The First Day

After years and years it’s still hard to believe that school starts at the beginning of August.   Schools give all kinds of reasons for this, some of which sound plausible.  But when I was a kid school never started before Labor Day.  It just seems unnatural.

But here we are, August 2, 2022, on the first day of school.  I don’t have kids in school anymore but I still note this day.  Traffic patterns will change with more buses and cars headed in and out of school campuses in the morning and afternoon.

I had many of my own first days of school.  And I shared many with my children.  From preschool through college.  There was always the preparatory shopping for school supplies and new clothes.  Especially shoes.  On the actual first day of school we would stand the kids up against the wall and make a mark to represent their height on that day.

I remember a day in preschool.  I’m not sure it was the first day, but I would have been either three or four years old.  I didn’t want to go.  My first day of kindergarten in a new school also sticks out in my memory.  As do the first day of second and fourth grades.  Second grade because my mother dragged me down the hall kicking and screaming.  I didn’t want to go.  And fourth grade because somehow when I arrived I had not been assigned to a teacher.

My first day of college was like that too.  I arrived to check in and move into a dorm room.  What I found was that I hadn’t been assigned to a dorm room.  There was a good bit of scrambling and by the end of the day I was in a room.  Sharing it with two seniors who were not real happy to have me.

My two daughters racked up a number of first days of school between them.  I was there for every one.  Some stand out more than others, but the girls are the ones who will have memories of those days.

The first day of work can b the same.  New job, new people, new place.  There is a lot to figure out and get used to.  A good employer has an on boarding program to ease the transition.  Getting off to a good start makes life so much easier!

My youngest daughter is a teacher.  Middle school health and physical education.  Today is the first day of school for this academic year.  She’s beginning her sixth year in the classroom, but at a new school.

For the last six business days she’s been going to staff meetings and orientation.  Signing in to a new email, arranging a new classroom the way she wants it.  Meeting new people and getting the lay of the land.

In some ways it’s old hat to her.  She’s a seasoned teacher.  In other ways it’s all brand new.  And there are first day jitters.

Until she finds an affordable place to live she is staying at our house with mom and dad.  Not ideal for anyone, but we are making it work.

It’s a special day for her so I got up early to be sure I could see her off.  I won’t do that every day because she heads off to work before I usually get out of bed.  And I know she doesn’t want me seeing her off everyday like she was a student rather than a teacher.

I asked her if she wanted me to measure her on the wall.  Like the old days.  I told her I was just kidding.  I told her I wanted to wish her well on the first day.

As she left she gave me a big hug.  I could feel a little bit of an extra squeeze that told me she was a little nervous, but so glad to have me there. 

When they were kids the last thing we’d say every day before they went off to school was “and most of all, we love each other.”  These days all I have to say is, “and most of all…”   They fill in the rest.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Options

The history of the automobile isn’t really that long.  On July 3, 1886, Karl Benz climbed up on his contraption and made the very first automobile cruise. 

With his super duper three quarter horsepower engine he was able to establish the very first automobile speed record.  A whopping ten miles per hour!  There are people in the world today who can run faster than that.

Since that historic day speed records have increased.  And the automobile has changed dramatically.  From Benz’s first German sports car to the present day there have been improvements in every aspect of the motor vehicle.

And there have been dozens of brands each with its own models.  Some practical, some more fun oriented. Convertibles, coupes, sedans, station wagons, vans SUV, and trucks of all sizes.  Some of the models were similar, but each had its own unique persona.

These older vehicles have a certain appeal to many people.  Some will spend vast amounts of money to own some rare vehicle.  Some like to buy a rusted hulk and restore it to its former glory.  Some like to turn them into racecars. 

Car people usually have a favorite.  Maybe the entire brands, or maybe a certain model.  And a certain year.  To each his own and I understand.  I’ve got my own preferences.

Today I drive a vehicle that I call Hoopty.  That’s a term of endearment relating to what might otherwise be called a Junker.  It’s not really a Junker, but it’s old and a little beat up.  It’s sixteen years old and has just over two hundred sixty one thousand miles on it.  And a few scratches.

For the most part it’s been an excellent vehicle.  Runs like a top, purrs like a kitten. The heat and the air-conditioning work.  And it has a radio with a CD player!  What more could I ask for?

