The Blunder Years

It’s been said that teenagers are the reason some species eat their young.  I’m assuming that came from somebody who had an unruly teen in the house.  Just one.  Because when it comes to teens, you don’t need a whole litter.  One is more than enough.

Teens are a form of life that exists somewhere between childhood and getting a clue.  And much like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, there’s a metamorphosis involved.  The problem is, they don’t spend that time in a cocoon to keep them under wraps and protect the rest of us.  They just make us wish they did.

It’s not that I don’t like teens.  I do.  To me, teenagers represent the future of our world, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.  But watching teens is like watching waves at the beach.  Most times they come and go without much fanfare and they don’t leave too much destruction in their wake.  But you always know that somewhere out there lurks a rogue wave that can really screw things up.  Some of them grow up to be politicians.

My daughters seem to have a much more vivid recollection of their teenage years than I do, and it wasn’t that long ago.  It’s not that I’m too old to remember.  It’s just Mother Nature’s way of preserving what little shred of sanity I have left.  Which probably explains why Dad doesn’t remember too much about my high school days.

High school graduating classes will typically vote one person “most likely to succeed.”  Well my class voted me “most likely to serve time.”  Okay, I’m kidding.  To most of my graduating class, I was “Dave who?”  I had a small group of friends, but I pretty much kept to myself.  And I wasn’t a bad kid, but I got in a little trouble on occasion.  Nothing involving the police, so it could have been worse.

I grew up in the seventies, and back then we were still in an era of tranquility left over from the sixties.  School violence was pretty much limited to the locker room bully or a couple of guys fighting over a girl.  Most of us smoked pot, and underage drinking was a bit of a problem.  But that was pretty much the extent of our misconduct.

It wasn’t that we didn’t get into trouble.  We did.  In fact, most of us probably wanted to get in a little more trouble, but we just didn’t quite know how.  We knew there were things in life we were missing, but we were still just a too naïve to take that next step.

But to our parents, the trouble we got into was bad enough.  Back then it was absolutely devastating to find out your kid had tried marijuana.  Today it’s like, “Is that it?”  I’m not saying it’s something we’ve come to accept, but it’s not the social sin it was when we were growing up.  It’s funny how time changes our perspective.

I think of some of the things my daughters did, especially my oldest.  It seems to work that way.  The older ones tend to be trailblazers, setting off into uncharted territory with nothing but a sense of adventure to guide them.  Their younger siblings sit back and watch to see where the mistakes are made, and the severity of the consequences.  Then they use that information to keep from making the same mistakes themselves.  In other words, they’re just a lot better at not getting caught.

As the father of two daughters, nobody ever accused me of being too permissive.  And I wasn’t known for an overabundance of trust, especially where boys were involved.  I told my oldest one time that I was going to buy an old car and never bring it home.  When she asked why, I said, “Because you’ll never know if that’s me in the rearview mirror.”  I was dead serious.

I could tell you stories, like the time I flipped out when my daughter put on a pair of shorts to wear to the race track.  In my mind she was just trying to look good for the boys.  And fifteen years later, one word comes to mind … DUH!!!  A teenage girl trying to look attractive?  You mean like they did when I was her age?

And maybe that’s part of the problem.  We look at the things our kids do and we’re reminded of how we were at that age.  I know the thoughts that ran through my mind when I saw an attractive girl.  And boys haven’t changed much over the years.  If anything, they’re bolder now than we ever were.  That’s okay.  I’m old enough to own a gun.

My oldest used to get so upset with me for sneaking around to find out the things she was doing when she was sneaking around.  “That’s not fair!”  I’m sorry, who’s writing the rules?  Because it seems to me that kids aren’t always that forthcoming when they decide to break the rules.  “Dad, I’ve decided this rule about not drinking sucks.  So when I go to the party Friday night, I want you to know I’ll be breaking that rule all night long.  Can I borrow the car?”

So sometimes we have to employ a little creative strategy of our own to stay on top of what they’re doing.  I probably carried that to an extreme at times, but I had their best interests at heart.  I’ve often told my daughters that I’ll apologize for any time I’ve ever hurt their feelings or done something completely wrong, but I’ll never apologize for doing what I thought was right.

Now that they’re a little older, they’re finally starting to understand a little of what was going through my mind.  Not that they agree, but at least they can understand.  And it’s funny watching my oldest with her son, who is a mere two years from becoming a teenager.  I could swear I’ve heard some of those words before!

Yet, as a grandparent who doesn’t have to deal with the daily discipline, I can step back and look at things from a different perspective.  I remember thinking my nephew was the spawn of Satan as he chased the girls around the yard with a pocket knife, and my dad saying, “Oh, he’s just being a boy.”  Funny, I hear those words a little more often these days, too.

And as I look back on my own days of raising two daughters, I can laugh at some of the things that were such a big deal to me.  My mom used to always ask, “Will it matter twenty years from now?”  I never fully understood those words until I became a grandfather.  That’s okay.  As I recall, she didn’t always feel that way when I screwed up.

The thing is, kids aren’t that different than they were when we were younger.  They have more to occupy their minds, especially in terms of technology and entertainment.  Of course, we can always use that technology to our advantage.  “You’re at Becky’s house?  Her mom is there?  Take a picture with your cell phone and send it to me.  Now.  You have thirty seconds.”

But kids are way ahead of us on that.  It doesn’t take them long to realize they can store a whole album of cell phone photos to fit any situation.  The picture they send may be months old. Which brings us back to square one.  At some point, we have to loosen the rope and hope for the best.  And that requires trust – lots of it.  Or just tell them to have somebody take a picture of them in the clothes they were wearing when the left the house.  See, I’m not entirely gullible!

Life is all about passing along the torch.  Our parents passed it to us, and we’ll pass it on to the generation that comes behind us.  We do the best we can to prepare them for that day, to teach them how to carry that torch without setting something ablaze.  But in the end, we have to have faith in them to do the right thing.  I think I’ve carried the torch pretty well.  And as I look at the two I raised, I believe it’ll be in pretty good hands.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Weekend Message – March 5, 2011

What a week it’s been.  It’s been a roller coaster ride to say the least, but we all made it to the weekend, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

For those who just jumped on board, the week started on a really high note as I was enjoying a tremendous response to the article I posted on February 25.  All told, nearly 10,000 people viewed that piece.  For any writer, that’s a dream come true.  Then came Monday, and the news that my daughter had lost her unborn baby.  We may never know the reasons why, but the important thing is we still have one another.  And we have another little angel to help us through the rough times.

