Nursery Rhymes For Children

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So when it comes to free thought, mine may be closer to connected that one might think.  Last night, around bedtime, the General wanted to know what I was doing and I said: “I’m winding clocks.”  Think it through.  I’ve got eight clocks that chime at fifteen- minute intervals.  At some point shortly before bedtime, I noticed that one of the clocks had stopped running altogether and that another wasn’t in proper sync with the correct number of chimes at fifteen-minute intervals. Subsequently, in getting it wound and properly set, the rhythm or rotation was slightly off. Consequently, I inadvertently went passed the actual time before it was chiming and striking at the correct intervals and reflecting the current time. Long story short, getting it correct was a time consuming process.  Unfortunately, I didn’t start the process until bedtime.

 

Almost with the thrill of a kid in a candy store, befor I actually went to bed last night I was elated that all eight clocks were once again operational and doing what wind-up clocks are designed to do.  It was more than three-part-harmony. It was more like two quartets of clocks melodiously singing their sound into the night.  Yet before everything was in sync, I was moving from clock to clock advancing each at fifteen-minute intervals. I had the thought: “I’ve become the Mad Hatter.”

Maybe it all ties back to my friend’s plan to take his two grandsons from Texas to Nebraska so they can absorb 1 minute and 52 seconds of the sun playing second chair to the moon and darkness enveloping parts of the earth.  How’s that for a layman’s explanation of the total eclipse?  You are probably thinking I’m bonkers.  Bingo! – That is the correct answer. Didn’t folks think the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland was also bonkers?

Okay, so what’s the connection? Wasn’t Alice in Wonderland originally from Kansas?  Do you get my drift and see where I’m going with this?  Be careful how you answer?  You might find yourself on a list (perhaps a very long list) of folks needing a mental health assessment related to cognition. Okay, so it is contagious and it does relate to cognition.  Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was from Kansas. It wasn’t Alice at all!  Alice was the English girl who fell into a rabbit hole and discovered a fantasy world filled with strange characters.

Of course, the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland was more than a little strange.  Okay, so he was very strange.  It was one of the pitfalls of the vocation. After all, how many poisonous chemicals can one work with in the course of a career track without having unintended side effects?  Reportedly, the Mad Hatter portrayed in Alice In Wonderland, a story made for children carried a subtle message for the adults who read the story to their children.

Didn’t everyone know you’d have to be crazy to work in a British hat factory?  There was something about the long-term exposure to mercury used in the creation of felt hats that took its toll on the cognitive abilities of those involved in that trade. If you lost your cognitive abilities it was explained away as “mad hatters disease” or so the story behind the story goes.

I guess you can read almost anything into a storyline, but some think Alice in Wonderland was actually written as a satire on the 19th century British social system.  It was easily understood that the Queen of Hearts could refer to Queen Victoria herself.  With that as a given, all of the characters were representations of various British personalities.  The Mad Hatter represented environmental dangers that could be found in the workplace of many.

It is similar to the concept that you can usually almost always get by with saying anything as long as you remember to laugh as you share the punch line.  Integrate a subtle cautionary warning to adults through the storyline that includes children as the intended audience and the message gets by without question.

What about the nursery rhymes that we learned as children? Was Baa Baa Black Sheep a story line for children or was it an acceptable form of protest related to taxation?  Some think it had to do with the medieval wool tax imposed by King Edward in the 13th Century.  It was a lofty tax.  King Edward got a third, the church got a third and the farmer got a third.  The little shepherd boy who lives down the lane didn’t get anything but a responsibility to occupy his time.

Do you remember playing or singing Ring Around the Rosie as children?  Who would have thought the storyline has to do with the 1665 Great Plague of London?  The “rosie” related to the rash of those suffering from the bubonic plague and the “pocket full of posies” were need to camouflage or neutralize the smell of death.

What about the line: “Mary Mary Quite Contrary How Does You Garden Grow?”  Oh My!  Who would have thought the story had to do with religious conflict? Reportedly Contrary Mary had to do with “Bloody Mary”, the daughter of King Henry VIII.  She was given the tagline “bloody” because of her influence to torture and murder of Protestants.  I guess you could say she was a devout Catholic who thought the kingdom was better served with fewer Protestants.  Her garden was reportedly the graveyards which were filling with Protestant Martyrs.

