Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Feeling Forgotten

     I’m still here.  But lately feeling quite ignored outside the blog world.

     I had to follow up on three fronts today as it appeared that I had been snubbed—by my pharmacist/doctor, by a home improvement company, and finally by my own state of Michigan (where is my tax refund?  I should have received it weeks ago).

     So I called the pharmacy as I’d dropped off a prescription re-fill request last Friday.  They had to get approval from my doctor but these are maintenance medications and they should know the drill by now.  It should take a day at most.  But five days later, today, the pharmacy still says they don’t have the permission necessary to do the refills.  This has happened before . . . the pharmacy blames the doctor and the doctor blames the pharmacy.  I’m thinking I either need a new pharmacy or new doctor, or both.

    Last Friday we had a contractor and a Lowe’s project specialist come to measure and give us an estimate for replacing our kitchen cabinets.   I thought we would get an estimate when they were here.  No, they said they would get back with me Monday or Tuesday.  It’s Wednesday and still no estimate.  I e-mailed the Lowe’s specialist, who took our $75 deposit, and she blamed the internet, saying she had an e-mail “resent” to the contractor asking for his numbers.   At the end of the day though, still no quote.

    But those two situations were easier than dealing with the bureaucracy of our fine state of Michigan.  They suggest, or rather DEMAND, that you find out what’s going on with your tax refund by going on-line, which I did.  There, it said that my tax return was completed and I should get my money within a couple days.

   That was last Friday.  So today, when no money arrived, I wanted to follow up further.  That’s when the fun started.   The treasury department only lists an automatic call center phone number in its tax forms.  When I called and jumped through the necessary hoops to get information, a recording said my tax return was completed on February 22 and that I owed $56.

     What????  I was expecting a refund of over $500.  Something was seriously amiss.  But try to find a phone number of someone who could help.  I checked the phone book.  There is actually a phone number listed for the state fishery office here in my hometown of Saline.  They don’t even have any sizable lakes or rivers near here, let along any sizable fish.  Lots of other state of Michigan phone numbers too but nothing for the treasury.

   Well, I had a phone number for my state representative as we’re always getting flyers from her office in our mail.  But when I called, her office spokesperson just repeated, almost verbatim, the same information that was in the tax forms that I got.  Even my own state representative can’t give me the phone number for the treasury department?   Kinda sad.

    There was an option on-line to submit an inquiry on your tax refund status, so I did that.  They actually got back to me rather quickly . . . saying I should wait to hear something in two weeks.  So my tax return was completed a month ago and I owe $56, or I should be getting my refund any day, or I should hear something in two weeks.  Take your pick.

     There’s more reasons I feel non-existent lately.  Through Ancestry.com I discovered my wife has a first cousin that she’s never heard of, let alone met.  So I sent him a message saying, “Hello”, giving a little personal ancestry information about my wife and asking how they might be related.  That was a week ago.  No response.  Zippo.

     Then today my wife Wendy was going to send me a cute picture of our grandson, sent to her cell phone by our oldest son.  But when she tried finding me among her contacts on her phone, she had difficulty.  “Usually your name and e-mail address pops right up, but it’s not there anymore.”

     *sigh*

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hangin' with Owen

        I just love this picture.  It’s very unusual for me to like a picture of myself enough to post it here on my blog but this one next to my youngest grandson Owen I couldn’t resist posting.  He is such a ham too.   Loves to have his picture taken and has a ready smile each time.  “Cheese,” is one of about a dozen words he knows.

     We watch Owen one day a week, giving his parents’ other babysitter a break.   A little boy old enough to run and play but not necessarily old enough to know better is a challenge at times to grandma and grandpa.  But it’s fun hangin’ with Owen.    We have a simple routine on Tuesdays that involve naps, playtime, meals and usually an outing.  For example, we attend a library program for babies.  Owen has been going since before he could walk so at 15 months old he's a veteran now.

      What’s been most fascinating lately is watching his speech develop.   He’s a regular chatterbox though most of what he “says” is gibberish.  Or is it?  Occasionally we’ll here him say, “Yeah” or “Okay” and it seems in perfect context.

     One day my wife Wendy was changing his diaper and as he wriggled and squirmed, seeming ly distracted by the attention he was getting, my wife asked, “Are you going to pee on me?”

      “Yeah, maybe,” Owen said (we swear).

     More recently we watched all three grandsons one night.   Though we have plenty of toys for them to play with here, Owen often prefers playing with things we wish he wouldn’t handle.  Like our TV remote.  One time we discovered that we’d lost our WiFi connection to Netflix.  Who knows how that happened but Wendy blamed Owen and his penchant for manhandling remotes.

