Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years Resolutions - Again

            A year ago I posted the following, I wonder how I have done? 
            Goals for 2017
  •  Give myself six hours per week, to go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, the elliptical, swim, ride a bike, take a hike, or take an unnecessary walk. 
  • Continue to seek organization in my life, the other closet and the bookcase in my bedroom need to be sorted through this year.  I will feel better for having done that. 
  • Set aside $20 a week out of my "spending money" to buy myself indulgences.  
  • Deliver a surprise, a random act of kindness to someone, at least once per month. 
  • To be humble and give others credit. 
  • To think seriously about what I want to do with the last quarter of my career. It is not so much about legacy, as it is about doing work that I find rewarding in the here and now.
  • Add a personal day, into at least one of the three work trips I have planned for this year.
  • Blog every day.
  • Check at least one item off of the list of things I'd like to do before I die. 
  • Have more music in my life.  
How I have done in 2017
  • I have made it to the gym 4-6 times per week, I have gone out got long walks.  I am a little nervous about riding bikes. 
  • I have added some organization, I have also added a bunch of stuff from Mom and Dad's house.  
  • Setting aside cash worked, I rewarded myself with a Nikon DSLR. 
  • I forget to be kind often enough. 
  • I have actively working on humility and giving credit.  
  • I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up, but I am thinking seriously about the end of my current work in less than a decade.  
  • I added a couple of day stop over in Arizona, to my business trip in November (and a day in Detroit for a memorial service on the way out.) 
  • Blog every day, mission accomplished. 
  • While in Florida waiting for mom to die, I took an air-boat ride, check one off the list. 
  • I have become a nearly daily listener to Amazon streaming music, in the office and at home.  

So what are my resolutions for 2018. 
  • Continue my gym time
  • Add a couple of personal days, to at least one of my work trips
  • Continue to explore what I want to do when I grow up
  • Read 25 books
  • Create a top 10 list for post retirement 
  • Get the house in Lexington ready to sell and start consolidating the house into the Condo
  • Plan a real vacation 
  • Reach out to reconnect with family   
What are your top five goals for 2018?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rocks or no Rocks?

One thing I missed when I lived in Florida was rocks.  Florida is a big sandbar with few rocks.  The rock formations that are there are mostly very soft sandstone or limestone that is fairly deep.  Most of the beaches are sandy, most shores of most streams a mix of mud and sand.  

Rocks or no rocks? 

Friday, December 29, 2017


Blogging started before Facebook, Before blogging there was Virtual Tourist, now gone offline, and the Mirror Project, now in archive only. I found VT when I was planning a trip to Paris for Christmas, when we returned from the trip I created my first VT page.  I dropped VT around the time that Facebook came into my life.  The Mirror project was active for a couple of years, it was populated with images submitted by the public, the only rules were that the image had to contain a reflection of the person submitting it.  It was fun and a challenge to be in the look out for reflective surfaces, we are surrounded by smooth surfaces giving us a glimpse of ourselves if we look.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

All Neatly Organized - Not!

Isn't it a neat image, a place for everything and everything in it's place.  Very neatly organized.  I have to admit, parts of my life may be like that, but other parts of it definitely are not.  I impose order on some things, and let others run wild.  The the chips fall where they may, and I am fine with that.  

Is you life all neatly organized? 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Embrace the Joy of Each Day

I was Facebook messaging with a high school classmate on Christmas.  She is in poor health, and is not getting better.  Listening to her, I was reminded how easy it is for the challenges we face in life, to overshadow the joys of each day.  Even on our darkest days, there can be little pleasures, small joys, ironic humor, moments of tenderness and love. I reminded her of this, she has a loving family, is able to touch the lives of others, the simple joys need to overwhelm the burden of her days.  

Find joy in your day. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Change of Perspective

The first image was taken with the widest angle lens I now own, the second picture was taken with my longest.  Both were taken from the exact same place.  The glass enclosed balcony in the second image is on the building barely visible in the distance out through the windows on the first image. What a difference in perspective.