Thanks so much for all of you who offered your thoughts and prayers, and for those who offered prayer in private.  It means more than I could possibly say.  My daughter is back home and picking up the pieces.  It’ll take a while, but she’ll be okay.  We all will.

And thanks to those of you who offered your opinions last weekend when I asked for feedback on my writing.  I think the general consensus was that you prefer a mix of humor and inspiration, so that’s what I’ve tried to deliver this week.  Every day I wonder what I’ll write about next, and every day something seems to pop into my head.  If a day comes that you don’t hear from me, you’ll know the muse took a day off.  Hopefully that won’t happen any time soon.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my grand plans for tackling some household projects, and I’m happy to report that I have gotten some things done.  Not the things that were on my list, mind you.  My wife discovered the paint section in our local hardware store, and that one moved to the top of the list.  So last weekend I painted our bedroom, and this weekend I’m moving into the hallway and living room.  Seems the old “honey-do” list never runs dry.

For any of you who are in the southern Ohio area, I’ll be performing at the Dayton Funny Bone next weekend (March 10-13) with headliner Greg Warren.  This is my home club, and it’s always nice to be with old friends.  I’ll be hosting the shows, so my time onstage will be short, but I’m sure we’ll have a good time.  If you’re in the area and could use a laugh, come on out.

Thanks again to all of you for coming along, and for sharing a really emotional week with me.  If you’ve found any inspiration in my posts, I hope you’ll share the link with a few friends.  Remember how parties got started when you were in high school?  “Psst … party at Dave’s house tonight!”  Well, this is pretty much the same.  And the more the merrier, so don’t be shy.

Be sure to stay tuned for information on the new Health & Humor website.  If all goes well, it’ll be up and running within the next ten days, with daily features from lots of different writers on topics that will help us all find a little more humor and make the most of life. 

That’s it for now.  Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your day.  Have a fantastic weekend!


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What Are You Worried About?

Comedian Ron White tells a funny story about flying from Flagstaff, Arizona to Phoenix.  Shortly after takeoff, the plane experienced engine problems and had to return to Flagstaff.  According to Ron, the guy seated next to him was losing it because “apparently he had a lot to live for.”  The nervous passenger asked, “How far can this plane fly on only one engine?”  Ron calmly answered, “All the way to the scene of the crash!”

The plane landed safely, and the only casualties were the inconvenience of an unplanned travel delay and a few vandalized seat cushions.  But I’m sure there were some tense moments onboard, especially among those seated in the back of the plane.  Few things are more nerve-wracking than going through a potential emergency where you’re only along for the ride.

Worry is a natural reaction to situations where the outcome is unknown and potentially unpleasant.  There’s not a person alive who can honestly say they never worry about anything.  We’re all guilty of letting fear and uncertainty take control of our thoughts, at least to some extent.

My pastor is probably grinning as he reads this, because it’s proof I didn’t sleep through last week’s sermon.  And as he spoke, I realized this is a topic that absolutely has to be covered in the context of health and humor, because laughter is the natural enemy of fear.  The two don’t exist very well together, and when you put the two head-to-head, laughter usually wins.  At least for the moment.

In his sermon, my pastor said worry is the advance interest we pay on troubles that seldom come.  That’s a powerful statement.  Other people have modified that to say worry is advance interest paid on a debt that’s never collected.  Either way, the meaning is about the same.  It’s energy spent dealing with a reality that may never come to pass.  So why do we do it?

First of all, because we’re human beings with a brain that can process a scenario as it unfolds and recognize the possible consequences.  Even animals worry.  Take dogs, for instance.  With most dogs, you can tell just by the way they act that they’ve done something wrong.  It’s not a guilty conscience.  It’s anticipation of the inevitable consequences for what they did.

We had a dog years ago that had a bad habit of leaving unwanted “gifts” around the house.  He knew he would get in trouble for it.  So he started learning to hide it.  For a while he tried hiding it behind the couch.  Then he learned to hide it behind a door.  Smart, huh?

So one night we put him in our room and shut the door, thinking he’d wake us up if he had to go.  No, he went behind the door.  The closed door.  The door that I had to drag through his pile of you-know-what so I could get to the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper.  Before I even got out of bed, he was hanging his head with his tail plastered against his belly.  He knew.  And his worry was well justified, because Daddy collected payment on that debt. 

Sometimes worry can’t be avoided.  Like when you’re waiting for the results of a biopsy.  Telling somebody not to worry about their health is like telling me to just reach down and pet that nice little rattlesnake – it won’t bite.  And the truth is, maybe it won’t.  Well, in my case I’m sure it won’t, because I’ll be somewhere in the next county.  But it’s about impossible to wait for test results that may indicate a potentially fatal disease, and not worry.

So yes, there are times when worry is justified.  But that doesn’t mean we have to welcome it like a long-lost relative.  I’ve known people who just aren’t happy unless something could possibly go wrong.  “What if we have a flat tire?”  We’ll put on the spare.  “What if it’s flat?”  Then we’ll walk.  “But what if it’s raining?”  Which is a perfectly reasonable question coming from somebody who goes through life with a dark cloud over their head.  For some people, it’s always raining.

But for others, you wonder if it ever rains.  There was a woman in my church who had terminal cancer.  But to look at her, even to talk to her, you’d never know.  Della had been through a rigorous round of chemotherapy the previous year, and had decided to accept her fate graciously instead of going through that a second time.  I can’t say I blame her.

Any time you asked how she was doing, she’d smile and tell you things were going pretty well.  I still remember her telling me that the doctors had told her she wouldn’t live more than a few months without chemotherapy, and she felt better now than she did then.  “So what do they know?”  She was just the kind of person who cherished each day as a special gift. 

One night last year I was turning my motorcycle around in a parking lot and lost my balance.  It fell over on my right foot, causing two fractures and a nasty sprain.  My ego was as bruised as my foot.  A couple of days later, I got a card in the mail from Della, wishing me a speedy recovery.  I never got to thank her for that card, because two days later she went into Hospice and the next week she was gone.  And I’ll never forget that in her final two weeks, she was more worried about my foot than her own health.

