Archive for the ‘looking back’ Tag

04-24-2016 Journal – Around the Campfire!   2 comments

I’ve been complaining for months about wanting warmer temperatures and yesterday I got my wish. We had a gorgeous day in the mid-sixties and it was sunny without a cloud in the sky.  The cat and I even managed an hour on the deck to work on our tans a bit.  It was incredible.

How do you end the perfect day?  Always a good question I suppose. After my better-half arrived home from work we discussed just that. It was the perfect night for a bonfire to start our Spring and Summer seasons off properly. Before dark I spent a few minutes preparing.

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A  bonfire while being really great also gives me a chance to rid myself of wood scraps collected during the winter months in my workshop and from the garden repairs and upgrades.  The wood was cut and we were ready to go. Next I built the fire and lit it up.

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The darker it got the better it became. We sat quietly enjoying the warm night and the good company.  The sky was showing some light from Portland a few miles away which offered up a photo or two work keeping.

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As we fed the fire it became really cozy and intimate. No vehicles noises, no kids playing and screaming, just peace and quiet.

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The smell of burning firewood took us both back to past years around similar fires with family and friends who are no longer with us.  The heat of the fire on my face was just the best.  After a few hours we shuffled off to bed feeling good about each other and life in general.  We left the fire with some regret.

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SPRING HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED

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11-05-2014 Journal Entry– Furry Birthday Greetings!   2 comments

This is my week for celebrating.  There aren’t many days during the year that I choose to remember fondly but this is one of them.  Today is my cat Stormy’s fourteenth birthday.  Don’t worry, this posting will not be some crazy-ass cat lovers gushy and sentimental rant.  I’m not some over-the-top PETA idiot who thinks animals are more important than people but I do have a soft spot for certain ones.

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I’m what most people would consider a cat person.  Over the years I’ve had a number of dogs, a snake, a ferret or two, hamsters, and a few cats.  For some reason I like having a friend who keeps his or her opinions to themselves, who is that perfect listener we all seem to be looking for, and is somewhat self-sufficient.  A friend whose who offers a fair amount of unconditional love and will listen to whatever nonsense I decide to spew.  If he doesn’t like it he just walks away without snide remarks or any rolling of the eyes.

Of all of my pets two stand out from the others.  They’re both cats and both lived to be more than fourteen years old.  I started out as a dog person due to my father’s decision to raise and sell hunting beagles.  We always had dogs and puppies running around the yard and I shoveled my fair share of excrement as part of my chores.  I really do prefer shoveling it from a litter box instead of scraping it up from different areas of the house.

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Once I returned from the Army and started my working life, dogs became more responsibility than I could handle.  My jobs required that I move around from apartment to apartment, state to state, and having a dog would have been impossible.  Dogs for me are much like small children who never grow up and remain needy as long as they live.

Stormy came into my life for a number of reasons.  I found him in a local shelter the week after 9/11.  One of my ferrets had just died and her bonded mate was grieving terribly.  I brought Stormy home and that cat and ferret eventually became inseparable.  Years later when the second ferret passed on Stormy was inconsolable and slept on top of the empty ferret cage for months.  We’ve been together every since, thirteen years and counting.

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He’s makes friends easily, had his own Twitter page for a while, and even had a children’s book written about him.  Now that he’s reached middle age he’s slowed down some but still the best mouser I’ve ever seen.  Just last night he was on patrol all night because he saw one of those annoying field mice that decided to take shelter in his house.  It’s only a matter of time before that stupid mouse makes a fatal misstep and I’ll find his corpse in the kitchen next to Stormy’s food bowl some morning.  That’s where he leaves his trophies so I can see and appreciate them.

He’s also attached himself to my better-half and slowly over time has become her official bed buddy.  So a big Happy Birthday to Stormy and hopefully he’ll have many more years with us.  I might even spring for a can of Fancy Feast for dinner tonight, after all it is a special occasion.

11-29-2013 A Look Back!   1 comment

According to Socrates “an unexamined life is not worth living”.  I agree with that to a point because there are times when looking back has truly restorative value.  It clears the mind by allowing us to revisit simpler and sometimes happier times.   The post that follows is me looking back and remembering how different things were not so long ago.  I’m not saying they were always better but in some cases they definitely were.  Read on and enjoy a short but detailed visit to my early childhood.

Way back…

I’m talking about hide and seek at dusk, sitting on the porch. Hot bread and butter, eating’ a super-dooper sandwich (Dagwood), Red light, Green light, 1 2 3.

