Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good news going into Christmas

I promised to keep everyone up to date on my progress after the concussion accident and loss of hearing. After two CAT scans and two audiology testings, my "ear doctor" has confirmed that there is little, if any "mechanical" (bone) damage to my ear. Whatever hearing loss I am experiencing is due to nerve damage. The good news is no surgery necessary. I've had my hearing aids re calibrated and we hope that there will be healing of the nerves over time. Although it seems certain that my hearing will not return to where it was before the accident, it is possible that it will improve from where it is, now. I'm grateful that I can manage fairly well with the use of my hearing aids.The only downside is that I need to wear at least one all the time, whereas before, I could get through most of the day without one. Outside of that I feel fine. I'm back at the "Y" trying to coax off a few pounds and having slow success!

We celebrated Tom's birthday today with a coupon from the "Arirang Hibachi Steakhouse". I have a lot of year-end paperwork to do, so I'm not even going to try to get out a Christmas Letter until after the holidays. We'll be at Ken's house in Dansville, NY to have our annual New Year's "Christmas" celebration with Chris and family, and maybe Anne Cain and Bob Moon from Detroit, if the roads are passable. For all who celebrate Christmas - we wish you a very merry holiday and a blessed New Year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Accidents Happen!

Last Wednesday, (December 1st) during the night, I fell into the bathtub and suffered a concussion, also bleeding like a stuck pig because that's the way heads bleed! Tom wrapped my head and I drove to emergency in Plainfield, where they did a CAT scan and closed up my cut with about a dozen staples. I don't know much about concussions. Apparently they have different effects on different people. My family doctor was worried, and recommended a second scan the next evening, to be sure there was no internal bleeding. I went to Somerset hospital, where the CAT scan reader was the guy who literally wrote the book on CAT scans. (One of the benefits of living in or near one of the richest counties in the USA is that there is also an abundance of the best medical care - if you have insurance, of course. In my case Medicare will pick up most of the costs.)

The first results were a mild headache, some nausea, and slight balance issues. The biggest effect was that I essentially lost my hearing. I didn't have great hearing before - but now it's 50-75% less than it was, before. That's my main concern, now. The headaches are gone. The nausea is gone. There is no internal bleeding. A week later, if I turn my head quickly, there's a sense that I shouldn't be doing this - internal discomfort in the head.

Today I visited the ear doctor for the first time. He said that the CAT scans weren't precise enough to show "mechanical" (bone breakage or separations) damage. He will give me a thorough audiologist test next Tuesday. From that he should be able to determine the actual nature of the damage, and what can be done to fix it, if anything. If it's nerve damage, they just have to wait for the body to heal. It will take a year to get a final result on how the nerves have healed, or not healed. Unless there is some degree of hearing restoration, I don't know how well I will be able to function in group settings, like church meetings.

I don't have any feelings of depression, or anger, or whatever. Accidents happen! That's life, and I'm glad I'm alive to have them! My job is to heal as best I can, and then continue on with my life with whatever faculties I still have. If I was younger, I might have very different feelings, but at 77 I know that I'm just lucky to be alive, and am glad when I can see the sun come up every morning. Life is good - even with a few band aids here and there.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembrance of Things Past - will keep adding new material as time permits

Changes I have seen

Sometimes old age gives us a perspective that is helpful in dealing with current challenges.

Let me start with some of the things I remember. I remember the first time my mother took me downtown on a bus and I saw a colored person for the first time. I pointed to them (thankfully through the bus window) and said something about them being dirty. My mother hushed me up and explained that their skin was a different color.

My boyhood was lived during the second world war, with rationing and shortages of things like tires. Every once in awhile you might see a car running on rims - no tires. We had rationing points for critical things like meat. It didn’t matter what it cost. If you didn’t have enough points, you couldn’t buy it. Same thing with gasoline. Our family car got a “B” sticker, which was pretty limited on gas. Horses were still a common part of life. Our milkman delivered (glass bottles with cream on the top) with a horse-drawn truck.

Most women were housewives. My dad took the bus to work, so mom had a car if she needed to go someplace. The Fuller Brush Man rang the doorbell regularly, selling high grade, expensive brushes. The Jewel Tea man came in a truck selling all kinds of household supplies and food items. They made regular, weekly stops at each house. Boxes of laundry soap came with a “tea towel” as a bonus gift.

My grandmother made her own soap with lye and fat. My mother washed on a wash board, using that soap until she got her first washing machine, an “automatic” “Bendix”. Laundry was dried on clothes lines outside in good weather, and on endless lines in the basement in bad weather.

There were no “fast food” restaurants, so whenever we left the house we packed “picnics”.

