So, it’s been pretty intense…

It’s been a rough year, but this last month or so has been particularly difficult.  I lost my Dad a little less than a year ago and I knew that it was going to be a big change, but I figured that since I had so long to prepare for it that it wouldn’t be quite as severe.  I’ve got to say that I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

Dad’s passing seemed like a necessary part of life, but the circumstances still don’t entirely sit well with me.  Either way, Dad is gone.  That fact was cemented in my mind while I sat alone with his body, waiting for the funeral home to drive quite some distance to come pick it up.  What was left there in that room was not my Dad.  He was gone and I was left to grapple with some very concrete concepts of mortality and the human soul.  It has stayed with me longer that I thought it might.

The year has progressed, with lots of challenges in completing not only a couple of very large personal projects, but also with trying to get Mom’s house in order for her to be there by herself.  That struggle seems to be coming to an end, but I wouldn’t relive the last couple of months for all the money in the world.  Please allow me to elaborate.

We moved Mom in with us after Christmas so that they could redo all of the floors in her house.  During that time, it became painfully evident that Mom had been hiding a great deal of physical limitation and disability.  Still, she really perked up at the new flooring and although it was an enormous undertaking, it seemed worth it to see her happy with her home…until she fell forty-five minutes after we got her home.

After that, we ended up with Mom on a walker in a house that still needed the kitchen reinstalled.  I started working as late as I could every night after I got off work and most weekends, trying to arrange all the details and install the kitchen.  Many days became sixteen hours of work and six hours or less of sleep, but even that seemed worth it.  I had even hired a couple of guys to help me with the kitchen and it really started to come together…that is, until the bottom fell out.

My Aunt Frances had some complications with some surgery to remove a gall stone and I guess something went way wrong.  She was well into her mid-eighties and her body just couldn’t fight anymore.  They brought her back to the same hospice center that my Dad was in last year and I went straight out to see her, planning to return the next day and every day thereafter until she passed.  She’s always meant a lot to me and I hated to see her go.  Fortunately, I got to see her that one last time.  Unfortunately, on the way home I stopped off to let a tenant back into their apartment and on the way back to my Jeep Cherokee, I fell and broke my left arm, my nose, and I did my best to take all the skin off of large sections of my face.

In a matter of seconds, I found myself covered in blood and helpless to get myself off the ground for a few minutes.  I just laid there and bled…alot…I mean a bunch.  In fact, there is still blood on the concrete if you were to check out that sidewalk.  This all led to the most disturbing trip to the emergency room that I’ve ever had.  The highlight for me was when the woman next to me passed out and started throwing up blood.  Yeah, it sucked.

So, for the sake of expediency, here’s a summary of how it has been since then: awful…it has been awful.  I couldn’t go back out to see my Aunt Frances because we didn’t want her to be worried because I looked like I had been in a car wreck.  I spent the next several weeks as an invalid, because it unbelievably hard to do just about anything when you can only use one arm.  Even the simple stuff is hard, like tying my hair back.

Finally, I was starting to feel better and a bunch of friends had chipped in to keep everything moving forward.  It looked like I might be able to start catching up and finishing Mom’s house when I did something stupid and reactivated a near-record level of sciatic pain.  Thankfully, there are Prednisone and Percocet.  Those were starting get me moving again when something happened that really put the topper on this whole last year.

I took Mom to a quick doctor’s appointment.  The short version is that she had some trouble with her walker and fell backwards with me trying catch her with my bad arm.  Yep, totally helpless, watching my Mom fall backwards in slow motion while I tried to catch her with a useless arm and with a walker between us which made it impossible, anyway.  Her head hit the ground and she died for somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute.  It felt like longer because she turned blue and was non-responsive and the world seemed to stop, but either way, it was the worst.  Thankfully, she revived and after a couple of hours in the emergency room, we were on the way home.

So that’s been my year…intense and sucky, but with lots to think about, which made it even harder, at times.  Now, we are counting down the final days until we can get my son’s spleen removed so that his health can improve.

IMAG1278With that and the rest of my year, I’ve got something that I would like to admit:  It has been a really humbling experience, to say the least.  It has been really hard, but it has left me with some very lucid realizations.

  1. I would really appreciate your prayers for my son, Bruce.  Like me, they are going to have to take out his spleen so his body will quit destroying his red blood cells.  This will relieve his jaundice and he will no longer be yellow, but he will also be no longer able to fight off encapsulated bacterial infection.
  2. I would also appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  This whole thing has been so humbling and most days I have just enough stamina to finish my work day and spend the evening fighting the pain.  It’s getting better, but some days are better than others.  Also, it has become apparent that I am sometimes a real jerk and also that life is fleeting, at best.  I’m making a real effort to apologize to some folks with whom I need to make amends because I feel like it is the right thing to do.
  3. Most of all, I want everyone to take a really hard look at where we are right now.  Our country is eating itself over racial tension, bathrooms, and an election where we get to decide between two very large bags of crap.  I don’t know what to say to everybody, but I do know that I would like to remind Christians that the same Jesus who said to love your neighbor also said to love your enemy.  Frankly, I don’t see enough of that happening.  We need to start making amends with everyone or this election will be the least of our worries.

Plissken 2016

IMAG1199_1I bought this shirt several months ago because I love Escape from New York and John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, but especially the character of Snake Plissken.  At first, I thought that it was clever, if not fitting for what I was seeing develop.  Now, I am convinced that this is our only option:

Everyone should write in Snake Plissken as your choice for President of the United States of America.  I’m not kidding.  I hope that you guys will share this far and wide, across the internet.

