Monday, April 29, 2013

WDM, IA - Getting Ready to Fulltime

Now that Gary and I have worked to empty and sell one house, we’re going to use this hard won experience and empty and sell our own house. Where are we moving to? Well, that’s up for discussion - a really l - o - n - g discussion (time wise and distance wise). First, the plan is to travel in the RV for a few years. By then, we might have made up our mind where we would like to live. But, for sure, it will be warmer than Iowa. But, do we want it as hot as Arizona? No freezing snow and no searing heat - we want sunny days and temps in the 70’s and 80’s every season. it’s going to be tough to find a spot that fits that definition - that we want to live in. But, that’s the fun of it all, we get to travel around all comfy in our own rolling home, spend time in spots and make a decision.

One of the neat things about having an RV is that we get to spend a longer amount of time in one spot than if we were driving through in a car. We get to eat at the local cafes, shop in the local stores, visit the local library, volunteer at the local food bank, watch the local teams, walk through the local parks. In short, we get a chance to almost imagine that we are living there for good and enjoying the town as a resident would. We get a chance to ‘try on the town’ on and wear it for a while.

Though I’ve often said that we haven’t visited a place that I wouldn’t want to visit again, I’ve also discovered that there are great differences between wanting to visit again and wanting to live there. Some towns I can imagine living in while others not. And, yes, we’ve put together a list of criteria that we would look for in a new home town, though, this criteria can change.

We’ve been through the selling and emptying of Gary’s father’s home and now we get to apply those same steps to our home: fix those little things that we’ve let slide, stage the house, sell it, and then the hard part: what to do with all we’ve got in our house. We’ve read lots of stories about others who have also faced this decision and how they have solved it. Some have sold everything while others have sold some and stored some. We’ve hedging our bets: we’ve going to follow the second approach by selling most and storing some. We decided a while back that someday we’ll want a regular stick house which will need - furniture. So we decided to keep and store most of the antiques from my parents home. We like the pieces, they would be hard to replace and we’d never get a good price for them if we were to sell them. So, voila, we’ll store them.

We met with a real estate agent, Delana, on Saturday, April 27 and she looked the house over. She made a few suggestions and we told her what we were going to do to make it ready for sale. The biggest problem is the lower lever since we’ve just had that painted. The furniture was all piled in one corner. We had several large piles of stuff that we had brought back here from Lug’s house, my desk was a 6’ church-luncheon type table and both of us had plastic file boxes with paperwork all over the floor. Nope, we are not ready for a showing now. But, that was Saturday afternoon. And, can we move fast. That afternoon and Sunday after our charity walk, we scurried around and - by Monday we had the house ready to show: all staged.

Whenthetanlookwassoimportant-1-2013-04-29-21-29.jpgWe had taken down all the personal photos and replaced them with other prints or paintings, we had moved all of our office things like our laptops, files, office supplies, etc, up to a pie safe (an antique china cabinet) in the dining room and the rest we had stored in a large storage room we have in the lower lever. We folded up the 6’ table and arranged the furniture to fill both rooms in the lower level. It took 2 days but we are staged. We found things we had forgotten we had - like the cool items I’m demonstrating below. We’ve been moving these for 40 years and haven’t used them once. Isn’t it time to ditch these?

You know what ‘staged’ means: neat, clean, perfectly arranged and looking as if no one ever lived there. Yep, that’s what our house looks like now. And, actually, we are not living in most of the house. We have concentrated our life to two rooms now: the dining room and the kitchen. Well, of course the bedroom, bathrooms and closets. But’s we’ve really narrowed our field of habitation.

And none too soon. Our agent called Monday morning and, without any paperwork being signed, asked if we could show our house at 3:00 pm to a woman who was in town for only 2 days to look at homes in Des Moines. She is a top candidate for a local job and was just checking out real estate here. Well, what would you say? Sure, we said. We left at 2:45, me to grocery shop and Gary to wait across the street in the parking lot near our association pool. The woman stayed about 25 minutes according to Gary. However, she told her agent that this was the top one of the best two she had looked at. What really turned her heart was the sign I had put on our lower patio: I would have cleaned the windows and swept the patio but didn’t want to disturb the robin who’s building a nest in the rafters.’ Ooh, she said as she put her hand over her heart, I have a robin building a nest on my patio too. Maybe this is an omen.

Whooo - and we haven’t even fixed a price nor signed any papers. We’re not officially for sale yet and we’ve already had a good showing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

WDM, IA - Two 66-yr olds Getting it Done

Today, even though we have lots to do on our house to get it ready for sale, we are going to do a 6K walk at Drake University. It is a community event as a promotion for the Drake Relays which are being held this weekend. Now, for those of you who do not know what the Drake Relays are, they are a big event in the track world. Olympic athletes use the Drake Relays as a warm-up, to test themselves against the best in the world in preparation for the next Olympics. In some races here, the London Olympics Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners are all squared off against each other again. Right here in Des Moines on the Drake Blue Oval. Yes, their track is blue, the school color.
We arrived at 9:00 for the 10:00 start, enough time to get our t-shirts, our bag, our chip (yep, Gary and Nancy are going to walk with a timing chip on our shoes) and our bib with our number on it. Well, actually, many of the people here are running for time but the race is open to walkers too so here we are. And, there are lots of other walkers, lots of families, lots of people with strollers, but we all lined up towards the back after the sign that said ‘walkers.’ There were other signs towards the beginning which said ‘5-minute mile’, ‘6-minute mile’, and ‘8-minute mile.’ That’s not us. Then the announcer said the race would begin in 5 minutes and we all surged towards the starting line, no matter what our speed. Well, we didn’t really ‘surge’ we shuffled quickly. The gun went off and we were on our way. When we crossed the beginning line, the chip on our shoes began our time.

