A milestone amidst the madness…

Last Thursday, June 11, was my birthday, and I had planned to spend it as I have most every previous one—as just another day—perhaps having a get-together with family and friends. Well, it was made clear to me that turning an age that ends in “0” is not just another day! Of course, as crazy and weird as this year has been, I really didn’t see much reason to treat it any other way. Over the course of the day, however, that would change.

Right around 5:00, as I was relaxing in my lawn chair out front on the driveway, contentedly watching the world go by, I was treated to a parade—a caravan, if you will—made up of ten or so vehicles, full of good friends. Accompanying lots of horn honking, there were plenty of balloons and homemade signs made of poster board, wishing me a happy birthday and congratulating me on reaching this wonderful milestone! 

This type of “drive-by” celebration has been in vogue since the onset of the Covid-19 madness and the “stay-at-home” lockdown. It’s really kind of nice, although it would have been fun to have been able to invite everyone in for more celebrating and shared laughter. As it was, they all made a second loop around the block and came by again. I spent a quick moment as each car pulled up, thanking them for caring enough to participate in a birthday parade in my honor before they left.

For most of the day, I had repeated my wishes to just have the day be nothing more than a normal day, with maybe a quick acknowledgement that I had turned another year older. But that was not to be, and, as it turned out, I’m pretty glad that it all seemed to go against my intended wishes.

Thinking back, I realize that it meant a lot to those who participated in making something special of “my day,” so I guess it was pretty well necessary for me to go along with them, too. In short, it was a wonderful day, from start to finish. It was a bright moment that far outshined the madness.

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Balloons aplenty on my “big day.”

Hoping for a Phoenix to rise once again

These past two days have been gloriously sunny, warm, and all-around beautiful in every respect. After so many days straight of cold and rain and drear, along came blue skies full of white, puffy clouds and the warmth of the sun right along with them. It is enough to make one believe, if only for a brief beat, that no pandemic can survive in all of this. Oh, that this were so!

My mornings are those special quiet hours, beginning just before 6:00, when the daylight is just showing itself and the first of the finches visits the feeder outside our sunroom windows. The coffee brews away in the kitchen, and I quickly check out the weather forecast for the day. Out of habit, I scroll quickly thru some social media, wondering why I really waste my time in doing so! Then, surrounded by the morning stillness and the calm before the routines of the day begin, I settle in with whatever book I’m currently ensconced in. Before I realize it, the coffee is ready and the morning has seemingly zipped right along. 

Soon, I realize that I have been enjoying all of this for a little over an hour. I know this because my wife’s clock radio breaks the silence in the bedroom regularly at 7 a.m. each morning. And so, another day begins—another day of wondering how much longer our lock-down will continue.

My stay-at-home situation these many weeks has become a time of inner reflection and a chance for me to discover so many things I hadn’t given much attention to previously. Quite frankly, I look at things much differently—things which I have always taken for granted before. I’m pretty sure that I will no longer assume that our grocery stores will have an abundance of various food products, or that we will be able to move about freely, secure in the notion that all is safe from imminent harm.

I will no longer shrug off the suggestion that there are factions at work in our society who will stop at nothing to gain control over our way of life and to impose their will in trying to transform this country. And I will never take for granted the importance of my family. Each gathering and get-together will be nothing less than special in all respects!

Despite the rocky road we now navigate, I am holding out hope that much good will eventually come out of all of this, and day-to-day living will rise like a phoenix once more. Time to get on with living!

Definitely not bored!

This is most definitely a strange and unique time, and one that I hope disappears completely, as soon as possible. I fear, however, that that is not in the cards since “stay-at-home” orders are being extended well past the April 30th deadline and on thru May, as well.

Even finding new and unique ideas or topics about which to write has become difficult, if not next to impossible. With all of this COVID-19 virus “war” foremost on everyone’s mind, and the steady and non-stop flow of information/mis-information that comes at us 24/7, it’s hard to put much thought into much else, despite our best and honest efforts to do so.

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Never bored with a wall full of books and a nice, little writing desk!

Sitting down at my desk each day this past week, I’ve had every intention of writing something that would be uplifting and fun and far from the madding virus pandemic topic. 

I considered posting about my three-day stay in the hospital a little over a week ago, but that seemed to me equally dreary and self serving. I’ll briefly mention it here as a matter of updating my current status.  It was a little cardiac scare that I didn’t want to materialize into anything more drastic, so I went to the ER, found out I have A-Fib (an irregular heartbeat), and was admitted for a couple days of tests and observation.

 I already knew that I have aortic stenosis, and will eventually need a valve replacement. I rather think that will be coming much sooner than later after the echo test they performed during my stay. So, I’ve begun to deal with that and have reconciled myself to doing whatever it takes, although I don’t relish any form of surgery that will be involved. I am scheduled to meet with another cardiologist next Friday to discuss the options. I am feeling much better, have lost several pounds (which I needed to all along!), and am being faithful to my new daily meds regimen.

Aside from the great care I received while there, another piece of good news came about: I tested NEGATIVE for the COVID-19 virus. By the way, that test is quick and simple—but not entirely pleasant! I’ll leave it at that.

I have gotten lots of reading done, and I’ve even managed to get more writing done than in recent history. For example, I’ve taken to writing a “daily” journal during this strange time, and I’m trying to get my thoughts and observations down as often as I am moved to do so during the week. Work on my endlessly ongoing sequel to my first novel has re-captured my attention. My  love of doing a daily crossword puzzle has also been resurrected during this “stay home” period of our lives.

We’re in constant contact and communication with our son’s family and our grandsons, who should be busy right now playing baseball on their new teams. Not happening yet! Our daughter in Florida seems to be riding this thing out pretty well and managing to stay employed at the Humane Society. Keeping our fingers crossed and our prayers in overdrive for their continued safety and good health.

So I’m definitely not bored through all of this. After all, I have a wall full of books off to my left, and there are so many resting there which I haven’t yet read—fiction and non-fiction alike. I have a wonderful little desk in front of the two big windows that look out onto the front yard and street and sidewalk. As I work at my desk, I am able to see when the mail person comes and goes each morning, as well as all of our new neighbors as they’re out for their morning strolls—many with dogs of various shapes, sizes, and breeds.

All of this is nothing that any of us asked for, but we’re all adapting and making the best of it. Perhaps it has become a kind of blessing, allowing us the chance to slow down and really take a look at our own special spaces. Like re-discovering books on the shelf I’d forgotten I’d owned! It’s true, I’m definitely not bored!

Until next time…

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With hope for good times ahead…

The sun shines brightly here in Aurora, Illinois, on this Good Friday. It’s one of those

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Magnolia tree beauty despite the virus pandemic!

crystal clear days, but much colder than it was two or three days ago when we were enjoying temperatures in the high 70s. Everything outside seems perfectly normal, yet how totally different everything is—and has been—these past several weeks.

Being on “lock down” due to the pandemic hasn’t really been all that bad from our perspective here in our new home, in a totally new location and environment. Retirement certainly eases the angst and worry about the daily responsibilities of losing jobs, taking care of children, and being forced into dire financial straits as a result of all of this turmoil in everyone’s normal routines.

Even so, we worry for our two adult “kids,” a son and a daughter, who are in the midst of job furloughs and trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in the current goings on. And there are the two grandsons to think about. Being out of school for a month hasn’t caused too much anxiety for them—to this point, anyway. But, the sad reality that this thing, in all probability, will continue on indefinitely, wiping out their summer baseball seasons and, perhaps, the fall football season, is beginning to make it clear to them that we all are in uncharted waters here! There don’t appear to be any quick fixes for any of this, and that is a frightful, sobering thought.

Fortunately, there have been no ill effects of the virus to any of us. The “social distancing” is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, I’ve been led to believe. Yet, one hears so many differing angles for the same piece of news, day in and day out. It becomes a question of who do we believe?

I have not been a regular viewer of TV news for quite some time, for many reasons: All seem to have only one agenda or purpose, which I believe completely hinders their objectivity and fairness. In my desire to keep this from turning into a political spiel, I’ll not belabor the point further.

So where exactly do I go to stay informed about what is happening around me? It seems that it’s an endless quest to find a straight, unbiased news story about the important news of the day. Right now, none is more important than that which deals with the Covid-19 world we’ve been forced to inhabit. Finding some form of media–print, radio, or TV–that is free of a political slant and axe to grind is usually a fool’s errand. 

However, I have found that often a visit to the Associated Press (AP) Web site provides me the news without the clutter of a political bias or so much TV/radio grandstanding by “talent” posing as journalists. I can usually read through the AP news stories and have a good understanding of the facts without being hit over the head with some “journalist’s” vitriolic opinion. Suffice it to say, I believe I’m better off keeping the TV off… until it’s time for the day’s Jeopardy! episode.

Yes, it looks awfully normal outside…all that sunshine and blue, cloudless skies. I long for the time when that will be the case once again. But for now we all are in a much different world, and we should all do whatever we can to help shorten the duration of this Covid-19.

Someone, somewhere is going to hit upon the answers to solving this puzzle, and hopefully before the death rate climbs higher. Let us hope and pray that those answers are discovered sooner than later as we hold on, with hope for good times ahead.

Stay safe, friends!

Until next time…

Saturday thoughts in early April, while sheltering in place for the umpteenth day straight!

 

I’m NOT going to dwell on this virus pandemic!
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In search of the “new normal”

Easier said than done, I realize, since this thing is affecting so many parts of our daily lives. But, after all, everyone is in the same boat here, and any moaning or groaning isn’t going to amount to very much as far as writing a worthwhile blog post. We’re all sick of the overabundance of negativity that seems to come from everywhere.

Yeah, it’s bad and we’re inconvenienced, but there comes a time when we all need to realize that things are what they are, and we have to make the best of it all. In that light,  I’ll touch on what we’ve accomplished here in our new home since my last post, pandemic or not.

I had written that one of the biggest disappointments of the “stay home” edict was our inability to spend time and have dinner with our son as he turned 43 on March 26. To our surprise later that evening, both of our cell phones sounded at the same time, and on the other end in FaceTime mode, were our grandsons, our son, and daughter-in-law. We had a nice sing-along of “Happy Birthday” and plenty of laughs for the few minutes we were connected. It definitely brightened our evening, and it felt good to be able to joke and goof around with everyone, if but for a few brief moments. We tell ourselves that it won’t be all that long before we’re able to be together and laugh–up close and personal!

We continue to add “parts” to the house to accommodate our work space. For instance, we purchased a 4-drawer file cabinet and picked it up at the store. It worked out very nicely as we ordered it online, drove to the store a few miles away, texted them when we were in front of the store, and shortly thereafter an employee wheeled it out and loaded it into the back of my Equinox. I would have gladly hopped out to help, but there was no need to…proper “social distancing” had been maintained!

We’ve also continued to eliminate several items that we have no use— or storage space—for. Yesterday, we drove the loaded car out to a lady’s house where she’s storing things that will be for sale in the second-hand thrift store once it re-opens. Since the store is not open for business currently, her garage is serving as the “holding tank” for donated items.

Little by little, I’m pecking away at getting the garage somewhat organized, although there’s nothing I can really do now until we open up the remaining boxes and containers that are stacked here and there. We can get the cars in, and we can move about, but there are a few lawn tools and other items that are going to be hung along the sides. Another project that will be undertaken once the Covid-19 pandemic is taken care of. I have managed to watch the big TV we had mounted in the garage. That will be a regular spot where I can be found whenever the White Sox, Blackhawks, and Bears are able to get their seasons started or resumed.

On another wistful note, I look at the calendar today, and I realize that we would be all but finished with our Circle Hawaii cruise this weekend. We were to set sail from San Diego on March 18 and have five “sea days” over to Hawaii, five days visiting the various ports of call, and then five “sea days” back to San Diego. We were scheduled to fly home tomorrow, April 5. In light of all of the issues with cruise ships recently, I’m glad our trip was cancelled and we weren’t put in a position to be stranded somewhere, with our health at risk. However, I do hope that we can take that cruise some time…when life returns to “normal,” perhaps?

What will be considered normal from this point forward? Thoughts for a future post? It seems way too depressing at the moment. In the meantime, I think I’ll write next about happy times on our various travels over the past few years.

Stay safe and healthy and find those little things that make this situation bearable in your life.

Until next time…

Another day, a missed birthday dinner, and a unique neighborhood get-together

Another day in this virus stay-home edict. Things haven’t been too bad, because we’ve been in the business of getting more things unpacked and places found for them and storage for those things we don’t need at the moment. We still have way more “things” than room to store them, but we’re working on it.

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New bookcases filling up with old friends.

My office/study has shaped up nicely as well during this forced incarceration, as the wall to my left is lined with five bookcases, and those shelves are mostly filled with the books that have been snoozing in boxes for the past few months. I have a few boxes full of files and desk materials still to unpack, but they’ll have to remain where they are until I obtain a multi-drawer file cabinet. That’s on the “to get” list.

 The biggest drawback of today, however, is our inability to celebrate our son Josh’s 43rd birthday. Usually, we get together with him and his wife and our grandsons for a celebratory dinner. Alas, we won’t be doing that today, but we’ll, no doubt, make up for it at a later time when we get an “all clear” signal. We can only hope and pray that an “all clear” will come sooner than later.

As the reality of this thing continues to sink in, we’ve found ourselves taking things in stride and limiting our time away from home. We’re trying to do what is recommended for everyone to do that can help curtail this thing. We’re adapting, as our so many others. Yesterday afternoon, for instance, we received a call from our across-the-street neighbor inviting us to an outdoor “social distance” get-together in our driveways. Because we’re the new kids on the block and don’t know any of our neighbors very well—or at all at this point—the idea was terrific!

And so, on a pleasant late afternoon, we took our lawn chairs out on the driveway, and several neighbors on both sides of the streets were out in their driveways as well and made a good time of it. It was good to get to meet them in such an unusual fashion–from a safe distance. A good example, it was, of people trying to make the best of a weird situation. I have a feeling that this very thing is happening all around the world as day after day of this scary situation rolls on.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone. Until next time…

Greetings from our new home…with proper “Social Distance” maintained!

A perfect afternoon for writing, it is! Since we were supposed to be shoving off from San Diego this afternoon for a marvelous Circle Hawaii cruise, I had no idea that I’d have so many opportunities to get caught up on my writing.  We’re also busy unpacking and finding places to put things as they come out of the packing boxes. And although our new abode here in Aurora, Illinois, is far from being settled, it’s finally being lived in! As I stressed in my last post, it’s now home. The process of moving in has come in segments, since we’ve “done it ourselves,” with timely and wonderful help from our son, his wife, and our grandsons. 

As of last week, all that remained to be delivered here was the sixteen-foot storage POD that we had filled to the rim and had it hauled away to some warehouse distant. Well, since our cruise to Hawaii was cancelled because of this virus issue, we had it delivered last Saturday morning. Soon after its arrival on our driveway, our son and family showed up and had it all unloaded and under house or garage roof within an hour and a half.

I’m pleased to report that it was very good to get reacquainted with lots of the items that had been stowed away all these weeks since early December: My many boxes of books and our kingsize mattress and box springs, to mention two of the most important. By the same token, there were a few things I’d just as soon seen gone the way of the Edsel: Lawn tools that we no longer need, as one example. Since we’re paying a pretty stiff monthly Home Owners Association fee, all yard work, snow removal, and landscaping needs will be out of our hands. After so many years of doing all that around the houses we’ve lived in, I was ready to divest that role, one big reason why we settled on where we’ve now ended up.