Chocolate milk, lunch tickets, penny candy in a brown paper bag. Hopscotch, butterscotch, Double-Dutch, jacks, kickball, and dodge ball. Mother, May I? Hula Hoops, Sunflower Seeds, jawbreakers, blow pops, Mary Janes, and running through the sprinklers. The smell of the sun and licking salty lips.

Wait……

Watching lightening bugs in a jar, playing slingshot and Red Rover. When around the corner seemed far away, and going downtown seemed like going somewhere.

Bedtime, Climbing trees. A million mosquito bites and sticky fingers. Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, sitting on the curb, jumping down the steps, jumping on the bed, and pillow fights.

Being tickled to death, running till you were out of breath. Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt. Being tired from playing …. Remember that?

I’m not finished just yet…

What about the girl that had the big bubbly hand writing? Licking the beaters when your mother made a cake. When there were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds & PF Flyers), and the only time you wore them at school, was for “gym.”

When nobody owned a purebred dog. When a quarter was a decent allowance, and another quarter a huge bonus. When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny. When girls neither dated nor kissed until late high school, if then. When your mom wore nylons that came in two pieces.

When you got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, for free. And you didn’t pay for air, and, you got trading stamps to boot! When laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.

When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries, and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it. When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

Not done yet . . .

When all of your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done, everyday. When they threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed…and did! When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a slingshot. When nearly everyone’s mom was at home when the kids got there.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc.  Disapproval of our parents and grandparents was a much bigger threat!

Decisions were made by going “eeny-meeny-miney-mo.” Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, “do over!” “Race issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest. Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in “Monopoly.”

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening. It wasn’t odd to have two or three “best” friends. Being old, referred to anyone over 20. The net on a tennis court was the perfect height to play volleyball and rules didn’t matter. It was unbelievable that dodge ball wasn’t an Olympic event.

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was cooties. It was magic when dad would “remove” his thumb. Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better.

Nobody was prettier than Mom.

IT’S NICE TO OCCASIONALLY LOOK BACK

09-04-2013   3 comments

Today I’d like to talk about retirement. Being retired has it’s pluses and just as many minuses.  You have the all the time you’ll ever need to do just about anything you’ve ever wanted to do. You have a type of freedom you’ve never experienced before.  The main thing missing from the mix is motivation.  Having that much time on your hands can lure you into closely examining your entire life, both good things and bad.  You can also fall into the trap of second guessing every bad decision you’ve ever made and make yourself crazy. That’s the worst and most dangerous thing about retirement.  If you can’t find a way to control it you just might become one truly miserable SOB with no friends or close relationships.

My transition to retirement has been a challenge to say the least.  It’s took me almost four years to make the changeover to where I could maintain a level of happiness and calmness about my life, my aging, and my relationships with others.  There’s no longer room for self-recriminations, whining about old mistakes, and rethinking of failed relationships.  As they always say "Life is too short." I’ve been able to make peace with my past life and I’m ready for the next phase.  I still spend time thinking about my childhood and my childhood friends many of whom have passed but it’s no longer a painful process and has finally become just a plethora of fond old memories.  I sat down and started making a list of certain things I do miss from those days and the following are just a few that quickly came to mind.

  • Spending a summer weekend at my grandparents house so I could attend the local carnival which came to town for just one week each year.  It was a big deal for that small town and all of us looked forward to it all year long.
  • I miss my childhood friends and knowing how to pretend. We had more fun using just our imaginations than we’d ever have had sitting in front of a TV playing a video game. Believe me, I’m not biased against video games at all.  I’ve been a member in good standing with  X-Box and Microsoft for decades. Imagination always offered me much more in the way of entertainment value.
  • Playing catch with my best friend for hours and hours.
  • Spending my summers playing baseball and roaming through the woods and streams near my home.
  • Playing with friends on and in the Allegheny River. Jumping from bridges, rowing an old bathtub across the river, being escorted to shore by the Coast Guard for being in places we didn’t belong.
  • Spending quality time with both of my grandfathers.  I miss them both everyday.
  • Eating baked potatoes with the family cooked in the ashes of a bonfire in the back yard.
  • Eating fresh apples stolen from a nearby orchard. They always tasted so much better when you could run faster than the owner who was chasing you.
  • Sledding with all of my friends in the hood of an old car. Ten of us flying down the hill together with no fear of anything.
  • Skiing with friends on skis made from barrel rungs. We couldn’t afford real skis. I never skied much further than twenty feet anyway before I fell on my ass and rolled down the hill laughing all the way.

