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Letters home to mom

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    • Coda
      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

A Grand 54th

Posted by joeabbott on December 11, 2017

Well, my birthday and Week of Joe (WoJ) came and went and I didn’t make a big fuss of it here on WordPress but it was a very fine time. I recall many good meals, lots of gifts, and time with Suzy … three of my favorite things. I could go on about the meals but I’m not a foodie … the descriptions are all lost on me and they’d just “good”, as in “really good”. But I will share the details of the many gifts I received; while I certainly agree with the adage the best things in life are not things, the things are what I have sitting next to me on my desk so that’s what I’ll share here.

Cards

I’m starting with the cards I got from Suzy. While many people sent cards, texts, emails, and other missives, Suzy outdoes herself by gifting me seven, one for each day in the WoJ and she made this year’s set.

WP_20171118_14_24_12_Pro

You can likely see a number of other cards in there as well, but the seven cards that spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY are hard not to make you smile. And to spice things up, she added little dinosaur critters to each card for fun. That, my friends, was Really Clever™. Loved ‘em!

imageSpeedometer and Light for my bike

This last year I got more use of my 10-speed mountain\cross-bike than I have probably since I got it about 20 years ago. It’s an old steel-frame cross bike with marginal components and after a wreck I had in July or so, the speedometer stopped working.

Then came the ride through the train tunnel in which my 20-year old lamp on the bike didn’t have the candlepower to light the way … and how it wouldn’t remain attached to the bike and my friend Tim picked it up for me from the trail. Twice.

So these gifts were awfully thoughtful.

Bit Boss

I’m a tools guy so I have lotsa tools. I respect and admire those who have a small kit of tools and can use them to do anything, but I’m done with my days of putting light switch plates on with a butter knife or using my chisel to open a can of paint. WP_20171211_09_21_39_Pro

There are the right tools for the right job … and I have most of them. Which means keeping them ordered and organized. While a plastic tray for storing driver bits may not fire up most people, I can honestly say I’m excited to put it to use. That’s right: excited!

WP_20171211_09_25_38_ProDMT Sharpeners

Along with lots of bits for drivers, I also have a lot of edged tools that need sharpening. Suzy gifted me with a king’s ransom of sharpening and honing tools! With these three I believe I now have a complete set and these are my go-to “stones” for sharpening. Quick, handy, and just the right size … in a word, perfect!

Edgewise, by Pavel’s Puzzles

I’m still working on this one. Pavel is a guy who created and sells high-quality puzzles; we met him at the Northwest Art Show where he had a booth. He’s personable and engaging and after picking up one of his offerings a couple years back, we’re quick to look for his booth on our annual trip to the show. image

For this puzzle, you have to put together the pieces (we managed a square shape) and then follow the clues to solve the next step. The problem is this: we aren’t sure what the clues are much less how to solve them! The word “edgewise” is a clue … coming from a quote from a fellow puzzle maker who said, “all the most interesting stuff happens at the edges”. And yet … what happens at the edges? Do we subtract a character from the pieces at the edges? Subtract two? Add one? How would we know that?

A few pieces have words on them … one says “Commence here”, which is a clue in both where to start and we suspect there’s something interesting about his use of the fairly formal word “commence”, rather than “start” or “begin”.

The puzzle is built but sitting on our kitchen table awaiting inspiration to solve!

imageFlora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium

While plants and growing things are Suzy’s domain, I’m still suckered in by anything written by or about Tolkien and was tickled to see this book appear … it’s now bedside and the volume I’m enjoying before dozing off nightly.

This book by the father-son team of Walter and Graham Judd have gone through nearly all of Tolkien’s writings and painstakingly made notes on the plants and growing things cited. They have come up with 141 noted plants and have pulled those details along with commentary on ecosystems, descriptive botany, and other information into an authoritative text. While I’ve just started reading it, I am very much enjoying the confident voice being used: they refer to Tolkien’s world and characters not as fiction, but in the same detailed terms that someone would discuss plants growing in the backyard.

Some have noted it may be a little dry (one reviewer wanted a beach read but found “it’s more like bringing my homework with me”), however if you’re picking up a book on a (potentially) marginal topic like this, your expectations should be set for a fairly dense read. And at 424 pages, the authors have taken their work very seriously.

