Archive for the ‘ Personal ’ Category

an old man walks in the woods

I have been too long gone from the woods. The trees and flowers and weeds and birds and bugs haven’t missed me, but I have missed them. The musty smell of damp earth, the long forgotten scents of weed and flower, the rippling mummer of the spring moving to the river. The heat rising in my own body through work it has not done in such a long time, the breeze cooling me in turn.

Walking along dappled trails, light and dark alternating in moving patterns, emerging into a clearing in the woods with the sun suddenly toasting my skin. Hot, with humidity drawn from the grasses making the air heavier and richer, following the trail until it falls again into shadow. The sudden cool of that shade.

A bench ahead; a rest. Then hear the birds. A robin, a cardinal, a red-wing blackbird trills off in the grassy clearing. A wren sings out. There are other songs, once known, but now a mystery. A mosquito flies near my ear. Not a welcome sound, but a part of life and nature. I rise, walk a little further and a furtive movement catches the corner of my eye. A snake, never expecting to be disturbed, slinks off and disappears, I as much surprised to find it as it was to find me.

Another person appears, walking in the opposite direction. A warm greeting, though we do not know each other, only that we are kindred spirits in the moment, in a common pursuit, a shared experience. No politics, no judgment, no expectations. Just two people passing each other in the peace of the moment.

I tire. I have not walked this far in quite some time. I wonder why, but already know it is because I had lost the sense of being in the world. I pulled the limits of my life ever closer. A self-imposed seclusion. Having forgotten the ability of nature to heal, I determined that healing was not possible. Here, my eyes have been reopened.

The trail ends. Though weary, I feel more alive. I sit in my car with the windows wide open with the slight breeze cooling me. I take a deep drink of water and watch the other people who are out in the day, enjoying their own experiences of nature, escaping the confines of their daily lives.

Reacquainted with the woods, I know I will, that I must, return.

a return, and a step forward

I’ve received many inquiries as to my current whereabouts. What’s going on? Where have you been? Why did you stop writing here?

Asked no one.

And that’s cool. This blog is for my amusement, not yours. For someone to have stumbled across this blog they had to have entered an incorrect web address, searched for something similar and clicked on this by mistake, or just started typing random URLs into their browser.

And since you don’t care where I have been, I’m going to tell you anyways.

I’ve been gone.

Duh!

All nonsense aside, my wife had been becoming increasingly ill and passed away last July. That will explain my lack of time and ambition to complete the blank book reviews or to write new posts that were about anything other than beating my chest and wailing.

The death of a spouse is an incomprehensible thing for those who have never experienced it, and to tell you the truth, it is just as incomprehensible for those experiencing it. If you have read my personal entries in this blog, you will know that I lost my “significant other” back in 2014. Reading back over those posts, it’s interesting to see how my experience with my wife’s death parallels my experience back then.

Having been through this once before, I figured I knew how I would feel this time, and to a great degree that held true. But this time I found the pain to be much deeper. Not to sound insensitive to my earlier “significant other’s” death, but back then I had not divorced my wife and it was an almost natural expectation that we would get back together. While that was not clear to me from the start, it was an option, if she wanted me back. That possibility gave me at least a hint of salvation from my grief, and sure enough, as my wife and I came to understand what our relationship could be, the prospect of that reunion helped to assuage my grief, eventually.

When my wife died, there was no “significant other” to help me along through my grief. My son, bless his heart, is the best son I could ever imagine, and without him I don’t know how I would have gotten through my wife’s death. But despite all he did and continues to do, he could not fill that hole in my heart.

So, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, don’t think, just move ahead, somehow. And I did. I knew that time would help me get through the pain, and it has. It’s been about ten months now since my wife passed. I was still lost and had a huge ache in my heart, but something unexpected happened.

Someone came into my life.

I was totally unprepared for it. It happened casually. Three years ago she had sent me a message through Classmates saying “Hi” and while I was looking at my profile about three weeks ago, I thought, how rude, I had never answered her, so I did. Just a “Hi” back. But interesting things can come about through simple interactions.

