in one room.  For me, geezer is anyone over the age of 55 and under the age of dead.  But that is exactly how we started our day.  It is the second Thursday of the month.  It is not January or July.  That means at 8:30 am, the Watertown Area Retired Teachers Association will meet.  And we ARE geezers. 
There was a time that I would have envisioned 51 rocking chairs with the women knitting and the men looking through the window to the park at the pretty young things that are there with their young charges.  Conversation for the ladies would be limited to grandkids, health problems, and the old farts to whom they are married.  Conversation among the men would be limited to fishing, health problems, and gas.  Following a nutritious breakfast of oatmeal and toast, the meeting would begin for those who could hear (or those who cared), everyone would nod acceptance to whatever issue was raised (or more likely, nod off!), and adjournment would bring a sigh of relief followed by a steady stream of walkers, canes, and wheel chairs headed for the door.  After all, geezers, by definition, are old.
Not so!
The conversation was lively.  Not one complaint was raised about health issues.  Not one person was unengaged.  The din of involved conversation was amazing.  Laughter rang out frequently.  The issues of the day were cussed and discussed, and then it was time for the program.  Yoga!  I wish you could have seen the young "geezers" as they experienced the stretches, the breathing, the excitement inherent in finding center.  These old farts were totally engrossed, raising their arms, twisting their heads, and putting aside any thought of non-involvement.  After all, we were all teachers, and we know out lot in life is to do as the teacher says! 
Following the program, it was time for the meeting.  Lively discussion ensued.  Problems were debated and solved.  Thoughts invoked thoughts.  Sharing took place.  Action was taken.  The overarching theme of all discussion?  What can we do to help others?  How can we best put our money where our mouth is?  How can we best volunteer to become part of the solution, not part of the problem?  Initial agreement was neither desired or expected.  Willingness to listen to all sides, however, was!  And of course, there was the 50/50 raffle, where half the money goes into a fund for worthy causes like state and local scholarships to existing teachers, and half goes back to one of our members. Likewise, this was the day to collect monies for students in need of supplies, clothing, etc.  Between the two, over $350 was raised--all with the intent of helping others (and that slight but ever driving thought of winning!)  Upon adjournment, the conversation continued.  Friends talked with friends.  Members helped put things away.  And to my knowledge, everyone left with a smile in his/her face!  Now THAT'S a meeting.
Yup.  We were 51 Geezers.  But we were not OLD!  In fact, I'm pretty sure should a rumble break out between the millennials and the geezers, I know where I'd put my money.  In the kitty for more supplies!  And then I'd get right in there and do my best interpretation of the karate kid and show those whippersnappers a thing or two.  Or maybe, that's just in my head!  Whatever!  Watertown Area Retired Teachers Association--where everyone old is young again.  And everyone is loved!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

to make a plan...

One of our very good friends is homeless today.  The complex is which she was living was the victim of a horrendous fire last night, totally destroying her apartment and everything in it.  She escaped with a robe, undergarments, a pair of shoes, and her purse.  I thought it was bad that two weeks ago she had fallen and broken her wrist and a couple ribs...a seemingly trivial ordeal today.  Miraculously, every inhabitant of the complex escaped.  There were a few, non-life-threatening injuries, but everyone lived!  That indeed is the good news.  For years, I have said things are things and can be replaced and if not replaced, remembered.  But to lose it all...the thought is still true--it may just take a little longer for her to believe it!  Thankfully, she has a place to stay, a family to support her, and an amazing spirit. 
The event precipitated a question.  God forbid, should we ever face the same circumstance, what would we save?  The obvious immediate answer is each other and the dogs.  But should there be that split second of available time, what else would we take?  We have a life-time of pictures that could never be replaced.  Maybe.  My billfold (if I could find it!).  Maybe.  We all know it would never be the remote for my tv because god alone knows where that would be!  The potato kettle my mother received for her first wedding and has been in our family and in use since then.  Maybe.  The external hard drive that contains copies of all the electronic documents that are important to us.  Bingo!  The ordeal has reminded me what an electronic society we have become.  All my work related documents.  All the digital photos of recent memory.  All the data necessary to our work with retired teachers.  It all sits backed up on one external hard drive.  And what if I couldn't get to it?  Hence, the plan!  Today, I will be sure that anything digital I do not want to be without is backed up.  Today, I will evaluate need from want and back up the needed things.  Today I will organize the drive so that it is logical.  And today, when I have finished all this, I will take it and put it in our fire-proof box.  You see, if I have to take that split second to rescue it, I won't have time to look for my billfold!  Oh, and here's the kicker.  I have decided to start keeping my billfold and cell phone in one particular place.  You know, I can't even keep a straight face writing that!  But I will try.
I feel better with the plan in place.  It is a good plan...a solid plan.  And if I could find the remote, I would sit down, watch tv, and revel in my intelligent choice!  May you always be free from these kinds of events, and be assured that you are loved!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

