Take A Minute To Breathe

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Was it a message from above? I’m not sure, but it came via my iWatch. The time was after 6:00 p.m. yesterday evening and we had just returned from an afternoon jaunt into Austin. The message on my iWatch stated simply: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe”.

 

Even my watch knew that traffic was enough to create the kind of stress that could orchestrate your neck to hurt and your heart to race. Actually, I may have even been having chest pains by the time we got through Dripping Springs and that was on the west side of Austin heading into the city. By the time we got back home; well you can only imagine.

 

Some may call it progress, but Houstonians and folks from California have discovered “The Gateway To The Hill Country”. No one is surprised that they are finding it an ideal venue to call home. The place is running over with folks who know a good thing when they see it. How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?

 

I’d say based on the traffic congestion that we’re getting close to making that discovery. Yet, on the other hand, the new folks who’ve shown up in our neighborhood are precious people who want the same kinds of things that we wanted when we first moved here over three and a half decades ago.   Last week we visited with a couple that moved here from Houston. They were on the threshold of buying a house in a Houston suburb located a stone’s throw from what was scheduled to subsequently become a freeway. They both awakened in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the thought: “We are crazy! What are we doing?”   Consequently, they exited stage right and headed to the Austin area subsequently to ultimately discover the edge of heaven (aka- The Gateway To The Hill Country – or perhaps even one step closer – Henly, America).

 

How did I phrase the question? Oh, I remember: “How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?” There is more to that question than most people really ponder? What was once regarded as “family land” that had been in the family for generations when folks in the area were “dirt poor” has become the gateway to the fast track of wealth and prosperity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.

 

Some adults who grew up in the area yearned for the day they could leave and make their mark on the world. They envisioned a level of opportunity and excitement that represented a contrast to what they had known in earlier years. Many found it. Some found it and immediately recognized it as fool’s gold and returned to their roots in the nick of time. Others simply moved on and forged their way through life with mostly memories of days gone by. Others desired to return but the time constraints related to commuting into Austin for work and the exaggerated housing costs placed the area outside their reach.

 

No one is to be faulted. It is simply that the demographics of life in the greater Dripping Springs area differ substantially from what they were like two-to-three decades ago. I miss the days when there was one blinking traffic light at the intersection of Hwy 290 and RR 12. Now you can’t count the number of traffic lights getting through Dripping Springs on one hand.

 

Okay, so I’m talking out of my head, but I was aware last night that the trip into Austin and back yesterday wasn’t a relaxing experience. So how did I make a 102 mile a day trek back and forth to work for the past sixteen consecutive years? Was traffic always as stressful as it was today? The answer is “No”. However, the last two-to-three years were identical or worse than conditions were yesterday. Hey, school hasn’t even started yet. Of course traffic conditions were much worse than they were yesterday, but how I can’t imagine. Throw that into the increasing population and no wonder it took me 2 to 2 1/ 2 hours to get home from work everyday?

 

“In 2016, the Austin area added 159 people per day on average. That’s the net gain. After taking into account 40,273 migrants, 27,375 births and 10,304 deaths, plus some statistical adjustments, the regional population climbed by 58,301 to an estimated 2,056,405, according to county and metro-area population estimates the U.S. Census Bureau”.

 

Yesterday morning the General said to me: “It seems like you are really enjoying retirement. I’m glad.” What did she expect?  Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. I had preconceived thoughts and to be totally transparent, a few fears.  Mostly, my perception was all wrong. For one thing, I anticipated that I would have nothing but time on my hands. I thought in short order I’d be bored to death. I also suspected the General would think her new role resembled that of a “drill sergeant” providing me structure and a daily “To Do List”.  That wasn’t going to work!

 

To my great relief, the General really hasn’t been that way at all.  Besides that, after 49-years of married bliss, I’m fairly skilled at managing life with the General. As Glen Campbell would melodiously sing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em – Know when to fold ‘em – Know when to walk away…” Trust me, I’ve got that part figured out. Besides that, I have a hearing impairment.  Why not let that work to my advantage? Truth be told, I mostly hear what I want to hear and do what I want to do.  In that regard, nothing’s changed.

 

The most surprising thing about retirement is that I’m as busier now than when I was working. Let me say, there is a hint of disappointment in that. I thought I’d have a lot more time for reading, but it becomes a trade-off. I have to let something else slide to find the time to read. Thankfully, I’m not burning four hours of my day each day in traffic. Consequently, the quality of my life has risen significantly.

