Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Goals

So a year ago I posted the following goals:
New Year’s Resolutions for 2015
  • ·        Eat better, focus on quality and taste
  • ·        Move, remembering that it is a journey not a race
  • ·        Write more fiction, dialog or narrative
  • ·        Do something new every week, visit a new place, try new food or drink, challenge myself in a novel way.
  • ·        Not shy away from opportunities (we regret most what we did not do.)                               
How have I done?  I think I am eating better.  I haven't lost weight, but I am more aware of what I take in.  There is more work to do on this.  I do have an excuse, it has been a challenging year on the moving about front. 

I am moving better, and moving more. It is nice to feel like walking, riding, climbing stairs again.  I have started to speed up again, I find myself passing people on the sidewalk.  I am thinking about some audacious goals for 2016.  

I am writing more, I will pass 400 blog posting this year, having missed just one day of posting - back in February as I recall.  

Boy did I ever try some new things this year, some fun, some not so.  All in all it was a year full of novel experiences.  

An opportunity passed is an opportunity lost.  Hard to say how I did on this one this year.  There were a couple of jobs, I didn't apply for (probably shouldn't have,) I said no to one committee to seek a better balance.  

So what are my goals for 2016
  • I need to rebuild my strength and stamina.  I will keep walking and riding the bike, and I will get back in the gym this year. 
  • Eat more carefully - allow an indulgence - but balance it with care   
  • Continue to write in an array of ways.  A page a day in the office would finish a book in a couple of years.  
  • Blog everyday 
  • Balance work and personal time 
  • Add a personal day to work trips whenever possible 
  • Seek out variety in everyday life - the routine things in life need not be boring 
  • See some of my virtual friends in the flesh 
So what are your goals for 2016? 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thanks for A Fantastic Year!

It is the time of the year to look back at all we have done and say THANK YOU to all that have helped along the way.  I know I will forget someone - sorry!

  • J, my sweet husband who dropped everything on one phone call and came here to be with me and cared for me, traveled with me, and even married me. 
  • All of the wonderful bloggers who have been a part of my life, some of you don't know that I read your blogs every day (several that I seldom comment on) I look forward to your content, pictures and words, a glimpse into your daily life.  
  • The Doctors who saved and restored my ability to walk, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Garbor, Dr. Wiziri, Dr. Mia, Dr. Shanai, Dr. Kim, and Dr. Cook.  I wish I could remember the name of the post-grad fellow from downstate who was part of the post surgery team, the one who pulled the drains and described the tumor as "frickin huge,"  I loved his style. 
  • All of the physical and occupational therapists who got me back on my feet and moving. All of you are great, two special recognitions, the temp OT- I was her first patient on her first day on a new assignment who helped me take a shower and get dressed for the first time in 9 days - she made me human again, and the home health PT who urged me to move to outpatient instead of home care for PT, she put my needs ahead of her making money.  
  • My family - J., Mom, Dad, Karen, Gary, Dale, Lysle, Christy, Dick, Bill, Janice, Mike, Andrew, Ed, and Tim. That is kind of it, I have a small family. 
  • The small circle of friends and family who came for the wedding. Sorry we didn't invite more, we really wanted to keep it as stress free as possible. 
  • The Supreme Court, for ruling on marriage - none of us is truly free until all of us are free. 
  • My readers, commenters, lurkers - without you this would just be babbling to myself here.    
  • Jodi and the wonderful hosts in Hawaii that made that trip possible 
  • My fellow NAELA board members 
  • My colleagues and coworkers.  
  • The faceless staff in HR and compensation that make sure that I have great insurance - including a little thing called short term disability that kept me from having to worry about money while I was getting back on my feet. 
  • The funders that make my work possible - please keep it up 
  • All of the people who held a door, let me board an airplane first, helped with a bag, waited while I moved slow - thank you - I have a lot of karma to give back on that one. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lead - Follow - or get out of the way!

The Roman Gate in Trier Germany
Time keeps moving forward, life goes on, things change, work needs to be done, pleasure and play lay before us.  The past is gone, impossible to change.  I am impatient and I see that as a good thing.  I want to get started, to move forward, lead, or to follow, but not to sit idly by. I am prone to say yes, then try to figure out how after I am already in motion.  It works for me, I seem to find a way to go and do, to move onward.