What a beautiful day for a race, or a walk, high 70’s, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. At various spots, there were people lining the road, cars with local radio station insignia on them blaring fast tunes to keep our feet moving and cheerleaders from a local school doing their best to cheer us on. There was a guy dressed as Uncle Sam, there were people with signs ‘Keep up the good work, anonymous runner’ ‘that’s not sweat, Greg, you’re burning fat.’ Greg must have had his own cheering squad. A happy crowd. We were walking plenty fast but still walking.

We then turned the final corner and entered the Blue Oval, all decorated out for the Relays: flags flying, press tents all set up, VIP stands around the top, people cheering, fans in the stands and an announcer congratulating those crossing the finish line, some by name. WOW. How cool is this? We’re getting to run on the same track as the Olympic medal winners. Well, Gary and I just had to run. We stepped up our pace, obviously misjudging how far away the actual finish line was. What do you mean, we’re only half way around. But there it is, just a little ways ahead and I huffed and puffed as I thought that I might make it. As we crossed the finish line, the announcer said: ‘Now we have Gary Macek and Nancy Ferguson crossing the line. Two 66-year olds, getting the job done.’ Again, how cool was that?

We laughed, moved forward to the spot where there were some people to cut off our timing chips, then towards the table where we could get a printout of our times and finishing position for our category. I always knew that if I wanted to win a race, all I had to do was to get old, to get into a high age category. Well, I got 5th in my age group - and I was walking. Next year, I’ll run. Well, maybe I’ll run part and walk part. Should be good enough to get a medal.

Food was next: cookies, bagels, apples, cereal bars, water. Then home. Two 66-yr olds got it done and now they have other things to get done. Oops, one more cookie line run before we head on home. Big Gar’s got his hands full.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WDM, IA - Did He Really Say That?

I’ve told you several Jack stories in the past and have another for you. Again, sometimes he stumps me completely and I am so stunned that I don’t know what to say. Believe you me, Gary is with me on this - he’s as stumped as I am.

When we moved into this home, the previous owner had left some black leather furniture for us: 2 overstuffed chairs with hassocks, a lounge chair and a love seat. We’ve used these for the time we’ve been here but now would like to find a home for them. My brother has furniture that is as old as the hills and, when Gary and I sit on the love seat, we found our shoulders touching and our tushes brushing the floor. Really, old as the hills. We offered our black leather furniture to him. What a great deal, we thought. A softball question. An easy way to get the furniture out of our house.

What’s not to like about this furniture for a single guy?
But if you guessed that he clapped his hands together, beamed and said ‘Wow, what a neat gift, Nancy and Gary,’ au contraire, you’d be wrong. This is not a softball question for him since it involves CHANGE.

Here are his thoughts in order. Now. remember, he has a tendency to say ‘no’ to any suggestion we might make. We know that he will think on it and change his mind but ‘no’ is the first thought out of his mouth.

        But, my furniture is in good shape. I don’t need any new furniture.

                He obviously hasn’t sat in the love seat.

        Well, how would we get it in through the doorway?

                Why would any manufacturer make furniture too big for doorways?

        What would I do with my old stuff?

                Put it on the curb.

        Well, it doesn’t match my room

                says the guy with furniture from 3 different sets.

How many different ways can he say ‘no?’ But, Gary and I are wise: you can’t push a mule, he’ll change his mind. So we dropped the subject and headed on home.

1 hour into our drive back to Des Moines, Jack called to tell us he would take the lounge chair and the love seat. Ok, that’s a start.

At 10:00 the next day, Jack called saying he would take all of the pieces and now he wants to know how soon he can have them.

Only after we sell our house.

Change is difficult.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

WDM, IA - Following Atticus

Last winter, when we were in the library in Palm Springs, I had a little time while my computer was in a download mode and I cruised the library’s section on hiking. Randomly I picked up a book called Following Atticus by Tom Ryan. Rather than skipping around it which I will sometimes do if I'm just passing time, I began at the beginning and was hooked. Then the download was done and we had to go, without the book. I didn’t have a library card so jotted down the title, vowing to finish it sometime. Well, sometime was this week.
It’s about Tom Ryan who had a very special friend, his dog, Atticus M. Finch, who loved to hike and climb mountains. The man struggled up the mountains but the little miniature schnauzer just plowed ahead, leaping over obstacles, jumping up on ledges and reaching the top before Tom ever did. Tom always followed Atticus. They hiked all year long and then a friend died and to honor her began a quest for charity: they would climb all 48 4000’ mountains in the White Mountains in New Hampshire TWICE in 90 days - during winter when wind howls around snow-capped peaks, snow obscures trails and barren trees limbs are silhouetted against steel grey skies.

