Friday, June 29, 2012


To say it’s hot is a terrible understatement. Try “Pits of Hell” and you might be getting close. And the end is nowhere close with triple-digit heat projected through at least Monday.

The good news is that the humidity was incredibly low yesterday (16 percent) or we would have been roasting like capons on a spit. As it was, it was hot enough for me. The news said we had an actual high of 108 yesterday. Pearl reported a balmy 107 when I got inside around 2 p.m. And once I’d arrived home?

More like 112.

My biggest fears at times like this are power outages or A/C failure. (Our unit is getting up in years unfortunately.) It’s one of those purchases that, if I was working full-time again, wouldn’t be too big a deal. There were some outages in our area yesterday but it avoided us. Whew!

My goal for the weekend is to keep cool. I am contemplating getting up early (like a normal work day) and doing some much needed concrete work. This is PERFECT weather for it. Plenty of time to cure with nary a drop of rain in sight!

And I hear we're not alone. This weather is going on all over the country. So if it's in your neighborhood, stay safe and be cool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Day Late

Well, technically, I’m not a day late … yet.

But, I will be. At least for ToolTalk Tuesday I will ...

I have pictures taken and most of the information that I need to do two, count ‘em, TWO product reviews! But neither is ready to go. Yet.

Not wanting to lose momentum with the blog though I am still planning to get one posted this week – and to be ready for next week … on time.

I’ve been just a little on the distracted side lately. (Can’t imagine why. Can you?) And getting sick last week didn’t help.

I had hoped that I might sneak a day or two of vacation in around Independence Day next week but that’s looking like less and less of a viable thing. (The good news is that I am busy enough at the day job that this is the case.)

I’d really like to get things rolling with the house again. I’m afraid the mother and I might kill each other soon if I don’t. (As I said in another recent post, sometimes living in a work in progress can really take its toll. Believe me when I say we’re there.) And while there are certainly things that need doing – and that I can do without spending any or at least very little money – the timing to take on some other projects is nigh. But I’m a little wary about writing some of the checks that I know it will take to do them.

The flip side of that though is that I potentially have the opportunity to get some help – at a greatly reduced rate – thanks to skilled family members, so … it seems like a very worthwhile investment.

I’m kind of at the point where I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t know what to do! And lately, once I DO decide on an activity: a) something big happens that throws me off course, b) I start, only to realize that key components for the job are missing, c) I want to start but am so tired by the time I get to it that I don’t, d) the mother springs an alternate activity on me or e) some combination of all of the above.

Until I can get my head screwed on straight again and my legs solid beneath me, I guess there’s always Powerball …

Monday, June 25, 2012


It's hard to believe that it's Monday again … already. Seems like it was just Friday, then I blinked, and here I am.

Saturday was a massive to-do list. Yard. Car. Household errands. Sunday started out as a day of rest but ended up being housework and run-of-the-mill tasks. And was it hot!Summer has wasted no time arriving, that's for sure. We're supposed to be in the 90s and even hit 100 a few times this week. And no rain. The yard is a lovely shade of brown.

At least it won't have to get mowed as much.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


When I walked out the door for work Friday morning, the first thing I noticed was crisper, cooler than it had been in the pre-dawn hours during the rest of the week.

There were clouds EVERYWHERE. And not only were there everywhere, almost every one of them was two or three shades of gray, and each had very clear definitions. One thing about clouds is the majority of them kind of fade into the sky. Oh, there might be a handful with clearly-defined boundaries, but the vast majority tend to meld with the sky.

Not these clouds. ALL of them had a shape and a contrast. It was actually a little spooky, as it was not yet light out.  But then, the tide began to turn. The closer I got to work, the more beautiful they became as the sun began to shine through.

When I walked in my office, this is what greeted me. Put me in a really good mood.

It has been one hell of a week. Make that month. Or maybe year. I definitely need more experiences like this in my life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Healthcare Issue Comes Home

It's been one of the most, if not the most, horrific of allergy seasons.

I've been on the verge of a sinus infection for months. Sometime in the last two weeks, I went hurtling over the edge. Part of the resulting domino effect found me fighting an ear infection last weekend.

