Weird Collections

Why do people collect things? I think it is because it is fun and it sets a person apart from others who do not collect. My own fascination with collecting began in the fourth grade with Sister Flora. During the winter months when the weather was too cold or too snowy we often ate lunch indoors. I was fortunate enough to live within 500 feet of my school, and went home for lunch most of the time. By nine years old I could make myself a peanut butter sandwich, pour a glass of milk on my own, and then have enough time to watch Uncle Johnny Coons on TV before returning to class. Mom worked and was not at home for lunch so when the weather was really bad, she packed us a lunch and told us to eat at school. I didn’t mind because dressing for the cold took time which cut into play time.

During an eat-in lunch we were on our own for thirty minutes while our Nun ate her lunch. When she returned she always had some fun thing to amuse us with. One day, she introduced us to stamp collecting. She was a collector and needed a source of new stamps. Just about every kid in our school was the offspring of immigrants. Our parents had relatives in the “old country” with whom they communicated by mail. So we were a source of stamps from many countries. Sister Flora taught us geography by explaining where the the stamps came from. She taught us about perforations, and cancellation marks, and watermarks. She showed us how to make our own stamp book by drawing a grid on notebook paper. She introduced us to the hinges used for attaching stamps onto the pages of our homemade collection book. After a couple of lunch meetings on stamps she established a stamp club which met once week. I have never stopped collecting stamps since. I haven’t put a stamp into an album for at least forty years, but I cannot throw away a commemorative stamp. I merely tear off the corner of the envelope and keep the stamp in a special drawer of my desk. About thirty years ago, a neighbor who belonged to the same garden club told us that we could benefit birds by donating used stamps to the Auduban Society. When my desk drawer gets too full of loose stamps I put them into a bag and take them to Kay’s house, and she relays them to Auduban. I have one very large corrugated box full of my stamp collections and loose stamps that I cannot throw away. Since the hobby has lost its attraction to the general populace the demand for old collections is non-existent. One of my heirs will have to deal with it.

My wife Barbara loved to save things too, and she was avid in the pursuit of items to add to her collections. Her largest collection, by far was her trove of depression glass. The glass came in several colors namely blue, pink, yellow, green, and clear, she specialized in saving pink. The most popular color is blue, and also the most expensive because of the demand. Although she collected the pink dishes and put them on display, her philosophy was to use them on special occasions. She would set the table with her best china and also use pink serving bowls from her collection.

Next to her depression glass collection, she had a love for deer. She loved the real live wild animal for its sleek lines, beautiful color, and gentle nature. No doubt the Disney film Bambi had something to do with this fascination. By the end of her life she had accumulated over three hundred ceramic, plastic, or glass deer. She had salt and pepper shakers, pitchers, and decorations of every conceivable form. Our house was loaded with deer. They were on tables, book cases, and shelves, in every room of the house. Barb and I spent untold hours attending antique shows searching for collectibles. It was our one form of entertainment that turned us both on.

Collections can become a big thing to dispose of. After Barb died, and I was emotionally strong enough to begin the chore of cleaning the house to prepare it for sale I learned the hard fact of life that something you paid five bucks for might net fifty cents. Had she lived she would have died from the shock of having to get rid of her collection for so little. She got her money’s worth from the joy these items gave her.

I began a new collection about ten years ago when I bought a bottle of Cabernet wine from Australia called Nineteen Crimes. The wine isn’t very spectacular, but when I discovered that each cork was printed with one of the nineteen crimes I began to save them. The story behind the name and the crimes goes back several hundred years to when Australia was a possession of England, and England had all these weird laws on the books and decided that if one was found to be guilty of any of them that their sentence would involve being shipped to Australia for life. I had to have all nineteen crime corks before I could switch brands. Well that hasn’t happen for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that some of the crimes are not coming on the corks. I”m still looking for those final crimes.

In order to write this post I found it necessary to take inventory of the corks I do have. Come on, it’s time to quit this non-sense. I’m still lacking no.s 1, 6, and 19. It makes one wonder if the company is withholding them on purpose to addict suckers like me into continuing to buy their swill. The laws are hilariously funny, although I’m sure at the time the perpetrators didn’t think so when they found themselves chained to the inside of a dungy ship for a four month, thirteen thousand mile trip to a foreign continent inhabited by kangaroos and the world’s deadliest snakes.

One of my favorite crimes is number #5, impersonating an Egyptian, WTF???? What could possibly be so bad about wanting to look like an Egyptian? I think number nine should be adopted here in the USA, instead we are going the other way, and allow thieves to get away with stolen goods, #9 Assault with the intent to rob.

