Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019-2020 Goals

A year ago I posted the following list of goals for 2019, let's see how I did.

  • Keep moving, going to the gym 5 times per week. 
  • Plan a two week trip to the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Read 50 books 
  • Start on the condo updates
  • Explore the neighborhood - go out to dinner once a month 
  • Work on the top 10 list for post retirement
  • Daily Blog 

Mission accomplished.  I am keeping moving, making it to the gym 5 or 6 time a week, and I have recently upped my treadmill time from 30 to 45 minutes, 60 minutes on the weekends.  The trip to the Pacific Northwest was a smashing success, I really needed the break.  I just posted a list of 61 books read in 2019. We finished Jay's bathroom replacement and my bathroom will be done in early 2020.  We have gone out to eat, probably 25 times this year in the local area.  I am making progress on a post retirement plan.  With this posting, I have blogged at least once per day all year. My 4th year of not missing a day (I missed one day in 2015.) 

So what are my goals for 2020? 
  • Keep moving, go to the gym at least 5 times per week, start keeping a gym / activity log (I haven't done that in close to 20 years.) 
  • Take a two week trip to Ireland, Wales and London in early March.  
  • Read 50 books
  • Daily Blog 
  • Add 5,000 photographs to the archive 
  • Continue to build a life outside of the office. 
How did you do this year?  What are your goals for 2020? 

Monday, December 30, 2019

What Have I Read in 2019

It was a good year of reading.  I have an-hour plus most days on my commute to read, I like to read on airline flights and long train rides.  All but a couple of these were read on my trusty Kindle.  I have bought a couple of books that I didn't read, abandoned one or two that I started and found to be terrible.  I didn't include on this list a couple of food books that I read, and a couple of short books that I read. All in all, I passed the goal of a book a week.  
  1. It's A Long Story: My Life, Willie Nelson
  2. Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
  3. What We Keep, Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax
  4. Famous Last Words, by Ray Robinson
  5. The One Thing, Gary Keller et al. 
  6. The Incomplete Book of Running, Peter Sagal 
  7. The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown
  8. The Best American Food Writing 2018, Ruth Reichl 
  9. What you are getting wrong about Appalachia, Elizabeth Cattle
  10. Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman
  11. The Joy of Drinking, Barbara Holland
  12. Becoming Trauma Informed, Nancy Poole and Lorraine Greaves 
  13. Attachment: 60 Trauma Informed Assessments and Interventions, Christine Reese
  14. New Times Roman, Martha Miller
  15. 101 Trauma-Informed Interventions, Linda Curran 
  16. The Book of Forgiving, Desmond Tutu et al
  17. Here's Johny!, Ed McMahon
  18. Save Me the Plums, Ruth Reichel
  19. See you in the Piazza, Francis Mayes
  20. Your Life Calling: Re imaging the Rest of Your Life, Jane Pauley
  21. The Reluctant Hotelkeeper: A Memoir, John Searnacke 
  22. Flaneur: The Art of Wandering the Streets of Paris,  Federico Castigliano
  23. Poutine in the Orient Express, Marcel Strignerger
  24.  Restless: Memoir of an Incurable Traveler, Heather Hackett (miserable book)
  25. How to Win Medicare Appeals, David Mullens 
  26. The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates 
  27. An Olive Grove at the Edge of the World, Jared Gulian
  28. Make Your Bed, William McRaven 
  29. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
  30. The Quiet Rise of Introverts, Brenda Knowles (don't bother.) 
  31. Retirement Italiano, Terrance Coen
  32. Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance
  33. Monsieur Mediocre, John von Sothen
  34. Why Don't You Write my Eulogy Now So I Can Correct it, Patricia Marx (a waste of paper and ink, and I read it on my Kindle.) 
  35. Immoveable Feast, John Baxter
  36. The Reluctant Expat: Part One, Alan Laycock 
  37. Educated, Tara Westover (terrifying book)
  38. Five Nights in Paris, John Baxter
  39. The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine
  40. Everything is Happening at Once, Jonathan Marcus 
  41. The Power of Storytelling, Ty Bennett
  42. Everything is Fucked, Mark Manson (great book) 
  43. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Monroe
  44. CFI! The Book of Satirical Aviation Comedy, Alex Stone
  45. I'll Take the 18: The Story of Beech 18 Freight Flying, Scott Gloodt
  46.  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  47. Mr. Know-It-All, John Waters
  48. The Way I Heard It, Mike Row
  49. How To Live Forever, Kimberly Best
  50. The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine
  51. Hauling Checks, Alex Stone
  52. Me, Elton John
  53. An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good, Helene Tursten
  54. Northland; A 4000 mile Journey Along America, Porter Fox
  55. Dirty Letters, Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward 
  56. Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life, Twyla Tharp 
  57. The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin 
  58. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  59. Preserving Italy, Domenica Marchetti
  60. Antoni in the Kitchen, Antoni Porowski
  61. Easy Sausage Making, Will Budiaman 
What have you been reading? 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Five - I Can See 2020 Coming Around the Bend

The last Sunday five of 2019, let's ask about plans for 2020.