I watched my own mom deal with terminal cancer, and I can honestly say I never saw her worry about what was coming.  She was concerned for us, that we’d get through it okay and that we’d stay close as a family.  But for her own welfare, she rarely showed any fear. 

Less than a month before she passed away, we went camping for the first time as a family.  That night we had some vicious thunderstorms, and then the tornado sirens went off.  As we were rounding everyone up to go to the shower house, I offered to carry Mom to my truck.  She said, “I’m staying right here.  What do I have to be afraid of?”  She had a point.

It’s all a matter of perspective.  Like my pastor said, worry is the advance interest we pay on troubles that seldom come.  Should we pay attention to weather warnings?  Absolutely.  Should we be concerned about medical tests, bills that can’t be paid, or a child who’s having problems in school?  Without a doubt.  But it’s important to give those concerns just enough focus to allow us to take the appropriate steps to minimize the risk.  Anything more is counterproductive.

Instead, ask yourself three simple questions.  First and foremost, “Can I do anything to change this?”  If the answer is no, move on to number two.  “What is the worst thing that can happen?”  Be realistic.  This isn’t the time for doom and gloom.  And finally, “Have I done everything I can to minimize the impact if the worst does come to pass?”  Just by answering those questions, you can begin to relax.

We all worry.  The key is not letting worry so completely consume your life that you forget to live.  Bad things will happen, and sometimes there’s little we can do to change that.  But more often than not, all the worrying in the world won’t keep them from happening.  All it does is cloud our senses and make us less prepared to deal with the outcome.

Remember that laughter is the natural enemy of fear.  And laughter can be hard to find when you’re worried, but that’s when you need it the most.  So make time to put worry on hold.  Watch a funny movie.  Go out with a friend.  Play with the kids.  Work in the garden.  Take a swim.  Cuddle with somebody special.  Anything to give your mind a break. 

Laughter won’t make your problems go away, and it won’t keep you from worrying.  But it does make those problems easier to face.  And sometimes, it’s just the little extra boost you need to put you back on top. 

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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We’ve Got Names For People Like Me

In yesterday’s column, I mentioned that I ride a motorcycle.  It’s a big bike.  The industry calls it a heavy cruiser.  I call it a hog.  Either way, it’s my favorite form of transportation.  Unless it’s cold or raining.  And I’m not so sure it would be a lot of fun in Florida’s love bug season.  But I used to have a tee shirt that read, “You can tell a happy biker by the number of bugs in his teeth.”  It’s something I’m willing to try.

I bought my bike two years ago.  Before that, it had been 33 years since I’d been on a motorcycle.  And everybody had something to say about it.  If you buy a sports car or motorcycle at the age of 51, everybody assumes it’s a midlife crisis.  It’s not.  Getting my ears pierced at 53?  Well, maybe.

It’s funny, of all the people who should have been concerned about me getting a motorcycle, my wife was the one who said the least.  Of course, this is the same woman who once gave me a gift certificate for the office of Jack Kevorkian.  Another time she offered to pay for skydiving lessons.  But three times in the previous year, our local skydiving school was in the news because one person made it to the ground a whole lot faster than the others.  So while she may have been trying to ease me into a midlife crisis, it’s possible she was trying to help me skip it altogether.

And what is the big crisis anyway?  I’ve seen a lot of older men driving Corvettes, and not a one of them looked overly distressed to me.  In fact, judging by the swimsuit model seated next to them, I’d say life was pretty good.  And the girls looked happy, too.  Maybe that’s because they knew the Corvette would be theirs someday, and they’d still be young enough to drive it.  But that’s not for me to judge.

It’s funny how we slap labels on people when they don’t conform to our values or fit a certain mold.  If an older woman dates a younger man, she’s a cougar and he’s a boy toy.  If a younger woman dates an older man, she’s a gold digger and he’s … well, we don’t really have any names for him.  But his ex-wife does.

And it goes beyond just differences in age.  My oldest daughter’s boyfriend is a hillbilly.  I say that with complete confidence that he won’t read this and sneak over in the middle of the night to paint my front porch a lovely shade of black.  He knows we think the world of him.  Besides, I’ve never actually seen him read.

But the fact remains, he was raised in the hills of Tennessee.  Spend thirty seconds talking to him, and you’ll quickly figure out that he’s not from the big city.  Discuss a dinner menu with him and you’ll know he’s seen his fair share of dirt roads.  But he’s got a heart of gold, and to us he’s family.  So I guess that makes me a bit of a hillbilly too, doesn’t it?

Besides, if you knew my mom’s family … whew!  Not only have these folks seen a few dirt roads, some of them still think asphalt is a medical condition.  These people grew up deep in the woods in clapboard shanties with a tin roof and no plumbing.  My uncle bought a “house trailer” and people accused him of showing off his money.  Funny, when he parked a brand-new Cadillac out front, nobody said a word.

It’s all relative.  And in that part of the country, they’re ALL relatives.  Pick up the local phone book.  Two hundred pages, and only six family names.  You do the math!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  Mom would have gotten a laugh out of that, and some of these lines are just for her.  She was the only person I’ve ever known who could watch Deliverance and get homesick. 

But the thing is, we all tend to spot the differences in people quickly, and whether we want to or not, we form an initial opinion on that basis.  That’s just human nature.  The trick is to look beyond those differences and find out what lies inside.  Because the truth is, most times we’re not really that different.

I was in the Navy toward the end of the cold war era.  Back then, Russia was the big bad boogey man.  Everything we did, every move we made, was to protect our country from a surprise invasion by the Russians.  They were “the enemy.” 

One day while we were patrolling the Indian Ocean, the captain made an announcement that we were letting a Russian cruiser come alongside.  I grabbed my camera and ran to the port side to catch a glimpse.  I looked around and saw a hundred shipmates lined up against the rail, shielding their eyes from the sun, looking through binoculars, and taking pictures. 

Two hundred yards away, there was the enemy, casually cruising along as if daring us to make a move.  I remember looking at their guns and missile launchers just to be sure they weren’t pointed at us.  They weren’t. 

