Middle Age Spare Tires

I have alot of tires in my life (yes, I know alot is not one word. But it’s one word in my world, which you are now in. Thank you to those that have emailed to correct me. God bless you. I have two Master’s degrees; one in Education. I’m also big on Oxford commas).

But I digress. I’m not talking about spare tires in the traditional sense of the phrase, “spare tire,” which comes from the Greek word flabous, meaning to sit on one’s ass while consuming large amounts of beer. I’m talking about the more literal, airy, round, spokey, black things that allow us to drive cars and ride bikes and look Middle-Age cool on motorcycles.

I have two cars (well, one is officially Rachel’s but I’m responsible for), a motorcycle, a mountain bike, two street bikes, a wheelbarrow, and a little cart that I attach to my mountain bike and ride to the gym with all my gym-crap (I have alot of gym-crap). I probably look like a weird old guy riding my bike with my gym-crap cart; it has a Bucs flag on it, too. I love that cart. All in total, I have 19 tires that I am responsible for keeping airy and round.
19 tires.
Every day. Every. Single. Day.
19 tires is alot.

Recently I’ve suffered the blight of non airy tires, euphemistically called flat. My tires don’t become a little non-airy, slowly. No. They go instantly flat-flat; flat-non-airy, as in no-airy, zero-airy, smooshed, dead, disfigured, lopsided, void of even the slightest pressure, an impediment to any form of use. Use. Less.

Part of the issue is that flat non-airy tires always comes as a surprise. Like, are you effing kidding me right now? surprise. Like being slapped in a really dark room by an unseen hand (whapsh! Wait, what!?); incredulity on a soul level, on a planet-full-of-souls level.

The dreadful weight of comprehension comes slowly. You always squeeze and re-squeeze non-airy tires, slightly before being overcome and sinking to your knees, hands-to-the sky-Elias-dying-in-Platoon fashion, Why did you leave me, air!

Injustice on a cosmic level. Evil has won. It’s almost too much to comprehend. What did I do wrong? How have I sinned? How could this happen? Why is the universe so PSI arranged? Barnes!

Tragic comprehension gives way to anger, hurt, shock, tears, and the sudden impact that all plans have changed. There will be no airy tires going round and round today, no breeze in the hair, no birds, no humming, no sun; only melted ice cream and dog poop.

Oh, we bargain with the air-gods and try to fix it. Desperate and embarrassingly really. Pumps and patches, we spin the tires like we’re an expert and mutter things like goat head and glass and nail, the full measure now upon us.

Finally, it settles. Push or move the flatness back to where it was before we were aware: flop, flop, flop. We now need to find something else to do, some other way to get there, some way to survive, if we can. Our hope and joy smashed on the jagged rocks of ruin and flatness. We make plans to order from Amazon or get it to a Flat Wizard, and hope that someday soon we won’t suffer from the heartbreak atrocity of missing PSI flatness.

The horror…the horror.

I don’t have spare tires, except for the cars, which according to the vehicle secret treasure map are hidden away in dark compartments that require keys and passwords and hieroglyphic processes.
Should I? Am I being irresponsible?
And if I should or am, why should I need spare tires? It’s like life insurance: I know I’m being ripped off, and even if I’m not, I’m freaking dead! Yay!

I am strong.
I’ll recover.
But 19 tires is alot.

Middle Age Mark’s 6 Awesome Summer ’21 Adventures (2): The Summer of Learning

As Walter Brennan might say in a late-60’s Western: Gawd a mighty what a summer it was!

But, yikes.
What happened?
Where did the summer go?
And, Ok, a good part of fall?

I’ll get to the particulars in a minute. First: I haven’t written in a long time. A long time. Months! I look back at my last post, before the past crazy summer got started, and wonder how the months zipped by so quickly. I dug out my heavy bathrobe this morning (I always want to take up smoking a pipe) and thought, Man. It seems like I just put this away for the summer, and here I am in it again. I should smoke a pipe.
It went by so fast.
And it was so good.

Have you ever been aware that you were actually in the very process of creating nostalgia – in real time? You know, that awareness that this, this right here, this very minute, is going to indelibly score your soul and come back to you someday as, “I had a dream last night we were back there I want to go back.”
It was that good.
It was that awesome.
It was that magical.
Laptop screensaver stuff.
(Only….in my dream there was this giant cartoon chicken that chased me around the back yard and I was screaming like a little girl and had cement blocks for feet).

All kidding (kind of) and Alektorophobia (very common!) aside, the past summer lived up to every bit of all the hoping, dreaming, and planning that went into it. I covered what we planned to do in the previous post if you’d like to catch up. And honestly, much of it went Better than planned (I should run for Office of Awesome!), some went just as planned (Yay me!), some of it went, well, not quite as planned (who’s idea was this again?), and some of it, honestly, could go in the Went off Half Cocked / WTF!? / Completely Out of Left Field column (don’t look at me!)

But, all in all, I learned a ton. Maybe two tons. I learned stuff that wasn’t even in the neighboring universe of stuff I thought I would learn this summer. Real, Other Universe stuff.
And still, all in, it was one for the record books.

Boise Greenbelt: Not quite as planned

I’m Alive!

Sadly, we did not get to ride the Greenbelt this summer as we had hoped. I rode a couple of shorter rides, but ended up having weird outpatient surgery on my left rear shoulder and had to wait for the 13 stitches to do whatever it is they were doing back there to do. Rachel also ended up having an unexpected summer surgery which precluded her from being able to ride for several weeks. Doctors can seriously be a pain in the ass.

I did, however, enjoy a very unexpected ride with a good friend into the Boise foothills after “healing.” Sorry honey. He was in very good shape and had a totally kick-ass real mountain bike that he paid like half a million dollars for. It was on this ride that I first learned, in suffocating agony, the difference between my bike (hybrid-street-gravel-not half a million dollars) and a real mountain bike. The steepness of some of the climbs and descents was frightening.
One lung exploded.
I saw Moses and he laughed and pointed at me.
I almost died.
It was glorious.

Maine: Just as planned

Mom: 86 and Mostly Blind

The motto on Maine license plates is, “The way life should be.” Our week at the beach, and the week before at mom’s house: was spectacular. Our visit with my mom was memory-making. After my dad died recently, mom decided to sell the house, so much of our first week in Maine was spent packing, U-hauling, dumpstering, sorting, organizing, and making move plans. The work was painfully enjoyable. It’s a uniquely final thing to help pack up your childhood home (Ma! Looks what I found!) We enjoyed the days and then around 5pm we’d retire to the “backyahd” for an adult beverage and rest. Summer afternoons stretched into evenings and then nights, as we made classic, life-perspective conversation. Mom was no slouch when it came to making “winecoolahs” (a precarious and potentially internally combustible ratio of vodka and wine, heavily leaning towards the vodka side).
Gawwd Ma. Wicked Coolah. Pheesh.