You see, I am now convinced that given our most likely choice between a blowhard bag of excrement and an unethical, lying bag of excrement (both of which are inextricably tied to the very things which most jeopardize our republic), that the only sane choice is to send a strong message to our leaders.

We are tired of your mismanagement of our country.  We are tired of the free ride that you take on our backs.  We are tired of the way the system is rigged.  We are sick of the media circus that drives revenue and distorts issues.  We have decided that George Carlin was right regarding the American political system.  We are sick of your lies.  We are sick of your crap.  We are done.

Please share this and please remember to vote in November.  Vote for Snake.

How much of our lives are wasted on scrolling through meaningless bullcrap on the internet?

How much of our lives are wasted on scrolling through meaningless bullcrap on the internet?

That is the question that I have been wanting to ask for a long time.  Unfortunately, I felt that I had to cut way back on my Facebook time before I could ask it without being a hypocrite.  Why do we even know or care who Kim Kardashian is?  Why is Miley Cyrus not broke and living out of a dumpster?

Why do we pay no-value celebrities any attention at all?  Even better, why do we worship them?

Imagine if you had all the time back that you spent scrolling through your Facebook feed.  Imagine if you spent that time with the ones whom you love…without a screen between you.

To Hell and Back

I have a device which I have cherished for many years.  It took the place of a huge notebook of compact discs and allowed me to effortlessly tote my entire music collection around the United States and overseas.  Unfortunately, my great companion came with a hard drive that started clicking over a year ago and started having to be restored, as of last week.

Since my iPod Classic had seen me on so many journeys and kept me company through countless hours using various mowers and other power equipment, I decided to rescue my buddy from the afterlife.  I found a guy in the United Kingdom that makes an adapter that one can use to remove the hard from an iPod Classic and replace it with an SD Card.

IMAG0979-1Making an omelet means breaking a few eggs.

IMAG0980-1Putting Humpty Dumpty together again.

IMAG0981My old friend back inside his iFrogz case.  Safe and sound.

So, nothing comes without a downside in reviving old tech.  This model only supports 128 gigabytes with the SD conversion, so I gave up 32 gigabytes of storage.  The upside is that there are now no moving parts inside the iPod and it should last me for a very long time.  Long enough for my kids to call it my antique music player.  I like to think of it like my Walkman from the early 2000’s.

Incidentally, the real upside is that now that I know I can successfully pull off this upgrade, I will be able to convert my last generation iPod Classic to SD.  The good news there?  Those can recognize  up to a Terabyte of SD memory.  Everything the iPod was meant to be and nothing that it wasn’t.

All week long, I’ve been missing this place.

I miss having my favorite place to eat.  I miss the food.  I miss the people.  I miss Jenny and her unique brand of service.  I miss Stephen playing with my daughter on breaks from the kitchen.  I miss Tom’s food.  I miss hanging out there with my friends.

I want a Diablo with wedges and a ginger tea.  I want fried pickles and about a gallon of Tom’s homemade ranch dressing.  I want a buffalo chicken sandwich with fries.  I want Burgermeister’s.

IMAG0086

Seriously?!

I would like to give you folks a little barometer on where our society is, as a whole.  We have a mobile home for rent, so I am fielding calls from potential tenants.  Here’s part of the last call:

Lady Caller: Do you rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, this home is within seventy-five feet of elementary school property.  North Carolina law states that a registered sex offender can not live within one thousand feet of school property.

Lady Caller: So you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, state law prohibits sex offender residence within one thousand feet of school property.  Seventy-five percent of our properties fall within that parameter.

Lady Caller: Yeah, but is that the only reason you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am state law is what it is…I don’t have to go beyond that.

Lady Caller: (Hangs up)

That, folks, is the bait and switch that every landlord and/or law enforcement officer must deal with on a daily basis.  A person fishing for the basis for a discrimination suit while I’m trying the protect the interests of the community.

There are so many kids in our biggest mobile home park that it empties a bus when they drop-off in the afternoon.  Would you put a sex offender in the middle of a community like that?  I bet your answer is no.  However, if you were to flatly state that you don’t rent to sex offenders, then you would find yourself open to a lawsuit.

This is the tightrope that we have to walk.  The fine line that exists between protecting the community and getting sued.  Fun stuff.

Public Service Announcement (If you don’t ever use power equipment, skip this one)

Sometimes I get busy and don’t catch problems until they cost me money.  Recently, I’ve been noticing problems with some of my power equipment.  I was immediately suspicious because all of my small engine equipment is Stihl (and not Stihl purchased at a big box store, Stihl purchased from a commercial Stihl dealer).

All of my equipment went from starting on the second or third pull to starting after a lot of work, if at all.  My string trimmer was the worst, so I took it in and after two trips to the shop, replaced the carburetor.  After that, the problem was solved.  The culprit…ethanol blended fuel.

As it turns out, ethanol blended fuel is devastating for power equipment.  This is especially true for two-cycle engines.  If you use ethanol blended fuel, you can expect to keep replacing your carburetor on a regular basis (which isn’t cheap).  Consumer Reports started documenting the issue about three years ago.  You can find their first article on the issue here.  Now, every major small engine producer has some sort of warning on their products or website.  This is great for consumers purchasing new equipment but not so great for those of us with older gear, as we have missed out on the warnings.

Fortunately, their is an easy (although somewhat inconvenient) solution.  You have to find gas stations that still sell pure gasoline, without any ethanol.  They are getting pretty scarce, but you can find them by visiting this website. It may mean some extra driving, but at least your power equipment will still work.

Why is this even an issue?  Well…I don’t want to get into another political discussion, so we’ll leave it at just another example of your government at work.  You can find the complete history of the issue here.  Pay particular attention to 2003 to 2009…yep, this issue spans several presidential administrations, making it a “big government” problem.