Through this person I started to find my way again. I started to feel alive again. The pain has started to subside. Through this person I am finding love again. I am finding hope. This person does not provide an obstacle free path for me to follow, but she has given me a reason to try and clear those obstacles from that path, a path that we can walk together.

How, in three weeks, do you fall in love with another person? I guess it depends on the person, and this just happens to be the right person. I can’t believe it myself. How strange to have found three people in my life that I would want as a life’s partner. Here I am again, with a life renewed, wondering what is ahead of me, and grateful for the woman who has helped pulled me out of the morass of my sorrow.

Is it clear sailing from here? Hey, neither of us are spring chickens and there are issues we need to deal with, but our commitment to deal with them is, I believe, heading us in the right direction. I love you, hon. Thank you for being you.

how long before?

It’s not like it was a new thought, but it hit me pretty hard. I was thinking, hmmm, my mother died at the age of seventy-two. If I were to die at that same age, that would mean that I only have three years left on this earth. Holy Shit! Three years? Do you know how short three years is? And at my age, there’s no guarantee that I have even that long. Let’s assume that I live to eighty-two, like my dad did. That still means only thirteen more years – better, but no brass ring. So what do you do with a thought like that?

First, I’ve already accepted the idea that I’m going to die. That was a tough one, and by “accepted” I mean that I understand the reality of it, not a willingness to go gentle into that good night. No one gets out of here alive. But that acceptance doesn’t mean, “Ho-hum, I guess I’ll just sit here waiting for the ol’ Grim Reaper.” No, it’s more a slap upside the head that says “Hey, DO SOMETHING!”

Why is it that the bucket list gets longer as life gets shorter? I want to do things now that I never wanted to do before, and that includes things that I haven’t a prayer in hell of doing, given the aging of my abilities. Even given the physical ability to do something, you must consider whether you really have enough life left to do some of those things, particularly when it comes to monetary investments. No sense buying a grand piano because the likelihood of becoming a concert pianist in your lifetime is – let’s face it – impossible. However, I would never piss on someone’s dream to accomplish that goal, even at my age, but I might suggest just renting a piano, or buying an inexpensive keyboard.

Anyways, it’s back to actually doing something instead of griping about the limitations imposed by age, and realizing that the limitation isn’t so much your age, but your attitude. I guess mine can use a little adjustment.

thoughts inspired by bees

The ad says, “20% off beekeeping supplies. One day only!” I cannot help but be intrigued. I’ve always thought that keeping bees would be one of the necessary, and enjoyable, skills that homesteading would require. Alas, I’ve no need for bees now, and I doubt that my neighbors in the city would be pleased with a hive or three sitting in my backyard. Maybe when I retire . . .

Again, alas, that prospect is currently so far on the horizon that at best it appears to be a mirage. A shimmering, beautiful dream of a life directed by my own passion of the moment, rather than the needs and demands of an employer. But, to round out a trinity of “alases,” life without income would be more unpleasant than life without choice (and yes, I know everything is a choice).

A couple of months ago I wrote a “bookmark” on Eric Idle’s book, Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography.” I mentioned something I got from the book – doing what you enjoy for a living rather than merely working for a living. Right now, toleration of my work is the best I can come up with, and each year brings less tolerance. Despite advice I’ve heard too many times, I have not managed to “love my work.”

So, what would I suggest to my eighteen-year-old self, regarding a livelihood? It doesn’t matter. Any such advice would be wasted on that boy. As intelligent and capable as he was, he was immature and ignorant of the real world, almost afraid of it. To have done anything other than the safe and sure plodding in which he engaged would have subjected him to more anxiety than he could handle.

Perhaps I would have to go back further and advise that child’s parents to let him go out and make his own choices, and his own mistakes. Perhaps I should kidnap him and bring him to live with a more adventurous family that would encourage his individuality and appreciate his differences, rather than trying to force him into some image they imagined proper for their son.