 

Maybe it was because I didn’t have a good option other than to commute through the quagmire of traffic, but how did I do that for past sixteen years?  I loved my job and I loved my home and I wanted it all. But having it all, represented more stress than I realized. I am significantly more rested and more relaxed now than when I spent twenty hours a week in the car.

 

The message on my iWatch came at a good time. I needed the reminder: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe. How about you? I’d highly recommend it.

All My Best!

Don

The Great American Eclipse

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I like to think of myself as the king of adventure.  Of course, some folks would describe that as a delusional misrepresentation of truth.  My eight-year-old grandson would tell you that you’re mistaken. He knows that it is true because I’ve subtly and not so subtly suggested the concept to him for the past several years.  Bottom line – we always have fun! In addition, we don’t always color inside the lines.  I even let him steer my truck once from the gate up to the house without fastening his seat belt. After all, he was sitting in my lap. How much safer can you be than that?

 

“Busted” is probably a good word to use. My grandson didn’t know that we’d both be better served if his dad didn’t know. However, when it comes to kids, I think it is important for them to know that: “We don’t keep secrets”.  It is a good theory to learn.  Sometimes my grandchildren’s dad can take on some of the General’s characteristics. After all, she is his mother and half of his DNA came from her side of the family. Long story short, he was not a happy camper! 

 

Believe it or not, I was the subject of his discontent.  I won’t say that he talked to me like I was a step-dad instead of blood-kin, but he made it abundantly clear that I had violated one of the family covenants.  You know: “The wheels don’t roll until the seat belt goes click.”  I agree with that 100%; however, that surely doesn’t include from the gate of the driveway up to the house.  I probably should have cut him some slack. After four tours of duty in far-away and not-so-nice places, who could blame him if he was a little uptight?  Then again, it could be the DNA? 

 

 Okay, so I mostly play it safe and I always color within the boundaries of my sense of how far I can bend without breaking. After all, I’ve never ridden 2.7 seconds on the back of a bull name named “Fumanchu”. But, I might one day. You just never know. When it comes to “granddad”, I like to keep folks guessing.  However, I figure attempting to ride on the back of a bull named “Fumanchu” would break me for sure; maybe even for good?

 

Yesterday I was a little taken back when a close friend mentioned the adventure he has in mind for his nine and eleven year old grandsons.  In the world of children, I suspect he is soon to be elevated to sainthood if he is not already there. He is actually going to ensure that this year’s “Great American Eclipse” (the first in 100 years) will be etched in stone in the resources of their memories.  His logic seems sound, “If the total eclipse in Texas is only going to seem like half of an eclipse, why not go-the-distance and see it unimpeded from Nebraska?

 

I know, some of you fellow-Texans are now scratching your heads.  Actually, some of my new friends in Oklahoma are probably scratching their heads as well.  Even from Oklahoma it is still “a fer drive” to get to Nebraska? So is my friend who is probably ten-to-fifteen years my junior playing with a full deck of cards? Sure, he is going to make some brownie points with his grandsons, but at “Oh what a price!”  If I rode in a car all the way to Nebraska, someone would have to help me out. I am seventy-years- old and I’ve never been to Nebraska.  Isn’t that a long, long way from Texas?   Doesn’t that add a whole new concept to the term “road-trip?”

 

When I think of a perfect meal, grilled corn on the cob is fairly tasty with a savored Omaha rib-eye steak, but I’ve never picked cotton and I don’t routinely husk corn. Every time I husk an ear of corn, I have the thought: “I’d hate to do this for a living”. Besides that, don’t they have machines that husk corn? Some of you are thinking I’ve turned down a dead-end road, but it all gets back to word association.  Besides that, isn’t Omaha in Nebraska?

 

I don’t know much about football. Some of you are now thinking “my not knowing much” is a universal characteristic and it isn’t limited to my understanding of sports. When I think Nebraska, I think Cornhuskers. Maybe a lot of people do, but that has not always been the case. 

 

In years gone by before the1900s, Nebraska football teams were known by a variety of different names. How does “Rattlesnake Boys”, “Antelopes” or “Bugeaters” sound?  In the late 1890s the Bugeaters were highly regarded as a WINNING team.  The name came from insect-devouring bull bats. 