That’s just a few of the many memories I love reliving.  I’m no longer pissed off that I can’t do most of those things anymore, I’m just happy that I had a chance to do them at all.

08-13-2013   Leave a comment

I’ve been sitting around for a while today trying to compile a list of five men and five women that I really admire.  What does it say about me that I can’t get it done.  I refuse to use celebrities or politicians because that’s just plain ridiculous but not many names are even making my short list.

So far my list of admired men consists of just one, Max Ehrlich.  I’m positive you know nothing about Max. He was as eccentric as they come, independent, smart, funny, irreverent,  and most importantly my favorite uncle.

He was a good old boy who worked hard all of his life.  He was badly injured in a work place accident at a young age and was pensioned off by the company for a few hundred dollars a month.  Did that slow him down?  He picked himself up and restarted his life and did it his way.  He knew almost everyone within a hundred mile radius on a first name basis and was what many servicemen would call a “first class scrounger”.  He retrieved items through salvage and resold them to his acquaintances.  If you needed something he could find it quickly and sell it to you cheaply.

For years he was considered the “black sheep” of our family because he refused to conform to what the family thought he should be.  He was funny and irreverent and made my mother and her side of the family just cringe every time he spoke.  I managed over the years to spend time with him because he was on the down-low, a friend of my dads.  Many times during the Christmas holidays when I was seven or eight  I remember riding along with him in his truck to deliver presents to some of his friends.  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered what those presents were.

After I joined the State Police I was assigned to an area that included his hunting camp and when time permitted I would stop and visit to check the house and property.  One sunny Sunday afternoon I pulled into the camp and while checking the house heard laughter from the back yard.  I walked around to where he had built his homemade swimming pool and there was Max at age eighty skinny dipping with what he called two young honey’s, both in their sixties.  I was speechless until he walked over without a stich on, patted me on the back, and introduced me to the girls.  We all laughed till we cried.

He passed away a few years later shortly after his girlfriend of some fifty years died.  My mother was one of the executors of his will and she soon discovered that good old Max had almost a quarter of a million dollars in his accounts.  No one could figure out where it came from until they began to clean out the garage at the hunting camp.  Above a hidden door in the ceiling they found a large still and all the necessary equipment for bottling.  We later found out from two of our other elderly uncles that he had been making moonshine for decades.  That was the presents the old goat and I delivered at Christmas time.

He’s still the only guy on my list and if I ever think of four more I’ll let you know.  I still miss that SOB.

06-24-2013   6 comments

I spend a great deal of my time these days adapting to a whole list of changes to my life I never anticipated or expected.  I thought that as I grew older things would settle down somewhat and the amount of change I’d be forced to deal with would lessen.  Wrong once again.

One  obvious change that occurs to us all eventually is getting older.  Adjusting to it sounds easy but as all of you will find  out eventually, it isn’t.  You must learn to adapt to your new position in society of being the older person, constantly accused by almost everyone with being out of touch with our current reality.  Even people you know and love begin treating you differently and it can be hurtful.

Everyone assumes that once you reach a certain age you’re all of a sudden a mouth-breathing moron with no working memory.  Snide little comments from loved ones are especially hurtful but you must learn to adapt.  Some seniors become bitter and spiteful only because they can’t think of any better solutions.  Those kind of actions just further that ugly senior stereotype that require the infamous eye-roll or the subtle shoulder shrug between people you’re talking to when you’re not looking.  It’s disrespectful and rude but your hands are tied.  If you confront them then  your being old, difficult, and set in your ways.  If you turn the other cheek it just makes the possibility of it occurring again much more likely.

So here’s a few tips for you seniors out there.  Keep up with all of the Pop Culture nonsense so when someone in their teens or twenties mentions a celebrity you have a clue.  Be able to talk about something other than your current medical conditions.  Fight the stereotype everyday.  If you take a backseat to discussions that make you uncomfortable that’s where you’ll be relegated to stay for the rest of your life. 

Our past memories really don’t interest most people because "it’s all about them”.  Only people your own age can appreciate many of the things from our youth and the drastic differences we now must deal with.  It’s hard work to keep up with  this balls-to-the-wall insanity we call our every day life.  Spend time with people other than other seniors.  Carry on meaningful conversations about politics, relationships, and child rearing.  Not everything we remember is just old-folks reminiscing.  We’ve already experienced this stull and can be helpful if we pass the information along intelligently and not preaching.  No one likes to be preached to.