So here we are at the time of the year when we tend to look back at what we have done.  For me life is about experiences, and my past is full of experiences that I love to talk about, but the future is spreads out far and wide in front of us.  Where will I go next year?  What will I experience?  Who will I meet?  Who will enter my life?  Who will leave it?

So get out there and do it, go experience life, write the ramble to tell the world about it and share it with your fellow bloggers, leave that comment, ask others intriguing questions, find your unique path in the world, take a step forward, followed by another, followed by another and lead the way, or follow a leader.

And so I finish a year of blogging.  My regular readers know I write and schedule most postings ahead of time, this one happens to be the last one to finish out 2015, though if something inspires me I can always add an extra posting.  I have posted over 400 times this year, missing only one day back in February (sorry about that) of posting at least once per day. I have set my goals for 2016.  I look forward to leading or following.  If I don't do that, I will at least try to get out of the way.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Okay, let me admit to something I hate.  There are not a lot of things I hate, there are more that I dislike, find annoying or simply prefer to avoid, but I hate talking to people on the phone.  This came home earlier this afternoon, a long lost third cousin reached out through Facebook and asked for my phone number so she could call.  I was stumped, I thought about it for 30 minutes and replied with small talk and said that email is the best way to reach me - giving her my email address. I didn't want to tell her in the message that I don't like talking on the phone, but I really don't.  

There are causes of this.  For nine-years I answered the phone in a legal aid office and said, "hi, my name is David" - tell me all of your troubles.  And they did - endlessly.  Maybe I have PTSD, but I wince at the sound of a ringing phone. 

Now I talk on the phone, at times it is the most efficient way to communicate, it is easier to sort out the details and come to agreement.  For work calls, I frequently have a plan and an agenda, and I know what the call is about, those calls don't bother me as much. I can make small talk for a few minutes, then I want to move onto the agenda.  

I make other calls, my father, my sister, seldom or never other family.  Those are obligations, I really wish they would email.  

So here I am with a home phone with unlimited nationwide calling, a cell with unlimited minutes, and I don't talk on them much.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The boss says ouch!

I just received an email from the director of my department at work.  He went out for a Christmas day bike ride and "wiped out" crossing some railroad tracks.  Ten broken ribs (8 on one side, 2 on the other) and a shattered pelvis.  Ouch! That has got to hurt.  

Naturally, he is worried about the work he needs to get done.  I assured him the team will rally around and keep things going, they did for me earlier this year, we will for Charlie.  

Random Stuff on My Desk

Through the course of the year, things accumulate on my desks.  The desk in the office was cleaned off last week for a meeting, cleaning it off reminds me of everything I worked on for the past year.  What a year I was back and forth across the country on business a couple of times, I finished a couple of chapters, one is out in a social work textbook, the other one was an encyclopedia chapter and should be published in the first quarter.  I found my notes from frantically cancelling travel plans in May. The final plans for the big show in October where there, and notes for planning for 2016.  All cleaner, sorted and in working files or archive files.

I look around my desk at home, there are replacement parts for the drone, an adapter to plug a VGA display into an HDMI port - I have two of those now, I can buy them for $5 and hotel AV departments charge $50 a day to rent them.  There are a couple digital cameras, spare batteries, decals for the car - when I get the car cleaned so I can put them on.  A watch I changed the batteries in last winter and have only worn a couple of times, an antique pharmacy bottle with a label that reads "Poison Gift," an elf not on a shelf, a couple of chargers and power cords, a USB drive and a CD with wedding pictures.  A lock for one of the desk drawers in my office that no one had a key for, sunglasses, and a packet of biofreeze that one of the physical therapists tried on my back at one point (I didn't respond well - sweated for 20 hours.)   1,000 years from now and archaeologist could figure out my life from the stack on my desk at home.   But, I will clean it up before long, at least once a year.

What is on your desk at home?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Boxing Day

We made it to the day after Christmas, Boxing Day for our friends and family in the ancestral homeland.  The small talk question of the day, is what did you get for Christmas?  My big item, is a folding wagon.  It will fold up and fit in the car, unfolded it will tote large and heavy items in and out of the condo.  Living in a high rise, a folding cart or two really comes in handy. I also received a wonderful pear and chocolate chip Panatone, for those that are not familiar with a Panatone, it is an Italian holiday cake with fruit baked in it.  They are light and airy and full of flavor.  There was also a nice scented soap - the routine things in life should not be boring and I like nice soaps.  And three new ornaments to add to the collection, a sheep, a panda and a bunny.  I also received a wonderful Hawaiian print shirt from a friend in Honolulu.  And a check from my father.