 

I mean, how many cobs of corn do you have to husk before you think naming a team after insect-devouring bull bats is a good idea?  I don’t know.  At any rate, the Bugeaters incurred a heart breaking loss after a ten-year winning streak and the team was rebranded as Cornhuskers.  If you can figure it out, you’re smarter than me. Of course, even if you can’t you’re probably still smarter than me.  I’m the guy who got up at 5:00 a.m. to write all this nonsense down and some people won’t even read it because it is too long.

 

So maybe I’m not the king of adventure after all. I’m thinking my friend who is driving from Texas to Nebraska to orchestrate lifelong memories for his two grandsons is at the top of the leaderboard. In addition, before the day is done, I bet he never forgets it either. 

 

After all, the last solar eclipse to cross the entire United States from Washington to Florida occurred in 1918. My friend and his two Texas born grandsons will see it all in person. I just hope they remember to get the protective eyeglasses. Of course, I’m sure my friend has already purchased them. He is a planner and he thinks of everything. He’s been planning this trip for over two months.

 

Truth be told, I didn’t even know we were set to have a solar eclipse until this past Sunday when my son-in-law said they had ordered protective glasses for all of us to stare directly into the sun without damaging our retinas.  Wouldn’t that have to hurt? 

 

Someone expressed it this way:If you’ve been avoiding the news for the past six months (and hey, I don’t blame you) you may have missed that America’s about to experience its first total eclipse of the sun in 38 years. On August 21 the moon will completely blot out the sun, and stretches of the United States will be in complete darkness as the moon casts its shadow. During an eclipse like this, the temperature drops, light takes on a spooky filtered effect, and the sun’s corona is visible as a spectacular aura around the moon, just for a moment.

 

“People are rightfully stoked. This is the first time since 1979 the US has been in the path of a full eclipse, and even then it was visible only in six Northwestern states. This year’s will cross the country from Oregon to South Carolina, marking the first time in 99 years that we’ve had a coast-to-coast eclipse”.

 

So my friend and his grandsons are set to get the full picture of the Great American Eclipse from somewhere in Nebraska. Now let me get this straight.  Is it really true that the full view from North Platte, NE (with protective glasses of course) is anticipated to last only one minute and 52 seconds?

Don’t hear me wrong. This is a big deal for North Platte and the Texans who’ll see more than they would if they were still in Texas. Reportedly, North Platte is known for its hospitality.  In addition, it is the home of the world famous “World War II North Platte Canteen where volunteers greeted more than six million service men and women on their way to and from the front lines of WWII.  If I drove from Texas to Nebraska, I’d head directly to the North Platte Canteen.  I’d need more than a drink.  I’d need assistance getting out of the car.

Truthfully the ranching communities in the Nebraska sand hills are pulling out all the stops and opening their homes to offer unique lodging opportunities. That sounds a lot to me like the sound of money in a slot machine.  I said it earlier. Perhaps you missed it or may have thought I was figuratively speaking when I said “And at ‘Oh what a price.”  The closet my friend could get to making hotel reservations in Nebraska wasn’t very close.

I’ve never stayed in a Super 8 motel, but I thought “super” was a little overstated from the looks of things on the outside.  I’ve learned that you get a better venue out of a hotel through Priceline, but the Cornhusker who owns the Super 8 Motel on cornhusker soil is “cashing in” so to speak. After all, this is a once in a lifetime kind of experience.  That being said, “$1,600 a night” to stay anywhere seems a bit over the top, but for a Super 8 experience?  Are you kidding me?

My smart friend from Texas who is on his way to the top of the “Granddad Leaderboard” is opting to stay 90 miles away in Kansas.  $1,600 for a Super 8 room in Nebraska seemed a little steep for him as well.

I’ll be eager for the rest of the story once he returns.  My apologies to my two grandsons if they read today’s blog and want to tag along with my friend’s grandsons. Granddad is going to have to pass this one up.  I might consider it, but it seems like a really long ride for one minute and 52 seconds.  I’d take my chances for 2.7 seconds on the back of “Fumanchu” before I signed up for a road trip to Nebraska.

All My Best! 

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Don

The Pied Piper

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The little guy was absolutely precious. At first he was shy and self-protectively content in in close proximity to his mother’s arms or those of his father.  I understand that self-protective stance represents secure attachment and really should be regarded as a highly desired trait. Most folks intuitively think otherwise, but they don’t know what they don’t know.  I probably wouldn’t know it either, but I have the good fortune of having a child welfare background and I actually learned a few things about child development across the years.