While not a page-turner, I’m eager to keep turning the pages!

imageBalance Pad

When my boss first noted using a “balance pad”, I probably scoffed a bit. Then she brought in the 2” thick pad for me to use at my standing desk at work and I fell immediately in love. While it doesn’t seem to do a lot for balance, it makes working at a standing desk as easy as can be on my feet!

The main idea behind it is to cushion your feel while giving you something that moves a bit under your weight, requiring lots of minor adjustments to strengthen joints and aid in balance recovery. And when you stand on one leg, it’s all the better.

This gift is coming to the office with me!

Coda

Seven great, thoughtful gifts from Suzy but I have to mention one more: my mother sent me a set of carving chisels!

Carving Tool Set & Lettering for Woodworkers Guide - Woodworking

Apologies for the stock photography from the manufacturers website, but my arm is keeping me from doing a number of things I would otherwise find easy to accomplish. Such as, giving these tools a try! Deep down I have a creative muse making noise to listen up … but, I feel too busy for teaching myself how to carve just now. But having these tools breaks down one more barrier between me and inaction. I very much will be giving these a try in the shop!

Thanks to all who made my trip around the sun notable; especially Suzy. The gift I enjoy the most isn’t on my birthday or even the WoJ, it’s all the days of the year we’re together. In a word, I am blessed.

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Gimme a break!

Posted by joeabbott on December 10, 2017

I won’t beat around the bush: I broke my arm. While that much is clear, I’ve been reluctant to post much (any?) information until I had more details, or maybe even a cool x-ray image to share.

I snared the image to the right from the internet for illustration purposes, so don’t assume you’ll see “my” fracture, “my bones”, or “my” anything … not sure who we’re looking at but if you can find the Radial Head, you’ll find the part I broke.

Tuesdays come with a fair amount of hustle: I get up at 5:15AM, do a load of stuff before heading off to the bus before 6AM, have a busy day at work, and upon getting home sometime around 5:45PM will grab a bite before heading to the gym with Suzy. At our local YMCA we’ll put in an hour of “spinning” (riding a stationary bike) and we get home sometime around 8PM.

While I normally chill out after that, I had promised a friend I’d bring him a novelty light I had in storage. Long story but I have three “Games for Windows” lights and I offered one to him … it’s in the garage on our loft. As I positioned the 10’ ladder for the trip to the loft, I grabbed an extension cord so I could test to make sure the light worked before hauling it down and up I went.

On about the third rung up, the cord was dragging over something in the garage so I started minding that … and then my foot slipped from a rung, my other shoe lost grip and the one hand I had on the ladder was insubstantial in halting the fall of some 230# straight back.

I can’t imagine what it sounded like to Suzy but my immediate thoughts were wondering which of my hurts demanded the most attention: my exposed shin that dragged across the ribbed rung of the ladder, my head that had clocked into the concrete floor from about 9’ up, or my left elbow that had pinwheeled into the garage floor next to my head.

Suzy reports that my first words (perhaps first “intelligible” words) were something along the lines of: I can see how falling off a ladder could kill a guy! And I could: damn that hurt!

I hauled myself into the house and laid on the couch. I was panting, my heart was racing, and had lots of hurts to think about. That said, nothing seemed like it might actually kill me. And so I rested.

About 20 minutes later we (ok … “I”) decided I didn’t need and ER visit just then and hoped sleeping on it would tease out the “this is serious” from “walk it off” sorta issues. Before I went to sleep I resigned myself to going into work later… I didn’t plan on waking to the alarm as I knew I’d need a good night’s sleep.

The next morning it was clear something was wrong with my hand and we made an appointment with our regular care provider who could see us around 10AM. While it took almost 2 hours for a simple checkup and x-rays, I’m ever so grateful they could get us in quickly. They couldn’t see anything immediately wrong but an expert who viewed the images saw a fracture and referred us to a specialist the next day. For most of the rest of that day, Wednesday, I slept.