in the pickup

Whilst the Neon is at the doctor, we are using the pick-up.  You have to understand, this is a family pick-up--so much so that my father-in-law is still the title holder of record.  Never mind that he's been gone for several years, now.  It's sometimes easier to have a deceased title holder than to transfer said title.  (Have you tried to change a title lately?)  I'm thinking it could make for a most interesting law suit should something happen.  Hopefully, we will avoid finding out!  Anyhow.  I have decided a marked change in attitude occurs when you get behind the wheel of a pick up.  I'm pretty sure that it would cure any male suffering from "low T"!  The boost of macho energy is almost visible.  I know it's discernible!  From a somewhat apologetic driver of a sub compact, I become the obvious heir to the road behind the wheel of the Chevy S-10.  Okay, so its not a monster pick-up.  But the swagger exists just the same.  How else could this macho man haul 25 bags of mulch at one time.  And of course, that means loading and unloading them, at 33 pounds a bag.  What a stud!  Then there's that whole four-wheel drive thing.  Whoosh!  The testosterone just hit new levels talking about it.  Never mind the fact that we are retired and don't need to go out in blizzards.  We CAN!  Then of course, there is the image factor.  Retired old people who are somewhat sickly and poor drive sub-compacts.  Macho men, with abs of steel and muscles that bulge beyond belief drive pick-ups.  My superbly defined pecs and my muscular legs sit proudly behind the wheel.  The look of extreme self-confidence radiates my facial structure.  A look of self-assurity adorns my visage.  And I feel pretty good about myself, too!  All this, AND hauling capacity.  How could it be better? 
Please realize, at my age, these experiences must be limited.  I'm not sure how much the heart could take the release of all these endorphins on a constant basis.  Tomorrow, when the Neon is back, I shall meekly sit behind the wheel, allowing others the pure bliss of the pick-up!  I will quietly park, grope my way out of the car, and refuse to lock it on the chance that someone may be foolish enough to steal it.  But they won't.  And that's good.  The Neon is truly great!  It's been mine since I broke my arm in 1994, and will be mine until I turn 65 and move on to my other rapturous, orgasmic vehicle.  But the convertible is another blog, and you are loved!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Here's to "I Do! I Do!"