With Boxing Day being on a Saturday, I hope many of you are able to enjoy the second day of the holiday.      

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
I hope you find peace and happiness on this special day.  
The ornaments above were on my parent's first tree, 68 years ago.  
Ho-Ho-Ho, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Flying By

I a couple of weeks ago, I posted video of test crashing a drone in the living room. This was an early Christmas present to myself, Amazon had them on special one day for a super great price.  The difference between men and boys, if the price of the toys.  It had been a while since I last bought myself so much fun.

I have had four opportunities to take it outside to fly.  I have a few minutes of video, I will get around to editing some of that sometime soon.  I have learned a few things, in a wind, it only flies in the direction of the wind.  It spins at a rate faster than you want to see.  The control movements need to be very gentle.  I need lots of open space so I don't have to retrieve it from tree tops.  It is great fun, flying it, chasing it around the field.  Trying to keep it out of the brush and trees.

I also need to become a registered aircraft owner.  Starting today the FAA requires owners of drones weighing more than 250 grams to register as aircraft owners.  I tried earlier today and the online registry was not yet working.  I will receive a registration number that must be on any drone I own.  If someone commits a crime with my drone, the FAA will be able to find me, and fine me. I always thought when I owned an aircraft, it would be a bit larger.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

David's 2015 Christmas Letter

Dear Family, Friends, Readers, Lurkers, Strangers,
It is the time of the year for silly Christmas letters, sort of a year in review, and what an interesting year it has been.

The year started off with a little winter, though not too bad.  We had little snow, but enough cold to make up for it.  The second picture is a fresh snow, from the law school at American University, I was there recruiting student interns for my office in January, and a couple of days later, I was eating sushi with a view of the Pacific just south of LA.  

From LA, I flew to Phoenix, and  from there west to Hawaii.  It has taken me 20 years, but I finally found an opportunity to get someone to pay me to go to Hawaii.  I did a series of five workshops on legal issues in dementia, on four different islands in five days.  I had a couple of free days at the beginning.  I took a whale watching tour out of Honolulu down around Diamond Head, yes we did see whales, and I rented a convertible and drove around Oahu.  The rest of the week there was work-work-work, 12 and 14 hour days.  I left my American Express card in Waimea.  Hawaii was fantastic, I want to go back.

The only down side to that trip, is I was having trouble walking.  I had fallen in October of 2014, I blamed it on old worn out knees.  But in February I was still walking with a cane, and frankly having a very difficult staying upright.  I dragged myself through paradise - it was still a wonderful trip and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go.  I am now down to 2 states left to visit (Idaho and Wyoming.)   
Of course, back to reality and more snow in March.  

The trees bloomed early this year, this picture was taken from the Metro train on the inbound side at National Airport on April 10.  I had two more nasty falls in April, one at home and one in a Metro Station.  I finally decided to see a doctor, after all it had been 25 years since I had last seen one.  

I saw the doctor on a Friday morning.  She doctor assured me is was not my knees, but something much more serious and ordered an MRI, done at 7 that evening.  By the time I got to the office on Monday my phone was ringing saying I needed to go to an emergency room and check myself in.  They said show them the MRI image and they will know why you are there.  The blob in the red diamond above is the reason, a schwannoma - a benign tumor had grown around and into my spine and was compressing my spinal cord.  That explained the falls, I was losing control of the muscles in my legs, especially my right leg and had lost about 40% of the feeling in my feet.  So began three weeks in and out of three hospitals, and 8 weeks at home recovering.  Surgery was on May 13th, and was a success.  I woke up able to move my legs and wiggle my toes.  

 Recovery is ongoing, and was challenging at times.  The last part of the inpatient experience was a spinal rehab unit, with three hours of physical and occupational therapy every day.  My legs were quite weak, I had not really been able to walk much for 8 months before seeking help and two weeks on my back in the first two hospitals didn't help.  I wore the brace for about 8 weeks.  When I came home, I was going to outpatient physical therapy 2 hours at a shot, three times a week. By early July I was allowed to start driving, and returned to work after the 4th of July.  The handicapped parking permit was temporary and a great help.
Pennsylvania Ave, that is the Capital Dome ahead. 
 When I was in the hospital, they would ask, what is you goal for recovery?  My answer was simple, I have airline tickets to fly to Frankfurt on August 13th, and I need to be well enough to go.  And I have reservations to ride on a Zeppelin on August 22nd and I need to be able to walk to it and climb on and off.  The Zeppelin line, usually sent them looking through the chart for medications and mental health notes.  Well I made it, here I am on the flight to Frankfurt.