  1. How much travel do you expect to do in 2020?
  2. Any special milestones coming up for you in 2020?
  3. Anyone you are hoping to meet in 2020? 
  4. Your greatest hope for 2020? 
  5. You greatest fear for 2020? 
My Answers: 

  1. How much travel do you expect to do in 2020?  A little less office travel, I have a personal trip to Ireland planned, work trips to Atlanta and Seattle, I will add a few days to the work trip to Seattle and make a week of it.  I will likely go see family in Michigan, Cleveland and Florida. 
  2. Any special milestones coming up for you in 2020? J's oldest brother turns 80, we need to go to Cleveland this summer. 
  3. Anyone you are hoping to meet in 2020? John Gray in March. 
  4. Your greatest hope for 2020?  The Presidential election. 
  5. You greatest fear for 2020?  The Presidential election. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Blogging and Bloggers

A friend introduced me to blogging, he was going on holiday for a couple of weeks, and invited me to "guest blog" in his absence one summer.  While I was at it, I posted the first few posts on the Adventures of Travel Penguin, and here I am years later, and I have to admit it, I am rather addicted to my daily blog.  I read about a dozen blogs each morning, commenting on 4 or 5 of them, a handful of other blogs draw a few comments a year. There are 3 or 4 other blogs I look at once a week, and another half dozen that I look at once a month or so.  I dropped a couple of blogs this year - there is only so much moaning I can tolerate.  

Over the years we have met some wonderful people through blogging.  Dr. Spo, Anne Marie and Todd, Ron, Fearsome, and Mitchel who are all still blogging. Woodchuck, Secret Squirrel, and Harpers Other Keeper, who are still in our lives, even if no longer blogging.  There are more bloggers to meet in person, if the stars align on schedule, we will buy John Gray dinner in March, and I need to buy the Mistress a gin or three at some point this next year.  If you are ever in the DC area, I love to meet people for breakfast or lunch.  

Most of my postings are written ahead of time, edited and scheduled for posting (most post at midnight eastern standard time.) I occasionally mess up and post live, something I was planning for later, sometimes I leave them up.  A few times a year, breaking news leads to an instant post.  

Blogging has improved my writing, forcing me to be creative or at least less boring on a regular basis.  Blogging gives me an outlet to share the photos that I take, I have a couple of sister blogs that are almost all photos and very little text, but those are seldom updated.  I tried a city daily photo blog, with working full time, it was a grind to create content, and it was never recognized by the network of city daily photos.  Perhaps as I approach retirement, I will work on that again.  

Thank you all for being a part of our blog family.  I enjoy what you post, love when you comment on my blog.  I know far more people read than comment, but that is perfectly normal.  Leave a comment, I don't bite, and I seldom delete comments. 

Thanks for another great blog year. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Looking Back on 2019

It's that time of the year, when I look back on the year, and think about the year ahead.  I was in the world of business in the goal driven 1980's and 1990's (thankfully before the the era of evidence based programs.)  My brain is trained to set goals, assess baselines, and measure progress.  

Looking back on 2019.
I traveled less.  Only 7 airline trips, 19 flight segments - about half of what I did the year before.  I knew it was going to be a quiet year. Two of the professional conferences I went to, were here in DC. We did a road trip back in June.  My hotel log shows 52 room nights for the year. That is down 4 nights from the year before.  I did fewer trips, but the trips were longer this year. I will not retain medallion status with my primary airline.   

Memorable? A road trip to Cleveland, Detroit and South Bend Indiana in June.  We visited family and friends along the way, and had a nice time.  Two weeks in Washington State in July.  We rented a car and drove to remote areas along the northern border, and south along the Pacific coast.  It was great fun.  New York in March, it snowed, we spent a couple of nights a block off Time Square and it was New York City.  I was in Philly a couple of times, met up with Anne Marie and Todd for a leisurely lunch. 

Missing? For the first time in recent memory, I didn't visit Chicago this year.  With J retired, we won't have his nearly annual conference in the Windy City, and somehow this year my work schedule just didn't take me there.  We didn't make it to Europe (or any place outside of the country.)  My attempt to put together an eastern European tour ran into calendar conflicts, and in July we elected to go whale watching, rather than go to British Columbia for lunch.  Seats are already booked to go to Ireland and Great Britain in 2020.   

We experienced a year of double income, so kids, and no debt.  J had a year of full pay as part of an early retirement buyout. With the sale of the other house, finances have been easy this year.  We made it through the remodel of J's bathroom, and signed a contract for my bathroom to be replaced in 2020.  Decades of contributing to retirement savings, and well, when I added it all up late last year for the first time, I was speechless. My father spent his retirement worrying about money, (and still left behind more than he had when he retired) I need to remind myself to not do the same.  When my time to retire comes, we should be fine.  

