Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

It should be a relatively quiet evening for us - too many crazies out there, so no desire to be out amongst them. For many years, we spent New Years Eve at anchor; watched the fireworks on South Padre Island, then settled into a quiet cove. I miss that, especially being here in the desert. On the bright side, we get to spend time with our darling daughter and son-in-law.

Wishing all a happy and healthy 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Singing in harmony...

No, this isn't another post about "all the little children of the world holding hands and singing in harmony". Since seeing a band with a female singer (who used a harmonizer) in Sausalito a few years ago, I have been interested in some sort of vocal harmonizer. I still play for an "audience of one", but I miss having someone to harmonize with. I came across a harmonizer from TC Helicon that uses guitar or keyboard input to determine the harmonies - pretty impressive. And like most electronic stuff, it has become affordable. So now when I serenade the Blonde, I can do it in 3-part harmony. Since I didn't plan for that this trip, I don't have a decent microphone or even a mic stand with us this trip... so, I have a mic strapped to the back of a chair to get by...

Little Izzy helps with the harmony, too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas...

Glad to be back with the Blonde and little Izzy in our cruising condo for Christmas. My Mother and sister should be together for Christmas, and we will be doing Christmas Eve with our daughter and son-in-law. In Arizona, there will NOT be a white Christmas for us, and that suits me just fine. The plan is for an evening of games, where the winners get first choice at gifts. For a while, I thought this might be the first Christmas where we haven't all been together... this makes for a very merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Pat-Down...

I did get man-handled yesterday on the plane, but it wasn't TSA. It was a bumpy flight and the lady sitting next to me was a nervous flyer... everytime we'd hit some turbulence, she grabbed my arm. After her 3rd apology, I started visiting with her - she was on her way to Nashville to visit her grandkids. I tried to take her mind off the flying and keep from getting bruises on my forearm. Once distracted, she was fine... until we approached the Minneapolis area.

"Are we going down? I really hate this part," she said.

"Well, we're not going down, but we are on approach for the airport," I joked. About that time, there was a loud "clunk" and a thump as the landing gear came down. This time, she grabbed my knee... "Ma'am, I have to tell you that my wife doesn't let me date anymore." ;-D

She was embarrassed and apologized again. I showed her on the airport map how to get to her next gate while we taxied in. With the late flight, she had missed her connection, but the folks at SUX knew that was coming and had already booked her on a later flight. Hope she's enjoying Nashville.

On the REALLY bright side, my lovely wife, daughter, and son-in-law were waiting for me at the airport when I got in about an hour late. The GPS feature in the headrest on the plane was interesting to watch... and showed an 80 mph headwind, and once on the ground the turn from the runway to the angled-off taxiway was made at 96 mph! Sure beats the heck out of the ice and snow on the MSP runways.

The four of us went out for a nice supper and plenty of conversation. Home is where we park the HitchHiker, and it is good to be home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Airport Security...

SUX. That's where I'm flying out of this morning. There is no local phone number for the airline (all one of them) to get information, so I called their 800 number... "I'd like to find out how long before the departure time I really need to be at the airport."

"Two hours, sir. Certainly no later than an hour and 45 minutes and that might be cutting it close."

It's Sioux City, for goodness sakes. They have one airline; one gate. Do you suppose I'll get a 45 minute "pat down"?? I probably shouldn't have said that... I'm sure it goes on my permanent record somewhere or at the very least on my boarding pass.

So, two hours before the flight, it was me, a nice lady who checked my bag, and one security guard. 45 minutes later, two more passengers showed up. Then 4 more. Apparently, they didn't get the memo about the necessity of being early. ;-)

And just now an announcement that our plane will be an hour late due to planes waiting to be de-iced in Minneapolis. I checked weather there and didn't see any indication of precip. Oh well, I guess it doesn't make much difference if I wait in SUX or Minneapolis, since I originally had a 2 1/2 hour layover there... sure hope it doesn't get cut close for my connection there.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Mom's Home Health occupational therapist turned her loose today. She thanked me for the work I've been doing with Mom to get her to this point and said, "You can head out knowing you made a real difference for her." Tomorrow, I'll be heading off in search of a full body pat-down; I have to go to the airport, too. Wink

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tonic Sol-Fa...

I don't get out much. I've enjoyed watching The Sing Off on NBC, featuring a cappella singing groups. Fun to listen to the tight harmonies, to the point where some of it gives me goose bumps.

Along the Interstate in Sioux City was a billboard for Tonic Sol-Fa, saying that they are playing at the Orpheum Theatre tonight. Never heard of 'em. Didn't think much about it. Here with my Mother, I was running through the TV channels this afternoon and came across Iowa Public TV... there were 4 guys singing a cappella that blew me away. Yep - Tonic Sol-Fa. I looked them up on the internet...

While I'm not going to be able to get away to their holiday show this evening, I thought I'd share this. Great voices, superb arrangements. Nice holiday special on IPTV.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas spirit...

Bah, humbug!

OK, not really. I like the Christmas season. I get a big kick out of holiday decorating, especially outdoor lighting. It just looks festive, especially when one is in the frozen northland... where the landscape looks like white death in every direction. The lights give you hope that someone will survive the ridiculous weather. Frankly, it's more for me to decorate a boat in the Tropical Tip, but you work with what you got.

Even holiday shopping doesn’t bother me all that much. While I do prefer to go at hours when the stores aren’t packed, like 5:00 in the morning... and thankfully, most stores are out to get the all mighty buck, so they’re open 22 hours a day in the weeks before Christmas... but, today I had to head for the mall at 10:00 in the morning. On the Saturday before Christmas. Well, I have been a bit busy, so this was my one shot.

I did my shopping in one fell swoop; I was done by 10:30. And then I got to stand in line to give the store my money. It’s a good time for people watching. The woman in front of me looked shell shocked... I wasn’t sure she spoke English, since I had to prod her a bit when one of the people at the registers cheerily mumbled, “Next person in line, pleeeeese.” Also in line was the guy on the cell phone: “They don’t have it. Hey, I looked. Yes, I know where to look; I’m telling you they don’t have it. Hey, I’m just trying to help here...” Yep, the good ol’ Christmas spirit.

