Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Modern Easy Life

After my grandfather died, my grandmother bought a house in Florida, near my parents.  When she moved in she remarked, this is the first home I have ever owned that had in inside bathroom when I bought it.  She has owned three homes before that, added indoor toilets in all of them.  My mother's family didn't have electricity until she was a teenager.  My father's boyhood home, had electricity before it had indoor plumbing.  

We take these modern conveniences, things that make our lives easier for granted.  I just finished reading David Lebovitz's latest book, L'appart.  The book tells the long and difficult tale of him buying and rebuilding an apartment in Paris.  He is a pastry chef and cook.  He had to have a nice kitchen.  He insisted on a 30 inch oven, a dishwasher, and a large refrigerator.  The French, didn't really understand his desire to have such large appliances in a small Paris apartment.  I did, I have never owned a home without them.  Oh, and a Microwave, I have had one since 1983.  My mother had one before that.  

Each generation has conveniences, that were unheard of luxuries in the generation before.  I am confident this will continue.  

What will be in my kitchen 20 years from now that I haven't even imagined today? 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Time Machine

I have a time machine, when I put it on it takes me back 40 years or more - when my father was young and flying was his passion.  He learned to fly six years before I was born, and flew a lot in the 1970s.  Sometime in the early 70's, a flying buddy of his was trading up to a Rolex, from a Bulova Accutron Astronaut. My father bought the watch used from his friend - as I recall for around $100.  The Accutron was one of the first truly accurate electric watches.  It uses an electronic tuning fork to generate a reliable wave to operate the mechanism.  The watch hums. The second hand moves smoothly around the dial. This model was called the Astronaut, it was designed for the space program, they were unsure how the mechanical watches and clocks of the day would work in weightlessness. This is an early one, made in 1963.  

My father wore it for decades. It was his pride and joy.  It was accurate, and reliable and durable.  He wore it hard, and it showed.  A few years ago "vintage" watches became popular and I asked my father about it.  He said the last time he took it in for service the jeweler told him parts were no longer available.  He wasn't sure but he thought my mother had tossed it away.  I was disappointing, I had hoped to wear it someday.  

After my father died last summer, my sister and I were going through the drawer in his bedside table and I found it.  I was speechless, moved to tears.  I dropped it in my briefcase and brought it home. A month later I took it into a local jeweler who sent it out to a couple of watchmakers to see if they could fix it and the conclusion was that it needed parts, parts that had not been available for over 20 years.  When I picked it up, the young man said, look online, there is a place North Carolina that might be able to fix it.  I looked and found  - I kid you not - Old Father Time.  They are in the outer banks of North Carolina and claim to have bought the entire stock of parts and tools, when Bulova decided discontinue service.  

I packed it up and sent it off.  A couple of weeks later I received an email with the estimate.  After I scraped myself off the floor I decided I better think about it before I spent that much money on rebuilding a 54 year old watch.  The next evening I emailed them to go ahead and mailed them a check.  The emotional value of this time machine was worth - well about what I paid for my first car back in 1977.  The description was a museum quality restoration.  

Three weeks ago I received an email that it was about finished and they had cashed my check.  I telecommuted one day last week, the Fed-X box had to be signed for in person.  

It is perfect.  I don't think I ever saw it look this good. I was almost afraid to wear it.  I have worn it twice, putting it on takes me back to my teenage years, it connects me to my father and my past.  

Do you own a time machine? 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mt Vernon Critters

A couple of weeks ago we went out to Mt Vernon for a walk. I like checking in with the livestock.  

How does the camel fit into Mt. Vernon? 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Five - Perfection

Some of us strive for perfection, other live by the motto perfect is the enemy of done.  Still I take some pride in what I do.  But the older I get the more shortcuts I take.  Hence this weeks Sunday five. 

1: Would you have taken time to put the access cover back in place so the yellow lined up? 
2: Do you reconcile your bank statements (the way your bank would like you to)? 
3: Do you save all of your credit card receipts to match against the statement before paying the bill? 
4: Do your proof read every email before sending? 
5: Do you study the map, or just go with GPS? 

