Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

     The title of this particular blog entry is a bit misleading.  We knew we were going to get our first grand-daughter.  She was due on December 15th.  This was our younger son Scott and his wife Kristin’s first baby.  They were excited for her arrival.  So were we.

     We had just celebrated the arrival of our third grandson, born to elder son Greg and his wife Lindsay in November.  Owen has been to visit us a few times and like most babies enjoys a good cuddle.  We have plenty of those in stock here at grandma and grandpa’s house.

     Owen just has to share grandma and grandpa hugs with his older brothers Grant and Luke.  Entertaining three grandboys at once is a challenge at times.  I had Owen and Grant on my lap as I read the children’s book, “How to Babysit a Grandpa.”  Pretty soon Owen began to fuss a little.  “He thinks it’s going to be a long book,” five-year-old Grant explained.  Grant’s pretty good at interpreting his baby brother’s moods.

     So when our granddaughter’s due date came and went without her arrival, Wendy and I startled at every phone call, at every new text alert.  It could be the news that our granddaughter was on her way.  Any time I called my own folks then, I could tell they were awaiting the big news too.  But no news.

     Pretty soon a week passed and still no baby.  We heard that they would induce labor if another week similarly passed.  The mid-wife who tracked the pregnancy admitted that it looked like the baby would not be born before Christmas.

     “This is the same lady who said the baby would be born before December 15th,” Scott complained.  “She was wrong about that.  She’s probably wrong again.”

      Well, she was right, just barely.  Gwyneth was born early morning Christmas day, seven pounds, nine ounces.  Wendy and I hit the road the day after Christmas to drive down to St. Louis to see our new grandchild. 

      And as you can imagine from her picture below, she was worth the wait.

    Perfect way to end the year.  Happy New Year to all in the blogosphere.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Me Versus Squirrel

 As a Thanksgiving treat to our neighborhood feathered friends, I hauled out my bird feeder this past week.  I usually put it up on the cusp of winter, then take it down in the spring when I figure the birds can forage for themselves. 

     Squirrels I’m not worried about.  Particularly the squirrels around our yard who seem fat enough already to last three winters, let alone one.  Yet there’s one squirrel who regularly raids my feeder despite my best efforts to shoo him off.

      Mind you, the feeder is right outside our kitchen window.  Birds take flight as soon as they detect motion inside our kitchen.  They’re skittish that way.  Not so the squirrel.  I rap loudly on the window and the squirrel just turns and looks at me as if to say, “What’s up?”

      Now if I open the window and say, “Get the heck out of here” in a voice resembling the cop who shouts in the song Your Mama Don’t Dance, “Get out of the car longhair”—then that squirrel flees like he was shot out of a cannon. 

     I guess I should have considered that there might be young kids walking or biking on the sidewalk beyond.  My shouting could have a similar effect on them.  Probably get me a reputation for being a lunatic among my neighbors too.

      Anyhoo, back to the squirrel.  If I figured my scaring him off meant the end of him, I’m sorely mistaken for soon he will be back.  I tried spraying him with a garden hose with similar results.  He hightails it out of there as if somebody had just given him a hotfoot.  Then, before too long, he’s back.

      After watching him outside our kitchen window for a bit this past week, my wife Wendy noticed that he rested on a small branch under the feeder while eating his fill.  Cut off the branch and the squirrel could no longer reach the feeder, she suggested. 

     It was worth a try, so I did.  Next time the squirrel climbed up our little tree to the feeder, it was as if his little world has been turned upside down.  He tried holding onto the small trunk of the tree and reaching for the feeder without success.  Finally he climbed up the tree farther and sat on the branch from which the feeder rested.

      He couldn’t reach the feeder that way either.  Then he sat and turned to look in our kitchen window.  He sat for a while, staring at me.  I almost felt bad for the critter.  It as was if he was saying to me, “Dude.  Why??”   Then he left.

      Score one for big Dave.  But that didn’t last long.  See picture below.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Can't Blame Garmin Either

    Happy Halloween.  As my wife and I are huge fans of Tim Horton’s coffee, check out the yard display I concocted for this year.

