Un-Tied Part One

I was cleaning up the downstairs yesterday, as well as thinking about things to get rid of and/or sell at our yard sale or even online at a yard sale…when I came to the ties that I used to wear to work everyday in my job as a Nursing Home Administrator.  A LOT of them.

I always wondered how many ties I actually had.  I never tried to count them before, just added to them as I got new ties and threw away ties that were no longer in good enough shape to wear in public.  Old ties that got thrown away did not cancel out the newer ones as they came in, so the number kept getting larger.  I have been wearing those ties for 35 years as a Nursing Home Administrator.  Of course I don’t have the same ones I started out with all those years ago, but I have so many that it always surprises me how many there actually are!

I finished up the cleaning and sorting and throwing away and the setting aside for the yard sale and I decided…today is the day to deal with the ties!

My plan was to box them up in small lots and place them on the yard sale, and if they didn’t sell there, maybe try the online, and if that didn’t work…Goodwill or Salvation Army or Catholic Charities would get them.  They are going one way or the other!

I don’t wear ties so much any more in this semi…or quasi retired state.  Maybe I’ll never have call to wear one again.  After all, ties are quickly becoming obsolete.  Hardly anyone wears them anymore.  They used to be the standard for white collar business, but they are quickly disappearing from the daily grind.  Even bankers don’t wear them everyday like they used to.  I think in most courts, lawyers are still required to wear them but not so much at the office any longer. And ministers, maybe a few still wear them, but as the population of ministers ages downward, ties are no longer needed in that field or in many others.  In fact, ties seem to turn people off these days.

Speaking of turning people off, I have to talk about one other place where ties are pretty much still a staple of the “office”.  Politics!  Don’t get me started.  Still, when the politicians come back to their districts these days, they more and more dress down to mingle with the “little people”.  To be more like them so we little people can relate to them more easily.  So we won’t view them as a stuffed “suit”.

All in all though, ties are disappearing from the day to day world.  Maybe they will have a nostalgic resurgence some day like so many other things, but I don’t believe they will ever be as standard as they used to be.  And I don’t think they will ever go totally extinct either, and here’s my logic for that.

When I first started in my job as a Nursing Home Administrator, I began wearing a jacket and tie.  Of course I wore one to the interview for the job as well.  One tends to put on their best face, best attitude, and their best…costume…when they go for a job interview.  At least most serious job seekers.  But there is the word…costume.  I believe that one could make a serious argument that the word should be…uniform, but I think costume says it more clearly.

While it is true that suit and tie, or jacket and tie and slacks used to be a uniform for the white collar businessman from all areas of business, it has given way to that uniform being used mostly as a costume these days.  Like the judge who wears that silly robe costume and sets him or herself to be some kind of superior being to all the minions dressed in regular clothes and suits and the like, that’s how the suit has become…a costume for a role someone will be playing in their profession.(and take a look at a British courtroom…whew!)

I too thought of my suit and tie as a uniform when I began working, but it soon dawned on me that…it was more a costume.  And it was the tie that really always put the finishing touch on the costume!  It had not been too long before I began wearing that tie every day that I had been in jeans and long hair every day of my past life.  I soon realized the value of that tie in my day to day world.  People see that jacket and tie…and automatically give a person a degree of respect whether you deserved it or not.  No matter how much it has been preached to all of us that we should not judge a book by its cover…we still do!  A tie is part of a great costume.  A costume that grants respectability.

It does not seem at all odd to me that one of the most steadfast remaining holdouts for wearing the tie on a mostly daily basis are…lawyers…and politicians…many of whom are also lawyers.   Of course there are the few other areas where a tie is still formally worn, and they know what they are doing.  That tie carries with it a certain degree of respectability!  Are you seeing that now.  You slap on a tie and “poof”… Respectable.

That also lends credence to the costume aspect of the tie and respectability and the changing times.  It used to be that when politicians came back to their districts, they ALWAYS continued to wear their costume to garner that degree of respect from their constituents.  But as the suit and tie becomes more and more obsolete due to it no longer carrying the same degree of respect for many, now the politician is expected to get in the costume of the ‘native’ in his district.  Dressing down to appear more like them, to be one of the guys, instead of some stuffed suit from the capital who has no idea whats going on with the people back home.

The tie is becoming more and more obsolete because people have finally begun to see it for what it actually is.  Just a part of a costume.  The thing is though, that even though we realize more now that it is a part of a costume…we still have that idea etched in to our minds that…somehow…their is respectability attached to it.  So the tie STILL works…even though we know.

Maybe I digress though from the story of my own ties and my becoming un-tied for the first time in the 35 years of my career as a Nursing Home Administrator.  But I find that I have also used a 100o plus words already in explanation.  I think I may have to make this simply…Un-Tied Part One.

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The Problem

Already June 26, 2017.  I’ve been away from the nursing home job for ten months now.  Just two months short of a year.  I have accomplished a lot, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to.  I’ve been writing, but I haven’t been able to really focus on the content of a new book.  I mean, I’ve written a lot about it in handwriting, but I haven’t formalized anything to print in chapter form such that it is ready to be part of a book.  I’ve also got a lot of material about my subject matter.  Maybe even enough to put in a book full of content.  But I just haven’t been able to pull the trigger on the individual chapters that will go together to make up the book.

So many times, like just a few minutes ago, as I start to put some in print, I find that its all still so rough.  And I fault myself for not having a better grasp on my material…at least in terms of trying to put it in writing clear enough that people will be able to understand it.  Maybe because I don’t really understand it all myself.

I feel like I will be attacking an institution.  Heck, that is what I will be doing.  And why!  Because…I know something needs to be done…and I don’t see or hear of anyone doing it.  Of course my old friend Doubt comes tapping me on the shoulder and say…”Who do you think you are?  Do you have any idea what you are doing?  Don’t you know that better men than you have made their case…and from the majority…they don’t support your…ideas.  Who DO you think you are?”

