A “Modern” Classic…..

One of the reasons we added Kindles in our household is because like so many people, we cannot bring ourselves to throw away books and there really are limited places to give them to. By the way, for those who might not know, the Homestead Kiwanis have a marvelous “Just One Book” program where they give books away at different events. They mostly need children and young adult books though and we have none of those left around.

Anyway, back to the main point of the post. We have a stationary recumbent bike we both use 2-3 times a week. When Hubby is on it, he watches a lot of webinars. I pop in a DVD and depending on the DVD, may also read. The other day, when I was looking through the numerous filled bookshelves, I saw Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. Published in 1974, it was praised as, “The Fabulous Journey of a Man in Search of Himself”, and sold quite well. Bear with me for another aside because it’s pertinent as to why I didn’t read the book before. Most of you who follow this blog are aware my first husband, my son’s father, was killed in an accident when our son was only four months old. The wonderful man I married eight years later is the one I usually talk about in these blogs and he has been a terrific stepfather. I was a Captain at the time of my first husband’s death and through one of those quirks in Army assignments, I wound up in a special training course several months later. Let’s just say I was still going through emotional adjustment. During a discussion with some friends, as the topic turned to unexpected blows most of us encounter at some point, one guy said, “I suggest you read  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think it would be of interest.” I politely said I would, not particularly planning to. About three months after, I was settling into the new house at my new assignment, and having put off unpacking multiple boxes of books, decided to tackle that task.

And there it was, in the second box I opened, right on top – a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I certainly hadn’t bought it, so it had to have been one of the many books my first husband had when we merged households. I was startled, but still wasn’t ready to read it. I did, however, keep it all these years and am just getting started on it. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll post later after I finish.

Fifty Deserves Gold….

Last night was a celebration of some friends’ 50th wedding anniversary and recently another couple we know celebrated their 62d. I fondly remember both sets of grandparents 50th and my sister and her husband don’t have too much longer to wait. Most people have a major celebration as they should although it is interesting that we tend to focus in five-year increments. I will always associate two humorous pieces with my maternal grandparents’ anniversaries. As they were approaching the 55th, my aunt wanted another big open house and my grandfather said, “Let’s wait and we’ll do something big for the 60th”. They almost made it, too. Which leads me to the second item. His birthday and their anniversary were only a few days apart. Sunday was our general family gathering as we would drive the 20+ miles after church, one branch of the family lived in the same town, and although my aunt and her family lived a bit further, they would come in for special events. I can’t recall if it was the 57th or 58th anniversary approaching, but the point is the optimum Sunday was going to be maybe the day after my grandfather’s birthday and a couple of days before the actual anniversary. In looking at the calendar, my aunt suggested this particular Sunday and once again my grandfather declined. “Who knows? Maggie might decide she’s had enough of me and leave before the day and we would have celebrated prematurely,” or something like that was his wry response.

Of the guests gathered for our friends’ celebration, they were the only couple who were on their first marriage. Granted, two were previously widowed; one of whom has not remarried yet, but the other attendees were divorced with a mix of remarried. That thought leads me to one of only a few segments I distinctly recall when Toffler wrote his book, Future Shock, back in the 1970s. He said we would see a surge in later-life divorces because as people were living longer and staying active longer (especially working at second careers), there would be a recognition that staying in an unhappy marriage was not necessary. It was a radical idea at the time, but I have watched it play out among friends and casual acquaintances. So, for those who by virtue of living longer and managing the realities of marriage for 50 years and more, it is indeed reason to celebrate.

Safe Travels Ahead…..

Tomorrow will be a travel day for us as we make the annual trip to Georgia to be with Hubby’s family. I gather an actual cold front is supposed to sweep in, so I’ll need to find a couple of sweaters or at least a jacket to pack and go with layers. Fortunately, we’re at the stage of our loves when we can travel on Tuesday and return on Friday and we always have a handy housesitter available. Travel on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving is a hassle we don’t deal with unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m not certain of which “cycle” his family is on though. Like many of us who marry, you have to decide which sets of parents you spend which holiday with. In Hubby’s case, the younger generation has “aligned” their visits so the “distant” cousins can be together with the nearby ones every other year. Since all the younger generation also have children, that means in the “aligned year”, the holiday crowd goes from around 12 to around 30. One of Hubby’s first cousins hosts almost every year and embraces the cheerful chaos. They do live in a perfect place for spreading out and especially for the youngsters to be able to run around, plus there is the dining room and the dining table as part of the large kitchen. Her husband is great with frying turkeys and by the time everyone adds their “special” dish in, you can’t possibly eat with less than two trips to the buffet. With my mother-in-law in assisted living, we aren’t certain if she will be up to joining us and have been told they do a wonderful event at the place where she is. We’ll be flexible on that since I imagine she won’t really know how she’s feeling until Thanksgiving morning.

