Saturday, December 27, 2008
Well I have just experienced my 55th Christmas. I cannot claim I remember them all, especially the first ones; but this seemed to be a good one. Of course, nothing compares to Christmas as a kid. The only thing that comes close is Christmas with your own kids. (warning - Santa buster ahead) To an extent anyway. I have told many people that I quit enjoying Christmas as much when Santa started leaving me the bill. I also remember the WORK he left me. With six kids, my Santa building experiences top a lot of folks, I am sure. I have built a lot of bicycles, wagons, and other riding contraptions. I have set up train sets of different sizes and configurations. I have unwrapped, assembled, and set up enough toys and vehicles to start up a small toy shop. Going back to my post about building the bird houses and how every time I go to build something, I never have the right tools and/or supplies. This was also true almost every time I went to build the contraptions that "Santa" left for me to build. I remember one particularly cruel Christmas that I was hammering a seat post into a bike at about 2 am. IT WAS IN UPSIDE DOWN!! Then I spent the next hour removing it. I lost all the skin on one set of knuckles and still have trouble making a fist with a finger on my right hand from that one. I never did get the bike together that night. I remember on Christmas morning (after about three hours sleep for me) we were explaining that the elves had not been able to finish the bikes due to a union dispute, or something like that. There were a few doll house setups that had more intricate parts than a nuclear reactor. There were some of these "toys" that were more complex than a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There was nothing that would make me weaker in the knees than opening a parts bag on a toy stove at 1am and having 123 parts fall out. Most of them were precisely designed to fit in only one spot, but looked exactly the same as twelve others until you measured them to find the 1 mm difference. Then there was the wooden items that included the bottle of glue necessary to assemble the piece. The problem was, the glue was usually a small yellow lump in the bottom of the bottle. There was less moisture there than in the Sahara during the dry season. Of course any other glue we had in the house had been used to make ornaments for the tree or Christmas cards (or eaten). So there I was mixing my proprietary mix of flour and water to make homemade glue in the wee hours of the morning. I would be hunched over my mixture like a illicit drug maker in a trailer park in the country. I will admit that Christmases are much less hectic now. I also have to admit having all my knuckles and a full nights sleep on Christmas morning are both wonderful things. I will also admit that some of the magic was in those early morning searches for a part to replace the one I dropped down the drain. Ho Ho Ho
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Although I do not consider myself a person that needs a lot of validation; I am finding myself quite disappointed in the lack of comments and responses to this blog. I could be writing in a diary and keeping it under lock and key if all I needed was a place to write my thoughts. You, dear readers, have your part to play as well - to criticize, applaud, jeer, etc. Comments and thoughts are required. Please ask anyone you think would enjoy my ramblings to read this...... AND COMMENT!! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This one will be a bit different. There is an organization here in Winston-Salem - Trinity Center - that offers counseling services from a faith based perspective. (to read their exact explanation, go here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Ministry.html and/or here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Services.html ) They are in financial trouble. Due to the economic climate, and their policy of working with people regardless of ability to pay, the center is facing severe budgeting issues. These issues have gotten so severe as to cause the board to consider shutting the organization down. My family has involvement with Trinity Center on many levels. My wife has been receiving counseling there for over a year. She has worked/is working with a counselor and a psychologist, as well as a psychiatrist. We both feel this has been very beneficial to her in helping her deal with her own heath issues and life changes that she has faced over the past two years and is still dealing with. I have two daughters that are employed by Trinity Center. My second oldest worked for Trinity part time as she made her way through Salem College. She is now the office manager. My next youngest daughter is working there part time in the office. My youngest daughter has done volunteer work for them in the office as well. You can see the center has entwined itself into our lives. Most of you that will read this are doing OK. I know we all have our problems. I know that new problems and challenges arise every day. I also know that these economic times are not the best, and are making some comfortable people nervous. But, I still say most of you are OK. I would ask that you donate to Trinity Center what you feel you can afford. They are a non-profit organization, so you can even get a tax write-off. I guess this link still works to even make it so you can give from your computer without even lifting a pen! Go here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Egive.html. If you are a more traditional type, here is the email address and an old fashioned way of contacting them: firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Director: Ann Dixon-Coppage PHONE: (336) 725-3999 FAX: (336) 725-7720 SNAIL MAIL: 640 Holly Avenue Winston-Salem, NC 27101 Only you know what you can afford to do or not do. I would ask that no matter how much or how little you can personally do, please forward this request to as many other people as you can and encourage them to donate what they can. Also ask them to forward the request to as many people as they can. We can help Trinity Center resolve this crisis if everyone will get a group of people to give $10 or $20 each. If some can do more, that would help even more. In the spirit of the season, and for a tax deductible donation - please send what you can NOW! Then get others to do the same.