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Before I was of school age and well-before the days of Perma-Press, I remember mom ironing nearly every piece of clothing or fabric in the house. This effort included jeans, t-shirts, towels, sheets, and dishrags with very few items spared from being “pressed”. We had a Maytag wringer washer and all of the washed clothes in our family of six were either hung outside on a clothesline or in the basement on several clotheslines that my dad had attached to the floor joists. I still have trouble comprehending the level of effort it must have taken let alone everything else she did to keep the house. She worked very hard to take care of us and I still miss hearing her cough in the mornings while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in her bathrobe as she listened to Swap Shop on WOMP 1290AM.

It Doesn’t Matter

In fresher days, I often hoped to build something great. Whether it was a path in the woods, an underground covered foxhole or even a collection of sticks that felt marginally like a clubhouse. But I now realize, in a deeper way, that it was never the place or even the end result, but more the act of dreaming to make it so.

Sometimes, with an increased sense of mortality, I think about not having the opportunity to finish a particular project at the lake house -- but then it really doesn’t matter so much. Recently, I’ve been planning a television tower there to receive broadcast television. As planned, it will include a weather station, an outdoor router for Wi-Fi access at the docks below and a single Yagi-style antenna. I have three large sections of tower in the garage, and have dug the 2’ x 2’ x 3’ hole for the concrete base and have it formed-up and nearly ready to pour. I’ve conceptually devised an electric winching system for raising and lowering the hinged-base tower for maintenance as well. I hope to finish it, but even if I never do, it is the numerous nights before sleep of dreaming about the design approaches that has given me everything I could ever want in regard to its purpose – for this and many other dreams I’ve had.

The Fall of Rome and of Speers (May 11, 2010)

During a few summers, I spent much of my time turning an abandoned farmhouse into a place we all could go. It was a ramshackle two-storey place next to an old strip mine on Magee road off of County Road 56. There was a large sturdy barn and a small pond on the property.

After a few hundred hours of re-construction work, we found a pot-bellied stove, some old furniture and a few other household items. I had planned to use a rainwater recovery system so that it would have a bathroom facility and had even placed a toilet but the house became too big of a party place and that ultimately led to several police interventions. Eventually the barn and house were burned to the ground and the land reclaimed. I drove by this place a few years ago, and because of the re-contouring of the land, it was really difficult to remember where everything once was.

* * *
"We ran into the barn at Speers and I placed my hands around your hips just so I could feel them move. Your unwashed jeans were smooth, your thick hair was dark and I remember how you smelled. Everyone was partying in the house but I wanted you with me. This never really happened, but I've often thought it should have."

It seems that in an ever-growing fashion, whenever I look at my Facebook feed, an overwhelming portion of it appears as an inane and repeating bin of opposition “news”. I suppose it is what folks want and there is little I should or can do to change it. Of course, there are valid ideas that can be put forth, but many of these assertions are so filled with such cruelty and hatred, that I don’t care to experience them. To be honest, it physically makes my stomach churn. While there are a few gems of writers there that look into their hearts to write, much of what I read there is impulsive, unresearched and unkind armchair commentary.

I prefer not to grow older this way and I believe at the end of our lives that the measure of how we are remembered or how we changed the world, will seldom be found in such visceral demonstrations.

Yes, we do

Sometimes Laurie and I do stupid stuff -- like trying to match our arm movements to the beckoning cat in the living room. For some reason, it isn't very easy to mimic or catch the rhythm. I put fresh batteries in it yesterday and she was able to get a two arm version going. I doubt I will ever match such incredible talent.

This is similar to ours. (Sadly, the presented GIF-motion belies its smooth and fluid movement):


Reading Labels


On Sunday afternoons when I was in college, my dad routinely washed the headlights and windshield on my truck with a homemade vinegar mix and newspaper just before I left for school. It taught me how fragile our lives are and more about love.

It isn’t so much for me but for you -- those silly little instructional/informational labels I place on everything from the breaker box, to the well head enclosure, to the technology surrounding anything voice, data, satellite or television antenna systems.