Of course, as the evening wore on the little guy intuitively warmed to the General and myself.  It isn’t that I know all the tricks of the trade, I don’t. But having been a kid I know the things that were always a welcoming discovery for me.  Take for example, a bottle of chocolate milk. Anticipating the family’s coming for grilled burgers, I picked up a bottle of chocolate milk at the grocery store.  Pardon the pun, but that had to be good for brownie points with a two year old.

Maybe he picked up on the sparkle in my eyes when I talked of chocolate milk. I even had the thought as I talked that I wouldn’t mind having a glass myself.  I generally hate going to the grocery store for anything other than a steak to grill, but if I find myself in the dairy section, I have a tendency for a chocolate milk drift.  I buy a quart for my own consumption and it is gone before I get back home.  Sometimes it just feels good to be a kid again.

When I mentioned the chocolate milk, the mother said: “Maybe he’d like it. He’s never had chocolate milk before.”  Wow!  Could that really be true?  I countered, “Oh, then he doesn’t have to try it.  I just thought it was something he’d enjoy.”  She smiled and said, “No let’s try it. I like chocolate milk myself.”

The dad went out to the car to get the little guy’s Sippy cup and the rest is history. It was a “bottoms up” kind of experience.  The little guy really like it!  After dinner the General played the “pied piper” and appeared with a basket full of toys ideally suited for a two year old.  I was shocked by their appearance. After all didn’t we just rid the house of the non-essentials?  I’m sure we carried more than one box full of toys to Goodwill. 

Okay, so I learned something about the General. I’m not the only one that has difficulty letting go of things.  The basket of toys was all wooden objects that you’d find in a grocery store.  The apples and bananas and other assorted things were pieced together with Velcro.  So the toys were educational in nature and required eye-hand-coordination and the ability to experientially put things that came apart back together again.  These toys were not leftover toys from our children’s childhood. They were purchased for the grandkids. 

I made a mental note to ask the General about them later. I thought we were getting rid of all the non-essentials.  Of course, it worked out well that we had them for the little guy’s use. After all, he probably had never pieced a banana or apple back together before.  Add to that the chocolate milk, and he was on an adventure of sorts for himself.

I playfully asked if he’d like to go outside and feed the fish.  Of course, he was open to that.  As we neared the door I asked:  “Would you mind holding my hand?”  He reached out and took my hand. It was a “feel good” experience for me. I sensed it was for him as well.

In short order, the next thing I knew the little guy was periodically climbing up in my lap as the conversation had moved from out of the house to the patio.  His parents were very complimentary of our patio area and the outside view. They have only been in Henly for a couple of years.  Initially living in Houston, they made it to Austin and in a quest not to live on a postage size stamp lot, discovered property in Henly.  They purchased the property and subsequently had their first home built.

Speaking of their home, the mom said: “We really need to get a deck built. If you open the door it is a four foot drop to the ground.”  I had an immediately flashback to the first house we built in Henly.  When had an identical experience.  The wooden deck was built a couple of years after we moved in because money doesn’t grow on trees and we had to wait until we could afford it.

Actually, a good friend who had been a next-door neighbor when we lived in San Angelo came and helped with the construction.  Okay, so I helped with the construction and he provided the knowledge base and expertise to build the deck.  It instantly served as an outdoor sitting area for many a conversation and several years of enjoyment.  In fact, I’m sure the same is true for the family that purchased the home from us. They still live there.

Sometimes things seem more special when you have to wait and save to orchestrate their creation rather than having everything turn-key ready when you move in.  I’m one of those guys that need a project.  I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “I don’t half-do the projects I have now”. Just yesterday, the General mentioned my need to pull weeds out of the river rock.  With her recognition of the need there was also the veiled threat that if I didn’t do it, she’d call the landscape people and that would cost me.

I let her word of warning pass me by like water running off of a duck’s back. I didn’t mention to her that I spent some time earlier in the day pulling weeds. She’d make her own discovery of that soon enough when she noticed I didn’t bag and throw away the residue of weeds. She’d subsequently deliver “Lecture #3783” about not half-doing anything.  As for now, I’m content to wait and see.

At any rate, we had a delightful evening with a young couple and their two year old.  It is folks like them that will craft the kind of place that Henly subsequently becomes. Somehow I have the sense that things will be better.  They aren’t the kind of people who will settle for second best, but they will contribute the effort needed to make the community all it should be.

