Tag Archives: personal history

The Falling Leaf

In the gentle breeze a single oak leaf drifted down from the sky as my dog watched. Her intention of course was to eat the leaf before it hit the ground. And so she did. What an idyllic scene. Norman Rockwell would have loved the whole atmosphere.

One leaf. From an oak tree. How serene!

Taking the time to watch over the next couple of weeks, I will be treated to this sight millions of times. Does anyone know how many leaves the average oak tree has? Not me. And I’m not about to think about it. Some of those leaves fall in the forest. And some fall into my grassy yard. The latter have to be moved. That is, blown, raked or mulched. That’s my job.

I certainly won’t be lacking things to do over the next few weeks. One leaf is lovely. As is one oak tree. So I am abundantly fortunate to live on three acres with dozens of trees. Each one contributing a full compliment of spring, summer and fall leaves to the pile I anticipate.

Not all of my trees are oaks. There are also sweet gums, which also drop their spiny gumballs to the ground. There are maples, sassafras, crepe myrtle, dogwood, and a few evergreens.

Leaves that fall into the woods I can simply enjoy the sight of, allowing them to finish out their life cycle as nature intended. Unless they blow into the yard. There they would join the legions of leaves waiting for me to move them. The grass could use one more haircut with the lawnmower, which will mulch the leaves and grass and return it all to the soil. My leaf blower can huff and puff and push them down the hill into the ravine where the creek flows. And the mulcher can suck them up and grind them into mincemeat. If I’m really feeling vigorous, I will break out the old rake.

Most of the leaves will fall soon. And some will wait until the spring when new growth will force them off of the trees. The outdoors around me is filled with wonders. And I embrace them all.

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

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The Desk That Didn’t Sell

Well, it wasn’t a desk at all. That was the whole issue. It’s a beautiful piece of solid walnut furniture. A fabulous looking mid century modern desk. Flat top, tapered legs, several drawers and really cool hardware. But it’s actually a sewing machine cabinet. Without the sewing machine.

I have it in my antique store. Can’t remember where I found it, or how much I paid for it, but when I saw it I knew I loved it and could sell it in the store.

It’s been sitting there, waiting patiently for a new home, for nearly a year now. So you can imagine how excited I was when the sales clerk called me to tell me that someone was interested, but wanted a better price. What could I do for them?

Under the circumstances I might normally slash the price. Half off! Give the damn thing away! But I knew it was still a very nice piece and was worth more than I was asking for it. Nonetheless, customers in antique stores always like to feel like they are negotiating themselves a great deal, and I’m happy to help with that perception. I told the clerk to give them 25 per cent off. Nice piece. Good for them.

As I reviewed the daily sales I noticed that the “desk” was not listed as sold. Hmmm I thought. Had they wanted me to give them the desk for free? What kind of people were these? The next morning I rode up to the store.

There sat the desk. Unsold.   But every item that had been displayed on it was removed, and scattered randomly throughout the store. What in the world?!!!

Approaching the sales counter, the clerk smiled at me and laughed. She said they had agreed to take the desk at the offered price, but changed their mind when they realized that it was a sewing machine cabinet. The clerk thought it was still a nice piece of furniture that could be used as a desk and didn’t understand the big deal. Obviously the customer didn’t see it that way. And didn’t read the clearly marked tag.

What fascinates me however is not the customer’s change of heart, or their desire to get exactly what they wanted. No, it’s the idea that they removed every item from on top of the piece, set each and every one down somewhere else, and then walked out and left it that way. They must of thought the sales staff had noting better to do than clean up their mess. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

On other occasions I’ve noticed that people will pick things up and put them down somewhere completely different. Could they have forgotten while they stood there admiring the object, where they had found it?

And why do they bring me their trash? I find stuff all over the store. And yes, we do have a trashcan at the desk. Candy wrappers , soda cans, coffee cups. All left among the antiques. Like I’m not going to notice. More stuff for my staff to clean up. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

This morning as I scoured the scene, I noticed a grape on the floor. We don’t sell food in the antique store. And we don’t have a lunch counter. The grape came from outside. And one of my treasured retail customers left it for me on the floor.

I spent an hour or so replacing all of the objects which had been on the desk, cleaning up the grape, and tidying up in general. And I can’t wait to see what I find next time.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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The Rental Car

Having a rental car is much like driving a new car. It is, in fact, almost brand new with only 30,000 miles on it. And it has some nice modern features. It’s fast, but don’t tell the rental company I had it over the speed limit. And it handles like a sports car. I want to believe I’m driving a Porsche.