Now, we’re slowly but surely getting to feel that this place is going to be a wonderful spot, and the more we get items into place, bookcases installed and filled again with my books, and all of the Christmas and holiday decoration containers up onto the storage lofts in the garage, we’ll be ready to sit back, catch our breaths, and toast our good fortune in finding this place, in this great location.

Now, if this coronavirus mess would work itself out so the world can get back to some sense of normalcy, it truly would be a wonderful world once again. Despite all of this, we’re keeping the faith and knowing that greater days are still ahead. Here’s hoping that you all are well and surviving and maintaining some semblance of living without panic or fear. 

“But…it’s now HOME!”

It has happened! No, I haven’t disappeared from the face of the earth or been swallowed up by the dreaded Coronavirus. My absence from the blog world can be explained simply as I have really not had a whole lot of inspiration—or a regular place where I can write frequently. Good excuse or not, that’s what I’m going with. Anyway, we have finally moved into our new residence after a whirlwind few months since I last posted back in November about the very real possibility of just such a move.

It’s a rather convoluted and involved tale of how we sold our house out in a small town in northern Illinois near DeKalb (about forty-five minutes from where I write this in our new location). The sale seemed to occur in the blink of an eye, and we had only a mere few weeks to be out of the place. Since we didn’t want to lose out on this cash purchase, without realtors involved, we jumped at the opportunity and began weeding out, sorting, groaning, mumbling, packing, more moaning, hauling, and somehow clearing out in time for the set closing date of December 9.

It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal had we had a place already picked out to which we would move, but we had absolutely no plan or idea for any of that! We ordered one of those sixteen-foot Portable On Demand storage containers (PODs) and filled it to the rim and brim with a million boxes of my books, ten million containers full of the wife’s Christmas “stuff,” and our mattresses, and various other pieces of furniture and whatever else we could get in there. (OK, I’m exaggerating just a bit about the numbers of boxes and containers—but not much!)

But the POD wasn’t enough. Thus, to handle all of the other things, we rented two 10’ x 10’ storage units at one of those modern, climate controlled, indoor facilities. That was a lifesaver, and it was conveniently located to where we were staying (our son’s house) and to our eventual new home about eight miles away. So all of our possessions were at least safely stored away. 

We lived out of suitcases for the most part, although we did have a few of those plastic drawer units that served as places to store various clothes, etc., in the small guest bedroom with twin beds at our son’s house. That was December, and it was fun to share life (and a bathroom!) up close with our two teenage grandsons!

Once January and the new year appeared on the scene, we moved in to a house in Naperville, where we spent the month “house sitting” for good friends of ours who spent the month wintering in Naples, Florida. Although we still were living from suitcase and shaving kit, we were secure and still close by to where we wanted to end up.

It was during this period that we got the itch to consider looking around to see what sorts of homes/townhomes might be on the market in the locale we hoped to eventually settle, all the while still insisting that we were “only looking and getting ideas.” After all, it had always been our plan not to do anything too elaborate until we returned from our Hawaii cruise in April, and then we’d begin the serious search for a new place to live.

Of course that didn’t happen. The first—and only—time we went with a realtor friend of ours to look at some properties, we found the house in which I’m now typing this. I’ll not elaborate on the details and the process as to how we finally landed the place, but suffice it to say that we were (and are) thrilled and excited to have been able to make things work.

It’s ten years old, one-story, no stairs, no basement, and, alas, not enough storage. As of last Thursday, February 27, we closed without a glitch of any kind on the place and have everything moved in from the two storage units. The POD is still hibernating in a storage warehouse somewhere and will be delivered after we get back from the cruise in early April. (More on the cruise situation later. Keeping our fingers crossed that this “scare” will diminish before we begin.)

 Meanwhile, when the house sitting stint ended as February rolled around, we moved back to our son’s house for a few days before heading off to Florida ourselves, with stops in Ohio and the mountains of North Carolina along the way.

By the time we made it back north to Illinois, February was well along and our closing date on our new house was soon approaching. We vacated our little spot at our son’s and returned full access of the bathroom to the grandsons and took up “permanent” residence here in Aurora. There’s much to do and some repairs which have already begun, but it’s now HOME! There’s furniture to purchase, but it’s now HOME! There’s weeding out to do, but it’s now HOME!  And, there’s writing to get back to, and NOW… THAT IS HOME!