I’ve got a whole lot of stuff inside me struggling to find…first, a way out.  And then…an audience.  I need that audience.  If it doesn’t reach anybody it might just as well not exist.  If it doesn’t get out there somehow and touch some lives…it may disappear from existence.  I have to find a way to make it readable for the lowest common denominator of readers…and understandable to anyone they might share it with.  And I have to find a way to do all that…and then get it in to their hands.

Its hard enough to even give things away.  I picture myself standing on a busy corner in a city and handing out booklets to passers-by…only one in ten even accepting it…and maybe one in ten of those even opening the booklet.  A waste…again.  Don’t want it all to be wasted.

Haven’t even figured out exactly how to start it.  Every start so far fades away quickly in the face of any difficulty.  Sure, I don’t kid myself into believing that it would be universally accepted by any means.  And sure, I do dream…but always with my friend Doubt.  He does serve to keep me honest.

The real problem for me…is sneaking past Doubt while he’s I don’t know, maybe taking a nap.  Once in awhile, I can even get him to take a couple of days off.  But mostly he stays right beside me.  I need…I don’t know…maybe a butt kicking.  That might help.  But only for awhile of course.  Real motivation has to come from inside you…inside me.  Sometimes I feel…divinely…inspired!  But I wonder how common that is.  I’m sure I’m one of many.

I watched an…illusionist today on a video clip.  For whatever reason, my mind immediately went to the idea that he was some kind of …quite honestly…some kind of Jesus like character.  And I wondered if Jesus like characters come to us every now and then…and perform miracles…and we are too jaded to even realize it anymore.  Back in Biblical times, it was pretty rare for these characters to perform such…magical tricks…without them being proclaimed as miracles…or witchcraft or something of that nature.  These days…you can’t even believe what you see with your own eyes!  There are so many ways to manipulate reality to make it appear amazing, that its mostly a matter of “how does he do that?”, and knowing that its a trick.

So what if one of these illusionists was actually a Jesus character come down  from God to show us all a better way?  But this guy was just doing magic tricks.  And no sooner than I thought that, he did a trick where he had a girl pour endless fish out of a seemingly empty bucket…and a few segments later…he walked on water…    Jesus tricks for sure.  How does he do that?

I obviously don’t believe that he was/is a Jesus character come from God…but I thought about it.  Just a clever illusionist preying on human weaknesses.

Where does this lead me though?  I usually try to have some kind of point to my writing after a few hundred, or a few thousand words.  I break it up and call it a chapter when I have reached each point.  Maybe I’ve just got too much time on my hands and I don’t know what to do with it.  And I might think that except these thoughts have been inside me for years, and I know its time to try to get them out.  There can be no excuse…not even Doubt.  This time to think…and write…is a gift.  One I will never see again.  I need to do what it takes to break past all of the doubts inside me…and outside of me…and do the job!

Part of that, has to do with the subject matter of my…project…because…it could bring down the world on me.


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Three Cheers

It came in the mail yesterday.  That little red, white and blue card.  It gave me mixed feelings.  Good, to know that my Medicare insurance will begin.  And a really subdued feeling that I am indeed…65 years old.  Or will be in a couple of weeks.

The benefits actually begin on 4/1/2017, though I won’t turn 65 until 4/6/2017.  That’s the way it works.  It begin on the first day of the month of your birthday.  Your 65th…birthday.

Lots of things give me cause for serious thoughts.  This event definitely is one.  And it is an event!  A signal that I have…lived long enough to…earn…this well-payed for insurance program.  Not only have I reached 65, but I have paid the premiums all along the way.  Medicare is a good program.  I’ve seen it help a whole hell of a lot of people along the way.  And I’ve seen it firsthand.

In my profession of Licensed Nursing Home Administrator for the last 35 years, I’ve handled Medicare cards thousands of times!  But I never once thought about seeing my name on one.  It just never occurred to me.  Or maybe it was always so far away in the distance that I couldn’t even imagine it.  For whatever reason, I never thought about seeing my name on one.

But there it was.  Right there on the card.  Charles Roy Hutson.  It was, and still is, very surreal for me…especially having handled all those cards for all these years and seeing all those…OTHER…names on them.  Too numerous to mention.  And many of them long since passed away.

When you are…older…like I must be now, the Medicare card becomes a primary form of…identification, I guess…but its not really an ID card per se.  It is just something that almost everyone you deal with, has to see now…especially in the healthcare field.  And of course there will be more visits to healthcare providers as we get…older…you know, like I am.

In my job, I never cared so much about an actual ID card like a driver’s license.  I always had to verify that each person possessed…you guessed it…a Medicare Card first, then a Social Security Card.  And in more and more instances as time progress and medical services out paced our ability to pay for them, I also had to see the Medicaid Card, which later became a paper.

I don’t look forward to all those visits to healthcare providers, but I know that more will come for me…and for all of us as we grow…older.  And there is, I guess, the good part.  At least we ARE growing older.  Some people don’t have that…good fortune.  You could call growing older a not so good thing, but I still think it is.  I’m not ready yet to die.  And based on my experience as a LNHA, the vast majority of humans I’ve dealt with are also, not ready to die…no matter what their ages.

That said, there were also a lot of those who were ready to die.  It is truly amazing the difference among people as to how they take growing older…and the reality of their…dying.

I think periodically about writing a book about my 35 years of experience in the nursing homes.  It doesn’t really sound all that appealing I think to most people. It could well be therapeutic for me…but I wonder who would want to read it.  Most people don’t even want to have anything to do with a nursing home, let alone read about them in their spare time.  And visit a nursing home…God forbid!