Boys wore short pants, usually into the early teen years, when the first pair of “long pants” was a sign of impending manhood. I wore corduroy knickers to school with long sox. They had an elastic cuff that was supposed to keep them up to the knee, but never did, so they usually just slid down to the ankle. And the corduroy “squeaked” with every step as one leg rubbed the other.

My world was all-white. Thursday was a traditional “maid’s day off.” We didn’t have a maid, but I heard about “bumper day” on Thursdays in downtown Cleveland. On certain downtown streets, on Thursdays, a white person would be gently but firmly bumped off the sidewalk into the street by Negroes.

We had gas heat, as most newer homes did, but my grandmother’s house (built just 10 years earlier than ours) had steam heat with a coal stoker and a boiler. She also had an ice box, with regular deliveries of ice, until they stopped deliveries because most people had electric refrigerators. My stubborn grandmother refused to buy one of those. She kept her food in big pans of water in the basement. The water kept the bugs out. Grandma was unsteady on her feet, and there were numerous reports of times she fell, going up and down the stairs to get food from the basement. She never did buy a refrigerator. When her sister sold her house and went into a nursing home, she gave my grandmother her refrigerator.

After the war our family began to have more money, and my mother took me on a bus trip to visit an old friend in Wilmington, North Carolina. That was my first exposure to separate facilities for whites and colored, with signs - even drinking fountains and bathrooms. And of course busses were separated with colored at the back and white in the front. The bus trip was in the beginning of a hot July. In those days women wore girdles so their buns wouldn't bounce. Of course Mom didn't wear one around the house, and avoided them as much as possible even when out in hot weather. When we visited our North Carolina friends they decided to take a trip downtown. They explained to Mother that a hat, girdle, and gloves were absolutely necessary in Southern society at that time.

My Dad’s employer - Pickands Mather - richest partnership in the world. Owned Interlake Steamship company and Hibbing ore mines. Every new employee started out in the mailroom. They only hired 4-point graduates. You worked your way up and were guaranteed a job until you retired. But there was no retirement program. When it was time to retire, one of the partners would invite you in for a consultation, and you were handed your “package”.

No married women were employed, and no man who worked there was allowed to have a wife who worked outside the home. Only Christians employed, no Jews. No brown-bag lunches. You had to go out to a restaurant to eat. During the war (WWII) they hired women to fill the places of men gone off to war, but when the war was over, they were discharged.

I remember when Cleveland switched from DC to AC current - all the motors had to be replaced. I remember when open windows were replaced by air conditioning.

I remember when Blue Cross arrived and a huge sigh of relief.

All the shipping companies were “buddies” so when my Dad died at the young age of 51, his company networked with other shipping companies to find a job for my mother.

In 1951 I started college at Ohio State University in Columbus. I will never forget the first time I was in the rain, with a tan raincoat. It was streaked with black from the rain - because Columbus still heated mostly with coal, and the air was full of soot.

My mother took me to church regularly until my teen years. She helped in the nursery. Then there was a change of pastors, and she didn’t like the new minister, and stopped attending. So I never joined the church. When I got to Ohio State I decided to start attending, and went to Indianola, where Dr. Fred Christian was the pastor. At that time I was in the Agriculture College, intending to be a veterinarian. I attended the youth group for college students, and I’ll never forget one of the elders of the church, who also taught Biology at OSU. She asked to be able to present a program to our youth group. The subject of her program was how “miscegenation” (illegal in some states at that time) would result in “genetic suicide.” Meanwhile, in the Ag school we were being taught that hybrids were healthier. A PhD put in service of prejudice can be a terrible thing!

One memory of Ag school was a bus trip to Chicago, to the Armor slaughter house and meat packing company. We learned a lot about the meat packing business, but one of the memories I have is of all the trucks lined up to receive meats for delivery, and about every other “truck” was a horse-drawn wagon - driven by men who were too old for a trucker’s license, but still able to work with a horse. The sausage-making department was staffed by "tough" women. No young man was allowed to work in that department - for his own safety. I recall seeing wheelbarrows of ground meat being shoveled with (clean, I hope) shovels.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 2010

Three pictures of our campground recreation hall, scene of this year's Thanksgiving festivities. Also a picture of middle son, Chris, and youngest grandchild, Patrick, while visiting in eldest son Ken's living room/kitchen.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Making progress

Our 8x8 deck/outdoor kitchen is taking shape. On the left you can see our drop-down table (awaiting a support system). On the right you can see the cooking shelf - and the high shelf to receive food from and deliver food to the inside kitchen, as well as location for future storage. Everything gets a second coat of paint. Hopefully, we can do that next week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gate finished - priming next

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MacAdoo this morning (ungroomed)

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A Great Day at the Camp

Our campground is like a family. One fellow asked about my wrist. Said he was in California when he heard about it!