I am a camera nut, I have been since I was child with my first Kodak Instamatic.  I have owned a lot of cameras and lenses over the years.  In the 70's I bought a bag full of Cannon professional equipment - the best of the line for the day.  When digital came in I went compact - owning a couple of really good compact digital cameras, but  always missing the creativity, flexibility and quality of single lens reflex cameras.  This year I took the plunge and bought a nice Nikon digital SLR with two good lenses. For Christmas my sweet hubby, bought me the widest wide angle lens I have ever owned.  10-20 mm digital is equivalent to 15 to 30 mm for a 35 mm camera.  The widest I had owned in Cannon professional lenses was a 24 mm, and it was my favorite for landscape and architectural shots for years a couple of decades.

I am amazed and reminded that if I take time to look, there is more than one perspective to see.

Monday, December 25, 2017

From Our House to Yours

A Very Merry Christmas! 
Thank you for sticking with me this year, I look forward to many years to come.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

Titusville Florida in January - checking on mom and dad 
 It is time for the annual Christmas letter, a recap of the year, for those who have been following along, and an update for those who have not followed along.  

First I would like to wish you and yours a Joyous Christmas and a Secure and Happy New Year!  If you celebrate other holidays, Happy Holidays, rest assured that even if my greetings don't identify your holidays, my heart is in the right place in wishing you and yours well.  

As I suspected it would be, 2017 was a rough year for us.  We have made it through, from diversity comes wisdom.  I was back and forth to Florida about a dozen times.  Mom's long difficult struggle ended in late February.  I hope no one ever has as difficult of an end as she did.  Dad was weakened by cancer, breathing and cardiac issues, but remained in control and moving about on his own.  He had two bad falls in late July and was gone within a week. I was the one who found him - not breathing - still - quiet - at peace - an experience that changed me in ways I have yet to understand.  His struggle was relatively short, and ended as he said he wanted.  

I completed my 9th year at work.  I finished a huge research project, that I was starting to suspect would never end (honestly I was in over my head on that project - in the end I committed to the best project I could do - and not a perfect one.) I spoke at conferences in Boston and Huntington Beach, California.  I attended meetings in Chicago, and Newport, Rhode Island.  

I stopped in Arizona on my way to California, for a couple of days of personal vacation.  That and a long weekend in Cleveland with Jay's family were as close to a vacation as I had this year.  I traveled a lot, 37 airline flights, over 50 hours in the air, and 50 hotel nights, but little of it was for pleasure.

My two brothers remain in central Florida, my sister and brother in law moved to Michigan.  I was in Michigan a couple of times this fall for memorial services.  I will likely go back again, there are people I want to reconnect with and things I want to see.  

The future looks bright.  J has signed an early retirement contract and will be done teaching in a year.  With that we will have a house to sell in Kentucky this year.  And two homes to consolidate into one.  The plan is to move what we want and turn the rest over to an estate liquidator, it worked for mom and dad's house.  My work has become a bit more complicated, with my major project now only being 40% of my time, and a basket full of other projects filling the other 60%.  I love the work, but juggling multiple projects is more complicated than managing one. 

So that is the update from the casa Travel Penguin. We will see what 2018 brings.  

An air-boat ride in February, while waiting for mom to die 

Native Floridians enjoying the winter sun 

J petting the sheep at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill Kentucky - Presidents Days weekend.  I had spent the week before in Florida waiting for mom to die, flew home, went to Kentucky for the weekend, flew back to DC, and mom died that night - back to Florida the next morning. 

I need to remember I live and work in a Spectacular World Capital 

This is what I saw of Boston, rain and fog most of the time I was there. 

Standing on Glass, 100+ stories up at the Willis Tower in Chicago 

Newport Rhode Island in late May 

West Side Market in Cleveland in early July 

30 flights on American Airlines - I finally made Gold Status 

Back in Florida again and again 

A couple of days in the Dessert in November recharged my soul 

Dinner with great friends overlooking the Pacific in November  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Shopping Done?