There are many prejudices about growing older, and having to go to a nursing home is actually a fear of many.  For me, I’ve already put in 35 years in a nursing home, so I don’t have so many prejudices…as opposed to the realities I am aware of…

But this is not about nursing homes.  I only mention them in relation to all the Medicare cards I’ve seen and handled…without my name on them.  And now…I have one with MY name on it.  And…I suppose I will take it all in the stride of life…but right now…it feels so weird that…I’m not sure what to think about it!  On the one side its kind of scary…being 65.  Never been here before.  And we’ll only pass this way once.  Maybe that’s the scary part.  The road ahead…

As that nursing home administrator, I’ve hung around a lot more “old” people for a lot more extended time periods than the average person.  I know full well of the challenges that they had to face…and I wonder which of those challenges that I will have to face in my own life.  And how I will face them.

That little red, white and blue card signals the end of one era…and the beginning of another, probably more for some of us than others.  But again…on the good side…I’m not dead.  And I think that is a good thing for me.  So I guess having that Medicare card must also be a good thing.  I’ll play it that way.  Three cheers for the red, white and blue!

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New Year’s Day 2017

Not sure what I want to write, but I wanted to write something that is not just in my notebooks.  This blog stuff may be out there forever, and who knows what will happen to my notebooks when I’m gone.  Not sure my family will place the same value on my words that I do.  And they don’t have to.  They have their own lives, I know that.  My notebooks have a whole other life written in them.  Don’t know what it would take to have someone…do something with them.  I can barely do something with them myself.

Mine is a pretty plain blog…obviously.  I know there are ways to fix them up, but so far, I haven’t been in to that.  Not sure what I’ll do should I ever get the chance to really have the free time I dreamed of in a retirement setting.  So far, it ain’t happening.

And my cozy place…I was thinking today that my place is not quite what I want to work in.  It needs to be cozier.  I’d really like to have my chair in here and a table beside it to place my things on…and a way to shut it off from passers by so that nothing would be disturbed.  And the dogs.  The dogs are not a problem except in their…messes…their shedding and their dustiness…and their general disarray.  But then again, my stuff is pretty much in disarray as well.  I think I’d like to have more space to spread out so I don’t have to dig each time I want something…but I am happy to have this space at all.  And the dogs kind of like having me here.  They’ll come up once in a while and get some petting or scratching, and then go back to their beds and be content.  They are relatively content on just having a home.  We could learn from them.

The biggest change that has happened in my life in the past year is the loss of job…now turned in to at least semi retirement, if not full retirement.  The pertinent factor there is money.  Can we be satisfied with the money we will have available to us…or will we need more to fulfill our dreams.

Our dreams!?!?  Yes!  Our life doesn’t stop here as we just try to keep ourselves busy in retirement.  No!  I have a lot to do!  And I know she does too.  What we still have to do is to find a way to fit it all in…as our bodies continue to age…   So maybe this is about re-thinking my dreams, and making them more solid so that I can keep them in front of me and continue to keep them in my vision at all times.  Mostly, they are already there.  Witness the uneasiness I feel when I am not doing anything constructive.  I really don’t know what people think about as they look at retirement.  Perhaps we can get a discussion going with that.  I’m sure taking the pressure off of going to that day to day job must be a common theme.  I know that I feel very good about that.  I haven’t had time yet to focus on the many things I want to do…but I have gotten that going to work every day out of my life so that I have more room for everything else.  I like that.

The elimination of that daily job and the pressure and the struggles and the worry that went with it are the biggest change in 2016, but there are other changes also.  I like to think, that as my time spent with my wife becomes more and more, that we, our relationship will evolve and mature in to a much better one.  I believe we are already seeing that.  Just getting on the same page as to how we want me to work or not work, has been helpful.  All the years spent doing all the life things, like working, and raising a family, and creating a home, can come together into a much better life for both of us…as we grow together.

Another big change in our life has been the absence of must parent figures.  We are down to only one.  For her, her mother.  For me, mother in law.  We spend more time with her, and she finally seems to be coming more out of the protective shell that she crawled into when her husband and companion of almost 40 years passed away.  As she should.  Life is ever changing, and we have to change with it.  Can’t hold on to something that is no  longer there.  The past is only memories now.

Perhaps that is the biggest value of the changing of the calendar every 365 days.  A time to start anew.  A time to set the past behind us and move on to the future.  While the earth revolves around the sun every 365 days, the calendar is still just an arbitrary means of noting the passing of time.  Day to night.  Night to day.  Month to new month.  January 1 to December 31.  All just ways we mark time.  Ways that we can turn the page and start over.  Each day a new page in our lives.  Each year, the passing of our age from one number to the next…until we inevitably die…and life goes on.

There is always that question about what goes on for us as individuals when we die.  For everyone else, indeed, life goes on.  But what about the one who passes?  I think that no one really has the answer to that.  The only thing for sure…is that our body is no longer here.  Many will swear that the spirit of the departed is still with us.  And I believe that they are correct.  If you keep that spirit with you, it will indeed remain.  If you let it go…you may be surprised to find that the spirit of the deceased will still pop up in your life from time to time…unbidden…and maybe even un-desired.  It is times like those that you have to wonder if life does indeed go on after death.  Of course not in the same way, but…in some way that we do not…can not understand.  All that we are aware of is part of life.  So as long as we are aware, life is there.

Oh, no sense getting so philosophical!  Everyone has there own ideas to keep them going with whatever life has to throw at them.  Even death.

But let’s not end it there.  This is about the New Year.  The New Starting Point for tomorrow.  The time to leave last year where it belongs.  Sure, learn from the past, but don’t hang your hat on it.  The present is where its at.  As today becomes tomorrow, tomorrow becomes today as we arrive on its doorstep.  As the New Year arrives..it become the present.  And here we are.

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Life is Like a Box of Chocolates?

August 19, 2016

Call it the first day in the rest of my life.  Yesterday, I went to work like any other day.  Within the first hour my life had changed dramatically.  Terminated.  Fired.  At age 64, and four months, I find myself unemployed from my I guess you could call it my lifelong job.  For about 34 and a half years I’ve been employed as a Nursing Home Administrator.  I guess to be fair, I should say that there was a six month period in late 1999 when I was unemployed for about five months after a similar occurrence in my life.