That’s a short synopsis of the plot line of the book. I’m not going to tell you any more of the plot but I did want to put in a little bit of the book, a description of a hike they took after Atticus had been diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, so bad that one eye was infected and draining so badly that his eyes were glued shut one morning. Now, I realize that this is copyrighted material but I’m including it here to entice you to read this book.

‘It would be like no other hike we’d ever been on.

Although it was spring, the forest was still sleeping. Nothing was green, and the underbrush, in various shades of gray and brown, was hard for Atticus to see. This made it difficult for him to know where the trail went, and he continuously stumbled to the side or bumped into rocks and trees. I could feel his frustration grow each time he got tangled in the brush and had to work to free himself. On one occasion he misjudged a little ledge he would have climbed nimbly in the past and stood helplessly in front of it. I lifted him up.

Watching him struggle, there were several times I wanted to stop and prayed he would, but he knew what he needed. Form the beginning I had wanted Atticus to be what ever he wanted to be. To find his own way. And that was what he was doing.

In that forest my heart broke time and again watching the little dog who used to trot along without a worry. I felt he’d been betrayed by the very powers that put him on earth. It didn’t seem fair that one so pure and true should be robbed of so much he loved when others took for granted what they had. By the time we got through the forest and out onto the first ledge, he had collided with or tripped over so many rocks and sticks that I suggested we turn back. ‘Let’s go home, Atti,’ I said hopefully, and started walking back the way we’d come. But he’d have none of it. Instead he sat and refused to move.

We were going on. ...

There were times he had to follow me, times I was certain he was going to turn back, times I thought I couldn’t go another step myself. And the more he struggled, the more I wanted to scream out for him to stop. Under my sunglasses, tears filled my eyes, and I cried until there were no more tears to shed. How could I not, seeing my friend striving with everything he had to get to a place he loved, doing something that used to be effortless but was now nearly impossible?

I believe he would have crawled up that mountain if he had to.

I have often stopped short when watching Atticus on the trails, seized by a moment of awe or wonder. There were times I’ve felt honored to be able to do that, as if I were watching something truly special and unique, for I have never felt as comfortable anywhere as he felt on a mountain. He was made for it as a bird is made to fly and a fish to swim. Even though so much had been robbed from him, he refused to think about anything else but getting to where he wanted to be. Or maybe it was where he needed to be.

When we finally reached the nub of rock on the summit of Dickey, he slowly pulled himself up to the very top. And then he sat. He sat and cast his unseeing eyes to the wind and looked like a blind king sensing his kingdom below. From our vantage point, I could see several four-thousand-footers, and I imagined that somehow he knew they were there calling to him. Eventually I heard his sigh and saw the Little Buddha settle in. And, I’d been wrong - all my tears were not spent. We sat there for more than an hour - I watched the little dog and he did his soul work. Paige had been right. There was something about that day that recharged Atticus, and me. He seemed more at peace after that and ready for the eye surgery. I was stronger and ready for the fight.’

What a wonderful book. I loved reading it and slowed towards the end so it would last longer. Would you enjoy it? I think that almost everyone could enjoy this book and I’m recommending it to you to read. It’s part Atticus’ story, it’s part philosophy, it’s part hiking, it’s part poetry, it’s part New Hampshire and it’s part how Tom Ryan found purpose and meaning in his life by Following Atticus.

Me, I will remember Atticus when we still have miles to go on the trail and it’s heading towards dusk. Rather than wishing we were at this spot at 2 p.m., not 4 p.m. I will now relish every moment and, if we get caught in the dark, I will turn on my headlamp, slow down and continue on. I will remember Atticus when we summit. Rather than merely eating lunch and heading back down, I will take time to relish having met the challenge and being on the top with a 360 degree view of the natural world. I will remember Atticus on a particularly difficult trail and rather than being annoyed, I will put my head down, shake off the irritation and move forward, remembering why I hike. The elation I feel at the top is worth all the upward climb.

By the way you can also follow Tom and Atticus yourself in their blog:

Monday, April 15, 2013

WDM, IA - Jim and Google

Instead of the John, I call my bathroom the Jim. That way it sounds better when I say I’m going to the Jim every morning.

Actually, my father’s name WAS John and we NEVER called it the John in my house. However, I saw this phrase somewhere and thought it cute. I'd attribute it but don't know who originally said it.

Today Gary was checking out a campground app we have for our I Pads and found ‘Kennedy County Park Campground Fort Dodge Iowa’ where we stayed last August when we were working on Gary’s father’s home. He then clicked on ‘images’ on that site and was scrolling through them when he found the two images I've included here.

