Bingeing 101…

I’m not someone who’s glued to their TV. Except for 30 years of afternoon Cubs games, I’ve not watched daytime TV since some racy soaps during the 70’s. I’m particular about the shows I watch and tend to be very loyal to the series which I’ve become attached. There’s a period of mourning when something I’ve invested time in gets cancelled. Certain characters I’ve grown fond of and not ready to have them jerked from my life without prior knowledge or consent. It would be infinitely better for the networks to call me before chopping one of my favorites.

The fabulous, odd cast of Carnivale which ran 2 piddly seasons. Fantastic show…

Most of the time I’d rather be reading or writing than watching TV. Still Hubs and I can usually be found after supper, hunkered down in our comfortable Lazy Boy recliners, (don’t even think about sitting in my chair-we’re not savages) doling out oral arguments on why one program is more worthy of our time than another at that given moment. We record everything so we can zip through the commercials (there are a few commercials I recall seeing through the fast forward blur for months and wondering what they were actually hawking) Sometimes Hubs asks which program I want to watch, other nights he just pushes play on one of his preferences.

Jaime, Frank, Erin and Danny Regan from Blue Bloods. A favorite show…

There’s about 40 shows on our priority recording list, which are broadcast during different times/seasons throughout the year (not at all like when I was a kid. You missed your favorite program any week on one of the three (yes 3) networks, you were out of luck unless you caught the reruns during the summer. Who had time for TV when the weather was perfect? Then again most network shows ran from September to May, with breaks for Christmas specials, so maybe 25 or more episodes a year. None of this 8-15 shows a season, which is why you grew to love the characters so much. They were a bigger part of our lives.

Now this gang from ER stayed with us for a long time…

Of these 40 I’m partial to a dozen. I refuse to give one minute of my valuable time (hahaha) to several on our recording list. Anything involving Oak Island, gold under the Great Lakes, digging for gold in Alaska, Australia or the Bering Sea, fishing for tuna, king crab or minnows, any talent show, Alaskan pioneers or people from the backwoods/swamp shooting gators. I have zero interest and will not be coerced. I have standards. Not all that high, but still.

There’s something comforting about watching a favorite series from year to year. You dread/anticipate the season ending cliffhanger because one of the show’s regulars may not make it. A couple of times losing one of the stars has been a dealbreaker for me and I stopped watching-cold turkey. No regrets. The one that pops in my head right now is Glenn from The Walking Dead. When Neagan smashed him to smithereens using Lucille, I said, “I’m done,” and walked out of the room. Haven’t watched a minute of the series since and I’m still ok with that decision.

Glenn…

Those season finales linger for months and keep me wondering how it’s going to turn out when the new season returns. Almost every regular cast member’s life was hanging in the balance on the last episode of Yellowstone when it aired a couple months ago, which has me worried about the longevity of my viewing pleasure should one or two of my favorites bite the dust. My saving grace has been that Rip appeared unharmed, which awarded me some sense of peace this fall, while impatiently waiting for next summer.

John Dutton and Rip from Yellowstone. Best program on TV…

Just read in my new TV guide (yeah, it’s still a thing) one of my favorite shows in their rookie season has been cancelled after they renewed it in May. Butthead network. It was called Stumptown and I loved every character. So was Bluff City Law, dang. And my favorite doc, Neil Melendez on The Good Doctor, (Sorry Shaun) croaked in the last few minutes. What about Max Goodwin and Helen Sharpe? Will they ever get together on New Amsterdam?

Stumptown’s Sue Lin, Ansel, Jake, Dex, Miles, Tookie and Cosgrove…

Things other folks do throughout the year seem to hold very little appeal for us. One is watching old series like Gunsmoke, Golden Girls, Hill Street Blues. Once in a while Hubs will try one like The Lone Ranger, which I find hysterical. Their clothes are immaculate after riding for hours and rolling around in the dirt. Nary a scratch/bruise on their clean faces after a fistfight. I just can’t. Hubs recently added The Honeymooners to our watch list. I couldn’t finish one episode. Jackie Gleason was mean and a bully, at least in the beginning. After belittling Alice for every conceivable thing under the sun for 10 minutes, he says, “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.” That’s it. No, you’re an abusive asshole. Again, I just can’t.

Helen and Max from New Amsterdam, perfect for each other-maybe…

The other thing is binge watching. The closest we’ve ever come are a couple series on Amazon like Jack Ryan which I think was offered all at once. You could watch/binge as fast or slow as you wanted. All these new series like Hanna, Bosch, Goliath, For all Mankind, Ted Lasso, The Widow, The Boys, The Morning Show are limited and have only about 8-10 episodes per season, which appeal to bigger stars because they’re not in a long, time consuming commitment. I think we watched all 8 measly episodes of Jack Ryan within a couple weeks for the first 2 seasons. But I do better with the standard weekly premise. Stretch it out.

John Krasinski, Jack Ryan on Amazon…

Until the pandemic roared into our lives.

Like the rest of the country, early this spring, Hollywood shut down (now if they would just shut up). Some series didn’t have a season finale, they just sort of stopped. And the series which normally carried us through like Suits, The Mayans, Queen of the South, (I’m dying here-has my favorite dude James been resurrected to protect/love Teresa Mendoza after being AWOL last season? Definitely saw his handsome mug during the season finale for 2 seconds) but the summer fillers haven’t returned to the lineup either.

James Valdez (Peter Gadiot) from Queen of the South…

So I get these regular emails from Amazon Prime and Apple TV, letting me know what’s on that might pique my interest in returning hits or new series, plus movies galore, some free, some pricey. I noticed one that did pique, mostly because 5 seasons were included in Prime. We were hooked after the first episode. It’s called Chicago PD and premiered in early 2015 for 15 weeks. An ensemble cast in the intelligence unit who take on special cases in that crime ridden city. Led by Sargent Hank Voight, part criminal/part softie/full of empathy.

The large cast of Chicago PD…

We watched 2 or 3 episodes a night for about 6 weeks, and didn’t want season 5 to come to a close. I guess as far as the real definition of bingeing, it wasn’t like we watched an entire season a night, but by our standards this was a very different way for us to watch TV. We’d look at our watch list or what we’d recorded, then just mosey over to Chicago PD, night after night.

Spoiler alert! Watching 5 seasons in 6 days or 6 weeks does not have the same affect on viewers (at least this one) as watching this series from January, 2015 to present. I’m just not as invested in the characters like I would be over the course of 5 years as opposed to 5 weeks. When Erin Lindsey left at the end of season 4, I shed no tears. (Probably my fault but her voice drove me bonkers. Big hearing loss here). No matter how far I turned up the volume on my cordless headphones, I always missed some of her dialogue because of her annoying, whispery voice.

However when Al (Elias Koteas) got shanked at the end of season 5, I felt really bad because he was such a neat character (plus Hank’s best friend/partner in crime with just as much empathy and very appealing). But had I watched detective Alvin Olinsky over the course of 5 long seasons with months in between the start of the next one, I would have been shattered for days about his death, not minutes. Dude I only knew and loved you for a couple weeks. Apologies.

Detective Al Olinsky from Chicago PD…

Now we’re in a pickle because season 8 of Chicago PD is about to start, but I want to see seasons 6 & 7 first, yet not pay for every episode or stream it on my dinky iPad. What to do, what to do? Well I used some of my newly honed detective skills acquired during this binge fest to discover USA network plays Chicago PD continuously a couple days a week. I jotted down season 6 and 7 episode titles and have found at least half of them are on this week. They’re not all in the right order and include commercials but we will be caught up before much longer.

Al, Haley, Adam, Kevin, Antonio, Kim, Jay, Hank and Trudy…

As far as binge watching goes, we just might be too old to adjust to this new fangled format. Too set in our ways and unwilling to change. However, the pandemic did get us to semi-binge and we found a new favorite show in the process. There’s that…

12 yrs, 2 mo, 17 days…

The kid packed a lot of life into 12 years, 2 months and 17 days. I’m on the cusp of observing my 70th birthday, yet he was awarded a mere 12 birthday celebrations here on earth. Wasn’t fair. Even worse, I was 4-1/2 years younger than him so I got shortchanged. The rest of the family had him longer than me, his biggest fan. I missed so much of his tragically short life.