After a week with mom, we headed to the beach, and I am challenged to adequately convey the wonder of that beachfront cottage and amusement park. Even the quintessential rainy days were glorious. Everywhere there were families, lines, beach umbrellas, live music, drinks, sand, fried things, seagulls trying to eat fried things, and, of course, “Lobstahs” and “PeeyaFries” (and seagulls trying to eat PeeyaFries). The rental cottage came with two cruiser bikes, and we made good use of them. I found a small gym and used it 3 or 4 times, and added in some beach workouts that bordered on Zen retreats (Sunday morning in an absolute downpour was glorious). I fell in love with the 1800’s architecture, the smells, the sounds (trains at night) and with an adjacent quaint little beach town called Ocean Park.
Please, take me back.

Chicken Sitting: Better than planned

Look at THE SIZE of that beast!

At the risk of slight exaggeration, I feel qualified now to author (or at least co-author) a book called, “Mother Cluckers: My Life as a Chicken Boss.” I think there were 5 chickens, and I was Chicken Boss for one full week (that’s a 7-day week, not a sissy-fiver). I never had to run screaming across the yard as feared. They probably sensed my courage, bravery steely resolve. Once they learned who was in charge, I think they actually liked me. After dinner I’d tell Rachel I was heading out to check the back 40 and the livestock needed tendin’ and to mind the house while I was out checkin’ and not to worry after me. I had a hat and a stick. They liked to hide the eggs like I was a dumb city softie. The eggs were good and I made sure to brush after breakfast so they would not smell offspring on my breath. It was fun, although I did not come away wanting to invest long term in buying a chicken ranch, so that’s good.

Read Two Fictional Books: Completely out of left field

The truth of it is I did not read any fiction this summer. I meant to. I really did. I wanted to be the guy on the beach (Ok, the ripped, muscly, fit guy on the beach) reading a book like he had the whole world figured out. Something with Native Americans or cowboys or pioneers or ship captains. I carried the intended book to the beach and on planes and left it out on tables. I always ended up playing Frisbee or riding bikes or talking to Ma or doing a little work instead. At least for the first part of summer. And then something completely out of left field happened and it took up all the rest of whatever spare time I had left.

We started a podcast: Drinks with Mark and Rachel.

It’s completely mesmerized me. I love not only recording the shows, but find that editing the audio appeals to my technical side. I get lost in my headphone world of editing for hours after each episode. I’ve learned software and audio wave forms and noise cancellation. I researched microphones and music and love the “putting it all together” aspect of production. I’m biased, but as new podcasts go, I think it’s one of the best I’ve heard.
We’ll record our 6th episode today, talking about what we’ve learned from living small.
I love doing it.
I love planning topics.
I love the exchange of ideas.
We became podcasters!

Squat and Press 185: Better than planned

I did it! I actually did better than planned! (Ok, mostly because I am still getting better at math). But I did it! And it felt good. On the Smith Machine, I ended up pressing 235 for one rep (adding up weight amounts can be so confusing!) and I squatted 185 for 4 sets of 5. I’ve started to feel a little thing in my knees sometimes (I mean, 60 and all. Sigh) so I wanted to be aware while still setting and striving for goals. It’s actually been a fantastic fitness summer. I’m actually up several (4) pounds but still look pretty good. I feel great. I’m moving heavier weights again (which is probably why my weight is up), still slamming balls (!), and still loving the workouts.

Bonus Late Summer Event: I’m 60!

To be honest, it was kind of a dud. I mean, in a good way. I guess. It’s funny that at 59 it’s ho-hum-yeah-pass-the-cake-please and just one year later it’s supposed to be glitter popping cannons and pats on the back and you look pretty good (wait for it…) for 60! and how does it feel? I’ll tell ya how it feels: It feels like I should eat almost $100 worth of sushi and have a top shelf martini. So I did. I take back the dud part; it was awesome. Good conversation, good dream-casting, and really good sushi.

So there it is. Or was. The Summer of ’21 Awesome Adventures and Learning. So many memories made. So many smells and tastes and flashbacks. So awesome.

But it hasn’t stopped.

I have two more bombs to drop in the next update.

Necessary Endings

I wrote this post several months ago. I had been thinking about change and direction and those things (and people) that are good and not good in our lives. I had read that we should feel energized and bettered in some way when we’ve spent time with (and energy on) people and / or things like hobbies. It may seem contrary, but the process of making a mental list for consideration created optimism and energy. In light of our upcoming amazingly-fantastic summer, it may sound pessimistic or cynical, but the more I thought about it the more optimistic I became.

I thought about what our Baby House (either one of them) would look like if we never got rid of stuff; if we never decided that some things needed to not be in our lives anymore. A basic truth emerged: that would not be a good thing. I simmered on that for awhile and decided that it’s not just about stuff. Relationships, habits, hobbies, thought patterns, goals, dreams; is this “useful” in helping me go in the direction that I want to go?

What about people? I’m not suggesting that people are utilitariean, but on some level, well, let’s face it, some people are just flat out drags. A friend once called those kind of people “joy suckers;” they suck all the joy right out of you.

Another friend said once that many people are in our lives “for a season.” I’ve had alot of people in my life for a season. I learned a great deal from many of them, and some of them have made significant impact on my life.

Endings are a natural part of life on the planet. The circle of life, life-cycle; all that. Most see endings as bad things, but some endings are natural and good and signal a transition towards better: farmers plow fields under, school years close out, summer gives way to fall, people retire from working and hopefully into a new and exciting life. In some areas of life, when jobs or relationships end, the endings can be uncomfortable to say the least. Often, the reason people make a conscious choice to end something is because they have lost hope that it’s ever going to get better.

Realizing something needs to end is hard and painful. We want to put it in the back of the closet and lock the door and then brick the door over and pretend it was never there. If we don’t see it, it’s not really there. We hold on to maybe-someday and you-never-know.

It might be that someone is acting as a detractor in your life, or the job doesn’t align with your talents or characteristics, or the environment is awful and makes you feel sick, or you’re bored, or tired, or you’re scared. Or you just know deep down you could be so much more. should be so much more. would be so much more, if.

We round the edges and put it off; maybe it will get better, maybe it’s me, maybe I’m looking at it wrong, maybe if I just wait, maybe next week/month/year. Or what if I’m wrong, what if I make it worse, what if I end up with regret.

Endings can be scary.
They signal the need for action.
Action can be really scary.

Hard is good.

But endings are necessary before new things can come.
We (I) need to remember, often, that the good things in life are almost always the not-easy things. Think about the good things you’ve earned, the goals you’ve accomplished.
Tough, yeah?
I bet yeah.

We have to do the hard thing before we get the good thing.
Be careful when you get a good thing too easily.
Maybe it’s not really a good thing after all.

We have to do the hard thing before we get the good thing.
It’s almost a Life Rule: Hard = good.

Hard before good. That’s they way life works.
Hard brings good.

Necessary endings. Ending the fruitless so the fruitful can begin.
Pruning can be a painful process. But then new life grows.
And we Middle-Agers have too much to be hopeful for, and are way too cool, to settle for less.

Middle Age Mark’s 6 Awesome Summer ’21 Adventures

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Are we all ready for a non-pandemic summer or what? I know I am. As I write, March Madness is in full swing. It’s a great sport series that makes people optimistic, fills bars, enjoins bracket friends, and makes for perfect spring Saturday TV. Such fun. Every year I fantasize about accepting the workplace tropy amid cheers and cries for speechmaking; also every year the reality sets in that I’ve finished near the very bottom. But no matter; still great fun. I recall the utter pie-hole-agape disbelief when I learned of its cancelling last year. Who could have known at the time the seismic ride we were in for?

It’s been a long year, but vaccine #2 is coursing through my veins, the days are lengthening and warming, and I am SO ready for summer.

We’re in a great place to begin mapping out our 2021 summer. We’re debt-free, back to being a two-income team, investing, giving, and the minimalistic living style has created an almost responsibility-free opportunity to be away from home-base for extended periods. My brain is buzzing with potential summer travel options, not just for this summer, but for several more after that. I’ve learned that days and weeks can slip by if we’re not careful; if we don’t have a plan. I don’t want to look back on this summer and wonder where it went.

Additionally, dreaming and making plans is fun, makes for great Martini (Gin, of course) after-work conversation time, and promotes focusing on our successes – something we all should do more.

Dreaming and planning are the first two steps in the four step process of dreaming, planning, living, and remembering. We’ve dreamed an awesome summer; now it’s time to fit all the fun-puzzle pieces together and make some incredible memories!

Some of the things I have listed are couple plans (done together), and some will be individual goals. And that’s ok! Get them dreamed, planned, and on the calendar!

Ride the Boise Greenbelt

Ok, so maybe starting a little on the tame side here, but riding the 25-mile Boise Greenbelt is awesome, and gorgeous, and relaxing. Did I mention that you can also start and stop at multiple amazing little shops, restaurants, and bars along the way? One of our favorite rides is to start and end at Bardenay’s, where, as luck would have it, they distill the best gin on the whole planet! Who knew! And, this year might bring the extra fun of new bikes! It’s pretty tough to beat a summer day on the Greenbelt with a Bardenay Martini (Gin, of course) at the end!

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Now we’re stepping up the game! We have a beach cottage reserved for a week on the coast of Maine, in what is probably the quintessential and most-awesome summer New England vacay spot: OOB! 7-mile beach, boardwalk, historic pier, beach-front amusement park, pier fries, clam cakes, lobstahs, drinks on the surfside deck; all right on the beach! Sand, sun, surf, and summah! Some wicked good!

Chicken Sitting

Ok, I’m not entirely sure that’s what it’s called. Rachel and I will be house-sitting for some close friends while they travel out of country, and they have chickens. This, then, is the wild, stare-down-fear, livin’ on the edge part of my summer plans.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about chicken oversight. I’ve never had chickens. I’ve never even been around chickens (I mean, except to eat them and the eggs, and I have eaten alot of chickens and eggs) I’ve heard elders talk about having mean chickens in the olden days. Just how mean can chickens get? And I’ve seen those AFV videos where chickens chase terrorized screaming kids all over the yard (chicken ptsd is probably a thing). What if that happens? What if the neighbors see? What if the chickens take over the yard? What if they can tell I set the record for per-person chicken consumption? Bravery Mark. Press on.

Read Two Fictional Books

I read alot. Daily. Usually in the morning. I tend to drift towards the deep end of the pool. Currently I’m reading about neuroplasticity or brain plasticity and the ability for the brain to adapt chemically based on experiences, especially as it relates to addiction and impulse control. Dopamine, opioids, neurotransmitters; pretty fascinating stuff actually, but not an easy trudge.

I picked up a historical fiction book the other day (The Son by Philipp Meyer) and found that I liked it. I have not yet had the time to do it justice, and there are alot of names and generations covered as foundational information, so I stopped and will need to start it again. Time is a factor for me still, and I feel like I’m wasting time by reading fiction. It didn’t really happen, so what’s the point? I’m hoping to fix this by reading historical fiction; where I guess it kinda-sorta happened-ish. I set a goal to read two of these types of books this summer.

Squat and Press 185 (Smith Machine)

These two are fitness related summer goals for me. I’m having an absolute blast re-discovering fitness lately. I’m learning more and more about using body weight, bands, tubes, Slam Balls, and I’m watching Athlene-X YouTube videos – that guy is amazing. Actually, Sylvester Stallone turned me on to him. As people like me (and Sly) mature, we can’t push the really heavy weights anymore; it’s damaging to joints and connective tissue. But what we can do is train smarter. An older mentor of mine once said something to effect of, “train today to train tomorrow.” Talk about future-minded.

Obviously I look way better than this dude

I also started using a couple of supplements again (joint support and creatine) and feel the difference. So much so that I want to incorporate more weight resistance back into my routine. Nothing crazy heavy, and the Smith Machine keeps it safe and guided. I’m anticipating a very cool milestone this year and I’m very optimistic about it.

Family Time

What would summer be without spending time with family? Now that the virus is unwinding, it’s time to fire up the barbie and get back to partying. Reconnecting will be good. A year is a long time to not get to wrestle with grandkids. All the great electronic communication tools notwithstanding, there’s nothing that beats a lawn chair, cold beer, sunscreen, maybe a frisbee or two, and barefeet in the grass. Plus, I need hugs and handshakes. No masks, no distancing, and no looking back. It’s over. Let’s go.

Ok, one more. (I really do need to get better at this).

I turn 60!
It’s hard to believe, where did time go, and all of the other awful obligatory (last one, I swear) sayings that come with maturing and decade-number-birth milestones. It’s the Big 6-0! Although the core of summer will have passed, it’ll still technically be summer (September 21st). I’m actually looking forward to celebrating this big one. I absolutely believe the 60’s will be my best decade yet. Possible retirement (heh-heh), travel, possible relocation (co-location?), new hobbies, new pursuits, new adventures; talk about exciting. I might even do one of those Man-sexy photo shoots; maybe a fireman (I’ll fight your fire bay-bee!) or maybe a lumberjack (insert favorite wood joke) motif, who knows! The point is I can hardly wait. And cake! How big should a 60! cake be! Right? Ginormous! And with real, numb-your-lips, 200% sugar frosting; none of that whippy crap.

Well, so there it is: Middle Age Mark’s coming Summer ’21.
And potential Chicken PTSD (so worth it).

6 Things I Learned From My Dad

My relationship with my dad is hard to explain. Maybe all dad / son relationships are hard to explain. Maybe it’s the different hobbies and zip codes and communication styles and myriad other nuances as kids grow up and make their own way. I wouldn’t say we were close, but I wouldn’t call us distant either. I guess we talked when we had something to say. I’ve long believed that one should try to emulate the good and leave the bad when it comes to others, family or friends.

All parents are flawed (my own parental flaws are, of course, minuscule) because all people have flaws. As parents we do the best we can and ask for the benefit of the doubt. In my case, my parents were no different. Again, the best idea is to internalize and act out the good that parents modeled, and try as best we can to not perpetuate the flaws. Sometimes that’s easier said than done; DNA, nurturing, stressors, and all that. I have and will endeavor to recognize and fix the not-so-good’s of the mixed bag I was handed, and to model in my own life the good. That’s all any of us can do.

In that spirit of clinging to the good, I learned some valuable life-lessons from my dad.

Men Should be Manly. Men should be tough. Strong. Capable. Friendly. Brave. Able to fix things. Able to stand outside the car in the winter while pumping gas. Men should not run from the rain, or any weather. Men should know how to shoot guns, fish, back trailers, and swing an ax. They should bear a few scars, and should know the basics of tools. Handshakes should be firm, tears if any should be minimal, and solutions should always precede, if not replace, complaints.

Men Should Take Action. When I was maybe 6, my dad pushed over a dilapidated 2-car garage. He didn’t ask (it belonged to a relative), he just did it. After the dust settled, he said, “There. Now I guess I need to build a new one.” Men should investigate the noise at night, the squeak in the car, or why the furnace won’t furnace. We should build, create, learn, fix, help, lead, make mistakes, figure it out, and occasionally break things (needed replacing anyways). Talking is nice, but “I really ought to’s” and “Someday I’m going to’s” are wimpy and take valuable time away from actually doing things.

Men Should Eat the Damn Cookie. This is sometimes a hard one for me. I’m pretty careful with my diet. If I can work my brain around to a more metaphorical position, maybe it could also mean to enjoy the good “tastes” of life without so much worry over the little things. Dad was a firm believer in a preset death date; he would die on the exact time and date that was designed for him. Nothing and no one could change that. While we differed there, the belief allowed him to live a fuller and less worried life. Maybe the idea is to eat the “cookie,” savor it, and then move on to what we know are better things. Perhaps this could even carry over into, say, martinis (Gin, of course). (Look at me learning!)

Men Should Follow the Spirit of the Law and Round Edges Where Needed. Dad was a Maine State Trooper for several years. I think he always regretted getting out before retiring. Back then the State Police paid too little to support a young family with 3 kids, so he moved into insurance as many of his colleagues were doing. Dad came with built-in stories. He seemed to hold great tolerance for people that made honest mistakes, and little for those that were dark or disrespectful. He kept a binder of some of the cases and crimes he worked; some of the photos are quite gruesome. Through all the stories, all the people he “let go”and all the ones he didn’t, there seemed a common thread of seeing the good, the goal, and the purpose, and not being caught up in details.

Men Should Take Care of What They Have. This was a big one. Dad was always mowing, cleaning, adjusting, repairing; making things better or keeping them as good as they could be. It taught me to respect what I have and to be thankful that I have it. We don’t need everything brand new (most of what we had as kids was not), but we can keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even older things can be nice.

It’s OK to Do Stuff Alone. Over the years after I left home, all of my dad’s hunting buddies died. As he aged, he moved away from the hobby of firearms hunting and took up archery. I don’t really know how he learned it; it was before the time of YouTube videos and I don’t remember hearing of lessons. He seemed to just decide he was going to learn archery hunting, talked to folks at LL Beans, bought a bow and all the accompanying stuff, and started practicing in the back yard; far too close to the neighbors (sorry neighbors). Tires were punctured, sheds were holed, cats accidentally went missing. But he did it. And he seemed to really love those solitary hunting trips, even if it was just him. He was not afraid to try new things.

I’m sure there are a few more life-lessons I learned from my dad but I guess those are the big ones. He died a few weeks ago, after succumbing to dementia. Covid made it impossible to see him and perhaps no matter there; he was not one for philosophical departing words, or philosophical words of any kind for that matter. We hunted and fished together for years when I was younger, but my Coast Guard career made it increasingly difficult to get home. I’ll fly to Maine in a few days to visit and help with what I can. I’m still processing his life and what it meant to me.

Our last words were when we were departing after a visit and he shook my hand after a little dementia-fueled blow up the night before.
“No hard feelings and let’s just forget about that thing last night.”
“What thing last night?” I said.
He smiled, choked up, nodded, and looked away.

To this day I struggle with keeping my voice during times of high emotions. Praying at family dinners gets a little drawn out while I work to get it back under control. So much for moving orations. Thanks dad.

One of my favorite memories is of sitting together in a field after a day of hunting and watching the treeline as cold Maine November dusk settled. Not alot of words; more a feeling of presence. I’ll miss him in that time. I believe I’ll see him again, and I hope we can sit a field again at dark and watch the treeline.

For now, I think I want to draw his bow and see how it feels.

8 Reasons I Give Thanks for 2020

I recently received my first Covid19 vaccination; a sign that the Ordeal might be thinking about starting to wind itself down. As I waited in line, I saw that people were being polite, kind, and calm. It was not at all the Friday-Night WWE Smackdown crowd I expected. All in all, a very pleasant experience. The time spent with my fellow human beings allowed me to reflect on the year that was; perhaps for the first time. Seeing as how it’s February 2021, it’s past due.

Many people had a very rough 2020. Separated from family, sickness, death, fear, lost jobs, businesses closed, and houses foreclosed; the effects still linger. I don’t offer my perspective as counterweight or contrast, but as my own reflection. My own passing through the year was not without suffering the impacts of challenge, but mine were light. Still, I chose to set my sights on what I learned, how I grew, and what I was and am thankful for.

So here’s to the 8 things I’m thankful I did or learned in 2020.

I Relearned How to Live Small. Rachel and I live in a very small space. At our age (I’m almost 60), one might expect that our American Dream Bauble Bag is nearly filled with copious square footage and multiple monthly minimums. Our small space is enough for us (3-digit square feet; not gonna lie, it gets small sometimes), and it reminds me to be thankful for the basics; a good bed, a good pillow, heat, windows that allow sunlight, way more food than I need, and an oversized rain-style shower head. With the closing off of other places, 2020 taught me to revalue my needs and be thankful for a clean, bright, organized, well-decorated space.

I realized the Importance of Liking My Mate. It’s not uncommon to profess love for one’s mate. It can be another thing altogether to like that person; like who they are, what they bring, how they affect the space you share, and like being around them. In September, the Times reported that the number of people seeking divorces rose 34 percent from March through June compared to 2019 (Read: I loved you, now I can’t stand the sight of you). The irony here is that it probably wasn’t an overt act by either party, it was more about who they were. Long-term time spent together in small spaces, working from home with the kids, no alternatives, cut off from other family and friends; liking your mate is a big one.

I Called my Mom More. My folks are in their mid 80s. Dad doesn’t talk on the phone, and is now living his final days on hospice in a locked-down facility. Mom handles the updates and local weather reports. I’d estimate that I called 5 times per week this past year. I’d call in the mornings when mom was sharpest and least cynical (it’s a New England characteristic), and try to be the voice of optimism and calm. Many of the conversations were me listening to the same stories over and over, and I wasn’t always as successful as I would have liked in being able to highlight the positives, but the talks helped me verbalize all the good that was still taking place. We still talk just about every day and I’ll fly soon to see her. I’m glad I paved the way for routine conversations. They’re going to come in handy.

I Got Really Creative with My Exercise. I’m “somewhat” of a fitness enthusiast. When the gyms closed (I belonged to 3), I contemplated moving to a nation that might have open gyms. There were none. So I found an outdoor fitness station at the local park and was thankful to be able to use workout bands and outside equipment. Some grumpy voyeur caught me and narced me to the park cops, and they taped it off. So I found a huge cherry tree and was using it until the neighborhood national arborist witch saw me and again narced me. Not to be thwarted, I gathered up some rocks and my bands, bought a cheap exercise bike, and took to the garage, the living room, the home office, and the balcony (sorry neighbors). I got really good at figuring out cool and fun new ways to get my fix. It worked! And it set me on a path (Slam Balls!) to create all sorts of approaches to fitness that don’t involve heavy weights or gym machines. I now do a combination of bands, weights, machines, and am thinking of starting a Slam Ball! club.

I Got a Guy. The phrase, “I got a guy” can often be the answer when asked how you got something done with seemingly minimal effort. It hints at inside connections and people who have a particular set of skills. Near the end of 2020, Rachel and I finally found and hired a financial advisor: George. We met with George first online, and then in his office as conditions relaxed a bit. George is the guy. He helped us kick our debt-free lifestyle to the next level. Rachel loved playing with the available software, and we’re now leveraging the power of long-term investing. God willing and with some wise decisions, our retirement status looks very promising. It’s really fun to be optimistic about the future, and we’re already having fun making plans (Bahama Catamaran!) It’s several years off yet and that’s good; we’re having fun working from home and investing as much as we can.

I Got Better at Not Caring (still working on this one). We all have those things that set us off. Especially around the house. We like things the way we like things. And two people sometimes have differing but equally passionate and equally nonsensical ways they like things. I am a meticulous bed-maker. Rachel does not like dishes soaking (she bought cardboard bowls to break me of bad habits). I am highly anti-clutter, anti-horizontal-surface-stuff-put-on-er (?). Rachel is passionate about recycling (she bought another trash bin to break me of other bad habits). There is also a towel thing I’m still learning (kitchen floor spill cleaned up with a quick bathroom towel grab = death wish). Communication is key, but even the best communication can’t compete with an unmade bed (It’s like a fat uncle who sleeps on the couch all day). I learned (still learning) to know the important ones, and to let the non-important ones go.

I Got Better at Living in Community. I hate wearing a mask. Hate. I can’t get air. It’s probably some sort of leftover childhood thing. Even now I can’t sleep without the window partially (wide) open, even in winter, because closed windows equal no oxygen. I could asphyxiate in my sleep. I was also never really worried about contracting the virus. Even if I did contract it, I am a healthy, active, fit, 59 year old, which put me at the bottom of the risk column. Mask wearing took on a life of its own and seemed to become more of a moral issue than a scientific one. I was getting looks in parking lots 100 yards from the store. I realized that looking first to my own comfort created discomfort in others. I learned that people were genuinely scared, probably not evil. There’s a common ground between individuality and societal responsibility (like not Slam Balling on the 4th floor – sorry neighbors). I still hate wearing a mask, but I like living in community.

The Best Friday Night Special Gin Comes from Idaho. I started another new tradition in 2020: the Friday Night Special Gin Martini Reward. This is one drink, made with Special Gin, at the end of the work week, to celebrate and commemorate a week well-lived. The first sip is other-worldly; savored for a full 30-seconds before swallowing, in silence, eyes closed, as I reflect on the success of the past week (release, relax, visions, Handel, enlightenment). Of course, there can be only one Special Gin, which of course comes from right here in Boise, Idaho:

OK 1 More: People Are Still Good. I have restraint issues. I know. But I needed to add this one before publishing. Taking in media these days, in any form, can acidize the soul, corrode the spirit, and surreptitiously darken the lens through which we view the world. There’s lots of research on negative bias and why we’re drawn to it, on generalization bias and our tendency to make broad assumptions from specific events, and on what keeps us clicking, reading, and watching. Spend even minimal time taking in most media, and it becomes easier to conclude that we’re all descending into hatred, chaos, and disaster. But it’s still a true, if ancient adage: Please don’t believe everything you read (or watch) (emphasis mine). What I experience when I go outside, ride my bike, go to the gym, get on the elevator, shop, dine, take out the trash, and generally interact with humanity, is that people are kind, friendly, courteous, well-meaning, and a little bit freaked out and scared.

So there it is. Some of the more important things I learned in 2020 and will take into 2021.
It is and is going to be a great year.

Summer Fun Update!

Go ahead, say it: “Groovy baby!”

Rachel and I have just started our July 2020, and despite it being a unique summer for obvious reasons, we’re having a ball. As I write, I’m sitting in the sun on the 4th floor balcony, surrounded by towering sunflowers, green tomatoes, a cucumber bush (?), herbs, and listening to Jason Aldean and kids playing Marco Polo in the pool.

Taking over!

We’re just back from several days of camping in Featherville, Idaho, and are preparing to head out again to Stanley, Idaho. We recently purchased all new camping equipment, after having sold it all because we were positive we were done with camping, and absolutely positive (no, honest, really) we were done forever with tent camping. So much for having life figured out, huh? That’s twice now I’ve been taught the “Never say never” lesson. I’m trying very hard for it to be the last.

We love the new truck tent and sleep so well with the fitted air mattress
And we love camping on the water

My profession allows me to have half of June and all of July free from work. Although I pick up some summer add-on hours, my days and weeks are largely mine to fill as I choose. It’s a great time to begin to practice retirement, and I like the arrangement and opportunity. Many people are thrust into retirement with no real time to “dabble.” It can be a real challenge to find meaning and purpose when the profession goes away.

Rachel is still enjoying her year of sabbatical, but has just recently begun applying again. We have a better idea of what she does and does not want to invest in, and we’re leaning strongly toward finding something online full time. We’ve been able to do very well on just my income; again one of the benefits of being debt free.

One financial side note and a good lesson for us: after buying the truck tent, the only real drawback that we found was that it’s a pain to go exploring or run to the nearest town because we have to take down the tent to go anywhere. Although it only takes about 20 minutes (read: first-world problems), we were finding it a pain. So, we started looking at side-by-sides, razors, UTV’s, etc, to add some fun and solve a practical issue. The type of size we wanted would cost us right at $20K, and we wanted one badly. After several days and multiple dealers, we both came to the conclusion (over a fine Martini; gin, of course) that, although it would have been a cash deal, this was not the season of life to buy one. I believe that season is coming, (along with a blog post called Seasons), and soon, but it’s not quite time. I was proud of us (but oh boy someday!)

Zoom zoom!

Our other most recent adventure is Keto, low carb eating; a whole new approach to food for me. Rachel discovered, after years of research and several doctors, that she is challenged with insulin resistance (I’m challenged by liking chocolate fudge whoopie pies. Omg. Colors). She’s been teaching me the ins and outs of the diet, and we even stay on it when camping. It’s hard work, takes discipline and planning, and we’re both seeing incredible results. I’m still dialing it in, as it’s not really designed to support the intense type of workouts that I perform daily, but I can see a physical difference in my abs (at 59, I’m getting obliques back). Kind of fun.

Finally, this summer is allowing me to explore another dream: fly fishing. Ever since I saw the movie A River Runs Through It, I’ve wanted to live in the west and fly fish. Half of that dream has been realized; time for the other half. It looks like such art when performed well (and by well I mean not getting washed downstream screaming “Mayday!”), and it seems like it would pair nicely with camping on the water. Fly fishing seems founded in western rivers and streams, it’s not something I heard much about back east. It’s going to be a very special moment for this Man when he lands his first fly fished fish. Little things (no laughing Fred! I can do this!)

I know you’re out there!

So there it is. Summer 2020. Add in some extra mountain biking, pool time, and writing, and it’ll be a quick 6 weeks of retirement practicing. Lots of good things happening. I’m working on several new blog posts for the fall: Things my mom says (she thinks she might be Hispanic now), The 55 and over world, and the aforementioned Seasons. I’m looking forward to getting those put to page.

Be well and safe my friends.

Middle Age OMG

Endorphins are a wonderful thing. So is the feeling of feeling your body move. Muscles and tendons and joints and lungs and even spleens (?) doing what they were designed to do.

After a very-too-long absence from the gym, I’m back as of this morning. And Oh My Goodness (!) it’s incredibly fantastic.
It’s true; it really is Goodness.

I knew I had to be a bit cautious. Although I’ve done a great job of maintaining during the close down, there’s a difference between body weight movements and resistance weight movements.

It was glorious. Better even.

I’ve never considered myself to be a gym-rat. I actually strongly dislike the term. I do however take fitness seriously; it’s a significant aspect of my life. For me it’s a mental-physical-emotional-sexual (what?)-spiritual experience. There are a thousand ways to be fit and strong, and I support all of them. And there are some really smart people who have designed some really cool equipment that allows the body to strengthen itself in ways that simple body weight movements can’t.

Fitness is an amazing life tool.
And with underlying health factors becoming a real thing, there’s never been a better time for Middle Age folks like me to tend to the house God gave them.
It’s a Lifetruth: Growth happens when we overcome resistance.
And it’s wicked fun.

I was expecting the little local club to be packed; overrun really. The fit and not-so-fit masses storming the doors. Lines, masks, people being weird and offended and freaked out and you’re too close! The whole planet knows that gyms on Saturday mornings are mobbed. Gyms on Saturday mornings after being closed for months will be Toilet-Paper-Aisle-Lock-down insanity.
What happened was none of that.

I was there early-ish (a little after 7am), and there were just two cars in the lot (huh?) My first thought was Crap. I was wrong; it’s not open or I’m too early. Nope. I walked into an almost empty gym (huh??) There was one other woman doing yoga and a younger guy on a bike.
The front desk lady smiled with a big happy, “Good Morning! Welcome back!”

It was quiet. Peaceful. Clean. Light. Everything in its place. No caution tape (I have Caution Tape PTSD now thank-you-very-much). I asked if there were any special rules and the Happy Good Morning Welcome Back Lady said, “Nope. Just extra squirt bottles if you’d like and some of the treadmills have signs that ask you not to use them.”

I was in disbelief. She stared. I almost cried.
I found my favorite weighted fit-ball and put in my ear buds and did warm up wall-bounces and felt my body say omg yeessssss…

Halfway through my first warm up set of assisted pull ups I just stopped to hang and stretch and be thankful.
“Oh My God that feels good,” I whisper-prayed (you know how when you’re wearing ear buds and the rock music is up and kick ass and you think you’re whisper-praying quietly just to yourself and it’s really not so quietly just to yourself? Yeah, that).
The yoga lady moved her mat.

For a little over an hour I just moved and let my body push and pull and stretch. Two people left. Two more came.

My own personal private peaceful reentry into life.
I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.
I can’t wait.
I’m so thankful.
It’s over. Thank You God it’s over.

Middle Age Dog

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (whoever the proverbial misplaced pronoun “they” is). It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not old. Old-er maybe; but not old. I wonder if a Middle Age dog can learn new tricks.

I started this blog to keep a running update of my Middle Age Life adventure. As I do get older and move into new life-phases, I thought it would be cool to document the journey, and in doing so perhaps give others ideas. I like to write. It helps me be objective; as least as much as I can be.

That said, it’s been a helluva first year.

A little over a year ago we decided to get debt free. We made plans, started to work them, set timelines and budget goals, adapted, reorganized, reevaluated, communicated, measured, planned some more, communicated a bunch more, and adapted the new plans some more. We never stopped moving forward. Even though we ran into bogs that we had to work around, over, or through, we slogged on. We sold everything (except the Baby House), paid off everything, and moved into a smallish 4th floor condo in the same town.

A short time thereafter, Rachel quit her medical management job and is in the midst of taking a 1 year sabbatical. We’re now a one income, 4th-floor-living, debt free Sugar Daddy couple. I’m soon to be 59. That brings us current.

If this blog is to be of any use, to me or anyone else, I want and need to keep documenting what’s going on. Where we are. Where we’re going. Because there are things going on. It might seem like the pace has slowed a bit, and perhaps in some ways it has. But in other, more unseen ways, there’s still big-C Change happening.

Case in point: this is my first spring without living in a full size house in close to 30 years. I’m a guy that was raised on chores, projects, upkeep, and repairing. I was taught to take great pride in where I lived, and to always make it the best it could be, no matter where or what it was. Weekends and most afternoons were Man-chore days. To me, keeping things nice is an act of showing thanks to God for what He has given me. Even a dirt floor shack should be organized and clutter-free (and have clean dirt floors).

But now I’m on the 4th floor.
It’s well decorated, clean, sunny, airy, open, and, if I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I be, I’m beginning to miss. Something.

I’m not quite sure what to do with spare time. There are no projects. Nothing needs to be fixed, and if it does, I call a guy.
I read, workout, bike ride, clean, and still, afternoons and weekends are challenging. I hate resting. And one should only rest when there’s something to rest from (like splitting a cord of wood).

I might actually be a little bored. I might also just be having a day. I’m known to have days. On said days, I usually do something that conjures the phrase, “Well, shit.” It’s often followed up at some future point with, “That wasn’t how that was supposed to go,” or, “…seemed like a good idea at the time.” Often, those are also then later followed up with, “It’s ok. I think I can fix that.”

Either way, I’m in a twist today.

My balcony farm crops aren’t growing fast enough to harvest yet. Knocking down walls seems to be against some silly policy. So, too, vacuuming the halls at 7am. I applied twice to the management company here for part time work; the pool needs a pool sheriff (if that’s not a thing it should be) to keep #113’s shitbird kids in line, the gym needs a trainer, and most of the trash cans are more than half full; extremis.

The stainless in the elevator needs cleaning and the doors squeak; still no. I could do the grounds way better than the lawn service that leaves brown spots.

I applied for weekend and summer weekday work at Lowe’s and Walmart. I even answered 6 straight times the question “On a competitive scale of 1-10, 1 being a mamby-pamby team player and 10 being a highly Man-competitive Man”, I hammer-clicked the 10 button several times and additionally commented, “I eat my competitor’s bones for breakfast! Two Chickens!!” (ok, I added the mamby-pamby part but I’m pretty sure it said Man-competive Man).

I took a long bike ride today and ended up in a neighborhood. I rode up and down each street, making a mental list of Man-chores for the owner, and wondered if the owner was a dub (dub is a Maine term. I first learned it as a boy when my dad and I watched a man trying to spin-cast a fishing lure from a dock. He almost fell in twice and every cast splashed right at his feet. “Look-a this dub,” Dad said). Probably not very nice of me but like I said, I was in a twist.

I got home and took out the Man-scoot and went for a ride. I thought it might help because it’s loud and I look like a biker and give other bikers the down-lo sign. I swung by the the local park to check out the outside fitness area since I thought it would be open by now. Nope. Caution tape makes me insane when there is no danger. Put there by dubs no doubt.

I roared back into the garage and went up to investigate this park tape nonsense. In retrospect, it was unnecessary to rev the Man-scoot as loud as I did pulling into the garage but it echoed and smelled like gas (plus, I’m thinking hearing aids are Middle Age vogue these days anyways). The city park office was closed but had a Facebook page so I fired off a private message about needing unending super-sets and the only caution needed might be for park-bike-hater granny’s ShitZoo.
Thanks for asking. No. We’ll know more soon. Shih Tzu
Capital G Grr. Teeth-clenching. Fine.

I thought about going down to the new construction site and restacking the river rock construction pile. The dubs that did it had done an inferior job. Then I thought about taking my pick axe and redirecting the irrigation ditch so that it flows more efficiently. The new construction 6 foot commercial planters are spaced wrong, the hot tub looks dirty, the pool should be uncovered by now (dubs), and the stacks of lawn chairs should be cleaned and reset geometrically.

My death grip on the balcony rail made my forearms look strong in the sun. Sigh. I watered the crops, sat down, sighed again, opened a beer since I hadn’t done anything to earn a fine martini (Gin, of course), and watched the #113 shitbirds chasing each other on the open area brown-spotty grass.

I’m not good at being bored (ok, I suck at being bored). It’s very uncomfortable. I get into trouble. I feel like I’m wasting life. I need to do something. When I say do, I mean, do.
Reading is not doing. Talking is not doing. Siting still is not doing:
“What’cha’doin?” “Nothing.”
“What’cha’doin?” “Restacking this giant pile of dub-stacked river-rocks, of course.”

Plus, how’s a man supposed to enjoy a fine Martini (Gin, of course) at Day’s End when he hasn’t earned it? Ever seen a dub drinking a fine Martini (Gin, of course) at Day’s End?
Well there ya’ go.

I reflected and projected as I tried to wind myself down and dismiss the get-in-trouble bad ideas that the PBR part of my brain was offering the fine Martini (Gin, of course) part of my brain.

I expect we’ll own a house again, someday. Somedays are hard. There’s no action in Someday, nothing to grab hold of, no tools needed. But I know it won’t be too many years from now. We have the Baby House still, but we’re not there alot yet. We’re not sure where or when our next primary home might be, although it is making for intriguing dialogue. I’m not sure anywhere is off limits (except maybe Utah. Can’t get a decent fine Martini (Gin, of course) in Utah. The next house will probably be smaller, probably be in an over-55 kind of place, have a little lawn for crops, a pool and hot tub, good neighbors, and need lots of tools.

In reflecting, I feel restless, purposeless. Nothing to charge at. Going slow is another thing I’m not good at.

I’m not panicked. I know I’m in a Life-season. Big-C Change has happened in little time; it can become routine to live at that pace. Selling The House of Wales was a big one for alot of reasons. I do know that I have no regrets, which is significant. It was time to do what we did, and we were purposed to do it.

And I do remember how sometimes I would tire of the relentless upkeep; lawn, pool, gardens, hot tub, wood, irrigation, camper, boat, dam-delions and that frickin’ thorny rose bush (I did beat it though).

So I guess I’m a Middle Age dog trying to learn new tricks. Or maybe unlearn old ones. At least for the short term. And, I’m not sure unending repetitive yard and house work (and the commensurate funds) is the best way to invest in life. Man v. Nature is good, but I wonder if at some point I might have looked back and thought, Geeze I spent alot of life trying to repel the effects of time. I do know I was always proud when I looked back over the day and could see what I had accomplished. Maybe it was being proud of each day and how I spent it.

It’s ok to wrestle. And be restless. To desire adventure and new chapters and full days and feeling like you’re firing on all cylinders. Maybe some new things won’t work, but many will. It’s ok to see pros and cons, debits and credits, weigh it all out; to look and go without needing a final judgement just yet.

It means I want more.
It means I still have journey and adventure and hope.
And hope always becomes plans.
And plans become actions.
And actions, adventure.

I plan to be learning new tricks for a long, long time.

But for right now, I need to call a guy because the screen door is stuck.

Middle Age Hope Plans

I get most of my best ideas in two places: the shower and while working out. I know that last one is a When and not a Where, but since for most of my life I’ve usually worked out in a gym, I still think of it as a where. I’m not sure what if anything those two places or activities have in common, but the fact still holds. I have actually thought about working out in the shower for the potential double-whammy affect, but any amount of even half-serious processing along those lines quickly raises some obvious concerns (although, I do make noises in both places. Is that weird? Sidebar: When’s the last time you read anything with the term double-whammy? Yep. Right here).