With my shopping completed, I decided to take a walk through the mall. It’s not a big mall, but I have been cooped up in my Mother’s apartment and was in need for a little jaunt to stretch my legs. It was packed; people were carrying bags, so I assume the retailers are having a good season. Here in the upper mid-west, where people are friendly and polite, the wandering masses were pretty evenly divided: more shell-shocked faces, a bunch of panic-stricken faces (they were the ones not carrying shopping bags), some smiling faces (yes, they had scored on their buying lists), and whining kids. I dunno, when I was a kid, the weeks before Christmas was the one time all year that I was on my best behavior. If this is their best, I’d really hate to be around all these little whiners the rest of the year. Apparently, this is what young moms and dads are now raising.

Oh, there were a few smiling young faces - they were the ones in line to see Santa. It was kinda fun to watch the smiles turn to absolute terror when it was their time to be “on.” You could read their mushy little minds: “Stranger danger! Stranger danger” “What if I choke? What if I can’t remember the really, really important toys?” “This guy smells like weird Uncle Harry.” “If they try to put those stupid reindeer antlers on me, the old fat guy is gonna get kicked in his jingle bells!”

I walked by a big Barnes & Noble bookstore where there was a smiling lady demonstrating the new color Nook for potential buyers. People were asking a lot of suspicious questions: “So, I have to BUY books to put on here? What kind of a rip is that?” I couldn’t contain myself... “How do you get your books now, lady? This thing is so cool - you not only get a nifty little web browser, you can download books from the internet without ever leaving your couch. You can carry a hundred books with you at any time - all in that nifty little device.”

I’m pretty sure she thought I was a shill. The demonstrator lady gave me a grateful smile. “Yeah, but if I buy a book on this thing, can I then share it with the rest of my family, too?”

I knew she meant, “Can I buy it once and then give it to everyone I know?”

The demonstrator lady said, “It has a lend function, where you can lend it to someone else with a Nook for a 2 week period.”

“Well, that’s pretty cool,” I said. “So, it still protects the author’s copyright, but you can let someone else read the book, they just don’t get to own it?”

“That’s right. Not all books offer that, but it is a way to share,” she said.

We were tag-teaming the suspicious lady, and the demonstrator lady moved in for the body slam: “Plus, you can play games on it.”

Sold. Obviously, the gaming was more important that the reading.

A bit later, I was standing in line to make a small purchase. The line was long. Behind me was a woman with what looked and sounded like about a 10 year old girl. A major whiner. “Why is it so busy?? When are we gonna go?” That went on the whole time we were in line, and I was about 12th from the check out. I finally turned around and said, “You do know that Christmas is only a week away, right? That’s why everywhere you go is busy. People are getting ready for Christmas. Do you think Santa is watching?”

The sneer on the little girl’s face spoke volumes. I said, “My little girl knew that if she quit believing, Santa wouldn’t come any more. And Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good. My daughter is 38 years old, and she still believes. And behaves. And she has REALLY good Christmases because of that.”

I have no idea if the little whiner believed any of that, but she did shut up. A couple people in line said, “Merry Christmas,” to me on their way out. Now, THAT’S the spirit. ;-)


SONG (sung to the tune of Rawhide)

Shopping, shopping, shopping.
Feel my arches dropping.
We go Christmas shopping,

Don’t try to understand it,
just buy, wrap, and hand it,
Soon you’ll be living high and wide.

My heart’s calculating,
my true love will be waiting,
be waiting at the end of this line.

Pick it out, wrap it up,
wrap it up, ship it out,
Pick it out, wrap it up,

To the mall, cut ‘em off,
get the spot, flip ‘em off,
Stand in line.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The physical therapist said it's time for Mom to "solo." If you're a pilot, you know what the means: you take the plane around the pattern on your own while your flight instructor sits on the ground biting his fingernails and watching.

When Mom first got home from the nursing home, I did all the chores while she concentrated on exercising and practicing walking with the walker. Little by little, I've had her doing more. Starting today, she is going to do it all while I sit by and observe. At some point, I'm going to head out to the store and maybe take a walk while she's on her own in her apartment. We've set her up with a life-line (one of those "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" devices) and she has her cell phone.

Assuming all goes well, I will be heading back to my Honey and the warmth in a few days, and my sister will visit Mom over Christmas. This is like a crash course on raising another kid - go from not walking to walking, "trip-proof" the house, lots of encouragement and help, and now it's time to spread the wings. She is ready, I am ready.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A wise man once told me about 1440. No, it's not about a year in history. Imagine if you hit the lottery... an unusual lottery that would pay you $1,440 dollars a day for the rest of your life. The only stipulation is: if you don't spend that entire $1,440 in that day, you lose whatever you don't spend. Most of us would find a way to make the most of each dollar. Assume you would have to give a third of that to the government "for our own good." The rest is yours to spend.

Each of us gets 1,440 minutes in each 24 hour period. If you are fortunate enough to get 8 hours of sleep each day, that's a third of those minutes. So, you have 960 minutes each day. What do you do to make those minutes count? Once they are gone, you don't get them back.

So, why am I talking about this? It is distressing when someone wastes those precious minutes. Oh sure, lots of us waste time everyday... or at least spend time doing something we enjoy that others may consider a waste. Today, I took my dear old Mother to her kidney doctor. We had an appointment. We sat for 2 1/2 hours before the doctor came in to tell her that all her tests "looked fine." Seems to me that he could have had one of his nurses call us, and it wouldn't have been necessary for me to take Mom out in the snow, drive across town, pay for parking in a nearby ramp, run to the doctor's office to borrow their wheelchair to get Mom from the car, and then sit... with outdated magazines that have been handled by people with who knows what sort of vile diseases!!

Mom thinks this doctor can walk on water because he gave her advice 9 years ago on how to improve her kidney function. Since that time, he has her come back about 6 times each year. After the first few months, her reports have always been the same: everything is fine. She frets up a storm before each visit, imagining all sorts of bad things. The only bad thing I can come up with is the time and money pissed away on each visit. She tells me that the wait is generally around 2 hours.

The last time I went to a doctor and had to wait more than an hour, I walked out. I told his office people, "You have my cell number. Call me when he's ready to see me and I will be here in less than 5 minutes. I know his time is valuable - so is mine."

I equate someone wasting my time right up there with someone stealing my money. Except, you can get more money... you will never get that time back.

Mom was delighted with her "everything is fine" report; no way she feels that time was wasted. I have to wonder how she'd feel if the report hadn't been the same as always.

On the really bright side, it did get her out of the house after a month in the nursing home. Not my idea of an "outing," but her rehabilitation continues and this is simply another step in her improvement.

We don't know how many hours any of us have left... darn shame to waste any of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Mom's progress is going well. The whole "bath thing" yesterday was a success, she continues to exercise and get stronger. I thought it would be good to challenge her mind a bit, so we started with a few hands of gin. I asked if she knew how to play blackjack.


I thought that would be even better for her... quick decision-making, fast counting. I even taught her a bit about what to watch for as the deck progressed (as in: counting cards). I now own her car, her big screen TV, and am closing in on her money market account.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Things that go crash in the night...

One of my concerns with my Mother's situation is the fact that she is going to have to get up during the night... half asleep, no bright lights... I stress to her how important it is to make sure of her path and surroundings.

Last night there was a crash at 4:00 in the morning. No, not her. It seems the air mattress my sister loaned me for this stay lost some air during the night... I rolled over and the top mattress slipped off the bottom mattress and sent me rolling. Not sure why my sister was so mean as to suggest this air mattress... I think it's been in her garage for a very long time... and it smells like something died on it. Maybe I'll sleep on the floor tonight; it's hard to fall off the floor.

On the bright side, I have Mom's bathtub set up for her with a shower chair, supports, and a hand wand. She is afraid to try it and wanted to wait for the Home Health Care nurse, who may or may not be coming on Tuesday. I finally brought Mom into the bathroom and demonstrated how to get in and out of the tub - safely. When she saw how I set it up with handles and supports, she worked up the courage for a "dry run." We practiced it several times, and I know she can do it. This was the last of our "hurdles" and now it is a matter of getting her established with a daily routine.

It's tough to see that it takes all her energy and determination to get around, but this is better for her than the nursing home. I know she can do this; she just needs to believe that, too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I have made jokes about registering the phrases: Snow sux, cold sux, ice sux, and many other references to how miserable winter weather is for those forced to endure it. Each time you say one of those phrases, you have to pay me a royalty.

Why "SUX" instead of "sucks", you're asking? Look up the airport identifier SUX to see where I mis-spent my youth. Pretty appropriate.

It is 8 degrees as I write this (in the middle of the afternoon); it will be below zero tonight with wind chill numbers too ridiculous to comprehend for those of us used to life in the Tropical Tip. Oh, sure, I spent many years in the frozen northland... some might say I even used to enjoy skiing, chopping wood, and all that other winter Paul Bunyon crap. I was young - I didn't know better.

One of my Florida friends who didn't know why I'm here asked if I was crazy.

No, but a few more days of this crap and I'll make Jack Nicholson in The Shining look like the Good Humor Man.

The sun just poked through the clouds and it was such a welcome relief as I sit by the window. The same window where the visibility yesterday was a couple hundred feet due to blowing snow. I love the sun. I was half inclined to run outside and make naked snow angels. Now, that's crazy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Not a lot of snow, yet, but the wind is out of the NW at 31 gusting to 49. 17º with a wind chill of about a million below zero. I swore I'd never be in this kind of weather again, but excrement occurs. And speaking of that, this morning, there was a ... um... bathroom situation, so I had to go out in this nasty stuff to buy a plunger. Some things can't wait. I was out and back in 20 minutes, but it was ugly, with a capital UG. A semi jack-knifed on the highway. Activities canceled. The weather weasels are predicting 4" or less, but the visibility is down to a couple hundred feet with the blowing snow. The roads are one big ice slick.

It's supposed to be in the upper 70s in the Phoenix area today... Joan just couldn't wait to tell me that.

I decided that Mom could take a break from the half-marathon I scheduled her for today, so we worked on exercises with 2 pound weights. Not exactly pumping iron, more like pumping aluminum. Call it what you want, she's doing well.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I brought my Mother home from the nursing home this morning. The plan: after breakfast there, they would discharge her and we would head to her apartment. I checked in the office yesterday to make sure the paperwork was all done.

After breakfast, one mucky-mucks told me, "Um, there's been a little glitch. A doctor needs to sign her release order and it was done by a PA."

"This was all supposed to have been taken care of two days ago. I double checked yesterday and you said it was all good to go. Call the doctor's office NOW. Don't make this VERY anxious little old lady wait any longer."

Like most medical stuff, after an hour and a half of sitting and waiting, someone needed to kick-start this process. After a 30 second conversation with the doctor's office, and a bunch of apologies from them, they called the nursing home and authorized her release.

I had to shake my head at one point this morning (well, several points)... as I was carrying some of my Mother's things to the car, another resident at the home looked at me and said, "Who died?" He had obviously seen family members carrying stuff out before, and the outcome wasn't as good as our situation.

Back at her apartment, we took another "tour" of the place. I thought the first thing she'd want to do would be to eat a good meal or lay down in her bed... no, she wanted to sit at the table and pay some bills. When nap time came around, she asked, "Can I take a nap on my couch?"

"This is your place, Mom - your rules. You can stay up late, play loud music, dance naked in front of the windows - no more nurses, aids, or therapists telling you what to do. Well, just me... and you don't want to get on my bad side."

If the rest of her recuperation goes as well as her first day home, she's going to be fine.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homeward bound...

Not me. The home visit with the therapist went well today, and I'll be springing her from the nursing home on Friday... well ahead of "schedule"; at least ahead of what the doctor and therapists predicted. Mom can get around with a walker, so over the next week or so, I'll be staying with her to make sure she can live independently; then, we'll make some decisions.

I have some work to do on her place to get it ready for her return; nothing major, just a few things to help her mobility.

She had tears in her eyes when we opened the door to her place. Less than a month ago, she doubted this day would come. Life changing events can happen in a second. And then take a lot of work to gain back what one can. Seeing day to day life in the nursing home is often tough. I don't take a moment of peace and quiet or personal modesty for granted. The look on my Mother's face when she sat on her bed spoke volumes.


Leaving Phoenix yesterday, I was interested to see what the TSA search procedures would be at the Sky Harbor Airport. Frankly, not much different from the past unless you are selected for additional screening. I made it a point to strip down almost to my skivvies to go through the metal detector... no shoes, jacket, belt, billfold, cell phone, laptop, watch, coins, keys. It's a bit disheartening that we have to go through all this to be able to fly. The terrorists may not have won, but they have certainly changed our lives.

I saw two people get the additional screening: a young lady in a tight shirt and pants... I can assure you there wasn't room to hide anything in that outfit. She was patted down by a female TSA officer. And then an older lady with an artificial knee who did the back scatter X-ray. No hold up, no hostility; people were just doing what they had to do to get through the lines.

A 2 1/2 hour flight and a 50 degree temperature drop. My brother-in-law met me at the Omaha airport and gave me a ride further north. At the nursing home, Mom looks like her old self again... a big slower, and attached to a walker, but she is working hard to get out of that place. And, ahead of schedule.

My sister left an inflatable bed for me at Mom's apartment. Nasty. Besides the fact that it wouldn't pump up above "saggy", it looked and smelled like something died on it. Oh, well, I covered it with a bunch of sheets and blankets... on the bright side, it's even more uncomfortable than it is ugly and smelly.

I made a late night trip to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities: fruit, soda, cheese, and something to fix for a late supper. Stepping out of the store into the night air was shocking... temp in the teens, with single digits predicted for the night. It's been over 5 years since I subjected myself to these temps... I almost forgot how much it hurts to breath in that frigid air.

Today will be interesting: we (the physical therapist and I) will be bringing my Mother to her apartment for her first "home visit" since she fell. The therapists wants to go all through her place to make sure Mom can get around in there. It's nice and open, so I think it will be fine. Then, in a few more days, I will be bring Mom back to her apartment to stay.

This is the only thing that could bring me back to the frozen northland this time of year.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

I may not get into the shopping spirit this time of year, but I am like a little kid at Christmas... I like the decorating, the carols, even getting the annual Christmas newsletter ready. Not sure what decorating will be done around the RV this year, but I did get the Christmas newsletter printed - something to send to family and friends to share a bit of what this year held for us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lunch Date...

I had a lunch date today... with "the other woman"... and the Blonde encouraged me to go. No, not the boat or the motorcycle, this was with a lovely, lively young lady. I did see a couple women give us a second look as we came into the restaurant and sat close together to share a menu. She had been here before, I hadn't, so she was giving me some recommendations on her favorites. Oh, and she picked up the check.

Yes, the other woman has been in our lives since she was born - our darling daughter. We had a nice Daddy/Daughter day today. After lunch, I tagged along while she did some quick shopping. We talked, we laughed, and I told her how proud her Mother and I are of her; as a teacher, she makes a real difference in a lot of kids' lives.

I'll be in the frozen northland for a while soon, so she and Joan will get plenty of Mother/Daughter time, and they both thought this would be a nice treat for me. They were right.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Nearly 4 decades ago, I convinced that pretty blonde to marry me. And "they" said it wouldn't last. ;-) We have been a team since then... working and playing together. And looking forward to more.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday...

Hype. I saw on the news that 1 in 4 Americans will be out early on Black Friday. Really? 1 in 4? I have never participated in that madness. Last night, Joan and Steph made plans to hit the sales early... they are on a mission to get the most for the buck for the kids on the Angel Tree. I can't believe I let them talk me into this...

At 3:30 am, Joan was up showering. I figured brushing my teeth would be enough, 'cause I have no doubt many of the early shoppers will have passed on even that. Shortly after 4:00, Steph and Dan came by to pick us up. I fed little Izzy just before heading out... she staggered out with her eyes half closed, "What are you people doing??" Smart cat.

First stop: Wal-Mart. Are you kidding me? The parking lot is packed! Apparently those 1 in 4 Americans all came to this particular store. When we went inside, it didn't look like a shopping event, it looked more like a looting! People were running about, grabbing stuff haphazardly, clothing and food stuff was laying in the aisles, people had that crazed look in their eyes. And then, the lines... there was a line with at least 400 people in it running through the produce section... big sale on bananas??? No, I asked and was told, "That's where the line forms for the big sale on TVs."

Of course, that makes perfect sense: let people go all the way to the back of the store to get to electronics, where the big sale item WON'T be, then send them to the produce department. And people were putting up with this crap! Close to 5:00, a store employee let people in the back 4/5 of the line know that they were out of the TVs... I heard one guy say to his wife, "Let's get something else - I'm not leaving here empty-handed!" That attitude has to be good for sales. I get it; I got up this early and wandered into this mad-house, I should get something to show for my stupidity!

From there, we moved on to Kohls. As we drove into the parking lot, I saw that there were people standing in line at the JoAnn's Fabric store next door. Standing in line to buy fabric? At Oh-dark:30? The lines in Kohls were even worse than Wal-Mart; may have something to do with the fact that they had only two check out lanes open... and the line to PAY wound around 3/4 of the store! Yes, really. We walked back to the furthest corner to get to the toys... I saw people in line to pay who had a sheet. Yes, a bed sheet. One guy had two pillows. These crazy-ass people got up in the middle of the night to buy a sheet or pillows? And then were willing to stand in line for hours to pay for them? I wouldn't stand in line for hours even if the sheets were FREE!

I guess I don't have the Christmas shopping spirit. Or maybe I don't understand the big fun in standing in line in the cold to get into a store, then fighting mobs to get this season's big deal, then standing in line for hours to pay for whatever that big deal was.

I voted for the next destination: Waffle House. No line there. On the way, we drove by the traffic jam in front of Best Buy. If you have to have police directing traffic in front of the place, what must it be like IN the place? On the bright side, we didn't have to wait at Waffle House... but I had to listen to the waitress talk about the crowds at Best Buy.

With our bellies full, it was off to Sam's Club. Apparently, we were late for the melee here - we found a parking place near the door. Steph and Dan found something they couldn't live without, and there were virtually no lines at the check-out. "You shoulda been here earlier," the checker said. Glad I missed it.

Apparently, my "You Have To Be Kidding Me?" outbursts were putting a damper on the shopping festivities. I was told we'd only be a couple hours at JC Penney's for the next round. I suggested that Dan drop the girls off by the door... and then drop me off back with Izzy at the RV park. No protests; in fact, it was universally accepted. Perhaps I tossed out one too many, "Bah - Humbug"s? Maybe it was the, "Two pillows? Are you serious?" comment to the guy in Kohls? No matter, I consider it time off for (slightly less than) good behavior.

Just before 11:00, I got a call from Joan, asking me if I wanted to join them for lunch. Izzy and I were in the middle of a good nap on the couch, but it was time for turkey sandwiches. I may be forgiven my shopping extravaganza faux pas if I'm willing to put in more time wrapping presents.

'Tis the season.


On edit: The Angel Tree shopping is done. Joan and Steph are amazing; Joan's organization and prep combined with Steph's style and shopping ability got them through everything on their list. On the busiest shopping day of the year. And Dan is to be commended for his patience and strong back in carrying all the packages. Fa la la la la.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wishing all a happy Thanksgiving...

Joan and Steph have started the cooking prep (night before) with pies. It is great to be with the kids for this holiday.

I spoke with my Mother's physical therapist today, and she says Mom is progressing well... she is working hard on her therapy and is on-schedule, maybe even a bit ahead. Much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Love Shack has landed...

That's the name of our 5th wheel, btw. After totally blowing away our 2/2/2 routine the past few days, we are down for a while in sunny Arizona... we backed into our site just in time for the rain to start. After all the driving I've done in the past 10 days, I am SO looking forward to some down time.

Joan and Steph have started the planning for the Angel Tree shopping... that down time may have to wait.

Another long day

Well, the day has the same number of hours in it, but we covered plenty of miles... and made it a three state day: through Texas, across New Mexico, and into Arizona. The plan is to make it another 180 miles today and then settle in for a while near our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed a morning without wind (and decent fuel mileage), which (of course) turned to a strong headwind by afternoon. The speed limit across west Texas is 80 mph, and lots of folks drive that. We usually keep it around 60-65 while towing. LOTS of RVs on the move.

We are anxious to see Steph and Dan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meanest hombre west of the Pecos...

(That's a Yosemite Sam reference)

LONG driving day today, covering 500 miles with Big Red, the Love Shack, and the cargo trailer. 25 mph headwinds made for some lousy mpg. Down for the night at an Escapees Park west of the Pecos. Another day of driving and we'll be out of Texas. Uneventful, except for little Izzy dropping a "surprise" in the truck - a first. She was embarrassed, we were grossed out, but no harm done.

I once made a disparaging remark about west Texas and offended a gentleman on the C-Brats whose Grandfather homesteaded in the area... so, I just won't say anything besides: plenty of natural resources - they seem to have an endless supply of blowing dirt. More wind farms along I-20; might as well make use of that ever-present headwind.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back to the Lone Star State...

... but only over-night before we head out again. Mom is settled in and working on her rehabilitation. The break is painful; as the pain subsides some, her physical therapy will increase. The therapists are hopeful, and Mom is now focused on getting her mobility back. I have seen her make good progress over the past few days. She wants out of that nursing home, so that is good motivation.

We will be back to our wandering ways and will be ready to head back to the frozen northland when needed.

Monday, November 15, 2010


No matter how nice they try to make 'em, nursing homes are tough. And this is a nice one... but my Mother is totally dependent on the folks here for every need. She had some physical therapy and occupational therapy today. I had to ask what kind of job she'd be looking for when she gets out (occupational... get it?) At almost 90, she sees it as a nearly impossible task... I keep telling her "one step at a time"... and she reminds me, "I can't STEP!" So, right now, my occupation is cheerleader.

And "tough love administrator." At one point, she said to me, "Get me a Kleenex." It was tough to do it, but I said, "It's right behind you. Turn your chair around and get it yourself. There's nothing wrong with your arms."

After the initial shock, then anger, she came to realize that I was just trying to show her what she CAN do, instead of what she can't. Still, it makes me feel like a meanie.

I have to keep encouraging and reminding that she is here for the "rehabilitation," not as a place to spend the rest of her days. So, now when family and friends call to check on her, I tell them about "Mom's rehab." "Yep, she and Lindsay Lohan... one day at a time."

Sitting with the little old ladies at the meal table, I can't help but feel like Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Coo-Coo's Nest"... just hope we can all make it through this without a frontal lobotomy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A 6 state day...

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and into South Dakota. Whew! No wonder I'm tired. Made it in time to visit my Mother this evening.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heading north...

I will be heading to the frozen northland. My Mother took a fall and is going to need to be in a nursing home. Hopefully, that will be a rehabilitation situation and not permanent, but I'll evaluate that when I get there. The poor ol' gal is nearly 90 and is afraid of any new situation or change... and this has been one heck of a change.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2/2/2 rule violated...

We rolled out of the Tropical Tip today, making 470 miles to the north. And, there's still a LOT of Texas to go. To make some miles, I stayed on the Interstate all day; no slowing down for small towns like you have on the two lanes, although there is always a slow-down in the Austin area. A tailwind kept our mpg in double digits. Uneventful... just what I like when we're just trying to get somewhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Put away...

Wild Blue went into storage today. Too soon. After all the "put away" stuff was done, I gave her a little pat on the stern. It has been said that a great looking boat makes you turn back for one last look as you walk away... Wild Blue does that for me.

Looking at lots of miles.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Things do change. Five years ago, I thought we were done RVing. Traveling by boat was our plan for retirement, at least for a while; along with our house on the water. Then, a couple years into that, the Blonde said, "Let's get another RV." I didn't expect that the focus would change back toward RVing... hey, there's only so much time, even when you're retired. I also didn't know that we'd enjoy the HitchHiker as much as we do. Taking stock of everything, we made the decision that we've talked about for a very long time... today, we listed the house with a realtor.

