Category Archives: QUIRKY

LIGHTNING ROCKS

Lightning is my granddaughter Emma’s dog, but he truly loves me.  Every time I go to Sarah and Keith’s house, I sit on the leather sofa because it is central, comfortable and I can protect myself as Lightning sprints through the door and takes a giant leap into my lap.  He proceeds to give me sloppy, wet kisses all over my face. And his tail is wagging so fast that it is a blur. He barks incessantly with his shrill tenor voice.  Sometimes he greets me with a little urine drip if he hasn’t been outside lately.  I don’t mind because I love this dog.

Lightning is a dachshund with a very large personality.  He is the larger dog in the picture above. The little fellow looking on is Mr. Jingles, Lightning’s running mate.  He is not as exuberant as Lightning and often seeks a safe haven in Sarah’s lap.  He’s not very fond of men in general.

If you notice in the picture, Lightning has what appears to be a rock in his mouth. It is a rock.  Every time Hattie goes to the trampoline, Lightning tags along.  The very first thing he does on arrival is to look for a mouth size rock.  He digs vigorously around the edges of the rock and uses his paws to dig it out of its resting place.  He then makes sure it is the correct size.  His rock is never just any rock–it has to be just right.

When satisfied, he throws the rock into the air and pounces on it.  He hits the rock with his nose, it rolls a few feet and he pounces on it again.  He then hits the rock with his right paw, then his left and dribbles the rock for 6 feet or so like a soccer player.  As Sarah and I sat watching Hattie do gymnastics on the trampoline, Lightning continued with his rock antics in the same order (mouth, nose, paws) for forty minutes.  AMAZING.  I have had lots of dogs, but never one that plays with rocks.  By the way, he brings his favorites into the house and keeps them in the playroom.

Dogs are wonderful participants in this life.

Shopping at The Mall OR The Delights of Having Granddaughters

I took my 14-year-old granddaughter, my 8-year-old granddaughter, and their 12-year-old cousin shopping.  We went to the mall—the big one.  The one with all the hip stores.

As we were nearing the parking area, I asked a question, “Where are we going first?”

The 12-year-old said, “Park near Macy’s. It’ll be more convenient to start from there.”

“Yeah, we have a list of the stores we want to go to.  They are in order, by location,” the 14-year-old added. “We looked at the mall map online.”

The first store was the “PINK” store or at least that’s what I thought it was called. It was very interesting—virtually every item had “PINK” written somewhere irrespective of the color of the clothing.  The sales clerks seemed more like waitresses. They were all dressed in black and were wearing a large belt with a holster holding an order pad.  A 45-year-old dad walked in and announced that it was his daughter’s birthday the next day.  This smallish girl-in-black pounced on him like a dog on a bone. She had dollar signs in her eyes.  It was expensive. My granddaughters got several items, all with “PINK” emblazoned somewhere. It was expensive.

The young girl at the cash register looked to be about 12.  She handed me the receipt and I was stunned.

“Girls are expensive,” she said. It wasn’t the amount of the bill, it was VICTORIA’S SECRET. I had taken my granddaughters and their cousin to Victoria’s Secret.  This is the store men go shopping for their thin wives or…well you know.  I should hide this receipt from my daughter, but everything has PINK emblazoned on it.

With extra care, we were on to the American Eagle Store. I announced that torn and ripped jeans were not allowed at Brandon Oaks and I was adhering to that policy.  Luckily, skinny jeans without holes were on sale.  Also, Tees were on sale—buy one get 2 free. This selection took 30 minutes and two trips to the dressing room.

A young female sales clerk was lurking nearby because she wanted her name on this sale. She was wearing black ripped jeans. I asked her what was so cool about ripped jeans.  “You noticed them’ didn’t you? I like to be noticed.” I am still thinking about that comment.

With three tees and some blue jeans plus a cute little charm bracelet for my 8-year-old, we set off for the Hollister store.  This store has everything that is current in California.  It used to take several years for fashion trends to move in from the coast, but now it is instantaneous thanks to globalization or something. Interestingly, this store had young guys as sales reps and were they polite. “Hello, sir.” “May I help you, sir.” The 14-year-old found a great pair of skinny jeans, but they had one hole in the knee.  The pleading began, but she had an ally—the guy was telling me how amazing it was that the jeans only had one hole.  I was outplayed and overwhelmed. My 8-year-old was mostly disinterested, but she sighted a shirt that she liked.  She felt like a big girl heading off to the dressing room.

With three stores under our belt, it was time for a break. Universally, it was a vote for Chick-fil-A. It was the smallest check of the day.