But it’s not like having my truck. Which is in the repair shop. My tuck is full sized. And it has a very strong six cylinder engine. That just so happens to get reasonable gas mileage. And I can fill it up with a lot of stuff. My stuff. Handy stuff. The truck also sits up a tad higher, and so do I when I’m in it. So I can see the world around me. Most of the time.

I would never buy a used vehicle that has a history as a member of a fleet, or as a rental car. People like me, and some much worse, have a tendency to not treat them very well. They drive them fast. And don’t pay attention when they open doors, thus banging them into things. And if the coffee spills on the seat or floor, oh well, someone else will clean it up.   I’m not saying that renters drive the car through mud bogs every day, but the rental is not the same as your own.

That said, I have to admit that I have been very careful with this car. My truck is in the shop because I had a minor collision in it. So, I am being especially aware of the distance between me and the car in front. And of brake lights and stopping distances. I do not want to damage this car, and I am a tad timid about driving at all.

When I get my truck back, I believe that I will continue to be cognizant of my surroundings. And brake lights. And stopping distances.

Having the rental is fun, but mostly very convenient. But I’m looking forward to having my truck back. And filling it up with my stuff.

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

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Light Switches

In the beginning, there was darkness. And in the night sky flashed a light that came to earth as fire. Early humans captured the fire, conquered it, and put it to work for them. This was the dawn of civilization.

With curious experimentation and investigation, trial and error, and dumb luck, humans found that they could make many things burn. And they created torches, candles, oil lamps, kerosene lamps and gas lights to light the night.

With another flash in the sky came the discovery of electricity. and a revolution began. Eventually the incandescent light bulb was created. The electrification of the world began. There were wires hanging everywhere and often a single bare bulb dangled at the end to light a room. With time, the wires were put into the walls and ceilings of buildings, or covered with conduit. Multiple bulbs served a single room. New types, sizes and shapes of bulbs were developed and the light moved outdoors.

Humans had turned night to day.

For every light, there has to be a switch. That thing that you flip to send the electricity from its source to the bulb. The thing that makes the connection to turn the light on. My father is an electrical engineer and he can tell you all about how the technical details work, but from me all you get is flip the switch and it works.

When I look at the walls in my home I see single switches, dual switches, triple switches and even quad switches. In other places I have seen rows and rows of switches all working something. With all these switches, I sometimes have a hard time figuring our what each one operates.

I’ve only lived in my current home for ten months so I’m still sort of experimenting with what the switches work. There are switches indoors that turn on lights outdoors. There are switches upstairs that turn on lights downstairs, and vice versa. And some lights have a switch here, and another there.   Some of the switches turn on lights I can’t see from the switch so they appear to do nothing.

So the other day, out of curiosity, I turned on all the switches. I noted the indoor lights, and then walked around the outside of the house to see what was on. I went back inside and flipped a few switches on and off and walked around the outside again and I think I have it pretty well figured out now. Except that some lights never came on regardless of switch flipping. Those must be burned out.

During the nineteen years I lived in my last house, I never did figure out all the switches. There was a triple switch at the bottom of the staircase . The switch in the middle didn’t seem to do anything. It was either there for feng shui purposes, or it was intended for later use if there was some upgrade in the house. I just don’t know.

Short of labeling every switch in the house, I’m going to have to rely on my trusty memory to figure out what each switch does. If nothing else, I can just flip them on and off until I get the light I want. Or invent something new.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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Smash!

The red lights were coming fast and furious. In the Navy we called it “CBDR.” Constant bearing, decreasing range. Meaning, it’s coming right at you! And that is exactly what was happening. Except that technically, I was headed straight for it!

And then came the bang. Those red lights it turns out were the brake lights of a mini van on the road in front of me. Where it came from I don’t know. There was a tractor trailer in front of me, but it turned. Then there were the red lights. It was nearing me too fast and the distance was too short for me to stop in time. I slammed on the brakes. They locked up, the truck slid and well, the bang. The front end of my truck into the rear end of the mini van. Oh, and then the poof! Airbag, almost as an afterthought. Damn!