Straw Hat Players.  Moorhead State College (pre-university status!).  Summer, 1971.  Little Billy was in need of 16 credits to graduate.  Four had to be analysis of science.  (Can you say bachelor of science degree?).  The other 12 came from two sessions of Straw Hat Theatre.  My main claim to fame was my role as Ruckley in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".  I was the inmate with the lobotomy.  Type-casting was obviously alive and well.  Anyhoo, (surprise of surprises) I digress.  That summer we put on "I Do!  I Do!".  It's an amazing two-character show with stunningly accurate songs.  It's the songs that drive the blog.  You see, this coming Sunday, my bride and I will have been married 40 years.  "There's a strange new world that you enter when you say "I Do!"  And a new world it has filled with joy, with laughter, with shared experiences.  "I love my wife."  I do try to tell her that but I'm not sure you can ever say it enough.  Sometimes I ask myself "Who's that racy middle aged lady?"  Thankfully, the answer is not "That's flaming Agnes!"  "Sometimes in the evening, when shadows are deep..." I realize how much I appreciate that fact that she has been willing to sign up for another five years.  Let me explain.  We made an agreement to renew our commitment every five years, and to this point, thank god, she has acceded!  Now I understand this probably doesn't say much for her sanity, but it has kept mine!  That particular lyric ends with "my cup runneth over with love!"  And it does!  Then of course, there's the song that was actually sung at our wedding.  "A man and a woman are meant for each other are meant for each other as husband and wife.  From this moment forward I promise to love thee, I promise to love thee the rest of my life.  Together, forever.  Forever together.  For this is the promise I keep.  Together forever, forever together, through all of our sorrows and happiness.  Together as long as we live."  And while there are no words that can measure the love I have for her, suffice it to say she still is the reason I get up in the morning, smile during the day, and look forward each evening to another day together...forever!  Who says life is grand?  "I Do!  I Do!"

Sunday, August 4, 2013

to my favorite "houses"

You have to understand...I love our house!  It's a sickness, I know, but I have learned to live with it.  The house was built in 1922, so it has a little age!  It has an amazingly firm foundation, plaster and lath walls, and room to move around.  It's been painted, papered, unpapered, painted, plastered, and in several other ways had face-lifts over the years.  The bathroom (with the black throne seated on a raised platform) is different.  The back porch wasn't there when we bought the house  but when our parental units aged, we needed a bathroom on the main floor.  The lot is long and narrow, the garage is big enough for one car and a few assorted items, and the driveway is too Grand Coulee long!  It's furnished in what I call early eclectic!  If it's comfortable and we like it, it's there.  Basically, it has everything we need but not everything we want.  I would guess that is typical for any homeowner. 
As I was riding my bike (seemingly into the wind every direction I turned), I realized I choose friends like we chose our house.  Our friends have an amazingly firm foundation.  They understand and agree with our basic tenets of right and wrong.  They have a little age to them, and that experience blends us.  They've worn mini skirts, leisure suits, wing tips, Birkenstocks, and Nehru jackets.  No matter how adorned, their "walls" have been sturdy and lasting.  They've moved around a little--travel has broadened their perspective on life.  They all have their unique features that make me smile.  They've all adjusted for our age as necessary.  And they agree in the winter that ANY driveway is too GC long!  They too are eclectic.  Some are Republicans (see how broad minded I can be!).  Some are Democrats (see how broad minded I can be!).  They are different religions.  The are different nationalities.  But they are comfortable, and that is all that matters.
The purpose of any house is to provide shelter from the keep us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and protected from unwanted predators (like flies and mosquitoes!)  It is the place we can always go and feel safe...wanted...accepted for who we are.  Just like you, my friends.  Thanks for allowing us in to your "housing development".  You are the architects of what lies ahead, and you are loved!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