As a matter of fact, a very similar occurrence.  A corporate bunch out of the Skokie Illinois area had purchased the facility I worked at, and I worked with them for as long as I could…before they finally terminated me also.  Only big difference was that I had three children to take care of…one of them in college.  It was indeed a scary time back then, and a little less so now, but scary nonetheless.

When the corporate bunch from Skokie took over this time about two and a half years ago, I think I saw the writing on the wall from square one.  I took a lot of my personal stuff home at that time, because it was such an uncertain time.  Fortunately the corporate people had some sense.  The facility was making money, and had a good survey history, and in general seemed to be doing pretty well.  They would have been crazy to fire me from the getgo.  I guess they could see that.

But still, I knew that I didn’t fit in to their long term plan.  I was too old.  Theirs was a very young culture.  They all came in hopped up on coffee and caffeine, and had their cell phones glued to their hands and made no secret of their disdain for our culture at our little facility.  They were the brains, and they knew it all, and it was just a matter of time before…I was out the door.  I was extremely fortunate to be able to get in another two and a half years before the ax finally fell.  Won’t go in to all the reasons for how and why it happened, but I had a little dream last night that seems to me, to be very telling.

I don’t always remember dreams, and don’t usually pay too much attention to them, but I woke up remembering this one, and I was even able to smile about it.

I dreamed that I was running a little general merchandise all purpose type of store that every town used to have on lots of corners.  Even in a little town I once lived in of 350 people, they had two such stores.  A little mom and pop type of this and that store like from the 60s and before.  Well, of course compared to the Chicago scene, all our real estate down state seems very cheap.  I dreamed that a bunch of young Jewish people came in to town and started buying up the property all up and down our area.  And they were giving good prices, so people were happy to sell their kind of dying businesses and take their money.  Most didn’t really care that the very fabric of our little town was going to disappear.  The people wanted to turn the town in to a strip mall type of area so they could make a bunch of money off these small town suckers.

I could feel the squeeze from the beginning.  The first places they built up were on either side of my little store.  It made my place look old and shabby compared to their sleek new buildings.  And of course, the suckers were swayed to buy from their new strip mall businesses.  they liked the shiny, fancy stuff, and of course, they had just made a lot of money from the sale of their properties.

Long story short, the locals stopped coming to my store and I couldn’t keep it afloat.  I finally knew that they would get my store as well and the old way of life in our small town would be gone forever. I had to close down and sell off my stock for whatever I could get for it. I didn’t sell my property to them, but I couldn’t pay for it any longer, and it went back to the bank.  They of course made a killing on it selling it to the Jewish people.  I had some time to get out, but they started squeezing from the moment they took over property rights.  The surveyors began, then the contractors.  They even began building before on the land in back before my time was up to clear out.  And i could do nothing to stop them, to stop the juggernaut of corporate from taking over yet another small business…and another small town.  They were almost pushing me out the door on my last day in order to get started.  There was some stock left in the building, but I just let it be.  I figured they would bulldoze the place with the stock in it as the type of things I sold had no value to them.

It was a wry smile I had when I woke up and thought about it.  I felt it had been inevitable from the start that it would happen.  It was like that with the job.  Out with the old, and in with the new…and young.

They frequently use the line from the movie where Forrest Gump says that his Momma always told him that life is like a box of chocolates.  I forget what he said after that.  Life is like a lot of things depending on how you look at it at any particular time.  I also can’t remember what the the jelly beans they ate got in the Harry Potter movies are called.  It will come to me some time.  I don’t like to make a big deal of not being able to remember things at a given period of time.  Some things just aren’t that important.  But I think, that life is more like the jelly beans from Harry Potter.  With a box of chocolates, you may not always get the one you like, but…they all are pretty tasty compared to some of Potter’s jelly beans.  Some of the Potter jelly beans are flavored, mud, or belly button lint, or snot, or any of a bunch of gross flavors among the yummy flavored ones.

I think life is more like that.  You’re eating along a bunch of jelly beans, cherry, chocolate, peppermint, orange, cotton candy, and then you you throw one in to your mouth…and its a snot flavored one.  Yuck!  You can spit it out, but it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth…and you remember the taste of that yucky flavor long after the cherry and peppermint flavors are long gone.

Several of the people who worked with me at the facility in 1999, also worked with me at this place.  They too saw and felt the similarities…right down to my termination.  I think they see the future of this facility in what happened to the last one as well.  The corporate people did all the things that made it no longer a friendly, small town facility…before they finally closed it down.

I’m sad for the people who still work there, because I know they will all be going through the same kind of thing…of seeing that their life will be changed…sooner or later…and the uncertainty of not knowing when.

I suppose there is always the possibility that the new people can turn it around and make it a better place in the long run…but I just can’t see it.  And quite honestly, I’m a little selfish in hoping that they crash and burn, so I feel like I…know what I’m talking about for the most part.  I know that I’m not always right about everything.  Sometimes I can even paint a pretty depressing picture of things the way things are even though they may not be quite so bad as I visualize.

I like to think that I am a pretty objective person, and a pretty perceptive person.  And sometimes that perception and objectiveness can be downright depressing…but that is the way I see it, so it doesn’t catch me too much by surprise.

The regional person…the fourth one we had had in the two and a half years…had changed her schedule a bit this week.  She was supposed to come on Wednesday but said she had to change it because of a meeting in Skokie she was called to.  I found nothing unusual in that.  She said she would be stopping by for awhile on Thursday morning, and that didn’t seem to unusual either.  What did seem a little unusual was that she came in hard and fast. She was running around for a bit before she got to me.  She said something like, can I see you in your office for a minute?  I still didn’t think too much about it…except there was a little bit of something odd about it.  I became clear within seconds that…this was it…the moment I’d been expecting for two and a half years.