The early part of 2020 was spent fitting two houses of stuff, into one house.  We replaced some furniture (I never did post a picture of the "peacock blue leather sofa.") I bought a big walnut bed, the first piece of real bedroom furniture I have ever owned. It is modern, squarish, with black steel legs, and I love it.  We have gotten rid of some overlap, and made room for everything. I still have a box of crystal glassware I don't want, and a set of china that my grandparents collected as gas station premiums during the depression that I have not found a home for.  

Oh, the bottle above was a find from Cleveland.  It was a single barrel, early production from Western Reserve, a small, start up organic distillery in northern Ohio.  Aged 14 years, at first the wood is a little strong, but the overall flavor was very good.  I also have one of their higher volume, finished in cherry cask, bottles in the back stock.  I have enjoyed 3 or 4 really good single barrel bourbons this year.  I have 6 or 7 on hand, I will need to make a stock up trip to the bluegrass region, in a couple of years.  

How was your year?   


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Happy Boxing Day

If you are reading this, you survived Christmas - or you are reading from the hereafter.  For the English this is boxing day. Boxing day has nothing to do with punch-ups the day after Christmas as a result of uncle Ralph being insulted by Cousin George over dinner. The name comes from the tradition in grand English Country Houses (think Downton Abbey) of the staff having the day after Christmas off, and being rewarded with a box of goodies (that the staff likely toiled to prepare.) One of my father's aunts was a housekeeper in one of those houses for decade before immigrating at the beginning of World War II.  She was housekeeper for the Firestone family when my Aunt Edith was born, my father went to stay with her (them) for a couple of weeks to get him out of the house for the birth.  

Cousin William was married three or four times and sued for "palimony" once.  His second wife was particularly colorful.  When they met she was the wife of his banker.  She had expensive taste.  The first year they were married he bought her diamonds, a whole hand full of them for Christmas and she complained that she couldn't wear them anyplace for fear of being robbed.  The second year he bought her a fur coat for Christmas, and she complained that it was not as nice as the one he had bought for his first wife (she has a point.) The third year he gave her a checking account with $10,000 in it (he must have found a new bank.) She complained that writing a check was a pain in the ass.  The fourth year she found a beautifully wrapped box under the tree, he made the excuse that he needed to go have an early Christmas breakfast with his kids, and that she should open it when she got up.  She noticed a funny smell that morning.  She opened the box and found it full of cow manure, with a plastic bag on top of the pile, containing divorce papers. There was no report of her complaints that year. 

Be grateful for all kindnesses, great and small.  

Any legendary family holiday stories you can share? 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas - The Way We Were Wednesday

There I am, on propped up in the sofa behind my sister. I was probably about 28 months old when this was taken, I think the doll was my sisters. A couple of the ornaments on the tree survive in my collection.  The little ceramic Santa on the front corner of the television I stuffed in my bag when I was cleaning out dad's house after he died.  I had no idea that it had been around for my lifetime.  It is in one of the glass fronted bookcases in the dining room today.  

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate or observe.  Best wishes to all for a safe and happy holiday season.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Twas The Night Before Christmas

It is the day before Christmas, and all through our house, peace and happiness reign.  

The shopping for gifts is long finished, well except for a last minute special request, that Thanks to Amazon was delivered on time.  J asked for a new larger ironing board, I must be married to the only man in the country that would ask for a new ironing board as a special gift for himself.  

The kitchen is stocked with goodies, we are tying something new this year, beef-tenderloin instead of a turkey.  We like turkey and  turkey is a great centerpiece for a dinner for 6 to a 100 people.  For the two of us, even a small turkey is a bit much.  So we are trying the most expensive cut of beef I could find.  I will make a cream of mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and either brussel sprouts or green beans to go with it.  Potatoes are a special treat, we eat a lower-carb diet these days.   

I have a homemade fruitcake, and what J calls a Godfrey pie, 8 oz cream cheese, 12 oz can sweetened-condensed milk, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and vanilla to taste, in a gram cracker crust.  It was my father's favorite.  There is a bottle of bubbly chilled in the refrigerator (if I remember to open it, it has been there since before Thanksgiving.) 

I will do my daily hour of penance on the treadmill, and maybe take the convertible out for a drive if the weather is sunny.  

Then not a creature will stir, sleep will overtake us, if tiny reindeer land on the roof, they will be 11 stories above us, just like Amazon, Santa can use the freight elevator.   

May peace be with you and yours.  


Monday, December 23, 2019

Aladdin the Christmas Camel

200 years ago, a traveling menagerie was passing through the area and George Washington paid the owner to bring a camel to Mt. Vernon at Christmas time for his guests to see this exotic animal.  Mentioned in the Bible, General Washington saw a connection between the camel and Christmas. For most this was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  For the past few years, Mt. Vernon has paid the owner of Aladdin to bring him to Mt. Vernon for 6 weeks each year, for the visitors to see.  

Aladdin is owned by the carpenter that replaced all of the doors in my condo shortly after I moved in almost 10 year ago. He and his wife hand raised Aladdin, he is very friendly and good around people.  Aladdin also does private parties - if you ever wanted to rent a camel I know I guy who has one.  


