Tuesday, May 27, 2014

home sweet home

Like most people who are approaching the downhill side of their lives, or who have already gone over that edge, we are faced with some hard decisions
about how to live and where to live the remainder of our lives. We have lived in our house for over forty years so contemplating moving away from here is painful enough. Actually making such a move would be grossly traumatic. We have , over the years completely remodeled, redecorated (several times), and nursed this edifice through a number of potentially catastrophic ordeals. We have poured our hearts and souls into making this house our home. I should say, OUR HOME.
So it has been an unsettling experience we've inflicted on ourselves over the past couple weeks. We somehow came to the realization that as we get older the house and yard that we worked so hard on keeps getting bigger and harder to handle. So we did what thousands of others in our position have done. We seriously started looking for a new place to live that would be easier to live in (no stairs to climb to get to the bedroom), easier to clean (read "smaller") with a yard that would be easier to maintain (grass cutting, hedge trimming, shrub pruning, leaf raking and blowing, snow shoveling the walkways and snowblowing the long and wide driveway.) In other words we have been looking at our conviction that condominiums as a viable substitute for our beloved house.
The more we look, the more condos we see, the stronger our conviction that condos are overpriced apartments for which the gods of housing exact a monthly tribute on top of the bank's usurious mortgage rates. No condo we have seen has anywhere near the feeling of being HOME. They offer less than we now have for twice the money we are able to afford or are willing to pay. We have come to the conclusion that we are better off staying here and hiring the help we will eventually need to maintain our home. Rather than throwing money away on a place we could never call home, we have decided to stay put where we are happy and content.

No more losing sleep agonizing over the decision to sell and move or to stay where we belong. I have been breathing easier since we came to our senses and abandoned the ludicrous condo idea. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who said technology is supposed to make our lives better? It does, I guess, when it works. Getting it to work is the wrench in the cogs of the machine. Most new devices in the parade of new products that never ends, do have a positive effect on our lives when they act as advertised.  But anytime you hear that all you have to do is plug it in and you're ready to go, it's a lie meant to get you hooked. 

This isn't meant to be a diatribe against all the electronic devices that we've come to depend on. I,m as guilty as anyone when it comes to lusting after the next big thing. I'm writing this on my new iPad while listening to Dylan on my new smart TV that's streaming music from Pandora. But how I got to this point is an example of the "plug it in and go" bogus claim that prevails in the electronic marketplace. 

We recently bought a new TV that the salesman said would practically jump up and hang itself on the wall, plug itself in, start the movie playing, and add extra butter to the popcorn.  We were naive enough to believe him.  Of course the installation process was far more complicated than that because we didn't have all the latest software in our surround sound system or in our cable connection.  See, they don't tell you at the store that you will need to update the software on everything electronic within the four county metro area in order to use your new TV. So what should have been relatively simple took nearly 6 hours of trial and error with cables and wires and connecters until we stumbled on to the right combination of cables and wires and connecters.  

From now on when I have to replace some electronic device, I will know not to believe all the outrageous claims of simplicity that spew from the lying con men who prey on the innocent consumers who only want to buy something that won't take a degree in electrical engineering to hook up, that won't require a platoon of geeks tripping over each other's pocket protectors to find the correct slot that fits the cable that was supposed to be in the bag of cables but is missing for some unknown reason, and eventually works as advertised.  

Saturday, May 03, 2014

a losing battle

I was reminded today of how much I've lost to a formidable foe.  After ten years of battle with Parkinsons Disease, it is readily apparent that I certainly haven't won many of the skirmishes in our war.  If you count just maintaining position as a mark in the "win" column, then I'm not too far behind.  But it seems that the position I'm maintaining is getting weaker and weaker.

Today my son called on me for help with tearing down an old wood playset in his backyard in preparation for a new one due to be installed in a week or two. I spent the better part of twenty years designing and building decks, so being a carpenter outside working with my tools building something is as natural to me as is a mechanic working inside his garage using his tools to rebuild carburator.  I was in my element, happily sawing and hammering.  My son was there alongside me working. What more could I want?

How about some stamina?  Some energy? Some more muscle control?  Those are the things that over the past ten years I've lost and continue to lose more of everyday.  These days, if I can realize three to four hours of productive time a day in my workshop, I consider that a winning day in the PD war.  Unfortunately those days are getting more and more difficult to find. I keep falling farther and farther behind.  Maybe I'll get more of the motivation that kept me working today. Helping my son and working along side of him is a strong push in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

music education

Lately I’ve been feeling so much more sophisticated than I have any right to be. For years we’ve intended to attend a performance of the symphony because that seemed like something sophisticated people do.  We always managed to find an excuse not to go.  The cost of the tickets was usually the main reason that we stayed home instead of entering that new world of sophistication.  But the symphony has had a special low cost series of concerts intended to lure new fans into the concert hall.  There went our excuse.