Any change to my life would have to be made at a very early point, as I have certain childhood memories of events that I am sure warped my life in ways that were never expected, warped in ways that can never be unwarped. Or perhaps that’s just me making excuses for my own failing to direct my life in a more meaningful, satisfying way. Perhaps no amount of change in my early life would make up for my inherent psychological failings. Nature versus nurture.

I guess these ramblings illustrate why I have had little inclination to write anything other than “bookmarks” here. I’m kind of a one trick pony and while a pony’s tricks might be entertaining once or twice, the hundredth time around it gets pretty old. Even I get tired of what I write here. I would wish that I had something interesting to write about here, but the fulfillment of that wish would more likely be something devastating, rather than rewarding. And who wants to read about that? Hell, who wants to experience that?

new year 2019

Here I sit, once again, at the beginning of a new year. While it is always good to be able to reach this milestone, in the back of my head this old fart wonders how many more he will see. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I hope that this will be a good year. I’ve even managed to encourage myself to make a few changes next year. Note, I said “encourage myself.“ I did not make any resolutions. Those are as useless as a condom that’s been dropped in the gravel and run over by a car (not that I worry about that at this point in my life).

Some of my encouragement comes from necessity. I have to ask myself how comfortable life is going to be in twenty years if even now I have to struggle to either get down on or up off of the floor. Cleaning house for our New Year’s Eve party had me painfully writhing around on the bathrom floor to wash it. Good grief, I was like a beached whale! So I am encouraging myself to lose some weight and get some exercise. I’ve even gone so far as to order an exercise program that I think will work for me. Rather than tell you about that now and have to admit to my failure later, I’ll let you know in the future if I have succeeded, even in any small way.

Fighting my natural tendencies, I need to do something other than just plop my ass down in my chair after I get home from work. There is so much that needs doing around the house, not to mention the hobbies I keep buying tools and supplies for, treating coming home from work as the end of my day just does not make sense. I am encouraging myself to do something with my evenings other than devote them to television (and nodding off in front of the television).

Lastly, with encouragement from my bank account, I need to get the finances whipped into shape. They aren’t bad, but I could be doing better, and doing more instead of buying more would be a step in the right direction. You would think that at this point in my life I would have everything that I could possibly want, but it’s so easy to yield to Amazon’s siren call. Also, combining encouragements, spending less on fast food will be good for both my budget and my belly.

So, Happy New Year to you all. I hope it is a good year for you, and for all. That it will most likely suck is just another part of getting old, but hell, if you can’t roll with the punches, you might as well lie down and give up. I’m not there yet.

a violin? am i nuts?

So I went and ordered a violin. Knowing my propensity towards starting things and not finishing them, and acknowledging the fact that my aging body may not let me continue to do some of the things I can do now, I limited my purchase to a beginner violin. I tell you, you can really spend some bucks on a violin. Way more, actually, than would be justifiable by any level of playing that I may reach.

I think I made a wise selection. I did buy it through Amazon, but I corresponded with the supplier of the violin before I made my choice. There are many low cost models available, but I wanted to make sure I got the best value for my money, so I decided to order a violin which would be supplied already checked out and set up by a luthier. I did not want to have to guess whether I was setting it up correctly or not, because for right now I plan on teaching myself, so I won’t have a teacher to check out the violin for any mistakes I made.

So yes, I am planning on using the internet, books and DVDs to learn. I may consider finding a teacher if I am confident that I will keep playing, but that is far from given. I suppose it would actually be smarter to have a teacher from the beginning because it may help avoid developing some bad habits, but I’ll take my chances.

I have to admit it I approach playing the violin with more trepidation than any other instrument I have learned (and am learning) to play. I failed at it in sixth grade, but I have matured a little bit since then. Still, there seems to be a lot to learn to get to the point where I can play some of the things that I want to play. When an online teacher say that you shouldn’t even begin trying to do vibrato until a year after you start learning, I say that I may not have that long! That makes things a little daunting. Still, what do I have to lose except a few dollars? If it doesn’t work out, I can always sell it or contribute it to someone else who might like to learn but can’t afford even a beginner violin.

Maybe someday I will actually be able to play something decent on at least one of the instruments I own. That list includes guitar, banjo and ukulele, and now violin. Or maybe I’ll just continue to futz around with them until I can no longer do so, with no expectations of excellence. Sounds about my speed. I gave up on the piano and saxophone long ago. While it would still be nice to know how to play the piano, it is not on my radar at this time, and I will leave the saxophone playing to my brother-in-law, who is a professional (and a damned good one, too).

By the way, if you ever consider buying a violin, the people at fiddlershop.com (also on Amazon) were good to me and I recommend them. They go over the instruments before they send them out so that you can just touch up the tuning and play it out of the case when you get it. Mine is supposed to arrive today and if I have any problems I will come back and say so in this post, but I don’t expect any.

It’s kind of exciting to get a new instrument, but I still feel a bit foolish thinking I can learn to play the violin with any quality at all. Let’s hope that I can at least get better than I was in sixth grade. I’m not holding my breath, though.

it’s a start

A small step in the right direction. Weight is down to 320. That’s six pounds in a week. Actually, that’s about what I expected. Losing water weight is pretty easy and the first month of my typical diet can see me lose up to twenty pounds. Unfortunately, that’s the easy weight, then it gets to be a slog. Still, I am not complaining about a small victory. Successful battles win the war.

On another note, wife and I went out to go grocery shopping yesterday and found that our van has a flat tire on the right front. This is one of the last things I need. At least we have a second car to use. Later in the day, while there was a freeing drizzle coming down, I went out to check on the spare tire. It is stored under the back end of the van. This is a really inconvenient place for it, and besides that, it exposes the tire to terrible conditions. While the tire still has air in it, it is almost as rusty as the rest of the van. I think it would work, but I don’t think I would risk any high speed driving with it.

Moot point, actually, because when I tried to find the jack point on the frame, everything kept crumbling into rusty bits and pieces. I could not find a way to jack the car up to change the tire. Not to mention that I was sitting in snow to do this, the flat tire being against the curb, limiting accessibility. So there it sits, a rusted out hulk with a flat tire. I honestly don’t know what to do. It just might be time to put the old girl down and get the new (used) car. I suppose I can have it towed to my mechanic to replace the tire, but I think that is just throwing good money away. I was hoping to make it through the winter months before looking for a new car, but sometimes fate deals you a different hand.

At least it is getting a little warmer out. We have had temps in the teens – both above zero and below zero – for the last couple of weeks and that was getting older than old. Small blessings, I guess, even if it meant that I had to scrape frozen rain off my windshield this morning before I could drive to work. If don’t like it I should move. Actually, I think I would , if I could afford it. Ain’t a’gonna happen.

2018 – a new year

Another new year. Sometimes I’m surprised to find myself still around. Not that I think of myself as particularly old at this point in my life. It’s just that back when I was in my twenties, the idea of being around at the turn of the next century was difficult to entertain. It seemed so far off. Having reached that milestone, I am constantly surprised that I not only made it to that, I have gone beyond. And, of course, I always wonder how many more years I will see.

At this point one tends to look back on the past year’s accomplishments and prospects for the new year. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of past accomplishments to consider. When I ask myself, “What have I done?” I honestly can’t think of any thing worth noting. I like to think that it’s just my memory getting bad. It’s something to console myself with. The best I can come up with is that I’ve cleaned up the yard. Not that that was a grand effort, but at least it was something.

Wracking my brain and I still can’t come up with any other accomplishments of note for the past year. Somehow, not such a surprise. I bet my wife could come up with something. Well, I guess we can count her surgery last year. Jeez, I just remembered that I had my right knee replaced last March. That seems so damn long ago. I guess I didn’t even mention it here. Along with physical therapy, that took up a good bit of my time and limited the things I could do. And my wife’s surgery was preceded by having to put her into the hospital a couple of times. Hmm, I guess health related items start to become part of your “accomplishments” as you get older.

It seems that I could make a longer list of things that I didn’t get done last year, but rather than make that a negative, I’ll make it a positive by adding those things to the list of things to do for this year. So what are those things?