Next ONE! Aeropostale! I felt a small surge of energy after some chicken and a restroom break. Basically, it was the same drill. Look at the tees and shirts. Grab two or three and head for the dressing room. It’s two for one so why not get four. While I was waiting one of the clerks gave me a lesson in the proper pronunciation of the store name.  “It is not the postal which means losing it in front of everyone—it’s more like pasta but not quite. You know.” “AEROPASTA!”  “That’s right, now put the L on it.”  She left with a sense of real accomplishment and left me as confused as ever.

My 8-year-old bought fake fingernails in Christy’s. What a store—how do they make it.

WE left the mall to find our car and head to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I had no idea why, but we headed in that direction.  At Dick’s, we ran into Kelli, my son-in-law’s sister. She has this wonderful habit of rescuing me on these adventures with my granddaughters and their cousin, who happens to be Kelli’s daughter.  The first time was at the trampoline park which was very dangerous for an old guy. This time it was exhaustion—we had been shopping for 4 hours. They all disappeared, including Kelli. I sat on a counter for 45 minutes

Kelli looks at me and says, “When are you going to learn?”

With my granddaughters, probably never, but I plan to enjoy it all.  It is so wonderful to love them without condition.

A BUTTERFLY

Yellow Butterfly

A few weeks ago, I encountered a caterpillar crossing a busy intersection at Brandon Oaks.  I remained with him until he made the trip and I talked to some of my neighbors about it.  It was a good experience in being interrelated to another creature in nature.

In mid-August, I went to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This is the monastery that Thomas Merton entered in 1941.  I wanted to immerse myself in his work.

As I was sitting on a bench in the larger garden, a black and yellow butterfly flew toward me and perched on my hand.  Words can’t come close to describing its beautiful wing span and color. I tried not to breathe or move.

“Hello there, traveler, I AM a butterfly.”

The two days of silence had finally broken me.  “Shhhhhh, this area is to be silent.”

“Not for me, I am a butterfly and a messenger. We talk when there is something to say. You probably didn’t know that.”

“No, I didn’t.  Who is the message for?”

“You, my dear friend.  You see Merton wants you to find your True Self and diminish that False Self.  That unkempt, ugly long hair is part of the mask. Get it cut no later than August 19.  This will keep you on the path. HE will teach you many truths.”

“So, you want me to believe that this message is from Merton or maybe God?”

“It’s from those that love you.”  He flew away.

 

THE CATERPILLAR

THIS CATERPILLAR

This caterpillar was crossing a roadway in my little retirement village.  He was simply beautiful.  I suppose I had always undervalued and underappreciated the caterpillar.  This fellow was yellow and black and was moving at a slow steady pace.  It seemed he had an objective to reach the other side.

I was fearful that he might be squashed by a passing automobile, so I stood around waiting for him to cross over.  Several of my friends came by, stopped their cars to speak, asked if I was okay and then inquired about my purpose in directing the traffic this day.  I told them I was protecting a caterpillar that was moving to the other side of the road.

One of them smiled and inquired, “As in relocating?”

“No,” I said, “He thinks the grass is greener.”  The window went up and a broad smile appeared.  Two bad jokes in a row.

This unusual dude had three pairs of legs and several leg-like appendages. He was also hairy in spots. He will be a butterfly soon.

Caterpillars are the larval stage members of the order Lepidoptera (the insect order comprising butterflies and moths).

As with most common names, the application of the word is arbitrary and the larvae of sawflies commonly are called caterpillars as well.

Caterpillars of most species are herbivorous, but not all; some (about 1%) like insects and may be cannibalistic. Some feed on other animal products; for example, clothes moths feed on wool, and hoof moths feed on the hooves and horns of dead cows, sheep and pigs.

Caterpillars as a rule are voracious feeders and many of them are among the most serious of agricultural pests. Many moths are best known in their caterpillar stages because of the damage they cause to fruits and other agricultural produce, whereas the moths are obscure and do no direct harm. Conversely, various species of caterpillar are valued as sources of silk, as human or animal food, or for biological control of pest plants.

Most likely, this was more than you wanted to know, but the caterpillar is one of God’s interesting and unusual creatures.

ALCOHOLISM SELF-ASSESSMENT

ALCOHOLISM SELF-ASSESSMENT TEST

The following questions have been formulated as a tool for assessing signs of alcoholism.

Want to find out if you are an alcoholic, take the test.

  1. In the last year, have you driven under the influence of alcohol, even just a few drinks?

 

  1. Do you consume more than 7 alcoholic beverages a week?

 

  1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?

 

  1. Do you hide your drinking from any friends or family?

 

  1. Have you failed to keep a promise to yourself or a loved one that you would quit drinking?

 

  1. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?