It was short and bittersweet.  After she told me, she asked if i had anything to say.  “Nothing much to say, is there?”  I replied.  I waited a minute and then said,  “Well, I’ll have to get my personal things out of the office.”  A little later, “You collect a lot of stuff in 16 years.”  She said I’m sorry a couple of times, and to be fair, maybe she was in some light.  But is was just business to her.  Nothing personal to…really…be sorry about.

I was…I guess…a little unbelieving that it was happening at the moment she told me, but I was not surprised.  I was kind of relieved in some ways.  The only thing that was really bothering me…was how to tell my wife.  I just wasn’t sure how hard she would take it.

I drove home slowly, and I needed some time…to…I don’t know…to breathe…to take it in…to figure out how I would tell my wife.  I went to a local park and sat at a picnic table in a shelter for awhile…probably about an hour.  And then she called.

I figured she had called the facility and found I wasn’t there.  She said she had and talked to one of the girls…who couldn’t tell her anything except that I was on my way home and i would have to tell her.  Turned out that that was how I told her.  “What’s going on?” she asked.  “I was fired.” I told her.  And that was that.  Also turned out that she had expected worse…possibly bad news about the kids…so she was even “relieved” to hear it was ONLY that I was fired.  On some level, she had been expecting it also.

As I look back on things in this last eight months or so, I think I had been seeing…”the writing on the wall”…even if I wasn’t consciously digesting it.  I feel like I’ve been thinking more and more about, for instance, why they would not give me a raise at raise time, and why they would not even respond to me about it.  And of course, the financials reflecting more and more poorly with each passing month as our census slipped from respectable…to not good at all.  Maybe I was even preparing myself, thinking about it more and more as the days and weeks and months passed.  And now, its finally here.

I think of all the things I don’t have to worry about any longer.  I still placed my phone close last night so I could reach it if I got one of those calls in the night.  They weren’t going to come to me anymore.  Lots of other things I won’t have to worry about.  Of course, now I will be worrying about other things that will be a problem for us.  Such is life.  Got a hold of one of those snot flavored jelly beans, and I’ll just have to deal with it.  we’ll just have to deal with it.

Today is the first day in the rest of our lives…or so they say.  At this age, we have different challenges than we had when the kids were still with us.  On the positive side, there is just the two of us to be affected now.  Lots of good and bad to everything.  But I don’t think that life is so much like a box of chocolates as it is like a bag of Potter Jelly Beans.


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Myra Ann

When I was a wee lad, way back before I even remember too much, I had a friend.  A girl.  I think we must have gotten together before I could even remember because I don’t remember meeting her…she was just always there.  I don’t think she’ll mind me using her name.  It was Myra.  Myra Ann.  Of course she had a last name but I won’t use that, even though by now it has changed…her being a girl and all.  Girls you know, still take the name of their husbands for the most part.  I think our parents must have been friends because I remember dining at their house with family some times, and their family coming to our house the same.  I do know that our families belonged to the same church, and of course back then, church and church events were a large part of almost everybody’s lives.  They definitely were a large part of our life, to the extent that we were the kind of family that went to every church service and every church event.  Sunday school, Sunday church service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday evening service, and when I got old enough, Sunday evening youth service, and some kind of study group for kids to learn about the Bible and church and religion and stuff.  And there were weddings and funerals and revival meetings.  Oh those revival meetings, when we got to attend all the regular services, PLUS the revival service every night of the week!  And there were more fun things also.

I remember that regularly the church adults would get together and make the very best donuts I’ve ever had in my whole life…at least that’s how I remember them.  When you get them fresh and warm and covered in sugar, they would melt in your mouth.  We kids would be the delivery people for the hot, fresh donuts.  Not only the church people, but people all over town looked forward to these yeast donuts.  People would phone in or walk in their orders, or they would have already made their orders the weeks before, or whatever, but as soon as some became available, they would write a name on the front of the bag, and one of us kids would either walk them over, or if it was a little farther away, one of the bigger kids would whisk them safely to their destination on their bikes.

I think donut day had to be my favorite event of the years.  They may even have done it more than once a year.  I don’t remember it all.

Then there was the rummage sales, again, at least once a year, but maybe more.  They called them White Elephant Sales back then.  The story goes that anything extra you had around your house that you didn’t want or need or use, was referred to as a “white elephant”.  When it came time to gather things for the sale, the word would go out for people to bring in all their ‘white elephants”.  Everybody knew what that meant.

But it was a big old used things sale to me, and I very much looked forward to that also.  We never had much money around our house, or maybe it just seemed that way because we had eight kids in the family.  I never really felt like we were poor, because I understood even at that young age that with eight kids, we weren’t going to have a lot of the extra things like some of the other families in town had.  That was ok for the most part.  There were always a lot of toys around, because each kid had some toys, and after the new wore off, it was like all the toys became community property.  But let’s get back to the White Elephant Sale.

Mom and Dad were very active in the church, so we got to come in and look at all the stuff while they were getting it set up.  And if you spotted something that you really wanted you could plan on how to place it so that you got there and found it before anybody else got a hold of it.  The catch was…money.  In the same way we didn’t have a lot of things, we didn’t have a lot of money.  I remember my allowance seemed to be stuck on ten cents for…forever.  I think i might have got to a quarter by the time I reached my late grade school years.  So it wasn’t like we could just go and ask Mom and Dad for some extra money.  They had a use already for all their money.  But that is a whole other story.

What I am primarily talking about is that we spent a lot of time at church events.  Besides the events I’ve already mentioned their were also potlucks, bean suppers, chili suppers, church picnics, and god knows what else.  (See what I did there with that God knows thing.)