Recognize those two ragamuffins in the third row from the top. I’m thinking that these two country bumpkins modeling the very latest in Home Depot attire, are very familiar. And, who’s that on top of the roof? I doubt that anyone from Fort Dodge would like these two to be representative of them. And, then, there was the series of pictures below. If you’ve been reading this blog you know about our RV awning problems on the side of the road coming home from Fort Dodge last August. And, here is our crippled RV south of Ogden, IA pictured on Google. Not only that, but there is also my picture of some kids playing in the water at the campground and my brother’s recipe for calorie loaded blueberry bread on the yellow paper.

How in the world did my pictures ever get into Google? I was so surprised and astounded that I called a good friend in Fort Dodge, Shirley, and asked her to verify these by typing ‘Kennedy County Park Campground Fort Dodge Iowa’ into Google and scrolling down the page for a ways. Silence as she scrolled until I heard her burst out in laughter. Sure enough, she saw the same pictures. And, of course, as a resident of Fort Dodge, is she ever embarrassed. No, I’m kidding. She laughed just as I did. The following Saturday, we were with Cathy and Tom in Barnes and Noble and we found the same images for them. They are still there.

On another topic: I’ve just had a great epiphany. And, I’m going to share it. Get ready for this - it’s pretty deep. Here it is:

Gary and I aren’t getting any younger.

Got that? WOW, what an insight - and, of course, I’m being sarcastic here. But so often we, and I’m sure many others, just coast along doing what we’ve been doing in the past without realizing that it doesn’t always have to be that way. It’s so easy to keep on keeping on. We had 2 video stores for about 10 years and every day as I was putting on my shoes before leaving the house to go open the stores, I thought that it probably was not my favorite job though, once I got there, I was fine and enjoyed the contacts with customers and employees. And I knew how to do it, I knew what the day was like, I knew this life. And, besides we owned the stores and had lots invested in them. How would we get rid of them? I didn’t know any other life and didn’t know how to get to another life that I didn’t know. I just kept on keeping on. Change means choices, change means making a leap into the unknown, change means making up a new future. Change means going out of your comfort zone. And, shucks, change means work.

But, that all sounds so negative, how about a positive spin on change? Change means reinvention, change means new opportunities, change means growth, change means challenges to face and overcome.

Then, one day both Gary and I looked at each other and decided that we didn’t enjoy this much, weren’t getting any younger and didn’t want to keep doing this, that there was more to life than managing video stores. Maybe we needed to make changes and they could be positive. And, we sold. There, it was done. We could move on, we could start anew. Thus began 10 years as a Wells Fargo employee in Des Moines, Ia. Well, there was lots more involved in the decisions than that but that’s another story.

Another epiphany got us into RV’ing when we had never RV’ed in our lives, had never camped in a campground, knew no one who RV’ed but just thought that it was right for us. A giant leap into the unknown, yes, but also new opportunities, new challenges, new chances for growth. And, hasn’t this all been so much fun?

Now, I’ve decided that we are getting older every day and I don’t want to get too old without having experienced so many other things that the world has to offer. Time to dust off the old bucket list, or how about making up a bucket list? I’ve never thought that I had a bucket list, that I wanted to see everything. But, I’m not going to be able to do that - I don’t have enough time. I’ve got to narrow my focus. I’ve got to develop a bucket list.

So, I’ve decided that we need to:

Hmmm. Well, I’m still making that up.

Although, hiking the Grand Canyon is definitely on the list and we’ve got that scheduled for this October. What’s next? Stay tuned.

I read an article in USA Today that said that snacks should consist of protein and produce: like a 1/4 cup of hummus and 4 carrots, like 3 sticks of celery and 2 pieces of cheese. These are snacks? What about chocolate and sugar? What about cookies and chips? How in the world could anyone look forward to hummus and carrots. How could anyone say: I’ll work a little bit harder so I can earn my celery and cheese? I work hard for chocolate, not for hummus.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

WDM, IA - National Geographic's Giant Sequioas


We saw this picture in a National Geographic in the winter. It’s taken in the Sequioa National Park where the giant sequoias grow. We hiked among these giant trees several years ago and were so impressed. Can you find the 3 men who are in the first picture? The guy in the top and the guy at the bottom are easy - it’s the guy in the yellow jacket in the middle who is hard to spot. What amazing trees and what an amazing picture.
I remember several years ago hiking in this same forest in the winter with all the snow. It was a fantastic day, and these trees were truly amazing sentinals. As we hiked in the snow, out footsteps and talk were muffled in the silence. All we could hear were snowballs melting off the branches in the sun and falling into the snow below. We wound through the forest, dwarfed by the tree trunks, barely able to see the tops above without craning our necks. And the trees stole the scene: they weren’t hard to spot even for our inexperienced eyes. The scale and the grandeur of these forest giants are amazing. Their deep rust colored bark , their branches as wide as a man is tall and their trunks which dwarf all other trees in the forest silhouetted against the falling snow. Can it get any better than this?
You can either see the bottom
or the top but not both together.

And, now, as I am reviewing our Sequoia pictures from 3 years ago, I’m putting Sequoia NP on our journey for this year. I’ve just got to get back there.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

WDM, IA - Who Cuts Your Hair?