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Five - Curious Things Around You

Sit where you are, be comfortable, look around and answer five simple questions. 

1: What is the nearest living thing to where you are sitting? 
2: What is under your toes? 
3: What is the nearest photograph of? 
4: How many clocks can you see from where you are sitting? 
5: What item around you, have you possessed for the longest? 

My answers:
1: What is the nearest living thing to where you are sitting? The tree outside my bedroom window, maybe 10 feet away. 
2: What is under your toes? A jute rug, that I keep under my desk chair. 
3: What is the nearest photograph of? It is a black and white photo of a cat wandering among the studios at the Maitland Art Center in Florida.  Part of my last black and white series. 
4: How many clocks can you see from where you are sitting? four. including the one on my computer.  
5: What item around you, have you possessed for the longest? An earthenware mug, I bought while visiting my aunt and uncle at the lake, when I was about 10 years old, it is filled with pens, scissors, letter openers and such. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Done with It, through, Over It!

It was a bit of a struggle this week, with four projects needing attention, projects that I needed to finish and ship, so I could move on.  And I did it.  I finished scoring funding proposals for a government agency, written materials and a PowerPoint for a January program, another PowerPoint that ended up being more work than I expected when I discovered that Texas has not adopted Model Rule 1.14, and a book review that I promised to write - I had read the book, and the book was good - that makes writing a review easier.  

With all of that done, I set my out of office email message to Happy Holidays, I will be back next year.  I am taking the rest of the year off.  

I need this.  

Oh don't worry, I will have lots of time to blog, and read and comment.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

If I Won the Lottery

If I won the lottery, and had more money than I could need in a lifetime, I'd buy a condo with a view of Washington DC, there are a couple of buildings in Arlington, near the airport, with spectacular views and the added bonus on planes flying by.  And I would buy a farm someplace.  I'd have to employ a farm-boy or two, or three.  Immagine the fun I'd have interviewing and selecting the farmhands!  I'd like a flock of sheep, and a kitchen garden.  Fruit trees, and raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.  I'd want a large kitchen on the farm.  I'd like a nice smoker for meats and sausages.  A flock of chickens would be nice.  

It helps to have a plan, to have a dream. 

This one is unlikely, I don't often buy lottery tickets, I don't like the disappointment of losing, if you don't play, you don't fail.  And besides I have a good life - would I really want the burden of more? 

Would you really want to burden of more? 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Find Someplace Comfy and Watch the World for 5-minutes

The world rushes by, at an ever increasing pace.  There is an endless stream of things that need to be done, a million things competing for our time and attention.  We are constantly bombarded connected and entertained.  

Most of us are exhausted by it.  

My suggestion, this holiday season, is find a comfortable place to perch, put your phone away, tell the world you need a minute, and just sit and watch the world go by for 5-minutes, or 50 minutes, or 5 hours.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Way We Were Wednesday Lysle

I have one, and only one 1st Cousin, Lysle.  I took both of these pictures, about 40 years apart.  He grew up.  He still has food in his hand, but no bottle hanging from his lips.  He is a gentle giant of a man with a an appetite for fun and adventure, fast cars and even faster motorcycles.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Health Update

My long term readers will recall that I went through some rather significant medical challenges back in 2015 (look at May - July of 2015 if you want to revisit the details.) Thanksgiving week was my annual follow-up, so a quick update. 

The MRI was long and uncomfortable, last year I was in and out in 45 minutes, this year was nearly 90 minutes, at least they didn't tape head in place this year.  The results were good.  There is no evidence of measurable growth of the remains of the tumor on my spine.  They noticed some scar tissue that they had not seen before, but nothing that concerned them.  The great news is the next follow up is in two years, with a reminder that this is a very slow growing tumor, so no guarantees.  I still have some variation in feeling in the bottom of my feet and toes, really unchanged over the last 2-3 years, in other words this is as good as it will get. Both the neurologist and my family doctor agreed that the neurological dead spot is likely painful. At least once a day it feels like someone is standing on my ribs for a minute or two, then as long as I am careful how a move, the pain goes away.  The new normal.  Considering everything that might have happened, I am in great shape for the shape I am in.   

The visit to my family doc, showed really no changes.  My weight was down one-pound over a year before.  Meaning I am still fat.  My blood pressure was about the same, stressed, but not enough to merit any changes (it has been a challenging year in the office.) Blood sugar was acceptable. My cholesterol was the same, but she moved the goal posts and recommended pills and kicking the treadmill up a few notches to see if I can lose a little weight.  If I lost 100 pounds, I'd be one sexy beast.  I'll be happy with 25 pounds over the next year.  

I had a great conversation with my family practice doctor (GP.) I assured her I know I am an aging fat man.  I don't expect her to prevent or cure everything, I know I am in the last quarter of a fun life (she high-fived me for those comments.) We will work on the obvious, but I'd sooner have quality, than quantity. I am more concerned about life in my years, than years in my life. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Wisdom of Age

If the people who created this health food drink had anyone in the room over the age of 50, they would have chosen another name. My immediate reaction, was laughter, remembering the cheap wine sold under that label before anyone involved in this train wreck was born. Plant based superfood - wine is plant based. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Five - Christmas

Come curl up with Santa and tell me about your holiday plans. 

1: Where will you be for Christmas this year? 
2: Are you planning anything special to eat or drink? 
3: Is your shopping done? 
4: What would you like Santa to bring you? 
5: How can it be Christmas again, already? 

My Answers:
1: Where will you be for Christmas this year? Home, the two of, happily nesting. 
2: Are you planning anything special to eat or drink? I made fruitcake, and old family favorite. 
3: Is your shopping done? Done. 
4: What would you like Santa to bring you? A new kitchen would be nice. 
5: How can it be Christmas again, already? Beats me, seems like just last month when we did this the last time.  

Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Role of Government in A Civilized Society

As Anne Marie sometimes says, hang on I am about to spew.  

Spo, the dear, wrote a few days ago about a blogger who commited suicide, after getting sick, losing jobs, losing health care coverage, losing hope and not seeing any way out.  When this happens, we have failed as a country to create a civilized society.  

Even wolves live in packs, with roles that promote the survival of the pack, not the enrichment of individuals.  Self sufficiency is a myth, none of us knows how to do all of the things that need to be done for us to live safely and comfortably.  We form societies so we don't have to fend for ourselves.  Our society is no stronger than how it treats the most vulnerable member.  

The backlog of Social Security disability (SSDI) cases is 1.1-million, with an average wait time of 596 days for an administrative hearing.  Congress carries on about fraud, waste and abuse, but the standard for SSDI  is that the person is so sick or disabled, that there is no job that the person can do for minimum wage, 20 hours per week.  That is pretty sick. This is not a new problem, the backlog was 800,000 cases 20 years ago, and congress appointed a task force to study the issue.  Save the money for the task force and hire more administrative law judges, or empower staff to make more judgement calls.  

Medicare comes with SSDI, but only after you have been eligible for benefits for 24 months.  Simply put, you have to be totally and permanently unable to work for two years before you get help with paying for medical care.  When this was implemented in 1965, it was a temporary budget measure.  Temporary my ass.  This has to be fixed.  

If you are similarly disabled, and really-really poor, you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI.) This "safety net" program brings your income up to $771 for a single person, $1,157 total for a married couple, and then limits what you can own to assure you are forever in poverty.  The rules of the program have not been significantly updated in over 50 years.   Can you live on $771 a month? 

The most vulnerable members of our society need better.  As a civilized society, we are committed to one another, and we are failing to fulfill our commitment.  

We are all only one serious illness, or injury away from being the person who needs help.  

We all need to be mad as hell about this.  We need to all vote.  We need to ask our politicians hard questions and keep asking until they start giving answers instead of tax cuts.  No American should die waiting for help, or because they have given up all hope of help ever being there.  

Spew is over.  

Sorry, I feel better now. 

Are you registered to vote in the next election?  

Friday, December 13, 2019


I lived in Florida for about 20 years, on and off in the early to mid 70's then full time from 1977 to 1995.  As soon as I could after moving away, I visited at least twice year year, sometimes more.  With my parents gone, I don't have the reason to go back, and I miss it.  I like the nearness of the water, the gentle sand beaches, the flat pine scrub that covers most of the state.  The gentle humid climate. It is seldom hotter than 95, seldom colder than a light frost.  

Do I want to live there again?  Not really, I miss some of the familiar places and activities from the city I really grew up in.  But likely those have changed. They say you can never really go home again.  

What place calls you back? 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Julia's Kitchen

Julia Child's book Mastering the art of French Cooking, and her groundbreaking television cooking shows revolutionized cooking in America.  She introduced technique, and ingredients, urged home cooks to be fearless.  She was a stickler for "one right way" to do things, I think you take the right way and do many many things that way.  

Her kitchen, lock-stock-and-barrel, is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 

Have you read any of her books, or watched videos of her cooking? 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Way We Were Wednesday - Grandfather Social Safety Nets

My mother's father was born on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, one of a dozen children.  He dropped out of school in the 3rd or 4th grade, as soon as he could read, write and do basic math.  He and my grandmother married young.  She was desperate to get out of her father's house, and marriage was the only respectable path.  He worked as a farm hand, during the depression (my mother was born in 1927) they struggled to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  During World War II, he worked as a heavy equipment operator, accumulated enough cash to buy a farm.  He farmed with horses and mules, until it simply become impractical.  In the early 1960's he was trying to unstick, a stuck tractor and it rolled over and crushed his leg. While he was recovering from the broken leg, he had a massive heart attack.  This was long before bypass surgery, his doctors told him to retire or the physical work of farming would kill him.  With his life experience, there were not a lot of options. 