Just as I was ready to leave, a shipmate offered me his binoculars.  I put them to my eyes and it was like looking in a mirror.  On the Russian ship I saw a group of sailors lined up against the rail, shielding their eyes from the sun, looking through binoculars, and taking pictures. 

In that moment, I came to know my “enemy.”  He was a sailor.  His home was a big gray boat.  He worked long hours, ate crappy food, and slept in a crowded room with a bunch of other sailors.  He missed his home and he missed his family.  He wanted health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.  He was me.  The only thing that separated us was geography and the leaders we would follow into battle if the time ever came.

This world is filled with a lot of people.  No two are quite the same, but then again we’re not so different either.  It’s easy to form opinions, but not so easy to change them.  That’s why it’s so important to open our minds and embrace the diversity that surrounds us. 

Is a 53 year-old with earrings and a motorcycle suffering a midlife crisis?  Is my daughter’s boyfriend a hillbilly?  Is a sailor from a rival nation itching for the chance to take a shot at me?  Maybe.  But the truth is, probably not. 

I often thought if our ships had gone into port together and we met in town that evening, without uniforms or flags to cloud our senses, I bet we would have had a great time together.  Language may have been a barrier, but there’s something to be said for a pat on the back, a cold beer, and a few hearty laughs.  It would have been a memorable evening.

Alan Alda once said that when people are laughing, they’re usually not killing one another.  And as I look at the turmoil in our world today, the significance of those words is astounding.  So simple, and yet so true.  Can laughter stop wars?  I think it’s possible.  Wouldn’t it be nice to find out?

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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The Freezy Rider

I rode my motorcycle to work today.  I know for most of you, that’s not a big deal.  But for those of us who ride, it is.  And I couldn’t have picked a better day.  The roads are dry, the sun is shining, and it was a balmy 35 degrees.  Let me say that again – 35 degrees.  Fahrenheit.  For those of you who can’t quickly convert metric numbers, it’s a couple of degrees above zero.  Fahrenheit or Celsius, at that point it doesn’t matter.

First, let’s get one thing out in the open.  I am not the kind of person who spends all winter complaining about the weather.  “Complain” doesn’t even scratch the surface.  The last time I looked outside and saw snow falling, my granddaughter learned a new word and I got a bar of soap in the mouth. 

And while it’s a little warmer today than it’s been, it still isn’t the ideal day for riding.  I spent ten minutes bundling up for a seventeen-minute ride, and I was still frozen when I got there.  But I had an appointment to get a new back tire installed, and I didn’t want to miss it.  Because once the weather breaks for good, every shop in the state will have a waiting list and all the good tires will be taken.  Spring is almost here, and I want to be ready.

My warm weather ride

Kids don’t seem to mind winter.  My grandson loves it.  Snow is a big deal to him.  He can eat snow, throw snow, roll snow, and shovel snow.  He can make a snowman, a snow angel, a snow fort, or a snow tunnel.  He moves my snow, and makes money moving other people’s snow.  The kid next door was stealing our snow and putting it in his own yard.  So I sent my grandson over to play with him.  After all, it was our snow.

And to be honest, fresh snowfall is a beautiful thing.  It truly is.  As long as you don’t have to drive in it.  Or walk in it.  Or see it in your own yard.  But it looks beautiful on postcards.  Several years ago I was driving through Montana past a mountain forest of huge Douglas Fir with their branches covered in snow.  It was magnificent. 

The next morning I walked out of the hotel and started looking for my car.  It wasn’t so magnificent any more.  They all looked the same because they were all covered in six inches of snow.  I cleaned off four cars before I found my own.  Now I know why people put those stupid little balls on their antenna.

But as I said, some people love winter.  And not just kids.  I did a weekend of shows in Traverse City, Michigan a few years ago.  When I got to town, the snow was two feet deep.  And we sold out all four shows.  It was the only time in my life I’ve gone to a bar and seen snowmobiles parked outside.  The parking lot choreography after the show was funnier than the show itself.

But those people wouldn’t have it any other way.  And maybe they’re onto something.  Because unlike people in the deep south, they don’t mind summer either.  In the summer they put the boat in the water and have family picnics.  And in the winter they break out the skis and snowmobiles.  They enjoy life all year long. 

I moved to Ohio from south Florida a little over 21 years ago.  I’ll never forget that first year.  Everybody I met asked the same question.  Why?  What would make a person want to leave that year-round sunshine and come to a state where it’s too cold to go outside three months out of the year? 

I still remember my answer – it comes back to haunt me every year.  “Yeah, it gets cold up here, but you can always bundle up.  But when you’ve stripped off everything the law allows and you’re still hot, that’s as good as it gets.”  Famous last words.

But see, I still remember the day I left Fort Lauderdale.  It was September 5, 1989.  It was 96 degrees, with 87 percent humidity.  As I finished loading the U-Haul truck, my arm got against the metal ceiling and I ended up with a second-degree burn.  The whole trip north, I gladly bid farewell to the sweltering heat.  Sometimes, we’re just too stupid for our own good.

So now, here I am at what may soon be the end of winter, wondering if and when I’ll get to move south again.  Last summer it was hot here.  Really hot.  And I didn’t complain once.  No sir.  When the temperature got over 90, I was loving life.  I took a couple of road trips on my bike, and my only regret was that I didn’t have the time to go farther.  Hot is good.

I say it may soon be the end of winter, because this year the groundhog didn’t see his shadow.  I don’t know if the legend of Groundhog Day is familiar to our readers on other continents, so let me explain.  Every year on February 2, a couple of guys in top hats and long coats pull a groundhog out of a log in front of thousands of spectators.  If the groundhog sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t, it means his eyelids are froze shut. 

But for now, the snow has melted and it’s warmed up just a bit.  And the ten-day forecast looks promising.  So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  My new back tire was installed today, and I’m ready to ride.  Before long, the cold days of winter will be a faint memory.

If there’s a point to any of this, it’s that nothing lasts forever.  Just as we have to get through Monday to make it till Friday, we have to live through winter to get to spring.  And there’s something about springtime that brings out the best in us.  It’s a time of rebirth.  Flowers bloom, birds sing, and the grass turns green.  Then the grass begins to grow.  Then it grows so high I have to cut it.  Then I have to cut it every week.  Oh, don’t get me started.