Thursday we saw the specialist and here’s where things are odd: they spotted a fracture of the radial head … that’s the end of the radius bone, the lower arm bone that goes from your thumb to the elbow. BUT HOW ON EARTH DID THAT BREAK? I mean, look at your body and imagine falling on an elbow … how does the radial head hit something? I supposed it smashed up against the end of the humerus. Additionally, it’s mostly my wrist that hurts. And when I say it hurts, it’s normally fine but if I twist my arm or change hand positions quickly … WOW!! Pain immediately stabs me in the area of the wrist. And it’s some of the most painful pain I’ve ever felt. I’m not a sissy when it comes to discomfort but I’d like to find the Off button for this pain now.

I trust my docs and the medical professionals who say it’s my radial head that’s broken, but there has to be some serious nerve issues going on for the pain to register in an altogether different joint in my arm.

The prognosis is that it’s a “good” break: clean separation, no gap, and the bone that broke off hasn’t moved. I need to return in a couple weeks for another set of x-rays to ensure things remain stable. No cast, no splint, but a sling if it helps me to feel better. I can use my hand as long as I don’t have to change positions: typing is OK, as are video games. I just can’t move my hand once I get set … and that leads to cramping after a bit. Reading is out of the question as my hand can’t support weight of a book and even something like a magazine requires more dexterity than my hand can manage just now.

And that’s it … a bit of inattention has led me to 6-8 weeks of healing. I have holiday gifts to make (sorry, folks … they’ll be late), I have gifts to wrap (may not look great), and places to go (not many and maybe fewer now), but I’ll be slow and fortunately will have Suzy to help me along the way. Let’s just hope I can be as good a patient as she is a nurse.

As the holidays are on us and there will be more occasions to use a ladder, be careful; as I mentioned, I can see how a fall from one of those might kill a person! Thanks for dropping in.

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Not ready for retirement

Posted by joeabbott on December 9, 2017

I’ve been alive well over half a century … two and a half score years, five decades … and it’s time I start considering retirement. Earlier I was of the “sooner is better” mentality but as I look at what I do with my unstructured time now, I’m not sure I’m ready. As I like my job and enjoying my home life, it’s a good problem to have.

My wife and I have long planned for that day, however. The main focus has been financial, ensuring we have enough money month to month to live without earning a paycheck. To that end I’ve done a little reading and taken classes where they’ve been offered. They all stress maximizing saving, forecasting budgets, and doing simple math to calculate your prospects … and most include some sobering statistics.

I took a class from Financial Engines, a free offering through my company, and it was an interesting presentation. These are some of the statistics I jotted down while listening in … while I listened with diligence, I may have captured an errant number here or there. Regardless, the picture was interesting.

Of the 10,000 people in this country who turn 65 every day, only 21% have confidence they’ve met their retirement goals. Those who had help managing their finances did about 3% better over the long run … see, you do need Financial Engine’s help! Think 3% is small? Well, here’s the most interesting statistic I had heard (based on a Seagal study):

If you invested a single dollar 210 years ago it would be worth $23 million today.

However, if every year you’d withdrawn just 2% of the money you had in that account, it would only be worth $400k today.

The premise is a bit goofy … investing over two centuries … but the main point is that a very small change (2%) can make a huge difference. Which is why they want you to think hard about that 3% better (net fees) they’re citing as the average amount people using investment firms do over those who don’t seek investment advice.

clip_image002Another factor to consider is how long you’ll live. This is the point that hit hardest home for me … well, perhaps not hardest, but it caught my attention. As I noted, I’m well over 50 years old so I’m at the point of having more days behind me than are before me. Apologies for the fatalistic views here.

The next chart was a little messy but spoke to my internal questions on longevity. The below stats assume you’ve lived to a certain age … which I think was 65 years … and then broke people into three groups:

  • single men
  • single women
  • couples

If you were a single man and made it to retirement age (65yo), half could expect to live to 87 and a quarter of that original group would then make it to 93.

If you were a single woman and made it to retirement age, half could expect to live to 90 and a quarter would then make it to 96.

Couples did the best as you can see in the slide to the right… with half living to 94 and a quarter making it to 98.

So if I was worried about not living long enough, I just need to console myself in the fact that I’m married … and happily so … so I should expect a good, long number of days remaining.