It's a great little house with a wonderful location, right on the water. My dock is just a few steps from the door. Out the canal and you're into the Intracoastal Water Way, or around the island to the other side and you're heading into the Gulf of Mexico. The only thing the house is missing: wheels. ;)

So, if it sells, we're on our way to being full-timers. Up from the 9 months or so each year we spend away from the house. Just like when we sold our home and business up north, we were both ready.

Now, we'll see if someone else wants a great place to have a boat; in a gated community; with a golf course, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor pools.

Oh, and I should say that the three of us are ready... little Izzy is totally onboard, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If you could...

Could you take the results of your lifetime career and cull it down to a space about 4'x4'x4'? And then, further reduce it to one CD? That kinda puts our time on this earth in a different perspective, doesn't it?

Well, 5 years ago when we sold our photography business and retired, I did just that: I kept our family portraits and a collection of my competition prints (the best of my best work) from over the years. I had no idea what I was going to do with those prints, I just knew that I couldn't leave 'em or toss 'em. They represented my finest work. All in a few print cases.

And then there were the family portraits. We had very high ceilings in our house up north, purposefully so we could display large portraits and groupings. I called the hallway leading to our daughter's room "the shrine to Stephanie"... portraits of her growing up. They are beautiful. And the family groupings that took their place of honor above our fireplace; they made me smile each time I looked at them.

These days, people don't exchange photos like they used to... instead, they show each other their photos on their cell phones. That crappy little screen will never have the impact of a beautiful portrait, no matter the size.

Joan has been wanting to "de-clutter." We are considering selling the house, since we spend so little time here. I was able to put off "what to do with the photos" until today. I set up an area on our deck to copy the images... and in a few hours time, I reduced 6 boxes and print cases to one CD. My life's work on a single CD. Kinda makes one feel insignificant.

Not to sound immodest, but when I opened that first print case, I gasped. Now remember, "the best of my best" and in a size appropriate for wall display. These prints are gorgeous. And while we were early adopters of digital technology, most of these prints were from "the olden days" of film. No image manipulation; nice lighting, flattering body positioning, deep rich tones. Damn, I was good! And I hadn't seen these images in over 5 years.

And the family portraits? Most of our portrait clients told us their wall portraits were "priceless." I wonder now if they still have them on display, or if small "digital frames" showing snapshots have taken their place? We even used that in our advertising: A beautiful family portrait isn't expensive... it's priceless!

The photographic industry has changed dramatically since we retired. It seems that much of what photographers display is more about the effect than the lasting quality. Don't get me wrong, Joan and I were both excellent retouchers and very creative with all that digital brought to the table... but, it was also backed with good quality photography. A knowledge of lighting and anatomy. A real desire to be able to show people at their very best. And not having to rely on digital to "fix it later." I told our clients, "If you can imagine it, we can deliver it." But, my favorite work was simple, classic, and flattering.

And I just went through 6 cases of that. From thousands of high school seniors and families. Some magazine covers. Commercial work and even a few weddings. Work that I sold in galleries. And a lifetime of our own family portraits.

All on one CD.

Sunrise, Sunset...

A metaphor? A "Mom situation" has come up that will take us out of the Tropical Tip sooner than we expected. In the meantime, here's another look at my favorite times of the day (photographically speaking)...

Sunrise out the jetties, towards the Gulf...

Last night, we came upon this oil rig heading out the Brownsville Ship Channel at sunset...

These rigs are built in Brownsville and then pulled out by tugs that will take them to places all around the world. Generally, they are pulled by 3 or 4 tugs; one or two to provide the forward motion, two in the back to steer. Imagine moving a skyscraper. The tugs and oil rig move down the ship channel at about 1.5 knots... that's a shade over 2 miles per hour, making that a long trek down the 15 mile ship channel. While that is moving down the channel, nothing else can move up. There were two large tugs pushing barges waiting for hours in the Port Isabel Turning Basin for this to go by...

After days of wind and higher than normal temps, it was a perfect day in the Tropical Tip; almost no wind or humidity, temps in the 70s, and sunshine.

It was also a good day or two to get some painting done around the house. And the packing will begin once again.

And a photo of little Izzy to finish off...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book ship update...

I got word today from Smashwords that Cat On A Leash has now shipped to Apple (iBookstore) and Diesel - should be in their system within two weeks. It went to Barnes & Noble and Kobo (Borders) last week. It has been on Smashwords' Non-Fiction top 10 since the release.

Feel free to send the link below to any of your friends and family who you think might enjoy this tale...

Nice reviews so far. My sincere thanks to all those who have bought the book and taken time to review it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

iPad as Chartplotter...

We've been playing with the iPad onboard Wild Blue, testing out the $20 Navionics app. Here's a look at the iPad alongside the fixed Raymarine E-Series chartplotter...

You can see they are a similar size; the iPad is just a bit wider. Button controls on the chartplotter, touch screen on the iPad. Of course, the Raymarine is more "marinized" by design. And the fixed chartplotter integrates with the radar, depth sounder, autopilot, and the VHF radio. The iPad is the wifi/3G model; it comes with a built in GPS chip, so the chartplotter app is fully functional without an internet connection. With an internet connection, you can overlay Google Earth on the charts. Or pull up weather radar. Check your e-mail. Surf the web. Check book sales. Check nearby fuel prices. Find an Italian restaurant. eReader. Video viewer. All that important stuff.

Interestingly enough, the charting is provided by 3rd parties for the devices. In this case, it is Navionics as the supplier for both. As mentioned above, $20 for the iPad app... $300 for the compact flash chip for the Raymarine... and the territory on the iPad app is larger! I questioned a Navionics rep about this a while back... "It's about the numbers," I was told. Right. And the fact that once you own a Raymarine chartplotter, you are a captive audience. Yes, the Platinum chip for the E-80 is more sophisticated and designed to work with all the integrated stuff... but, the $20 app for the iPad has all the nav aids and is the same charting information. Accuracy on both is similar.

You can't take the Raymarine back into the cockpit to check out your favorite boat forums on the internet...

