Sunday, February 18, 2018

It Is That Time

There is a time for everything . . . so we are told.

The man who some 50 years ago was my best supervisor during my long career in writing and publishing also was one of the best communicators I've ever known. One day when he was sharing his thoughts on  public speaking, he presented a small list of keys to success in that field. The last one was, "When you've said what you needed to say, stop."

Since celebrating my 82 birthday a few weeks ago, I've started writing several posts but stopped with the realization that I had told that tale before on this blog. Really, I've nothing more to say. So, with fond memories of contacts with readers over the past 11 years, this is the time to stop.

I've enjoyed the journey. May yours be equally satisfying.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Twists and Turns in Our Paths Forward

At first glance, 2017 seemed a rather routine year for us, but although there were no spectacular events many new developments in old activities and a few new experiences kept us active and interested in life.

For some time, we've enjoyed doggie sitting for Pearl when son Lee and his fiancee Karen were away. This year we had many more opportunities as Lee and Karen spent several weeks in Europe and also got extremely
busy after they entered the real estate business. Pearl is a little cutie, as the photo here shows as she celebrated the holidays last year with a nap under the tree.

In the real estate world, we helped occasionally with renovations at a rental, scouting for new properties to be rehabbed for sales managed by Karen, and a complete remodel of one of the houses to be sold.

The aging process seems to foist one major medical problem on us annually. Sandy had two in 2017. In early spring she began suffering from a prolapsed bladder. The result was an hour-long operation. It was serious stuff, but not without a touch of humor.

Recovery started with an overnight stay in the hospital. The building was crowded and the only available room was in the maternity section. Dick and Lee hurried to the appointed room, and arrived before the patient did. When the attending nurse wheeled Sandy in on a gurney, she looked at the two men, grinned, and announced loudly. "It's a boy!"

Eight months later Sandy had cataract surgery on her left eye. We knew the drill--four years earlier her right eye got the same treatment. Results have been outstanding. Sandy now rates her eyesight as "almost perfect."

Sandy stayed busy with a variety of usual and unusual activities. She continued to polish new items created by Lee for his stained glass business, served as a hostess at two open houses at his studio, and helped at the annual art show held at the local nature center. The "queen of garage sales" orchestrated another success in June during the annual neighborhood sale, which attracted hundreds of buyers.

Sandy made what has become a traditional trip to West Bend, Wisconsin, in July. As usual, she enjoyed staying with cousin Bev Tessar and visiting friends and relatives. In the new twist, cousins Sherry and Gale journeyed from their homes in Athens, Wisconsin, to see Sandy. The result was a wonderful dinner with all cousins present--a first.

Dick broke a vow made years ago when he was a sportswriter. After covering some 60 night games a season played by the Class A pro team at Wisconsin Rapids, he said he'd had more than enough baseball and would never attend a professional game again. Well, in July he and Lee decided to take in a Kalamazoo Growlers game, loved it, and went back for several more. They're planning to join the "howlers for the Growlers" regularly in the future.

We got back into another activity from the past this year. Our move from Utah to Michigan ten years ago ended a regular entertainment--periodic trips to casinos in Wendover, Nevada.. We were the "classic low rollers" risking very little and only playing video poker, a game we thoroughly understand. We made only a few gambling forays in Michigan, but early this year found a casino with atmosphere and video slots we liked just 15 miles from our home. We made monthly trips. Sandy has amassed a nice winnings total for the year. Dick has . . .  let's just say he hopes for better luck next year.

Dick continued participating in a discussion group at People's Church in Kalamazoo, and once again volunteered to serve a shift in white elephant sales at the annual bazaar. Sandy always visits the bazaar as a buyer, but this year she shopped early and joined the white elephant staff. Her expertise gleaned from garage sales and operating a craft business paid off. White elephant sales set a record, contributing to record sales for the entire bazaar.