In my preschool years, I seem to remember having Myra around a lot.  if she wasn’t at our house, I would be at their house.  It seemed like all the time.  And when we weren’t together, I remember asking if I could go over there.  What I don’t remember clearly is the time lines.  I do remember spending a lot of time with her at church and at her house before our school years, and I don’t think it was until we got into school that we started having other people in our lives, other friends.  So I think, that our friendship was formed and sealed in those early years almost before we knew what was going on.

And to make that part of our life even more…significant…she moved away from our little world when she was just eight years old.  I think our family may have visited her family in her new town within a year or so, but I don’t remember visiting her at all after that…ever again.  Life went on for both our families in our own now different communities, and we just didn’t go that much except to family gatherings for the most part.  So I didn’t see Myra again except that one time.

And I haven’t seen her again since we were 8 years old.  By my calculations, that’s 56 years ago.  That’s a hell of a long time!

I always wondered what happened to her.  I asked about her from time to time, but no one else knew what happened to her either.  and when this new thing called Facebook came along, I tried again to find her.  But with the names changed for females, it was a long shot.  I didn’t find her.  Until just recently.

I connected with some of my family who also lived in Worden where we grew up, and if you know how FB works, you know they stretch your connections, by showing you friends of friends of friends and such.  And somewhere along the line, her older brother, who was the same age as one of my older brothers and more importantly, my cousins in Worden, was shown as a friend of a friend.

So I sent him a note, telling him who I was, and asking about his sister, Myra.  Even if she was still alive, which is truly a hazard to be considered in 56 years of not having seen each other.  It took a while for him to get back to me, and I began to wonder if he would, but finally, he sent me her email, and I wrote her a note as quickly as I could.

Long story short, we connected.  And…though it seems somehow strange to me…and yet at the same time…not so strange…we appear to still have some kind of connection…that allows us to have begun a dialogue about…about our lives, and life in general.  As I say, though it seems somehow strange to me, it also seems somehow…as it should be.

And perhaps we’ll even meet again some day…




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Discretionary Time

I was thinking a bit this morning about how we slept in til 9 am.  That almost never happens.  Usually, even on a weekend, I will get up earlier than that because “I’ve got things I need to do!”  But today was one of those rare days when I did not feel like I had anything that I absolutely NEEDED to do…until noon…when we were going to show a house for sale.

I looked at the clock when it was 6 am, my usual time to get up, and i knew it was Sunday so I could sleep in later.  I looked up again around seven, it was light, and I thought maybe about getting up…but I thought, what the heck…and I rolled back over.  It wasn’t too much longer when it was around 8 am.  I was almost ready to get up, but as long as she was still sleeping and the dogs weren’t being unruly, and I had no real reason to get up…I closed my eyes again.  Next thing I knew it was 9 am.

That’s enough I thought.  I’ve slept in more than enough to really feel like I had slept in, and i figured that I had probably reached my maximum benefit of sleeping anyway.  I figured that from there, I would begin thinking that I ought to get up and do some of the things that I don’t always have the time to do, because i don’t always have that much discretionary time.

And there it was.  That phrase.  I’m not sure that I ever recall having used it before, but surely I must have.  Or someone else must have.  Or I must have at least heard it before.  But it didn’t sound familiar.  And it got me to thinking about discretionary time.

I was very familiar with the term discretionary money, or discretionary spending.  Basically, that’s the money you have left over after you’ve paid all your bills for everything else that you need to pay for, usually not much for most of us.  And really a deceptive phrase when it comes right down to it.  maybe the deceptive part is actually thinking that we have any discretionary money to spend.  In reality, we have set ourselves up on monthly payments for so many things that when it comes down to it, most of us are very much in debt and really don’t have any discretionary money.  We just pretend we do…by making payments on what we owe for.

But none of this is the point.  All I really wanted to point out with the money thing is that discretionary money is what you have left over after you’ve paid for everything you need to pay for, however we estimate that.

I just wanted to make the comparison that if discretionary money is what you have leftover after you’ve paid for what you need to pay for, then discretionary time, must be what you have left over after you done everything else you need to do…say for any given day.

Sometimes, most of the time, at least at this point in my life, I don’t feel like I have much in the way of discretionary time each day.  I feel like there are always things that I need to be doing.  And I think that’s what I and everyone else who says they don’t have enough time, mean when they say it.  That there are always so many things that we feel we NEED to do, that we don’t feel like we have enough time…

The thing is of course, that we all have the same amount of time.  Twenty four hours per day.  The problem is, that we don’t really get to choose how we use our time, most of the time.  The definition of discretionary is “subject or left to one’s own choosing, for any use or purpose one chooses, not earmarked for a particular purpose, its up to you to decide.”

For those of us still working, right there we have a big time user.  Our job.  One way or another we have to have money to live on.  So we have to spend some of our time on a job.  We could go in to all the messy details of standard of living, what do we really NEED, and so on, but for purposes of this, lets just agree that we need a job.  So eight hours or so of our 24 is tied up in a job.  Add in you commute time, errands, whatever else we need to do each day, and the only other really big time eater…is sleep.  Again, sleep varies for all of us but we set the standard of 8 hours of sleep(or at least trying to sleep.  Now, we’re down to 8 hours minus all those other little things we have to do like the commute, the errands, etc.

Some of us may have kids, and we all know how time consuming they are, so when we’re raising kids, its hard to even think of discretionary time, because to do the child raising well, leaves very little.  But, in actuality, I am talking about me, and my discretionary time.

When I was young before I was encumbered with a steady job and a normal adult life, I used to spend very much of my time…thinking.  That was how I liked to spend my discretionary time.  I’d still really like to be able to do that, but now I feel guilty about it.  It seems…unproductive…not so much to me, as to everybody else who lives in the normal adult world.  We have been…trained…hell, even brainwashed, into believing that…just thinking…and doing nothing else…makes you some kind of neer-do-well, AND, a time waster!