Is your Christmas shopping done?  I finished mine a couple of weeks ago.  I started doing my shopping early back in 1990 when I went to London for the first time- I did my Christmas shopping in May that year. The older I get, the less I like crowded shopping malls.  I never was fond of traffic. I grew up three miles outside of "town."  "Town" still does not have a traffic light, they have to bring in extra cars from other towns, to have a traffic jam, they only do that once a year for the High School home coming game.  I prefer quiet back streets, but I want to be near the action.  

I'd love to live on this quiet ancient street (St. Malo, France.)  It is quiet, but only a couple of minutes from the bustling market streets of the old walled city.  Those stones have been witness to centuries Christmases, with centuries more to come.  Parking would be a challenge, but traffic is not bad.  

Shopping done? 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Every Man Needs a Hobby

When I was a student at Rollins College several of the professors were colorful characters. I was having lunch on Park Avenue one afternoon before class and one of the music professors, Charlie also know as Ms. Piggy, rolled by in an early 1940's Cadillac convertible. About a week later I was sitting there having lunch again (I did this often) and Ms. Piggy rolled by in a 65 Lincoln convertible.  I bumped into him a couple of hours later on campus,  I remarked about the Lincoln and said, "didn't I see you in a Cadillac last week."  He said, "oh yes that was me, ever man needs a hobby."  As he described it, he had a "barn full" of antique cars.  Ms. Piggy was a trust fund baby, a professor at Rollins, and Composer in Residence at a college in Vermont.  His hobby was a little more expensive than my collection of travel pins, "do not disturb" signs (I am disturbed enough) and photography.  

What are your hobbies?  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Front of the Plane

I have flown a lot, almost-almost always in the back of the plane.  A couple of times I was bumped up front when the airline made a huge mistake or needed to move weight forward (one advantage of being fat, I move more weight forward than a thin person.)  A couple of times I have paid for upgrades at the gate.  For every ride I have had up-front, I have had 50 or a 100 in the back.  

I have come close to making "medallion" status a couple of times in the past, being recognized by the airlines as a valuable frequent flyer, but never quite made it until this year. I took 30 flights on American Airlines and made Gold.  

What do I get for that?  A choice of better seats without paying extra in coach. Earlier boarding, long before the overhead bins are full.  At some airports a priority check in line - though I use the machines almost every time.  On flights up to 500 miles a seat in first class if it is available, and the option to buy lower cost upgrades to first class on longer flight - subject to space availability.  They serve real food in First Class.  Real food on domestic flights - it has been years since I have seen that.  I am already counting the flights for 2018 so I can keep this going for 2019.  I think I am addicted.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The First Things I Notice

I have noticed a change in myself over the past few years, the first thing I notice about people has changed.  In the past the first thing I would notice would be a person's face, or eyes, or hands.  Now it is their shoes and how their trousers fit (or don't.)  I notice clothes and the bags that people are carrying.  Like it or not, research shows that we judge people within seconds or first seeing them, often not on who they are, but on our first impression. We develop an opinion of liking or not liking, trusting or not trusting, wanting to talk with or wanting to ignore a person within the blink of an eye. 

Want to make a good impression on me, wear interesting shoes and trousers that fit well.  I'll notice those things long before I see your face, or hair.  

What is the first thing you notice about people? 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


So, Roy Moore lost in Alabama.  He is a nut case, he was removed from the bench for failing to follow the laws of the United States.  He said, the last time Alabama was great was during slavery.  He said homosexual behavior should be illegal.  His relationships with young women raise concerns, as a lawyer he should have learned why the law protects minors from saying yes, to actions they will regret 40 years later.  As a self professed christian, he should be revolted by his actions 40 years ago.  

He lost, not because his core base voted against him, he lost because of unprecedented turn out of minority voters.  If we think Alabama is a sign that Republicans can't win, or Trump can't bring votes, or Bannon is poison, we are reading the wrong message.  The message was in minority voter turn out.  Voters who have been historically suppressed, turned out and voted in high numbers.  African Americans won that election.  

If you want to win an election, turn out the vote of voters who historically have been disenfranchised.  The disenfranchised can and will change the face of American politics.  