My grandparents sold the farm, held an auction and sold pretty much everything but the clothes on their backs.  They bought a new Chevy pickup truck and a 27 foot travel trailer to live in.  After a couple of years of scraping by on savings, he applied for and was approved for Social Security Disability.  My grandmother received a benefit when she was old enough.  In 1965 Medicare kicked in.  Their benefits were never much, a few hundred dollars a month, but it kept the lights on and food on the table.  

Those safety net programs of Social Security and Medicare, kept them alive, they were likely below the poverty level, but proud and independent (and stubborn, hard headed, you know the type.)  

He lived another 15 years or so, he died in December of 1976, my grandmother lived beyond that for another dozen years.  

His picture reminds me how fragile health can be, how important those safety net programs are, and how you can have little and still be proud.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Palace

The bathrooms in the condo were hideous, cheap fiberglass tubs / showers, cheap cabinets, aged fixtures.  When we were planning Jay's bathroom, I kept saying, "what ever you want dear!" It is only money, we can't take it with us.  The end result, is stunning.  It is a small space, and being a condo, there is nothing we can do to make the space larger, but every surface is finished.  He had all of the walls tiled to the ceiling, with that six inch high glass-mosaic tile band ($500 worth of tile, and hours and hours of labor to install that.) I love the backlit mirror so much, I have ordered one of my bathroom.  The cabinets were custom made, adding the linen closet on left.  These pictures don't show the $1,700 in custom glass shower doors. It is a small space and to make the most of it, the doors were made to fit.  For what it cost, I dubbed it the Potty Palace.  

I went with the dark cabinet and brushed nickel fixtures for my bathroom. I ended up with custom cabinets that will maximize every inch of the limited space available, (an extra $2,000 over going with a stock cabinet from Home Depot that would always be too narrow for the space.) I picked a tile for the shower that melts my heart everytime I see it - even if it is $23 a square foot.  My shower doors are a stock product at about half the cost of custom, but still the best by one of the best manufacturers.  In the end, I am spending about the same amount on Potty Palace 2 and we I did on number 1.  Remodeling the two bathrooms are going to cost about what I paid for my first home, in 1982.  

Monday, December 09, 2019

Out of Murals

As I feared, I have run out of murals, for Mural Mondays.  I guess I don't spend enough time in the urban neighborhoods.  I went through them faster then I was finding them.  I live in the edge of this major world capital city, but I see a very narrow slice of it on a day to day basis.  

So here we are with a big fan.  This is a historic reenactor at  Mt. Vernon.  If you are going to be in the DC area before the end of 2019 and want to go to Mt Vernon, let me know.  I have two guest passes that expire the end of the year.  They come as part of a membership package I buy each year.  Free to the first person who asks.    

Do you maintain a "membership" in any historic or artistic venues in your area?   

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Sunday Five - If It Floats Flies or %#@&S

Back in 2015 when I was headed into surgery, I spent 15 minutes talking with the anesthesiologist as he tapped into my arm and sewed things in place for a long day.  He asked me what I was thinking about, and I said, "I am thinking about how big of a boat I should buy if this surgery is a success?"  He said, "oh a boat can get expensive." I said yes, there is an old joke that, "if it floats, flies or fornicates it is cheaper to rent than own!"  We both laughed.  I mentioned where my parents lived in Florida, and he said, he had been to the War Birds Airshow several times.  Turns out he has a World War II T-6 trainer and flies airshows as a hobby, talk about expensive. Shortly after that he said, "I am going to give you something to help you relax," I woke up 26 hours later.  

Five Questions: 
1: Have you ever wanted to own a boat? 
2: Would you fly in a single engine aircraft? 
3: Have you flown in a helicopter? 
4: Would you ever pay for sex? (I don't expect fully honest answers on this one.) 
5: If you got a new lease on life, what would you reward yourself with? 

My answers: 
1: Have you ever wanted to own a boat?  Oh, for years, I never have. 
2: Would you fly in a single engine aircraft? In a heartbeat, I miss it.
3: Have you flown in a helicopter? Twice, and I will again. 
4: Would you ever pay for sex? (I don't expect fully honest answers on this one.) I was talking with a friend about 30 years ago, she was complaining about how hard it was to find a job, I quipped that she could always work the OBT (the prostitution district in Orlando.) She responded, "with what men expected when I was giving it away, I'd hate think what they would want if they were paying for it." 
5: If you got a new lease on life, what would you reward yourself with? I ended up with a convertible, instead of a boat. 

Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Pike Place Market

One of the highlights of last summer's visit to Seattle was visiting the Pike Place Market. I love that type of fresh farm/city market.  One of my all time favorites is in Florence Italy.  They always make me wish I had a kitchen nearby.  One of my goals in retirement is to rent a furnished apartment in Florence for a month, and shop there everyday, Seattle would be fun to do the same, and Paris, and London, and well you get the idea. 

Where would you like to live like a local for a month? 

Friday, December 06, 2019

Walt Disney World

I remember the awe, the first time I rode the monorail as it passed through the atrium of the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World.  The hotel was a statement piece, putting a monorail station in the lobby was brilliant.  