Dick served People's in a minor way as one of the writers assigned to draft a revised mission statement for the church. He also took an adult education class on major religions of the world. Those activities represent radical changes for a guy who avoided churches for more than 50 years.

We dabbled further into spiritual matters on November 30 by joining Karen and Lee at the annual presentation of Handel's "Messiah" at the historic United Church of Christ in downtown Kalamazoo. Karen has sung in Messiah celebrations for many years, in Germany and the U.S. We've been spectators for several years. This time, Dick added his less than beautiful tones to the singing. Predictions are the Messiah performances will continue despite Dick's participation.

Our never-ending home renovations continued at a slow, but steady, pace throughout the year. The star project was a complete remodel of a spare bedroom into a craft room-office for Sandy. Lee did the work, which included custom shelves, work spaces, storage areas, electronic connections, and lighting. Just as he was about to apply the finishing touches in late November disaster struck.

What appeared to be a minor leak turned out to be a huge problem for the large, rock-clad chimney at the back of our house. Most of the wood under the rock was damaged beyond repair by water, as was the roof area surrounding the whole structure. Lee stepped in to save the day. He demolished the entire chimney structure and the damaged roof area, replaced rotted boards, built a complete new chimney frame, and reroofed affected areas. He worked for two weeks through bitter cold, rainy weather, sometimes into dark hours with the aid of lights he rigged up. The results are excellent, and we're happy to be entering a holiday season able to roast chestnuts if we choose and with a chimney no Santa would be reluctant to use.

Best wishes to you and yours for a Happy Holiday season!

                 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks, Once Again

Pondering a holiday message yielded nothing better than my sentiments first posted here in 2011 and repeated in 2014. Nothing has changed about my feelings for the value of our Thanksgiving holiday.


A Great Day, Indeed 


Today is America’s best celebration.  Thanksgiving truly is for everyone.  It is not part of any specific religious tradition; it is for all to enjoy.  For this one day, we can cast aside worries about the future and focus only on the good things that have happened in our past.

I am thankful that I was born in a prosperous nation and have lived a long and generally pleasant life with the freedom to chart my own course. Through good and bad times, many people have supported and guided me. I appreciate all of them, especially Sandy, my beautiful wife.

I am thankful that my family does not want for food, shelter, or love.  Today we will be together. That is the best thing of all.

                                                          * * * * * * * * * *

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Now That's Optimism

Beautiful wife Sandy recently invested a few dollars in a new calendar. Nothing unusual about that, except that Sandy is enjoying her 75th year on this planet. And she bought a five-year calendar.

As one who is a half-dozen years older than her, I hurried to share the optimism by making a few entries in the Year 2022 section.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Way Too Much Pay For Play

My how salaries of American professional  football players have changed.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins recently turned down a long-term contract offer of $53 million. In 1924, the Green Bay Packers payroll for the entire team was $12,000. The 1924 team consisted of 18 players.

Ah, but inflation changes the picture. Yes, but the 1924 dollars are equivalent to only $171,530 in 2016 dollars. That would be about $9,530 per player, hardly a living wage. Of course, the 1924 salary money was not divided equally. Curly Lambeau was the Packers' player-coach that year, and he certainly got a bigger share than most, of not all, of the other players. Players in those days had to have other sources of income to survive.

We don't know the details of Cousins' $53 million contract offer, except that both he and the team have said the money was guaranteed, and not dependent upon performance or other factors.  We do know that top star quarterbacks in the National Football League are paid in the $10 million to $15 million per year range. Although Cousins has shown considerable potential, he is not yet an established top star. So let's assume his offer was for 5 years.

Is Cousins, or any athlete, worth $10.6 million per year?

Those who contend that professional football players are worth their huge compensation packages point out that careers can be cut short by injury at any time and the players cause teams to make the huge profits that enable them to pay top dollars to compete for talent.

