Changing

I’m 63 years old and they want me to floss.

Not only that, I now need to lose some 30 pounds.

Not to say that I’ve never done anything to change my attitude or lifestyle.

After all, I did quit smoking many years ago (but could easily start any day if you don’t get off my case) and along the way I have exhibited some qualities of humility that were more than a struggle for me.

But flossing? Come on.

Having just received my quarterly lecture from I must admit, a very patient dentist who is accustomed to my usual eye rolling and condescending smile, I realized that yes in spite of years of neglect and downright abhorrence of going to the dentist, I do need to take an active role in trying to save those few choppers  I have left.

It’s either that or going plastic.

I shouldn’t be that big a deal but it is.

Simply get up ten minutes earlier, floss, brush and rinse after breakfast and coffee or coffee and breakfast which is more the norm.

It’s just that after coffee I’m already moving on the items to be done for the day, then I break for, breakfast and get back to other things.

Until nap time.

The teeth? Oops, I forgot. I do brush before bed but by then I’m too tired to floss, having just watched a repeat of the 5 o’clock news at 10, to do much of anything else.

Another change I could make but, these things take time.

Did I say I was 67?

I kinda like being obstinate, it’s my right-right?

I suppose it’s no longer an excuse to use the bad -dentist –when- I –was- a-kid argument but I do remember being drilled by a guy with a cigarette dangling  from his lower lip and no anesthetic.

There is some consolation-he’s dead now.

They do get a little self righteous-dentists, like that’s the only thing going on in my life-keeping picks close by while watching football or flossing during the news.

Give me a break.   I put one of his kids through college.

Did I say that it’s starting to cost a lot of money. With insurance as it is and no coverage from Medicare.

While being dragged kicking and screaming into my later years, flossing is not real high on my list.

There is that thing about the physiology of bacteria following  a direct route from mouth to other organs, specifically the heart and brain.

Probably need those.

Did I say I was 67?

Ok, I bought the fluoride mouthwash and the $13 toothpaste and they did give me a supply of picks and floss (the kind with the handle) so it could be relatively, not so bad.

I’ll do it.

But I don’t have to like it.

Now for those 45 pounds…..

Wedding Vows

 

“Stay in the car, he instructed, keep it running.”

With that he pulled up his collar and strode into Walgreen’s. In just a few minutes the drug store would be closing and he needed to be in before they locked the doors.

It was January,  an unusually cold night even for northern Wisconsin, so much so that he wouldn’t stick out  wearing a high collared coat and Stormy Kromer pulled low on his forehead.

That frayed cap with broken laces and one earflap hanging down was his inheritance, the only thing of value he got from his father.

His frosty breath against the parking lot lights provided additional concealment for what he had to do. What he must do.

He knew just where to find what he needed and headed to the pharmacy at the rear of the store.

“In and out in three minutes,” he reminded himself. No need to panic, just hope no one screws this up.

There was no turning back.

In the car his wife waited, worried that he might get caught and she would have to clean up the mess again. She was worried, tired and scared. This had gone on long enough.

This wasn’t the first time it had happened.

Things always seemed to get worse this time of year when the weather turned cold, the days shorter and his condition more demanding.

At home he would pace, couldn’t eat. In his agitated condition solid food wouldn’t stay down anyway.

He couldn’t sleep.

Anxiety ruled his every behavior until he made the decision to go.

Of course she would help him. “For better or worse,” they said. Well, this was the worse.

Hadn’t she warned him this would happen if he didn’t get help? She could see it coming ever since he got back.

“I might have to leave him, this time” she thought as she sat with the  engine running and the car backed into a spot three spaces from the door.

Finally after what seemed an eternity he came out. Walking fast, but not running, leaning forward with his head down as if that alone would get him to safety.

“Go, go he urged. Let’s get out of here before anyone spots us.”

She pulled out of the parking spot, turned right and glanced back at the entrance.

All was quiet. No one running to the door. No alarms sounding or lights flashing.

They were for the moment, home free. Unless there was an accident.

As she turned onto the highway with scant minutes to the security of home she asked, “well, did you get it?”