But just as we endure winter, we also endure the other trials of life.  For some it may be illness, a lost job, a shattered relationship, or the loss of a loved one.  No matter how dismal things may seem, springtime isn’t too far away.  And unlike the weather, we can help it along.  We just need to keep things in perspective, tackle one problem at a time, focus on the things we can change, and make the most of the others.

Mark Twain once said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody is doing anything about it.”  We may not be able to influence Mother Nature, but when it comes to your own personal winter, melting the ice is often as simple as sharing a smile or a few laughs.

And you know, when the town next to yours is enjoying warmer weather, chances are you’re getting a little of your own.  Smiles and laughter work the same way.  It’s pretty hard to be down when everybody around you is upbeat and happy.  So find somebody who needs a smile and give them one of yours.  Once you crack that jar open, it may be hard to shut.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Ghost Of Slumbers Passed

There are ghosts in my house.  Lots of them.  And I’m not talking about the kind of ghosts that sneak in and leave the bathroom light on, spill soda on the kitchen counter, or eat the last piece of key lime pie for the sole purpose of getting perfectly innocent children in trouble.  I’m talking about paranormal, bump-in-the-night spooks.

Well, maybe they don’t go bump in the night, because so far I haven’t heard them.  For that matter, I haven’t seen them either.  But I know they exist, because every night about the time my wife and I are getting to sleep, they gather in my mother-in-law’s room for happy hour.

You know that feeling like there’s a party going on and you weren’t invited?  That’s not so bad unless it’s happening under your own roof.  Of course, I remember a few I didn’t mind missing.  Like baby showers and the party my daughter threw when she turned sixteen.  And there have been a couple where the sole purpose was to sell things I’d rather not think about, so I was happy to be on the “do not invite” list.

But this party goes on all night long, and we don’t really know who’s there.  In fact, I’m not sure if we’d even approve of the guests.  I guess they could be respectable people, like Mother Teresa or Abraham Lincoln.  That wouldn’t be so bad.  But judging by some of the conversations I’ve heard, I think it’s Beetlejuice.

Every night I give her a kiss goodnight and tell her, “No ghosties tonight.”  And for the first couple of hours, things stay pretty quiet.  Oh, she’ll yell for my wife to “put the lamp out” or turn off the TV.  Or to turn the TV back on, or put the cat out (we don’t have one), or fix her some dinner, or let her come inside so she can go to bed.  The list of demands changes almost nightly.

To be honest, we’re not really sure she’s yelling for my wife.  Around our house, names are of little significance these days.  In the past week I’ve been Dick, Doug, Ray, Charlie, Kevin, and occasionally Dave.  My wife has so many names that I’m starting to feel like a bigamist.  Last week she was Darryl.  Let’s not go there.

But around eleven o’clock, just as we’re starting to fall asleep, the “Open For Business” light goes on in her room.  Okay, that didn’t come out right.  But then, you’d have to know Jane.  Let’s just say dementia has taken a toll on her sense of modesty, and she’s made a few suggestions that sent me running.

I’ve read a lot about aging, and it’s not at all uncommon for people her age to see apparitions.  And to them, it’s not a dream.  In her mind, they’re as real as television and chocolate candy, two of the only things that still hold any interest for her.  Well, that and men.  Some things never change.  In fact, I think most of her nightly visitors are men.  Thanks for making me think of that.  Now I’ll REALLY have nightmares!

And the thing we’re learning is that you can’t just dismiss their visions.  You have to humor them.  It’s like a little boy who thinks there’s a monster under his bed.  It’s not enough to tell him he’s imagining things.  You have to get down and look under the bed.  Even then, it’s possible the monster is just hiding or is invisible to adults.  After a while, we begin to wonder if we’re the ones who are delusional.

And it’s no different when it’s an elderly person communicating with people who aren’t really there.  Or are they?  Who are we to say they’re not getting visits from the other side?  Maybe it’s a loved one telling them to hang on a little longer.  Or maybe they’re telling them “it’s not so bad here – don’t be scared.”  In our case I think they’re saying, “What’s wrong with you?  They’re asleep again!  Let’s party!”

Either way, there was a time when we could just tell her she was dreaming, and she’d accept that and go back to sleep.  Now, it’s not that easy.  She’s decided we’re conspiring to make her think she’s crazy, and apparently all of these ghosts are cheering her on.  So we have to play along.  “Okay, tell your friends it’s time to go home so we can all get some sleep.  They can come back and play again tomorrow.”

Of course, “tomorrow” is a relative term at that age.  When you know you may not see another sunrise, tomorrow is any time you want it to be.  Around our house, it happens just about every hour.  Last night she said, “What if we’re not here tomorrow?”  I thought about it a few minutes and realized she had a point.  “Okay, but they have to go home at midnight.”  I guess I should have specified a time zone, because they were still at it when I left for work this morning.

My wife is convinced that dementia is contagious, and I’m starting to think she may be right.  I guess this would probably be a bad time to point out that my wife spends the better part of every day with her mom, whereas I get to go to work.  So her level of exposure is a lot higher than mine and … well, never mind.  She reads this most days, and I’m still gullible enough to eat anything she cooks.  Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.

But I think the thing we’ve learned most is that dementia doesn’t wipe out their ability to think.  There’s confusion, and facts don’t always stay the same from one minute to the next, but they’re still capable of some level of reasoning.  I’ve often joked that I can try new material on my mother-in-law five times a day and have a fresh audience every time.  The same is true when she starts telling a story.  You may have heard the story a dozen times, but by the time it’s finished you’re going, “Wow!”  Okay, most times it’s “Huh?”

The difference is, they think like children, but still realize they’re an adult.  It’s the mental equivalent of going through an IRS audit with the realization that it was paid for with your tax dollars.  Or the seven dwarfs singing “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go …”  Except in this case you get all seven personalities in one body.  After a few days with Grumpy, Dopey is a welcome break.

I guess I can’t complain about the ghosts.  They keep her company, and if it weren’t for them she’d be … well, sleeping.  But for somebody who prefers to spend her day sitting on the couch watching the paddle fan through closed eyes, I guess it’s easy to understand why she always looks forward to bedtime. 