My answers: 
1: Would you have taken time to put the access cover back in place so the yellow lined up? Yes, it can't be that hard and it would have looked so much better (Metro station at Braddock Road) 
2: Do you reconcile your bank statements (the way your bank would like you to)? I quit doing this about 30 years ago, online banking helps me to track my record against the bank, but I don't go looking for minor variations, I assume the bank is correct.  There is a major trauma of childhood involved with my mother spending an hour looking for a three-cent error in the checking account. 
3: Do you save all of your credit card receipts to match against the statement before paying the bill? I save them, and then don't check them against the bill. 
4: Do your proof read every email before sending? No, with sometimes unexpected consequences.  
5: Do you study the map, or just go with GPS? Most of the time, I go where ever the little voices tell me to go (GPS.)  

Your answers? 

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Mall at Christmas Time

I generally avoid shopping malls between the middle of November and about a week after New Years.  Having worked retail for the better part of a year, I know that the holiday rush ends with returns about a week after New Years. 

Yes, I worked retail, the year we moved to Kentucky I needed to fill time until Law School started 14 months later.  I wanted something mindless, that would keep me busy and where I could buy health insurance through my employer.  McAplins, part of Mercantile Stores, now a part of Macy's offered me a job, and I sold ladies shoes for 9 months.  I am glad I did it, glad I didn't make a career of it (the company was looking for management candidates.)  I even picked up a scholarship of a $2,000 from the store for my first year of law school.  It was mindless and physically challenging work.  I learned that you never shop at holiday time, and never pay retail, everything goes on sale sooner or later.  

Last weekend I broke my rule of not going to the mall at holiday time.  I was running low on shower gel, one of the few things I go to the mall for.  I was underwhelmed by the decorations, and no seasonal music was playing.  I remember shopping malls of my childhood being over decorated and blaring Jingle Bells until your brain turned to mush.  

I had a nice walk about, looked at more overpriced watches, and stood in line for 20 minutes to pay for a two month supply of my favorite shower gel.  I will be clean and smell better for a couple of months.  

Do you go to the mall at Christmas time? 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Cross that Bridge When I Get To It

A nice single lane bridge, requiring caution, slowing or stopping to assure that cars are only crossing in one direction.  The warning signs were a mile ahead, and yet I couldn't cross the bridge until I came to it.  It is good to be aware of coming challenges, but you really can't deal with them until the challenge is in front of you.  A lot of us spend now, trying to deal with the challenge of the future, getting in the way of dealing with the challenges of the present.  I will use this bridge as a reminder that I can't cross that bridge until I get to it.  

When was the last time you crossed a one way bridge? 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Grief and Grieving

It has been a rough year, Mom died in February, Dad in July, Cousin Bill in October.  It was a lot in a short period of time.  Looking back, I found that two of my great-grandparents died in 1959, both of my grandfathers died in the fall of 1977.  So there is a family history of people kicking off in groups.  

I thought I knew what I was in for, I have studied grief and grieving, I work in aging and end of life decision making.  It probably helped, because I knew from the indicators that the end was near.  Mom was tougher than you would have thought and defied the odds.  Dad's final week, was textbook, he was frail, he had two falls resulting in injury a couple of days apart, and he was gone by the end of the week. He always was one for following the rules.   

I quickly went through the motions when Mom died, and then immersed myself in work.  When dad died it hit me hard.  I had repressed mom's passing, not dealing with feelings by burying myself in work.  When dad died I found it hard to concentrate at work.  My emotions came closer to the surface.  I found myself getting emotional at home, on the metro and in the office. For several weeks, I was spending an hour a day in the office dealing with estate issues.  I am fortunate that my office is understanding.  

I have learned that it is easier to find people to talk to, than it is to find someone to listen.  If you want to help someone who is grieving, sit and listen - paying attention to what they have to say. Most people glaze over and change the subject after a minute or two. For some of us, talking helps us to organize our thoughts and make sense of what has happened.  

I have learned, that I don't know how it feels for someone else.  Each experience is unique. Cousin Bill's Son Butch said, "for years I have told people, I know just how you feel, and I was so wrong, I have no idea how anyone feels" when grieving.  

I have learned the value of honestly asking, how someone is doing?  Are they getting the support or help that they need.  

If you asked me "what can I do" you got a shrug, a couple of wonderful people found something that needed doing and did it. The neighbor my parents seldom talked to who showed up with ham and potato salad when no one felt like cooking or going for take out, will never be forgotten.   

I can grieve and do things at the same time, not everyone can do this.  I had no problem with moving on with the business at hand, while dealing with emotions, other family members couldn't move forward until the fog had lifted. 

I am doing okay, better each week. I am changed by this experience.  I have learned from this experience, as most of us will be.  

Thank you for listening, I just needed to talk.