Hogwash. Pay for professional football players has become ridiculous. Although some top surgeons in the U.S. can earn $1 million per year, average earnings for doctors in family practices, who strive to help rather than hurt others, are in the $200,000 per year area. The salary of the president of the United States is $400,000 per year.
Racing toward self-destruction?

A large share of the income of professional football teams is revenue from television contracts. Nevertheless, game ticket prices have soared to levels as exorbitant as player salaries and costs for food and drink in stadiums are likewise elevated.

There is mounting concern in this country about inequality in incomes between the rich and all others. A start at correcting the situation could be made in pro sports by winding down salaries of wealthy players and using the savings to reduce the costs for Joe Fan by lowering outrageous prices for tickets, hot dogs, and beer.

The current salary situation is well on the way to making me an ex-fan, and declining attendance figures for some teams indicate many already have become former supporters. Pro football is on a path of self-destruction if  drastic changes are not made soon .

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hospital Hospitality

Hospitals are not known as fun places to be, yet they can have some pleasant aspects.

During a three-day stay at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo several years ago. I found the staff to be friendly and ultra considerate as they pumped needed oxygen into my body. The food was so good, I tried to talk the head nurse into letting me stay one more day when discharge was contemplated.

Recently, blogging buddy Ronni Bennett whose site "Time Goes By" has thousands of readers, provided us with detailed accounts of her encounter with hospital life as she recovered from a major operation. Ronni said a week in a hospital could be just the thing for overly-stressed executives. "They do absolutely everything for you, taking care of every personal and private need," she said.

I would add one thing to Ronni's tongue-in-cheek suggestion--demand that the hospital assign a room in the maternity ward for any executive rest and rehabilitation.

This spring, beautiful wife Sandy spent more than a hour having some of her internal plumbing rearranged by a surgeon at Borgess. A night's stay in the hospital was part of the recovery plan.

When son Lee and I learned the operation had been completed successfully, we got a surprise concerning the room arrangements. We were told the hospital was overcrowded and the only space available for Sandy was in the maternity ward. We wondered how that was going to work with a 70-something patient sharing space designed for new moms.

The attendant said we could visit the patient immediately. We arrived before Sandy and were ushered into the biggest private room I'd ever seen in a hospital. It obviously was intended to comfortably accommodate a fair number of family members who might want to welcome a newborn and hang around for a while. 

When a groggy Sandy was wheeled into the room, the nurse checked us out, grinned broadly,  and announced "It's a boy!" It seems Borgess has added dashes of humor to it's hospitality program.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Let's Just Celebrate the Fourth on the Fourth

The Fourth of July always has been a big deal wherever we lived, and well it should be as a celebration of the day a group of fearless colonists risked their lives to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776. Fireworks on the Fourth, especially as darkness falls, are a traditional part of the festivities that I enjoy.

Only in the last few years have explosions from firecrackers and rocket launches been heard nightly in our area starting June 29 or 30 and continuing throughout the week of the Fourth. Because darkness falls around 10 p.m. this time of year, early risers have trouble getting in a peaceful night's sleep with all the noise that often extends to midnight and beyond. This makes the level of irritation over this extension of what should be a one-day observance of an historic date far more vexing than the concerns many have about starting the Christmas holiday season before Thanksgiving.

What's next--starting early and celebrating New Years until January Fourth or Fifth  because getting thoroughly inebriated one eve a year is so much fun the experience ought to be extended?

Have a Happy Fourth! And may all your other days this summer be pleasant and peaceful without interruptions from unwanted big bangs.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Will Had Words For It

I recently was given a small volume of Will Rogers' sayings, and it proved to be a gem in several ways. Of course, it was fun to once again be entertained by the words of one of America's most beloved humorists. But of more interest, I thought, was how applicable many of  Rogers' sayings are to today's political and social situations.

The old Texas cowboy started his career in 1902 touring with a Wild West Show and then a circus in South Africa , Australia, and New Zealand. He performed in U.S. theaters for three decades, appeared in 70 movies, and published his observations on just about everything in some 400 newspapers until he died in 1935.