Back in the 1970's my grandmother took the family to the Top of World Restaurant on the top of the hotel for dinner with live entertainment by the Royal Canadians (Guy Lombardo was dead, but the band played on.) I remember in the 80's when they restricted access to the observations walks on the top of the building after a couple of jumpers splattered on the sidewalk below.  As I recall the hotel is the site of the infamous "I am not a crook" statement by Richard Nixon.  

I should stay there someday,  

Thursday, December 05, 2019


When I was about 12, I spent a week at a summer camp. My only such adventure. It was near Port Austin, on the top of the thumb area of Michigan, overlooking Lake Huron.  It was fun, but being in the dirt and bugs was never my idea of fun.  Lake Huron was too cold to swim in.  

One day we did a river hike.  The river was a small stream, babbling over rocks and sandbars, with the full array of flora and fauna, fish and creatures. It was the only place I have ever encountered leeches.  Our legs came out of a pool with little worm like creatures attached to them.  Most of us panicked.  The counselors calmly removed them, as I recall touching a burning cigaret to the back of the leech made it release its grip and and fall away, also affording the counselors an excuse to smoke in front of their charges.  The bleeding stopped within a couple of minutes. 

The river hike was one of my fondest memories of that week, at times I think about finding a creek and taking a hike.  

Would you join me on that hike?  

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Way We Were Wednesdays NASA

I was standing on the shore of the Indian River in Titusville, just across the river from the Kennedy Space Shuttle the morning of the first space shuttle launch.  I had been there the day before, when they got down to seconds to go, and cancelled and started over again.  I was working about 40 miles west of there.  I was probably late for work those mornings, not that anyone would notice.   

In all I watched a dozen or more launches, and one landing.  An amazing time in history. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

This holiday season, relax and enjoy.  Don't worry, be happy.  It will all be okay.  If anyone is not happy, let that be there problem, you are not the happiness fairy. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Mural Monday - With a message

I left my phone off most of one day recently, no office email, no voice mail messages instantly sent to me from the office.  We have become captives of our wired and connected world. It makes is hard to genuinely take a day off.  Maybe one day, I will be rescued.  

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Sunday Five - Custom

When I bought the condo 10 years ago, I hated the bathrooms and kitchen.  The builder had put in cheap and ugly 35 years ago, and it had not gotten better with time.  Earlier this fall we had Jay's bathroom replaced, next is my bathroom.  We went one day this last week to pick finishes - I don't have a firm price yet - if I suddenly quit blogging the price may have caused "the big one."  

Hence this week's Sunday Five, custom. 

1: Have you ever had a house built? 
2: Should I go with shiny chrome or brushed nickel on the fixtures? 
3: Are those cabinets to dark? 
4: Have you ever said, "I don't care if it costs more, I want quality?" 
5: Have you ever done a major remodel? 

My answers: 
1: Have you ever had a house built? I worked in the building business for 15 years, I have built three homes for myself. 
2: Should I go with shiny chrome or brushed nickel on the fixtures? I want your opinions. 
3: Are those cabinets to dark? I want your opinions. 
4: Have you ever said, "I don't care if it costs more, I want quality?" This is the first time for me, everytime I touch it I want to think, "that is really nice," not "that is cheap." 
5: Have you ever done a major remodel? Jay's bathroom was the first, this one is the first that is really mine.  

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019


The top image if the cover of my 2019 yearbook.  I was a yearbook geek in High School, mostly photography, though I did a little layout work.  I like the concept of that end of the year collection and look back at what has happened.  

Both Google and Apple offer me services that create books of highlights of my Adventures.  There are also a couple of online publishing services.  I have used Shutterfly 5 or 6 times to create a year end book, or a book about a special adventure. Last year, and this year, are end of the year collections, looking back over what I have done, where I have been.  Some books I print copies of for family members, last year and this year, just one copy.  Something for me to look back on. 

Have you ever had a book printed of your adventures? 

Disney Christmases Past

In February, my middle brother will mark his 42nd year of working at Walt Disney World.  I have had at least 8 jobs in the same period of time.  

For years Disney would close the Magic Kingdom Theme park early, one Friday in December, shoo all of the tourists out, and open it for a private party for cast members and invited guests.  Supervisors and senior manager would operate the rides, and dip free icecream cones, for an evening of Disney style family fun. Gary invited me as his guest several times.  It was great fun.  The crowd was a few thousand, instead of tens-of-thousands, the attractions were not crowded, very little waiting to get into anything you wanted.  Always a fun place, as a private party the Magic Kingdom became relaxed for the evening.  The rules were a little looser, though still no booze.  

As additional parks opened and the cast grew in size, Disney tried doing more than one evening, then eventually went to giving cast members extra free passes to bring family and friends to the parks.  

I guess I am one of the lucky ones who got the experience the Christmas parties of the past, Mouse style.   

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday

In the management offices of American retailers, the day after Thanksgiving, became as known as black Friday, because for many of them the start of the Christmas shopping season, was the first day of profitability since the back-to-school rush of late summer.  Many retailers make more money in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, than they do over rest of the year.  