All My Best!

Don

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All In A Day’s Work

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Things don’t always turn out the way I expect, but maybe that is because at times I set my expectations too low. For one thing, I anticipated the General would be gone yesterday morning. She normally works out on Friday mornings. Consequently, I was shocked Thursday evening when she asked: “Do you want to work with me for a couple of hours in the morning? We can either go through the cabinets under the bookcase in our room and get rid of stuff or we can start on the Garage. Which would you prefer?

 

“Welcome to retirement” I mumbled to myself. A better question would have been: “Do you have anything planned for in the morning.” Yet, even if she had asked that question, other than some work I needed to do, I didn’t have any plans. Actually, for that matter, I could begrudgingly outsource my planning to the General, she takes delight in making a list and checking it twice.

 

“Okay, so let’s start in the garage”, I half-heartedly replied. It fell under the concept of “strike while the iron is hot.” She had made a commitment to get rid of the Christmas Village. Fortunately, our daughter-in-law agreed to take it. That made the thought of parting with it easier for the General.

 

Getting rid of the Christmas Village would have to buy us a lot more space. In addition, we could go through the stacks of blue plastic tubs that have held keepsakes too precious to throw away. For years they had been stacked in the attic. Four or five years ago when we needed to replace the air conditioning unit on the other side of the house, I had taken them out of the attic and put them in the garage. It was time (past time) to get rid of some (most) of that stuff.

 

I backed both cars out of the garage. Without doing so, there was hardly room for us to move. Under the directive of the relator who suggested we remove a lot of stuff out of our house so it would show better, I couldn’t even easily make my way to the row of filing cabinets that I periodically needed to access.

 

While I’m backing out the cars, the General moved a rug that was placed on the garage side of the door leading into our house. I had just placed the rug back in its place after it had gotten wet. Returning inside the garage, I was met with the news: “You only half do anything. You used to be really neat. I don’t know what’s become of you. You are no longer neat. You put that rug down on dirt.”

 

I started to break out in song: “It’s Howdy Doody Time”! Instead I opted to let it go and focus on the task before us. Nothing that had been in the blue tubs previously stored in the attic had been used by either of us in fifteen years. Why not just trash it sight unseen? That was too much to ask.

 

Take for example the Fisher Price toys. Any two year old would have taken delight in the windup plastic record player. To my dismay, it still worked. It was as good as new. Initially, the General said we could toss it, she later changed her mind and the Fisher Price Toys are back in a blue tub for our children to one day throw out and ask: “What were they thinking?”

 

What about the stuffed animal the General was holding in her hands? It was a lamb. The Generally thoughtfully remembered the lamb’s name. The lamb was called: “Lambie Pie”. It had been a gift to my son when he was under the age of two. Mrs. Brooks, the lady that provided day care for him had given him the lamb. We couldn’t part with Lambie Pie, could we?

 

We were making a great start. I said, “Throw it out. It is even too old to take to Goodwill. The General was hesitant. Okay, I’ll take a picture and send it to Craig. If he wants Lambie Pie, we’ll add it to the stack of things we are taking to them. So far, the stack included the card table and four chairs that had belonged to my parents. We had never used them, but then again, they had only been in our possession for ten years. Much to my surprise, the Marine wanted Lambie Pie. Who would have thought?

 

It all has to do with triggers to a memory. Craig had thoughtfully stayed in touch with Mrs. Brooks until her death. She was well over the age of 100 when she died. He never went through San Angelo without stopping by to visit with her. I should have known he would have a soft spot in his heart for Lambie Pie. I figure the lamb is better off in his garage than in ours. For one thing, the garage has a lot more room. It has a 20 plus feet high ceiling and encompasses 1,300 square feet. It is cooled by a “Big Ass” fan (honestly that is the brand name) and it spans about eighteen feet.  Lambie Pie was Moving On Up To The East Side.

 

What about my microscope? I received it for Christmas when I was twelve years old. I turned back the years and remembered my delight in receiving the gift. What about William? He is twelve years old. Would he want it? I texted him and he said “Yes”. Okay, so we were making progress. One more thing to add to the stack of stuff going to Craig’s house.

 

Believe it or not, I took three pickup loads of things to Goodwill yesterday morning. While I was hauling junk, the General was cleaning in the garage. As the morning unfolded, the garage was magically transformed. Did I mention the General cleaned the garage with the vacuum cleaner? I am seventy years old. I’ve never seen anyone use a vacuum cleaner in a garage. There is not a crevice that went untouched. You could now eat off the floor in our garage.