Since the iPad isn't marinized, if there's a chance of spray while using it, I put it in a plastic bag. The touch screen works fine through the plastic.

For years, the first mate has followed along on our route with a paper chart while cruising. I'm sure we'll always have the paper charts onboard, but the iPad has the same info as the chartplotter and can be used anywhere in the boat.

Plus, Joan thinks it makes a great solitaire game machine. ;-)


And just because we haven't had an Izzy update in a while...

For some reason, she doesn't want to go outside as much when we are here. She is happy to go out with us on the the deck, but doesn't come running when I get the leash out. Might be the big birds here, maybe the warm temps?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Out and about...

Saturday, October 30.

The nicest day since we've been back. Great temps, low humidity, very little wind, and the best part: out on the water. On leaving our canal, we turned east to go through the swingbridge. There was a tug with 2 long barges hauling fuel coming the other direction. On the radio, I said, "Tug Chesapeake, this is Wild Blue eastbound. We'll be well out of your way at the bridge."

His response, "If y'all are at the bridge, there ain't gonna be much room, and we're a comin' through."

"Roger that, Captain, we'll be to the north on your port side and will hold until you're through the bridge."

Rule of Displacement: big boat eats little boat.

Once out into the Laguna, we went south through the jetties, poked out into the Gulf, then back north in the Laguna, and into the small boat channel along South Padre Island. Two years since Hurricane Dolly kicked butt around here, and no big storms this season - the island looks good. Well, this place could use some new palm branches on the roof...

Still, plenty of folks enjoying the ambiance. Those tall metal structures you see in the background aren't construction equipment; that is part of the "entertainment" at Louie's next door: bungee jumps, things to "launch" you into the air, and all manner of puke/thrill things.

Heading north along that channel, we saw this guy just a few feet outside the channel...

Which calls to mind some advice I was given when we first came down here with a boat: "Watch for the birds. If they're long legged birds and they're standing, you might get in there. If they're short legged birds and they're standing, you're gonna stick it in." Turns out, that was good advice.

A waterside look at one of our favorite lunch places here...

Palm Street Pier. After Hurricane Dolly two years ago, they were one of the few places that reopened immediately... serving lunch for the workers, even though they had no power. It's not fancy, but it's right on the Laguna and the burgers are good.

This guy was watching over the boat movements, just in case someone dropped a fish...

South under the causeway and into the ship channel. There is shallow water just outside this channel, as well...

Yes, that guy is walking off the boat; and that boat is going to be there a while. You could see the "trench" where they stuck it in and the tide won't be up for about 6 or 7 hours. On the bright side, it's a beautiful day.

And of course, there were dolphins...

Just a great day to be out and about in the Tropical Tip.

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

What a spectacular day in the Tropical Tip! After the "cold front" moved through yesterday, today was in the upper 70s and low humidity. NICE! I took Wild Blue out on a sunrise cruise and came back to find a young man trimming the palm tree out front. He has done work for us before and does a great job... and I don't have to go up that ladder.

Lunch over on South Padre Island, then back to our place for a relaxing afternoon out on the deck. Little Izzy got to be outside, not on a leash... she wasn't sure about that.

The book sales have been going well. One of the guys on the TSBB posted about loading the book on his Droid phone. A quick download of the Kindle app on there, and I was checking that out, too... it works surprisingly well. You don't get the different fonts or sizing that the regular eReaders offer, but it is comfortable reading. I'll be loading more reading material on there.

We were able to leave the door and windows open today - a first since we've been back here.

Oh, and today's sunrise...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow news (and weather) day...

Lest you think the book was all I've been spending time on (and it feels like that some days), we're still getting some water time in. Today is one of those "hunker down" days... my tongue is in my cheek, but that's what one of our local weather weasels called it. There is a cold front moving through the area currently. There is a gust front associated with it that has kicked the wind up to around 20 mph (our typical wind is 17 mph). There may be 20 minutes of light precipitation associated with that front. After the frontal passage, the temp is supposed to drop... it may get down to 80 degrees, from the mid-80s we've had the past 10 days.

I guess it was a slow news (and weather day) locally. Wink


Yesterday, we had a fine Tropical Tip kinda day: a nice long walk on the beach, then out for lunch with the boat. A nap while anchored topped it off nicely... with about a 2 foot swell in the cove, with a long period, meaning a slow rolling motion. Perfect for being rocked to sleep!

We saw our friend, Herb, out there in his Ranger Tug...

Looks like he was needing some out and about time, too.

It's been nice having "another summer" after leaving the mountains.


And some good news regarding the book: it has been accepted in Smashwords "Premium List", meaning it will be distributed through the other big on-line eBook retailers. It may take up to 8 weeks to get on Barnes and Nobel, less than that for most of the others, including the iBookstore at Apple.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Record heat...

There has been quite a bit of interest in the book, for which I am appreciative. It has been an interesting process so far. I can track the sales, sample downloads, and page views, but have no idea who is making the purchases. At the suggestion of the ePublisher, I did sign on to Facebook... it's a lot of stuff going on, all at the same time there. Another learning curve.

In the middle of all that, we are still getting out on Wild Blue. The last few days have been hot and windy. Predicted record heat today; it may reach 100º further up the Valley, but will likely be in the upper 80s here at the coast... and a south wind at 25-30 with higher gusts.

Fortunately, Wild Blue keeps us dry, even in the wind. Here's a look at the last couple outings...

Shrimper in the dark...

And a sunrise series...

The Blonde out in the cockpit...

The Coast Guard blasting by...

A windsurfer blasting by...

A pelican bl... flying by...

Not a lot of recreational boats out there with the wind the last couple days, but the excursion boats are out and about. It's a pretty quiet time here in October. With work on the book and making time for the boat, we didn't make it to Sand Castle Days this past weekend. It's an annual event with some very impressive sand sculptures. Last year, the red tide put a damper on the activities, this year it was the wind.

Oh, and a look at my new water resistant bag for the iPad...
Yeah, it's a one gallon zip lock bag. Pretty good fit and it keeps any salt spray off the iPad. And the price was right. ;-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

That's it - I'm DONE!

It's been a long labor of love...