We just turned the classic (72 convertible) over to the valet parker.  We're walking toward the water (and hence, a cold adult beverage and a burger!) when we pass by a couple with their three kids.  In my usual shy and retiring manner, I say hello.  The mom says to me, "Don't mind them, they're a little crazy."  She was referring to her children.  "Okay," says I.  "They'll fit right in!"  She quips, "Do you want to take them home?"  Whereupon the 16 year old (I know because he informed me he was 16) says to  her, and I quote, "I'm not going anywhere with that old grandpa!"   Can't say that I blame him, but I was somewhat surprised that his parents didn't suggest that it was an inappropriate thing to say.  In the ensuing commentary, it because quite clear that the child had special needs.  His chronological age and maturity level were not in sync.  We walked on.  The burger was good.  The beer was cold.  The company was, as always when we are together. witty, charming, and clever.  (At least we think so!)  But in the back of my little pea brain, there was this niggling presence.  It wasn't because he was spot on the age thing.  It wasn't because he really didn't know not to say what he said.  It was a hope...a hope that when we were gone, the parental units made use of a teachable moment.  My guess is, he has endured his share of snide and/or deprecatory comments.  And it has been my experience in the classroom that those comments most frequently come from people who have extremely poor self-image.  The concept?  I will feel better about myself if I put someone else down.  And I have discovered they are self-engendering.  When done to us, we tend to "do them" to someone else.  Do unto others before they can do unto us.  And then I realized the young man had become, like so many of the people I meet, my teacher!
These are the truths he "reviewed".  1)  Always remember, polite is polite regardless of the situation.  Everyone deserves respect immediately.  It is not a quantity to be earned, but something that can be lost.  2)  Every encounter can provide a method to improve, or at least re-establish the tenets of our survival.  3)  sometimes, the ugliest of truths can set you free.  I am way old enough to be a grandpa.  And as such, I can get by with so much more thanks to people explaining my behavior as age-related!  Behind every cloud there is a silver lining!  Sometimes, you just need to get the silver polish out to enjoy it!  Thanks, you 16 year old teacher, for giving me my lesson!   You obviously had it "Wright!" (and just to prove the "witty, charming, and clever" comment above, that would be the name of the silver polish in our cupboard!)  Quit groaning and know you are loved!

Friday, August 2, 2013


The man--Americanized citizen noted for work in electronics.
The noun--a unit of measurement named for the man.
The car--holy crap!!!!  Thanks to our gracious host, I had the opportunity to test drive one of these vehicles.  Understand three things.  The first car we drove cost 3.2 times the price of the last home we bought!  And that is not an exaggeration!  It was nice, but I don't think our furniture would fit with the decor!  That would not indicate a failing on the part of the automobile!  Perspective check--I could not have purchased it with the full pre-tax salary I earned my last two years of teaching!
Second--this vehicle could go from 0-60 in less than five seconds.  We experienced this power on an on-ramp to the freeway.  See point on "crap" above!  That kind of power has a way to frighten me considering my prowess behind the wheel, not to mention my lack of peripheral vision.  I owe some poor creature a change of underwear!
Third--I can now cross "drive a car I would never be able to afford" off my bucket list.  It was an experience of a lifetime.  Friends are like that!  They do things for you to make your life complete!  In my estimation, that makes them worth much more than the price of any car!  So thanks to them...for they and you are loved!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

To the athletes

Those if you who know me understand the extent of my athletic prowess.  In high school, I was known as the biggest athletic supporter on campus!  I didn't play sports.  The only time I saw sports was when I played in the pep band, and then I never knew the results of the games because I left at half time.  You also know I am married to a wonderful woman who knows more about sports than most people I encounter.  In this case opposites did attract.  We have a man cave and a woman cave. Movies can be seen in the man cave.  (Along with the curtains I made!  Not many men can say that--and I'm sure that doesn't upset them!!). Anything that bounces, or is thrown, or in some cases is hit by a broom can be seen in the woman cave.  Somehow, it works for us.  Now to the point.  Today, we went to the Target field and watched a Twins game with great friends.  They lost.  I watched!  To me, it really didn't matter.  What did matter was that we got to spend time with some very dear friends, and that made the day a success!  We told old jokes.  We sweat like pigs.  We met new people.  And two of the ladies got their picture taken with Tony Oliva!  It was a GREAT afternoon (especially since when we came home I won the croquet game--an athletic achievement unparalleled in recent knowledge!). The point is this.  It really doesn't matter if you're an athlete or a supporter.  It really doesn't matter whether you win or lose.  What matters is with whom you choose to watch or play.  We only get one chance at this life, so that choice is very important.  I probably will continue to be chosen last when teams are picked (which would be a wise choice by the pickers).  But because of the choices I have made for friends and lover, I will always be a winner!  May you be able to say the same, and know always that you are loved!