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. 17ยบ 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.