Monday, December 18, 2017


Should I be funny?  Should I be serious? Should I touch on politics?  Should I comment on religion? Or Values? Or Guns? Should I just do the photo of the day and not bore you with my words? 

Should my goal be to entertain, to inform, or merely to ramble?  Why do I do this thing called bogging? 

This has been a serious year, at times reflective.  In some part that was influenced by everything that happened in my life.  I have also drawn more caustic comments this year, I am pretty good at ignoring the trolls, though I did shut off anonymous comments.  The harshest, were unwilling to identify themselves. I am sorry if that hurts the kind hearted, just create a free blogger profile and comment away.    

Looking back there is some good stuff, some boring stuff, some pretty postings, some very personal postings.  I have struggled more to keep up the post a day.  I write and schedule ahead of time, often in batches, and at times it shows that I do that.  I am not as spontaneous as others.  

In the end, I blog as an outlet for what I am thinking, and to share images (the vast majority of which I have taken.)  Committing to a daily posting forces me to write, and the more I write, the better my writing is (typos and all.)  I didn't set out to attract a following, I started blogging for fun and friends.  And I have met some wonderful friends through blogging, and there are more I would like to meet.  

Why do you blog, and what is your blog address? 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Five - Best Travel Adventures of the Year?

Ah, December, the end of the year.  A time to reflect on the past year, to see what was the best of the year.  Hence this weeks five questions:

1: What was your favorite hotel of the year?
2: What was your best Airline flight of the year?
3: Best view when traveling? 
4: Best drive of the year?
5: Most surprising city of the year?

My Answers:
1: What was your favorite hotel of the year?  Langham in Chicago - incredible bathroom.
2: What was your best Airline flight of the year? Detroit to Phoenix on an early Sunday morning in November - in first class - very comfortable.
3: Best view when traveling?   Manhattan from the air, on a trip from DC to Providence, Rhode Island.
4: Best drive of the year?  Tonto National Forest in Arizona
5: Most surprising city of the year?  Cleveland - downtown has really come to life in the past decade.

Your Answers?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gems from the past month


  • There is no price tag on peace of mind.
  • Resenting what you are doing, is wishing your life away.
  • Forgive and give them another chance. 
  • Forgiveness is pulling the knife out of your back, and doing nothing with it - not wanting to hurt another as you have been hurt. 
  • Surround yourself with people and things that make you happy. 
  • Don't let measurement and research, overshadow doing good work. 
  • Build a better mousetrap 
  • Get it done, get it shipped.  
  • If you make recommendations sound like criticism, you risk your message not being heard. 
  • Talk less, and say more

Friday, December 15, 2017

Travel Plans for 2018?

Everyone once in a while, I reach the point that I don't have any airline reservations pending, it makes me feel uneasy.  It is simple to remedy, just start planning.  

For 2018 I expect:
January I am going to Florida, I want to see the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal.  
February - I will go see Jay in Lexington, and late in the month I am speaking at conference in Greenbiar North Carolina. 
March - I have a conference in San Francisco, I am looking at adding 2 or 3 days of personal time to that trip. 
April - nothing planning
May - I have a conference in New Orleans - looking forward to good food. 
June - I expect a conferences in Chicago and Toronto - those two are jammed up against one another, it looks I will fly to Chicago, spend the night and go onto Toronto the next afternoon.  

I don't have anything definite beyond that.  I am sure things will come up.  I am likely to make 2-3 trips to Kentucky this year.  

What travel adventures do you have planned for 2018? 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Travel Year in Review

2017 was a near record travel year for me, with 50 nights in hotels, and 37 airline flights.  Ten hotel stays were personal, five were for work.  30 of the 37 airlines flights were on American Airlines, earning me gold status for 2018.  The other 7 flights were on Delta, and frankly I can't remember where I went on Delta.  