Larry 2, with that gorgeous shock of white/blonde hair, 1948…

The house where I hatched (youngest of 3) was on the west edge of town. Not a lot of homes or kids, so many days I followed him from sun up until the lightening bugs did their ritual dance in our backyard at dusk. He didn’t complain about his bratty little sister stalking him. He was my protector, advocate, friend and the boy who stopped me from eating rabbit turds beneath their cage when I was not yet 2 because someone convinced me they were raisins.

Mona 10, Larry 7, me 2-1/2 in 1953 on the west side of Rock Valley…

Because he was older, after we moved near the heart of Rock Valley’s downtown area, he could go farther from home with his friends, be away longer and stay out later. Trips to the sandpit, shooting his BB gun at the dump, exploring the Rock River, bike rides out in the country to look for wildlife, find new places to catch pigeons while I was not yet in school. Still, he often had friends over to our house (backyard usually). Our long driveway was mostly hardened pea gravel, with a few blades of grass and weeds in the center where no tires tread. Which made a perfect spot for shooting a game of marbles. I never understood the game, but Larry was a great southpaw shooting marbles. I watched him and his friends from the living room window, teasing and arguing as coveted marbles moved from one player to another.

Larry 5, in front of our new playhouse dad built, 1951…

After he died Mom would periodically take out Larry’s marbles and other mementoes. I think it was one way of keeping his memory close to us. We’d hold the marbles, remembering ones that were his favorites. His marbles were in a large tin can with a lid. I don’t remember if it was an old coffee can but it was heavy. Shooters, cats eyes, agates, clearies, pearlies. I believe Mom gave away his marbles, comic books and baseball cards. I imagine the cards (and comic books) would fetch some serious cash now, sporting baseball players from the 1950’s. Wish I had some displayed in my antique bookcase where I keep the things that were important to him. When Mom passed away I brought Larry’s clothes, trinkets, billfold, (filled with classmates school pictures), his baseball glove and BB gun home with me.

Larry’s stuff, love the bow tie…

Larry borrowed my bike on that beautiful fall Saturday morning, because it had a basket. As he was peddling away from our house, he turned and yelled, assuring me he would give me a dime (and a surprise) when he got back for letting him use my bike. (He never made it home).

Dad and Larry in 1948…

He was hauling some stuff he bought from town to our grandparent’s house on highway 18. Highway 18 was a wicked stretch of road. Why someone would design highway roads with added curbs was puzzling. In this case, deadly. I’ve heard many renditions of Larry’s accident. The version always given to me by my parents was a car’s tire caught that curb, which made the car swerve up on the shoulder where Larry was riding, striking him and killing him instantly. Flung far from Larry’s lifeless body was my broken bike with a caramel apple near it (my surprise for him using my bike).

Larry 4-1/2 watching over his new baby sister, early 1951…

Though I was not yet 8, there are many things about Larry which remain crystal clear to this day. I remember how he talked. He always called mom Mother but couldn’t pronounce his r’s, so it come out like ‘mu-tha,’ or quarter rolled off his tongue like ‘quaw-ta.’ Larry picked out and brought our Christmas tree home after we moved. I believe there were fresh trees for sale near the Western Auto across from Koster’s grocery store. For Christmas one year he bought Mom (mu-tha) an 8 inch frying pan and lid from money he earned catching and selling pigeons. That pan was her pride and joy for years, even after the black composite handle fell off in chunks leaving bare metal, which got hotter than a pistol, so you had to use pot holders all the time. She always made our popcorn in that pan, shaking it back and forth over the gas burner, dividing it up in bowls, then melting real butter in the pan for our popcorn topping.

Me, Larry and Spitzy in 1954…

I can still picture him and dad in the backyard playing catch. Larry was the only lefty in our family and it looked odd to have him throw left handed and wear his glove on his right. He was crazy about our mutt, Spitzy and the feeling was mutual. Larry was the only one who slept downstairs, so Spitzy stayed with him at night.

Mona 14, Larry 11, Mom 31, me 6, summer of 1957…

He would take a couple of his baseball cards and attach them to the bicycle frame next to the spokes (with a clothes pin)? so it made this clicking noise. All the boys did it. (Hope it wasn’t a Mickey Mantle rookie). There were days we ‘went to town’ together after school, stopping at the dime store to buy candy, doled out by weight on a scale. We each got a good sized bag of Malt balls, chocolate covered peanuts or chocolate stars for a nickel.

Larry 11, me almost 7, Mona 14 and Dad 40 in 1957…

But there are some things about Larry which I no longer remember either. For the life of me, I can’t picture him eating at our supper table. (Our family sat down for supper together every night). I want to see him eating left handed so bad, but it’s just not there. After I started school, I don’t remember walking to school with him ever. I only went for half days during kindergarten and I can remember walking with 2 neighbor boys, Arlyn and Gary but never Larry. I think he probably rode his bike.

Mona 15, Larry 12, me 7-1/2, summer of 1958…

So some memories of Larry remain fresh while others remain just out of my grasp. While he wasn’t a part of my life for very long, he left a lasting impression. I miss him still-even more on the day of his death-62 years later…

My favorite school picture of Larry, maybe 3rd grade…

Might as well jump…

You ever feel like a segment of your life passed before your eyes and you didn’t even get a chance to blink? For me that swath of time lasted almost 2 decades. Holy Rip Van Winkle. Oh I was there for those 20 years and busier than a one-armed-paper-hanger. From approximately 1980-2000 it’s safe to say, I missed a lot of stuff. Too busy with motherhood mostly. Our completed family numbered 5, resulting with two harried parents who were now in the minority. Yikes! For this unorganized gal, my job was time consuming. Hauling kids around, doctors, sports, and never ending meal planning, cooking for appetites which were never sated.

Joshua, Adam and Shannon, busy days in early 1980…

During my 20 year time-out from what was going on in the rest of the world, all subjects-politics, wars, price of gas, celebrity marriages, fashion, took second fiddle because I was consumed with performing a decent rendition of raising 3 kids. But 20 plus years after the last kid headed for college, one of the things I missed the most during those busy years-was music.

Eddie Van Halen…

I grew up on music. No kid in their formative teens (during the 1960’s) can say music wasn’t a huge part of their lives. Best music era ever. The Beatles, Beach Boys, The Doors, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, CCR, Simon & Garfunkel, Mamas & the Papas, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Aretha, Sonny & Cher. The list was endless. Yet ‘new’ music and groups were the first thing eliminated when I was pushed for time.

Beatles during the early years, John, Paul, George and Ringo…

What was the catalyst that ‘woke’ me from my music malaise? There were 2. First I started walking in early 1998 to help with my diet and general health. Walking became a healthy habit-ok-obsession. At the time I was loathe to admit it, but all of my favorite songs from the 60’s-70’s had me bleary eyed and bored to tears. Simply heard them way too many times. I needed a kickstart. And there he was, my middle kid, Joshua swooping in for the rescue. Pretty sure I was still using a cassette player but would soon move to the next level of fine-tune listening-the iPod. Josh made tapes of singers and groups I’d never heard of. He knew the most important feature was a great beat to keep my feet (and butt) moving. Then he set me up to discover hip-hop and buy my own walking music.

The Dutch boy, Eddie Van Halen…

Maybe I didn’t prioritize the time for new groups and songs because I became totally enamored with the Chicago Cubs in the early 80’s. We were living in Davenport (160 miles from Chicago) and one of my friends in town had grown up with the lovable losers from Chicago’s Northside. I’d like to believe when I became a diehard fan their luck changed for the better. Sandberg, Sutcliffe, Smith, Davis, Denier, Sanderson, Eckersley, Grace, Trout, Matthews, Moorland would win the National league’s Central division a couple times during the 80’s and should have played in the ’84 World Series against the Tigers. Guess I wasn’t the muse I thought huh?