I don’t know if ghosts can read, but if they can I just want to say one thing.  Visit with my mother-in-law all you want.  Crank up the music, have a few drinks, party till dawn.  Keep her really amused.  But the first time I hear my wife talking to you, the party is over.  Got it?

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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A Tiny Set Of Wings

It’s funny how you can be on top of the world one moment, then something comes along and just completely knocks the wind out of your sails.  Okay, it’s not really funny.  Not in the least.  But it’s part of life, so we deal with it.  At least we try.

As I began today’s blog, I was pretty upbeat.  It was, after all, a really good weekend.  Friday’s post was given top billing by the folks at WordPress, and almost 10,000 views later, people are still responding.  As a writer, not much can compare to the feeling that you’ve written something meaningful, something that struck a chord with people and somehow made their day better.

And I have to admit, today I was feeling the pressure to come back today with something equally insightful and a little more entertaining.  Somebody tickled my funny bone today, and the words were flowing freely.  I was two-thirds finished when the phone rang.

Last week I said we have another granddaughter on the way.  She was to have arrived sometime in August, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  Saturday night we were joyfully looking at ultrasound pictures that showed a developing baby sucking her thumb.  Today her little heart has stopped, and my daughter is on her way to the hospital to deliver a memory – along with a huge chunk of her own heart.

I could say I’ve been through this before, because I have.  When I was in the Navy, my wife had a miscarriage toward the end of the second trimester.  And I’ve sat with my oldest through a few miscarriages of her own.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s painful.  As I said, it knocks the wind out of your sails.  And the first question that comes to mind is “why?”

The truth is, we may never know.  Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and some of them leave us devastated.  And sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason.  There may be a medical explanation.  I hope somebody can tell us what went wrong.  But sometimes we have to just accept things as part of a master plan, or to know that no matter how bad things are today, the sun will come up tomorrow.

Every experience in life teaches us something.  Months after my wife’s miscarriage, I was in a pretty deep depression.  By then, my ship had deployed on a seven-month cruise.  The Indian Ocean is a great place to collect your thoughts.  It’s also a great place to dwell on them.  I went through the motions each day, but I was pretty much an empty shell.

Then one night, the chaplain visited one of my best friends to let him know his 10-month old son had passed away.  I remember looking at him as he got ready to fly home, not knowing what to say.  I remember thinking how hard it must have been to hold your baby, to bond with it in person, and then lose it.  And how much harder it must be to find out through somebody you’ve never met while you’re in the middle of the ocean, halfway around the world.

As I lay in bed that night, I said a prayer for my friend, and his wife and two daughters.  And I asked God to forgive me for all the time I spent feeling sorry for myself.  Because I knew the hurt I felt at our own loss was nothing compared to what it could have been.  It’s amazing how life can put things in perspective.

I wish I could be with my daughter right now, to hold her in my arms and let her know how deeply we share her pain.  I think as a parent, one of the hardest things we can experience is seeing our children hurt.  We want two things for them – health and happiness.  Everything else takes a back seat.  And few things can bring me to my knees faster than seeing my daughters cry.

It’s at times like this when I realize some of the things I’ve focused on in the past just aren’t that important.  She’s made some decisions I didn’t agree with, and there have been lots of times I wish she had been more focused on what I considered “more worthy” goals.  And right now, none of that matters. 

Sometimes people refer to bringing a child into the world as “giving them life.”  Yet all too often, we don’t give them the freedom to live their life.  I’m not saying we should let them do anything they want.  There have to be ground rules, and as parents it’s up to us to keep them out of danger and out of jail.  We need to make sure they go to school, eat their vegetables, and say please and thank you.

But beyond that, there has to be a point where we step back and let them make their own decisions.  I guess it’s possible to keep a baby from ever falling down.  But in the process, they would never learn to walk.  As parents, we know they’ll get their share of bumps and bruises.  We know they’ll break one of Mom’s favorite plates, or scribble on the walls.  And though we do everything we can to keep that from happening, we know it’s all part of growing up. 

There are no words I can think of right now that would ease my daughter’s pain.  I’ve been there, and I understand her request that we all keep our distance for a while.  People will offer well-intended thoughts, like “Things happen for a reason” or “It’s all part of God’s plan.”  And while those things are true, they just don’t offer a lot of comfort at times like this. 

And as a parent, that’s one of the hardest things to accept.  I can’t fix this.  I can’t make it better.  I can’t make the hurt go away.  All I can do is let her know we’re here, and that we share her pain.  And even that’s a hard concept to understand, sharing pain.  Because it’s not like we’re taking any of her pain on ourselves.  When it comes to pain, we all get some of our very own.

We’ll get through this, and I know she will, too.  It’s been said that time heals all wounds.  I don’t think that’s completely accurate, because the scars will always be there.  But after a while, they don’t hurt so much any more.  All that’s left is a reminder of a day when things weren’t so going too well. 

I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this.  As a writer, one of the first things we learn is to organize our thoughts and figure out what it is we’re trying to say.  And right now, I’m just letting my thoughts spill out, hoping that it all comes together in a way that makes a little sense.

And through it all, I have to remember that I have a lot for which to be thankful.  I’m thankful that I have the ability to write, to pour my thoughts out instead of keeping them bottled up inside.  I’m thankful for each of you, who lend me an ear so to speak, and let me know somebody is listening. 

But most of all, I’m thankful that I can say two very simple but wonderful words – “my daughter.”  I have two daughters, and they’ve brought more joy to my life than I could ever express.  I’ve laughed with them and I’ve cried with them.  I’ve bragged of their successes, and agonized over their mistakes.  But most of all, I’ve been blessed to feel the love that we share. 

And that’s what will get us through this day.  The sun will shine tomorrow.  Maybe just a little, but it will shine.  And in the days to come, it’ll shine even more.  And someday, this will be a faint memory.

And as for our little angel – we’ll get to hold her in our arms someday.  Just not today.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Weekend Message – February 27, 2011

What a week it’s been!  I say that in a really, really good way.  I have to say I struggled with a couple of the posts this week, simply because I was trying to balance writing, work, and getting back into a routine at the gym.  I usually do my best writing early in the morning, and because I’m still fighting this chest cold (I’m winning the fight), getting up that early has been a challenge.