   We missed our Tim Horton coffee on an extended jaunt out west this past month.  What was scarier than not having our favorite brew was a jeep tour we took near Moab in Utah.  Though I thought I was booking just a romantic sunset jeep ride, it turned out to be on a trail called “Hell’s Revenge.”  My wife Wendy would vouch for it being an appropriate name since she crippled her knee on the ride.

     But trooper that she is, she soldiered on since we still had over a week’s worth of itinerary to complete on this self-planned adventure.  Our last stop was Las Vegas and I literally dropped her right at the front door of the Bellagio so she wouldn’t have to hoof it from the parking lot.

     Good thing.

     After I self-parked in the covered multi-level structure, I looked for a way out.  I found one stairway that dead-ended at the bottom.  Went back up and saw a door that led outside, so I took it.  But it took me to a busy service drive with lots of vehicles speeding to and fro but few people.  I did spot a few folks heading towards a door to a large building across the service drive so I hurried over to join them.

     When we entered, I saw a couple people flash their identification badge.  Oh oh, could be an employee’s entrance.  Still, I figured my age and demeanor would get me past the security guard.    And I was right.  He didn’t challenge me.  But then all the people I followed in boarded an elevator.  Uh, this is where we part, I thought.

     So I wandered the back hallways of this building until I heard bells and loud voices.  The casino, yes!  All resort hotels in Las Vegas have one.  Almost there.  So I exited the employee area into the casino, then the resort and finally moved swiftly to find the front door where I’d left my wife.  I found the check-in area.  But no front door.  When I asked for help, I was directed to this underground drop-off zone where cabs and people with suitcases were darting about.  But this wasn’t where I’d dropped off Wendy.

     Again, I asked for assistance and was directed back the way I came.  Somebody pointed me to the check-in desk.  I saw people sitting near there but my wife was not among them.  I ascended some stairs and wandered around fruitlessly.  Back down the stairs, I went again to that underground parking garage.  Again, I asked for assistance.  This time a valet must have guessed what was wrong.

     “What hotel front desk are you looking for?”

     “The Bellagio,” I said.

     “This is the Cosmopolitan,” he responded, and he directed me to the Bellagio, which somehow took another block of walking to get to.  Thankfully my wife had found herself a place to sit and rest while I wandered aimlessly for close to an hour.

      And, as it turns out, had I turned the right way when I’d first parked my vehicle and exited my vehicle, it was a very short walk to where my wife was sitting.  In fact, it would have been a shorter walk from the parking structure (had I done it correctly) than it was from the front door where I’d dropped her off.

     After stressful events like that, I need another vacation.  This time at some place I know.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Draft Appeal to Pennsylvania


We received this week notice of a toll and fine incurred when we entered and exited the Pennsylvania turnpike during a recent trip out east.  We wish to appeal this exorbitant and outrageous assessment ($75) which we were instructed in the letter that we can do without further penalty.

During our trip through Pennsylvania we encountered many tolls on the turnpike and dutifully paid for them all.  We had not intended to use toll roads however on our return trip west as we were running low on our cash.  However, when we drove off the expressway to find a cup of coffee, which we never did, our Garmin navigation device directed us onto the turnpike.

When we pulled up to the ticket booth, we discovered there was none, only lanes for EZ-Pass vehicles.  As we're from Michigan which has no toll roads, we do not carry EZ-Pass.  We felt, that since backing up on the turnpike might be dangerous, we had no choice but to exit at our next opportunity, which we did.

We could have tried to explain the situation to the toll collector at that exit but the turnpike was busy and I did not want to cause a traffic jam as we tried to explain what happened.  I was also worried that we would be assessed the maximum toll which we could not have paid.  If you have photographic evidence that we exited at that point, then you can verify similarly that we entered the turnpike at the junction directly to the south.

As senior citizens not accustomed to busy thoroughfares, we have missed tolls in the past and have paid the fine, toll or both but in Florida, Maryland and Illinois this only amounted to less than $20, not nearly the amount assessed by your state.  We don't feel we were severely miscreant in our driving decisions given our circumstances.  Since I believe our actions were prudent and understandable we're asking that the toll and fine be reduced or waived.

Sincerely . . .