Go Cubs go…

Mary Ellen’s daughter lived in Chicago so we attended several games every summer because we stayed at Laurie’s place. (We always did projects for her, painting or refinishing antiques for her apartment). Good times. Those fabulous day games at Wrigley Field came flooding back to me this week as a side note to my niece Kelli’s husband’s post about the death of Eddie Van Halen. (Jason was an ardent fan). Van Halen was huge when music was not in my life. How could have I missed pertinent tidbits about Eddie through the years? He’s Dutch. I’m Dutch. Goodness, he was born in Amsterdam when I was 5 years old. I should have been a big fan, but was too busy with homework, meals, laundry and baths. I knew he was married to Valerie Bertinelli and they had a kid named Wolfgang. I remember reading when Eddie was diagnosed with throat cancer quite a few years ago.

Valerie and Eddie…

But the real trigger for Van Halen with me was our Cubs connection. You could count on the beautiful ivy in Wrigley’s outfield, Wayne Mesmer singing the National Anthem, Milo Hamilton, Harry Caray, Steve Stone, Lou Boudreau, Dwayne Staats and Vince Lloyd up in the TV/radio booths. Just before the starting lineup was announced, Van Halen’s “Jump” could be heard throughout the city of Chicago. When I commented on Jason’s, Van Halen post I said it was the Cub’s theme song during the mid 80’s for years to come. But after I wrote that I thought, no I think it was WGN’s theme song when they broadcasted the Cubs games.

Van Halen in 2008, David Lee Roth, Eddie, Alex and son Wolfgang…

I didn’t know squat about Van Halen. Missed the revolving door of lead singers Hager and Roth and whoever else might have been in the group during their peak years. I have had “Jump” in my musical library since I started buying songs and always have it on one of my playlists. Whenever that catchy synthesizer beat begins, I smile and belt it out with Van Halen!

I get up, and nothin gets me down, you got it tough, I’ve seen the toughest around.

And I know baby just how you feel, you’ve got to roll with the punches and get to what’s real.

Ah, can’t you see me standing here, I got my back against the record machine

I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen, can’t you see what I mean?

Might as well jump, (jump), might as well jump. Go ahead and jump, (jump) go ahead and jump.

Eddie Van Halen, you still rock…

The Hazards…

You’d be hard pressed to hear me criticize McDonald’s. (Who’s got the best fries, right)? Wasn’t crazy about the giant corporation, but I worked for a fabulous owner/operator for several years. I’ve blogged about both the job and ‘da owner, so I won’t rehash that story. Suffice it to say it was great working for him. I was just a lowly crew person but I loved it. If you wanna catch up on the years I was with McDonald’s, here ‘ya go. http://dvb517.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-boss.html

Mark, an all around good guy (and boss)…

A couple weeks ago I wrote about some of the odd adventures on my (mostly fabulous) walking path I utilize everyday. My biggest concerns are stones that find their way on the blacktop path from the road’s shoulder, where I have the unlucky knack of placing one foot or the other in exactly the wrong spot resulting in a nasty spill. I use a walking stick which helps, but I’m constantly watching the path right in front of me to ensure I make it back home sans injuries for another day. Another dicey concern is how close the walking path is to the road at times, which is busy with distracted drivers and has a speed limit of 50.

A couple days after posting that story, I was on the last leg of my walk (3/4 mile from home) when I heard sirens. I’m profoundly deaf so I’m listening to funky music through headphones which are pretty jacked up. (I’ve tried several varieties of ear buds. I hear nothing through the left one and the sound in my right ear is like someone provided me with with a string and 2 cans. One can is at the bottom of the pond and the other is hooked over my ear. Tinny, muffled, garbled are all appropriate adjectives that fit).

Love the tree section that refuses to buckle under by not changing colors on my walking path…

I have an awful time differentiating which direction noise is coming from but soon see a couple sheriff’s department vehicles and an ambulance zoom past me from behind. When I’m about a half mile away I notice all cars/trucks are hitting their brakes. Soon I see what has caused the ruckus. A tan Ford Bronco has jumped the curb and is resting smack-dab on the walking path right in front of McDonald’s. Had I been 6-8 minutes earlier the tan Bronco would be sporting a mega sized, white haired hood ornament. Namely me.

Before the Ford got to his embarrassing resting spot, he hit a smaller SUV (with considerable force) who was trying to turn into the entrance of McDonald’s. That poor dude got hit so hard, it was resting in the south lane. Upside down. A deputy noticed me slowing down, (hard to notice, I walk the speed of sloth) ambled over as I was taking off my headphones and said, “ma’am, could you either turn around or use McDonald’s parking lot to get to the corner?” “Sure, no problem.”

McDonald’s entrance coming up, then the exit by the white van…

This particular ‘still frame’ remained etched in my head for several days. You just can’t help but think-I’ve walked that exact spot hundreds of times. My number would have been up for sure and it wouldn’t have been pretty. Yikes. (Why did I not take a picture? I’m the only person who never takes pictures of these moments as they happen. There was nothing gory to see as I approached).

Three days a week I see a couple guys about my age (Lord they seem much older but gotta admit they probably aren’t. Sigh). They drive to McDonald’s, park their car and walk part of the path. I usually stop and talk for a minute (goes against everything I believe in about my walking protocol, but they are nice and I’m trying to be kind. It’s a stretch. The struggle is real). I usually pass them going in one direction or the other which is astonishing. But I’ll take it.

Just a few days after the Mc-upside-down-car vs. Dude-I’ll-park-on-the-Mc-sidewalk-and-show-you fiasco, I’m nearing the two gents, about to overtake them with my great speed and agility, so I give them a hearty hello and zip right by them. I have Meniere’s which causes fluctuations in my inner ear, causing balance issues, so I use a walking stick to help steady me. Meniere’s usually affects one side of your head/ear. Mine causes a lot of racket in my left ear, leaving it virtually useless other than keeping my glasses on my mug straight. Looking right causes no problems but glancing left is better served when I come to a complete stop and slowly turn my head back and forth.

As I’m closing in on the McDonald’s drive through entrance I glance up to make sure no one is in the middle turn lane on the road, then make a quick swipe left to eliminate someone from behind who might have their blinker on and turn in front of me. (I know the pedestrian has the right of way but there are numerous walkers, joggers, bikers, runners who are dead from having the right of way). I step from the walking path to the McDonald’s cement entrance and get about 2/3 the way across when my peripheral vision picks up something huge on my left side. I pause, look left and a car has run into the curb, six feet from where I stand. I look at the driver who gives me a scathing look and throws up his arms in disgust. What the hell! How could he not see me? I’m as big as a barn and wearing a bright salmon colored jacket.

Car tires, old gal with headphones and walking stick, trying not to die…

I start walking again, glancing right at the McDonald’s exit (some of these folks have come close to hitting me too. They’re digging in their McDonald’s bag for the hash browns and bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and don’t always remember to look both ways as they stop (or not) to avoid adding me to part of the Walking Dead outtakes). I stop at the corner, look both ways, cross, happy to have 3 more blocks before home. But I’m shaken up as I relay the story to Hubs.

Two days later I bump into the two walking dudes and both hold up a hand, indicating ‘stop woman.’ “Ah, after you went ahead of us on Monday, do you realize how close that car came to hitting you?” “No not really until after I got home. Looked pretty close from behind did it?” “Yeah, lucky he ran into the curb. Guess he didn’t see you until he was turning in.” (Oh my goodness. Thanks God).