It’s not that I don’t like classical music.  It’s just that I don’t really understand what I’m hearing when I do listen.  I don’t know one composer from another.  I don’t know the various eras represented by the music.  Who came first, Bach or Beethoven? Where does Mozart fit in the long scheme of things? I am intimidated by all the music I don’t know. So to avoid the embarrassment of my educational lapse I stay away from anywhere where a discussion of the Romantic period or the  decline of the clavichord might break out and suck me into the black hole of my ignorance.

 But now I have discovered that my ignorance of all things classical is really no handicap.  I’ve found that if I just sit back and let the full force of the live  orchestra’s sound wash over me  I can lose myself in the music and enjoy it the way the composer, whoever he may be, intended.  There is really nothing sophisticated about it. The music is the same whether you are formally dressed in a tuxedo or wearing your faded blue jeans. 

 Now that I’ve put aside my fears of the symphonic experience nothing will keep me away from the concert hall. Except maybe those high ticket prices.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

back pain or pain in the butt

A couple days ago I strained my back while lifting and moving some heavy boxes in the basement.  I’ve done that before—lifting heavy objects improperly-- with the same result so I should know better.  You know how they always tell you to lift with your legs and not with your back?  Well, I’m not good at following advice, especially really good advice. Consequently, I hurt my back.
There has been a lot of moaning and groaning and grimaces since that incident.  All of it by me. I have to play up the hurt –even exaggerate a little-in order to get the sympathy I so richly deserve.  Unfortunately, my whining has fallen on mostly deaf ears. I think se may be onto my act. But not to worry, I have a few cards up my sleeve to play whenever I need to pump up the sympathy meter.  There’s the frightened gasp that escapes me whenever I rise from a chair and momentarily lose my balance and fall/sit back down. That always gets her attention and elicits a few “be carefuls” and offers to help me get up. I can usually count on an offer to take my arm whenever I employ the feeble old man act. And there’s always the reliable PD shuffle if I want to sit in a wheelchair and be chauffeured around instead of having to walk. Soft and nearly inaudible whimpering in a corner of the next room is sometimes good for “what’s wrong, Baby.” Since I have a compromised sense of balance her antennae twitch anytime I approach a stairway. If I really want to get her riled up I can “stumble “ on the stairs.  The coup de grace would be an actual tumble down those steps. That’ll boost the sympathy quotient off the charts.
I just wish I could get all that attention and sympathy without actually hurting myself.  I haven’t quite figured that part out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

trust and stuff

Yesterday we, Mary and I, met with an estate planning attorney to get a new trust established to deal with the consequences of our inevitable demise.  The meeting ran smoothly and most of our questions were answered, so now all that’s left is the paperwork.

But it all seems so trivial.  Here we are, deciding what to do with all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the past 45 years.  Stuff that has meaning and value, both fiscal and emotional, to us, but, except for rare instances, means squat to our heirs.  By designating certain objects to go to particular individuals, we are hoping that they will cherish and appreciate them as we did and add to the continuum of family heirlooms.  At the same time I know that styles change, taste and sophistication change, and our valued stuff becomes their trash.  In trying to do right by them, we will have burdened them with the task of disposal of all our treasures that they don’t want and probably won’t need. 

I think a better way to do this is to let them take whatever they want and agree on and sell the rest or donate what might be useful to others.  Selling as much as possible puts more money in the kitty to be divided among them and relieves them of the burden of accepting stuff they don’t want.  Of course, all this conjecturing assumes that Mary and I are going to drop dead at the same time, and real soon, before we have the chance to use all those assets by living too long.

What I hope we can pass on to our children and grandchildren, that will mean more than all the stuff, is our value system and sense of respect for others. The intangibles that we leave them with, our living example of how to conduct a good life, are our most prized possessions.  How can we put that into the trust?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

another miracle

While cradling my three week old granddaughter I was once again amazed that this little jumble of  bone and muscle and nerve could be arranged so  perfectly into the purest  of miracles.  That she might one day be fully grown and have a little miracle of her own to wonder at, just compounds the amazement.  The circle of life continues.