Early on Monday, I called the doctor's office. Once I finally got someone on the phone, I was quickly told that sure, I could have an appointment … on July 3. Seriously?! Five minutes later, I was on the website for our local Walgreens' Take Care Clinic. 

Less than three hours after that, I was back home with drugs in hand. Today, while worn out and hardly 100 percent, I am actually better. Without medication, I wonder, how much worse would I be right now? I'm just glad I don't have to find out.

But … what if I were among the millions without health insurance? Chances are good I wouldn't have bothered to call the doctor. And the clinic? Chances are better I wouldn't have the $89 fee and the subsequent $100 plus to pay for my medication. (Being among the fortunately insured, I paid a $20 visit fee and $10 for my medication.) It was a struggle to get up and out the door all week, even though I was being treated. Just how sick would you ultimately have to become to be cared for?

I think a lot. (Probably too much for my own good sometimes.) And this little experience really got me thinking.  As I type this, my own state is notifying THOUSANDS of people that they will no longer provide health insurance premium coverage (for adults who make a certain percentage above the poverty level) or prescription coverage (for seniors at or below poverty level). 

My fear is that this could soon be the national experience we face after the November election. And to extend the fear to my own doorstep, if l lose my remaining thread to employment, when it comes to healthcare, I could be just like those who are pulling those happy letters from the state out of their mailboxes: screwed.

Think you're outside the healthcare debate? Think the election doesn't matter? Think again.


I can't believe this is actually working. Eureka!

I've been trying for three or four days now to post and spent almost TWO HOURS yesterday trying to contact Blogger re: the issue. For some reason, I was having trouble with ALL things Google so it was tres frustrating. Especially considering that, while the blog is largely an impromptu exercise for me, I actually already had a few readymade posts to share. (Watch for those, assuming this works ...)

If you posted a comment, I apologize. I have NOT been able to moderate them. (Still don't know if I can.) Still curious to see what's going to happen once I hit publish ...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Wish

Happy Father's Day to all of those great men who happily answer to the name "Dad" and who couldn't imagine life without the people (little or long-grown) who call him that.

Father's Day has long been an awkward and mostly overlooked holiday for me.

No year though has been more awkward than this one. Short of dying on my birthday, my father found an even better way to imbed himself in my thoughts – by dying the week before Father's Day.

Hug Dad. Last-minute gifts for Dad. What did you get Dad this year? I've been under continuous assault of reminders via television, email and other online channels. I've probably thought of my father more in the last week than I have in the last 10 years combined. 

Not all of it has been pleasant, but even I have to smile at some of these images. Even if this shot, which I think is the first ever of the two of us together, seems to show that things got off to a less than happy start.

Some of these other shots though, well, they look like ones you'd expect to see in a family album to illustrate a loving relationship between a father and his child.

There are more shots like this than I thought there'd be (a dozen or more, easily)  but nothing after about age 4 or 5. Nothing. Talk about a life just stopping.
I wish I could remember these images as more than a sweet little moment in time, forever captured. Maybe though it's best that that's all they are, lest even that be ruined somehow by reality. So, I'll take them at face value, be thankful they exist … and smile at them. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I've been too busy I think for the enormity of recent events to really catch up with me. So I'll allow myself to remain blissfully unaware for now and speak of happier topics.

One of the side benefits of the mother's great room clear-out has been becoming the beneficiary of multiple pairs of shoes. (A total of six pair – and a dress!)

Now I knew my mother had several pairs of shoes but watching all of these slowly emerge from her bedroom showed me just how much even I underestimated the vastness of the collection. Imelda Marcos had NOTHING on the mother. But ...

Holy Jeez! She only has two feet.

I'm not sure why exactly but the mother, who wears a Size 7 shoe, frequently buys Size 8. (Wearing a Size 8, I guess I shouldn't question it and just be grateful.) This is what I managed to gain. And this is where I tell you that Blogger sucks and won't let me upload photos correctly. Sorry. They're cute shoes though; trust me. Two pairs of flip-flops, two pairs of Converse-type sneakers with open backs, a pair of black patent mules (ADORE!) and a pair of moccasins.