Aha, it’s Saturday. Yesterday, Gary asked if I wanted to boogie. ‘You know, it’s Friday night and we always boogie on Friday night.’ News to me. I thought we sat at our computers in the evening as usual. Where does he get this boogie idea? Then he described a perfect night of boogieing - maybe we’d go to Barnes and Noble and he’d sit drinking coffee, working on his computer and I could run around looking at new books. Yep, that’s my sweet honey bunch’s idea of a fun night of boogieing. Must be why I married him. Well, I can do him one better - I turned him down. I told him I could get more done at home - and, isn’t that the point of a Friday night - getting something productive done?

So we stayed home but today we went out to Panera for breakfast. A leisurely breakfast, hot coffee, news on our I Pads and classical music playing in the background. Yep, we sure know how to boogie. But, of course, ‘boogie’ is such a passé term that you know we’re too out of style to know how to do it. 

INCREDI-2013-04-13-19-51.jpgBut, if you think we’re exciting by starting our day at Panera, you’re going to really think we’re party animals when you hear what we did next. Ready for this? It’s big, really BIG - we went to the grocery store. Whoo - eee. Actually, since we retired, we’ve been going on weekdays since it’s less frantic then but today, we’re out of sync, out of our comfort zone and living on the edge.

And, here’s where it gets really strange. I was cruising the aisles looking for a bag of lentils when a woman accosted me and asked where I get my hair cut. You’ve got to be kidding, of course. No one asks ME where I get my hair cut. Incredible. I laughed in her face and told her that she didn’t want to know. Great Clips, the one on Ashworth and 60th, I told her. She then asked if I had anyone special do it. Nope, I just go in and take pot luck. She’s looking for someone to do her hair since the last cut she had was a ‘disaster.’ I didn’t touch that one. Then to further blow her mind, I told her that I trim my own hair when my original cut gets feeling kinda shaggy. I just take a pair of scissors, start at one ear lobe, cut up over my forehead and down to the other ear lobe - and, amazingly I had done it today - just when she thought it looked so good.

Back at home we started in on the main project of the day: trying to solve our bunny problem. We have hostas planted in front of our home - a simple collection of home plantings. Easy to care for. But, we have rabbits somewhere around here and they eat the living daylights out of them. I’ve tried coyote blood around them (although these are city rabbits and how in the world they learned to be afraid of coyotes, I’ll never know - but this is supposed to be a common repellant) but, sure enough, since they are truly city rabbits this did not repel them. I’ve tried hiring the 2 little poochies next door but all they want to do is poop around our hostas. Last year I covered them with a black netting which worked but looked a bit strange and, because it was close to the plants, probably prevented them from reaching their full potential.

Last year we didn’t get home til mid-May, too late to prevent the rabbits from munching on the buffet table we had planted for them. This year is going to be different. We’re back home early this year, before the hostas have even started to peek through the mulch. We’ve in time to save them and have them flourish. We have already bought our chocolate bunnies and now it’s time to get rid of the real thing. Chocolate bunnies are cute, real bunnies are not.

We knew the rabbits lived close to us but I had always thought they lived in the bushes next door but Gary saw one sneak under our porch stoop last week so we now know where they might be coming from and can concentrate on keeping them out of there. (As Pogo said: ‘We have met the enemy and it is us.’) Our plan is to stuff rolled-up chicken wire under and behind the siding and the stoop all the way around so that it keeps the rabbits out and then cover it with mulch so it’s not obvious.

I raked the mulch out from under the siding and was able to push the rolled up chicken wire under there and cover it with the mulch. Easy enough. Meanwhile, Gary was taking some of the steps off the risers on the stoop. When he got them off, we looked under the stoop and, sure enough, there was an old nest, lots of lint from the dryer vent next door, lots of leaves all piled around in a cosy little circle. Looked like a nest to me. I took a rake handle and stirred it up, to make sure that there were no little bunnies there now and then we proceeded to stuff rolled-up chicken wire under the steps to keep the rabbits getting under the stoop from the front.

Gary then screwed the steps back on and we’re done.

A good day’s work and it’s time for dinner.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

WDM, IA - My Brother, Antibiotics and the Cake Decorating Contest

Sometimes my brother says something or does something that just stumps me and I’m speechless. Today was one of those days. When we left him yesterday, we had just picked up his prescription for an antibiotic for the bruise on his arm. He had 20 pills and was to take 2 a day with meals, one at breakfast and one at dinner. Pretty straightforward, right? No questions, right?

Today I called to ask how he was feeling and how his arm was doing. He told me that he could feel that he had done something to his arm and - he was taking 3 pills a day (one at breakfast, one at lunch and one at dinner) since he had some left over. ‘Left over?’ I asked. ‘How did you ever have any left over?’ Well, he had gotten some antibiotics for a tooth problem a while back and, when he felt well, he stopped taking them and now had some ‘left over.’ And - I was speechless. Luckily, I quickly gained my voice back and explained how antibiotics work: that their primary purpose is not to make you feel well, but to kill germs. You might feel super but the germs might still be inside you. Not only that, but all antibiotics are different and they age. What he had been prescribed before might not be for this type of problem and might be so old that they might not be potent.