      “So blame the only kid in the room who can’t talk,” I pointed out.

      “Yeah,” Owen said, responding perfectly on cue.

      Besides saying ‘yeah’, he was for a while saying “Yay-yeah”.  With great gusto too.  During a group read at our library’s book babies session, he would suddenly call out “Yay-yeah!”  So the librarian led us reading, “Corduroy went outside to play.”  And Owen shouted out “Yay-yeah.”  He did it more than once too.  I observed that it made our group read sound more like a revival meeting.

      Yesterday, he seemed to even put words together.  I took him down the basement and he spotted a bucket of plastic toy pieces.  “What is that?” he seemed to say.  Could be another milestone in his speech development—forming sentences.  But what made me feel even better is when he called out, “Bampa.” 

     May not be ‘grandpa’, but it was close enough for me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lost And Found


  Mid-winter.  Jigsaw puzzle time if you’re a retiree like us in Michigan.  We have four puzzles in our to-do bucket this season including a 1,000-piece challenge puzzle—all kittens and pink flowers.  Very hard.  Ordinarily we can knock out such a puzzle in a couple days.  But this challenge puzzle took us a week.  Then when we finished fitting all the pieces together, we discovered to our dismay we were missing a piece.


   It goes without saying that as we enter our golden years, each day is a lost and found of sorts.  It’s where did I put this or where did I leave that.  Doesn’t help that as you age you accumulate stuff to the point where your home resembles a cross between a museum and a re-sale consignment store.  Stuff is EVERYWHERE.

     But a puzzle piece?  We did move the puzzle from one room to another to make space on our kitchen table for dinner and guests but still an errant jigsaw puzzle piece should stand out on the floor or the carpet.  This one didn’t.  I checked nooks, crannies, under furniture . . . anywhere I thought a piece might have fallen.  No luck.

    This wasn’t the first thing to go missing this week either.  We’re planning an Alaska trip for 2018 and I had a collection of trip documents stored away.  But stored where?  I knew I had moved them from the usual spot next to my computer as the computer had to be moved to accommodate guests over the holidays.

     But when the holidays were over and normality returned, the trip documents didn’t.  I checked every closet, drawer and storage bin in every room of the house.  My wife suggested I even try checking our cars, thinking somehow they got left in there.  Finally, I moved some poster frames that had been resting against a bookcase in the basement and there sat a plastic bag with the documents.  It’d taken me a day to find them.

     Then another day I could not find my favorite stocking hat.  This “Quicksilver” knit hat I had bought in Maine many, many years ago and I found it to be the best protection for my ears during the blast of arctic air we’ve experienced in Michigan lately.  Again, I looked everywhere I normally would have put winter outerwear.  I came up empty.

     I looked atop our piano in the living room thinking I might have tossed it up there without thinking (leaving things somewhere without thinking has become quite commonplace).  It wasn’t there but I saw an empty plastic bag atop the piano.  I recognized it as the bag that contained our challenge puzzle.  When I grabbed it, I discovered there was still a piece inside.  YES!  Our missing puzzle piece.

    And my missing stocking hat turned out to be not in our house at all.  I’d left it at a bar the previous afternoon.  When I went to the bar on a hunch it might be there, they checked their own lost and found.  There it was. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Santa Trauma





    As you can tell from the reactions of my one-year-old grandchildren, Santa doesn't automatically instill smiles in the youngest.  And Gwen should share some kinship with the guy in the red and white suit, having been born Christmas day last year herself.  Owen is usually all smiles.  Not in his Santa photo though.

     I remember trying to coax my first grandson Grant into visiting with the mall Santa one day when I was babysitting him.  I believe he was about three-years-old at the time.

     "Don't you like Santa?" I asked.

     "I do," he responded emphatically.

     "Then don't you want to go say 'hi' to him?"

     "I don't," he said just as emphatically. 

      This past week while shopping in a mall, I witnessed what appeared to be a mother and grandfather trying to coax a boy about four-years-old to visit Santa Claus who was on a raised platform overlooking the center of the mall.

     "Don't you want to come say 'hi'? Santa called out to the little guy.

     "No, thank you," the boy said politely.

     But the mom and Santa must have been persistent because after I had visited a shop at the other end of the mall and returned, the boy was up there on Santa's lap.  It must have taken some time and effort, but he was finally persuaded to enter Santa's realm.

     Just briefly, however.  Something on stage spooked the little guy and he took off running, down the ramp past a menagerie of stuffed animals out into the mall.  He sailed past his grandpa who stood watching him go down the wide aisle not looking back for anything.