Number One – Lose weight! Oh, how many times has that topped the list of New Year’s resolutions? Way too many to count. After I had my knee surgery last year my weight went down to a place I didn’t mind being, thinking that getting down to where I would like to be would be easier. Instead, I’ve managed to almost make it up to the highest weight I’ve ever been. The scale this morning said 326 pounds. I can’t stand being this heavy any more. Clothes are getting too tight, it hurts to get up and down stairs, or to do much of anything else. No energy. Depressing. So once more, into the breach. Lose weight. I would like to say with confidence that this is definitely going to happen this year, but with my track record, a good amount of skepticism is warranted.

Number Two – Get the basement straightened out. When I moved back into the house with my wife we just put things wherever they would fit. We finally have the first floor pretty well organized, but the second floor still isn’t settled and the attic and basement are the worst. Actually, the basement is the worst, because until I can get to my table saw I can’t work on the things that are going to help us get the rest of the house organized, like new shelves and cabinets. So, while the whole house is on the list to get organized, number one is getting the basement into an operable condition.

Number Three – Learn to play the ukulele better. I slacked off on my practice so am not where I would like to be with this. I’m not sure that I will ever be (or even can be) as good as I would like to be, but I can always be better. This means practicing every day. Really, if I can’t find a half hour every day to do this, then I am doing something wrong.

Number Four – Eating better. This goes along with Number One, because I won’t lose weight if I don’t eat better. As we get older, this becomes more important to our health. Proper nutrition will help keep us out of the doctor’s office. And it has no small effect on the budget, too. Eating out all the time, even something as inexpensive as something like McDonalds, starts to cost big bucks, and the older I get the more those bucks are limited. Which leads to the next point.

Number Five – Pay off the credit cards. I’ve been working on this, but it’s been a long effort. I have paid off a couple, but things keep coming up where I have to charge something (like car repairs, dental work) and then pay that card off again. Not to mention the Christmas expenses. It’s been two steps ahead, one step back, for most of the year. Now there are hearing aids in the near future, a necessary new (used, actually) car, and who knows what else. All of which keeps pushing back the time when I can say that all the credit cards are paid off, and making the idea of retiring a true work of fiction. Ain’t gonna happen, no matter who wishes what. Well, you sleep in the bed you made.

I think that’s enough. If I can make headway in any of those things, even if it’s not a lot of headway, I’ll consider the new year a success. Actually, just living until 2019 will make my year. It could be worse.

I hope that you all have a great year, and if you are an old fart like me, may you live in good health to see the next year roll around. In the end, that’s all we can ask.

long time, no post

Well, that’s not exactly true. I have been posting my bookmarks – reviews of books I’ve read. Even there I think I have missed at least a couple of books. Oh well. So why no other posting?

I suppose because my life has become more “settled,” with a bit less sturm und drang. I know, doesn’t make for an interesting blog. But then again, I don’t think that anything I have written so far would be of any interest to anyone but myself. Rather narcissistic, this blogging stuff.

There are always the ongoing issues. A bit more weight than I like to carry is slowing me down and making it a bit difficult to maintain any form of active lifestyle. Ha! Like I have ever had an active lifestyle. But even things as simple as getting up and down the stairs is a bit more torturous than it needs to be. It’s more likely that things will get done around the house if it doesn’t feel like a physical punishment to do them. That’s something to add to my New Year’s resolutions – losing weight. I actually mean it. Really, I do.

The house is a mess. Not in the sense of dirt piling up in the corners, but rather in the sense that we have not been able to motivate ourselves (my wife and I) to really tackle all the stuff that needs a home from the reunification of our two households. There are still a few boxes in the dining room and the attic really needs to be gone through. I guess that is what winter – and New Year’s resolutions – are for.

Christmas is coming and we are hosting my wife’s side of the family this year. That always involves a good amount of preparation. We are trying to arrange it so we are not in panic mode as the guests are walking in the door, but my level of confidence in our ability to do that is not as high as I would like it to be. Still, we have the rug cleaned and the Christmas tree purchased, so it is heading in the right direction. Can’t be complacent, though. Tempus fugit.

