Archive for October, 2014

SAVORING FREEDOM

October 13, 2014

For the past couple of days, I’ve been savoring FREEDOM! Of course, not in a significant arena like the momentous proclamations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but still, a major component in my small piece of reality. WE SOLD OUR HOUSE ON FRIDAY, and I’m trying to remain boringly prudent and invest a bunch of my share. One problem would be that there’s enough to stimulate some interest in a new Jaguar, a motorcycle, and enough left over for some really great travel. One of my less cautious colleagues said, “Why are you worrying about investments, at your age? Enjoy it instead!”. I had to quickly sweep him and his horns and tail off my shoulder, and listen to another figure on my other shoulder, strangely looking like one of my sons although sporting an attractive set of wings. We’ll just have to see which one wins out!

THE CAT AND OTHER ANIMALS

As collateral damage from the move, I seem to have inherited the cat. Normally, I like cats, and dogs as well, but this one was an unexpected acquisition. I had thought my wife would take the cat with her to North Carolina, but she’s living in one of those Home Owner Association townhouse communities that frowns on cats roaming freely in the neighborhood. And Tinker was, in effect, her cat.

When we were getting the house ready to put on the market, we smelled the odor of cat in several locations in the downstairs area of the house, and attributed it to another cat, a male, whom we had adopted after abandonment by a neighbor who moved away. But he disappeared about a year ago, and I spied Tinker, a female, spraying on the wall in that same area. The “bottom line” was expensive, we hired a professional cleaner to rid the house of the odor before prospective buyers entered the premises, and it took several attempts to make things presentable.

After the cat and I moved to the small house I had purchased two years ago, she seemed happy, but that’s now changed. You see, I caught her repeating the dastardly act on the wall in my living room, next to all the display cases holding my trinkets from world travels. Immediately, I took her to the vet to see if something was wrong that brought this on; his opinion was that she would continue to do it in spite of curing the urinary tract infection which she had, and that she was too old to change (15 years). I briefly considered “doing her in”, but didn’t think that would go over too well with the rest of the family even though they haven’t had close contact with her for several years. So, tomorrow her new, heated little house arrives, complete with a thermostat that turns on the heat when the temperature drops to 35, and goes off when it climbs to 45. I got some strange looks at a local retailer when I inquired, “Where’s your cathouse?”, and immediately had to clarify my meaning. Now I have to get one of those gadgets that keeps the water from freezing.

As for other creatures, a doe has been bedding down almost daily, with her two growing fawns, at various places in my yard. It’s beginning to look as though I’m an acceptable part of the landscape, as momma doesn’t bother to get up when I walk by. She probably knows that I don’t like guns and, as the hunting season opens in this area tomorrow, she’s in a safe place. Unless of course the cat gets really pissed at having to stay out during the approaching winter, and attacks anything around in order to get some warm fur for her new house.

 

HUNTING SEASON

Every region seems to have some special days when everything stops in order for folks to engage in something representing a departure from the usual humdrum daily schedule, although I think that maybe the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California may be taken things just a bit too far. In our state, Hunting Season is at the front of the line; school calendars and work schedules are even adjusted to allow people to seek out their quarries and, successful or not be able to bore non-hunters with tales of being stuck in the snow on the mountain, freezing in a duck blind by the river, or their vehicle breaking down in a remote area of a national forest. I guess those stories are just paybacks to golfers who are non-hunters, as the latter attempt to entertain one and all with detailed, stroke-by-stroke descriptions of their most recent game. The worst ones of all would be those who hunt, play golf, and possibly fish during the slack seasons.

One has to have a strong stomach during this time of the year; it’s not uncommon to see a dead animal hanging from a tree limb along the main street, being “cured” in preparation for processing the meat. Yesterday I saw a group of camo guys peering intently into the rear box of a pickup, while one member of the group, a taxidermist, assessed how he was going to deal with the large bull elk whose head was hanging limply over the tailgate. For me, not a pretty picture, but for others, a shot of adrenalin! Generally, I like most of the things in our town, and I support hunters and fishermen who are intent on getting food rather than merely a trophy. But there is in our community a restaurant attached to a large motel, and the walls of which are decorated by almost every game fish or animal on the face of the earth! Most of them were “harvested” by the owner, his wife, and their five daughters, all of whom are nice folks and friends. It hurts me to know that many so-called sportsmen are killing just for the sake of hanging the head of a beautiful animal on the wall. Quite a different perspective from mine.I would think it would have a more acceptable meaning if the animal were taken down using a pocket knife instead of standing off far away with a high-powered rifle. Not a popular viewpoint in this, the state with the highest number of guns per capita. Although maybe Tinker’s head would……no, I won’t go there.