“Are you sure no one recognized you?” “Did you get enough this time?”

“Yes,” he replied,  “I got a weeks’ worth of Imodium AD and a 12 pack of Charmin.”

“Whew.”

 

 

Time

 

Vowing to quit procrastinating during 2018 is not one of my resolutions.

By this time most of those who resolved to; lose weight, exercise, or save more money have already returned to kettle chips and the couch while buying a new 110 inch TV for the Super Bowl.

I, on the other hand have just started to make changes for the year, already 16 days old.

For the New Year of 2018 I resolve not to attend any funerals.

This past year I was at seven. Most had suffered long illnesses or were elderly, one a good friend, was killed in a car accident and yet another, a young woman, murdered.

That’s just in our immediate and extended family. There were others, retired co-workers whose services I did not attend.

These were just a few of the 56 million around the world who died last year.

155,000 people woke up every day, not knowing it would be their last.

Every second there were two people who didn’t live to see the next.

Regardless of the circumstances, these were loved ones who will never again sit at the table with us, laugh or hold our hands.

Beginning with our first breath, every tick of the clock is another second less that we have on this earth and no one knows just how many ticks we get.

Why then do we waste so much of our precious time in desperation?

Worry, fear and resentment only chew up what’s left on our personal game clocks.

When I was young death seemed to be something that only happened to old people, long removed from my immediate perspective.

As I grew older car accidents and war took enough of my friends, to remind me that it is not just the passing of one generation but something that can and does happen to anyone at any time.

But still, it was someone else. It couldn’t happen to me.

As I have aged though, thoughts of the end of my time on earth reach through my consciousness more often. When it’s very late and quiet.

Tick, tick, tick.

If we only knew just how many days, minutes and seconds we had, we might try to be a little less preoccupied with things that don’t really matter and a little more with those that do.

A little less with judgment and a little more about compassion.

A little more about involvement and a little less with blind acceptance, or worse yet-indifference.

A little more about using the talents and resources we  have and less worry over those we don’t.

A little more about forgiveness.

I resolve to appreciate the days, the sunrise over a fog covered lake. Sunsets and storms.

Sparkling sunlight on fresh snow, grateful for the chance to witness beauty through frosted breath.

Father Jim Feely spoke in a recent homily, about seeing hospice patients and counseling family members about a way to say good bye.

He suggested the following:

Be grateful. Thank the person for the many things they have done. For being who they are.

Ask for forgiveness. Just in case.

Forgive them. Just in case.

“I love you.”

Say Goodbye.

He went on to suggest we do the same for the living.

Maybe without the “goodbye” part.

For, who knows if this moment might be our last chance.

Tick, tick, tick.

 

Ageless

When Joyce Kilmer penned ‘Trees’ in 1913:  “I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree…” The poet, I’m sure wasn’t contemplating the essence  of the cottonwood.

Spring is the time of the year when these lovely trees share their seeds, those fluffy harbingers of misery that show up like wedding crashers in my pond pumps, air conditioning and worst of all-they gum up my fishing reels.

I know that we don’t have one in our yard and I don’t recall seeing one in the neighborhood but there has to be a prolific female of the “Populus deltoides” within a short distance of our house.

The males of the species don’t shed, thank you.

According to the Department of Agriculture, those pesky  little cottony fibers can fly for several hundred yards on the slightest of breezes. If they should land in a river or other waterway, they can spread for miles.

These trees live on average of 80-100 years with the oldest recorded one in the U.S. located in Balmsville, New York.  This one was recently cut down at the age of 300 as it was becoming a traffic hazard.

Folklore tells that George Washington planted his walking stick in the ground and left it there. The stick being made of cottonwood.

Not as good a tale as the cherry tree but as good an excuse for the massive shade, seed bearing, obnoxious deciduous plants as any.

They do like the flood  prone areas along riverbanks and are often used to reclaim strip mining lands and offer erosion control, growing up to six feet a year.

Because of this rapid growth, they do not produce good lumber but are used extensively in the pulp making process, providing a source of high quality paper.

As for the author…

Born as Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886 the son of Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer who invented  Johnson’s Baby Powder and his wife,  Annie Ellen Kilburn.