 

The project took a lot more than two hours, but the clutter is ALL gone. Even the stack of stuff going Up To The East Side is neatly arranged. There is room for both cars and accessing the filing cabinets is no longer a problem. Even the shelving around the garage has empty spaces and the things we had stuffed into the garage to get them out of the house, no longer appears stuffed. Everything is neatly stored away.

 

Had it been left to my initiative, we would never have gotten there. Maybe the General is right: “I used to be neat, but I am no longer neat.” I figure I’d better work on that. I still like for things to be neat even if I’m not.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

Dressed for Success

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I need to choose my words carefully. For that matter, I need to be fairly selective with the number of words I select to use. Some folks think I write well, but it would be better if it could be read in a lot less time. It wasn’t that I was a stranger to that concept. I’ve heard that constructive criticism before.

 

I was a little shocked when a reader confided he had been reposting my blog. That didn’t shock me. I was honored.  He went on to say: “I had lunch with a friend this week who enjoys reading what you’ve written when he has time to read it. Frankly, he said you write well and he enjoys the banter between us, but the thing is too darn long.” Actually, the expression he really used was “dern long” or “durn long”. Obviously the correct spelling escapes me. I had never heard the expression and when I did a Google search for either variation, Google suggested “damn long”. If I had said that my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap, so I’m going with darn.

 

Actually, I had a couple of thoughts when I learned my blog was being shared daily. I was grateful for the kindness of a reader to share what I had written with his friends. Isn’t the concept of “your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends” the height of real friendship? In providing me wise counsel, he suggested that far too often: “I offer too much information”. Did he really say that? Perhaps, he too, thinks the blog is “too ‘dern’ or ‘durn’ long?

 

He gave me an example. He asked: “Do you think it really matters to anyone that you’ve outgrown your size “36 slacks”? I countered with the question: “What are you talking about?” I didn’t outgrow the size 36, they are too big for me.” When that explanation was met with the sound of silence, I asked: “If that’s your size, I’ll be happy to send them to you.” He declined by saying: “No thanks, if you bought them at Dillard’s they’d be too nice for me to wear”.

 

“Oh please!” I thought. After all, this guy doesn’t wear coveralls and look like he just stepped out of the cabbage patch. He does drive a red pickup, but it is only because he likes the color. He is not a hillbilly from the back roads. I attended a training session in Tulsa once presented by a psychologist from Oklahoma City. He dressed in blue denim coveralls while the rest of us were wearing a coat and tie. Reportedly, he dressed that way to see if his appearance would have an impact our level of interest or our openness in hearing what he had to say. Frankly, I thought the explanation was a scam. He probably really enjoyed the “loose fit”, otherwise why would he have the straps that came over the back of his shoulders buckled to the part that covered his chest?

 

So, moving quickly along, my second thought related to the expressed thought that my blogs are too long, I wondered about the setting in which they are being read. Honestly, sitting at a traffic light and choosing to read my blog while waiting for the light to change is not the best venue. For one thing, there really isn’t enough time. Secondly, it is a good way to get run over.

 

Many other thoughts come to mind, but I’ll save them for later. In deference to the suggestion that has been made, I’ll cut today’s blog short. But I suspect tomorrow’s blog will make up for lost space.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Thankfully

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Historically, I’ve not had a lot of luck recovering things from the “Lost and Found” department in any kind of setting. It seems like it was only a couple of years ago, but in reality it was probably closer to four or five years ago. It may have even been six or seven. For whatever reason, I’m not a good judge of lapsed time. The General and I had flown to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and rented a car to drive to Camp Lejeune.

 

Our return flight out of Raleigh-Durham was mid-morning at the end of the week. Consequently, we left Camp Lejeune before daybreak. At some point, the sunshine was bright enough that I needed my sunglasses. Historically before cataract surgery, I never wore sunglasses. Since the surgery, I never leave home without them.   Even though we were driving west, somehow the sun coming up in the east was bright enough that I needed the shades for comfort even though I wasn’t driving into the sun.

 

Universally there is something characteristic of every parking garage I’ve ever driven into to park. If you’re wearing shades, you can’t see anything. Obviously, I discarded my sunglasses before the hood of the vehicle was completely covered with darkness. I promise you, I put the sunshades in their case. I’m as OCD as the General when it comes to my glasses.