 

  1. Are more than 50% of your friends’ drinkers?

 

  1. Do you find it difficult to stop drinking after one or two drinks?

 

  1. In the last year, have you done anything while drinking that you regret?

 

  1. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?

 

  1. In the last month, have you had a drink in the morning to help recover from a hangover?

 

  1. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?

 

  1. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever encountered difficulties remembering what happened while you were drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever had a DWI driving while intoxicated or DUI driving under the influence of alcohol violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?

 

  1. Do you sometimes have the shakes in the morning and find that it helps to have a little drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?

 

  1. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?

 

  1. In the last 3 months, have you continued drinking until you became unconscious?

 

  1. In the last year, have you urinated or soiled the bed or your clothes during or after drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever awakened after drinking in a strange place or at home, without remembering how you got there?

 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be at the start of a problem.

If you answered “yes” to 3 or more questions, you have a problem with alcohol and are most likely an alcoholic.  Spending $9 on the book, NO MATTER WHAT!!, will be the best money spent in the last year. It will provide a way to stop before tragic consequences surface.

If you answered 5 or more questions with “yes” you are an alcoholic and you need help.  It’s not too late.  Read the book NO MATTER WHAT!! and you will get answers.  Next, find an AA meeting and go—save your life!  YOU CAN GET SOBER!!

HELP IS HERE!!!

Order NO MATTER WHAT!! now!

www.tmichaelsmith.com

Speed Bumps

SPEED BUMPS

Speed Bumps are the common name for a family of traffic calming devices that use vertical deflection to slow motor-vehicle traffic in order to improve safety conditions. Variations include the speed hump (or speed ramp), speed cushion, and speed table.

The use of vertical deflection devices is widespread around the world, and they are most commonly found where vehicle speeds are statutorily mandated to be low, say25 mph, or 5 mph in car parking lots.

Although speed bumps are effective in keeping vehicle speeds down, their use is sometimes controversial—as they can increase engine noise and may damage vehicles if traversed at too great a speed. Poorly designed speed bumps that stand too tall or with too-sharp an angle, which is often the case in private automobile parking lots, can be overly disruptive for drivers, and may be difficult to navigate for vehicles with low ground clearance, even at very low speeds. Many sports cars have this problem with speed bumps. Speed bumps can also pose serious hazards to bicyclists if they aren’t clearly visible. Though, in some cases a small cut across the bump allows those vehicles to traverse without impediment. Speed bumps cost between $50–$200 and may need have to be replaced over time due to wear.

Last year, parking lots and driving lanes in our community were re-paved and along with this new pavement came some speed bumps.  If you think the current generation of 70-100 year-olds is complacent you better guess again.  Two large speed bumps were installed in the main driving lanes for access and egress from the main residential parking area.  It became obvious immediately to all of us that these speed bumps posed an immediate hazard.  When you drove across them at 10 mph, you would bounce to the ceiling of your car.  It was impossible to go slow enough to avoid being bumped around. They did not have stripes like the speed bump pictured above.  The speed bumps blended into the pavement and they were upon you before you could react.

Most of us over 70 have enough pain at is and we don’t need a hazard to bring out every pain all at one time.  Naturally, there was a lot of talking in The Grille and the DINING ROOM and no one was defending the administration or the maintenance department.  Who authorized these abominations?  We didn’t have speed bumps before!  It’s only the delivery people and visitors that speed.  I can’t leave the parking lot now.  Speed bumps have to go.  The person who designed these speed bumps is a moron.  It’s obvious to anyone that looks at them that they are too high and steep!!

All of a sudden a petition appeared on the residents’ bulletin board.  In a heartbeat, there were 175 signatures on the thing. It was delivered to Joe, our Executive Director, with the demand that the speed bumps be removed.  He said he would get with maintenance and the contractor to decide the course of action.

At the Town Meeting two weeks later, our chief maintenance guy, Dana, who is a diligent worker and great fellow, came to the podium.  He said, “we are going to lower the speed bumps and paint stripes on them.  That should solve the problem.”   Bedlam ensued with at least 15 people speaking at once decrying that solution.  Our folks are not docile and they are vocal about things that bother them.  Bob stood and said, “These things are poorly constructed and are a driving hazard. The only solution is to remove them.  They do not need to be replaced!”

Overwhelmingly, the residents wanted the two on the main drag removed. Dana looked to Joe for help.  Joe was engrossed in his shiny shoes.  To be fair, I believe he was reviewing all of his options.

Finally, he stood, “We’ll take them out!”  Another victory for the grey panthers.  The democratic process at its finest.