 From Frankfurt, I took the train to Stuttgart and met J there.  He had been in England for a conference at Oxford the week before.  We went to the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.  It is an incredible collection and an amazing building.  

We also went by the factory and picked up our new baby.  We did factory delivery and were able to drive the car for two weeks, then have it shipped home.  It was an amazing experience - I highly recommend it.  

A few days into the drive we went to Friedrichshafen, on Lake Constance, where the Count tested the first Zeppelins and took a ride.  It is an amazing experience.   Click here for video 

We ended our time in Germany in Munich, great city and great fun.  I only had one beer at the HB on my 57th birthday - yes it was 1-liter.  

 On the way home, we stopped overnight in Iceland.  Wow, a volcanic landscape in the sub arctic.  Amazing, place, people and food.  My only regret, is not enough time.
In September I was in Portland Oregon for three days for a board meeting. 

On October 17th, we got married.  The Supreme Court cleared the way this summer, so on the 23rd anniversary of our creating a home together, we got married along the waterfront in Alexandria, with 20 family and friends.  

 The end of October, was  the National Aging and Law Conference.  The culmination of a year of planning - and it all worked.  I am still trying to confirm a venue and dates for 2016.
We went to Florida for Thanksgiving this year.  We spent a couple of nights at the beach in Daytona on the way down.  

Shortly before Christmas, I took the folding cane out of my briefcase.  I haven't used on since October.  I am walking well, riding bikes and continue to rebuild strength and stamina.  There is some permanent nerve damage, but over all I am one very lucky guy.  

Mom, at 88 lives in her own world.  She is surrounded by family, well cared for, happy and seemingly comfortable.  She need help with ADLs, and her dementia is very advanced.  

The light of my life, my husband at long last.  

What will 2016 hold?  Back to California in January, Denver in April, and plans are underway for Rome the end of May.  I will make it to Florida a couple of times, and Kentucky at least once.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Years!  
Love till next year! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Express Yourself

Each of us is unique, we all have a story to tell, we all have desires, and yet we keep too much bottled up inside, afraid to tell the world, afraid to ask for what we want and need.  Goal for 2016, at least once a day, say it, ask for it! Ready or not Express Yourself! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,
It has been a while since my last letter, like 50 years.  I hope I have helped out a little along the years with unexpected gifts and acts of kindness.  I see that as the core of what You are all about.  It was not my intention to start to look like you, as my hair and beard start to turn white, I need to be careful about wearing red at this time of the year or I might be mistaken for you.

So why am I writing after all of these years? It has been an unusually challenging year - there are a few gifts and random acts of kindness we could all use this holiday season.

  • Please deliver a sense of belonging to something bigger to every home. The disaffected loners are getting scarey.     
  • Please deliver a little security into each home by helping those who feel insecure feel more secure.  We don't need guns, and locks, and alarm systems, we need all of our neighbors to have the be able to earn a living.  If all of the resources we pour into security were devoted to helping everyone feel secure in life, we won't need all of the guns, and locks and alarm systems.  Job skills, physical and mental health care are needed to help everyone feel more secure.  
  • Please deliver a giant box of "to have a good neighbor - be a good neighbor" to everyone this Christmas. We need to be tolerant of differences.  We seem to have forgotten that the key to  being able to live together in a civil society is to treat others well and and in return they treat us well.   
I hope this is not too much.  I promise not to wait 50-years for the next letter.  



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sweet Past

I grew up on a funny sort of a farm, my father and grandfather kept bees - lots and lots and lots of bees. When I was a teenager, I was out running errands with my grandmother one day, she stopped in a local business to pay a bill for the farm, the clerk turned around and asked the book keeper for the bill for the Honey Farm, except she said Funny Farm.  My grandmother was furious, I had a hard time containing my laughter.

I don't like bees, it is not the getting stung part that I dislike, you get use to that after a while, bees stink and they make me sneeze.  Yes you get use to getting stung, of course if you place your hand on the table and start pounding on it with a hammer, after a few minutes you will get use to it.  It will hurt just the same, but you will get use to it.  With bee stings, you do stop swelling up after a few dozen stings in a few weeks, unless you are allergic, like my grandmother was, she swelled up and had trouble breathing after just one sting.