Incidentally, I’m having some of the most intense workouts in my life (with lots of noises. I mean, not like those crazy-loud powerlifter noises, but…is this getting weird?). I’m using, true to my business namesake, only items found at home. Or the garage. Along with fit bands and tubes. And OK one thing from under the front seat of the truck (is that weird?) I introduced Rachel to the secret knowledge today. She’s already the good kind of sore. I’m probably the leanest I’ve been in years, don’t have joint pain, and am starting to get some real definition in my abs. I’m aware I’m probably getting smaller from lack of heavier weights (maybe if I made more noise?) I’m thinking about creating some vids to throw up on the social sites in the hopes it might save some folks their sanity. It sucks when a significant aspect of life just sort of evaporates (first world problem, I know).

Like most, I’ve seen a little change in life of late. To be honest, I’m getting resistant to hearing any more about it. I get being informed and being smart, and I am, but please, dear God, no more of the same. Everything, everything, is about that, or about not thinking about that, or about how life can be lived with, in, around, or without that, or getting or not getting that, or re-getting that, or when that might not be that anymore.

I’m so ready to focus on spring and patio tomato planters. Weekend outings to the desert. Long bike rides.

That said, on some level things like this are good for me. It reminds me to not be whiny, and to remember and specifically note the gifts of hot water, electricity, a good pillow and bed, sight, an over-abundance of food, music, work, sun when it’s out, my legs, and the myriad of other over-the-top gifts that I so over-take-for-granted every day.

Additionally, some other really cool things are happening. Contrary to Dave (God bless you Dave), Rachel and I pay most of our recurring bills using a credit card. We call it the Bill Card (clever, yes?). We earn 2% cash points. We’ve never once paid interest or late charges, there is no fee, and we have accumulated $336.42 to use as we see fit (we promised each other we’d cut up the card if we ever paid even one dollar of interest). We’re thinking of using it to pay for a couple of round-trip tickets to the Baby House. Ah, sun. Free sun. The best. I know the idea is controversial, and the discipline and watch care required is real. It’s working for us and it’s fun to think we’re getting paid to act like grownups.

Rachel’s work sabbatical is going well. By using the same discipline and watch care, we are still ending up at the end of each month with money left over. I like that because it allows us to continue to give. Not like we were giving, but that’s a heart thing more than it is a wallet thing. And (biggie here), we’re not even drinking Bottom Shelf (BS).
Right? I know. I mean c’mon.

And speaking of bottom shelf, here comes a mouth-watery from-left-field Oh-Em-Gee-zinger. We brought all the fresh grapefruit back from the Baby House Grapefruit tree the last time we were there (you already know where I’m going with this huh?) If you have not tried a soon-to-be-fah-reakin’-famous Baby House Fresh Grapefruit Martini, feel free to get on the Plummer-Condo-4th-Floor-Happy-Hour-Drinks-on-the-Balcony list. Ok, they’re actually even better on the deck of the Baby House, under the soon-to-be-famous Baby House Grapefruit tree, but in my best Tony impression: Bettah than Gabbagoo!

Seriously though. If you did have a care in the world, that’d fix ‘er.

I must admit to intermittently wearing a sly grin a bit as of late (I’m kind of a shitbird sometimes) when I read about many public education teachers moving to the online environment. Some (not all) teachers were (are) public-protest critics of online learning, claiming all sorts of detrimental effects and ill-awfulness. Much of the protest seemed to be centered around the best interest of the union rather than the best interest of the student, but no matter. Some kids are learning some cool news ways to learn and teachers cool new ways to teach. To be fair, many teachers are setting good examples by embracing the change of online education. And that, perhaps, is the best lesson of all.

I talked to my mom (Ma) today like I do about every other day. Dad got stuck in the backyard ditch this morning. Not with a car or any sort of vehicle; he himself got stuck in the ditch. Apparently it’s a new ditch. Who can know these things. He falls down alot. Last month they found him in the snowbank. Literally. Like a cartoon with his feet sticking up. Last summer he laid in the rain for some time behind the shed (seems there was a piece of shed-gutter out of place). It doesn’t seem to bother him though, which to me is admirable. He’s going to do what he’s going to do with the life he has left. He’s an ex-Maine State Trooper, so hardly any surprise there. There’s a Dad blog in my future.

Near as I could piece together of the Ditch Incident, the neighbor (?) took more cement blocks than he was entitled to (?) after the fence came down (??) and used them in said ditch. Dad got a hair and decided he wanted some back and got stuck. Neighbors responded, general confusion and excitement reigned, a rescue operation ensued using shed tools, and life returned to normal (whatever that is). It didn’t seem to bother mom or dad a bit; “just anuthu day.”
I told her her life was “wicked excitin’.”
All of this, understandably, gives me motivation to pray alot about my own aging.

I have noticed one other kind of sad thing as my folks age. Long term hopes and plans seem to have faded and become unpredictable. They are both in their mid-80’s. Once they were so vibrant and able, and the talk was often of the coming summer, spring, fall, and of trips and projects (always the projects), and redoing and rebuilding. It was only good sense to make plans for the future, and once made, the wheels of hope were attached and the conveyance traveled through all aspects of daily conversation, finances, arrangements, and just life in general. This is how I was raised.

There was not just today and tomorrow and this week, there were always coming seasons and with them these excited Hope Plans. The Hope of something and getting closer to it with each day and the joy of life that it brought, and the Plans that made it definite and timed and real. This cart of Hope Plans carried energy and optimism and conversation and meaning and happiness and soul-health.

But it’s different now. There is little talk of distant plans or projects. The weather is always a mandatory conversation piece, but it’s often “too” something: too hot / cold / rainy / windy / wet / snowy. After the weather, the talk is mostly about today, maybe a little about tomorrow, and at most this week; but after that it denigrates into the pessimism of not being able to plan anything. Life is so unpredictable, capabilities are no longer certain, the What-Ifs and Who-knows stand so tall and looming, and the news is so scary. At times mom seems a little down. And how could she not be; Hope Plans have become Maybe Somedays or just nothing at all.

While working out (and making noises) in the garage this morning, I was thinking about why I felt a bit down. I am so blessed. But it came to me that I’m like my mom in this way. Even in my blessings, in order to really feel alive (ok, and not sad), I need to know there are definites out there. Not Maybe Somedays. Not We’ll See How it Goes. Not depends On. I need Real. With Dates. And Costs. Adventures. Trips. Projects. Challenges. I need We’re Gonnas.
I need Hope Plans.

I don’t have the answers just yet (might need a few more noise-making workout or showers. This is getting kind of weird, huh?) But at least I know what’s going on with me.

Hope is such a powerful thing. Real hope with real plans. Right now, I’m trying to make small but definite hope plans; at least one for each weekend. Some small thing to give me something to look forward to. It’s healthy for me and I need to have something real out there and anticipate it getting closer. I need to move towards it with aggression, and faith, and expectancy (and maybe even some noises).

What’s the worst that could happen?