My first thoughts were, oooh, this is gonna hurt! And, uh, oh, my surgically enhanced spine is gonna snap in two and I’ll be dead. But neither of those things happened. The seat belt caught me. Then the damn airbag.

Before you criticize me for defaming my airbag, let me assure you that I fully appreciate the importance of airbags. In this case, however, I feel as if its deployment was unnecessary. And, you dear reader, will see in just a few moments what real consternation the airbag caused me.

Realizing what had happened, and that I was alive and the truck would move, I pulled onto the side of the road and up alongside the minivan I had hit. With my window rolled down I hollered out to the other driver to find out if she was ok. She asked the same of me and she too moved off the road.

We were both a little shaken. We exchanged information regarding insurance coverage and such details, and I called the police. The driver of the other vehicle was amazingly calm, and very concerned about me. You’d think that she had hit me, not the other way around.

The police came and the officer marveled at how with so little apparent damage to my truck, the airbag had deployed. Then he gathered up our driver’s licenses and insurance documents and asked us for the details. Pretty simple, red lights, bang. My fault. After satisfying himself that neither of us was a wanted criminal, he asked if everyone was ok.

Both of us had some aches and pains so he called an ambulance to check us out. My aches and pains were the ones I usually have so I wasn’t worried about that. I was concerned about the other lady.

While a female EMT checked out the lady driving the minivan, the other EMT told the police officer and I all sorts of stories about wrecks with airbags. He and the officer agreed on one thing- a popped airbag usually means a totaled car. This talk of totaling my truck was bothering me. Greatly. Other than the airbag hanging out of my steering wheel no one would ever know I’d been in an accident. No real visible damage. Other than the junk you might expect to find on an eleven year old truck.

So, the lady checked out ok and was released. The ambulance left and the officer said I was free to go. He blocked the traffic for me to pull out onto the busy road, and then followed me for a couple of miles until he reached the boundary of his jurisdiction. Not a great way to spend some time on a Thursday afternoon.

Calling my insurance company I was once again regaled with tales of burst airbags. And totaled vehicles. I want to keep my truck I kept saying. Oh no the adjuster kept saying. Airbags are expensive, we will just total the truck and give you pennies on the dollar for it. I understand about depreciation, but a functional truck has value far exceeding any blue books notions!   I postponed calling the repair shop.

After a few days of worry and thinking, I told myself that I had been planning to trade the truck in for a newer vehicle anyway. Just not right now. And why should I keep a junky truck if the insurance company was going to partially fund a new one? DUH! Because I have to fund the rest of it!

Five days later, I decided I would see what happened and would either get the truck repaired, or junk it and get a newer one. I cleaned everything out of it. I ran it through a car wash. If it’s gong to be junked, it might as well look good going out. And maybe the adjuster would appraise it a little higher.

The guy at the repair shop oohed and aaahed over the truck. Except for the airbag. He too marveled at how it could have deployed in such a minor accident. Then he told me it would only cost $2700.00 to fix it. OMG! I thought. I’d looked it up on the computer and I got the impression the truck was only worth about $4000.00 in good condition. It’s gonna be totaled.

With enough questions and hemming and hawing, I was able to get the repair shop to tell me that the truck, by insurance company standards, was worth a lot more than I thought. And that the cost of the repair was no where near the threshold that they use for deciding to repair or total. So I was going to have my truck fixed. After all. Damn! I had gotten used to the idea that I might get a new vehicle! And was actually looking forward to that new car smell…

The only smell I was going to get was rental car smell. Always smells like Pine Sol to me. After several sleepless nights worrying about how I was going to have to fight the repair shop and het insurance company to keep the truck they wanted to total, I was relieved to find out it would be repaired. And disappointed not to be getting a new one. So I left the truck, got in the rental car and now I’m waiting to see what

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A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

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

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Stressless Moving Series

Certain events in life cause great levels of stress. Some of the biggest stressors include loss of a loved one, major health issues, becoming an empty nester, loss of a job, retirement and moving. There are many others, and by no means am I downplaying their importance. In the past year, I have experienced each of those I listed above. At least once.

Some of these I’ve talked about a little I think. And some I don’t care to talk about at all. But moving, now that’s a subject I will gladly talk about. So, just to give all my readers a heads up, I am going to be putting together a series of posts regarding my adventure in moving. From nineteen years in the suburbs to a mini farm in the county.

Stay tuned for chapter one soon!

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

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