 

We were back in Austin before I realized that my sunglasses didn’t make the trip. It didn’t take me long to figure it out. I had left them in the rental car. The General would tell you that if my head wasn’t sewn own, I’d lose it. Maybe she’s right. I do have a history of not always carefully managing to keep up with everything when I travel. The same is true for when I don’t travel. At least, I’m predictably consistent. On the other hand, that obviously isn’t always a good thing.

 

I have left belts, shoes, my computer charger and several other things in hotel rooms. Of course, I always discover early on the error of my ways. When I call housekeeping, they promise to check immediately. In short order or way late, they call me back and confirm that they did not find my misplaced item. Of course, they will let me know if it surfaces. Predictably, it never does. I always find that a bit suspicious, but how can you prove they didn’t?

 

The sunglasses I left behind were prescription sunglasses. Consequently, apart from looking really cool if you put them on, anyone finding them wouldn’t be able to see anything out of them. They were my glasses. They were made to correct my vision. When I picked the frames out, I had no idea who Versace was or that he was a fashion designer killed by a close friend. The way I see it, “If friends don’t let friends drive drunk”, they certainly don’t kill them either. That simply is unacceptable! Versace’s name appeared on the earpieces of my glasses, but I bought them anyway simply because it was a good look. I had never heard of Versace.

 

Across the year and a half that I wore the sunglasses before I lost them, folks periodically commented on the glasses. Generally, they were being complimentary. They really did look a lot better than the Ray Ban frames I’m currently wearing. At any rate, the car rental place never notified me that my glasses were found or subsequently returned them to me. I’m still wondering “why?”

 

Until yesterday morning, my only positive lost and found story relates to an experience that occurred without my realizing that I had lost anything until it was subsequently returned. I had taken shirts to the laundry and when I went to pick them up, the person working at the cleaners also returned $60.00 to me. The cash was located in one of my shirt pockets. That was back in the good ole days prior to retirement when the General doled out my allowance (aka – lunch money). The amount was set in stone for the past fifteen years. It was $60.00 a week. Now that I’m retired and seldom out and about, the amount has been reduced by the in-house banker to $40.00. I thought it was a bit unnecessary for the General to be so stingy, but I’m better served to do it her way.

 

In the early morning hours yesterday before I got out of bed, I replayed the issue concerning the missing key to the Miata over in my mind. I am the only person that has ever driven the car. Consequently, if the keys are lost (and they were), I am responsible. Before I drifted off to sleep on Monday night, I had concluded that I obviously took trousers to the laundry and that the keys had to be in the pocket of something I had taken to be washed or dry cleaned. Could it be that the key is in their lost and found? Doubtful? “Yes”, but I had literally looked everywhere else.

 

It was a long shot, but it was on my mental list of things to accomplish yesterday. The other thing was my resolve to look really carefully through everything this time. I had previously looked here and there, but I was determined to leave no stone unturned. Interestingly, I even prayed: “God, I really need your help to find this key. Please help me.” Did I selfishly pray that prayer or did I feel led to pray that? I think it was the latter. I try not to attempt to use God as a Genie in a Bottle.

 

Okay, so I started on the top rack of my closet and went through every suit or sports coat that I own. I hadn’t looked there before primarily because I don’t normally wear a suit when I drive the car. Of course, there were a couple of Sundays I drove to church in the Miata. Maybe, just maybe, I had dropped the key in the inside pocket of one of my suits. Sure, that had to be it. Doesn’t that sound plausible? Disappointingly, it wasn’t.

 

When that figuratively didn’t pan out, I went through the pockets of all my casual slacks. From there, I checked all of my dress pants. It was futile. The keys were nowhere to be found. I actually had walked out of the closet and found myself saying again, “God I really need your help.” I walked back inside the closet and opted to look on the other side of my casual slacks. There was three pair of walking shorts on hangers. I had several pairs of shorts folded and laying flat on a shelf. They are the ones I most often wear. I had already checked them. What about the three pair hanging in my closet?

 

I emerged from the closet singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The key to the Miata was in the first pair of shorts I took off the hanger. The heartfelt expression, “Thank your Lord” genuinely came out of my mouth. It really was an answer to prayer.  I am now ready to roll and I have a choice of which key to use.

 

All My Best!