I am guilty of that myself.  And I feel guilty when what I would really like to do is to lay back and let my mind…just wander around in my head and think about what it will.  I still do it when I get the chance, but now, it almost feels like a necessity.  Like something that MUST be done in order to keep me functioning the rest of my time in this normal adult world.   Which unfortunately, takes it away from a discretionary use of my time, and makes it a must do.

Its twisted I know, but now it is just another thing that I must do to maintain my sanity.  Another part of my time that is have to and NOT discretionary.  Some people don’t understand, and would have me use my time for more productive things.

I feel like I’m slipping out of my groove.  It was hard enough to get here.  But lets try to keep going.  Discretionary time, is the time you have when YOU can pretty much decide  what YOU want to do with your time.  You don’t have to go to the job.  You’ve gotten a good nights sleep so you don’t need to take a nap.  You don’t have to be anywhere.  You have no family obligations to meet.  There  are no honey-do jobs that absolutely must be done to keep the peace.  And finally, there is nothing that you yourself feel needs to be done such that your life will not go well without it.

I really don’t have much of that kind of time. In the eight hours that I have not sewn up for the job and sleep, there are those last two items that keep me from feeling I have much discretionary time.  Like most good wives everywhere, this wife also has a long list of honey-do jobs that she would have me do.  But beyond that, are the things that I…think I should be doing to keep our life going well.

But even at that, I can’t do it all.  Its not that I’m asking for more time, because I know that all of us only get that same amount…24 hours a day.  What I need…what I would like…is more discretionary time.

I am so jealous of all those who are my age or even younger and have been able to retire from their jobs!  That gives them more discretionary time, and that makes me so jealous!  They say, that if we are doing what we love to do as a job, it won’t feel like a job.  I think mine is definitely a job.

But I don’t give up.  Instead, I try to make as much of my none working, non sleeping time, as possible.  Try to cram in as much of everything as I can.  I know…that I am running out of time.  None of us knows exactly how much time we have left, but we all know that the older we get, the closer we are getting to the inevitability of dying of any of the many things that causes us to die in or later years.

I don’t feel like I have much discretionary time, because there is so much I need to do, want to do, and ought to do with the time I have available to me.  I am not able to just retire and live on dreams.  My job and my income is necessary if we want to have any kind of reasonable standard of living in our later years.

But I noticed the other evening, that at least a part of my time must be spent…to think.  And I’ve known that I need to think.  I’ve just felt so guilty when I’ve let that time away from me and “not accomplished”…anything….

Perhaps I can find a little peace in that…while I’m waiting on retirement, and hoping that retirement will find me with more discretionary time.

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Valentine’s Day 2016

It looks more like Thanksgiving or Christmas today with the snow coming down.  But I don’t mind the snow when its a little more than a month away from the first day of Spring.  Its those dreary, snowy, freeing days in the middle of January that get to me.  You never know for sure then if its going to stick around for days or weeks, of if its going to like that for the rest of the winter.  In mid February, no worry.  It ain’t going to be around long.  I can live with that.

For myself, the end of Feb is the line I need to make it to.  If we can get thru January, it’s all downhill from there.  I can kind of relax and enjoy it.  Not so in mid-winter.  Especially worrying about the nursing home, and people getting to work and possible heating breakdowns and such.  Even if we got a snow of 6 or 8 or even ten or twelve inches.  It’s not going to hang around forever.  And its not even going to affect those in the country for very long.  So, like I say, I can almost relax.

That’s kind of what I’m doing today.  Relaxing.  Having slept fairly well, and got up late(8:00 am), I actually feel pretty good.  Our morning went well, and our lunch went well, and I think the wife has even been pretty relaxed today.  That helps with my relaxation when she is relaxed.

I like this blog site even though I haven’t written much on it lately.  It seems things have been…a bit…I don’t know, maybe just busy with one thing or another.  Whenever I have a bit of time, I have had things to fill it up, or maybe I was just too wrung out or tired or uneasy to write anything I feel good about.

And I’ve noticed that more and more, I like to write for the feedback.  I enjoy the hell out of give and take in writing.  I find that to a small degree on Facebook.  Though most people are not so…wordy as I, nor as open I think.  Most of the time only a word or two.  Sometimes I get a paragraph.  I don’t think most people like to communicate the way I do.  But really, its always been that way.  I don’t think most people want to dig in to themselves as much as I do.  And they especially don’t like it when someone wants to dig into them!  I notice a lot of times I will ask questions trying to find out more about people, but all they want to give is superficial answers.  And that’s nothing new.  It’s always been that way.

It seems like when we initially meet someone, that is the time when we will most share with them.  And then, maybe as we get a bead on the inner workings of others, maybe that is when we begin to…pull back from them.  Maybe we begin to share only what we think they can handle, or maybe only what we feel is safe to tell them that they will not…use in a way we do not wish them to.  We seem to feel that after we have gotten down that initial information, we have all we need, and they have all they need…to get by.  We sink in to some kind of ‘limited engagement’ with them.  We want to keep it in a kind of containment that we know we and they can handle with out fear of damage to the relationship.

Or maybe I’m way off base here and have no idea what I’m talking about.

The one thing I don’t like about Valentine’s Day being on a Sunday this year is that, like usual on a Sunday, Monday is the next day.  I mean, I feel like I, we, have had a pretty good weekend.  I just so like to spend my time doing other things that my weekends are far too full, and far too short.  I hate it when it seeps back in to my being that I have to go back to work again…and work for another whole workweek before I can even think about another piece of time like this.  And I know that most of the time, my odds of actually having a piece of time like this are pretty rare.

I think that bothers me the most.  So many things I’d like to do with my time, but with work taking so much of it, and sleep another huge part, that doesn’t leave a whole lot when I can do this.

But this hasn’t gone how I wanted it to today.  Think I’ll just leave it at that.