McDonald’s parking lot going south, eliminating the entrance and exit from the road…

After confirming the car nearly hit me, I couldn’t stop stewing about another close call on my seemingly safe, carefree walking path. There must be some way to eliminate all these hazardous crossings which seem determined to undermine my wellbeing from day to day. There is a second exit at the back of McDonald’s lot which I walk past everyday. I could just bypass the front entrance and exit. It would mean walking the perimeter of McDonald’s parking lot. Since COVID the parking lot is nearly empty because the dining room is not open. Some customers do go into the lobby and order, so there are a few cars in the lot but 90% use the drive through lane. I would be sharing the front entrance for a few feet to get back on the walking path, but it would be off to the side and head on from my view.

Parking lot, heading east to the street before those parked semis…

I hashed it over with Hubs and decided that’s what I’d try. Can’t imagine anyone from the store confronting me about walking in their lot for 2 minutes and no one has this week. A maintenance man was cleaning/sweeping the lot one morning and said good morning. Have gotten a couple strange looks from customers who run in for food, then eat in their car. Must feel like I’m intruding or invading their space. I try not to make eye contact because I’m concerned what lies ahead for my feet, but also keeping a watchful eye on cars that might be backing up. That would just be my luck, right?

The Dipstick…

I kept track, glancing at the sticker stuck on the inside of my windshield every once in a while. The date on the sticker read 6-09-20. Don’t know why I’m secretly pleased when I get past 6-09-20 and my time is not up yet, like it’s a contest. It’s not. Still it pleases me nonetheless.

Had it not been for COVID this winter/spring/summer/fall (geesh) the Jeep would not have made it to 6-09-20. Lucky to make it to 5-1-20 because we would have tacked on a couple thousand miles with a trip to northwest Iowa in mid-April. Hubs brother Jimmy was diagnosed with acute leukemia and given days to live. We certainly would have driven to see him before he passed away, plus attend the funeral and visit with the family. (It’s odd-what a difference it makes when you don’t participate in the visitation/funeral. You’re left hanging without closure. Even more odd, knowing this, I want no service for myself. Maybe denying others closure? Don’t know or understand that either).

Runs quite a bit better with the right amount of oil…

There were federal mandates about attending funerals. Basically the whole country was shut down. Who knows how many restaurants, gas stations, motels remained open? Plus we’re at that ‘vulnerable age’ and told to stay home at all costs. So the days ticked by with the Jeep tucked in the garage and rarely driven. I went to the grocery store about once a week, which felt like part vacation, part-if I leave my house I’m gonna die.

Finally, by September, 3 months later than usual, the Jeep was due for a oil change. Made an appointment at my dealership which is about 15 miles away. I grabbed my book and headed to Chelsea.

Drove through a service door, turned the car off and waited for the tech (Matt) to get my information. “What ‘cha in for?” (5 to 10 which I didn’t voice out loud) “I made an appointment to have my oil changed and my tires rotated. One of my tires has an issue. The right rear has a slow leak and my husband adds air every couple weeks, especially if the Jeep sits for a few days.” (Pandemic) “Ok, that’s going take some time, maybe an extra hour. You gonna wait or are you leaving it?” “I brought my book, I’ll just wait.”

I wander through the door to the customer waiting room, watch 3 minutes of those twin brothers who remodel. Lost interest and turned to my real time filler, John Sanford. (Only because I’m done with my Jack Reacher series. I’m so homesick for Jack. I feel like he’s my best bud who just moved across the country-without me. More on Jack later). After 90 minutes, Matt says my car is done. I have a coupon for a discount 4 pack of oil changes I slap on the counter. “Well this is gonna cost you more because the Jeep uses a semi-synthetic oil, and 6 quarts instead of 5.” “Umm, I got the last packet of 4 without any additional cost. What’s up with that?” He didn’t even try to explain his reasoning. Just tallied up my charges for the day. Ka-ching.

Gave me a copy of the service sheet to sign and hands me my keys. I walk out to the Jeep which is still dripping water from their complimentary wash. Nice. Turn the key and the ‘low tire’ warning starts flashing. Shut the Jeep down, walk back into the service department where Matt is sitting in the back office but the door is open. “Hey, my low tire warning light is on again.” “Don’t worry about it. After you drive a few miles, it will reset. Nothing to be alarmed about.” “Ok but it wasn’t on when I drove in today.”

Walk back to the Jeep, start it and realize it’s after 2 o’clock and I haven’t eaten today. (No I’m not one of those crazy people who say, oh I just forgot to eat. Trust me, I never forget to eat, but the car dealership is on a very busy road. Either I walk to a Big Boy (without sidewalks on uneven surfaces which is like expecting/accepting I’m gonna fall) or play ‘frogger’ trying to get to McDonald’s or Coney Island across the road. So I didn’t eat while I waited and waited for the car.

I go through the drive through, order, pay, get my McDouble and park the car and eat. Call the Hubs and let him know I’ll be home shortly. Start the car and listen to the low tire warning again. Drive a half mile to the stoplight, take a right and ease on to 94 west. As I merge, doing about 60, two more warning lights pop on. My red battery light and a big gold A with a circle around it. (This is a default button which turns your engine off when you are stopped/idling at a light. I detest it and disengage it every time I start the car. I learned to drive during the time where cars stalled frequently from rough idling, popped clutch, you name it. This gas saving device just conjures up bad memories for me).

About a mile ahead is an exit which goes right back to Chelsea and the dealership. So far I’ve driven about 4 miles since the oil change. I limp into town and about 2 blocks from the service door when I lose my power steering. (Another memory of some of the older cars from the 50’s I drove as a kid where turning the wheel took some effort). I wait for the automatic door to raise and smoke is pouring out beneath the hood. Stinks to high heaven. I turn it off and Matt-my dude lumbers up. I hand him the keys with, “when I arrived for a simple oil change and tire rotation my Jeep was running great with 26,000 miles. Now I have 3 warning lights, no power steering and it’s billowing smoke. Fix it.”

Matt holding the tiny part necessary for the Jeep to run…

Forty five minutes later he brings me a small black circular (broken) wire thing and says, “this is an O-ring on the bottom of your new oil filter. It’s not supposed to be broken. Oil was leaking out all over your engine.” “I want a picture of that O-ring to send to my husband.” He obliges. He stands there for a couple minutes then says, “it’s gonna take awhile to check everything out and make sure there’s no damage. I’m gonna give you a Jeep Wrangler for the weekend while we work on the Cherokee. Call us on Monday. And I’m reimbursing your payment for the oil change. It’s free. So you still have 4 left on your plan.”

Whoopee.

Jeep Wrangler’s are not for great grandmas. They’re high, huge, no room inside and the door feels like it’s made from tin. Or maybe aluminum foil. I didn’t dare to park in the garage for fear it was too big with the truck beside it. We drove to get an ice cream cone, otherwise it sat in the driveway for the duration of the weekend until Monday when I got word my Jeep was ready.

Not my cup of tea, but then I’m not 35…

Matt assured me the Jeep was fine and still had 3 quarts of oil in it when I brought it back. They washed the engine numerous times with degreaser and taken it out for several test drives over the weekend. Hands me the keys and says, “you’re good to go. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Umm, there’s no paperwork?” “Ah, no, you want something?” “Yes I do.” Brings out a service sheet that says customer brought in a car with steering issues and smoking. “No, this isn’t going to work. I need documentation stating a brand new oil filter failed and leaked 3 quarts of oil out, interrupting my power steering after I’d driven it 5 miles. Total.” “Well that’s gonna take me awhile.” “Fine, I’ll wait.”

What’s the big deal? Isn’t the broken O-ring protecting the dealer because it was a faulty part? (Actually Hubs thinks the oil change guy just tightened it too far). With a second service sheet explanation in my hand a half hour later I start the Jeep and drive away. Sounds good, doesn’t smell or smoke and I notice the dealership has tacked on about 50 miles since I dropped it off the second time. Doubt if anyone was carousing around but merely testing it after degreasing, driving, rinse and repeat on Saturday and Monday.