In all of that traveling, I never left the country.  A lot of it was trips to Florida for family.  There will be fewer trips to Florida, though I want to stay in contact with my family there (two brothers and my only cousin.)  I went to Michigan twice this fall for memorial services, the first trips I have made there (other than changing planes in Detroit) in well over a decade.  My sister is living in Michigan, I will likely try to get there from time to time to see her and reconnect with my roots.  We did a road trip over the summer to visit Jay's family in Cleveland, we should do that more often.  Cleveland is kind of cool.  

I had a couple of great work trips, Boston - though the weather was terrible and I barely left the hotel, Newport Rhode, Island - I would go back there any day, and Newport Beach, California - a couple of days of mild weather and great views.  

I made good on one of my New Years resolutions, and added a couple of personal days to a work trip, stopping over in Phoenix on my way to California last month. I am already working on plans to to add personal days to a work trip next March. 

I had two ridiculously short overnight trips. One to Chicago were I was on the ground about 21 hours attending a conference on death (it was a good conference.) And a spur of the moment trip to Florida in November to  sign paperwork on dad's estate, where I was on the ground about 19 hours.  I need to remember that the short trips take as great -maybe a greater, toll on my body as longer trips. 

I am already starting to plan out next year.  I will ramble about upcoming travel in a coming post.  

Where did the adventure of travel take you this year? 

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.    

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Sorting out the Inheritance

Mom and Dad, named me as executor. There were a couple of times when I asked "why me" and when I thought for a moment the answer was clear, they thought I would have the ability and strength to sort things out, resist the pressures, and assure that everyone received their fair share.  There were challenges, a bit of a power struggle, a rush to get cash to siblings who who had urgent needs, some assets that I had to learn by doing to get control of, a hurricane the weekend of the estate sale, the closing of the sale of the house was delayed three times and then took four days to complete, and a family member (not one of my siblings) who backed up a truck and trailer and kept loading stuff out of the house and garage until he ran out of space. 

It is all done, except the final tax returns, and those can't be done until next spring.  At that time the last small checks will be sent, the accounts closed, this chapter ended. 

Yes, I inherited a little money. Not that much, and no you can't have any. No I am not "Rich as the Roosevelts" (nice phrase Dr Spo).  

I inherited some stuff, a little jewelry, a nice watch that I have spent far too much having restored (it was my father's and the sentimental value is priceless.)  I didn't ship any furniture home, there were only a couple of pieces I would have liked, and ultimately with consolidating the house into the condo on the horizon I would have struggled to find space for them. 

I also picked up a piece of baggage I need to unload.  Anger and bitterness at the family member who interpreted the invitation to come look through the house and pick our a few things he could use, as an invitation to back a truck and trailer up and take everything of value he could pack in. My feelings reared their ugly head when my sister was here for Thanksgiving.  She said she wished she had kept dad's old shop vacuum, that thing would suck up anything. I responded, "that is okay Lxxx took it along with anything else that wasn't nailed down."  

I need to get over it and dump those feelings.  I forgive Lxxx, and those who stood by and watched not knowing what to say.  Carrying the anger will only hurt me.  I don't have room in my life to carry ill feelings.  It was only stuff, maybe it would have added a-couple-of-thousand to the estate sale proceeds.  My share of that would only pay a couple of days of my inevitable nursing home bill.  If I carry the anger, it will cost me so much more in happiness and love.  

I have seen too many families fight over unimportant stuff, families tear themselves apart over a few dollars. My material grandmother didn't talk to half of her family for 50 years over a dispute about the sale of her father's farm. I don't have enough family to shut half of them out. She didn't either - forgiveness would have brought her more happiness than the few dollars she thought she was cheated out of.

So the next time those thoughts start to invade, I will remind myself that I publicly tossed that baggage away. 

What piece of baggage do you need to toss away? 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What is Christmas All About?

This is the time of the year that we hear people shopping for crap they can't afford, to give to people who won't remember who gave them what by Easter, utter the phrase "I just want them to have a good Christmas." What they are saying is that the measure of a "good Christmas" is the pile of material possessions you receive.  The implication is that a person who does not receive a big pile of stuff, cannot have a good Christmas.  The concentration on material possessions worries me. 