The last aspect to consider for retirement is just what the heck you’ll do with all that time! I recall when I first started at the Boeing Company as a shiny-faced engineer hearing that Boeing’s retirement account was flush with money because retirees just didn’t last that long! A long-time engineer would retire, sit around home bored, and die early. Another anecdote was from a hiking friend of mine who had a brother who retired: the retired brother had no plans and just hung out all day. In my friend’s words, “my brother aged more in the last two years than he had in the last decade!”

So, having something to do is important to me, especially considering the things I do in my downtime now are video games and poking around on the computer! I need something! I think I have this handled though with my hiking and woodworking hobbies. They interest me, take time, and I’m always up for another trip into the mountains or time in the shop. I will want to find somewhere I can volunteer my time: a career of tech skills, an able body for manual labor, and a sincere hope to leave the world better for my having been here are all motivators.

While it’s time I apply some thinking to “what comes next”, I’m in no hurry. Suzy has made her “what’s next” look appealing, so I’ll have a good role model if nothing else. I have hobbies and interests and ultimately retiring will give me a big thing I’m interested in having: time to do these things. For me, retiring is something I look forward to but not something I need to rush toward … my “good problem” to have.

Thanks for looking in while I ruminate on the future.

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Stop in your tracks moment

Posted by joeabbott on December 8, 2017

I’m not a huge Facebook fan but I like to stay connected to family and friends, a voyeur into their lives more than a contributor. I put myself out there enough in other ways that the instantaneousness of a Facebook post feels vacuous. And this comes from a guy who’ll post about Bing searches and Yeti. Still, good stuff comes to me from perusing the various posts from my friends and family and a recent visit stopped me in my tracks.

The piece was re-posted by a climbing friend and is a poem by Wendell Berry, someone I’d not heard of prior to that introduction. I read the poem, stopped, reread it … and then just sat there reflecting. It was beautiful and moving in its simplicity and voice. I’ll share it here … it’s called The Peace of Wild Things:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

As I reread I literally got goose bumps. I’m not sure why it speaks to me. As social and extroverted as I am, I find deep contentment in solitude and silence, I find healing in the winds high in the hills, and I have a yearning to see day-blind stars, waiting for their light.

It’s a good piece. Good enough to have me read up on Wendell Berry, good enough to put one of his books on my Amazon wish list, and good enough to share with all of you. Thanks for coming by.

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Going through old mail …

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

I’ll just leave this here for a little smile should I ever need it.

clip_image001

John on the left, Jay on the right … me in the middle.

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What does one do on a birthday?

Posted by joeabbott on November 15, 2017

Well, when we last checked in, I was taking a few days off work and pretty much had no plans. The one plan Suzanne and I discussed, heading up to Canada for a day of running around, just didn’t seem like what I wanted to do when the day came … so we stayed local.

As I’d noted, Saturday we enjoyed the Best of the Northwest art show and Sunday we went tent shopping … so what happened Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? Let’s look in!

Monday

WP_20171107_15_54_05_ProThis day was my actual birthday and we went to a movie and Suzy made me one of my favorite dishes for dinner: home cooked ribs. She slow cooks and smokes them in the oven and I would rather have those ribs than just about any others out there. They are outstanding. But I‘m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The morning came and Suzy made me some steel-cut oats. Not sure why but I adore some morning oatmeal. I used to eat them with butter, salt, and 1/2 & 1/2 … a bit different than most. I kinda cringe at the thought of putting anything sweet on them and these days I cut out the butter, but love my salty oats! And from there we headed to the cinema.

imageNow we don’t go to many shows at all, and our last movie adventure may have been for Suzy’s birthday. I chose Thor: Ragnarok as my movie and I couldn’t have chosen better … it’s the perfect popcorn-movie. Plenty of action, lots of chuckles, and some wondrous nonsense about our spandex-clad superheroes saving the world from yet another alien invasion. I won’t pretend to have understood the entire story or make pains to relate what I did understand here, but I will admit to emptying that popcorn bucket and could have stayed longer. It was a great flick for the mood I was in.

After this we headed home. I contemplated a nap but instead spent a little time reading, a little time eating, and finished off Dark Souls 2 in a co-op session gaming with a guy named SolarX2. I’ve played Dark Souls solo, I’ve played with poor co-op partners, and then there’s Solar … he’s a great partner. He knows the game, plays a strong bit of Dark Souls 2, and is generally easy to talk to. If I’m out and about playing Dark Souls, I’d prefer his company. But, we may not play together much in the coming days as he generally sticks to that one game and we saw it to its conclusion. It was a lotta fun.