     "He won't stop running," his mom advised Santa's crew as she broke off into a trot herself after the boy who had disappeared into a nearby department store, still at full gallop.  One of Santa's helpers took off in pursuit as well.

     Eventually they re-appeared with the little guy who had been told that "Santa has a present for you."  That was apparently enough to secure his return to Santa's lap.

    If only that was enough for all the little girls and boys who visit with Santa each Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Life Lately


     Happy Halloween!

     Wait, that was yesterday.  Life's been like that lately . . . breezing by before I have a chance to recollect.  I wanted to have a new blog up before my favorite holiday.  Obviously, that didn't work out.

     The picture above is the pumpkin I carved from a stencil you could print free on-line.  Taking into account that I have absolutely no artistic still, I thought I did pretty good.  What I'm better at is decorating my yard ghoulishly to entertain the trick-or-treaters.

      Even that wasn't enough this year.  Besides the faux graveyard, besides the skeletons being projected dancing and prowling onto a screen in my darkened garage, besides the coffins lying occupied by scary dummies by my porch--besides all that, I dressed in a skeleton costume myself and sat quietly among the yard horrors.

       I wasn't trying to scare the little ones.  I'd see parents tugging on their little one's sleeve, telling them, "It's all pretend" as they viewed my macabre trappings.  But while the elders urged their progeny forward, they looked my way with an expression that said, "Don't scare my kid."  So I kept still.

      Then a large group of older youngsters approached, excitedly saying how much they enjoyed my Halloween decorations.  But one young girl couldn't keep her eye off me, not sure whether I was just another yard dummy or real.  A friend urged her to go closer to make sure.  So she approached, closer and closer.  Finally I had to move, so I flinched.

      That sent her fleeing towards the safety of the sidewalk, loudly alerting her friends that I was, indeed, real.  Panic ensued and the youngsters scattered like a frightened school of fish.  "I don't think all of them got candy," my wife handing out treats nearby deadpanned to me.  Hey.  Not my fault.

     Our grandsons had come over a couple days earlier, showing off their costumes to us.  We prepared their favorite spaghetti dinner for them;.  But I teased four-year-old Luke, saying he needed to eat his broccoli salad before he could enjoy his spaghetti.

      Very seriously, Luke informed me, "I can't eat broccoli."  His mother urged him to tell me why.  So Luke recounted, "I was at Keena's (his babysitter) and she gave me broccoli for lunch and I choked on it.  So, I can't have broccoli."  I guess it's either true or a good story.  Either way, he didn't eat broccoli with us.

     When we were shopping for this dinner at the local Wal-Mart, Wendy scanned the receipt for the  items we purchased.  Something did not seem right.  This Wal-Mart does not put individual price stickers on its grocery items so you have to rely on memory to determine whether you're being charged correctly.  Wendy swore that the six-pack of soft drinks she bought cost $3.50, not $3.98.

     She went back to the service desk to complain.  The service desk called for a price check.   A supervisor had to be consulted.  Finally, the store agreed.  They would give her 48 cents.  Not so fast though.  If there is a scanner error, which this was, shouldn't she by law get ten times the error?

     The clerk looked perturbed.  My wife hadn't asked to be reimbursed for a 'scanning error' so she wasn't given the penalty.  Wendy said she thought it should have been automatic, but she still wanted it nonetheless.  Another call to a supervisor.  More waiting.  More hoops to jump through.
 
     Big stores like Wal-Mart don't make it easy.  But when you get to be a senior, you don't make it easy on them either.  In the end, Wendy got the penalty and scored $4.80.  Boo-yeah, as I like to say.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Long Road to Jeopardy

    I've been remiss in posting here.  Indeed, I've been absent from the blogworld for quite some time.   For much of the past month we've been on the road.  We visited our baby granddaughter and her family in St. Louis, Missouri, for part of that time.  Then we hit the road in our mini-van, touring the far west with stops in Seattle, Yosemite, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    The climax of all this was our afternoon at Sony Studios in Culver City where we sat in the audience watching a taping of Jeopardy with Alex Trebec.  Wendy and I have long been fans of the show and watch nearly every night we can.  I reserved two tickets on-line (they're free) over a month before our trip so we planned our travels accordingly.

    Neither of us had been to the live taping of a TV show; well, unless you include the local Captain Muddy show where I was among a group of kids who were lucky enough to appear.  I was five or six years old at the time.  What I remember most is getting a confectionary treat afterwards.  Nothing about the show itself.

    First thing we learned upon being admitted to the Jeopardy studio is that there is a pecking order of sort for audience guests.  There are friends and families of the contestants, production guests, VIP passes and the ordinary visitor's pass.  We were the latter, of course.