As it gets older and more “experienced” it has begun to have a couple of minor issues.  Like me.  New tires and oil changes are just usual wear and tear items.  Last week I had to have the brake rotors replaced.  And the oil changed.

These new ailments are much more indicative of aging.  And I know there are two issues coming at me down the road some time.  And they will cost some money.

How much money am I willing to put into this thing?  I’m not sure yet. The thing about this vehicle is its utility.  It has a cavernous storage area.  And a roof rack.  I used to have a full sized pickup truck.  Oddly enough it could not hold anywhere near as much stuff as my current Hoopty.  And didn’t offer the protection of being inside the vehicle.

So, until Hoopty implodes, explodes or just won’t git up and go anymore, I’ll be keeping her.  But it may be time to give her some rest.

I’ve got three options as I see it.  Drive her til she drops.  Get a second vehicle to split the work.  Trade her in for a new model.  Hold your laughter. Hoopty isn’t worth a plugged nickel to a car dealer.  They might give me fifty dollars off MSRP on a new Porsche as a trade value.  Believe me, I know it’s worthless.  But from a utility standpoint it’s priceless. 

Thinking about what vehicle I might purchase in scenarios two and three gives me a headache.  So many options!

One side of me says I should get an eco friendly small car.  Great gas mileage, cheap to drive, and environmentally responsible.  Maybe an all electric, or maybe a hybrid.

Another side of me says that none of these have what I call the fun factor.  A wow factor. Or a personality. I want something unique and a little quirky.  Just like me.  All of the vehicles today look the same.  Ugly, but aerodynamically streamlined I admit.

I could get an old Woody wagon to drive around town and promote my antiques business.  Or a sixty-three Lincoln Continental with suicide doors.  A Corvette?  Mustang?  Oh, a fifty-six Jaguar Mk 1 240 saloon. Hell, I might just get a Rolls Royce.  Some of these are kinda pricey.  And all require a good bit of maintenance.

Then again, the third side of this love triangle says, “Get a Yugo!”  In other words, just get some cheap car to drive around.  That option has the lowest budget requirements.  At least up front.  Down the road it might soon become worse than Hoopty.

So many choices!  I’ve always been a little slow in making up my mind.  Sometimes painfully slow.  I guess I’m just overly cautious.  I know that at some point I will have to make a decision regarding the new or replacement vehicle issue.  I’ll go through many phases and plans.  All in my head. 

Since I’ll be keeping Hoopty until one of us is dead and buried I don’t really have to decide.  But I’ll certainly use my imagination to its fullest in running the possible scenarios.  And maybe one day I actually will decide.

Until then, I love my Hoopty.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Garbled

Eighty-five decibels or more is too loud to listen to music if you want to keep your ears in good working order. Not just as a support structure for you eyeglass frames but to actually hear sounds.

My ears have been damaged from loud music and the sounds of machinery. And I hear things coming in garbled. If I hear it at all.  Words, phrases and an assortment of other sounds arrive in my ears and are perceived by my brain in some rather strange ways.

It can be very confusing to hear something very differently from the way it arrives at your ears.  .  Why did my wife just tell me that the cat was dead?  We don’t have a cat.  Oh, she said she was going to make up the bed.

My phone does the same thing. Because I don’t hear properly I sometimes don’t speak properly.  It sounds fine to me.  Inside my head.  But in reality I’m mumbling, slurring, mispronouncing and in general saying unintelligible things.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use my phone to write notes.  Since the phone is supposedly smart, when it listens to what I say it dutifully transcribes the words very literally. 

It may or may not even interpret what I’m saying as words.  Maybe as numbers or even symbols.  And it doesn’t take into consideration any clues as to what I might actually say by studying the context or surrounding words.  It just writes what it hears.  Exactly as it hears it.

Sometimes when I read back what I’ve dictated I don’t have a clue as to what it thinks I said.  What is all this gibberish I ask?  If I don’t remember what I said I might never figure out what the meaning of these symbols is.   And an idea is lost forever.  Or until I remember.

If I do remember what I said I have to go back into dictation mode and repeat it all over again.  Making an extra effort to enunciate clearly.

All of this confusion can be frustrating. And some of it is quite entertaining.  Where did this phone learn to speak English I wonder?  Now let’s see if we can recreate my thoughts in an intelligible way.