Getting back to the Mad Hatter, in Alice in Wonderland, some think it was a reference to one of the author’s friends.  He was a man by the name of Theophilus Carter who spent a good portion of his day standing in the doorway of his furniture shop.  He predictably was always wearing a top hat. He reportedly was a bit eccentric and folks in the neighborhood gave him the nickname, “The Mad Hatter.”

Theophilus Carter is credited with inventing “The Alarm Clock Bed”.  What better way to wake up than being dumped into a tub of cold water?  Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.  I don’t know if that makes him the mad hatter, but I’d definitely be mad at the hatter if I awakened by being spilled into cold water.

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 Energizer Bunny

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I don’t know where she finds the momentum to keep moving forward, but the energizer bunny (I mean the General) is on a roll. Her current passion (maybe fixation is a better word) is to rid the premises of things we no longer need. Of course, none of the stuff she’s currently dealing with is obvious to anyone who comes to visit. It is all neatly stored away in unseen places.

 

Okay, so I get it. De-cluttering has become a hobby for her. I guess I have her mother to thank for that. Over the past year the General has spent an inordinate amount of time in Odessa with her mother. Her motivation for going has to do with her mother’s health issues, but while she’s there she figuratively kills two birds with one stone. She thrives on helping her mother de-clutter her house.

 

Of course, truth be told, the process is always the General’s idea. Trust me on this, I know her like the back of my hand. You can rest assured that the General uses her most persuasive skill set to solicit her mother’s approval to pass things on to Goodwill or “God forbid”, put them in the dumpster. Her mother doesn’t fall into the category of a hoarder, but she lives on the periphery of that neighborhood. Sooner or later, all of it has to be moved. Why not help that process along now?

 

The General always comes away from time at her mother’s with the resolve that we’ve got to get rid of our stuff now. It wouldn’t be right to put that burden on our children. The way I see it, I figure she’s just borrowing trouble. I don’t consider her warning age appropriate. I am not ready for the other side of eternity. Okay, so maybe I’m ready, but I’m not hoping to make that change of venue anytime soon. Besides that, my stuff isn’t hurting anything.

 

Of course, when it comes to tossing stuff, the General would prefer we start with my stuff rather than her stuff. Obviously, I’ve been totally brainwashed by her prowess in this regard. Last week I passed along the microscope that I’ve had since the 6th grade to my 12-year old grandson. He was glad to get it. Truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I pricked my finger to get a blood sample to look at through the microscope, but the process of looking always mesmerized me.

 

So is it in the fabric of our DNA that all of us collect stuff? The most unpretentious person I ever met was my dad. He lived very simply and would never avail himself to an inordinate need for stuff. Consequently, I was surprised after his death to make the discovery that my dad kept a lot of stuff for “just in case emergencies.” My best guess is that propensity was a hold over from the depression years.

 

  • Now that he was gone, what was I suppose to do with a five gallon bucket of nuts and bolts? I couldn’t imagine finding what you might need even if you needed something. The amount of time it would take to sort through a bucket that size seemed counter productive to me. Fortunately, I found someone who thought they might find a use for them. I gladly gave them away.

 

  • Dad had four or five pipe wrenches. In scrambling to bring closure to his home, I gave most of them away to other people. I opted to keep two of the pipe wrenches knowing full well that I will never use them. To my knowledge dad didn’t use them either.   Perhaps there is something in my DNA that allows keeping things for “just in case.”

 

  • There was a set of metal ramps dad used to elevate the front of his car when he changed the oil. My dad was eighty-one years old when he moved here. I remember at the time suggesting that he would not need the ramps after the move. It was my belief that at his age he didn’t need to be crawling under a car to change the oil. Interestingly, he insisted the ramps not be excluded from the move.

 

I had the passing thought that perhaps it was “pay back” time. How many times across the years did I ask my dad for advice and then choose to do what I wanted despite his wise counsel to do it differently?

 

  • Dad also had two sets of chains. I have absolutely no idea when or why he acquired them. I was equally insistent that he leave the chains behind. We didn’t need to bother moving them. Again, before the move was completed, we opted to do it dad’s way. “You never know when you’ll need to pull someone out of a ditch,” was his way of justifying the need to keep the chains.