After graduating from Columbia University of New York he distinguished himself as a freelancer with Funk and Wagnalls dictionary by writing word definitions at 5 cents apiece. He was so productive at the job that the publisher put him on salary.(1)

It was during this time that  he penned the poem for which he became famous.

Even though he had a family to support and had established himself as a poet, essayist and lecturer, he volunteered for military service in WWI, serving as a scout in the famed 42nd “Rainbow Division”.

His service took him to France and the Second Battle of Marne where he became an intelligence scout in a unit that later (in WWII) was established as the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

Although his poem was often criticized and lampooned, it inspired a movement that exists to this day.

Tree planting and conservation had become his calling, leading  to the naming of  many natural areas after him, including the 3,800 acres of virgin timber which make up the Joyce Kilmer National Forest in North Carolina.

He never lived to see the inspiration that his poem, “Trees” provided to the millions of us who value and encourage the care and management of forests.

He never received the accolades given him or his work.

At the age of 31,  Sergeant Alfred Joyce Kilmer was killed by a German sniper’s bullet on July 30, 1918.

He was posthumously awarded the French Criox du guerre for distinguishing himself “by acts of heroism during combat.”

 

 

“Poems are written by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Thank you for your service.

 

  1. Hillis, John. Joyce Kilmer: A Bio-Bibliography. Master of Science (Library Science) Thesis. Catholic University of America. (Washington, DC: 1962)

My Reality

 

At least twice now someone going by the name of “Joe” has called from “the gifting center” with an Appleton phone number.

His first question was, “can you hear me okay.”

Of course I didn’t fall for that trick, to get my voice recorded saying, “yes.”

The question remains. Am I still paranoid if they are really out to get me, or am I paranoid because they are out to get me?

Skimming, phishing, spam, shimming, evil twin attacks and the like have proven, to me at least, that they are definitely out to get me.

Every time I Google a topic, I immediately get incessant ads for any and all products even remotely related to the search.

I have no idea how a scantily clad female in a “plunge V-neck backless play suit,” can be the result of an online trip to Cabelas.

Videos in an endless loop pop up with no  conceivable way to close them, except to close out the link. For the record I will never, I repeat never, buy a “Bissell Little Green Portable Spot and Stain Cleaner, 1400m…”

I’m tearing up the carpet.

I get marketing, really I do. But their intrusion into my life has become personal. They can’t be doing this to everyone.

When I click the link to “unsubscribe” it only gets worse.

Now that my credit card companies have finally imbedded a chip to defeat the skimmers at the gas pump and ATM, a new gadget called a “shimmer” has been found inserted into the card reader.

It defeated my chip.

It’s like they know what I’m doing before I even do it.

They, the other “they” insist that I check my credit rating and reports once a year through the big three credit reporting agencies.

Yeah, like Equifax?

My phone texts me with special offers from an unknown number that cannot be blocked. Only an unidentified number to call…

My driver’s license information has been sold, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I’m not worried  about that so much. They’ll have to take a number-and wait for “Counter D-8.”

The fraudsters have gotten very clever, using names and phone numbers that appear to be familiar. Like Joe from Appleton, WI with a 920 area code.

I don’t know anyone from Appleton. Why do they keep calling me?

Every now and then, it’s obvious that they are not from around here.

“Mr. Willoson, I like to be …….”

I got another suspicious email the other day from: ruskecrook@somewhereintheukraine.gov.

“Comrade: I have deleted all of your personal information from our databases. Your social security number, bank account numbers, names of family members and addresses, along with your dog’s rabies shot record.”

“You don’t have enough to steal.”

“Joe” called again the other day. I responded by saying, “No I don’t hear you Joe, but I know where you live and I will come to get you.”

Click.

 

Prayers For The Lost

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Millions of Americans over the last few days have been offering prayers and condolences for those killed and wounded in the shooting in Las Vegas.

59 people  killed, over 500 wounded in a shooting that took place during an outdoor concert.

Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Once again we have experienced the carnage of hate heaped upon innocent people.

Once again we offer our prayers for the victims and their families.