We went out for supper for our anniversary a day late and drove to Lansing and back (maybe 75 miles cause I needed a sports store for a pair of New Balance shoes). Jeep’s running great (so far) and I’m hoping no permanent damage was done. But feel at least I’ve got the documentation needed if things with the Jeep go haywire that’s it’s not my fault. Crazy but sometimes it’s the simplest things…

Looking for Recommendations…

We’ve all seen them on our newsfeed. Someone moved into a new house and needs a local plumber or electrician. One friend started off with, “my hot flashes are killing me. Actually killing me.” I need recommendations for sheets that are literally forming ice. (Hahaha, I remember those days mostly because I’ve been cold my whole life except during menopause which lasted a long miserable decade).

Beautiful maple but will soon be bare for 6 long months..

But recommendations and opinions (except on my blog, love the comments. The comments are consistently better than what I write) are not something I’ve ever asked from a whole group of people/strangers before. I guess I could have just blipped out 2 sentences on Facebook and called it good, but that’s no fun.

First day of fall and already I’m dreading what comes next. It’s not like the changing seasons make a huge difference in my life. I’m a homebody. I love being home which is why the 6 month (so far) Covid lockdown in our state hasn’t impacted my life very much. Weather permitting I get outside every day to walk for an hour. That alone helps my mood, my outlook, my overall health and peace of mind. But the key words here are “weather permitting.” Another 60 days and my outside activities will be seriously curbed for months. Ugh. Just the thought causes my smile to droop the other way.

Never been a lover of winter. Freezing temps, wind and snow, it’s all so unappealing. Winter in Michigan lasts forever. One of the real downers is how many cloudy days we get. Sometimes days and days in a row. Not as bad as winter in northwest Iowa where I grew up but it lasts longer here. Iowa is colder with more wind, (but also gets much more sunshine though it may be 19 below) Michigan might win on the snowfall totals. Whatever. I truly detest it. Not kidding.

Why do I live where this is the norm for months every year? Ugh…

So Hubs and I are mulling over leaving before the worst weather Michigan has to offer hits for months without ceasing. Which is from November through April. Again not too much of a stretch. Really the most offensive months are January and February. But we don’t have a clue where to go. Money plays a role or we’d just go for the best weather in the world and hang my walking shoes in Hawaii for a couple months. We don’t need perfectly, warm, always sunny weather for the duration, nor a fancy condo facing the ocean or gulf.

Just decent accommodations (probably an over 55 RV Park rental) with milder weather than our northern states. I’m ok with temps in the 40’s at night, 60’s or 70’s during the day. Some flurries won’t kill me, but not snow that stays on the ground for 2 months straight and has the flexibility (and coloration) of hardened steel after a week.

We don’t want to fly or we’d have to rent a car for the duration. We spent time in Arizona 2 years in a row (though not for 2 months) which seems to be one of the more popular spots for folks in the Midwest. Hubs brother and his wife winter in Arizona, but we’re 800 miles further east than they are. Is Michigan even still considered the Midwest? Shouldn’t be, we’re in Eastern time zone. New Mexico, Arizona, California are just too far west for us. They’re has to be warmer, affordable places but not 2,200 miles away. We’re about 1300-1400 miles from Texas or Florida.

Nothing sinister about us. We look semi-trustworthy, right?

So we’re looking for a decent rental for 2 adults for 2 or 3 months. Since we stay in a lot I’d need a functioning kitchen. Could be southeast or southwest but within 1500 miles of lower mid Michigan. The important part is south which means warmer. We’d rather be in a smaller city or on the outskirts. Pool, community room, laundry facilities, somewhere to walk would be advantageous. I think John would like to go deep sea fishing if there’s a big body of water within a few hours.

So friends gimme some suggestions. Anyone know of an area in the south with mild winter temperatures with a decent ‘over 55’ rental unit in a large park? We’re semi-civilized, can speak in 3 or 4 word sentences and completely housebroke…

Life with Meniere’s…

My hearing loss was a sneaky bastard. Tantalizingly slow and subtle for the first 5 years but when tallied up after 2 decades has been significant. The pandemic has been a good reminder of how out of touch I am in my silent world. For the hearing impaired, having the entire population wearing masks has made life almost intolerable. I never realized how much I depend on reading someone’s lips until everyone’s mouth is covered. My life really is an oxymoron. I’ve lost a profound amount of hearing since 1998, so it’s safe to assume my world should be a quiet vacuum. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Craft project with Graham a few years ago. Don’t cover up that mouth!

That’s how I first realized something was going on. I had no idea I was suffering from a hearing loss. I noticed my head was never quiet anymore but couldn’t distinguish why. It started at night, in the dark, lying in bed when I couldn’t get my head to hush. No, not the regular shit that bothers you at night. You know like a big tax bill looming, one of the kids going through something tough, or I was worried about my parents. This was different. There were real noises actually inside my head. A chain saw, a dentist drill, a huge electrical wire that has snapped to the ground and pings loudly every few seconds, the sound of a TV station after they’ve gone off the air (at midnight, yes this might date me somewhat) with just that snowy sound, or the sound of that big rush of air when you walk through a tunnel at a football stadium.

This is what every TV station looked like after midnight in the 50’s & 60’s…

Plus I developed this creepy, abnormal fear of the dark. I knew our house like the back of my hand and had no problem going through the halls, up and down the stairs, or to the bathroom without the lights on. Not anymore. Didn’t think a thing about it as I was meandered my way through Meijer one day and bought a half dozen night lights, sticking them in outlets all over the house. I didn’t realize these were all clues something odd was going on. With me.

Come on, I was cute here right?

Hubs was on the ball. He noticed something was off. (Well I was giving off some pretty spectacular clues). “Turn the sound up on the TV, I didn’t hear that.” Or “how can our 16 theatre complex get completely remodeled and not update their lousy sound system?” “Nothing’s wrong with the theater’s sound Denise. Maybe you ought to go to Doc Anderson and see if everything’s ok. You’re acting weird. And what’s up with the night lights all over the house?” (These clues were not very subtle).

Muskegon’s movie complex. They actually had good headphones for me to use…

Well Doc Anderson checked me out and sent me to an eye, ear, nose, throat guy who diagnosed me with a hearing loss in my left ear. But he wanted me to see a doctor in Grand Rapids who specialized just in ears. Dr. Daniels’ first suggestion to combat all the noise in my head was to introduce white noise at night. Something I could hear so the screaming in my head was less noticeable as I was trying to fall asleep. Quite simple really, run a fan every night. It did help a lot in the beginning. (Several years later however, as my ability to hear was leaving faster than Jeff Gordon could take a lap at Michigan International Speedway, I could no longer hear the fan. But the Hubs was so used to the noise he couldn’t sleep without it.) Oh the irony. The noises got louder as I lost more hearing. (Part of this was my brain compensating for not being able to differentiate some sounds, so it just made up new sounds for me to deal with. Thanks brain).

The fan I no longer hear and Hubs can’t sleep without…

Just as I was adjusting to wearing a hearing aid to help hearing in my left ear (2 years), the hearing in my right ear took a nose dive. Oh come on! Let the pity party begin. I was in a major slump until I was driving home one December day about 5:30. The sun was setting and the western sky over Lake Michigan was cotton candy pink with some accompanying clouds and sun peaking through. It just took my breath away. For the first time I thought, thanks God that it’s my ears, not my eyes that are failing. That was the turning point right there.

But my head issues weren’t done revealing themselves just yet. I was about 5 years into my walking habit. Walking west for a little more than a mile, turning around, walking 2 miles east, another turnaround for a mile, down my steep hill and home. Well this day I had just passed Johnson’s point (almost a mile away) overlooking Muskegon Lake, swinging my arms with nice, long, easy strides. A flock of seagulls were above my head, heading to the big Lake, not even a mile away by air (for this landlubber it was another 2 miles, most of it without the aid of sidewalks). I continued my fairly fast clip, looking up, following the birds flight plan for a few seconds. When I finally tore my gaze away I found myself far off the beaten path. I was yards off the sidewalk. How the heck did that happen?