So I’ve told him to toss the ‘left over’ antibiotics and to take these as the doctor prescribed. I asked him if he had seen the commercial on TV that asks: would you like your doctor to do your job? Then why are you doing his? Now, what are the odds that he’s following my advice? I’d guess as well as he follows the doctor’s orders.

HyVeeCakeDecoratingCompetition-44-2013-04-6-21-38.jpgOn an entirely different subject: one day last week we were walking in the mall and happened upon this scene: the Hy-Vee cake decorating contest. Hy-Vee, a midwest grocery chain has local and then regional and finally a corporate cake decorating contests for their cake decorators. There are about 500 cake decorators in the entire company and these 18 women are the best vieing to be the best of the best. These women have won at the local level, the regional level and now, here they are, in the big city of Des Moines, where the corporate headquarters is, at the local mall with all the suits milling around, judges eyeing each confection with their scorecard and hundreds of mall shoppers circling and taking pictures.

HyVeeCakeDecoratingCompetition-3-2013-04-6-21-38.jpgWhat beautiful jobs they have done. But, they don’t just decorate a cake, they have a theme and have to decorate several cakes, one tiered, one flat and one other, 10 cookies, and, well, here is the full enchilada, the whole entry for one woman.

Here’s one part of the entry from the winner. The hot dog bun is made out of cake, the hot dog is frosting and the pickle relish is green-dyed crushed pineapple. At the local contest, back in December, she used green maraschino cherries for the relish but, when time for this contest came around, she couldn’t find any, was told they were seasonal items and had to find a substitute. Green-dyed crushed pineapple was her choice.

Now, we’ve got to go home to our lunch of yogurt and fruit. Nothing wrong with that but these cakes look much better.

Friday, April 5, 2013

FD, IA - The Garden, the Emergency Room and 2 Jokes to End the Day

Duct tape is The Force: It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

When we had taken the carpet out of the Macek home, we knew that we had to install some quarter round. The original quarter round had been taken out when Lug and Darlene had installed the carpeting quite a few year ago and who knows what had happened to it. Without quarter round, the flooring, as beautiful as it was, look unfinished. Gary and Tom, his brother-in-law went up on a Saturday and installed all of the quarter round. Beautiful.

NewQuarterRoundInstalled-1-2013-04-5-10-31.jpgThe 3 Macek siblings, Gary, Cathy and Dawn, got an offer on the house yesterday. Unfortunately, it was much lower than then had asked and then the buyer also wanted $2000 in concessions. Firstly, they found out that the buyers had just gotten married and this might be their first home, just like Lug and Darlene. Ooh - wouldn’t their parents like knowing that another young couple was starting here in their home? However, business sense quickly came to the fore and the discussion was about FHA loans, inspections, and the actual offer price. They e-mailed about it over for about an hour discussing all elements of the offer and finally turned it down.

Which then gave Gary and me time to go back to the house and finish up some tasks that we thought might improve the appearance of the house - especially the back yard. We also needed to completely empty the house since it seemed as if we were not going to be staying there for any length of time. All we had really left in the house were cleaning supplies and Gary and I had given it a pretty deep cleaning the last time we were there.

Thus our tasks were to:

        empty the house of the cleaning supplies and any other odds and ends

FinalCleanupofGarden%25252CYard%25252CGarage-6-2013-04-5-10-31.jpg        clean up the garden in the back yard by removing all the wooden fences and timbers Lug had installed for each individual plot.

        rake and pick up what winter had left in the yard.

We first loaded up my brother’s pick-up with things that we still had to take to the landfill and, yes, even after 2 dumpsters-full, there were still some things. While the 2 guys enjoyed the pleasant task of visiting the local landfill, I raked the front yard, bagged the leaves and began on the back yard.

Back at the house the guys began on the garden. Lug was thorough and in a garden of about 15’ x 30’ he had made 5 distinct 1’ high beds, all outlined by landscaping timbers which he had nailed together - nailed together with 8” nails. Then he had laid old carpeting between the beds for a walkway. Not, just one layer of carpeting, several and he had held them down with long nails too. Here’s Gary standing on an old ‘colorful’ (remember the 70’s?) carpet layer with a maul in his hand beating the timbers apart. We’ve already taken the timber and fencing out that was around the garden.
Many of the nails were rusty and there were a passle of them. Jack then used the trusty saws-all to saw the logs in half so they would fit into his truck.
FinalCleanupofGarden%25252CYard%25252CGarage-9-2013-04-5-10-31.jpgNow, his technique wasn’t the best as you can see here. He leaned the timber up against the tailgate and sawed down. And, this technique worked - for a few timbers. Well, you can guess what happened, the saw blade got pinched in the last timber as he sawed through. Finally, , he pulled the saw blade out, stomped hard on the cut with his boot to break it and, sure enough, one half of the timber fell to the ground, the other flipped up and hit him on the arm. I won’t repeat what he said but he let us know that he had been attacked by the timber. He then went on with his work. Until he noticed big red glops on the bricks where he was standing. Oops. he was bleeding profusely. We all ran to the only outside water spigot, in front of the garage to wash off the blood. We thought it was stopped, I wrapped a cloth around it secured by duct tape and Gary and he took off for the landfill while I finished up smoothing out the dirt in the garden. I should have cleaned off the driveway by the water spigot since we had all been walking in the wet dirt in the garden. My shoes had 1” of the dirt on the bottom and Gary’s and Jack’s were just the same. Lots of wet mud all over the driveway.
When they returned, Gary and I noticed that there was a 2” in diameter swelling around where the timber had hit Jack and our thought was that one of the nails had penetrated the skin. We whisked him off to the emergency room of the local hospital where we all sat and waited until a nurse ushered us into a room. A nurse with a horrendous cold. Nope, I’m not kidding - a tremendous cold. In the end Jack got a tetanus shot, an x-ray and a prescription for some antibiotics.