 

  • After dad’s death, I took delight in insisting that my younger brother take dad’s military overcoat from WWII. After all, dad had kept the coat for over 60 years. It didn’t seem right to throw it away. We didn’t have the extra closet space, so I opted to  play the guilt card when I convinced my younger and wiser brother that he had to keep dad’s coat.  It wouldn’t be right to do away with it.

 

In John Ortberg’s book When The Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box there is a chapter entitled:his book entitled: “Remember Your Stuff Isn’t Yours – Its only stuff”.  He writes: “We all have stuff. We see it, want it, buy it, display it, insure it, and compare it with other people’s stuff. We talk about whether or not they have too much stuff; we envy or pass judgment on other people’s collections of stuff. We collect our own little pile. We imagine that if that pile got big enough, we would feel successful or secure…
That’s how you keep score in Monopoly, and that’s how our culture generally keeps score as well”.

 

Ortberg summed it up this way: “People go through life, get stuff, and then they die leaving all their stuff behind. What happens to it? The kids argue over it. The kids – who haven’t died yet, who are really just pre-dead people – go over to their parents’ house. They pick through their parent’s old stuff like vultures, deciding which stuff they want to take to their houses. They say to themselves, ‘Now this is my stuff’. Then they die – and some new vultures come for it. People come and go. Nations go to war over stuff; families are split apart because of stuff. Husbands and wives argue more about stuff than any other single issue.”

 

Stuff is not treasure. Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there you heart will be also”.

 

All My Best!

Don

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

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So was it Friday’s veiled threat that she was going to outsource the work, the General’s oft-repeated attempt to motivate me to have more of an interest in pulling weeds or simply the fact that I care what the place looks like? I’m going with the latter answer. In addition, I am not a sluggard. I care what the place looks like. I don’t succumb to frequent reminders and I’m not open to outsourcing what I have the capacity to complete. I could help the General eradicate her undue stress related to the yard, but I think she rather enjoys keeping on top of things. The way I see it, if the landscape can be restored to picture perfect in two-to-three hours, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

 

So yesterday morning when the General headed to the gym, I waited until she was out of sight and I headed into the front yard to manicure and rid the crepe myrtles from underlying foliage, pulling uninvited weeds that were voluntarily emerging through the river rock and trimming away salvia along the side walk.

 

By 10:30 a.m., I was almost done. About that same time, the General returned home and handing me a bottle of cold water and announced that I was done. After all, it was hotter than Houston outside and she said I was as red as a beet. She gave me kudos for the improved look and suggested I cool my jets for the rest of the day. Before she finished her repertoire, her impromptu speech fell somewhat short of “you are my knight in shining armor”. She threw in something about not having the good sense to wear a hat or to apply sunscreen. On the upside, she liked the way the yard looked.

 

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I can’t take credit for the lawn being freshly mowed and edged. A guy from church who does yard work for folks in the neighborhood keeps the place looking good. He also routinely does what he can to straighten the fence that the horses have pushed over. At this point, new fencing is in order. I call it the equine effect. Horses look great roaming in the pasture, but they are less than respectful of property.

 

Of course the kind of fence needed is one that won’t bend when the horses throw their body weigh into rubbing against it. I’ve seen what I think would work and it would be an incredible look. I also figure it would cost about $200 a foot to have built. I pulled that number totally out of the air. I actually have no frame of reference other than a welder suggested oilfield pipe would be a far less expensive route to take, but the labor cost on that would also probably be cost prohibitive. Who knows, I may opt for a hot wire and shock the daylights out of the next horse that wants to take their chances.

 

Speaking of hot wires, yesterday afternoon also included a thorough vacuuming of the pond and installation of a new water pump. The old one had played out. The General asked me how old it was and I said I didn’t know. I threw out an empty box a pond master pump came in last week. The receipt included in the box was dated 2010, but surely it hasn’t been seven years since I purchased a new pump? It seems like I buy a new one about every four years.

 

Of course finding what I needed last time was a problem. The folks who handle outdoor water pumps generally include either an undersized pump or one way too large for my needs. They always ask the same question. How large is your pond? I’ve started pulling numbers out of the air to answer their question. When I respond 600 gallons, it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t.

 

Friday I went back to the same water feature place where I bought the last pump. I didn’t find one in a yellow box, so I asked for assistance. The guy behind the counter knew exactly what I needed, or so he said. Instead of one large yellow box, I found myself carrying out two smaller blue boxes. The cost was $260. That seemed like more than I had paid for the larger yellow box earlier. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in what I had purchased, but the man told me it was more than I needed. Of course, he based that on the 600 gallon size pond when for all I know, it could have been more or maybe even less.

 

So where was the General when I was ready to leave? She had wandered off to look at fish in the aquariums. I scanned a couple of aisles and didn’t see her. Consequently, I called her cell phone. She replied: “I’ll be right there as soon as I pay for the fish I’ve bought.” I didn’t even ask. We currently have 18 to 20 fish in the back yard pond. We needed another fish like …”

 

As it turns out, she was just pulling my leg. She hadn’t purchased more fish. However, she did say that some of the fish she had been looking at were $75 a piece. She then added that she’d like to get an aquarium for the sun porch. The worst possible response I could make is to tell her “that’s not happening.” Consequently, I didn’t make a response. If you ask me, “It isn’t going to happen”. We don’t need any more fish for either outside or inside the house.

 

Whatever size the outdoor pond is, they don’t sell them at Home Depot any longer. I’ve actually gone to look just to find out the size. Did I mention the time I invested Saturday morning in yard work paled in contrast to the time it took to clean and replace the water in the pond. I didn’t use sunscreen, but I did wear my Dobie Gillis like hat. That way I was covered from all sides.

 

Now how to figure out the pump installation? Okay, so apparently instructions weren’t needed. There was simply the notice not to use the pump in a swimming pool or to even touch your hand in the water when the pump was turned on. I found that somewhat disturbing since we’ve had the pond for fourteen years and I regularly stick my hand in the water to retrieve the filter without first unplugging the pump. Who would have thought one could get electrocuted by doing so? Okay, I get it. Water and electricity don’t mix. Going forward, I’ll be more cautious maybe.

 

Okay, so I got in the water to connect everything and then got out and plugged in the pump. It made a groaning noise, but it wasn’t pumping water. Wouldn’t you know it. Maybe I had incorrectly connected the water feature. I unplugged the pump, got back in the water and tried something different. Again, same response, a groaning noise and no water. How many different configurations could one try? Trust me, I should know. I tried several.

 

Okay, so to figure it out I decided to play it safe and see if it worked in the bathtub. It would be easier to tweak from inside the house and out of the heat. By the way, it worked perfectly in the bathtub. It was configured exactly the way I had configured it the first time.

 

Okay, so maybe it took some time for the water to actually fill the filter and become accessible to the pump. I don’t know, but I’m pleased to say it is working now the way it is supposed to work.

 

All My Best!

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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The Welcoming Sound Of A Chiming Clock

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So, what do you do when you’re too busy to wind the clock?  Actually, it wasn’t that I was too busy. It had more to do with the fact that the mantel clock I had at home had a broken spring. Was it repairable?  Sure it was, but at what cost?  At some point you have to consider the law of diminishing returns.

When it comes to windup clocks, I’m a junkie.  I’ve actually got two mantel clocks that are identical.  Several years ago I decided that since I spent more awake time at the office than I spent at home, why not bring the ambiance of home into the workplace? How better to do that than through a chiming mantel clock? 

Can you imagine what it was like for Corrie ten Boom growing up in a clockmaker’s home?  In the ten Boom household, being a clock maker was a family tradition.  Corrie’s grandfather was a clock maker.  He opened a clock shop in Haarlem, Holland in 1837.  With the shop on the ground floor, the family lived upstairs.  Later the shop was inherited by his son Casper, Corrie’s father.  He, too, was a clock maker. Corrie also was a clock maker. In fact, she has the distinction of being the first female clock maker licensed in Holland.  The year was 1922.  It is good work if you can get it and it is always timely.   In addition, there is something about the sound of a chiming clock striking on the hour that adds ambience to a home.

When it came to a mantel clock for my office, I wanted one exactly like the one we have at home.  Under the auspices of good news, Howard Miller still produces the same mantel clock that we first purchased over thirty years ago.  In fact we bought Craig and Becky one exactly like ours as a wedding present. It is now over twenty years old. Does their clock still work?  I don’t know.  They still have the clock.  Yet I haven’t noticed the chiming sound at fifteen-minute intervals since they’ve moved to Texas.