A BIT OF AUTUMN

On a more pleasant note, we’re still having terrific weather, most days in the 70’s and cold nights. For me this lets me still play a bit of golf; for the hunters, they could scout out the areas for which they have permits, to see where the deer, elk, or antelope are congregating so they might be more successful when the season opens. You can hear comments about early snow in the mountains, “It will drive the herds down from the high country”. It looks to me that they’re gathering in my backyard.

The leaves are shedding  their Old Gold and Blazing Yellows, as cottonwood and aspen face the fact of oncoming winter. I read an interesting article on the internet last week that said, “Don’t rake the leaves”. A much easier task as well as one which provides nutrients is to mow the leaves using a thatcher blade or setting that chops the leaves into small pieces that fall between the grass blades, providing a sort of mulch/compost to use as fertilizer next spring. It also saves the environment, the local landfill, and one’s back by not using those large, black plastic bags and stuffing the leaves into a nearby dumpster. The article was written by several landscaper/biologists, and I especially liked the part about “Don’t rake.” Google it!

Tonight, I’ll begin trying to figure out the characteristics of my upgraded cell phone, a Motorola Droid MAXX replacing my Droid RAZR MAXX after two years of tolerance. I considered changing over to an Apple IPhone 5S,  just so I could maybe “facetime” with my sons and their children. Actually, I have a couple of elderly IPods which have that capability, but I recall how satisfactory “Skyping” was from Cairo to the US three years ago. And I recently discovered another app, “Tango”, that does the same thing as those two apps but can be used on both platforms. And it’s FREE! I’m going to try and talk my family into doing so also.

And while I’m doing that, I’ll either dip into some of the raspberries we picked a year ago with our grandsons at the Raspberry Farm about 45 minutes from here, or construct one of my specialties, “The Calorie Bomb”. Imagine an extra-large amount of the ice cream of your choice, drenched with dark chocolate, caramel, or maple syrups, and topped off with a generous helping of whipped lite topping. You can almost see the little fat grams scurrying for the edge of the bowl as they seek out your midsection!

I still haven’t figured out what to do with a lot of the stuff taken from the other house—why do I have five staplers, 60 knit shirts, 15 pair of shorts, four working laptops,one elderly desktop,  five pair of binoculars, 10 film and digital cameras, etc? And it looks like I’ll have to put off for a while learning how to insert photos into my blogs; I leave in a couple of days for the previously-mentioned trip to Arizona. I wonder what Tinker will be doing while I’m gone?

Always Be Happy      To Our Youth

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SEPTEMBER SONG

October 3, 2014

SEPTEMBER SONG

Well, once again it’s that time of year when the words of a poem memorized in high school, A Vagabond Song by Bliss Carman, leap into the forefront of my thoughts. Yes, autumn brings that wanderlust, and September marks the annual beginning of a sudden surge to sample other climes. This year was no different, as I capped off a quick trip to Texas for my newest grandson’s christening, with a pleasant weekend excursion to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons to visit friends from the days when I worked in that area.

One serendipitous (see an earlier blog, Serendipity) event occurred on my way down the Snake River Valley toward Jackson, from the entrance gate into Yellowstone National Park. Usually, when I’m confronted with those ugly orange signs “Road Work Ahead”, “Flagman”, “Be Prepared to Stop” , my heart sinks and I mull over which bad words to silently murmur under my breath. This time was different; our line of traffic was halted directly across the Snake River from the Grand Teton along with its lesser brethren, little white clouds playing tag among the peaks against a brilliant blue sky. Many of us exited our vehicles, some tourists from out of state staring in awe at the scene, others chatting and pointing at various points of interest, such as the glaciers on Mt. Moran, elk or bison grazing on the floodplain below our vantage point. Reluctantly, we had to go back to our vehicles and drive on and, as usual, I congratulated myself on living in this beautiful part of the country.