I know it’s bad for me to listen to things too loudly.  Sometimes I have to pump up the volume so I can hear it at all.  One day I’ll look into getting some hearing aids.  In the meantime I’ll still listen to loud music on my headphones while operating loud machinery.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Rainy Day Ride

Warm and sunny days are the best for motorcycle riding.  Clear and bright so you can see everything very well.  Comfortably warm so you aren’t out there shivering in a parka and gloves.  Perfect.

Of course there is a range that applies to these conditions.  What does sunny mean to you?  Is it bright sunshine coming from a clear blue sky?  Maybe a few clouds are ok.  Even overcast has its good points.

And what is the definition of warm?  Webster has a citation in his dictionary regarding warm.  But everyone has his or her own idea as to what constitutes warm.  I like it to be seventy degrees or more to consider it warm.  My mother in law doesn’t think its warm until the mercury hits ninety.

I’ll ride in anything between sixty and ninety-five.  But the sweet spot is really seventy to eighty.  It might start out cool and then warm up.  Start with a jacket and peel it off as the day goes by.  Put it back on in the evening as things cool down.

Remember to factor in wind chill and heat index.  Riding the roads at a temperature of sixty will feel much cooler when you add in the fact that you are travelling, in the open air, at sixty miles and hour.  And a hot day feels a little cooler when you ride.  As long as you don’t stop.

Those are the good days.  The worst that I have known are rainy days.  If it’s just going to rain all day I will forget about riding.  It’s uncomfortable and the wet road offers more hazards than does the dry pavement.

Water on the roads makes them more slippery.  And easier to slip, slide or even fall.  When water is mixed with residue oil on the surface it becomes especially slick.  And dangerous.  Slow down!

Going slower will also ease the sting of the raindrops as they slam into your naked flesh.  Mostly hands.  But going slower means you’ll just be in the rain longer.

Sure, I have a rain jacket and rain pants and gloves.  So I could keep my body and clothes dry riding in the rain.  But I don’t have windshield wipers on my helmet.  It wouldn’t take a whole lot of rain to make seeing through the face shield rather difficult.

Then there are those days when the weather guessers prognosticate a chance of rain.  How much chance?  When and where?  A forty percent chance of rain doesn’t mean any drops will fall on you at all.  Or, with the right timing, you could be in the damn forty percent zone all day long.  And get soaked.

How much of a chance are you willing to take?  Always carry the raingear.  Look at the sky.  Check the radar map.  Your guess is as good as mine.  And both are as good as the weather guesser’s guess.

At a chance of thirty percent I will definitely ride.  A calculated risk.  At forty percent I’ll think about it for a minute.  Fifty percent or higher and I’ll think a minute.  And then another minute.  I don’t like riding in the rain.

But you never know.  A raincloud can pop up out of nowhere.  That’s what happened yesterday.

It was sunny at my house.  A few clouds.  Hot.  And a chance of rain.  I won’t have another chance to ride for a couple of days so off I go toward my daughter’s house.  To play with the dog.

When I get there the dog goes outside for a minute but decides it’s too damn hot.  Smart dog.  We go back inside.  All the while I’m halfway watching the sky.  Still sunny.

The heat had drained me and I fell asleep for a few minutes.  During that time it had clouded up.  A lot.  And I could hear distant thunder.  Uh-oh…

I decided that I needed to go now.  Maybe I could avoid it or at least beat it.  If I waited for it to pass it could be several hours.  That wouldn’t be ideal so I headed out the door. 

The neighbor across the street waved and told me to be safe out there.  Of course I will.  Helmet on, engine fired up, I roll out of the driveway.

So far so good.  Two blocks down the road it starts.  Just a few drizzly drops at first.  I look skyward.  I’m going this way and the clouds seem to be going that way.  I’ll miss it.  Or I should say it will miss me.

I soon realize that the winding and twisting in the road has changed my positional relationship with the clouds.  I’m headed straight into it.  I begin to see, and feel the rain.

It’s not a hard rain.  But I’m slowing down.  And it’s enough rain that I’m starting to get wet.  And wetter.  I pull into a parking lot hoping that there will be some kind of overhang or cover I can get under.

No such luck.  I ride back out as people stare at the poor fool in the rain.  I knew I was in it now.  Too wet to bother putting on the rain gear I just kept going.  It was warm so the rain wasn’t messing with my temperature.  But having a wet shirt sticking to my skin was bothering me.