Thursday’s post was one that almost didn’t make it.  I was late getting it out, because I agonized over it all day.  I liked the message, but I wasn’t really sure of the direction the piece was taking, or if it had any direction at all.  A couple of times I almost scrapped it.  I’m so glad I didn’t.

For those of you who subscribed before Friday, you probably didn’t know this, but the good folks at WordPress liked that piece well enough to feature it in their Freshly Pressed list on the site’s homepage.  I’m deeply honored that they chose my blog as one of the day’s best, and I’m thankful for all the new readers who have come on board because of it.

For those of you who just joined us, I hope you’ll take some time to read a few of my previous posts.  It’ll give you a really good idea of who I am and what I’m trying to do with this.  And if you like what you see, please tell a few friends.  I’ve never been one to advertise.  I’d rather see the list grow because of satisfied readers passing along a recommendation than because of a well-executed marketing strategy.  It lets me know I’m writing pieces that mean something.

Along those lines, I’d like to pose a question to each of you.  I’ve written pieces that are inspirational, some that are more educational, some a little lighthearted, some a little preachy, and some that are funny just for the sake of being funny.  What do you like most?  What would you like to see more of?  This isn’t my blog, it’s our blog.  This is for you as much as it’s for me.  So let me know what you’d like to see.

This post is a little late coming out because I’ve spent most of the weekend answering reader comments and working on the new Health & Humor website.  More on that later.  But one thing I try to do is answer every email or comment, so please feel free to give me a yell.

For those of you who have been with me from the start, and those who just jumped on this train, thanks!  Without you folks, this just wouldn’t be any fun.  Therapeutic, maybe, but not much fun.  So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

Stay tuned!

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Would You Stop Acting Your Age?

“You’re only as old as you feel.”  That saying has been around a lot longer than any of us.  It’s a statement of rebellion against time and the effect it has on us all.  It’s a refusal to give in.  It’s an excuse for not acting our age.  And why should we?  After all, age is just a number – does it have to be a state of mind?

A few days ago my grandson was being pretty silly, making noises and just generally acting up.  I finally looked at him and said, “You’re almost eleven years old.  Would you mind acting your age?”  Then my mother-in-law, who has little tolerance for anybody under the age of fifty, threw in a few comments of her own.  I finally looked at her and said, “Could you try a little harder not to act your age?”

And really, what does that mean – acting your age?  Who decided that after a certain number of birthdays, we’re no longer supposed to have fun?  With all of the money being spent in this country by people trying to look younger, you’d think a few more would try a little harder to act younger.  It’s free, and nothing covers wrinkles like a smile. 

One of the highlights of my summer is taking my grandson to a local theme park.  We get there at opening time and stay for the fireworks twelve hours later.  And we spend the day riding everything from the wildest roller coasters to the bumper cars and merry-go-round.  We’re like two kids.  Only he is a kid.  Me?  I’m still in denial.

My doctor would have a fit if he saw some of the things I ride.  That’s okay, he probably wouldn’t approve of the corn dogs and cotton candy either.  But sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind.  And for me, that means sitting in the front seat of the tallest ride in the park with both hands in the air yelling, “Rock and roll!”

I read something not long ago that said “I refuse to tiptoe through life, taking no chances and avoiding all danger, only to arrive safely at death.”  I thought that was a pretty strong sentiment, and right along with my line of thinking.  Another of my favorites is, “Live healthy, eat right, die anyway.”  That pretty much puts things in perspective.

And it’s not that I’ve got anything against healthy living.  Quite the contrary.  But I think people take this whole concept of aging gracefully to an extreme.  Aging gracefully means passively fitting in with all the people who got there before you.  It means acting your age.  And that’s where I have a problem.  See, I don’t mind gray hair as long as it doesn’t clash with my earrings.

To me, one of the neatest things in the world is older people who have forgotten how old they really are.  They’re no different than anybody else their age.  They wake up in the morning feeling every muscle and joint in their body.  They look in the mirror and see a reflection that isn’t quite what it used to be.  And more often than not, they have to take a handful of pills before breakfast. 

The difference is, they don’t care.  Nobody told them they’re too old to enjoy life, and if anybody did they wouldn’t listen.  These are the people you see riding tandem bicycles in the evening, golfing on weekday mornings, and dancing when there’s no music.  The ones you smile at in spite of yourself, because they seem to have found what we all want – happiness.

I think from the age of about 30 to 42, I allowed myself to fall into that rut of “acting my age.”  I didn’t relate well with my daughters or anybody else their age, and I didn’t really care.  After all, I was here first.  And some day they’d grow up and realize that my generation was right.  About what, I’m not sure.  I just knew we were right.

I’d listen to top 40 music (I use the term loosely) for ten seconds and shake my head, thinking back to the days of Bob Seger and the Doobie Brothers.  Now that was music!  I’d look at the piercings and tattoos and roll my eyes in disgust.  For my oldest, getting my permission to buy a pager (remember those?) was like asking if she could spend the weekend with her boyfriend in Jamaica.  I spent more time answering the question “Why not?” instead of asking the same question myself.  And as a result, I was growing old way before my time.

But something happened that made me realize what I’d been missing.  My grandson was born.  People always told me I was too young to be a grandpa, but I didn’t care.  That was my little buddy.  And he still is.  Now I’ve got a three year-old granddaughter and another one on the way.  And I couldn’t be happier.

And the thing I finally learned is that we go through life thinking we’re teaching these kids what they need to know, but really they’re teaching us.  They’ve taught me to laugh and play a little more.  They’ve taught me to sing a little more.  They’ve taught me to use my imagination a little more.  They’ve taught me to look the other way a little more.  And they’ve taught me to see the magic in life that’s right there in front of us, just waiting to be embraced.

As a result, I’ve found myself feeling and acting just a little younger.  Yes, I wake up in the morning feeling every muscle and joint in my body.  I look in the mirror and see a reflection that’s not what it used to be.  And I have to take a handful of pills before breakfast.  I doubt that’ll ever change.  But what has changed is the way I let it affect me.