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I had trouble spelling "Thoughts" as the title for this one. It was almost "Thoughta" or "Thoughs". I got the old fingers back on the home row however. I am going to exercise my prerogative as one of the (almost) senior citizen camp - that prerogative that says I can comment and complain about things, and also let everyone else know how they should run their life. First, if you need air in a tire now-a-days, what to do? No one has an air compressor with a tire valve connector on it available anymore. I am talking about a REAL air compressor. One that can blow the paint off the metal if you aim it wrong. You have to use those tiny little boxes you put from $.25 to $1 in (and I NEVER can find the quarters!) and it starts whining. It sounds like a moped for a mouse. The air comes out at about 35 lbs of pressure. Now that would be fine if you were trying to pump up a beach ball, but a tire....no way! I am trying to reach 32 or so pounds of pressure which is just shy of the maximum output of the moped! So, let's say you start at 28. You put your quarters in, and it starts pumping. First, by the time you get to the tire and get the connector over the tire valve, you have lost half your time. Then the machine starts struggling. Oh, it handles 29, 30, and maybe 31 OK. 32, 33, and up are a STRUGGLE! Again, using the moped analogy, the mouse would have to push this baby up that hill. It stays on 30 forever, and then the quarters run out. You start losing air! So, you are back down to 29. OK, I have now spent $.50 (I will use this as an average) for one pound of air pressure in one tire. If I am lucky, I find two more quarters. I go at it again. 30, 31, 32......32......32......32. Good enough. Now, three more tires to go. I should have robbed a drink machine for change. For those of you under the age of 30 or so. Gas stations (which I just realized also are gone for the most part - FYI - they were the predecessors of convenience stores. They just sold gas and a few snacks...maybe more later) had real air compressors in the garage area. These babies had a half horsepower motor hooked to piston from a '55 Chevy that would keep 100+ lbs of pressure in a tank big enough to fill six or seven cars worth of tires. You could go in with a tire totally flat and fill it in a minute or so - (hold on) for FREE! Yes, air was free. No hunting for six pounds of quarters to get a tire filled. I curse the entrepreneur that invented those stupid air machines. Now some advice to live by - On getting things done - DO THEM! There is never a "perfect" or "right" time. There is only NOW. If something needs doing, do it. Waiting usually only makes it worse. If something pops up that needs to be done by you - do it then. One exception, if you are already doing something that needs to be done - FINISH IT! You will never get anything done if you are always starting something new. After doing the first necessary thing, start on the new one. To help with the above - Usually we do not have the luxury of having our jobs come upon us one at a time. We all have some time during the day - early morning, late in the evening, etc.; that we can get alone and have some quiet time. List all you need to get done, or would like to get done. Then, PRIORITIZE! Rank the tasks in the order of importance. A "1" or "A" should go by anything that is critical. Critical is defined as something that will cause a problem at work or home if it is not done. Then put a "2" or "B" by the ones that are not critical, but are important. Then put a "3" or "C" by the ones that it would be nice to get done. If you have any you cannot really put even a "C" by - why is it on your list? Then - start with the first "A". Work it through. Then go to the next "A", and so on and so on. Then you move to the "B"s. At the end of the day, you will have a record of what you have done and a sense of accomplishment. During your planning session for the next day. Take any remaining tasks and re-rank them. I will say if any "C" (or maybe even "B") stays on the list for days and does not get done, and the world is still spinning - drop it. It probably did not need to be done anyway. To be fair, this system is not my own. It is a variant of the Franklin/Covey system . They sell fancy planners to help you with this, but you can use a legal pad or a computer. Try it. Adios, I have tires that are low - gotta go look for quarters.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Well we are entering one of my favorite times of the year - Flu & Cold season! My family tells me (and truth be told, I admit) that I am a bit more germ-a-phobic than I was in my younger days. I am not to the Howard Hughes/Adrian Monk stage, but I find myself very uncomfortable in the presence of someone obviously sick with a cough, cold, or flu. One thing I have never understood is people that go to work deathly ill. That is how we all get sick people! Who are these creatures anyway? Most of the folks I have had working for me or with me over the years would stay home for a sick pet bird, much less for themselves! A scenario - I am traveling down the road and decide to take a bathroom break and maybe pick up a Slim Jim and drink. I stop at the convenience mart at the next exit and head in. Don't even get me started on the condition of most bathrooms, but I'm just saying: germ-avoidance is impossible here. Heading to the counter with my processed meat snack I hear a hacking cough that sounds like a dragon awakening from a deep slumber. I look to the head of the line and see Gameesh, the wonder clerk; who has not missed a day of work since the first Reagan administration and looks like he could play a lead role in Night of the Living Dead without makeup. Ole Gameesh is sneezing and hacking into some sort of cloth, and/or wiping on his pants legs the residue of germs that predate modern antibiotics. Now the dilemma - I was just going to buy my wonder meat and a diet Coke. I have a severe problem. I only have a $20 bill or a debit card. The thought of getting change back with the ravages of Gameesh attached gives me chills to my core. Same with my debit card. But, it can be sanitized! God Bless the Germ-X people. A portable method of sterilization without water is one of mankind's greatest inventions. However, the thought of handling my debit card with Gameesh residue attached is too horrible to contemplate. So, I start gathering up various items on the way to the register so I don't have to get change. Luckily the modern convenience store has all the modern conveniences. An air freshener shaped like a tree (because we just may think there is a real pine in the back seat), a