Rogers wrote all of his own material. He was an unusual comedian in that he wanted his humor to make a point, to say something true. I think he succeeded often. See if you agree after reviewing selected quotes in various categories from the small collection I read:

On Female Inequality

You can't pass a park without seeing a statue of some old codger on a horse, it must be his bravery, you can tell it isn't his horsemanship. Women are twice as brave as men, yet they never seem to have reached the statue stage.

On Civilization

There ain't no civilization where there ain't no satisfaction and that's the trouble now. Nobody is satisfied.

On the Pace of Life

I have never yet seen a man in such a big hurry that a horse or train wouldn't have got him there in plenty of time. If fact, nine-tenths of the people would be better off if they stayed where they are instead of going where they are going. No man in America if he didn't get where he is going would be missed.

On American Prosperity

We'll show the world we are prosperous, even if we have to go broke to do it.

On Taxes

I don't see why a man shouldn't pay inheritance tax. If a country is good enough to pay taxes to while you are living, it's good enough to pay in after you die. By the time you die you should be so used to paying taxes it would almost be second nature anyway.

On High Food Costs

Got a wire today from an old boy in Parsons, Kansas, and he wanted me to enter in a hog-calling contest; you know I used to be an awful good hog caller when hogs were cheap, but the way hogs have gone up in price it's changed the whole system of calling 'em. It would take Henry Ford hollering with his check book to get one to come to you nowadays. I hollered all morning just for three slices of bacon and it didn't come, so there ain't much use of me howling my head off to try and get a whole hog to come.

On the Criminal Justice System

There are two types of larceny, petty and grand, and the courts will really give you a longer sentence for petty that they do for grand. They are supposed to be the same in the eyes of the law, but the judges always put a little extra on for petty, as a kind of a fine for stupidness. "If that's all you got you ought to go to jail longer."

On Characteristics of Politics

Common sense is not an issue in politics; it's an affliction. Neither is honesty an issue in politics. It's a miracle.

On Political Parties

If we didn't have two parties, we would all settle on the best men in the country and things would run fine. But as it is, we settle on the worst ones and then fight over 'em.

On Congress

We have the best Congress money can buy.

On Foreign Relations

Several papers have asked, "What would Europe do if we were in difficulties and needed help?" So this is in reply to those inquiries: Europe would hold a celebration.

On Communism

Communism is like Prohibition; it's a good idea but it won't work.

On International Travel

A bunch of American tourists were hissed and stoned yesterday in France, but not until they had finished buying.

On Cars and Driving

The trouble with us is America is just muscle bound from holding a steering wheel; the only place we are callused from work is the bottom of our driving toe.

On War and Peace

If we can just let other people alone and do their own fighting, we would be in good shape. When you get into trouble five thousand miles away from home you've got to have been looking for it.

On How He Wanted to be Remembered

When I die, my epitaph or whatever you call those signs on gravestones is going to read: "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn't like." I am so proud of that I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved. And when you come to my grave you will find me sitting there, proudly reading it.


Friday, May 19, 2017

A Poetic Guide to Good Living


Some of us who reach a certain age become convinced we've seen, read, or heard just about everything--at least everything of any importance. Then along comes a bit of  impressive wisdom that had completely escaped our notice.

That happened to me last weekend. As a part of the prelude to a talk by a local Rabbi at my church, a program coordinator read part of the poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann. A fellow geezer stopped me after the program and asked if I had heard of Desiderata. I said no, and he said, "We ought to check it out, that reading was wonderful." So I did.