The punishment given to the people for these crimes has yielded a population of really nice people. I like Aussies for a number of reasons, and being an ancestor of a 19 crimes perpetrator is not one of them.

Anyway, I must continue to buy my Cabernet from Nineteen crimes until I have numbers one, six, and nineteen in the bag with all the others.

Messenger Woods

Today, I. and I took a short hike in Messenger Woods Nature Preserve in Homer Glen, IL. In my short lifetime I have visited almost every nature hiking path in the area, but Messenger escaped me. We figured the snow would be too deep to walk, but took a chance on it being a well used trail. we parked in a loop and stopped to read the message board, and to view the map. I determined the trail head to be about two to three hundred meters away. There were no tracks leading to it. My Lovely shook her head and balked at the prospect of lifting legs ten inches high with every step. We returned to the car, and I decided that as long as I was there I would continue to the end of the drive to see where it leads. The drive was short and sure enough there was the official trial head for the short .5 mile loop. The second choice was a 1.3 mile loop which we decided to do at another time. The short loop was well trodden and the path was lumpy but walkable. The lumps made it a bit treacherous, but what the hell let’s do it.

The sun was at it’s peak and the sky was as blue as a sky can be. The brightness required us to wear sunglasses. The temperature was a balmy 26 degrees Fahrenheit. The walking was slow because of the lumps, and the hills. Walking up a hill was easier than walking down. During the downside our shoes tended to ski out from under us and we would up flailing arms and twisting our bodies to keep from falling. We took it slow, and even slower on the downsides. The singing birds were the only noise in the forest. The trees at Messenger are huge and old. It wasn’t obvious how huge until we passed a downed tree, and saw the trunk horizontal and stretched out. Being a Nature Center they are not allowed to remove the fallen trees, but they are allowed to clear a path if a downed one crosses the trail. Many of the fallen seniors were easily sixty feet in length, and two feet or more in diameter.

We didn’t see a single deer during our walk but the forest floor was riddled with foot prints of many different kinds of animals. Deer tracks were the most common. I have yet to learn where deer stay in the day time. One would think that on a sunny day like today they would be easily spotted, but they weren’t.

While walking I had a recollection of a camping trip I took with friends to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. Five of us, two engineers and three school teachers, stuffed our bikes, gear, and selves into a GM mini van and drove to Jackson Hole in July. The goal was to bicycle around the Yellowstone Park loop, and camp between segments. Before we reached Jackson Hole, one of the teachers who was an experienced camper, skier, and hiker asked if he could stop at a small town maybe Pinedale, forty miles south of Jackson Hole. There was a super sports equipment store there where one could buy neat camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting gear of any kind. During that stop, I bought a pair of polyester wind-pants to wear over my legs on chilly Yellowstone nights. This morning I was trying to remember what year it was that we took that trip so I could peg the age of these pants. Since that trip x-x years ago this is the first year I have worn the wind pants, and I have worn them more than any other time. Talk about being emotionally connected to something like a pair of pants, this is a prime example. Now, I am thinking of all the other stuff I have hidden in drawers, closets, and shelves that are there because the items are too good to throw away, and I might use it again. The easiest way to quantify all that stuff is to call it a house full.

DAY 67b-SIP- Give Me A Sign

During my bereavement support group meetings where I met Peg, one of the grieving widows suggested that we should ask our dead partners to send a sign. The sign can be anything a soft wind across your cheek, a butterfly landing near you. It was this lady’s way of dealing with her grief. I liked the idea and often asked Barb for a sign. Anything I’d say, just to let me know you are doing well. Days would pass, or even weeks and months without a single thing I could interpret as a sign. One day, I was walking on the bike path. It was the middle of the day, and sunny. I felt a presence next to me. It was the strangest thing to feel something so close to you yet not hear it. I turned my head ever so slowly to see a full grown deer walking alongside me just behind my head. I walk this path almost daily, I ride my bike on the path almost daily yet I have never seen a deer near the path. That day, not only did was there a deer on the path it was walking side by side with me. I couldn’t take it any longer even though we had only been together for a few seconds, I had to talk to it. As soon as I did, the deer startled and ran on ahead of me for about twenty yards then skittered off into the woods.

What I haven’t said yet is that my wife Barbara loved deer. She collected statues of deer. Her collection consisted of three hundred porcelain, paper mâché, made in Japan, made in China, made in USA collectible deer statues, most about the size of a salt shaker, and some were salt shakers. There is no question in my mind that this was a sign from Barb, I made a connection.