I have a good memory and except for very short term items, I really don’t need these for me; at least not yet. You see sometimes, I imagine if I’m gone before you, I hope you will be able to find some semblance of sense in it all. It isn’t so important, but rather something small, because then I won’t be able to make you coffee in the morning, check the air in your tires or fill your washer fluid bottle with “blue stuff”.

Questions in the Truth, We see

If we keep searching for words that support our preconceived notions and then with equal fervor, seek words that refute or tear down anything opposite to what we believe, how will this ultimately affect us? Will we ever find enough goodness in our own hearts to quench the fire of adversarial ideology?

It’s so simple, but unproductive to parse through social media or continuously watch a particular news channel, mentally banking those assertions to which we agree and then vehemently rejecting those of opposite thought.
It seems to make folks subservient to a particular and prefabricated line of thought, rather than to reason. At the end of their lives, will they have done much to change to world, other than to successfully express anger?

“If I scroll just a little more, I can tip the scales more towards me”, but does it really ever satisfy us?

In my twenties, I worked in a coal mine as a utility laborer. Primarily, my duties consisted of shoveling spilled coal along beltlines, feeders and tailpieces. Occasionally, when large pieces of rock fell off the belt, a sledgehammer was necessary to break them up into smaller pieces. For a wiry small person, I felt strong and healthy but beyond this, when work was over for the shift, it was forgotten until the next round.

Since then and for nearly 40 years, I’ve been an engineer/IT manager sitting at a desk. While it has paid me well, I find that even with several hours of yoga per week and increased weekend activity, my blood pressure has been steadily climbing. Of course it is partially genetic as my both my parents were hypertensive. With this job, I alone am responsible for keeping a mess of aging computer hardware running when I’d rather be cutting down trees, mowing grass, or digging ditches. At this age, while there is no chance of competing with my twenty-something self, I am ready to find more physical exertion and the lowered-stress of tackling discrete self-directed projects in which I can revel. Of course there is no guarantee that I’ll live to my planned retirement in a little over a year, but I certainly do look forward to it – and that in itself is a good thing.

Condensing Thirty-Two Years


Every time I put on this jump suit, it reminds me of my brother-in-law Jim. He used to wear it in the winters when he worked for United Dairy in Martins Ferry, Ohio.

Jim passed away in 1985 from stroke-related complications. The suit is a little tight as he was shorter than me, so it is a bit of a struggle to get it over my shoulders before zipping. There is a detachable hood but I never use it. Still this blue suit with its red quilted lining always brings back a whisper of his quiet demeanor and clearly the gravelly sound of his laugh. I’ve worn it every winter for years, and it is valuable to me.

Come What May

She had fallen outside and cracked the back of her head on the sidewalk. As the EMS brought her into the treatment room, I saw her husband faltering in the hallway with worry as he held back tears as best as he was able.

We spoke at great length about her family and their lives together. It struck me how some folks are able turn sixty-five years of marriage into something beyond complacency. Their love for each other was blindingly immense.

Sometimes things don’t work out as well for folks and I believe it can take away a small piece of everyone involved. Often there isn’t anyone to blame or any fault to levy -- yet simply a vast and open space of grief to reckon.

I suspect that those in opposition are less vile than some like to pretend and those in accord are often not as grand as we imagine –imperfect and beautiful humans as we all are.

As I grow older, I hope to love Laurie even more, and to be with her just like the man I met yesterday.

Worn in Glorious Circles

In the fifties, my parents were newly married. The house was new and all the trim was fresh with carefully stained pine wood. The freshness of our home was substantially changed by years of running the vacuum into that new molding along with the dinging of walls and trim with numerous furniture rearrangements, several carpet changes, door slamming, random kid scribbles and later many inadvertent wheel chair scrapes.

Now, I look at the house where I was the parent and many of the same kind of marks are there: a dented cold-air return, a bathroom door jamb that was broken during a kid fight, door knobs that rattle, more wheelchair scrapes, overspray paint marks on concrete from hastily completed school projects, and windows with broken latches.

And to think, some folks have homes that are never worn -- living rooms where no one is allowed to tread (one step away from putting up velvet ropes on brass stands), perfectly vacuum-striped carpet and couches covered with protective layers of clear vinyl.