Meanwhile our real estate agent called to tell us that there was a showing. Oops, remember that mud all over the driveway? Great curbside appeal there.

We picked up Jack’s prescription, had a nice lunch with tiramisu ice cream at Netties, went back to the house where Gary and Jack loaded some stuff into Jack’s truck and took off for his home. I then tackled the mud in the driveway. 3 hoses in the garage to choose from. I tried the first which at 25’ long was too short. I struggled with the next one on a reel which Lug had tied together with twine in about 4 places. When I got it all untwined and hooked up to the water, it leaked profusely and no water was coming out the end. The last one was about 50’ long with such a curve in the end that, when I held it, I could either water my feet or aim towards the sky. 3 hoses and none worked. I was not in a good mood.
Does this all sound like a comedy of errors? On the other hand, the backyard looked immeasurably better, though the large mulch pile in the garden was frozen and mounded still.

Finally, at 7:30 we got both cars packed: Gary’s with tools and garage stuff and mine with house stuff.

On the way home in the dark at 8:30 we stopped in Dayton to get something to drink and eat. We were pretty hungry since we hadn’t had much to eat today. While we were there, crouched in front of the protein bars trying to choose the one with the most nutrition for the least amount of money, a guy came over and said: ‘I’ll bet that you’ve been married for a long time.’ Interesting supposition - what made him think that? Well, yes, we have and he then told us he had a joke for us:

        A couple were at a marriage encounter when the speaker told the men that they probably did not know what their wife’s favorite flower was.

        The guy thought a minute, and then leaned in to his wife and said: ‘It’s Pillsbury, isn’t it?’

We laughed and, since we were such a willing audience he told us another:

        2 robins were perched on a branch in the rain. Looking down they saw some plump juicy worms. They swooped down and indulged in their favorite meal, overstuffing themselves. They then waddled over to a tree branch, spread their wings with their legs up in the air, basking in the sun.

        A cat crept up, pounced upon them and ate them, grinning wildly, ‘Just love baskin’ robins’ he said.

And, that was our time in Dayton. Best time we’ve had in Dayton - ever.

Home at 9:30, a small snack of cold cereal and off to bed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FD, IA - Luggage, Hankies and Colorful Bathrooms

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It is now April and most of the work is done in Lug and Darlene’s home. I was just reviewing some of the pictures I had taken of the process and thought I’d included them here.

Gary and I have spent many days here in Fort Dodge and, of course, we needed lots to make our time comfortable and worth while. Here is a picture of our ‘life’ in Fort Dodge all packed up and waiting in the kitchen for us to pack it into the Jeep and leave for Des Moines. Note the coffee maker - gotta have coffee in the morning. We’ve got luggage (a suitcase apiece), laptops (one for each of us), a printer, several miscellaneous bags for dirty clothes, toiletries, extra shoes, Etc. And then there is the food. Even though I have left some food in the refrigerator and a cupboard, we still need to bring fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and bread. Luckily we take much less back with us. But, all that is done, we might spend a day up there but will go home to Des Moines at night. No more 5-day stays.

Here’s a picture of us three women sitting down amidst the linens that Darlene and Lug had in a photo Gary snapped with his I Phone. Not only were there lots of towels, sheets, handmade quilts (almost one for each member of the family) and pillows but there was a large carefully folded and packed cache of aprons (one for each time Darlene had served at the Church for weddings, funerals and other occasions) and lots of scarfs and hankies, all carefully cleaned, folded and preserved for whenever she might need them again. But she was like all of us: she saved things for ‘good’ and never used them. Here are Cathy in a babushka scarf, Dawn and I sitting on the living room floor sorting through all these linens. Note the sorted piles around us. If your eyes are really sharp, you’ll notice the money in front of us. We were terribly afraid, as many are, of tossing or donating something before we had examined it thoroughly - for fear that we might miss some hidden money or ring or whatever. Sure enough, we found 2 $1 dollar bills and a $2 bill carefully folded into some hankies. But that was all we found.

Sometime in the long ago past, when bright colors were in fashion (probably in the 70’s,) Darlene and Lug had finished off the basement and had made a bathroom with a sink, a toilet and a shower mainly for Lug. Here’s the paint job. Whoo-eee. Sure would wake you up in the morning when you got down here to shave.

And, finally, here’s what Gary and spend our winters avoiding. This is from Gary’s I Phone where we check temps.