So whether you are traveling, staying close to or at home, have a special holiday tradition or prefer to have a quiet day, may it bring you pleasure.

Encouraging Military Service…..

I suppose I should have timed  a previous post for today, but I’ll elaborate instead on a post I did quite a while back. I happened to be part of the Army during the fairly early transition to what was known as VOLAR, the All Volunteer Army. I’m not about to get into the complexities that went into that decision and very fundamental cultural change. The point is with more than thirty years now of a volunteer force, and admittedly concerns for deployment to dangerous places, there can be a reluctance by parents or other adults of influence to encourage young people to go into the military.

I do understand and there are physical requirements of the military that can’t be overcome – some of which are quite odd. Asthma is an example. Some individuals suffer asthma as children, but for whatever reason, the condition disappears. In other cases, asthma is only induced by very specific irritants that do not usually occur in the military and therefore, asthma is not a disqualifier. However, exercise-induced asthma is a permanent disqualifier. And not everyone is emotionally suited for the military. That, however, is a little trickier because there have been a great many individuals where that initial assessment (whether their personal view or someone else’s) was incorrect.

For the sake of this post, those who are physically and emotionally suited for service, should seriously consider it. As always, there is the option of going in as enlisted or going in through ROTC (or one of the service academies) to be an officer. Yes, the option still exists of enlisting, then applying for Officer Training to become an officer. Each of the services have slightly different programs and requirements for that option. Most initial military commitments are four years, although there are variances, to include a mix of active and reserve time. If four years seems “long”, it’s basically the same amount of time as high school. I’m not going to say the military magically transforms everyone – it doesn’t. There are jerks, bullies, and incompetents just as in any given large group. They, however, are the exception and a small percentage. Structurally, the military is not set up for everyone to stay beyond the initial commitment. However, no matter what service is entered and no matter what skill is pursued, at a minimum, there will be some type of training that in general can translate into later employment. More importantly, I can promise the individual will have probably accomplished things he or she might have thought were not possible. There is, of course an element of irony as I write this that our son chose not to enter the military. As I said, it isn’t for everyone.

Trip, Days 1 and 2…..

In the on-going round of trips to Louisiana, this is the normal one where I always go for Daddy’s birthday. The flights were on time and uneventful – the weather no problem at all. That does help even though the planes between Atlanta and Shreveport are the “puddle jumpers” without much room and difficult for anyone who is above average size. Not a problem for short people like me, but my seatmate was pretty cramped. Anyway, I stopped by to see Daddy for a while, then proceeded south to visit with some old school friends since I hadn’t been down during the past few trips. This is the annual Antique Car Show in Natchitoches and even though the main event is tomorrow, quite a few were already on display. I think the oldest was a 1932 Ford, although there was a real variety of decades and models, to include a Studebaker.

Today will be all day with Daddy at the assisted living facility and I’ll take him to lunch somewhere. The food at the facility is okay and he keeps ice cream and other stuff, but there are certain things they tend not to cook considering the resident population. I’m not sure what he will be in the mood for and we will see how he is when noon rolls around.

This is one of those trips where I am doing multiple motels; one tonight, one tomorrow night, and a different one on Sunday. It’s the most practical approach even if it means not really bothering to unpack.

The Day Does Come…..

Serious content alert. Yesterday was a long day as I flew to Louisiana after getting word a few days ago of my stepmother’s passing. The event was not unexpected, although there was thought it could be a bit in the future. The point to this post is something I’ve written about before. Once an individual goes into genuine decline, you don’t know what the timing will be.  Without being alarmist, that’s when we should figure out how to make a visit or strengthen contact as a “just in case”. One of the aspects of hospice is to provide that framework since entering into hospice essentially makes the announcement of, “I don’t know when, but I am accepting the approaching stage.” Although I say, “our culture tends to make discussing approaching death an uncomfortable subject”, I’m not certain other cultures do a better job of it.

The concept of “Celebration of Life” does make sense and most people embrace that now, for that is what we hope family and friends can remember of an individual who is departed. I don’t know which culture is responsible for the old questions  of, “Did you find joy in life and did you give joy?” as a measure, but it is a good one to keep in mind.

Not Letting Too Much Time Pass…..

Serious content alert. No, I’m not feeling morbid, but with my recent trips focused on aging parents and three friends/acquaintances losing a parent within the past month, it brings reflection. There is an item that comes around periodically on Facebook to the effect of rather than spending money to attend my funeral, reach out to me while I’m still alive. (It’s a fairly long piece and I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search.) For most of us, not showing up to a funeral where we are “expected” causes a feeling of guilt, and in reality, if there is someone who can use you in particular for support, you should go if at all possible. On the other hand, going to visit the older (which is the topic of this post) relative/friend in their waning years is likely to be better for that individual. What to talk about can be the most awkward aspect and if it’s possible, getting the person to reminisce is often the best solution. Let him or her pick the timeframe they want to linger in and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve heard the same story before. And if it should be that the individual wants to express thoughts about their own mortality, don’t dismiss it with something like, “Oh, you don’t want to talk about that – you’re going to live to be 100.” Of course it’s not a comfortable subject and you certainly don’t need to be the one to bring the topic up, but be willing to listen if the conversation goes there.