It was my intent to purchase an identical clock as a wedding gift for my daughter and son-in-law to be, but they opted out. The desire for a mantel clock like mine wasn’t on their list of things they wanted for their home. Of course, at some point I’m hoping they change there minds since I now have two and I won’t need the ambiance on the other side of eternity.

When I went to a local clock shop to purchase a Howard Miller mantel clock for my office, I choked when I saw the price.  Wow!  I should have been investing in clocks all along. They appreciate in value.  When I saw the price, I decided to go with “Plan B”. Why not check Craigslist before I doled out all that dough?  My hunch paid off big time.  I found a Herman Miller mantel clock identical to the one we had at home.  In fact, the family selling the clock still had the original box the clock came in.  They were shocked when I paid what they were asking without attempting to bargain them down. At least that’s what they told me. I figured they’d even be more shocked if they knew what their clock was selling for new.

Okay, so the mantel clock I had at home subsequently stopped working because it had a broken spring. Now that I’m not working, I brought the other mantel clock home. Presto, it was nice having a mantel clock on the mantel again. I had moved the other clock from that place of prominence since it didn’t’ work.  Of course, I still had it elsewhere in my home, but not obviously visible.  Nothing is worse than a clock that doesn’t work.

What about the first wind-up clock that Treva and I bought?  It, too, had stopped working.  It dates back to the 1920s and probably had been purchased from Sears Roebuck & Company. At least that is what I was told when we purchased the clock in 1974.  Wow! We’ve had that clock for a very long time. My experience in clock repairs is the reality that whenever you get a clock repaired you pay more for the repair than you originally paid for the clock. 

Treva and I purchased our first grandfather clock for our fourteen wedding anniversary.  To date, it is my favorite clock. When I sent it in to be cleaned and oiled a few years back, the cost for repair and restoration was more than we originally paid for the clock.  Ouch!  Would I do that again?  Probably, in all likelihood I would. What good is a grandfather clock if it doesn’t work? In addition, because of their size, it is really hard to store one out of sight.  Nothing is more unsightly than a clock that doesn’t work.

So the bottom line is this: “I have eight wind-up chiming/striking clocks.  Of those eight, three are grandfather clocks.”  Week before last, one of the grandfather clocks stopped working.  Okay, so it was time to gather up the non-operable clocks and get them all repaired. 

Before I went back to a repeat of previous experiences, I thought I’d check out my options.  Could I find an independent clock repair-person working out of his or her home?  Why not check Craigslist before I went to a storefront location?  Bingo!  I found a clock repair-person who worked from home on the other side of Bastrop.

He matter-of-factly said to me, “I clean and oil clocks. That is generally all they need.  My charges for doing so are uniform. I charge $125 for grandfather clocks and $75 for smaller clocks.”  Could that really be true?  Surely not!  Where has this man been the last twenty years when I needed a clock repaired?

True to his word, his charges are uniform. He shared with me that he recently cleaned and oiled a clock that the owner, the grandson of the original owner, had inherited from his grandmother.  The clock had stopped working.  The clock repair place with a storefront operation found lots of things wrong. They wanted $700 for the repairs.  Why not? After all, the clock had sentimental value. People are willing to pay for sentimental value.  The grandson decided to get a second opinion.  At it turned out a $75 cleaning and oiling is all the clock needed.

Miracle of miracles, the same was mostly true with the three clocks I took to him for repair last Saturday. He telephoned yesterday to say the clocks were ready. He did have to replace a broken spring in the mantel clock, but that was only an additional $35.  With that exception, his pricing was exactly as it said it would be.  The grandfather clock was $125 and the two smaller clocks were $75 each.

I’ve never had a clock repaired in such a timely fashion. Normally, I’ve waited weeks for from the time I took it in until it was ready for pick up.  At any rate, if you live in the greater Austin/Houston area and need a clock repaired, this is the go-to guy.  Give me a call I’ll provide his name and number.

All My Best!

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Don

Whatever Meets Your Fancy

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Is it really true that three moves is the equivalent of one fire? I think I first heard that expression from my mother. Where she learned the information, I do not know. I am assuming that the damage incurred to furniture and possessions in three moves is the equivalent to one fire. However, I have a friend in Frisco whose home was struck by lightening and caught on fire. It was a large and stately home and everything was destroyed, so I guess it depends on the fire.