Cordless headphones, the only way I can hear the TV…

Dr. Daniel’s had a pretty good idea what was causing this improper addendum to my hearing loss. I remember the exact day because I looked so stinking cute. (This has happened twice in my life so it was duly noted, never again to be repeated. Once was a school picture when I was 7. The other was that day in the doctor’s office. I was quite slim and wearing a cute denim overall). Doc had me stand in the middle of an exam room with my eyes closed, arms stretched out in front of me and walk/step in place. After 40 steps I had made a complete circle. What? Then he had me lay down flat on a table on my back which had really become difficult for me in the preceding months. If I didn’t have a pillow under my head, I immediately got dizzy and nauseous. After those disturbing feelings stopped he moved me until my head was completely off the table but he was holding my head in his hands. Slowly he dropped my head back a few inches with my eyes open. My eye balls started fluttering like the old digital clocks, except at the warp speed of a machine gun. So nauseating. Ick. Gently he sat me back up and held my shoulders steady until I stopped swaying.

Grateful for such beautiful sunsets…

“You have Meniere’s Syndrome, which accounts for some of the constant racket in your head. Meniere’s causes a fluctuation of fluid in your inner ear which can cause dizziness, vertigo, balance and being unsteady on your feet. You may go weeks or months without symptoms, then without warning the side effects can hit you pretty hard, making you nauseous and very difficult to distinguish what other people are saying. It’s chronic. Ease up on your salt intake.” (If I eased up on salt any more I would be down to individual grains per day) “Plus your last hearing test has taken a huge dip. In a few years you might fit the criteria for a cochlear ear implant. For now I think we should give up the hearing aid in your left ear, because your hearing is down considerably. The aid just amplifies all the noise you already hear. Let’s concentrate on getting the best hearing aid for your right ear which is still above 70% in understanding what people are saying to you.”

Blown away.

Depressed and alone.

I hate this.

Eventually Neese got her “groove” back but it took awhile. The more hearing I lost, the smaller my world became. Rooms full of people made me turn around and walk in the other direction. Malls, restaurants and large crowds were avoided. I couldn’t hear, understand or participate anymore. Better and easier to just stay home.

Happy I can read to great granddaughter Jovi…

I’ve noticed a few changes with Meniere’s. My balance is definitely worse in the last couple years. Some of it probably aggravated by my 2 knees, both without much cartilage. Since my replacement in 2019 and fall 5 months later, I’ve accepted safety over pride and adopted a walking stick in the mornings. I love the stick and know there’s no way I can walk without it, but I feel like my steps are lopsided, hesitant, jerky and horribly uneven. Not smooth at all. I can imagine what folks driving past me must think-freaking old broad is drunk or higher than a kite at 8 am. Already had some edibles. Yikes.

Life with Meniere’s as I scurry towards my 70th birthday means:

* Never standing up and trying to walk immediately. I need to pause and get my balance before moving anywhere.

* Never going higher than the second step on a footstool. After looking up while I’m decorating the Christmas tree I know I’ll be dizzy and my balance will be way off for at least 2 days.

* Avoid laying my head on a flat surface.

* Skimming my fingers along walls, railings, furniture when moving through the house.

* Asking Hubs to hang onto me on the step stool when I wash windows outside.

* Coming to a complete stop at all streets I need to cross. Slowly turning my head both ways for oncoming traffic.

* Avoid walking on uneven surfaces at all costs.

But 90% of my life is good. These are minor inconveniences which annoy me, but don’t really cause much hardship in everyday living. If I’m careful and vigilant about what and how I’m doing something. Knowing and respecting my limitations, which has been an eye opener. Still I hate the way I think I look when I walk (which doesn’t make any sense). Why should I care?

Words to live by Neese…

I need to adopt, accept and abide by a couple of quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “you wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” And, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Now that’s better…

Longevity…

The word longevity popped into my head recently and hasn’t left the premises yet, but I’m ok with it. I was thinking about how long ago Hubs and I got hitched. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance of 3 months consisting of 90% lust and 10% love. We dated (and broke up more than once) for a long spell, but it wasn’t getting any easier mostly due to my overbearing parents. So we opted to tell no one and simply eloped in a neighboring state where our marriage license would not get published in the Sioux City Journal. The reason? Most of our home town read the Journal daily. Mom and Dad would discover our diabolical plan early enough to intervene (again) or would get a phone call after the first newspaper hit the front porch of almost anyone in town.

Prom, 1966…

I don’t think we spent 50 bucks on blood tests, gas, marriage license, fee to the Elk Point, South Dakota judge who met us at the courthouse at 6:54 pm on a Monday night, September 22, 1969. We were walking back out of the joint by 7:03, legally bound by the institution of holy matrimony. (My lavender dress was one in my closet and had been worn several times, nothing special so it didn’t set us back anything. Hubs had to dress decent for work at Channel 4, so he wore something already in his closet with a sports jacket). You can chalk up another $50 for the fancy supper after our elaborate ceremony with our 2 witnesses (mum’s the word) before heading to Sioux Falls for a 2 day honeymoon, which was spent trying to garner enough courage to make that dreaded phone call to mom and dad. One night we went to the Macamba Club, listening to Stan Kenton (yes we sprung for a terrific band. Really, no one besides our witness and friend Dale knew where we were, and we had every intention of heading to the Black Hills, but lacked money and time. I don’t remember why they let me in the door of the Macamba Club, I was just shy of 19. This was a regular bar and you had to be 21).

Free picture a couple months after eloping, 1969…

Using your keen math skills tells you in a few days Hubs and I will notch anniversary number 51. (I know, I can’t believe it either. I’m way too young right)? Most of the years have flown by in a blur-but that’s looking at them in the rear view mirror. At the time some of those years slogged along painfully slow, held down by insufficient funds, too many bills and dead end jobs. But we persevered. Always.

My favorite with 6 years under our belts, 1976…

But when ‘longevity’ niggled in my brain it really wasn’t OUR marriage I was reminiscing about. I was thinking about our little one-stoplight-town in northwest Iowa, where we both grew up. While I was one of the firsts my age to get married, soon after we celebrated our 50th, the line behind us was crowded with classmates, acquaintances, friends, relatives, waiting in the wings to hold their own milestone anniversary party.

Davenport, 12 years and a complete family of 5, 1982…

I know we’ve made huge strides in the last half century to lengthen our life expectancy but when I was a kid it was highly unusual for couples to celebrate 50 years of marriage. (My parents made it to 62 years, John’s parents celebrated 58 years together). Those who made it had a real cause for celebration. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I think we ought to give credit where credit is due, don’t you? I’m just gonna state the obvious. It was the water in Rock Valley. Duh.

25 years and going in the hot tub, Jackson, 1993…

I haven’t checked any state by state comparison statistics on marriage and divorce but I gotta believe northwest Iowa is (or was) below average in the divorce column, at least when a marriage was initiated in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. Marriage longevity could also be pinned by our fondness of Taverns, but I’m gonna stick with our drinking water. We all consumed the water and they’re might have been a few folks who didn’t eat taverns growing up. What? (We might want to check the divorce rate among those couples). I know of no one who didn’t love Taverns as a kid. I think I’m on to something here.

Could the lowly Tavern help your marriage last longer?

I’m not trying to prove any kind of bizarre points on the sanctity of marriage. I firmly believe not every marriage is made in heaven and have nothing against seeking a divorce if it’s not working and is never gonna work. My biggest beef/bitch/gripe about marriage oddly enough, is the actual wedding (not the exchange of vows). The engaged couple spend months searching for the perfect venue, purchasing a big enough diamond to bump the bride’s weight up a size (to her dismay), fine tuning a delectable menu, trying on dress after dress for the most exquisite gown, flowers, 3 story high cake, tuxedos, reception, honeymoon. And then many go their separate ways after a couple/few years or even months. If couples put in as much effort in the first 5 years of real marriage as they do on the one outrageously expensive day to ‘get’ married, the divorce rate would plummet. But I digress.