On April 5, my wife and I are going to a rock concert.  Bob Seger is in town, and we’re not missing this one.  I know at our age we’re supposed to enjoy the ballet and the opera.  Or maybe we’re supposed to take in an early movie and get to bed by nine.  Or sit around the house watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver.  And if that’s your thing, more power to you.  We’re going to a concert, sixty miles away, on a weeknight.  And we may just get a hotel room and act like a couple of teenagers after the show. 

You see, aging is inevitable.  It begins the day we’re born and it doesn’t stop until the very end.  Our hair will turn gray, our skin will loosen, and our joints will tighten.  But growing old is a matter of personal choice.  It’s been said that we don’t stop laughing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop laughing. 

So here’s my toast for each of you.  May you always be older than you feel, and never act as old as you are really are.  Over the lips and around the gums, look out belly, here it comes!

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Any Big Plans For My NEXT Weekend?

I was wondering if I’d gotten away with it.  For the past three days, I’ve wondered if anybody would remember.  I was beginning to think I had gotten off Scot free.  But thanks to an alert reader from the other side of the pond, I’m busted.

Well, I guess that would depend which side of the pond you’re on.  In this case, the “pond” is the Atlantic Ocean, and I’m on the western side.  The reader whose memory brought me to my knees is sitting safely on the other side in the U.K.  Or maybe she’s just down the road at the University of Kentucky.  I guess anything’s possible.

Last Friday I wrote about the growing list of household projects that demand my attention, and how one thing leads to another and a simple chore becomes a complex project.  Just taking the trash out requires strategic planning, funding approval, and environmental impact studies.  Or I could just wait for my grandson to come over.  It sucks being ten.

So I went into the weekend with every intention of tackling at least one of the household projects that have been staring me in the face for at least six months.  Mom always used to say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  Personally, I think it’s paved with all those “honey-do” lists that didn’t quite make it into the fire.  Mine could be used as a speed bump.

And it’s not that I didn’t get anything done.  I accomplished several things this weekend, and none of them involved the television.  Well one, but it was a movie my wife wanted me to watch.  So that’s her fault.

I just didn’t accomplish any of the things I set out to do.  My hair still needs to be cut, my office is still cluttered, and the basement floor hasn’t been touched.  Everything that was on my list Saturday morning is still there.

See, that’s the thing about “the list.”  Nothing disappears on its own.  Well, unless it was something trivial, like changing the oil in the car.  If you wait long enough on that one, it’s no longer an issue.  You can cross that off and replace it with “buy a new car.”  Just ask my daughter.

But I don’t play games with that.  The oil in my truck gets changed every 5000 miles.  A quart leaks out the bottom, I pour a new one in the top, and voila!  Fresh oil.  I think you’re supposed to replace the filter every now and then, but so far the idiot light isn’t blinking, so I guess that means it’s still okay.

Wouldn’t it be fun if cars really had an “IDIOT” light?  Every time you do something stupid, the light starts flashing.  Better still, replace the driver-side airbag with a boxing glove.  Then if you do something really, really stupid, you get punched in the face.  My son-in-law wouldn’t be able to drive around the block without getting pounded.  This is sounding better by the minute!

Okay, I’m drifting off topic.  It’s called tap-dancing.  I’ve got my feet to the fire for not doing something I promised to do, and I’m changing the subject.  You women have your own skills, and this is one of ours.  I’m one of the world’s best at the art of diversion.  Just ask my wife.

So back to the weekend.  Friday evening I helped my grandson paint his pinewood derby car.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the pinewood derby, it’s a downhill race involving hand-crafted cars that are made of wood (interestingly enough, pine wood), weighing no more than five ounces. 

The kids learn two valuable lessons.  First, they learn that spray paint doesn’t only hit its intended target.  Sometimes it hits the front porch rail that Grandpa painted last summer, and then Grandpa hits the ceiling.  I guess we should have used a bigger box.

The other thing they learn is the art of humility.  Because I don’t care how much time you spend on your car, how many coats of paint you apply, and how well you decorate it after the paint is almost dry to the touch, somebody else’s car will look better.  I still think the kid with the Batman car had some help.  And I’m not entirely sure the supercharged V-8 he had under the hood was fake.  I’m sorry, but that car popped a wheelie.  Twice.

Saturday morning we went to the derby.  My grandson’s car ran well.  By that, I mean it rolled down the hill and made it past the finish line without losing a wheel.  He lost both heats in the qualifier, but won in the consolation race.  And he’s the kind of kid that was happy just to be in the race.  Like his Grandpa, he’s learned to lose with dignity.

After we got home, my wife wanted to go shopping and that meant I had to babysit her mother.  She doesn’t get out very often, so I agreed.  Later that evening, we went out to look at some bedroom furniture.  That’s a project on her “honey-do” list.  Well, the list is technically mine, but it’s one she wrote.  And that list usually takes precedence over my own.

Sunday we went to church, then went out to look at more furniture.  It took most of the day, but we finally found a set she liked.  We located a sales clerk, which is usually not a problem in a furniture store.  Normally they’re perched on a rail by the front door like vultures waiting for a small animal to hobble in.  This time she had to wave her checkbook in the air to get their attention.  I wish I was making that up.

By the time we got home, household projects were the last thing on anybody’s mind.  We collapsed in the living room, watched a little TV (okay, I lied), then went to bed without dinner.  I guess that was my punishment for not getting anything done.

But I did get something done.  It was something on her list, but at least it’s behind us.  Except just like everything else, crossing that one off the list meant adding a few more that had to be done first.  Like getting the room cleaned up so they’d have room to bring in the new furniture.  Also we had to get rid of the old dresser.  But first it had to be emptied into the plastic totes we bought to box up everything our daughters left behind when they moved out.  And this is the perfect time to install those new window blinds that we bought two weeks ago.  Do you see where this is headed?

Things were going fine until yesterday evening when the warehouse called to say our furniture was on the truck and would be delivered today.  The store said it would be delivered tomorrow.  Apparently the guy who loads the truck won that battle.  So all the things we planned to finish up tonight had to be done last night.  We worked hard and we worked late, but we got it done.

Except I never did get the new window blinds installed.  But to my credit, they’re still sitting there in boxes, neatly stacked at the end of the hallway.  Hmmm.   Guess I’ll just have to put that one on the ole “honey-do” list.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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