tin of fake speed that will make you shake like a junkie coming off of a high to remember, laundry detergent (wait, that costs $63, I only have a $20 - put it back), a cellophane wrapped piece of cake with a handwritten label (does the health department know about this?), and more of the detris of human convenience. I get the total in my head up to about $18. I make my way to the counter bobbing and weaving to miss the flying sputum, show my bounty, and throw the $20 at Gameesh and say "keep the change". A bit later I am riding down the road sanitizing my hands (and neck and face, etc) smelling like fake pine, alert as a gazelle with a newborn, wishing I felt clean enough to open up the Slim Jim that started all this. I was going to do some more along these lines of the joy of flying during flu season. My seatmate always seems to have a green palor and a cough like the release of the demons of hell. But, it is getting late - maybe later. Remember, sanitize; and stay home (or at least out of my path) if you are sick.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Let's imagine you have a father. Shouldn't be hard for most of you, as you all did by requirement of nature. You did not really know your father that well, as fathers in the 50s and 60s were a bit "stand-offish" in the fathering department. Group participation in a sport or sporting outdoor activity was the interaction of the day. Not being a hunter, fisherman, or golfer would limit your relationship development. This describes my relationship with my father/dad. Most of my memories of my dad are of him leaving for work, golfing, fishing trip, or whatever; or coming home from said journey. Other memories are of him drinking himself into a stupor every night he was home and wondering how he would make it up the stairs to get into bed. We never had a conversation to speak of, and neither of us really knew how to get one started with the other. My dad was an amazing wit and bon vivant with the rest of the town, but with me - not so much. I left my home town of Raeford, N.C. well before he gave up the bottle. So, my reflections and memories of him are vastly different than most of the other members of my family and his friends and acquaintances. Neither here nor there, just is. I was lucky enough to get to know my Dad a bit when he became ill late in his life. The ravages of a southern diet, Camel non-filter cigarettes, and enough alcohol and to preserve a herd of wildebeest finally took their toll. He was in a wheelchair for the last year or so of his life and I tried to be there for him when I could to do whatever. I built his first ramp to get him into the house when he got home from his amputation and recovery. I helped get him out to see the world for the first time in six months or so with a car ride or two. And, I would go down to cut his hair on occasion along with other simple little things that seemed to take the place of meaningful conversation. My family was not and is not one of any great means. My dad's will was a short and sweet document leaving his worldly possession to my mother (rightly so). He did give something personal, and of value to each of his four children. My one personal item was his Colt M1911 U.S. Army service pistol. As I stated above, I am not a sportsman. I am not a gun person per se. I have hunted, I have shot guns of most normal sizes and calibers. I did not own a gun at the time, but was very excited about the prospect of owning my father's service weapon. As my mother was going through a lot at the time and I had my own personal tribulations starting (see other blogs for that - my wife has health issues) I just told my mother to keep the pistol and I would get it later. Imagine my surprise when I found out later that the gun was gone! I am still not quite sure who, where, and what happened. Some unspecific statement about it being sold by someone. The only thing I was left by my father to me personally in his will was somehow disposed of to someone I don't know for some unknown reason. Now I am not one to beat a dead horse (although I have been know to give one a last shot to see if it has life), so I will let this go now. But I still cannot believe it. That weapon was and is a collectors item. It has a value of thousands. It has an attachment with my father that is invaluable. But, the horse is no longer breathing. I hope I am purged.
Imagine you and your spouse, or significant other, are on a nice boat ride called life. You are on this inconceivably large boat in a sea of unimaginable size on a trip of indeterminate length. Once in a while, you go through some beautiful. almost indescribable days where birds sing, wonderful angelic music accompanies you in your daily activities, and everything you want is there before you. Then there are the dark and stormy days where all you can do is hold on to the rail and upchuck your lunch into the water. Most of the days, however, are just a boat ride. One day your spouse falls overboard, fully clothed, and for no apparent reason. You quickly toss them a line, and say"hold on, I'll get you out!" There is no reason to panic, people fall into the water all the time. Plus, they are a fairly strong swimmer, we will get them out. So, you start pulling on the rope. After pulling and pulling you notice they are not any closer to the boat. You decide you need help. You go and get the some of the lifeguards that are stationed around the boat. One by one they examine the situation. All of them, after careful thought and deep reflection based on years of training, say "They are in the water. They will surely drown. All we can do is keep them on the line from the boat, and wait." You become more and more agitated and upset. You go and get one lifeguard after another. Some haven't got a clue. All the rest just say, "At some unpredictable time in the future they will drown. Keep them nourished, provide fresh water, and here is a wonder drug in case they get cramps." You consider going into the water yourself. However, there is no good way to get in, and definitely no way out. So, you sit by the rail and talk to your loved one about the good days where the birds sang, angelic music accompanied you, and all was before you. Meanwhile, it becomes harder and harder for your spouse to keep their head above the water. One of your greatest fears is a storm coming up and causing waves that they surely could not ride out. More and more time is spent just working to keep their head above the water. Meanwhile, you can only sit and watch. Enjoy your cruise.