P.S.  I blame Garmin.  See previous blog.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Finding Roots

     During a trip out east this month to visit our son near Washington DC my wife and I made a side trip to the Philadelphia area where Wendy was born and grew up until she was about 13 when she moved to Michigan.  She was armed with maps and copies of documents found on the internet.  We were on a mission to find her ancestors.

     In particular, she was looking for the graves of her father, her grandparents on her mother’s side as well as the final resting place of her great-grandfather.  These were all located near Philadelphia.  She’d never been to visit them before. 

     We were putting a lot of trust in our ancestral internet research as well as in our Garmin to find these places.  I don’t trust Garmin all that much either as our navigational device sometimes wants us to go off-the-beaten track, once telling us to take the wrong exit when we were only miles from our house.

    “Where’s she going?” I asked.

    “She doesn’t know,” Wendy replied.

     Wonderful, as we’d be navigating through busy and crowded streets, highways and roads adjacent to Philadelphia.  We did find our first cemetery without issue, a sprawling property on a hill overlooking Philadelphia’s downtown skyline.   Finding the grave of her great-grandfather proved a tougher test.  So we checked at the office.

     Two matronly looking ladies looked up as we entered and stood at the counter then asked if they could help us.    “Is there any rhyme or reason to this place?” Wendy asked, causing them to flinch a bit.  Then Wendy pulled out her paper and the women began checking computers and pulling file drawers.  With their help, we found great-granddad, his headstone heralding his volunteer service in the Spanish American War.

     The next cemetery to visit was where Wendy’s father was buried.  He died when Wendy was still quite young and living with her mother as the two had divorced.  So she never knew his final resting place.  We had the name of the cemetery but not the address. 

     Could Garmin help us out?  As my three-year-old grandson often says, “Uhhhhhh, no.”  Very frustrating as our navigational device can give you the exact address of any Dunkin Donut within 70 miles (seriously, it did this once when we were looking for a bakery), but try searching for a prominent local cemetery and it comes up empty.  It did give us the church address, however.

      So we went there.  By the way, the neighborhoods where Wendy and her relatives lived have become quite run down and are now what could be called blighted urban districts.  Not places where you want to be at night.  Even in the daytime a local library even had a police guard at the check-out station.  And the church we located via Garmin had a parking lot surrounded by a ten-foot tall chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

     While I waited in the car, Wendy had to ring an intercom, then explain what she wanted before they would buzz her in.  But she did get in and we did get the cemetery address, arriving just before the office closed—good thing too since we would have never found her father’s grave on our own.  Wendy had me query the office lady for help this time since I complained she could have been more diplomatic on our first go-round.

     We did find her father’s grave, a serviceman’s grave as he served in the Navy during World War II.  Wendy called out who she was, introduced me, then we took some pictures before moving on.  Found the gate where we had come in was now locked.  And I knew the office was closed too.  We hadn’t seen another entrance but after driving to a dead end or two, pun not intended, we finally discovered a road to the main gate, still open.

     The last cemetery we found quite quickly.  No, Garmin didn’t step up its game.  There was a sign on the main road that took us right to the cemetery.  Garmin was actually trying to take us down the road farther.  Maybe it just doesn’t like going to cemeteries.  Superstitious perhaps?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Now Here's Bounty!


Oh, it may look like a garden with its broad green leaves spreading out in all directions, but as far as a vegetable-producing garden, it’s woefully underproduced.  And the pun is intended.

One thing I was looking forward to in retirement is bragging about our garden.  That’s typical among seniors right?  We have the time, patience and knowledge to do it right.

I thought this was going to be my year.  I had time to water.  There would be no long vacations where my garden would feel abandoned.  I constructed an elevated planter box and loaded it up with premium soil.  I even fertilized occasionally.  So almost eight weeks later and what have I gotten?  A six-inch zucchini and two crookneck yellow squash that I had to convince my wife were edible despite their mutated appearance.  

The green peppers that started to grow called it quits and dropped off the vine.  Our radishes and onions have done even less.  They haven’t even started to grow.

And there does not appear to be anything happening in our elevated box garden to infuse us with any hope for the rest of this year.  There were blooms galore in our squash plants with bees apparently pollinating everything in sight.  At times it must have been a bee orgy behind all that green.  But then just the two squash and not even a ‘baby bump’ in the remaining plants.  Somebody was practicing safe pollination apparently.