In other situations, visiting is not financially possible, and telephoning might not work either if someone is losing their hearing or has dementia/memory loss. Cards and letters though – except for severe cases of dementia, they can make a difference. In this day of so much electronic communication, it’s easy to dismiss something as “old-fashioned” as a letter. And if you don’t feel comfortable with saying a lot, a card will be better. There is such a wealth of choices out there, whether you want beautiful or something cute. It doesn’t take long and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes.


It Isn’t Really Funny, But…..

A recent conversation led me to a discussion about having a “crazy branch of the family.” Most families have them and culturally in the South this is a given. One of our particular sayings is, “We don’t hide crazy in the attic. We sit it on the front porch with a drink.” It’s simply accepted that somewhere in the mix there will be a relative who falls into this category. There are, however, variations. Please, please don’t get me wrong. Mental illness is tragic and in general, we struggle to handle it properly in this country. That type of illness is not at all what I am referring to.

The “crazy branch of the family” type probably actually is more eccentricity, and can be amusing from a distance and utterly exasperating up close. On the other hand, it does make for family stories that are sometimes carried down through generations. In all fairness, people who marry into the family should be properly warned before the initial meeting, although that doesn’t always occur. Such unprepared encounters can cause confusion and interesting after-the-fact discussions along the lines of, “Yes dear, _______does believe blue paint on the house will keep “haints” away and does like to explain it in great detail. I forgot to tell you about that. I hope you didn’t try to argue the point.”

Learning to smile politely and nod at appropriate intervals is usually the best approach and you become adept at knowing when you can either safely change the subject or escape the conversation. I’m not going to say that whoever invented caller ID may have been inspired by having such a relative in his or her family, but then again, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that turned out to be the case.


Second and Third Days….

New Sports Bar in Covington

New Sports Bar in Covington

Ah, we hit a lot of rain (like four hours worth) on the drive home yesterday, but we did manage to not get rained on during the actual visit despite some threatening clouds and a few sprinkles. The situation with my mother-in-law is stable and probably as good as it is going to be under the circumstances. We were impressed with the facility and  I did meet with the director. That does come with a cost, however, and I will say again – go find a place in whatever area you think you might be in to find out the costs for such places to use as a planning factor. (Yes, there is likely to be sticker shock, but this is something you need to know.)

Okay, now on to the “fun” part of the visit. Catching up with family and discovering new (to us) restaurants was thoroughly enjoyable. I will do a separate post later for the two “nice” places (more couple-like), but today I’ll talk about Little Phillies/Tubby Tom’s. Apparently, the one we went to is a second location and we initially popped in for lunch thinking it was just a “sub place”. In actuality it’s a sports bar and grill, thus the Tubby Tom’s part. We highly recommend it, although their coleslaw was heavier on the mayo side than I care for. The sandwiches though were excellent and I suspect the rest of the food would be, too. They had a robust choice of beers which to us is a requisite for a sports bar and it’s the correct kind of ambience. The sandwiches are hefty and you either need to come with a good appetite or plan to take some home. Service was friendly and good and we do hope they thrive as a business.

First Full Day of the Visit…..

The visit with my mother-in-law was similar to with my dad. We/I now have a clearer picture of what the situation is. She’s in a more robust assisted living facility and they do have a memory care unit. I won’t go into that in this post because I’ll be meeting with the facility director later this morning to get an idea of their structure.

Let’s move on to an interesting idea in new pizza franchises. It’s called Your Pie and the building for the one here is the nicely restored old hardware store that is downtown. The high ceilings mean it is noisy, but the exposed brick walls are great as is the wonderful wood floor. Anyway, the concept is they have a brick oven and you have a choice of pizza, pannini, or salad. The pizza comes in one size (6-inch, I think) and you can upgrade to whole wheat or gluten-free. It’s like being at a Chipotle or Subway. They have some standard pizzas or you can create your own. There is a choice of sauces (you can mix), cheese, and lots of ingredients. I had marinara sauce, roasted tomato pesto, mozzarella, ham, pepperoni, red onions, and banana peppers. There were plenty of other choices. Hubby opted for the BBQ chicken as it was described on their menu. They give you a number on a stand and bring the food when it’s ready. It’s an intriguing idea and certainly not one we were familiar with. I especially like brick oven and wood-fired techniques. (Not that I mind ordinary pizza ovens.)