Don

Home Sweet Home

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On the outside chance that our home sales, I’ve taken the opportunity to look around at the Dripping Springs housing market at new home construction this week. I’ve found some incredible homes that at face value are affordable and filled with the latest and greatest comfort features.   Unfortunately, there is a lot more to buying a house than the price of the house.

 

Maybe it is like reading the small print, but the property taxes vary by neighborhood and amenities. In fact, there are a couple of areas where simply paying the property taxes would feel like a high dollar mortgage payment for life even if the home’s purchase was a cash deal. Throw in HOA fees and heaven only knows what else, and you could find that home ownership is a lot like being married. You know what they say: “Till death do us part”.

 

In the decade that we were in Midland, we purchased four different houses. By the time we had them landscaped and decorated to fit my taste (oops, I mean our taste), it was time to move on. I can’t say it was an inexpensive hobby because the General sometimes was more of a reluctant participant than an active “let’s do this now” kind of partner.

 

The most trouble I’ve ever found myself in was when a realtor called my wife to ask to set up an appointment to show our house. I had talked to him at church on a Sunday morning and he telephoned three days later. You’d have thought he’d have given me some time to work this deal out at home before he called, but he had no idea that she didn’t know.

 

As it turned out, it wasn’t the beginning of WWIII, but the initial discussion was memorable. I actually went to bed that night thinking I needed therapy. I obviously have attachment issues when it comes to housing. So by the next morning, I apologized profusely and said that of course the General was right and that we weren’t going to sell the house. It was all so confusing, but trust me I remember it clearly. By the next morning, she woke up thinking I was right. We needed to sell the house. I decided to go with it. After all, don’t say I’m not flexible.

 

Of course, I could understand her initial reluctance. We had only been in the house nine months. To the General’s credit, we had both worked really hard to spruce the place up. It looked good when we bought it, but it looked a lot better by the time we left. Did I mention I enjoy hanging wallpaper? Removing the old wallpaper is the part I don’t enjoy. Trust me, the General doesn’t enjoy that part either. As far as hanging wallpaper, she’s never tried that.

 

Like I said, “We had been in the home for nine months”. I had also changed the color of the outside trim. As luck would have it, the windows were wooden frames and they had to be painted as well. I thought I’d never finish the job. My primary reason for selling the house had to do with the pool. Long story – short, I was too old to be a pool boy. The pool had self-cleaning equipment, but trust me that wasn’t enough. Nothing is prettier than a pristine looking pool with surrounding landscaping. By the same token, nothing looks worse that a pool that isn’t pristine.

 

When it comes to a pool, I am as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) as the General. Consequently, I quickly discovered that maintaining the pool wasn’t one of the joys associated to living. In addition, the leaves from the neighbor’s trees were intuitively drawn to my pool whenever the wind blew. It was almost as though “mother nature” was against me. Chicago may have the reputation for being the windy city, but Midland has its share and it is often filled with sand. That, too, doesn’t look good in a pool.

 

Now that the cat is out of the bag and folks are aware that I listed our home, I’ve had some interesting responses. Last night a friend called to ask: “Are you moving?” He had gotten a report that there is a “For Sale” sign on our property. In fact, someone had seen it earlier in the day. Surely not, I thought. I specifically requested that the realtor not put up a sign. Strange isn’t it? I didn’t want my neighbor’s to know the house is on the market.

 

He asked: “Are you moving?” I responded: “Probably not.” I went on to explain that listing the house was a business deal. Neither of my kids will ever want to live here. If we sell the place now, it makes it a lot easier for them. They won’t have to de-clutter to sell the place after we’ve gone.

 

Of course, when we moved into the house fifteen years ago (August 2002), the move almost killed us even though we had professional movers move us. I thought we’d never get things organized. The General said: “We are not doing this again!” I agreed. We resolved that if we ever moved again, we’d have the kids come and take anything they wanted and we’d have Goodwill to pick up the rest. We hauled it in, but we weren’t going to haul it out.

 

Okay, so if the house doesn’t sell, I’m already in over my head. I sold a lot of our existing furniture to the realtor that listed the house. He left it with us to keep the house staged until we move. When it comes to furniture, it is seldom that I walk through a furniture store and see anything I like nearly as much as what we’ve got. On my, what have I done?  Regardless of what happens, I need new furniture.

 

Did I mention, I have yet to see a house that I like as well as the house we already have? Like I said, “This is a business deal”. What’s wrong with me? I probably do need to be in therapy.

 

All My Best!

Don