I only declined a handful of pairs and then had to pass on a few others because they were too small. Looks like the Salvation Army will be hitting the motherlode quite literally.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Send-Off

Papa was a rollin’ stone.
Where ever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died,
All he left us was alone.  – “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”
Ernest Hemingway always offered this advice to aspiring writers: “Develop a built-in bullshit detector.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot during the past 24 hours or so. You see, I got the call yesterday that I’ve known was coming for a few months now. My father died yesterday morning.

Regarding Hemingway’s advice, I had a fabulous teacher, the absolute best: my father. If I’m a little crusty around the edges, exceedingly streetwise and street-weary (without ever having lived on them), more than a bit cynical and perhaps a bit too reluctant to trust, I have him to thank.

That probably sounds cruel or resentful but it’s not meant to be. It’s genuine. And because it is, you’ll find no sweet or flowery eulogies here. To provide one would be dishonest to both him and me. I know it’s cliché, but I latched onto the catch-phrase, “It is what it is” to describe the last chapter in the saga that has linked me to my father. I refuse in death to treat it any differently than in life. We always said his world was ruled by "The Three Bs" (booze, broads and bullshit) and no one knew them better.

I may someday regret not having gone to see him during these final weeks or even to have spoken with him. I just don’t think it would have changed or resolved anything. And, I didn’t think it was worth upsetting a dying old man to prove it. I think that in his deluded way my father would have expected me to express all manner of things that, in all honesty, I cannot.  (Or maybe this is my way of giving myself a pass. In either case, it’s done.)

As I was not the person in charge of his medical decisions, neither am I the person handling his burial. (Other than not knowing what is going on, I am OK with that.) Considering our estrangement, it seems appropriate. And, it seems typical of the uncertainty I’ve experienced with him for much of my life.

It’s uncertainty that is, at the moment, impeding the one thing I think I can do for him at this point: write an obituary. I’ve basically done this, leaving placeholders for service/burial information for now. It’s brought my PR skills to bear and tested my journalist’s objectivity at the highest levels.

The other thing I can do is try to vanquish, once and for all, the host of negativity that a lifetime of wrongs has generated. Easier said than done, but the task is lightened by the fact that during the past few years and especially since this all started in April, I've been hefting stuff overboard.

I've identified this as a long-term task. In the short term, I've vowed to focus on a few of the things I can point to as happy memories, even if they did come to a screeching halt 30-35 years ago.

  • He taught me to play chess – and poker – before I was 5. The latter got me in trouble the first day of first grade in Catholic school – but only because I was beating a bunch of boys and taking their milk money. It also meant that during the many family poker games with my uncles and extended family members and friends, I was the only kid who would get left at the game table to cover while their dad took a bathroom break.
  • He made football understandable enough for a 4-year-old and forever spurred my interest in the game. 
  • When I was 7, he came home with a kitten in the pocket of his trench coat. He had been closing up at the bar he owned at the time and when he took out the trash, he met up with two guys who were bouncing said kitten back and forth and saying what all they were going to do to the unfortunate feline. After a few seconds, the story goes, he intervened and told them that he had a gun that said they were going to give the kitten to him. (Considering that the old man packed a .357 in those days, it was probably a wise choice. And it was probably one of the nicest things he ever did.)
  • When I was 11, we moved into a rental house that was a nightmare. But the mother's decorative eye scored us a deal on rent and served as my introduction to DIY.  During the next 18 months, I would have some of the best – and worst – times of my life in that house.
I could probably add two or three more fondly held anecdotes; it's a pretty thin collection. And while they don't go very far in outweighing all the terrifying memories, at least they exist.

The one thing I really do owe him a debt is for developing, installing, fine-tuning and regularly testing my "bullshit detector." I don't think my writing would be what it is without the rich experiences that intangible device helped me to cultivate as a reporter. Without it, I don't think I would have the depth of understanding and empathy that I have for those who are abused, chemically-addicted or otherwise downtrodden that I do.  Nor would I be able to spot a flim-flam man at 20 paces.

All in all, it's been an invaluable tool. So thanks, Dad. There will always be that. May you find in the next part of your journey what managed to elude you here. I wish you peace.