I’m wet and the bike is wet.  As oncoming cars pass me I can feel the water splashing up from the road.  I was hoping that if the rain blew from one direction or the other at least one side of me would stay a little dry.

Where did I ever get that idea?  Coming straight down.  I’m soaked.  And then it stops.  And the road is dry.  Either the storm had already come through this location, or it isn’t going to.  I’m a little slow to resume my normal riding style but eventually I do.  Like nothing ever happened.

But my shoes are wet.  As are my pants and shirt.  The wind will blow through my clothes as I ride on down the road.  And I’ll be dry by the time I get home.  Well, mostly…

You tell yourself that you’re prepared for anything.  But when the rubber hits the road, you never know.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Stuffed With Stuff

Well organized is not a characteristic most people would attribute to me.  It’s not hard to figure out.  Of course most people have no idea as to the extent of lack of organization. 

I’m one of those people who has papers and things piled high all over my desk.  All over my office.  Hell, the whole house.  But I know exactly where everything is.  Sometimes I’m surprised by how well I know where things are.

Oh, I saw that over there the other day.  Yup, still there.  Piece of paper with a note scribbled on it?  Right here.  Pen, pencil, screwdriver?  I can put my hand right on it.

It’s not that I’m a slob.  Everything is clean and out of the way.  There are no pathways through junk that you have to navigate at my house.  All of the real trash is in the trashcan.

And its not that I’m lazy really.  Sometimes I just put something down in a place other than where I picked it up.  Why?  I don’t know.  It made good sense at the time!  I’ll get back to it.  Or, I’m going to need that again soon so just leave it out.

I never lose anything.  Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find it.  But I knew where it was.  Eventually…

After a while however, things begin to pile up perhaps a little too high.  Or too randomly.  And that bothers me.  So I actually do clean it up.

Yesterday was a good day to start on the garage.  Hottest day of the year.  And humid.  But at least it’s in the shade and I can turn on a fan.  I feel the sweat pouring down my arm as I reach for the switch!

My garage is big enough to accommodate two full sized SUVs.  And still has a little room for other storage.  I can almost always actually get one of the vehicles in there.  The older van stays in the driveway.

Lets see about straightening up.  Maybe I can get the second car inside.  But I’m not really counting on that.

My pastime is buying and selling antiques and treasures.  Much of it is small and can go on a shelving unit.  My garage has shelves lining one whole wall.  But I’m not using them to their maximum potential.

A lot of the other stuff I have is larger.  It won’t fit on a shelf so it has to go on the floor.  I try to stack it when I can.  The “storage” side of the garage usually has a few chairs and tables in it.  In need of various repairs or touch ups for resale.

The garage is also my workshop.  Even though I have a separate building that I could use for that.  That building has two sections.  My office, which is filled with my personal treasures.  And a storage area.  Lined with shelves.  I’ve lived here for five years and there are still boxes on those shelves that I haven’t looked in since I moved in.  And of course, I’ve added to the collection.

I decided several weeks ago that I could clean that area up and move some of the furniture that was ready for sale from the garage to this area.  Several tables and chairs and smaller things have migrated up there.  But I still have things in the garage that I just know will sell quickly.  No point in moving those!

Freeing up some space in the garage inspired me to tidy up.  The best way to do that is to pull every single thing in there out.  And start over again.

Out it comes.  First sweep put the leaves that have blown in every time the door is open all winter, and now summer long.

As I sort through the pile of stuff in the driveway I realize, or brilliantly decide, that this or that would be better off here or there.  And I move things around.  Some just to another shelf, some hung up, some put away and some taken to the other building.  Oh, and some thrown out.

It’s not too bad and is actually coming together nicely.  Except for one thing.  While the pile in the driveway is indeed getting smaller, there is another pile that is growing rapidly.

We all have some kind of catchall drawer.  Mine is not an actual drawer.  I tend to use cups and bowls and small boxes to throw my miscellaneous stuff into.  And yes, you guessed it; I always have more than one. 

So in clearing off the top of a table I might toss a few screws or pens or whatnot into one of these catchalls. Those are getting more and more full as I clean elsewhere. 

Pretty soon everything is neat and clean.  Except that the catch all has grown from a coffee cup to a twenty-gallon plastic bin.  It all goes somewhere.

I could leave this for later.  Very tempting.  But somehow I won’t feel like I finished the job I started if I don’t deal with this stuff in some way. What will probably happen is that I’ll dump the whole thing on the ground. Then sort through it putting some things away right away.