My book, Cat On A Leash, was published today as a multi-format ebook at Smashwords. As many of you know, the book is about our travels with Molly the Boat Cat. I hope you'll take time to check it out at Smashwords, where you can sample the first 30% of the book for free.

Here's the link to my book page, where you can sample or purchase the book:

Feel free to spread the word!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blowing like stink...

I've been sitting at the computer for most of the past couple days... I think Joan could tell that I needed a break: "Would you take me for a boat ride?"

Let's see... temp is in the 80s, hazy sunshine, oh, and the wind is out of the south and blowing like stink! Yeah, that sounds like a good day for some C-Dory cruising. ;-)

It is reasonably protected from this direction in our canal. I say "reasonably", because the boat has a layer of blown dirt on it, and it sprinkled for about 30 seconds in the middle of the night. It was spotless two days ago... now, more spotted.

I got the boat ready while she poured some sodas; we untied, rotated, and headed down the canal. I knew it was going to be an interesting ride when I had to give the boat more throttle to keep the nose from blowing to the side as we came around the first turn. Out in the ICW, there was 2' chop, closely spaced. Whitecaps in the turning basin. Oh well, the boat was dirty anyway, so it was going to get a bath today regardless... at least we'll have some fun with it first. Lumpy, but still nice to be out and about.

A few excursion boats were out, but not much recreational traffic. Understandable. With the window on the downwind side open, the cabin was very comfortable... and dry. The windshield wipers got a workout, though. Joan sat out in the cockpit for a while, perfectly protected by the cabin.

Not a bad way to spend a windy afternoon.

Friday, October 22, 2010


It has been two years now since we lost our sweet Molly. Some of you know that I have been working on a book about her travel adventures. Well, the book only took me a month to write... up to the last couple chapters. Then, it took another year to come back to it. Then, the long arduous process of trying to find a publisher or literary agent. The publishing world is in much of the same financial situation as many other industries; I found that most publishers and agents weren't receptive to a new (unproven) author. And, Molly's story is, as many of them described, "a small story." I considered rewriting it, where she would have an affair with a high-ranking public official or perhaps getting her caught in some other flashy scandal. Roll Eyes While it may sell books, it's not was Molly was all about.

Even with all the electronic media, it seems that many agents and publishers prefer to get a paper manuscript. Sending that back and forth takes time, and you just know it sits in a pile somewhere. After getting many "thank you, but it doesn't fit our current needs" letters, and a few very nice encouraging "thanks, but no thanks" responses, I let this project sit on the back burner. Well, completely off the stove. I considered the self-publishing route, but one has to really get out there an promote, as in: going to every little bookstore with books under your arm to try to get it on the shelf... and then guarantee that you'll take back any that don't sell. While I enjoy driving a boat for fun and profit, I don't see myself going store to store to peddle books. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my style.

My lovely wife suggested that I should add some photos to the book, to really show what Molly was like. I spent quite a bit of time going through the (literally) thousands of images. And about the time I was wrapping that up, I got an e-mail from one of the big book sellers, announcing their e-Publishing division. Self-publishing, but without the self-marketing. When I started to upload the manuscript to them, I discovered the one BIG glaring fault with all the e-Readers except the iPad/iPhone: no provision for photos. Yeah, just when I had put lots more hours into adding photos. Huh

Formatting is different for eReaders - page numbers are irrelevant, text flows according to the font and size the reader selects. All the work I've done to this point is formatted for the printed page. So, as time permits, I think I will delve into the world of ePublishing and learn about formatting for that media.

I don't buy many paper books or magazines anymore (thus, part of the problem in the publishing business), but I do read them on my iPad. I have this feeling that by the time I learn formatting and restructure my manuscript, there will be a new technology that just "beams" the publication right into your brain. Cool

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Night out with some tuggers...

Some time on Wild Blue this morning, then house chores the rest of the day. Our friends, Herb and Wilma, invited us to happy hour and then supper out with traveling tug friends Russ and Toni (former C-Dory owners). Seems that those Ranger Tug people are just as fun as C-Dory folks. ;-) It was a nice evening of conversation and story-telling, and a tour of Russ and Toni's gorgeous Ranger Tug 27.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sunrise part 2...

Another early morning out on the boat. It was 0-dark-30 when I left. I took Wild Blue out our canal, down the ICW, and through the swingbridge. This was the view as I pointed the boat towards the east shore of South Padre Island.

It’s generally calm this time of day, but this morning, the wind was out of the southeast at about 10-12 mph... enough to cause some 3 - 4 foot waves as I headed out into the Gulf.
The photo below shows the horizon just beginning to show the early signs of sunrise... Mother Nature’s promise that she will bring light to another day.

This morning, the pelicans were out enforce as the sun peeked over the horizon, evidence that the fishing was good.

And then, the sun was up

By 8:30, I was already half way home. I put the coals to it to get home by 9:00... we have a schedule today: we’re going shopping in Brownsville... and I get lunch at Carino’s!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gulf sunrise...

We had some spectacular sunrises in the Tetons; not looking towards the east, but looking west and seeing how the sunlight played on the mountain peaks. Now that we are back on the coast, I can look east for the sunrise again. And it's still my favorite time of the day. smiley

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was Joan's birthday. She wanted a boat outing... I needed a boat outing. So, 6 months and 5 days after Wild Blue came out of the water, she went back in. You may have seen the cleaning from the previous post. More loading to get done, but we needed this break.

Gorgeous day: high in the 80s, sunny, light wind, low humidity. We ran out to our favorite cove, dropped the anchor, and set up in the cockpit for lunch... watching the boats come and go.

After lunch, we ran out into the Gulf. The local yacht club was having a race... not a lot to watch with the light wind. The water in the Laguna was a bit green, but a couple miles out into the Gulf, it turned to a beautiful deep blue...

Check out the "line" above.

We came back in, looking for dolphins. That's not a tough search around here, and I really missed these guys...

This was the first test of the iPad as a back-up chartplotter - works great!

Some birthday greetings phone calls along the way...

A leisurely cruise back home, steaks on the grill. Nice day!

Lots more "moving in" to do, but this was a needed break. Great to be back on the salt water.