Other than spending two quality days with my friends as well as visiting the residential special education school where I had served as a principal back in the ‘90’s, the other significant event was being introduced to an Italian pasta dish with which I was unfamiliar, Bucatini with mushrooms. While I won’t go into details about it, let me note that I saw a number of fat grams running about the table top no doubt from the heavy whipping cream ingredient permeating all the spices and mushrooms, and that I downloaded a recipe as soon as I returned to my home.

Throughout most of July, August, and September, I have been dealing with all the problems related to putting one’s house on the market and addressing multiple concerns expressed by potential buyers. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my wife had moved to a different state in order to help out with our two grandsons, and to avoid the Wyoming winter (I must admit to gloating over the fact that Charlotte, NC, where she lives, had more snow last winter than we, and there were extended periods of cold). The two of us drove a fully-loaded UHaul truck to her new digs; I flew back and then drove a car load of additional belongings back to Charlotte. That was early July.

For the next few weeks, I was readying for an auction to dispose of most of the rest of the things in our house, although there were a number of items belonging to our two boys, from their growing-up years and a few college memorabilia. I had to sort through all of that while trying to avoid lingering on memories attached to each thing. The auction came and went, and was very disappointing to find that most of the proceeds went to the auctioneer and his helpers. We would have done much better by having a succession of yard sales.

By this time, I had moved to the small, delightful house I had purchased almost two years ago in preparing for this situation. However, each day there was something to do back at “The Big House”, mowing the huge lawn, messing with the sprinkler system, minor cosmetic repairs, etc. The house had been put on the market in late May-early June; by early September it had been shown 9 times to prospective buyers. Suddenly, there came an OFFER!

The rest of September devoted an unusual amount of time to the back and forth “negotiations” with the Buyer and, I’m able to announce, culminated today in a signed agreement for purchase. However, I won’t believe it until I see the dollars in my checking account; it remains for a closing date to be set and hopefully they won’t back out. And I won’t have to mow that 23,000 sq.ft. lawn, or shovel the 120 ft. sidewalk anymore.

This past weekend, I collected my wife at the Casper airport and we drove to Cheyenne for the Wyoming AdvancEd School Improvement Conference. During the two days, I was able to forge a potentially-useful alliance with a representative from a Science program at the U. of Wyoming, to work with our outreach activities from the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. I dropped off my wife at the airport yesterday for her flight back to Charlotte; she returns to Wyoming later in the month to lead several visits to school districts in southwestern Wyoming.

While she’s doing that, I’m going to head to Arizona to see friends, play golf, and visit my first cousin whom I haven’t seen for about 40 years. He and his wife owned a wine store in Connecticut which they recently sold, and moved to Tucson where he is listed as a wine consultant on LinkedIn. I’m wondering about that since he’s from the Jewish side of the family and I wasn’t aware that Mogen David needed consultants.

In looking toward all that funding from the sale of the house, I have been encouraged to “be conservative” with it and put it into something that will provide me a monthly income. At my age, that may not be the most enjoyable use; I do know that I’m going to do some traveling while I’m still physically able. There are conservative investments that allow money to be withdrawn with no taxing or penalties; those would be my choice. Of course, one of my friends no longer rides his Honda Shadow, a black and chrome beauty with lots of goodies. It’s been almost two years since I had my last motorcycle, one of about 15 or so over the past 40 years. My license is still good. I wonder what he wants for it?

A friend of mine mentioned some free college level courses available online through Coursera MOOC, from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. I looked at some of their offerings and think I’ll sample some of them to perhaps provide more intellectual contact than resides here in this gun-oriented region.

Well, we had a low of 29 last night, but things promise to get better. Our cat, which has been banished to the outside due to having made several unwelcome deposits on the wall, was understandably irritated, but I stood firm. I noted that a guy down the street has beached his sailboat and speedboat for the winter; l remember sailing my little Styrofoam sail plank on Lake Michigan and wonder if he gets the same thrills at our nearby reservoir. I helped at a big Cross Country race event today, for middle and high school kids. It was on the golf course; now I can resume my daily attack on the landscape. I’ve been invited back for next May’s Wells Fargo Championship Golf Tournament, as a volunteer, in Charlotte. This will be my third year of helping.

Finally, my project for the next couple of weeks will be to figure out how to insert photos into my blogs. They certainly make things much more interesting; I hadn’t realized how blue a friend of mine’s eyes were until I saw them on a blogsite! And after all, I have a new grandson that everyone would want to see.

Always Be Happy   To Our Youth