How many bees did we have, kind of like stars in the sky, billions and billions and billions of them.  Inventory was fun, bees are kind of hard to count - they keep moving, and hatching and dying.  We shipped honey in 55 gallon barrels, by the semi truck load.  As I recall on our best year we shipped something like 250,000 pounds of honey.  Of course it sold for about 10-cents a pound back in the middle 60's when we had that once in a lifetime crop.  So what happened to the bees, none of the kids wanted to go into the business and my father sold out in 1982 a retired to Florida.

The honey comb above was on the breakfast buffet at the Graf Zeppelin Hotel in Stuttgart last summer.  A nice touch. How sweet - and it reminded me of my past.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bumps on the Horizon

This is the Potomac River, headed outbound on the Metro (Subway) bridge toward the Pentagon.  The old railroad bridge, and it is well over 100 years old, is still in use.  Amtrak, VRE and freight passing in and out of the District to Virginia pass over it.

On the right, is Gravely Point, there is nice park there and Reagan National Airport is just beyond that.  On the left the white buildings along the water front are military, beyond that along the river is a large tan structure, that is a DC water and sewer facility.  To the right of that, sticking up is a grey bump on the eastern shore, just to the left of Gravely point, that the hotel tower under construction for a new MGM-Grand Casino.  Yes, you are going to be able to see a casino from DC.  You will really see it, the glass on the sides of the hotel tower will be giant video screens - like ten stories tall.  That will set a few people a twitter.  It is about 6 miles down river from the city.  I live just south of there, about a 1/5 miles west of the Virginia side of the river - on top of a hill.  If I was in the other building with a view to the east, I would be able to see the Casino from my terrace.

Friday, December 18, 2015

It's a Rental

We rent cars, we rent boats, pilots rent airplanes, why not rent a camel?

The Camel above is a rental unit, available by the hour, by the day or by the week.

Way back in the 1700's George Washington rented a camel to entertain his guests at Mt Vernon one Christmas. He must have gone to Hertz Rent a Camel or something in Alexandria.  The payment for it was recorded in the estate books, hence there is proof that the camel is true and not an urban legend like the cherry tree.  He was a wise farmer, he wouldn't have chopped down a cherry tree unless it was diseased or in the way, besides he would have had one of the farm "staff" do the manual labor.

So where do you go to rent a camel these days?  The middle east or north Africa would be most likely, but if one happen to be in the DC area, the delivery charge is going to be a bit much.  I just happen to know this guy who runs a camel rental service here in northern Virginia.  When he isn't camel ranching or fishing he is a pretty good carpenter,  he replaced all of the doors in my condo 6 years ago.  I have his card around here someplace.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Planning is underway!

An old stadium in Rome, at night

Waiting for the Pope on a Sunday morning in St Peters Square in Rome
Some of you may have noticed a brief mention on Facebook a few days ago, I am planning next summer's great adventure, we are going to Rome for a couple of weeks.  It will be my second visit, we were in Rome in February 2000.

Hubby was invited to speak at a conference in Switzerland, and then the conference organizers came back with an apology and said that because of budget constraints, the conference had to be moved to Rome.  They apologized for the disappointment and hoped that the speakers would understand.  I might have actually danced around in a circle celebrating.  I like Rome.

And so the planning begins.  Dates are the first step, when do we need to be there and what two week time block fits around that?  Then for me airline tickets.  I am flying on frequent flyer miles.  Last Friday evening I logged onto the American Airlines site (I had the most miles with them) and started looking.  If you leave the dates flexible it helps.  I tried booking through a partner airline - the schedule was very good, but the airline wanted to charge me $556 in service charges to book a free seat - no thank you British Airways.  The connection going out is a bit weird, DC to Detroit, Detroit to Philly and Philly to Rome, but I was able to get seats on American Airlines for total taxes and fees of $66 (and 60,000 frequent flyer miles - round trip.)  For early summer travel - that is a really good deal.  The return is Rome to Philly and Philly to DC.  I will fly the weird outbound if needed, but I am betting that over the next 6 months AA will change the schedule on at least one of those flights and I will seize the opportunity to ask them to simply fly me from DC to Philly on the outbound leg.  I have created my planning matrix with all of the dates and key events.  Next I start filling in hotels.  I will stay at or near the airport the first and last nights.  We need to find out from the conference organizers how long we can stay at the host institute in Rome.