But there are some things that will go back into the catchall.  I’ll have to figure out what to do with them later.  But the pile of stuff that falls into that category is shrinking so I feel like it’s been a successful day.

Tomorrow I can start the process of messing it up again.  Some folks can’t live that way.  My wife tolerates me.  Mostly.  But it works for me.  And I love going through all the stuff every once in a while to see what’s there. 

Look at that!  I didn’t know I even had one of those.  I remember using this or that. Some of it is sentimental actually.  Some of it is stuff I might just need in the future.  And some is just stuff I may never use, but hate to throw away.  Someone could use it someday.  I think.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Broken Lawnmower

Mechanical skills are not something that I was born with.  Nor have I ever really acquired them.  I’m great at breaking things.  And then taking them apart to see if I can figure out how to fix them.

The problem is that when I go to the next step and try to put them back together so that they actually work there is some issue to deal with.  Missing parts.  How did that happen?  Where could it be?  Pieces that don’t fit back together properly.  They were together before.  What has changed?  Well, what has changed is that I got in there to fix it and somehow messed it up.

Over the years I have learned how to do a lot of mechanical tasks.  Basic things.  I can rewire a lamp and change out switches, plugs and light fixtures. A leaky faucet is an easy fix.  I can reset breakers and follow a plumbing line.

Repairing wooden furniture is actually something I know how to do and enjoy doing.  Other things I know how to do, but really don’t enjoy doing them at all.  Like house painting.

The accomplishment I am most pleased with however is learning how to fix my motorcycle.  With a car I can top off fluids, change the oil and sparkplugs, install new light bulbs and filters and even replace windshield wipers.  Beyond that I leave it to the mechanics.  My car is too big an investment and necessity for me to be tinkering with rebuilding the engine.

My motorcycle is a different story.  I learned how to do much more advanced things like rebuild a carburetor.  Mainly because trying to take a non-running motorcycle to a mechanic isn’t an easy task.  Unless you have a truck or trailer.  And because taking the darn thing to a mechanic every time something is amiss would cost a fortune.

Let’s just say that the first bike I had required a lot of attention.  And tinkering.  I had to learn so that I could ride the thing.  So far my second scoot runs like a top and purrs like a kitten.

Right now I’m looking for a “new” lawnmower for my daughter’s house.  I can change the oil and filter and sharpen blades or even replace the blades.  That makes me dangerously confident that I can get a used mower and do any minor repairs it might require. 

I say dangerously because in such a situation I run a good chance of being overconfident.  And biting off more than I had intended.  I need to remember my limits.

So the other day while I was out yardsaling I was skeptical about buying a used mower that I saw.  It was a fancy Honda self-propelled job.  But it was in rough shape just looking at it.  I asked if it worked and the man said he didn’t know for sure, but we could fire it up. 

But he went on to say that the other tools in his shed did work with certainty.  He rattled off a whole list.  This one lawnmower he was unsure of though.  Hmmm?

I took it out of the garage and looked it over.  It’s one of the ones that is started by pumping the primer bubble and then yanking the pull cord.  Maybe several times.

The machine failed at the very first step.  I went to prime it, knowing that it would need five or six pumps, and when I pushed the bulb the first time it didn’t return to its starting position.  The fuel system had some sort of problem that would not allow for any further tests.

I thought about this for a few moments.  Can I fix this?  I don’t even know what’s wrong with it.  Is it worth trying to fix?  Not if I have to end up taking it to a repair shop for them to fix.  Or tell me that it’s beyond repair.  Nope.  Not gonna take this on.

As I walked away, the man cut the price by ten dollars.  But still not free.  Nope.  I’m walking.  I knew that the seller knew that the thing didn’t work.  The original price, the sale price and the uncertainty on his part regarding its functioning all came together to let me know.

He didn’t want to lie to me about it.  But he also didn’t want to be honest with me.  It’s a fine line.  But this tale isn’t about the seller or his ethics.  It’s about my mechanical skills.  And my good judgment.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Sled

Certain objects can instantly elicit memories from the past. Memories related directly to that object, and much more far reaching events.

When I see a pen I think of writing with it.  But it also reminds me of winning a contest at work and receiving a pen and pencil set. It reminds me of the books I’ve written. And of the technological improvements from the quill pen to the fountain pen to the ballpoint. And of the fact that my mother once worked for a pen manufacturing company.