WP_20171107_15_54_15_ProAnd that was the day: plenty of relaxing, lots of “entertain me” time, and some excellent food. Hard to recall a better birthday.

Tuesday

2017-11-14 11.54.58This was the day we went to the Puget Sound Goat Rescue and I put in a half-day of manual labor … and then spent the balance recuperating. Chainsawing trees, hauling debris, and moving gravel (by hand, with a shovel, one scoop at a time) just doesn’t come with as much bounce-back as it used to. We started off on tenuous footing as I’d locked in the GPS coordinates for the Goat Rescue to some odd address in the middle of nowhere. When Suzy mentioned she’d never come this way before I shushed her with a “technology is great, ain’t it?!” kinda comment and proceeded in having us drive down private roads with posted signs proclaiming, “you are being photographed” tacked to the trees. After passing the elderly man walking his two tiny dogs a second time, we headed back to the main thoroughfare and drove right to our destination. Suzy-1, GPS-0.

My job for the day was mainly trimming branches but as we got out, Barbara (the owner\coordinator) announced there was gravel to be moved to the low spots around feeders to stop the growing wet areas. So I jumped to it.

First I addressed a small tree growing right next to a retaining wall; sooner or later the roots would win and compromise the wall. Maybe in a year, maybe five … but the roots would win. So that came down. Then there were a couple other sites with large branches either laying on or over the roofs of her shed. Those came down next. And because I needed Suzanne to help determine which branches needed trimming on other trees, I cut down the branches I had already removed and hauled it to the burn pile.

After that, as Suzy was knee deep in mud, I manned the shovel and started moving gravel. Let me say this about that chore: I’m no stranger to manual labor and blessed with a physicality that can hold up to a bit of work, but after the first two dozen heaping shovels of gravel, you start to ask yourself if you’d rather take full scoops and minimize trips, or reduce the weight in the shovel and take more trips. Considering my feet are gimpy and now my back was aching, I switched off: full shovel, light shovel. Rinse, repeat.

But, as with any chore, the longer you work at it, the sooner it’s done. And, with any chore done at a goat rescue … don’t get too enamored with your handiwork, it won’t last long. Before I’d finished patting down the last of my loads, the goats were in there peeing into the gravel, stepping over it, and generally pushing it out of the way. That work won’t last a week, but it’s a week they won’t have puddles under their hooves.

After this, Suzy and I visited three trees along the drive and beat back the branches that were too low and overhanging the road. And then to the lilac bush. The lilac bush is an explosion of branches that desperately needed trimming but it’s hard to beat back a flowering bush and not be aware you’re sniping off the parts that make having it nice: the flowering stems. So we were cautious and prudent and only trimmed up about 6 loads-worth but it looked nice.

I’d say “that’s it” but there was pulling of fence t-posts that no longer served a purpose, there was coiling of hoses, tidying of the shed, and of course doting on the goats. One goat in particular, Rosebud, gets special pets from me … and a branch from a cedar tree that she seemed to like an awful lot. But then it was time to go home.

Once home I showered and pretty much played video games the rest of the day. Suzy made us a nice hot soup, we had cake and toyed around with a puzzle, but I mostly rested. It was a good day.

Wednesday

The day isn’t over yet but we pretty much did a lot of nothing. Well, kind of.

On the productive side of things we signed of the loan we’ll need to pay for the house we’re having built (still in planning phase), we returned the tent we picked up earlier in the week, I cleaned up the garage and that was it. On the slacker side of things, I ate lunch from Pizza Addict (delish), I lolled about the house relaxing, and spent a fair amount of time doing computer work.

Coda

That’s it for the vacation time; tomorrow I head back to work. As I expect to put in a bit of extra time I’ll be driving in and after tomorrow and Friday, I’m off another week. Sounds pretty good to me!

Thanks for dropping in and seeing how I loll about, catching up on sleep and generally decompressing.