The background was interesting. Ehrmann was a lawyer and poet who lived in Indiana. He wrote Desiderata in 1927, but only circulated copies locally and the poem was largely unknown during his lifetime. Because a clergyman in New York included it in an array of writings he mislabeled, some who did learn of it thought it was centuries-old philosophy. When Adlai Stevenson, an Illinois politician who unsuccessfully ran for president of the United States against Dwight Eisenhower, died in 1965 a copy of the poem was found on a night stand beside his bed. We are told that Desiderata then became hugely popular with counter-culture people in the late 60s and early 70s.

It seems reasonable that I would have heard of any bit of philosophy that was "hugely popular" for a decade or more during prime years of my lifetime. However, I definitely was not part of any counter-culture movement and also have never been much of a fan of poetry. I thus missed  inspiring advice on what is desirable for those striving to live a good life, and some powerful words of hope during trying times. I think it is worth sharing:

                                           Desiderata

            Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
            and remember what peace there may be in silence.
            As far as possible without surrender
            be on good terms with all persons.
            Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
            and listen to others,
            even the dull and the ignorant;
            they too have their story.

            Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
            they are vexations to the spirit.
            If you compare yourself with others,
            you may become vain and bitter;
            for always there will be greater and lesser persons then yourself.
            Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

            Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
            it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
            Exercise caution in your business affairs;
            for the world is full of trickery.
            But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
            many persons strive for high ideals;
            and everywhere life is full of heroism.

            Be yourself.
            Especially, do not feign affection.
            Neither be cynical about love;
            for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
            it is as perennial as the grass.

            Take kindly the counsel of the years,
            gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
            Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
            But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
            Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
            Beyond a wholesome discipline,
            be gentle with yourself.

            You are a child of the universe,
            no less than the trees and the stars;
            you have a right to be here.


                                          # # # # # 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lady Luck Smiled On a Low Roller

Beautiful wife Sandy and I consider ourselves to be quite expert at playing deuces wild poker on slot machines. We practiced for years during short vacation trips to Wendover, Nevada, from our long-time home in Ogden, Utah.

Of course, we didn't need many trips to learn the golden rule of slot playing--stay there long enough and you will lose. Casinos are not charities, and the odds are not in your favor. I also learned the hard way that my father's advice about gambling in general was wise counsel. "Never play any games you don't thoroughly understand, and don't risk a penny you can't afford to lose," he said.

We developed our strategy in the days when casino visits could be quite pleasant. Excellent buffet meals for a couple of dollars and the famous ninety-nine cent breakfasts were nice benefits. Dropping real coins into slots was fun and occasionally needing hand-washing breaks stretched the time one could play with a small stake. Slot players actually had pleasant conversations with each other. Noise levels were far below those of today when greedy casino managers cram together as many slots with outrageous musical accompaniments as possible.

Those good old days are long gone, but an occasional 15-mile drive to an elegant casino operated by a local Indian tribe provides exceptional meal offers to seniors like us and has a few slots we enjoy playing. So we go there about once a month to savor the food and risk a bit of surplus money.

Our gambling strategy is simple. We start with equal small cash stakes. We play only deuces wild poker on machines that accept nickels, because we know how to play them well to improve the odds a little, and at worst our stakes will last quite a while. We play only five nickels at a time, although messages on most machines strongly encourage playing ten. We establish a time when we will leave no matter what. If one of us loses the stake, he or she simply waits for the other to lose or the departure time arrives. If we happen to hit a substantial jackpot, we cash it out as it happens and go home with the proceeds.

We are the ultimate low rollers. But sometimes we leave with a profit. Yesterday was one of those times. The biggest deal of the day was when Sandy broke our rules by accident.

Four deuces popped up on Sandy's machine, and the jackpot bells started ringing. I knew that was a $50.00 winner for her quarter investment, so was amazed when the total went higher than that. "What's going on?" I asked.

She laughed and said, "I made a mistake. I looked over at a lady who was acting strangely a couple of machines away and hit the ten nickel bet button instead of the five."

The $50.00 win thus became $100.00. Sometimes disciplined play is not the best way. Our expert was hardly embarrassed at all as she took that hundred home.