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A Hole in the World

It takes me a little while to get …settled…enough that I can sit down and write for awhile on these rare days when I wake up and find nothing else immediately demanding my attention, especially like going to work, but on other days off…it could be about anything else.  yesterday, we had the kids and grandkids overnight.  I was actually quite excited to get up and see them, especially the grandkids.  It is such a…remarkable pleasure to watch them as they get in to their day and begin their play and such.

Darn.  It frustrates me to be interrupted esp when I’m just trying to get started.  Still, I know this is my life, and life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.  Heard that somewhere before.  So I’ll try to regroup.

I was thinking earlier as I made my way around, and have thought of it in several different ways, of the fact that our oldest daughter Stefanie has gone on her way as of yesterday.  Headed back to California to begin a new chapter in her life after a year in Philadelphia, and several interim months living with us.  And during these several months, she hasn’t always been there in her space, her presence has been with us in the form of a lot of her stuff, and her birds.  Today for the first time in those several months, both her and her birds are gone.

While we love to have her here, and are always glad to make a space for her when she is around, she hasn’t been around this much for many, many years.  We have made that space, and a place in our day to day existence for her, and have enjoyed it greatly.  However, now we find there is another big hole in our lives similar to that when each of the kids left home initially to strike out on their own, especially that “final” leaving when you were pretty certain that they would not be returning home again for more than brief visits.  And while we knew this, after several months of having her there again…it grew to be more like “she was home”.  We knew she wasn’t, and we did expect she would be gone again, and she was even gone for a couple of weeks here and there…it felt like she was home.

I stayed with my parents for several months one year after I’d left home for good.  Just got back from my Western trip and didn’t have a job or a place to live, and…they made a place for me in their home and their day to day lives for those months.  I didn’t move so far away as Stefanie, but I did finally leave their home for good.  And I can never go back to that again as they are passed away.  But now, I can know how they might have felt when I came…and when I left.

Darn.  Even Damn!  I must have hit a wrong button and lost it for a while.  I am getting a little better about things on computers these days.  I was able to re-find this page, but not without moving to a different location in the house where I could get a stronger internet access signal.  But like I say.  That irritate the hell out of me when I get interrupted.  Frustrates the energy out of me.  And interrupt my train of thought.  I’m back now, but not sure where I was headed.

The word “hole” was floating around in my head, even as part of a title for this post.  But I think I had more to say…maybe about that hole that we are left with when a child leaves home…for good.  Not sure there ever will be another time like this was…with any of our other kids.  It changes your whole lifestyle in little ways.  Some days we would go all day without even seeing her.  She works on a different time schedule that we do.  And like I said, some times she would not even be here for days, but we knew she would be good.

I had hoped I would get an hour or two uninterrupted to write here.  When I am uninterrupted, it certainly makes for a more cohesive piece of writing, but life doesn’t always work that way.  Even as I try to settle down from another interruption, I note my signal going in and out, and wonder when it may disappear altogether.  Don’t know why I get so rattled and frustrated when interruptions happen.  You’d think I’d be more used to it after all these years.  But no, it bothers me greatly.   I can feel my unease, and see the words now all over the place.  A noise outside catches me attention.  Lock me in a silent soundproof room with only my thoughts and my writing tools to keep me company.



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I finished out one blog today, and was immediately led to another…that kind of had to do with the same thing…my time…and creativity…and things I WANT TO DO!

God, I so WANT to spend the remaining time I have in life…being creative!  Perhaps that’s a little…arrogant…of me, but at least trying to be creative from my perspective.  Spending my time doing all those things I WANT to do, instead of just spending my life doing things I have to do or that other people want me to do.  Opening my mind to the millions of possibilities of life!  Thinking and writing and drawing and coloring and building and making…whatever comes in to my mind!  Doing what I want to do.

I suppose the case could be made, that “who says that doing what you want to do is creative?  I guess I could agree with that…depending on what someone wants to do.  But just for the sake of argument, let’s say that doing the things in life that one really wants to do…is creativity.  Of course, I know, there are always those who would pervert the purity of doing what one really wants to do.  So we have to define it, and qualify it and on and on.  What I am thinking of is doing what one wants to do that does not hurt anyone else in any way.  The purest sense of doing anything.   Doing what one wants to do is not pure if it hurts someone or something else.

Some may not even understand that.  They are the ones who have lost creativity completely.  And that brings me back to my own creativity and doing what I would lie to be doing.

As we drove all around to see some of our favorite types of things the last two days, I could feel some relaxing.  I could feel the sparks of creativity fanning up my own flames of creativity again.  I even thought of a new story that I think I would like to pursue…some day….when I get a chance…if I get a chance.

Amazing how I feel the pressure of ‘have to dos’ coming down on me.  A phone call from someone who wants to see our available rental house.  I put them off for another hour, because I wanted to at the very least, finish this thought process.  But even with he extra hour before I need to get up and go show the house, I feel a whole different…feeling…in my body and my mind.  I feel my day, my time, chopped into pieces.  I wonder if I will even be able to get back in to writing after I come back from showing the house.  I had penciled this day in for me and what I want to do.  But one of those nagging HAVE TO DOS has popped up.  I have to show the house because we need to get someone in and get the money flowing again.  The money is important in keeping our lifestyle as reasonable as it is.  Too many months without adequate rent will create a burden on us, especially after spending so much remodeling the one house and being out of that rent money as well.

That actually plays in to this creativity thing anyway.  I was going to write about how my creativity has  been stifled with my job and the other things that HAVE to be done.  All the HAVE TO DOS in life seem to cram creativity back down into the farthest recess of our brains!  You feel a spark of creativity and HAVE TO DOS come stomping it out and dumping buckets of water on to it until there is almost nothing left.

I say almost…because it still has not totally killed me yet.  I still WANT to do creative things.  I still even NEED to do creative things.  With most people…you’ve got to wonder.

It’s getting time that I’ll have to go on over there in the next few minutes.  I think this will end up being a short blog.  Just as well.  I got to zoning out a little earlier and it’s not about the size of the entry anyway.

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