Retirement seems as far away as always. It’s hard to conceive of living on just Social Security, so I’m not really complaining. Yes, it would be nice to have the rest of my life to do what I want to do, rather than go to work each day, but then I wouldn’t have the money to do it. Catch 22. Well, it gets me out of the house and let’s my wife run her day without me being in the way. And I certainly could have a more demanding job, so I should shut up and appreciate what I have.

That’s it for now, just to let you know I’m still alive. When I feel a bit more rant-y, I’ll post again. Until then, at least you’ll know what I have been reading.

Hope you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

playing instruments

I listen to music more at work than anywhere else. It’s the one time that I am in one place for an extended period of time when I am alone (more or less), and music helps the day go by a little easier. This morning I was listening through Amazon Music (no plug intended, just what I happen to use) to music by Henry Mancini. Yeah, I’m an old fart, I thought that went without further explanation. Anyways, on came one of my most favorite pieces of music – Moon River – and I thought I would just make a note of it here. It was a favorite of mine when it first came out and it has not lost it’s appeal. Just my kind of wistful, longing imagery.

There are other songs that I like and that have influenced me, most often by making me want to learn a musical instrument. I love Stranger on the Shore, by Acker Bilk. I mistakenly thought that he was playing a saxophone, when he was actually playing a clarinet in a lower-register style. It was enough to make me think that I should play a saxophone, so I briefly did so in junior high school. Like all of my musical instrument attempts though, this shortly fell by the wayside.

Another song, Sleepwalk, by Santo & Johnny, got me on the guitar path, though that was years in the coming. The first time I ever heard the song was at my uncle’s wedding, played by the wedding band. (A long time ago, my friends – and heck I was only, what, ten?) Anyways, once again, I mistook the instrument. I thought the slidey part of the music was a regular guitar. I didn’t realize that it was an actual slide guitar. Hell, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Anyways, along with every other kid’s ambition to play the guitar in the ’60s, I was inspired by that song. While I never made it to anything near real proficiency on the guitar, I have one and I intend to play it at least moderately well . . . eventually.

My interests haven’t been limited to pop music. Being Norwegian, when Song of Norway came out (a movie about the life of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg), I just had to learn the piano to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. I was nineteen or twenty at the time and still living at home with my parents. Since I was working at the time, I had the means to buy a piano. Actually, I had the means to put money down on a piano and make payments on it. Like so many things in my life, the payments lasted longer than my interest and eventually the piano went back. Imagine the dismay of the delivery men when they showed up with the piano and found that I had to have it put in my bedroom – on the second floor! Then imagine them being pissed off that a short time later they had to come back and move it down from the second floor. Not one of my better decisions in life.

What other instruments have I played? Well, again for a short time, I played the violin in grade school. In retrospect, I feel bad for my parents during that period. Practice time must have been a real joy for them. I have also played the banjo and still intend to relearn it. I took lessons for the better part of a year and enjoy it, but it sits in the closet at the moment.

My latest kick, however long it is going to last, is the ukulele. It’s really popular right now, but I didn’t even realize this when I decided to try it. I just wanted (what I thought would be) an easy instrument to play well and that would get me back to playing the guitar and banjo. I smashed my middle finger on my left hand with a hammer some time ago and broke the bone in the tip of my finger. It has been extremely painful trying to play the steel-stringed guitar and banjo ever since. Part of my theory of getting back to them is that if I play enough on the nylon-stringed uke, my finger will build up enough callus and resistance to pain to allow playing steel strings again. If not, my uke wasn’t a big investment. To tell the truth, though, playing the uke well is as much a challenge as a guitar or banjo and I’m enjoying it in its own right. We’ll see how long it takes for me to give that up, too.

I do think that the ukulele is probably the last instrument that I am going to attempt to play. Um, well, other than that hammered dulcimer that I’ve been thinking about building for many years. If I ever retire, maybe there will be time for that, too. Somehow, I kinda doubt it.