One of the underlying themes of Christmas, is sharing of the gift of happiness, and a better life.  I am not a practicing christian, but think about god sending his son to save mankind.  Not exactly a material gift there. God didn't send everyone a camel and two oxen, he sent them a gift of enlightenment and forgiveness. The value was in the message.  Not exactly things you need Visa, Master Card, American Express or piles of gold to pay for.  

Let me propose that a person can have a "good Christmas" without receiving a pile of expensive gifts.  Most of us value human interaction and connection - more than toys and trinkets. I don't expect most to us to the have the wisdom of a savior, but on Christmas day, turn off the TV, shut down the WiFi, gather together and cook a hearty meal, sharing what you have, spend real time together, pay attention to those you love. Give them the gift of your time.  A modest symbolic gift to remind one another of your of your time together may be treasured. But the greatest gift would be the experience of quality time together. Christmas is not about who spent the most, or who scored the most (I wouldn't be surprised if someone has an app to calculate the value of what you receive - kind of a game of one-ups-man-ship.)  Is scoring material possessions the real message of Christmas? 

What do I want for Christmas? Love, respect, peace, laughter, good health, and time with family and friends. As for sharing my material possessions, I am always generous with my sweet bear, beyond that I make gifts (donations) to benefit those who have difficulty meeting basic needs, those who are trying to better their lives, and preservation of places I find of great value.  (Charity, education and historic preservation.)  Things that I hold dear.  

What do you want for Christmas this year? 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Airline Illogic

I had a bunch of travel that all bunched up recently, resulting in so many reservations that it is hard to follow, especially with airline logic.  

I had booked DC to Phoenix (to visit Spo), then onto Orange County California for a conference and home via Chicago.  Then Cousin Bill died and the memorial service was scheduled in Detroit.  So I call the airline to change this to DC, to Detroit (via Philly), Detroit to Phoenix and the rest of the trip stayed the same.  $575 later that was booked, only $50 less than what it would have cost to abandon the original $600 ticket and start over.  

Then I needed to go to Florida for an issue on Dad's estate.  So I called to try to change the ticket to go, DC to Orlando, Orlando to Detroit, then the rest of the trip stays the same.  This comes back at $775.  You have got to be kidding. and the routing had me flying DC to Orlando, and Orlando to Philly with the rest of the trip unchanged.  The answer was, any change automatically triggers "repricing" of the entire ticket.  In other words they were going to increase the price of flights I had already booked and paid for.  

I said no, so I flew to DC to Orlando on Wednesday and back to DC Thursday afternoon.  I really wanted to be in Florida on Friday morning - but not $775 worth.  I arrived home 18 hours before I was due to leave for Philly on my way to Detroit. I was only in Florida for only about 18 hours.  This only cost $350.  

Then I get a call, the flight from DC to Philly is delayed and I am going to miss my connection to Detroit.  All of a sudden changes are free, no repricing of the rest of the trip. 

A friend of mine used to say, he didn't mind being screwed but he liked to be kissed first.  The airlines don't kiss, they just charge, unless it is their need for a change - then all of sudden it does not cost extra to change my ticket.  Oh and the new flight left late enough on Friday night, that I could have easily taken Friday afternoon flight from Orlando back to DC, picked up my bag and rechecked it for the trip to Detroit.  

And airlines, wonder why we sometimes hate them. 

Have you ever thrown away an airline ticket because it was cheaper to buy a new one than change the old one? 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Five - Dear Santa

It is time for letters to Santa Clause, to make it easy let me provide a simple fill in the blank and multiple choice letter this year. 

Dear Santa:
1:  I have been (choose one) very good, good, a little naughty, a lot naughty, let me explain.  
2:  This year I learned __________. 
3:  For myself I would most like __________________. 
4:  For the world I would most like (choose one) world-peace, prosperity, good health, pleasant weather, equality (sorry only one.) 
5:  For my family I would most like _____________. 

My answers: 
Dear Santa:
1:  I have been good.  
2:  This year I learned the value of greiving. 
3:  For myself I would most like wisdom
4:  For the world I would most like world-peace
5:  For my family I would most like a year of health and happiness

Your answers?