A Man Thing

For the last two years I have told people that when Peg dies, and I’m still alive, the first thing I must do is sell this house. Well. Peg died. I’m quickly relearning the difficulty of emptying a house of clutter and unsightly unnecessary junk.  When we moved in here thirteen short years ago the house was empty. I had just sold my old house and everything I owned to start a new life. Peg didn’t follow suit. She insisted on keeping her old house, and did. It wasn’t until four years ago after dementia had taken her memory did I have a chance to finally sell her place. Of course the house was still loaded with her stuff. Keeping her stuff out of our new house was the only way we could live in a modern looking minimalist home. Slowly, the stuff crept into the modern. I ran out of spaces to put things. Our closets were jammed, the space under beds was filled with boxes, the garage was full, even the trunk of her car and the backseat had stuff in it. Of course all the while this creep occurred I was busy in my workshop making dust, and buying more lumber to make my Intarsia pieces. Not to mention a couple of new machines too.

Peg had an attachment to her stuff. She loved clothes and remained the same size all her life, old clothes fit her as well as new. The result was that she had a tremendous inventory of clothes. I tell people that at age eighty-five she still had her prom dress. I promised her that I would not throw anything away or dispose of it in any way without her permission. She never granted me permission. She always said her daughter and grand daughters would use her clothes. Wrong. They have taken a few articles as mementos but the fashions of a forty or sixty something are different than that of an eighty something. After four weeks of sorting, searching, boxing, bagging, and hauling clothes the master bedroom closet is finally finished. When I saw the empty closet for the first time it dawned on me that I have just disposed of my wife. Emptyness overwhelmed me. The finality of her dying had hit home. I had to stop and sit down, I almost cried.

I am donating most of the things to three different organizations: Saint Vincent dePaul Society, NU 2 U, and Neat Repeats. All of them are resale shops that support battered women, poor families, and single parent families. They are happy to see me coming.

The journey on this new adventure will take another eight weeks as I move from room to room purging the unnecessary things from life. The goal is to end up with a house that is ready to show for sale. I’m still not sure what the next step will be, but I trust God will show me the way. I may just pack the Death Star with camping gear and head for Alaska. After Barb died sixteen years ago, I packed the car and went to Arizona for three months. It was there that I finally cried for her. It’s a man thing not to cry.

Five Stars Squared

I just finished reading a delightful book which I thought would bring me back to grief. I read all the reviews and picked up the story line ahead of  time to realize the main character loses his wife to cancer. I hate stories about men who lose wives to anything disease. That is how I lost my first wife and am now losing my second. The idea of awakening grief within my body made me cringe. Yet, after beginning to read I fell in love with this story. Yes there was grief, love, suspense, and excitement, all of the elements of fiction that make a story interesting. The most unlikely character is the dog. The central character’s dog Enzo tells the story from beginning to end. The ending is sad but beautiful. You will not go wrong reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Five stars squared.

How Not To Solve a Problem


Most people who are problem solvers, or in business know that you spend your effort on things that are relevant. As an engineer, I was taught the Pareto principle which simple states that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort. I used this rule on every problem I could. When you have limited resources like engineers, salespeople, and machinists why try to solve every stinking problem at the same time? The first thing I thought of when I spotted the list above is the Pareto Principle. Using the Pareto method I can tell you that more lives would be saved if we attack heart disease or cancer first. Seven million people die from cancer worldwide. That is more than all the lives lost due to the problems in the entire list below it. I guess liberals cannot do math nor figure out that the number of lives lost to shootings is minimal when compared to heart disease and cancer.  We have all lost someone due to heart disease and cancer, yet few of us has lost someone because of a shooting. I don’t mean to disrespect any person’s life with my comments, but facts are facts.

The only time we came close to losing that many lives due to violence over disease was in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. So why are people so outraged by mass shootings? I have no clue, but it is a waste of energy to try to solve the problem when there are so many other pressing problems to solve first.

I’m thinking that the horror of mass death is too great because most of the people killed were young and vibrant, and filled with life. They had families and goals to reach. Well, how about the 1,960 kids who die from cancer every year? Dying a slow death from cancer is a lot more horrifying for the person than dying in an instant from a bullet.

Death brings out emotions within us when we hear about them, especially when they are senseless. So why spend untold amounts of money on writing laws that we will forget about within a month? We should instead spend some money on the grieving people who are outraged by these acts because they are in mental anguish. Having experienced grief myself I feel for the loved ones who survive. It is they who will suffer from grief for years, and you know what? Banning guns will not solve their problems. Chicago is a fine example of how useless gun bans are. More people are killed in a Chicago weekend by guns than were killed in Las Vegas. People who want guns get them and use them to kill regardless of the laws on the books. I read a news article this week that in London where guns are banned, and there is a ten-year prison sentence if you are caught with one, that gun crime is on the rise. In the meantime, people are still being killed by knives, hatchets, and rocks. Where are the bans on these items?

Wild and Crazy Adventure

Over the course of my bicycling life which began at age ten I have read a number of books dealing with bicycle adventures. Most were accounts of cross-country journeys. One was about Thomas Stevens the first man to circle the globe on a high wheeler bicycle. Another chronicles Jon Haldeman’s effort in the Race Across America. There were several other’s too. Then there were some movies like American Flyer which kicked off Kevin Costner’s career as a movie actor. The most notable bicycle film is Breaking Away which featured Dennis Quaid as a teenager. All of them offered me hours of wonderful entertainment and motivated me to do crazy things on a bicycle. That is as crazy a thing as I could do. Read my post on Nova Scotia titled My Side of the Story, and you will see just what I consider to be a wild and crazy adventure.

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Early this week I used my usual process to find a book in library: walk in, head for the new-book racks, scan the titles and covers, pick up the first thing that strikes your fancy. This time it was a book called This Road I Ride, by Juliana Buhring. The spark that lit the fire of desire to read the story was the image of  bicycle wheel on the cover. That is it, my super simple system to find worthy books to read. I was not disappointed, and I was right. The story is a bicycle adventure.

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What fascinated me about  This Road I Ride was the story leading up to the ultimate adventure which was a bike ride around the world. Juliana is the product of a religious sect called The Children of God. Something of a hippie free love movement, the sect raised the children by sending them to foster care parents within the sect in all parts of the world. By the time Juliana was four years old she began a journey living in thirty countries all around Asia, Africa, and Europe. She ultimately left the group to be on her own.

Her decision to circumnavigate the world was the result of losing her true love to a crocodile while he led a kayaking group down the Congo river. She wanted to do something to memorialize his memory that was equal to his way of life and his personal philosophy. This book will someday become a movie.

What Buhring did in two hundred and twenty-four pages was to tell her early life story, how she met and fell for her love Hendrik, set her goal to become a Guiness Book record to bike around the world, describe the ride, express  her psychological and philosophical leanings, emote her physical and mental stress, and do it in a way that keeps the reader wanting to hear more. She described how traveling into the wind was more difficult than pumping up a hill in such beautiful detail that it reminded me of too many times when I thought I would much rather climb a hill than push into the wind. A hill ends, but the wind usually doesn’t. Her book is short of a miracle.

If you are into stories about people who lead fascinating lives, this one is a must.

 

Bear With Me

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Life is like a road trip. Often, we spend time on a super highway with a very definite destination. At other times we are on a side road through a very dark and dense forest with lots of curves, and the destination is unknown. My life is now on one of those twisty paths where the next mile is unknown, and the destination is unclear, yet the journey consumes life.

My writing has been sparse of late because of the twists and turns of daily living. Many unforeseen incidents have arisen which have taken precedence over the joy of transferring thoughts to paper. A friend with dementia, a child with cancer, a second house that needs preparation for sale, all of these twists have cut me off from the interstate headed for enjoyment.

Perhaps, when this curvy road straightens out, and I return to the super highway, then, Grumpa Joe’s Place will again become a priority. Until that happens, please bear with me.

He Has Learned So Little

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Most people learn from their mistakes, but not our President. His latest appeal to Hollywood to take up the gun control fight is a prime example. His reaction to the terrorist action of a single nut job from South Carolina is to appeal to movie makers to begin a brainwashing campaign to get America off guns. Last week I watched a movie titled “Django.” I have previously maintained that when Hollywood gives up its love affair with making films that have little regard for life, then I will change my attitude about “we the people” owning guns. Django is a perfect example of a story loaded with hatred and divisiveness settled by killing. There is little question that some of the characters portrayed in Django deserved killing, but depicting the action on movie film in a glorious superman saves the day way is not what it will take to make me hand over my gun. If anything, movies like Django glorify Blacks killing Whites. We wonder why there is a rash of black on white crime in America? Tell me that Django has not contributed to this terrible disease?

Obama has solidified our right to own guns by his charge to Hollywood to take up gun control as a campaign. Why? Because if Hollywood does, they will go broke overnight, and we all know that one-percenters don’t like not making money. Writers will also have to write stories of people killing people without using guns. Where should Obama be putting his emphasis? Where should he begin? We learn the most when we are infants and young children. Our minds are like sponges soaking up knowledge. A child’s parents are the primary characters filling these tiny sponge brains with the stuff that will drive them later in life. Without parents the kids don’t stand much of a chance.  Obama should lecture people about keeping  kids with two parents. He can’t do it because his mother raised him by herself, and he has no clue about what a father’s role is. He seems a good father to his own daughters which is a sound example, but it is not enough. In his role as President he must encourage parents to rear children with character, morals, and rules. Instead, he transfers the job to Hollywood. He fully expects movies to raise our kids. What I see are children who see too many movies with the wrong messages like Django, i.e. solve your problems by killing your way out of  them.

Isn’t that what the kid in South Carolina did? Isn’t that what the Sandy Hook kid did? How about the movie house killer? These guys have major problems and they see killing as a way t o get the attention they need. Wouldn’t it be easier if they had parents who took the belt to them for disobedience or for showing signs of wrongful behavior?

Think System

This week, I had the pleasure of attending my youngest grand daughter’s band concert. She is eleven years old and has chosen the trombone as her instrument. It was comical when she walked out on stage with her band members because my Jenna is now five foot four and the tallest one in her class. The Music Man flashed back in my mind as we sat and listened to the best concert ever performed. I felt the same pride as the parents of the band taught by Howard Hill began to play. He taught using the Think System which didn’t require knowing anything about music. I know her maternal grand mother beamed down upon her with heavenly pride. My Barbara was a musical person who played and sang beautifully all her life. Her paternal grandfather who is over six feet tall beams with pride when he sees her height.

The flashback to the Music Man also brought back tender memories of my first love Barbara. The movie was current when we courted and when we saw it we fell in love with each other and the music too. We adopted “Till There Was You” as our song, and sang it to each other many times during our time together. I sang it to her as my last farewell just before she lapsed into coma. The concert brought me joy because I heard my grand-daughter play her trombone skillfully. It brought back fond memories of great times with her grand mother, and then it brought me into sadness as I remembered our last moments together.

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