 

 

 

SPEED BUMPS

The Balladeers

BALLADEERS

A Balladeer: a singer of ballads.   Or in our case, it is the male chorus made up of residents in our independent living facility. I have not been in a chorus or choir since I was ten, particularly as my voice started changing around fourteen.  But I love singing with The Balladeers.  I avoided the group for the first six months of my residence.  One day I was cornered by U.V. who asked me to join.  I said that I couldn’t sing a lick.  He said not to worry, neither could anyone else and so singing wasn’t required.  Reluctantly, I went to a rehearsal, found there were no auditions and was immediately given a song book.  I was in, just like that. I am about to perform in my third spring concert and am amazed how much my singing has improved.  It’s still not good, but it’s better

We have a conductor/chorus master.  His name is Bob. He is the former Dean of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  Nationally ranked and internationally renowned, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts.  CCM’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

You can readily appreciate that Bob is in over his head. We are sixteen in number.  About half of us can’t read music and don’t know what all the littler signs and signals mean.  Some of us don’t hear very well and a few don’t know where they are.

Bob stands at the front of the practice room behind a podium.  Our pianist is a woman who has played for the Balladeers for 15 years and she knows where we are most of the time.

“Let’s start with the first song in your book.”

From, the second row, “Which one is that?”

BOB, “The first one!!

The enquirer turns to his neighbor, “Is it the first one in the book?”

“Yeah, I think that’s what he said.”

Can you imagine a first year student at CCM under Bob’s tutelage surviving by asking these questions?

“Okay, the next one we need to work on is Let There BE Peace on Earth which is right behind Oh What A Beautiful Mornin. On this one you have to watch out for the Coda.”

“What’s a Coda?” I was, demonstrating my complete ignorance of musical terms.

“See the word Coda on page 2.  It means on the third line of the second verse, you go to the 2nd verse on page 2.”  I drew an arrow to attach the two lines.  It didn’t make any sense to me, but I at least knew what to do when we got to that point.

Again, “Which one are we on?”

In frustration, Bob goes to the back row and finds it in the book.  Three people move closer to see where the song is located.

I love Bob’s facial expressions.  He has a great smile, an even better grimace and a particularly good pained look.   When Bob says, “that’ll work,” it means anymore effort would just be too painful.

Amazingly when we sing in some concert venue (mostly other independent and assisted living places), we sound pretty good, sometimes very good.  It is a testimony to Bob’s patience and skill as well as the number of times we have practiced.  We have at least 12 rehearsals before the first concert, three or four more before the second and at least 4 before the grand finale, when we perform with the Belles, our ladies singing group. We perform with the Belles twice a year at our home auditorium.  It is a 7 pm concert filled with residents, guests, and our loving children and grandchildren.

At the concert, we were lined up in four short rows instead of the normal two longer rows. By the way, we always sit.  If we stand too long, someone will fall out.  If we scare our audiences, we won’t get any new gigs and we love to perform.  The Belles were arranged similarly to us and right next to us.  Each chorus would sing six songs and then we would sing four together.

Our jokester said, “There are lots of airplanes on the ocean floor, but you never see a submarine in the sky.”  He keeps on trying!

There was a conversation behind me between two of our long time members.  I’ll call them Joe and Herb.

BOB: “We are ready for the first number in our book. It’s A Grand Night for Singing.”

Joe: “I don’t seem to have that one.”

Herb: “I think your book is upside down.”

Joe: “O yeah. I still don’t have it.”

Herb. “I think your book is backward.”

In a rather loud voice, Joe  says: “YEAH, there it is, right where Bob said it would be.”

Bob had been holding his arms in the air while waiting for this conversation to end.   I was about to explode with laughter, which I could no longer hold.  Bob smiled just a bit and off we went.  It was a grand night for singing.  We even did several ballads: Aura Lee and I’ll Be Seeing You. The ladies were excellent and our combined selection of Sentimental Journey was over the top. The concert was absolutely terrific. The 16 of us were dressed in white shirts, black pants and a black bow tie and all of us were beaming except for Bob.  He was simply relieved that another Balladeer season was over and he would have a three-month respite.

Bob graciously accepted kudos from the audience and he reminded us several times that we were going to sing at the NRC with the Belles and we would meet the next day to turn in our music.

“What did he say?”

“We meet tomorrow at 10!!”

“Oh, do we have another concert?”

“Yes. At the NRC.”

“Across the street?”

“yeah!”

Bob: “After we get back from the NRC, we will meet in the community room to turn in the music.”

Another round of “who, what when and where.”

This conversation was repeated at least five times with different people involved each time.

I LOVE THE BALLADEERS!!!