Is anyone praying for the shooter? Stephen Paddock and his family?

We don’t know and might not ever know how he came to think that this act of evil was the only thing left for him to accomplish in this world.

He committed suicide as the police were forcing their way into the two room suite he rented in order to commit mass murder.

I don’t think Stephen Paddock was born evil.

Something in his life caused him to evolve from a wide eyed innocent child into a horrific monster.

One would think that if he wanted to leave a legacy of revolution or promote some misguided cause he would have surrendered and used the media platform to continue his tirade of hate.

Like others before him; Dylann Roof, Syed Farook, Adam Lanza, Harris and Klebold, one would expect there to have been clues and behaviors that would tell the story of his descent into a  life of hatred. Some history of despair which could only be healed (in his mind) by the need to carry out this pure evil act.

Someone, family members, a girl friend or acquaintances must have had some inkling of his solitary, secrete life.

Instead they described him as “caring, kind, quiet.”

His brother was quoted as saying “This was a complete surprise to us. When you find out let us know.”

But then, he killed 59 innocent people and himself.

Since 1984, some 54 murderers have gained notoriety from mass shootings.

http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/

Some were disgruntled employees turned down for a promotion or fired from jobs. Some were students spurned by teachers or classmates. Some (or all) were suffering from mental illness. Some were avowed terrorists and supremacists.

Killing was their way to further a cause, get revenge, or get their own Wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Paddock

There was a time that suicide was an act of despair carried out alone, away from scrutiny of the sun.

Now, more and more often it seems, people bent on killing themselves have found the need to take  innocent lives with them.

By all accounts Stephen Paddock had success, money, and people who cared. He traveled, had company and for all practical purposes, seemed to enjoy his life.

So what happened that pointed to violence and death as the only way out?

How many others are out there waiting for their psyches to justify mass murder?

And should we be praying for them?

Oh, Say Can You See…

 

https://uago.at/-xjyl

Will the last adult leaving America, please turn out the lights.

Of course, an adult would automatically turn out the lights to save energy and lower the light bill.

Likewise, an adult would realize that the battle between our adolescent President and NFL players is kinda like high school street gangs from the 50’s.

Both sides are squared off in the street, wearing chinos and leather, each “double daring” the other to do something even more outrageous.

As might be expected they fail to look past the bravado and address the original transgression.

Twitter has become the place to scream, “Oh yeah? Yeah!”

A gang and mob mentality emerges whenever the subject of racism comes up.

Unfortunately, the adults who could break up the fight are nowhere to be found.

Our political leaders are part of the problem. Beginning at the top, their self interests have long ago taken priority over that of the country.

The police have their hands full, policing themselves. Renegade officers are out there enforcing their own brand of justice while jeopardizing the credibility of a million good cops, trying their best to do a difficult, dangerous job.

The news media, well that’s probably the only thing President Trump gets right. The media is only as good as the next, true or contrived headline.

Mike Tomlin, the Steelers head coach apparently felt it was more important to be “respectful of our football team” than to be respectful of the right, of Offensive Tackle Alejandro Villanueva, to honor the National Anthem.

Villanueva, a former Army Ranger with three tours of duty in Afghanistan, stood alone at the end of the tunnel, his hand over his heart, while the rest of the team huddled in the locker room.

Maybe we need to look to a soldier. One who knows the value of sacrifice for the better good. One who is not afraid to step up and into danger for the sake of others.

Maybe we just need a mother to give them all a time out. Take away their devices. Have them sit quietly for ten minutes alone and think about what is important in their lives and look at the real reason for their behavior.

In a “sign of unity”, team players stood, sat, kneeled, or failed to go on the field at all during the playing of the National Anthem.

Owners and the NFL who in the past have penalized players for celebrating touchdowns, taunting others and carrying sharpies in their shoes, failed to show anywhere near a unified front in addressing the behavior on the sidelines.

Fans booed, players did whatever they wanted, owners and the NFL failed to control what will no doubt become the symbol of the 2017 football season, and Donald Trump blew yet another chance to be like a president.

Lock the door when you leave, and don’t forget the lights.