   One lady who showed up at the security check-in with her husband announced haughtily, "We have VIP passes."  Instead of a wristband like we got, they got a patch to put on their pant leg with a comment that it would be less visible if the camera panned in their direction.  This couple wanted their VIP perks too, quickly securing a golf cart ride to the studio entrance when the gentleman seemed to be asking my wife if she wanted a ride--Wendy was limping a little with her bad knee.

    But they were seated in the same section we were, only a few rows closer to the stage.  Friends and families of the contestants seem to fill most of the other section which had better sightlines and got most of the attention from Alex and crew.  Wendy had a hard time seeing over the heads of the folks in front of her.

     Very busy studio.  All sorts of goings-on with make-up people, cameramen, technicians, judges, stage managers and Alex Trebec himself who appears much as he does when you watch him at home:  very personable and witty.

     But . . . something we didn't learn until we sat in the audience, Alex does screw up.  You just never see it in the show.  Bloopers are edited out.  Once he said somebody had earned $45,000 when he'd only earned $4,500.  Wendy thinks they'll keep that blooper in.  I think it'll end up on the cutting room floor.  Besides occasionally mis-reading a word in a question, which only requires Alex to do an off-camera voice-over correction, he once read the wrong question entirely.  That really messed things up and required a "cut" and lengthy taping delay.

     So the live taping in itself was a fascinating experience.  But what made it more special is that, without knowing it when I had reserved the tickets, we ended up at the annual Tournament of Champions.  Wow!  That's like going to a professional baseball game and finding out when you get there that it's the all-star game.  Awesome!

     However, an usher beckoned to us after we had been seated awhile.  They needed our seats to make room for more family of the contestants.  What????  After spending days checking on-line for Jeopardy tickets and driving 3,000 miles, we were being ejected?

     No.  As it turned out, the usher sat us in the section reserved for the tournament of champions contestants.  In the front row too!  Using the baseball analogy again, that's like getting pulled from the stands during the all-star game and being seated in the dugout with the players.  How cool is that.  We were in Jeopardy heaven.  The Jeopardy director himself came over to make sure the new seating arrangement was satisfactory for us.

     I SO wanted to turn around, locate that needy couple who stole my wife's ride and call out,  "Who's the VIPs now?" 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bloodlines

           I’m not sure what TV commercials are playing in your neighborhood, but it seems like we’re always seeing the Ancestry.com commercial where they urge you to purchase a DNA test to reveal your ancestral roots.

           My wife Wendy did that a few months ago.  And as Ancestry.com advertises can happen in their commercials, the results were a little surprising.  I wish I could say the results made searching her genealogical past a little easier.   But it just made me wonder about the validity of DNA testing.

           Up front, I’ll say I’m no fan of Ancestry.com.  They make researching your ancestral past very much a hit or miss affair.  For example, you can search among their public family trees to try to find other family members who have already researched your surname. That’s the easiest way to research, right?  Build upon what others have already done.

         But say you’re researching an unusual surname, for example “Kermitfrog.”  So searching through its database of public family trees, Ancestry.com says there are none of those exact surnames.  Not a surprise.  OK, try checking names “similar” to “Kermitfrog.”  Still zip.  So how about names that sound like “Kermitfrog.”  Bingo.  Now I’ve got 189,596 hits and it starts me with hits 1 through 10.

      That’s the way it is at Ancestry.com’s website.  You either get inundated with a ton of data that turns out to be almost worthless.  Or you get nothing.   To me it’s like going to the librarian and asking where to find a book on a specific literary quotation.  Either they’ll tell you they don’t have one, or they’ll tell you, “Try over there in the reference section.”

     The cynic in me believes that Ancestry.com wants to slow your genealogical research to a crawl so that you’ll be a paying customer for life.  Anyway, I use the free Ancestry.com service available at the library which, I found out, operates differently and less informatively than the service you pay for.  Wonderful.

     Anyway, back to my wife’s DNA results.  According to Ancestry.com, she’s mostly of English descent.  But according to every bloodline I traced back to the Old Country, her ancestors came from Germany.  And she herself came from Pennsylvania Dutch country, another indication of German heritage.  Her Ancestry DNA test confirms that, in fact, her ancestors were among Pennsylvania’s early settlers.  Even Ancestry.com lists of my wife’s “DNA cousins” show people whose public family trees purport that their ancestors emigrated from Germanic territories.

      Something is very odd here.

      There was a news item today that reported doubt over the Biblical account describing the genocide of the Canaanites.  The news story stated that DNA testing showed that the descendants of the Canaanites are alive and living in Lebanon.


     Well, if Ancestry.com was in charge of this DNA testing, I’d get another opinion.