Monday, April 1, 2013

WDM, IA - Our Mail is 'in the System'


(I actually wrote this on 3/25 but, got busy with some other issues and forgot to publish it.)

Today we found out that our ‘mail in the system.’ Whoo-boy. What in the world does that mean? Well. it means that we don’t get any mail. Let me back up a minute. When we travel we have our mail forwarded to Cathy, Gary’s sister, who then sends it on to us when we stay in one place long enough to receive mail. We kept this system in place for a few weeks when we got back to Iowa this year since we were staying in Fort Dodge so much. That is tapering off now so on 3/10 we went on line to the USPS and asked for them to cancel the forwarding. 15 DAYS AGO.

FACEMAIL-2013-04-1-19-49.jpgFor a week Cathy kept getting us our mail but we expected this to end. The next week passed and she was still getting our mail. Then she stopped getting it and we expected some in our mail box. Nope. nothing, nada, zip. Finally today we went to the Post Office in person to ask where our mail was only to find out that they didn’t know. It was ‘in the system and will get to us in a few days or so’. Can we go somewhere to get it? Nope, it is in the system and will get to us in a few days or so’. And, we walked out with nothing. We were told that no one had ever told our mailman that we were back. He hadn’t gotten the notice that we had filled in online.

What we have learned is: talk with your mail-person. We learned that same lesson when Gary talked with the estate lawyer about Lug’s mail. He told us that it was a long process to get the Post Office to send the mail to someone else, even an appointed executor. That same day, Gary saw Lug’s mail lady, told her and she took care of it. Simple. Don’t talk to the office, don’t do it online, speak with your mail person. So, today we returned home, Gary put a note in the mail box for our mail person and - guess what - we got some mail.


Gary recently had a toothache but was having trouble locating the tooth where it was. It seemed to move around his mouth, first on top, then on the bottom. Which tooth is it, Gary? I don’t know, it keeps changing. Hmmm.. So, he went into the dentist - for an hour. The dentist poked and prodded, touched each tooth with ice, took x-rays. Nothing. No hairline fracture, no gum problem, nothing. He recommended a mouth guard like athletes wear, thinking that Gary is grinding his teeth. Believe me, I’m awake several times each night and the only noise I hear is his snoring. The dentist also thought it could be sinuses.

On the way home, we bought a $27.99 mouth guard and also some $11.99 Mucinex which the Pharmacist recommended for sinus conditions. Gary tried the Musinex first (the cheapest), his tooth pain vanished and he’s ok. Now, to return that mouth guard.


Several weeks ago, I went into Kohl’s to buy a pair of shoes. When I reached the counter I put out my Visa to pay for them and, natch, the clerk tried to sell me a Kohl’s credit card. I could save 30% on a $90 charge which means that I could save $27.00. Who wouldn’t want to do this? Unfortunately, applying for credit cards damages your credit rating since every time someone accesses your credit report, it dings your credit. Save $27? Damage our credit? Save $27? Damage our credit? Hmm. Tough choice. But as you can well guess, I saved the $27. At my age, I’m don’t think I’ll ever need credit again. Of course, there’s my father’s and mother’s example: at the age of 68, they took out a 15-year mortgage.

And, sure enough, Kohl’s accessed my credit rating and it went down. I know it went down because shortly thereafter I went online with a Wells Fargo promotion and checked my credit rating. Now, I was expecting it to be pretty top notch since I pay all our bills on time and haven’t had a late fee for years (when I goofed.) However, we got dinged because someone had accessed our credit rating recently. Bingo. But, and here’s the frosting on the cake, we got dinged because we do not have a car loan. We also got dinged because we do not have a mortgage. Aha, I got it: to get a good credit rating you need to use credit. Isn’t that a kick in the pants? Be debt-free and your credit rating goes down.

To continue with the Kohl’s story - today I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I paid my Kohl’s bill with a check and mailed it off with the little stub in the enclosed envelope. I can’t remember the last time I did this since I’ve been using ‘Bill Pay’ through Wells Fargo for years. Anyone who lives in a motorhome will tell you, automatic deposit and bill pay are the way to go. Saves time, saves paper, saves stamps and saves aggravation. A win, win, win, win. Firstly I go online to find out how much we owe, then I enter it into Quicken and finally, when the date arrives, I go to our WF account and pay it with Bill Pay.

But, hey, wait a minute - I’m doing all the work now. Isn’t it amazing how companies have accustomed us to doing things ourselves and call it a convenience? Didn’t it used to be a service that they provided to us? When did taking away a service become giving a convenience? We pump our own gas and isn’t that convenient - especially in the cold with the wind blowing. Remember the guy who used to check your oil after he filled your gas tank? Then we take valuable time, join the paperless society and go online to ascertain what our bill is then we use Bill Pay so companies don’t have to send us bills and open our mail when we send them our checks. Whose convenience is it anyway? It sure seems like this is pretty convenient for the companies: saves them time and saves them employees. And, by the way, did they lower the prices because we were doing all the work? Heck, no.

And, by the way, we’ve cut the Kohl’s card up and tossed it. I don’t need that many charge cards. Having a Kohl’s charge card isn’t going to entice me to shop there any more than I shop anywhere else.