They tore down the beautiful courthouse in Elk Point, but we wanted to acknowledge where we eloped, 40 years before, 2009…

It’s been heartwarming to see some of kids we grew up with as they start celebrating milestones of their own, some with golden anniversaries and many with 40 or more years. Celebrating with the same spouse they started out with all those decades ago. Did any have misgivings/cold feet/doubts before the wedding? Can’t say I did. I just assumed everything was gonna work out ok. However I’d be the first to say, I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for the first 5 years. They were tough. And we knew each other well. Probably should have waited a couple years to get better established and a couple more to have our first kid. But we can’t do that. No way, because in that one moment and only that moment Shannon became a person. Then Joshua, then Adam. No, there’s no way I’d ever consider changing those events in my life. Who would want to?

50 years in and still plugging along…

I think congratulations/well wishes are in order for all of us mired (maybe not the best word choice, but hey it fits) in the institution of wedded bliss for decade upon decade. Much like getting older, marriage is not for sissies. Keep reminding ourselves, it’s a journey not a sprint. You don’t want stop before the finish line. Keep moving forward. Most of it good, some of it not, but in it for the long haul. With God’s help…

Water Boy…

We’ve been in our house 5 years after spending 21 in North Muskegon, 160 miles northwest. We encountered many changes once the dust settled. We moved in October, compelling us to ‘take care of the imminent business at hand’ on our new crib’s insides before fretting about the outside. New paint, flooring, appliances, window coverings, storm doors, enlarged a bedroom and took the bathroom down to the studs. That’s how we spent our first winter.

I love this clump river birch. My hummingbirds perch in it…

During the frigid days when the ground wasn’t covered with Michigan’s disgusting, white stuff, John stared at the front and backyard with equal parts of horror and dismay. (He hates weeds and is very particular about his grass-which was seriously lacking) The backyard had an evergreen privacy fence on the east side, a long row of burning bushes reaching heights of 15 feet lined the north side. There was no grass to speak of. It resembled a downtrodden cow pasture-sans cows.

Nothing helped curb appeal as much as removing the old blacktop…

The front yard was worse. The original attached one stall garage had been converted to a family room years ago, but the 50 year old faded, cracked, pot holed, wide black top driveway remained, which accounted for about a third of our front yard. Unruly scraggly bushes, as tall as the roof line ran along the east side of the house. Nothing in the front yard besides a tired 50 year old maple which was hollow and threatening to fall over if someone sneezed. The storm door had blown open months before we bought the place and was hanging on by one screw in one hinge. It had hit the house so hard there was broken glass everywhere. But having the storm door open gave a much better view of the front door-which was painted purple. Adding to the curb appeal were dull blue shutters accenting dingy windows. Exactly why this house appealed to us remains a mystery.

I snipped until there was nothing but roots left for John to pull out…

The front porch was a slab of cement with 2 weird sized steps, one of which wobbled. (At least 200 of our pre-school trick or treaters tripped while trying to manage the second step because it was a couple inches higher than the going rate). The yard was full of ruts, pot holes, bare spots and weeds. We just turned a blind eye to the mess and concentrated on turning the house into a home for the first 6 months.

Hopeless step wobbled when you went up and down…

We had our yard ‘to do list’ ready as soon as the filthy, stinking snow started melting. First Hubs got quotes for the black top removal, replacing it with a new concrete drive, adding fill dirt so he could start growing grass. He got quotes for the sidewalk, steps and railings. We wanted to start fresh with a new porch but it’s literally attached to the house so it had to stay. We just replaced everything connected to it. Then hired a friend of ours to take down the old maple in front and trim the one in back.

My ‘weeping larch’ though he seems quite happy and well adjusted…

By mid March the tree was down, the stump was ground out, new topsoil smoothed out awaiting grass seed. In late March we had our new driveway, sidewalk and steps. Hubs then started getting quotes for an in-ground sprinkler system.

New driveway and sidewalk made a huge difference in curb appeal…

Luckily one of the neighbors wandered over and asked about all the lawn services showing up at the house. John said, “I need a sprinkling system installed if I want grass this summer.” “Umm, you can’t have in-ground sprinklers in this neighborhood,” Pat said. After Hubs picked his jaw off our grass-less, weed infested yard, he asked how that was possible? Or legal? “Oh the township promised they would charge everyone the same flat rate for water/sewer. But the stipulation is that no one has an in-ground sprinkling system.” Odd right?

Ugh, the backyard when we moved in…

Good to know before we signed the dotted line spending a couple grand on an illegal watering system. No matter how bad it was gonna look, first up was getting rid of the weeds, (leaving the yard looking depressingly barren), tossing on some crabgrass preventer and grub killer. (He really hates moles, and they love grubs).

Added to the deck, plus railings, new steps and fire pit…

Next we yanked out every ugly shrub from the side yard, ordered tons (6?) of river rock and edged from the driveway east to the back fence. The never ending wheel barrel of rocks were moved into place with 2 shovels and four arms. Took a week of back-breaking work but boy did it look nice. Bought some unusual dwarf shrubs, a paper bark river birch, a weeping larch, an Alaskan pine and we were in business. As soon as the Hubs figured out how to keep the lawn and all the new additions alive-by watering everything by hand. Something he’s not done in 25 years. But he was retired and had the time.

A lot of stones to move by hand. The only part that doesn’t require watering…

I would venture he’s on sprinkler number 20 in five years and finally thinks he has a winner. He’s fussy. This sprinkler is made by the company he used with our in-ground sprinkling system when he had to buy new heads constantly. He uses a soaker sprinkler in my pachysandra bed and a different kind of sprinkler in the backyard. I can remember our first decade of marriage when he’d stop at K-Mart every spring and buy a new hose for 99 cents. By the end of the first month it would have sprung a leak from a crack. I swear it was made from ceramic. But here’s the thing. The hose was guaranteed for a year. He’d bring it back and get a replacement. This was like a garden hose courtship ritual every year. He’d buy the crummy hose, get it replaced 3 or 4 times before fall. All for 99 cents and 4 trips to K-Mart.

Best ground cover ever. Pachysandra stays green all winter and flowers in the spring

I’ve gotten quite familiar with the neighborhood sprinklers (people who water faithfully) not the actual gadgets. There seems to be 3 different types of sprinklers. One guy thoughtfully looks over his front yard. Meanders slowly to pick up the sprinkler which is off but already attached to a hose. Lugs it over to the perfect spot, walks ever so slowly back to the faucet (he’s a lot younger than me), turns it on and peers over his masterpiece for a couple minutes, nodding. Job well done and heads back in the house.

The back entrance was pitiful. We extended the deck with better steps…

The second type is ‘the anal sprinkler’ (her yard is pristine. Hubs hates her though they’ve never met, and is insanely jealous) who wakes up and has her sprinkler going by 6 am. She does the bendy thingy with the hose. Refuses to walk over and shut off the water while she moves her sprinkler for the umpteenth time. She just muscles that sucker like she’s wrestling the devil himself and sets it exactly where it needs to be to give every blade a good drink.

Jovi and grandpa fill the bird feeders and give the squirrels ears of corn…

Then there’s the Hubs. He sneaks up on the sprinkler from behind, plucks it from where it’s been nestled for a couple hours while it’s spraying every which way, covers a few feet of landscape in a certain direction, sets it down to judge his location choice. In four years of sprinkling (in his defense last summer was almost perfect. Almost every time the grass needed a drink, God provided) he’s never walked in the house after moving a sprinkler-where he’s not drenched. (Reminds me of our boys when they were toddlers decades ago. Summer was so alluring they had the hardest time coming into the house in time before they peed their pants. The proof of waiting too long was always visible). Hubs is wet from his ankles to his chest. I don’t know if he doesn’t notice it’s spraying him instead of the grass. Maybe it feels good (it has been really hot) or he’s totally immune to cold water. But in our yard everything gets a periodic soaking from the hose-except me…

The Cluttered Path…

About 7 years ago we decided trekking across Michigan every week to visit one of the kids, attend our grandkid’s sporting/school/dance events or babysitting was just too much driving. We hadn’t outgrown our neat lake home but it had outgrown us. The rest of the family were clustered in an area about 175 miles east while we were stuck on the western shoreline by ourselves. Traipsing up and down stairs, no longer utilizing or enjoying the dock or lake. So we listed the house-and waited. And waited. Won’t go into the long drawn out saga trying to rid ourselves of said nice lake home. Suffice it to say we finally moved 5 years ago.

Most of the lavender wild flowers are done blooming, but the yellows/golds are quite impressive on the path…

We were not set where we’d hang our hats next, just somewhere much closer to the bulk of the family. We stored our belongings, moved in with Shannon and her family (I felt sorry for them during our stay-we were a huge nuisance) and started house hunting. We wanted something smaller, on one level and didn’t think we were very fussy with our list of needs.

We were familiar with Jackson where our eldest lived. When we moved to Michigan in 1987, Jackson was our home for 7 years before we moved to North Muskegon for 21 years, so that’s where we started looking. But not the same side of town. Our 2 boys were still 45 to 70 miles farther east, so we concentrated on the east side of Jackson, towards them a bit, in an area we were not very familiar with.

Our first house in Jackson with a family of 5, 1989…

We found a large, quiet subdivision with modest sized homes about 12 miles east of the rambling ranch we bought the first time around. Needed some work (actually a lot more than some) but fulfilled our needs. Our offer was accepted, we closed but moving in would require some work first. New floors, paint, appliances, (can’t even talk about the bathroom yet) some elbow grease and we were ready to have our things delivered six weeks later.

Some walls required more coats of paint than others, 2015…

Hubs and I worked on the joint everyday during those 6 weeks. Learning where the big box stores/lumberyards were on the other side of Jackson. In our previous 7 years in Jackson, I’d only frequented the east side a few times, mostly for Sunday breakfasts with friends. Basically there are a couple main drags through town and one of them comes within a few blocks of our new abode so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. Besides we were now within an easy access to I 94, but it was like moving to a city I’d never been to before.

A few months after moving in. New landscaping but the lawn still has issues, 2016…

We tried new ways of getting from here to there when running errands and buying gadgets for the house. I had in my head if I stayed on 94, I would be able to see the exit for the east side Meijer, but I’d always ended up at the exit for our new neighborhood which was 3 miles too far. Yet had not caught a glimpse of my favorite shopping Mecca. Finally had to break down and ask the Hubs (he worked on the east side for a couple years). Turned out I had to get off 94 one exit before our house and my beloved Meijer was within spitting distance.

Wasn’t long before we noticed Consumers Power was working on Ann Arbor Road, which runs along a stones throw of I 94. They were adding huge street lights at regular intervals on either side for a stretch of 4 or 5 miles. Once in a while something would niggle my brain as for the purpose of these lights but most of me was consumed with whipping the house into shape before winter. A large section of Ann Arbor Road runs alongside I 94, so many working folks simply stay on AA Road until they merge on 94. Speed limit is 50 which is slower than 94 but there’s less accidents, less semi’s, less construction woes.

The walking path has several businesses on the left, close constant traffic on the right walking west…

I believe all the street lights on Ann Arbor Road were for a new walking path constructed 4 years ago. Runs along the south side of Ann Arbor Road, sometimes within just a few feet of the road. A narrow shoulder puts me precariously close to traffic at times as I walk. I watch semi drivers and worry about their retreads, thinking one flying through the air at 50 mph could be a death sentence, but it’s the texters who concern most.

No sidewalks in our subdivision and some of the streets can be hazardous…

During my walks in North Muskegon there was only one main drag, so it was used by everyone in the mornings. Gals applying makeup, a guy eating a humongous bowl of cereal propped right beneath his chin, book/work/newspaper readers while the rest diddled with their phone. On the plus side the speed limit was 25 and pretty much enforced. Ann Arbor Road’s speed is twice that with 10 times as many semi’s as North Muskegon.

Not the best picture of a (dead) zebra striped dragonfly, but I’ve never seen one before…

I get it. Ann Arbor Road is basically a highway with several fast food stops, and a lot of people feel no remorse for tossing garbage out the window. So I’m not surprised when I see half filled, melted slurpee cups, limp cheeseburger/French fry wrappers, plastic water containers and masks of every size, shape, color and material. A worn out tire here, a dead couch there, a broken basketball hoop propped against a stop sign.

Not gonna show trash. Here’s a patch of wild daisies which just started blooming on the path…

For a couple months this spring a section of my walking path added another harrowing feature. An obstacle course, as if walking a straight line isn’t hard enough for this off kilter/balance deficient grandma. Remember those adorable 4 baby Canadian geese, along with their monogamous parents had claimed ownership of my walking path in front of the pond as their permanent summer residence. As long as I was quick with the compliments about their brood, all was well. But when I started complaining to mom and dad that they needed to train their kids not to poop all over the path 463 times a day, I became enemy number one. Snotty enablers chased and tried to goose me every morning. I used my walking stick for protection daily. Yikes.

This cute family turned out to be very noisy, messy renters in their summer pad…

One of the geese tweens got hit in July. (I’d been harping to them the pond across the road was safer, less hectic, but they covered where their ears should be and screamed, “la la la la.”) The family mourned for a couple days, then disappeared. Poof. Just like that. About a week later I drove to the pond, parked my Jeep and spent an hour sweeping up a ton of poop, broken glass, stones thrown in my direct path from the shoulder.

The geese claimed the path was part of their permanent home (bathroom) this spring…

Since I’ve only utilized the path since the end of 2019, the first time I spotted something beyond ‘strange’ in my walking path I was perplexed. However, this same issue crops up every couple weeks since so I can no longer think of it as an unusual occurrence. What, pray tell-you ask?

Tis vomit. Multiple splotches of vomit. Every couple weeks. Usually I see a small splotch first. Just a teaser. Several yards away there’s another clump, with a final curtain call within a quarter mile. I just don’t understand. If you’re on the path and feeling sick, why wouldn’t you just stop, lean over in the grass/weeds/wild flowers and upchuck? There are several lovely resting spots along the path. Two expensive benches sit primly on a large section of cement. Next to the benches are black wrought iron trash receptacles with a garbage liner. At least a half dozen times this year someone’s sat on the bench, within 15 inches of the trash barrel and vomited all over the sidewalk in front of the bench. So sick they can’t turn their head? Honestly I have no sympathy for them.

How difficult is it to turn your head and hurl into the trash can?

One day a few weeks ago, it was pouring down rain when I got up, so I didn’t walk. I used to love walking in the rain, but now I lose my grip on my walking stick and the rubber base slides on the wet blacktop. Finally cleared up around supper time, so I went for a short walk to get some steps in before dark. Not my best walk, it was humid, no breeze and the sun was in the wrong place since I always walk in the morning. Monday morning dawned perfect and I went for my usual walk around 7. A mile from home turns up several new ‘splotches’ since the night before. I wonder if they were high, got bad fast food or just drunk? You know how many times it has to rain (hard) to wash that crap away? And the stains stay linger for months. It’s just so disgusting.

Aww, look how much our trees and shrubs have grown since 2016…

Years ago there was a gal in North Muskegon who was the most dedicated jogger I’ve ever seen. A no nonsense runner. Many days when the weather was inclement, ice and snow covered sidewalks with accompanying 30 mph hour winds, she’d be jogging along Ruddiman. Alone. She was painfully thin and well over 6 feet tall. She never waved or acknowledged my existence. Not even when we ran into each other in Meijer as she was buying her weekly ration of one celery stalk. There were several times over the years I’d see her stop suddenly, run into the grass/bushes and get sick. But I never saw her or anyone else vomit all over the sidewalk that we all used and shared. I don’t know what exactly this says about my fabulous new walking path but it troubles me for some reason…