I’d rather take a beating than move!

Ever wonder what life is like when you suddenly have to prepare to move out of your house in less than a month because there’s a buyer who has agreed to pay your asking price and has essentially sold her home in a very short amount of time and will be needing to move in much sooner than expected? Believe me, it’s a good feeling, yet, at the same time, it’s still stressful and not as welcomed as it would have been back a few years ago.

My comfortable, retired-way-of-life has suddenly been shaken up and tossed this way and that, and I’m not dealing with it very well. Although I’m all for vacating and moving on, I’m kind of in a dilemma since this is a red-hot, for-sure buyer who knows our place very well and loves everything about it. However, I’m mentally not ready for this because there’s so much “stuff” that needs packed and sorted out, but the fact that there’s a “hot” buyer kind of closes the deal. Because we’re not guaranteed that another buyer will readily be available if we don’t act now, we’re pretty much sure that we’ll be moving out within the next few weeks. Because where we live is not exactly in the hot bed of real estate action, it is our belief that we have to take the first one that comes along– strike while the iron is hot, in other words;

Yes, my wife and I have talked about moving from our home here in the very small town near DeKalb, Illinois, where we have lived since my retirement in June of 2007. This current desire to move all came about when our son and his wife and two sons—our grandsons—moved from a nearby town 11 miles from us, to another one almost 30 miles away. Since being closer to them was the reason we moved out here in the first place upon my retirement, our lovely home is no longer quite the same special retirement residence we had planned on.

True, there’s still yardwork, mowing, snow throwing, and other general maintenance that needs our constant attention. But, quite frankly, I no longer have the desire to attend to most of those happy home owner duties! I guess at my age, I’m very content to sit back and observe someone else driving the lawn tractor or clearing the  driveways and walkways with the trusty snow thrower.

The interesting thing about all of this is that we have no specific place where we want to end up—just as long as it’s within a much shorter driving distance to our kids! Of course, it will mean moving right back closer to the suburbs of Chicago—where we packed up and moved from in 2007—but I’m slowly adjusting to that eventuality. 

I’m not toally sold on this whole idea of moving. A wise man once told me that he’d “rather take a beating than have to move,” and I am in full agreement with him on that because I don’t even want to think about all that lies ahead in the process of getting out of here and into storage and, somewhere, on our next stage of this adventure! So it goes. For now, Stay tuned…

Halloween snowstorm and a delayed harvest…

Not often do we find ourselves looking out into a blowing, white snowstorm on Halloween morning. Well, that’s exactly what has presented itself today here in northern Illinois. Of course, the possibility of accumulating snow has been in the forecast all week, and, sure enough, it was spot on! It will be interesting to see just how many little ghosts, goblins, and other ghoulish creatures come knocking on our door later today with determined attempts at garnering candy.

As I write this late in the morning, looking out my workroom window to the east, the snow is swirling and buffeting around the tall trees and the tall golden corn in the field beyond. That golden corn crop should have been cut already, but the weather has been an uncooperative force all along. When farmers are still struggling to get a harvest started—let alone completed—this little weather quirk will be one more fly in the ointment.

It has certainly been rough for them all the way through this year. From the beginning, being able to get into the fields in early spring was near impossible for many weeks, due to the massive amount of wet weather we had here in northern Illinois. Next, there was quite a number of storm damage done in the summer months, causing many crops to be lost. Now, when harvest time should be in full swing, there’s this day of snow, as though conjured up by the Halloween spirits to further test the patience and mettle of those dependent upon a successful harvest.

We’re definitely living in strange times, and one need not look any further than out my workroom window on this Halloween day, 2019, to begin to believe it!

Let the trick-or-treaters bundle up warmly and tread carefully through the white stuff later today, as they go about the business of gathering the goodies that await them. And best wishes to the farmers as they try to make the best of this continuing pattern of misfortune.