 

Speaking of fire, our fire alarm sounded briefly in the early hours of the morning. It added a whole new dimension to the word shrill. Before it quieted itself, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. It is the worst kind of way to wake up. Actually that’s not really true. The ringing of the telephone in the middle of the night to learn of tragically sad news once you answer the phone is the worst possible way to wake up.

 

The fire alarm simply rousing you from a deep sleep with the unspoken message that it is time to change the battery is only an inconvenience. However the piercing sound has a way of hanging around in the resources of your brain for a very long time. So does the dread of climbing twenty plus feet on a ladder. It’s not that I have a fear of heights. I don’t. It’s just that there is a large heavy bookcase on the wall where I need to position the ladder. Can I do it without moving the bookcase? Only time will tell. So did I truthfully write that I don’t have a fear of climbing twenty plus feet on a ladder? I’m not sure.

 

In the course of time that I knew my parents, according to the actual record, they moved seven times. Truth be told, my folks only lived in three places that I can remember. I have no frame of reference to the other four places other than knowing they lived there following my birth.

 

In the course of the forty-nine years the General and I have been married, we have lived in 30 different places. It isn’t as bad as it seems. We were in Midland a little over a decade and moved six times. Not only did we never move out of the same zip code, I’m not sure we ever moved more than two miles. I guess it goes without saying, “We really liked the neighborhood.” With a track record like that, you’d wonder why we’d ever bother to hang pictures. In reality, with the exception of the last two moves, we’ve always had pictures hanging on the walls before we called it quits on the day we moved.

 

You’d think the General could pass for Tammy Wynette singing “My Elusive Dreams” if she wrote down her memoires. How did Tammy express it in song? “ I followed you to Texas/I followed you to Utah/We didn’t find it there, so we moved on…I know you’re tired of following My elusive dreams and schemes For they’re only fleeting things My elusive dreams”.

 

I share all of that to substantiate, based on our experience, that “three moves is not the equivalent of a fire.” Our home is filled with furniture that we’ve had for a very long time. Actually my daughter would say most of our furniture is the stuff she grew up with. She’d also hasten to say that she doesn’t want any of it once we’re gone. Actually, she’d say that, but I’m not sure any of it is up for grabs. We may move another time or two before we are figuratively gone for good. In that case, we’ll still need and want the furniture.

 

My daughter is one of those people who knows exactly what she wants when it comes to style and traditional furniture doesn’t meet her fancy. Throw in a few brass tacks and it is: “Not No, But Absolutely Not”. She doesn’t want any of it in her home. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against contemporary furniture. If I lived on the fortieth floor of a high rise overlooking the city of Chicago, I’d want modern or contemporary furniture. By the way, modern and contemporary are not one and the same. However, both styles lean toward simple, uncluttered spaces with smooth, clean lines. I bet you didn’t know that I knew that because when it comes to furniture, I prefer antiques and traditional furniture.

 

It is not my intent to start a saloon type brawl, but some would say of the contemporary look that it is cold and sterile. Not me, I’d never say that! I could live comfortably in my daughter’s home, but in a perfect world, I’m more at home (wherever home is) with traditional furniture. In addition, throw in a few brass tacks and it meets my fancy.

 

The way I see it, my two kids will never fight over our stuff. For one thing, they were brought up not to fight. In addition, when it comes to home furnishings, Andrea doesn’t want any of our stuff. Depending on how you look at it, Craig could be a lucky guy. On the other hand, some would say he loses.

 

Andrea doesn’t want any of our furniture. That is particularly true of the sofa pictured with today’s blog. Okay, so we bought it new a very long time ago. Actually, we picked the fabric (you’re thinking we were smoking with Willie, but your wrong) and waited nine months for the sofa to arrive. The folks at Drexel Heritage worked really slowly on the project, but the sofa has seen more than its share of moves.

 

“Timeless” is the word I’d use to describe the style. “Junk” is the word my daughter would use. At any rate, we are opting to have the sofa recovered. You can’t find one like it today and the General and I like the style. We also like the brass tacks and if we ever live in a contemporary style home, we’ll add the flair of something old to something new.

 

All My Best!

Don