I’m not ready to call it a total wash.  I have two plants that are producing numerous edible vegetables.  Except that one is producing jalapeño peppers while the other is producing even more potent bright red thai peppers.

If you’re not familiar with thai peppers, there’s a scene in the movie Dumb and Dumber where the protagonists stuff a fellow traveler’s burger with thai peppers while he is occupied elsewhere.  When the traveler returns and bites into the burger, peppers and all, it sets in place a tragic set of circumstances that results in the man’s death.  

So then, is my garden messing with me?  Is it saying, “C’mon Dave.  Lots of jalapeno and thai peppers to munch on” while inwardly the vegetables are all snickering to themselves. 

I feel like that character in Little Shop of Horrors who, after failing to get his plant to thrive, laments, “I’ve tried you at levels of moisture from desert to mud; I’ve given you grow lights and mineral supplements; what do you want from me, blood?”

Well, maybe, but I am going to have to draw a line somewhere.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I Try To Help

     I really do.  It’s just that sometimes you know in your heart that what you did is not enough.  And it’s not a happy moment.

     One such incident occurred in our front yard.  Maybe it’s because I’m retired that I pay attention more to the drama that occurs in the yard.  I shoo squirrels from our bird feeder.  I give a shout out to the robins building nests in my trees and in the crook of a downspout.   Then one morning there was a flurry of activity near a maple out front.  My wife peeked through a window and cried out that there was a robin’s nest that had fallen to the sidewalk below.

     I went out to inspect.  There were three fledgling robins on the sidewalk around the remains of their nest.  They were far too small to survive on their own.  One seemed to have died in the fall; the other two were barely breathing.  I left thinking maybe the parent robins would somehow try to intervene and save the youngsters.  But they did not.

     Later I checked again to find only one robin alive, but trying to stand upright on the sidewalk.  Its two siblings were dead.  This robin was slumped over and I expected him to expire soon.  But hours later, he was still standing at the same place on the sidewalk.  So Wendy and I took a broom and shovel, got him onto the shovel and put him under a bush.  He tweeted loudly when he looked up and saw me.  No, I said to him.  I’m not your mother.

     That evening I checked underneath the bush and the baby robin was gone.  Had a predator found him?  Perhaps a neighborhood cat?  Then I heard a loud “tweet, tweet, tweet” and here comes this baby robin bounding in my direction.  “No, no, no—I said I wasn’t your mother,” I told him. I quickly left the area, hoping the mother would swoop in to assume her role.  I never saw her, but I also never saw the baby again. I searched the yard for him or her, dead or alive.  Nothing.  It’s possible that maybe it survived.  But I honestly doubt it.

      A second incident occurred just today when Wendy and I drove to downtown Ann Arbor shopping for a gift.  We weren't successful so we were getting ready to head out.  We were parked on the third level of a multi-level structure and as we got to our car, we could see this other car trying to pull into a spot next to a concrete stanchion.

     We both waved to get her attention because she had zero clearance between the concrete pillar and the passenger side of her car.  She stopped moving so I thought she was okay (I didn't know it was a she at the time; I just assumed).  Then we heard a kerchunkety-KERCHUNK.  Oh, oh.  She must have hit it.  Then another kerchunkety-KERCHUNK.  She seemed bound and determined that the concrete roof support was going to move.  It didn't.

     She got out of her car, saw her predicament and became very  distraught.  Seemed about college age.  So we hurried over to see if we could help.  I was thinking we could guide her out of this mess but instead she handed her keys to me asking me to get it out.  Wonderful.

      So I tried going one way.  kerchunkety-KERCHUNK.  Not the right way.  And I could see the side view mirror on the passenger side going next if I went any further.  With Wendy's help we got her out of her spot without more damage, which was already substantial.  I didn't see it myself but I could tell by the look on Wendy's face when she checked it herself after the car was free.  Made me wonder if we should have intervened sooner.   In hindsight, yes.  The young girl thanked me anyway before driving away.

     You just wish your good deeds could turn out a little better.