The following information should make most seniors smile.  If read by anyone younger it would seem to them like they’ve been foraging through an archeological dig in Egypt and found a transcript of life in the days of old.  Read on and learn something if you’re interested, if not don’t.

* * *

HIGH SCHOOL — 1958 vs. 2013

Scenario 1:

Jack goes duck hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck’s gun rack.

1958 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2013 – School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2:

Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1958 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2013 – Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They’re both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3:

Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1958 – Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2013 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The family gets extra money (SSI) from the government because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1958 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2013 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse, Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:

Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1958 – Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.

2013 – The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:

Pedro fails high school English.

1958 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2013 – Pedro’s cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro’s English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7:

Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.

1958 – Ants die.

2013 – ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents – and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny’s dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8:

Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1958 – In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2013 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

* * *

Is it any wonder why we at times choose to look back.  This is the reason we occasionally reminisce and really, do you blame us.  If I could go back and do my life over again I sure wouldn’t do it now, in this time and place. Just saying.

01-14-2013   6 comments

I recently supplied all of you with a Baby Boomer Test that was fun to do but wasn’t all that challenging.  And yesterday I supplied everyone with the correct answers to that quiz.  What I’m putting forth today is something a little more comprehensive and much more detailed.  It’s not a test or a quiz just a recitation of facts and things from my past that are slowing fading away and no longer all that relevant to the younger generations.  It may appeal to all of you Boomers out there and if it does, Yippee! 

Let’s go back . . .

Before the Internet or IPods, IPads, and wireless telephones, before semiautomatic weapons and crack cocaine. Before SEGA or Super Nintendo or the X-box.

Way back…

I’m talking about hide and seek at dusk or just sitting on the porch. Hot bread and butter, eating a super-dooper Dagwood sandwich, Red light, Green light, 1 2 3. . .

Chocolate milk, lunch tickets, penny candy in a brown paper bag. Hopscotch, butterscotch, Double-Dutch, jacks, kickball, and dodge ball. Mother, May I? Hula Hoops, Sunflower Seeds, jawbreakers, blow pops, Mary Janes, and running through sprinklers. The smell of summer and licking sweaty and salty lips.

There’s more . . .

Catching lightening bugs in a jar, playing slingshot and Red Rover, and swimming in the creek. Stealing and eating apples from the neighbors trees. When around the corner seemed far away, and going downtown seemed like going somewhere. Playing with puppies.

Bedtime, climbing trees, building a private clubhouse in the woods (no girls allowed), playing Home Run Derby with your best friend. A million mosquito bites and sticky fingers. Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, sitting on the curb, jumping down the steps, jumping on the bed, and pillow fights.

Being tickled to death, running till you were out of breath. Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt. Being tired from playing …. Remember that? Eating potatoes cooked in a bonfire and flaming marshmallows on a stick.

I’m still not finished . . .

Licking the beaters when your mother made a cake. When there were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds & PF Flyers), and the only time you wore them at school, was for "gym.", sledding in the winter, and ice skating at the local pond. When nobody owned a purebred dog. When a quarter was a decent allowance, and another quarter a huge bonus. When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny. When girls neither dated nor kissed until late high school, if then. When your mom wore nylons that came in two pieces.

When you got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, for free. And you didn’t pay for air, and, you got trading stamps to boot! When laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.

When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries, and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it. When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

Not done yet . . .

When all of your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done, everyday. When they threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed…and did! When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a slingshot. When nearly everyone’s mom was at home when the kids got there.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc.  Disapproval of our parents and grandparents was a much bigger threat!

Decisions were made by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo." Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, "do over!" "Race issue" meant arguing about who ran the fastest. Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in "Monopoly."

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening. It wasn’t odd to have two or three "best" friends. Being old, referred to anyone over 20. The net on a tennis court was the perfect height to play volleyball and rules didn’t matter. It was unbelievable that dodge ball wasn’t an Olympic event.

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was cooties. It was magic when dad would "remove" his thumb. Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better.

And nobody was prettier than Mom.

Isn’t it nice to look back to see where we’ve come from.  Things have changed so dramatically in such a short period of time it’s almost impossible to guess where we’ll be in another fifty years.  It’s exciting and damn scary all at the same time.