I loathe that media discovered and started using the phrase "black-Friday."  It feeds a frenzy that makes shopping rather unpleasant. 

Today marks the beginning of my annual self imposed exile from American retail.  I don't do a lot of Christmas shopping, and most of that is done online (Jay's big box has been wrapped and ready to go for weeks.) I will go back to the stores after the dust settles in January.  

Stay safe, stay sane.  

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

To my international readers, today as an annual day of Thanksgiving in the United States. 

I have much to be Thankful for. A long term loving relationship.  A comfortable home. A career that I find meaningful.  Reasonable economic security. We live in a safe and secure place.  I have few fears.  I am able to move about, for the most part as I wish.  

For too much of my life, Thanksgiving was a festival of gluttony. 

Today I will over indulge in being thankful for what I have, in being kind to others, in remembering the joys of the past year, and planning for the joys of the coming year. I will remember how fortunate we are, we are well educated, comfortable, safe, secure, not fearing an imminent death (in reasonably good health.)  I will cook something good, because I love to cook, and partaking in good food with people you enjoy is an act of love, but I will focus on the people, and the time, and all we have to be thankful for.  

Wishing you and yours a safe, secure and happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Way We Were Wednesday - Holidays Past

Based on the pin my grandmother is wearing, this was probably taken at Christmas, in 1975 or 1976.  The family was gathered at my grandparents' winter home in Istachatta, Florida (google it if you want.)  My grandparent's spent about 20 winters there, my grandmother stayed a year or two after my grandfather died (both grandfathers died in the fall of 1976.) 

It was always nice seeing everyone, but the tension was always palpable.  Silly things, differences in cooking style or my mother obsessing over dinner being done on time, and who would be late arriving. I never enjoyed the day.    

As an adult, I have focussed on making holidays, stress free.  Relax and enjoy the holiday season.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

You are Just Fine, Just The Way You Are

I spent an hour drinking with friends on the terrace of the Presidential Suite at the Capital Hilton recently.  I was the only one in the circle who is not a parent, they were talking about the worries of parenthood.  

One has a son, who is tall, and thin.  He is extremely bright, very friendly.  His parent worries about his insecurities.  Maybe reflecting the parent's own insecurities.  

Another has a younger son, like 12 years old, he is very active and a little chubby.  His parent worries about his body image issues. Again maybe reflecting the parents concern about staying active and healthy (the parent succeeds at doing very well.) He is a hormonal youngster, subject to outbursts and mood changes.  His parent worries about his moods, and his insecurities.  

I reflect back on my insecurities at that age.  Based on comments from adults, I thought I was fat, I look back at the photos from the time, and realize that I was not fat. My mother's obsession, became my internalized body image.  I was insecure about my feelings for other people.  

At the same conference another friend of mine, who was not on the terrace drinking prosecco with us, told me that his soon to be 18 year old daughter, just came out as a lesbian.  He said he hugged, her and assured her he loved her (he said, he has been expecting this for some time.) My advice to him, was to be supportive and accepting.  Her greatest fears are likely loss or rejection.  Make sure she does not miss anything, that there are no losses for her.  I told him, I came to terms with myself later in life, that I spent a couple of decades hating myself, and it is hard to be nice to others, when you hate yourself. 

My message to all of these parents is the same.  Make sure your children know that they are just fine, just the way they are.  No one should ever expect you to be perfect.  Make the most of what you have to work with, and love yourself, so that you can love others.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Presidential Suite at the DC Capital Hilton - Sunday Five Suite Life

This is the view from the terrace of the Presidential Suite at the DC Capital Hilton, a dear friend of mine stayed there for four nights recently.  The suite is 1,500 square feet plus a roof terrace.  Every president, except the current one, since Roosevelt has stayed in this suite.  If has a grand foyer, bedroom with a large bath and a separate side entrance (the mistress entrance) a huge living room, a formal dining room that would seat about 12, a butler's' pantry (with a seperate entrance.) It was rather comfy.  

Hence this weeks Sunday Five, hotel rooms.
1: Have you ever been upgraded to a suite? 
2: What is the largest hotel room you have ever stayed in? 
3: Tell us about the worst hotel room you have stayed in? 
4: What one element from staying hotels would you most like to have at home? 
5:  Have you ever taken a "souvenir" from a hotel stay? 

My answers:
1: Have you ever been upgraded to a suite? Several times. 
2: What is the largest hotel room you have ever stayed in? The presidential suite at the Holiday Inn in Louisville Kentucky, about 1,000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, wet bar, marble floors and wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows.  I was there one night, and I was staying alone on a work trip. 
3: Tell us about the worst hotel room you have stayed in? Microtel in Beckley West Virginia, I killed a bed bug. 
4: What one element from staying hotels would you most like to have at home? Daily maid service. 
5:  Have you ever taken a "souvenir" from a hotel stay? I have a "couple" of "Do Not Disturb Signs." 

Please share your answers in the comments.