Today's big event was the annual "boat race" in the pool. Teams of two are given a pile of cardboard and duct tape in the morning, with instructions to build their boat using no other materials. Six brave souls built ingenious designs. One team of two heavy men sank as soon as they boarded! One team of lightweight women won with a very nice ship and lots of frantic paddling. Crowds cheered for their favorites. It was a fun time. Then there were air mattress races, one for men, and one for women.

After the pool games we had a big bonfire and cooked hotdogs to go with the pot luck supper. A DJ finished the evening.

I got 1/3 of the deck primed. Tomorrow I plan to finish the first coat of prime, then use wood filler where needed, caulk, sand, and prime again. Then it will be ready for two finish coats, and installation of my counters and drop-down table. Don't know if I will get it all done this week, but surely before snow flies.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Receiving award at G.A. for starting the Red Ribbon

Taken by Danny Bolin for the PCUSA General Assembly meeting.

From left, the Rev. Charles Hale, Elder Rafael Rodriguez, and Bob Schminkey, PAN Co-Moderator, upon the presentation of PAN’s first ever Faith in Action Award to the Red Ribbon Fellowship  of First Presbyterian Church, Elizabeth, NJ which Charles Hale founded, and Rafael has made flourish.  219th General Assembly (2010), Minneapolis, MN. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Breaks of Summer

Breaking News! Tom slipped while walking Mac in June and broke his ankle. He's in the last stages of healing with an "air cast" (inner air bladder for comfort).

Last Sunday morning I was walking across my campground neighbor's site and didn't see or hear him start to back up. (It was early in the morning and I guess both of us were careless, assuming everyone else was asleep). Anyway, he backed into me, knocking me down. I'm very glad he heard me yell and stopped, or you would find my news in the obituaries. My carelessness earned me some very large bruises, a twisted back and a broken wrist. The wrist is healing well. I guess backs take longer.

But we're having fun in spite of it. The camp is a constant source of joy. I'm nearing the end of my deck building project - this summer's main goal. It's going to be a combination outdoor kitchen and dining space and a place to relax under the awning. I used the (previously-mentioned) wood to build two compost bins for future flower beds, and for the deck. We found a long Formica (faux granite) counter marked down at Home Depot. That has been cut up for counter space and a drop-down eating table. A neighbor has offered an under-counter fridge. I'll post pics when it's done.

Tomatoes haven't done well at the camp until this summer. I decided to try an "earth box" and locate it on the south side of the trailer, so it gets "double sun" reflected off the trailer. Our hot summer, good growing soil and neighbors who have kept them watered - is now yielding a bumper crop. There is no substitute for home grown tomatoes, and it has been years since we were indulged with this delicacy.

A smaller break came with an old front tooth that quit. Son Ken has made a bridge for me, and we'll travel to Dansville tomorrow to have that fitted. ( Then back to the trailer to, hopefully, finish and paint our new outdoor deck/kitchen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer comes, to our camp, at last

It's May and at last the weather has turned clear and warm. A thrill to be outside without being all bundled-up against the cold! A neighbor bought all the lumber to build a large deck, and then changed his plans. We bought all his 1"x6"x8' pressure treated boards. I'm going to build compost bins, but we have a lot more lumber than that project needs, so plans have changed and we'll start by building an 8'x8' deck - a perfect size for us, and it doesn't need any permits. If it were larger we would have to pay for permits, get it inspected, and pay an annual tax. Not worth it.

Our soil here is a cross between Portland cement and plain old clay - in other words - hard as a rock. Each time we plant, we use planting soil, but now I'm planning to compost and till
it in with our new Mantis tiller. Our biggest challenge is finding time to be here - between doctor's appointments and church meetings back in Plainfield!

This year we're here with our new Cairn terrier, MacAdoo. He was born last June, so he's not quite a year old. He's our third Cairn - our favorite breed.

In July I'll be going to the PCUSA General Assembly in Minneapolis, as a delegate from the Elizabeth Presbytery. My last time to attend as a delegate, was 40 years ago (when "Hair" was playing at the Schubert in Chicago). Vietnam was on most people's minds and there was much unrest in the church, as well as everywhere else. 16 years ago we started a Friday night non-denominational worship and fellowship for those "infected, affected, or concerned about HIV/AIDS" meeting at Old First Presbyterian church in Elizabeth. I was the volunteer pastor for the first three years, till our Bed and Breakfast ( required me to give that up. But the group continued, and those attending gradually chose to become members of Old First, and then to be Elders and Deacons. Their ministry kept expanding, and finally caught the attention of the Snyder foundation, which has begun major gifts which will enable Old First to be restored and continue in mission. At General Assembly this year, I, and the Red Ribbon Fellowship will receive the first award for AIDS ministry (see: