Sunday, September 30, 2007

sugar art

Yesterday, Dorothy and I went to the Tulsa State Fair to see the Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show. The theme of this year's cake decorating contest was "Hollywood Cakes." Dorothy went to see the latest in decorating tools and techniques.

To see some close-ups of some fantastic cakes, click here. These are all real cakes and every decoration on the cake is edible and made of sugar.

After we inspected the cakes and new decorating paraphernalia, we toured the other exhibits. This was our first trip to the fair in years and I was surprized at the proliferation of food vendors since our last visit. Now you can see the latest new car models and take a few steps to the right and buy a corn dog. Next to the corn dog stand you can chat with the local tv weatherman then move a few feet down and get a funnel cake. Between the miraculous veggie slicer and the RV display you can find 18 lb. turkey legs, and so on down the line. It's no wonder Americans are so obese: there's more food on display than exhibits.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

september in the rain

I mowed the lawn today. The September air was warm and clear and leaves were falling. This time of year that old tune by Dinah Washington keeps coming to mind and I hummed it as I mowed:

The leaves of brown came tumblin' down, remember
In September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying ember
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play a sweet refrain

Though spring is here, to me it's still September
That September in the rain

quote of the day

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.
--Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence

what i'm reading now

When I was in my 30's I read Gail Sheehy's Passages, a book that helped me get a handle on the problems that would face me as I passed through the decades of my 30's, 40's, and 50's. Now that I'm 62 and recently retired, a book arrives just in time to give me fresh insight into the challenges of growing older in contemporary American society. Lillian Rubin, a prominent sociologist and psychotherapist, has just given us 60 On Up, a very readable and realistic look at the issues that await us as we grow older in a world where anti-aging gurus abound with promises of prolonged youth.

In the first paragraph of the book Ms. Rubin writes: "Getting old sucks!~ it always has, it always will. Yes, I know about all those books and articles extolling the wonder of what the media call the "new old age." I've been reading them for quite a while now and can only conclude that they're either written by forty-year-olds who, like children afraid of the dark, draw rosy pictures as they try to convince themselves that no unknown monsters await them. Or they're lying. Is that too harsh a word? Perhaps. Maybe it's not a lie but a wish, a hope, a need to believe there's something more to this business of getting old than we see around us."

Ms. Rubin shares with us, not only her academic research but her personal experience as well. This book is a must read for those who are approaching their 60th decade and need a compass to navigate the years of retirement, the empty nest, illness, and loss.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

quote of the day

You know of the disease called "sleeping sickness." There also exists a sleeping sickness of the soul. Its most dangerous aspect is that one is unaware of its coming. That is why you have to be careful. As soon as you notice the slightest sign of indifference, the moment you become aware of the loss of a certain seriousness, of longing, of enthusiasm and zest, take it as a warning. your soul suffers if you live superficially.
--Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, September 22, 2007

what i'm reading now

This was a small book but very hard to plow through. Francis Schaeffer has been called the missionary to the intellectual, and I guess that's why most of it was over my head. I was able to wrap my mind around a couple of concepts though. The first was that the philosophies of the secular humanists and materialists lead to despair. After all, what truth can there be to concepts that were arrived at by minds that evolved over eons of random interactions by molecules and enzymes? If the universe is chaotic and there is no first cause or creative being then all our paradigms, whether religious or secular, have no meaning. Another statement made in the book was that God is there, and He is not silent. He is revealed in nature, in the fact that Man is a creature that communicates verbally with other men and God has communicated with Man through the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Now, any reader who has read this book and has the intellect to understand all the concepts, please leave a comment and enlighten the rest of us in layman terms.

retirement report

It's time for my annual report on the progress of my retirement. Each year I try to collect my thoughts, see where I'm headed, how much I've accomplished, and try to make some adjustments that will keep my retirement life on course. I'm dividing this post into three sections: Health, Daily Routine, and Goals . These are the concerns that have to be met in order to have a meaningful and happy retirement. Some may say that I should include income, but income is a question that needs to be settled before you retire. After retirement, your happiness will not depend on the size of your income, but on how you manage your life on a day to day basis. I did not retire wealthy, but I do have a modest pension that is adjusted annually to meet any increases in the cost of living, and a good health insurance. So, although not rich, I am more fortunate than some whose retirement has been ruined by enormous medical costs and a fixed income that year by year shrinks in real purchasing power.
Here's my report:

Health: During my first year after work I was disappointed to find that I wasn't as strong and robust as I thought. I developed a lung condition (actually, it had been lurking in the background for years) that the doctors thought was either COPD with chronic bronchitis, or asthma, but finally decided it was an immunological reaction (allergy?) to something in the environment. I also had my gall bladder removed and had a long recovery time. The second year has been better. I try to walk regularly and stay away from ragweed and other things that might aggravate my lungs. Walking at Wal-mart seems to be the best regimen. I can travel around the inside perimeter of the store in air-conditioned comfort and maintain a brisk pace. Keeping my weight down has proven to be difficult. I've started eating smaller, more frequent meals and that seems to help, but I live with an excellent cook who loves to experiment with new cake and pie recipes. I also work out with dumb bells 2-3 times a week to maintain muscle tone. Keeping in good health is essential to a quality life well into old age.

Daily Routine: I know people who have gone back to work because they were bored. I'm not one of those. Working was always a drag for me. It was something I did to pay the rent and buy groceries, but what really gave me satisfaction in life was the interests I pursued outside of work. People who love their jobs and find meaning and fulfillment at work are very fortunate, but, also very rare.
Here's my daily routine: I get up between 6:30 and 7:00. When I quit working, I continued to get up at 5:30 for a long time and then gradually started staying up a little later and sleeping a little longer until I settled into this routine. For breakfast I usually have a bagel with cream cheese, or a bowl of cereal, and sometimes toast and peanut butter. Once Dorothy leaves for work I have a few more cups of coffee while I surf the Internet, read blogs, and post an entry to this blog. By 9:00am I'm ready to get the house in order. If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes I empty it, then start loading any dishes that may be on the counter from last night's meal. Once the kitchen is clean I move to the bedroom. I make the bed. I don't know why it needs to be made, since we're getting back into it tonight. I don't like making the bed. All this tugging and tucking and walking back and forth from side to side making sure everything is straight. I have a suggestion for comforter manufactures. Make only solid colors, or abstract patterns. Geometric patterns on comforters makes it hard for a man to make the bed. Trying to get all those lines and squares to line up is exhausting. A simple thing like making the bed shouldn't take that much time. After the bed it's time to clean the bath rooms. I don't mind that job at all, and everything sparkles and smells so good afterward. Laundry is another chore I don't particularly like. I don't mind putting the clothes in the washer, then transferring to the dryer, but hanging everything up doesn't appeal to me, especially Dorothy's clothes. I know where to hang her tops and pants, but other things I stack on the bed for her to put away when she gets home. Her drawers are like her purse, mysterious places that are best left unexplored my a male. If she ever has a secret that she doesn't want me to discover, all she has to do is put it in one of her drawers or her purse. It will be safe.
When I'm finished with the house work, or at least done all of it that I'm going to do, I'll start on a project. In the summer that means working in the garden or mowing the lawn. In the winter I'll be working on a painting, reading or watching an old movie. Then, late in the afternoon I start thinking about making dinner. I search the Internet to find new recipes. I'm trying to improve my cooking skills and Dorothy is usually pleased with the meals I come up with. That's my basic daily routine which is of course punctuated with days of babysitting the grand kids or taking them on an adventure. Sometimes I go to yard sales to look for books to resell on the web. And, of course, I teach an English as a Second Language class on Tuesday nights.

Goals: Retired people need goals to keep their lives focused and to keep them thinking and using their brains. To leave the working life and spend your days sitting on the front porch will result in a deterioration of both mind and body. Just as muscles need exercise to keep maximum function the mind needs a daily workout. I've read that reading and doing crossword puzzles keeps the mind sharp, but I think we all need a long term project to work on that requires extensive planning and perseverance. My plans are to remodel the house. I've been working on this for many years, but now that I have the time I'm going to attempt the project without incurring excessive debt, which means I'll be doing most of the work myself. I can do plumbing, electrical, lay tile, and install cabinets. There are some things that will require a professional but mostly it will be a hands on project for me.
I've started painting again and I want to improve my artistic skills so that eventually I can have an income from my art. I want to write more entries for my blog. I do a lot of filling in with photos and book reviews, but surely I can come up with an original thought once in awhile.
Before I retired I thought that my days would be filled by maintaining the property and making in look like a park, but now I'm inclined to move in another direction. As a long term goal we may sell the place and move to town where we can be close to doctors, shopping, and family. A small house with little or no yard is beginning to appeal to me. Right now we drive at least twenty miles to go grocery shopping, doctor appointments, church, and restaurants. I wouldn't mind living in a small town where I could walk wherever I wanted. I have plenty of time to think about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

what i'm reading now

I've really enjoyed this book. It's the biography of the Oglala Sioux Indian Crazy Horse. A warrior who was considered strange by his own tribe because of his nonconforming demeanor and power among the tribes. What I've learned of Indians in school and popular culture has been completely turned around by my own research. It seems the uncivilized ones were not the native Americans, but those who stole their lands and violated the treaties.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Engine No. 844

To help celebrate the Oklahoma Centennial, Union Pacific ran a special excursion train through the state this last week. It was pulled by Engine No. 844, the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific in 1944. It's also the only locomotive of its kind to have never been officially retired. In its time the 844 has pulled such trains as Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portand Rose, and Challenger. The engine and tender are 114ft long and weigh over 900,000 pounds. It has a water capacity of 23,500 gallons and can hold 6,500 gallons of oil. The modern diesel engines lack the art and romance of these old steam machines.
So Marley, Hunter and I drove to Enid this morning to see it pull into the depot. Marley cleared it with her teacher to take off school today. (She'll be giving a report to her class with photos) It was worth the three hour drive.
It finally arrives.

Marley, Hunter, and I get to pose with the conductor.

To give you an idea of the scale of this machine, look how tall the locomotive is compared to the railway worker.
Marley and Hunter look down from the rail car that serves as a souvenir store.
The white hose you see is providing water for the engine. The tanker truck is filling the engine's fuel tank with oil.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a surprise for marley

Marley's birthday is not for another few months, but she got an early birthday surprize yesterday. Her parents sat her down for a talk and she looks like she's awaiting the Grand Inquisitor. Her surprise? Tickets to see a Hanna Montana concert. For those who aren't with the teeny bopper scene she's the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus (Achy, Breaky, Heart) and has her own tv show.

quote of the day

There is something wrong in a government where those who do the most have the least. There is something wrong when honesty wears a rag, and rascality a robe; when the loving, the tender, eat a crust, while the infamous sit at banquets.
--Robert Ingersoll

Sunday, September 09, 2007

i'm not a tree hugger, but......

......there's too much paper in my life. When I come from the mailbox most of the paper goes right into the trash, unopened. If there's some advertising with the word 'sale' on it, I've learned to save it for Dorothy to peruse for all those opportunities to save money by buying something. I subscribe to several magazines and they grow into piles until I finally throw them all away. The packaging on most of the stuff we bring home from the store bulges in our plastic trash bags on Monday morning. Our dining room table accumulates paper that has to be sorted, with some of it being filed away and the rest thrown away. It's a never ending battle. Several rivers of paper and paper products converge on our table, and the flow must be kept unimpeded. When I was delivering mail, a few customers over the years had newspapers and magazines stacked around their house with narrow pathways winding throughout the house, so I have to keep the paper moving toward the county dump, to avoid our house being inundated with trash.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

summer's end

Summer is drawing to a close. A few days ago, whenever I would open the door to let the dog in just before going to bed, the hot outside air would meet me like when an oven door is opened. Now, it's cool outide in the evening and in the morning the air is crisp and is a perfect accompaniment to morning coffee. The shadows are growing longer as fall approaches and I'm reminded that life will come to a close just as nature falls into dormancy with winter.

Monday, we had the last summer cookout for the year. We barbecued ribs, had potato salad and baked beans. Dorothy made a blackberry cobbler and I made ice cream. Home made ice cream was a must for the summer family get togethers of my childhood. We had an old wooden freezer with a hand crank. It was a right of passage for me when I got old eneough to take on the responsibility of turning the crank. I was strong enough to crank it and had the patience to go slow and stay with it until it was done. In those days when you lifted the lid there was a little bit of grease from the gear mechanism that had to be removed and the first bowl of the frozen treat tasted of the rock salt. Now, it's all electric with a plastic tub. Somehow it just doesn't taste as good as it did.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

long and busy week end

Friday evcning Dorothy and I attended the indian pow wow that is part of the Cherokee National Holiday festivities each labor day weekend.

Saturday morning Dorothy volunteered to work an information booth for the Holiday. I went along and watched the parade.
"Common Values - Common Ground" the theme of this year's Cherokee National Holiday

The courthouse of the Cherokee Nation