Try Something New

It is the first day of September, 2020, and I am feeling low. In order to feel better I have decided to set some new goals for myself. There is nothing better to motivate me than some new and exciting goals. I can fathom new, but exciting doesn’t always happen.

This is the first year in sixteen that my Lions Club is not working hard to sell two thousand raffle tickets. COVID-19 has caused our state governor to rigidly follow the National guidelines for keeping the virus at bay. We as a club reluctantly decided that in the interest of public safety we would not hold our raffle. What that means to the club is a huge loss of funds which fuel our projects within the community. My club is not alone on this matter, every Lions Club in the world is dealing with similar issues.

Without money our club is severely handicapped as we are what is known as a check writing club. We raise money once a year in a giant fund raiser and then dispense the money toward worthwhile causes within our community. Our entire reason for being is in jeopardy this year. We struggle with how to cope.

My every week social group has disbanded. We are a small group of friends who met every Tuesday at the Stray Bar for drinks , and who have not seen each other for twelve weeks.

So, with these social set backs I am going to try something new to brighten my day and to give life some meaning. Here is a list of some of the things I will do:

  1. I will visit a new blog every day, and comment on the blogger’s post.
  2. I will write a new blog post every day. This means having something meaningful to write about.
  3. I will structure my day in a rigid pattern of activity to ward off boredom and to minimize my daily screen time.
  4. I will read one new book per week.
  5. I will call a friend everyday so I won’t be so lonely for human contact and voice. I never thought I would be affected by such loneliness as I have in the past months. There are a couple of reasons for that, one, because I still miss my partner Peggy, and two, because I truly don’t like living by myself.
  6. I’ll cook one new recipe every week.
  7. I’ll walk five thousand steps every day.
  8. I’ll write at least four letters this month.
  9. I’ll take the initiative to lead one new service project every month.
  10. I will accept invitations to do things which I would normally turn down.
  11. I will faithfully pray for all the people on my prayer list daily.

I will measure progress toward these goals throughout September and report back to this BLOG with results.

GOOD LUCK JOE!

Day 22-Quarantine-Too Many Bad Memories

Today, I woke up and told myself that this day is dedicated to Uncle Sam. Yes, it is the day I finally do my income taxes. Over the years I have whittled down the amount of time it takes me, but I still spend eight to ten hours compiling data for the dreaded IRS 1040. I will say one thing, I didn’t think or obsess about the COVID-19 virus. Instead, I sorted receipts, credit card statements, doctor visits, drug purchases, charity giving, anything deductible that I could find, big or small, to reduce the amount of tax I have to pay.

The Tax Man Cometh

Thanks to COVID-19 and the accompanying market crash my fixed income is drawing from a much smaller pool. The thought of draining the pool before death is not comforting. Instead it brings on thoughts of how the virus might be an advantage. Catch virus and die, then leave something for the kids. The opposite is catch the virus, don’t die, and run out of money to live on. The kids will visit you living in a tent city under an overpass. Morose. Of course, I should feel guilty about my high taxes in light of the fact that the government just threw two-trillion ($2,000,000,000,000) dollars at the economy to save it from obliteration. I should feel patriotic and happy to be donating to the cause.

Uncle Sam brought me an unexpected benefit today, grief. As I sorted records, each one brought back memories of life over the past year. Most of the expenditures were for health-care items bought to bring Peg some comfort. As I reviewed them, my mind returned to the situation that incurred the expense. Most were not happy times. Like the last visit of the podiatrist who trimmed Peg’s toenails and inadvertently irritated one of her toes into a wound that we could not heal. Or the rental for her pneumatic mattress that was designed to keep her from getting bed sores. Her skin was so broken down that it was too little too late. These are all the kinds of memories I can do without. I am afraid they will haunt me in my dreams. My prayers will be to never see another pressure sore for the remainder of my life.

Tomorrow, I will wrap up the details of my data and send the pile to my tax man. He basically pumps the numbers into a neat program and it spits out the results. He’ll have it completed within four hours. There is something wrong with that picture, I spend ten hours compiling data so it is nice and neat and he spends less than half that time entering the data, and he gets paid. This is the last time I can claim Peg as a dependent and next year my taxes will be much higher, I can hardly wait.

The weather was fabulous today, but the only time I set foot outside was to gather the mail. Tomorrow, I will spend time in a ZOOM meeting with the support group for sight impaired. All I can vision is a bunch of blind people staring at a computer screen waiting for something to happen. It’ll be interesting for sure.

In the meantime, I found a grocery store that actually gave me a delivery date, get this, it is the local grocer that I go to all the time. My previous attempts were with huge stores like Walmart, Meijers, Shipt, and Target. I don’t even get an acknowledgement from them, but my local gave me a date for next Monday a full week out. The company called Shipt is an online delivery service that will shop for you from any of the major stores and bring it to your door. Their problem is they can’t deliver either. Wow, I wouldn’t want my brainstorm of an idea to blow up on me like that. I guess I can live on my crumbs until then. The downside is the selection of items is about one quarter of what it was in the big box stores. It is a famous trick for companies to sell what you want at a very low price when they don’t have any stock.

It is time to turn on Homeland and fill my brain with violence and terrorism before I retire to have nightmares about Peg’s bed sores and her death.

To Die For

Learning to be single in one’s eighties is really different. Throughout my life I always had some type of support. From birth until college it was my parents, brother and sister. In college it was a room mate. After college it was back to my parents for a short while, then, marriage. That phase lasted forty two years, and I was single again, living alone, then marriage again. The second time it lasted fourteen years, and that brings me up to today, single again. I vowed never to get married again, but never say never. I am determined to stay single.

Life has become a battle between grief and loneliness, but after nine months of it I  can claim I am gaining on the task. To combat loneliness I have developed a daily pattern. Basically, it is get up, make breakfast, clean up, read mail, listen to my radio show, make lunch, go for a long walk, surf the net, work on my art, make supper, cleanup, work on my art some more, watch movies, read, then go to bed. Exciting? Not really, but it takes my mind off my loves and keeps grief away. After seventeen years I still grieve for my first wife Barbara, and now my second wife Peggy, such is life.

I thank God for allowing me to have Xfinity On Demand, and Amazon Prime, both services are keeping me going. I stay away from zombies, terminators, cartoons, satanic, comic characters, and stick with drama. Do you know how many movies are in the genres I just listed? Thousands. I do like action movies involving espionage, and mystery. All of them have to be included with the service, I refuse to spend money on rentals to get recent selections.

Most of the films I watch are family oriented stories. Most of them have plots based on the effect of someone dying. I estimate nine out of ten stories depict the hardship that life brings after a family member dies. Knowing a little bit about life after losing a partner I can attest to the truthfulness of how life gets screwed up. Many stories are about the effect of death on children. I watched one last night called “A Father’s Choice.”  A cowboy falls for a city girl, and they marry. They have two daughters. Their marriage falls apart and the mother raises the girls alone. She meets a man she wants to marry. The happy family to be is returning from a night out at dinner and the movies. As they exit their car and approach the house the new man notices strange things, like the dog is out in the back barking, the front entry light is out, etc. They take two steps toward the door and a man in black jumps out of the dark and begins shooting. He kills the mother on the spot and nearly kills her fiancé, the girls are spared. Think of the impact of this scene on the kids. The rest of the story involves how the kids cope and how their estranged cowboy father learns to be a parent after a long absence. I love this kind of plot, but there are too many off them that rely on death to become a story.

Many of the better films are not produced int he USA, but rather in Canada or Australia. Folks in those countries are not as focused on the weird zombie stories like we are in America. come to think of it, zombie movies are dependent on death also.

I got hooked on a series called Jack Ryan, based on author Tom Clancy’s stories about espionage and intrigue. The remarkable thing about these stories is the unbelievability of the central character to endure enormous punishment and his bullet dodging capability to stay alive while killing untold numbers of bad guys shooting at him with machine guns with single shots from his pistol.

If Hollywood ever decides to quit making this genre I am in trouble.

 

It’s Over

My attitude is still positive in spite of the fact that in 2019 I lost my beautiful wife to Alzheimer’s, and just this week learned of two very close friends who passed also. Death is a bummer when taken from the earthly perspective, but it can be the greatest gift one gets when viewed from the heavenly side. Whenever I first learn of a death, I am saddened but within a few days I begin to recover and move forward. There is nothing one can do to change the outcome. I had both of these friends on my daily prayer list for more than two years, It was all I could do.

This year ended my two year term term as President of the Frankfort Lions Club. I took the position seriously and gave it my all, but I was glad it ended. The position gave me a lot of respect from the community, and I enjoyed that, but it also meant I was more available to the community than I was to peg. My term ended the day after Peg died. Needless to say, my regret was not spending more time with her because of my responsibility to the club. Could it have been different? I don’t think so. I needed to get away for a few hours regularly to keep me from going insane watching Peg fall apart.

In 2019 I reached a new milestone. I passed 157,000 miles on my car and I have owned it for fourteen years. That is huge. I never owned a car that provided reliable transport for more than ten years and 110,000 miles. By that time these autos were too tired to be reliable anymore. With my present car I would not hesitate to get in and embark on my Great Last Time Around Tour of ten thousand miles. In my previous jalopies I would never have considered it.

My bucket list is one item shorter because I entered and displayed my Intarsia art in a public show and sale. I didn’t sell anything, but I did enjoy receiving many compliments on my work. It was a joy getting the display ready and borrowing some of the pieces from their owners to display them.

I started a new art project in March only to set it aside in April because Peg needed my attention more than the new piece. A week ago, I returned to the work and this morning I had a long talk with myself about starting another work as ambitious as this one. I find myself sitting and staring at the assemblage to study the contours of the model and then to envision the same lines in the flat pieces of wood before me. What was I thinking runs through my mind. To date, I have recut six pieces, broken four during shaping, and have added more cuts to split large pieces into smaller more manageable ones.

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Although I have not decided to put my house up for sale yet, I spent three months clearing the clutter of too many souvenirs, un-needed gadgets, and clothing, it is show ready.

For the very first time since I retired from work I bounced a check. In fact, I bounced several for three months in a row. I am still trying to determine what I spent so much money on to run my checking account dry.

Twenty nineteen is over, but I look forward with relish and intend to spend as much energy as possible to not waste the precious seconds God is granting me to make humanity better.

Have a very, very happy, and prosperous New Year!

 

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Grief Made Me Do It

The Great Last Time Around Tour

One of the things I have done recently that I consider to be productive is to come up with an idea that would take my mind away from grief. This one is fabulous in my mind and my friends get excited for me when I talk about it. I sat at my desk one day and began to think about all my friends and relatives that live outside of the Socialist-Democrat bastion of the mid-west. I started a list. I finally ran out of gas at twenty-four. I’m sure there are more, but I would have to change the rules to include a wider span of friendship and relations. What if I were to visit all of these people on one big trip around the United States? I am also hankering to see some of my favorite sites again, like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier NP, Redwoods, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and of course Crazy Horse Mountain. The last time I saw Crazy Horse it was just a scratch on the side of a mountain in the Black Hills. If I remember right, the original sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was still alive in the seventies when I was there, blasting this mountain-sculpt by himself. As I continued to envision the trip it expanded more and more, and the miles began to add up. Hell, I might even have an excuse to buy a new car for this idea.

The next step I took involved Google Maps. I could plan the trip from person to person and city to city in a way that didn’t waste too many miles. I lost faith in Google Maps when I ran out of space to enter more cities at about Phoenix. Hell, so much for all this wonderful technology that can only go so far. I’m sure if I were still eighteen, I would have figured out how to make it all work. As it was I just started a new map and charted the second half of the trip on a second map. After looking at the route on the two maps I realized I missed a huge part of the country by skipping the northwest and northern states. That’s when I decided I wanted to see the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier again. Another idea came back to me. As long as I’m driving all around the USA why not visit the four corners. I been to two of them(Key West and Washington) but I missed the point in Maine and the one south of San Diego. The problem with the four points route is that I would miss the entire center of the country. Missing so much started me to thinking of revising the whole idea to one where I visit every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. I don’t have friends in every state but I could fix that by making some.

As I write this I am reminded that Peggy and I traveled extensively in Canada. We took several driving trips. She wouldn’t fly nor take a boat so I said okay we’ll drive. It took three separate trips but we made it from Quebec city to Vancouver. I loved those trips and I wouldn’t mind exploring all the Provinces by car. One of my work acquaintances, Myles Murphy, migrated to the USA from Labrador which is still somewhat primitive compared to New York or Chicago. He often told me some funny stories about his relatives whom he visited yearly. He drove and then boarded a ferry. One of his stories involved his mother. It seems she got into his suitcase out of curiosity and found a grooming mirror. She picked it up and held it to her face. She saw the image of a woman, and said to herself,  “look at the ugly old woman he is carrying on with.”

The bottom line here is that the trip I routed on Google maps involves driving for 130 hours over 8500 miles. Since I am only physically able to drive five hundred miles a day or eight hours which ever comes first that amounts to seventeen days. If I spend a minimum of three days at each location that would add another 75 days. The whole trip would last three months provided I live through it.

Least of all I had to name this venture. I call it “The Great Last Time Around Tour.”

. . . and I still haven’t touched Alaska or Hawaii.

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