Last month I started asking Peggy to send me a sign. What the heck maybe it’ll work again. Since then there hasn’t been a single event that I would place in the class of being a sign.

Last evening I had just settled down to watch a movie, and found one titled “Brad’s Status” starring Ben Stiller. The story has him thinking that out of all his college clique he is the only one that is not famous, rich, or successful. The story is more than that, however and I liked it.

I clicked on the start button when a sudden every loud noise happened within a few feet from me. Startled I nearly jumped out of my skin with freight when a second loud bang happened within a microsecond of the first. I jumped up to learn the source of this mini explosion. There in front of me just behind the loveseat lay a framed picture with broken glass all over the floor. Th picture is one of Peg’s and my favorites by Ted DiGrazia of running wild horses. I hung it above the bar separating our dining room from the sun room. It was set high and had fallen seven feet, first bouncing off the marble counter immediately below and then to the floor. It took out my orchid plant on the way down. The first thing that popped into my mind was what happened, then the SIGN came to mind. Was this a sign from Peg?

A Sign From Peg, The Horses Galloped Off the Wall
Mustangs Free To Run At Last

I started to think of all the horse possibilities within our family. She has a son, whose wife and daughter are horse owners and horse lovers. I have a daughter-in-law who also has horses. Did something happen to one of these families? I wanted to call them on the spot to learn if all was well with them, but fought off the urge. If they had something happen they will let me know, in the meantime I’ll just categorize this as a sign from Peg, I connected once more.

@*^#&a;*)Great Blue Heron

     Ever since we installed our pond, I have been waiting for the critters to show up. This summer the deer arrived after four years of absence. They cleaned the yard of every newly planted Hosta.  A possum has dug up the lawn looking for grubs. Squirrels have planted corn seed all about the yard. Slinky the garter snake slithered into the rocks around the water fall.  A red tail hawk often swoops through the yard after a squirrel or dove. The place is a veritable zoo at times. 

      I thought things would quiet down now that the leaves have fallen and the flowers are all gone. Last Sunday morning, I sat having my coffee reading the paper. I could see the window from the corner of my eye when it happened, A huge shadow swooped across the window. At first, I thought is was the hawk. I jumped up to see if he nailed a squirrel. Nope. I looked up at the pond, there he was, Big Bird in person. A great Blue Heron had spotted the goldfish. Before I could say “Peg come see,”  the bird had a bulge moving down it’s long throat. He nailed my largest, fanciest goldfish. He saw me, and took off looking like a prehistoric pterodactyl.

I left to deliver Thanksgiving food baskets with my Lions Club. I got home a couple of hours later. Peggy greeted me with “he’s been back three times already.” Later, I saw him again, but as soon as I made a move for the camera he flew off. It is three days later, and we have spotted him at the pond every day. My friend Al told me he would stay until he has cleaned all the fish from the pond. I hope it freezes tonight so he will migrate south.

Warm and Fuzzy Moments

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerEvery once in awhile a moment occurs that is special. One of my motivational teachers put me onto  keeping a list called “Warm and Fuzzy Moments.”  Moments come along that make us feel good. The moments are special.  Sometimes it is an unexpected card from a friend, or a “thank you” for something you did for someone. By recording the moment one can occasionally review it and feel good all over again. This technique is especially helpful when I am stressed out and not feeling good about myself. I can remember all the times when I received something unexpectedly for a positive action I took unconsciously.

This morning one such moment occurred while I was walking on the path near my house. I was totally zoned saying the rosary and listening to the songs of the birds. I felt a presence near me, but kept walking. Sometimes it is another walker or a runner who silently approaches from the rear. Many times I never hear or see the person until they are next to me. This morning it was a deer. Not a fawn, nor an adult mature deer, but a teenager. It sported the beautiful honey brown color of a springtime deer without the baby spots of a fawn, or the antlers of a buck. He/she stood just above my waist in height.

I was totally surprised and amazed that this beautiful animal should come so close to me and walk along my side for a few steps. She finally picked up the pace and trotted out ahead of me and off into the brush along the side of the trail. The encounter lasted only a few seconds, but it is etched into my mind as a “warm and fuzzy” moment. It is written on my list.

My deceased wife Barbara loved deer. Could this magnificent animal been sent by her to tell me that she is well? Did God chose to let this creature wander into my path to make my day? What ever the reason it happened, a freak of nature, a coincidence, a sign, it made my day.

I recommend to all goal achieving people on this earth to keep a log of their “warm and fuzzy” moments. The moments relived will pick you up, and help you through the times you are low and not feeling good about yourself.