On a recent yardsaling expedition I found myself at the home of a woman who was getting rid of a lot of her belongings so that she could move.  The garage was packed, and she had to be out at the end of the week.  I was hoping that I could help her decrease the clutter.

Looking around there was a variety of things.  Some still packed away in boxes and some spread out everywhere.  But nothing that was of interest to me.  Or so I thought

On the wall hung a small version of an old fashioned sled.  Not a flexible flyer but an equally well-known name.   Which I can’t remember right now.

Two steel runners under a bed made of wooden slats.   You lay down on it, or you could sit, and steered with a handle.  Either your hands or feet would push on the right or left side and the sled would begin to turn.

I knew these sleds could fetch pretty good money in an antiques store so I asked the woman if it was for sale.  No, she said, too many memories.  It wasn’t the sled she grew up with, but was just like it.

And it brought back a lot of memories to me as well.  Not just about sliding down a hill.  I began to remember growing up in the suburbs.  Friends that I had back then.  And a way of life that no linger exists.

These sleds were perfect for sliding on hard packed snow or ice.  There were short ones for little kids and long ones for the bigger kids.  I had one of each at one point.

Other snow conditions would be better served by other equipment.  The toboggan was better on more loosely packed snow.  And the saucers were good when there was almost no snow at all.  And on ice.  And in fresh powder.  We even used cardboard boxes.  In desperation we would just slide down the hill on our backs, with the nylon jackets providing the slip and slide.

We’d be out every day as long as there was snow.  The road in front of my house had several big hills.  All day and until well after dark we would climb up the hill, dragging our sleds behind us.  Then leap on and zip toward the bottom.  We seemed to never be too cold or wet or tired to go inside.  Until mom called us home.

We’d race each other to the bottom.  Or see who could slide the furthest.  We even built little ramps for jumping.  We’d all clear out of the way when a car approached.  They might also slip and slide up or down the hill.  But as soon as they’d passed we were back to the sledding.  We did throw a few snowballs at them too.  Sometiems.

Same kids everyday.  Boys and girls.  Kids we knew well and grew up with.  Went to school and church with.  Good times.

Then we all grew up and went our separate ways.  And there was less time for sledding.  And finally there was no time.  Until we had our own children and wanted them to go sledding.

Here in Georgia we don’t get a lot of snow.  And what we do get isn’t suited to using the flexible flyer type sled.  The plastic or metal saucers work much better.  Or the cardboard box.

As time goes by we have even less snow every winter.  I don’t think we got any this past winter.  Winter is warmer and warmer every year.  Wearing shorts and a tee shirt on New Years Day doesn’t bode well for a lot of snow.  Climate change is real.

It may never snow here again, I don’t know.  I do know that it’s not the same as when I was a kid growing up.  And I wonder if kids in the future will have any idea as to what that sled contraption was for.

When I saw it I knew what it was for.  And I knew what good times we had with sleds.  I don’t know what ever happened to my old sled.  I hope some kid is using it in Alaska.  Or some place with the right kind of snow.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Bring The Heat

Hot enough for ya? A casual remark intended to start a conversation.  Maybe just chitchat.  Maybe something more serious.  Regardless, a damn good question.

Seems like it’s getting hotter and hotter.  Step outside, away from the air-conditioned comfort of your home or automobile, and you feel like you’ve just been hit with a big fat fresh load of adobe brick.  Hard.  And hot.

It’s enough to take your breath away.  And potentially kill you.  Working outdoors I just drip sweat.  My clothes are soaked.  That can be embarrassing at times.  Wet trousers and all.

Much worse than the chance for embarrassment is the probability of dehydration.  Drink lots of water.  Loss of water in a body that is seventy five percent water is a dangerous situation.  It can lead to heat stroke.  Which can be fatal.  I had an uncle who died in his garden from heat stroke one afternoon.

You can step out of the direct sun and into the shade.  That feels much cooler.  But sometimes what you are working on isn’t in the shade.  You can wear a wet scarf around your neck.  Or pour cold water over your head.  Perhaps there is a breeze.  It all helps.

Leaving your vehicle in the direct sun has its own issues.  The seat of a bicycle or motorcycle will get very hot when the sun shines on it for long.  Sit down for a ride and whoa!  Burn your butt.  You’ll also find melted chocolate, and burst soda cans inside a hot car.

If you, your kid or your pet were to stay inside a car in the sun, without the benefit of air conditioning or even an open window, the result will be devastating.  The temp inside that car can rise to over one hundred thirty degrees Fahrenheit.  Hot enough to kill.

My mother left me in the car once.  I was four years old and asleep in the back seat.  She and my sister were going shopping.  It was fall in New Jersey so it wasn’t hot.  When I woke up I realized that I was alone and went into the store looking for mom.  An employee helped me locate her. 

You couldn’t do that today.  You’d be going to jail for cruelty.  Someone would smash your windows to let some air in.  It would be a big hullabaloo.

I’m not a scientist.  But I do believe in science.  Science says that diseases can be prevented with vaccines.  And that a global cataclysm can be avoided if we tackle the issue of climate change.

Not everyone believes in science.  It gets in the way of their personal narrative.  But I can look around me and see that things are changing.  I can think for myself and I’m smart enough to know that there are many things that I don’t know all about.  And that there are many people who are smarter than me who do understand all that stuff.

If you are going to deny science, where do you stop?  Climate change and evolution are fake can lead to the earth being the center of the solar system.  And flat.  Believe it or not, we all rely on a great deal of science to live our lives. 

You can’t pick and choose.  Granted, sometimes science gets it wrong and new information gives new answers.  But mad scientists hell bent on creating a new world order are only in the comic books.

But science and climate change aren’t really the subject here.  They are my digression.  I’m talking about the heat.

April through December here are the hot months.  The rest of the year is just warm.  I love to be outside.  To enjoy some sunshine and the joys of oneness with nature. 

But when it’s this hot I don’t really feel like going outside.  Maybe in the evening when the sun has gone down some.  And it’s cooled off a tad.  The combination of heat and humidity can make the heat index skyrocket.  It may only be ninety degrees outside but the heat index can be well over a hundred.

Some things I have to do.   And I force myself regardless of the heat.  Mowing the lawn and riding my scooter.  But those activities are much less enjoyable in the extreme heat.  After I finish these activities I’m exhausted.

How in the world did people ever deal with the heat before air conditioning?  Sometimes wearing heavy clothing even in the heat of summer.  I wouldn’t be able to get anything done other than sit on the porch under the hot breeze of a fan.  And drinking a long, tall glass of water.

So go outside.  But wear sunscreen and carry lots of water.  Do everything you can to protect yourself.  And do what you can to help the planet.  Little things can make a big difference to Mother Earth.  And don’t have to inconvenience you.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Wind

Seven days at the beach.  How glorious it will be.

Sun, sand and surf!  Plus all of the other things there are to do there.

I can see the waves and the sand.  It’s hard to miss.  The scents and aromas of the beach tickle my nose.  Salt water.  Damp and dank tidal marshes.  And I can hear the sound of water rolling ashore.  Sometimes a gentle lapping.  Sometimes a loud crashing.  The birds calling.  And the wind.

Wind.  You can hear it as it rustles the leaves or sings in the rigging of a sailboat.  Or howls in a storm.  The intensity and volume can make it a soothing sound.  Or a very scary sound.

Wind.  You can feel it.  As it gently caresses your skin when it blows over you.  Or harshly blowing your hair and clothing.  Perhaps blowing you backward as you struggle to walk forward.  It can be very powerful.  Very.

But you cannot see the wind.   It’s invisible.  What you can see of the wind are the results it produces.  You can see objects moving as a result of being stroked by the wind.  Soemetimes fast.  Other times gently.  You can see it as it blows things like sand or rain into your face.  You see it coming.  And feel the collision.

It can provide a gentle, cooling breeze.  Or fill the sails of your boat so you can make exhilarating blue water run.  And it can disperse things you might not like.  Rain clouds.  Smoke.  Malodorous gases, both human and natural.  The wind makes kites fly and dreams to fly with them.

But not always.  Gentle breezes can be very pleasant.  Strong, gusty winds not so much.  Those can be dangerous.

Strong winds are loud. And blow all kinds of things around.  Maybe leaves.  Or maybe a whole tree gets knocked down.  Or a house!  In the spring I always listen fearfully for the sound of nighttime tornados.  Terror in the darkness with an unseen enemy.  We all know what hurricane winds can do.  It’s on TV for several months a year.

What I find to be most interesting about the wind is that it exists at all.  Where the heck does it come from?  How does it get started and why does it stop?  I’m not a meteorologist.  Or any other kind of scientist.  I look out the window and see what’s happening.  That is the weather.

All of the other stuff, rain, sunshine, snow, sleet, or cold or warmth, there’s a scientific explanation for it.  I think.  And I’m sure I could look it up on-line.  Or read a book on the subject.  But right now I’m ok with what I know.

I hear it.  I feel it.  And I see what it can do.  In some ways we’ve managed to conquer it.  We use it as a tool.  Wind turbines and sailing ships to name just two.  Some people have a good idea as to how it all works.  We can even predict the future in terms of the weather.  Snow in the forecast?  Rain?  Or sunshine? 

But we have to keep in mind that the wind is much more powerful than we are.  And for the most part, it controls us.  Not the other way around.  Respect nature.  And always remember, it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Riding A Bike Is Like…

When you are a little nervous about something that you haven’t done in a long time, afraid you will have forgotten how, people will say don’t worry, it’s just like riding a bike. 

What they mean by that isn’t that anything you do involves pedaling or steering or balancing yourself.  No, it means that once you start doing the thing you need to do your body will remember exactly how to do it.  And you will be fine. 

Most people learn how to ride a bike.  It’s a basic form of transportation.  And it can be fun.  I learned when I was maybe six years old.  I had a small gold colored bike with training wheels.  One day my dad took the training wheels off.

Let’s go he said.  You can do it.  So I got into the saddle and put my feet of the pedals.  He held the bike up and began running along side of me while I pedaled.  It was a little shaky.  And I’m sure scary.  But he let go and off I went. 

The road in front of my house was flat which made it easier.  I rode about three houses down to where the hill started, then turned around and came back. I remember being very proud of myself when I ran inside to tell my mother that I learned to ride a big kids bike!

I taught both of my daughters how to ride.  Pretty much the same way that I learned.  My yellow bike was long gone but the girls had a pink one.  With training wheels.

The neighborhood they grew up in was hilly.  As was my driveway.  But the driveway was long and almost flat so that’s where they learned.

As a kid we rode our bikes everywhere.  The store.  The river.  Just goofing around.  In high school I rode my bike to school once or twice.  It was nearly fifteen miles each way.  Other days I would hop on the bike and do an exploration ride of about fifteen miles after school. 

When I was in college I had a bike that I often rode.  I didn’t have a car.  I lived in the city so I was able to ride the subways, but the bike gave me more flexibility.  And happiness.  It was stolen one day by someone who cut the lock off. 

None of us ride bikes any more.  We all have cars.  And I have a scooter.  The roads around here can be hilly, but mostly they are just plain dangerous.  You’d think back country roads would be ideal for bike riding.  Nope.  Because apparently they are also a great place for yahoos to drive their pick up trucks fast and wild.  There are bike riders around here but they risk their life every time they ride.  And several have been killed.

When we take a vacation to the beach we have to ride bikes though.  Somehow it seems like a requirement.  And it’s always fun.  Sort of.

Everyone in my family feels a touch of anxiety about riding the bike.  To different degrees.  I don’t worry about it too much because after all, it’s just like riding a bike.  And I know I can do it.

The real issue arises from the fact that it’s a strange bike to me.  I’ve never ridden this one before.  It’s got big fat tires, only one gear, and big handlebars that seem awfully high and wide.

It takes a minute to get used to it.  It steers funny because of the handlebars.  And I have to ride on crowded narrow paths filled with other bikers and joggers and walkers. 

I didn’t ride on the beach at all.  Just the bike paths.  But my children did.  When they came back my oldest said she was never riding a bike again!  It’s hard to ride a bike on the semi soft sand.  And she had a fun time getting used to the steering.  She was wobbling and zigzagging all over the place. 

But we talked her into trying again.  And every day rode the bikes.  Sometimes it was easier to go somewhere on the bike than in the car. 

We rode during the day.  And at night.  The bikes don’t have lights so we used flashlights that we held in our hands.  Made for some tricky steering and I actually ran off the path once and plowed through some shrubs!

We all survived though.  And had fun.  But now that we are all back to our homes and regular routines, I’m sure riding a bike will be the last thing on our minds.  Until we hit the beach again.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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