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Birthday thoughts

Posted by joeabbott on November 13, 2017

Today is my birthday, and Suzy and I started Week of Joe on Saturday; I’ve had two outstanding days, expect another today, and then have the rest of the week after that. Time to talk birthdays!

image

For the uninitiated, Week of Joe is the week-long celebration of me around my birthday. I get to choose my meals, the activities we participate in, and Suzy has a card and gift for me each day. We’ve enjoyed this tradition (including Week of Suz in June) for a number of years now, and while I always look forward to the lavish attention, it’s admittedly hard to see a big difference in most of the other weeks we share. And that’s a good thing.

As we become more aware of all the things we have and save our dollars for the new home project, I focus less on the gift part and like to do things with Suzy. I’ve gotten into a habit of immersing myself in hobbies that have me on a trail or in the shop or playing video games, so time with Suzy is at a premium. It’s the thing I most look forward to enjoying during WoJ. While it’s hard to see a problem in this celebration, the one thing that dents the enthusiasm just a bit is that it’s toward the end of the year when I have lots of other time off from work, it’s near a gift-receiving holiday, and it’s kinda wet and chilly outside for doing some of my hobbies.

But none of that stops me from having a good time with the time we have. So, let’s look in on the 2017 Week of Joe!

imageSaturday we went to the Best of the Northwest art show. I thought of it as a craft fair but when you get to looking at things … specifically the price tags … you realize it’s art. And I kid a bit about the whole price tag thing. Yes, they’re charging more than you’d expect to pay if they were wrapping still-stained popsicle sticks with colored yarn and passing it off as home décor, but it’s real, honest-to-goodness art.

While Suzy goes every year, I go occasionally and have to say I enjoyed most of it. I most liked getting into the booths, talking to the artists, and sharing a bit of time with these folks. I was in a metalworkers booth and spotted a photo of his shop, shared a bit of conversation over that, and then asked about a totem-looking piece in the picture. He went on to tell me about some support beams in his shop, how he learned to carve faces so he could adorn them, and then offered to show them to Suzy and me next time we were on Whidbey Island where he has the shop. It was a fun bit of conversation.

We talked to Pavel the puzzle-maker, some print designers, and Suzy re-engaged with a potter\sculptor who remembered her from a prior visit. The place is as much about people meeting people as it is about art. I used to be self-conscious about being caught looking and worried about hard-sells. Here people actually want you to look and there is no hardness in anything … just open warmth. I love it.

At the show we bought some glass art for our backyard. The piece has a dramatic flair and a great color (purple) that work so well with the spot Suzy picked. While it’s not a birthday gift for me, it’s a great little something to get during WoJ.clip_image001

That evening we went out to eat at a local BBQ place that, we found out after stepping in, was giving away free meals to veterans … as our Nation was saluting Veterans’ Day. So we shared a little time and space with those who have served our country; lots of Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Army shirts, hats, and jackets. And there was a group of older women who appeared to be old friends catching up and talking animatedly at the table next to us. It made our quiet conversation a bit harder but we continued to look up and share a tight-lipped smile as the table would whoop and belly-laugh at some story only shared with good friends … and the rest of a public restaurant. It was fun.

And so yesterday came and Suzy gave me what we call a Big Breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage links, hash browned potatoes, and pancakes! A king’s feast to start the day … glorious. After packing that in and taking care of the dishes, we went outside and raked leaves. While it doesn’t seem like a WoJ sorta event, the rain had stopped and work needed doing so we got out there. It feels good to be productive and accomplish something like that … even though it’s a fleeting victory: there are always more leaves to settle in the yard.

clip_image001[4]After that we went to REI, a local outdoor goods co-op to look at tents. I’d decided I wanted a lightweight tent and needed to comparison shop. We chose to go to the “flagship store”, hoping to see as many of the models setup as possible. Unfortunately the place was jam packed with people, a number of folks allowed their kids to use the tents as a makeshift playground, and they only had a couple tents setup … and very few in the class I was looking for: small and lightweight.

But, we accomplished a number of things: we were able to compare and contrast a bunch of choices, we talked at length to a salesman, and we came home with a tent! And, after setting it up, debating a few more options, and considering everything … we came home with the wrong tent for me. During set-up I realized it won’t hold its shape without staking it out, and I was really hoping for more of a free-standing model. So, it’ll go back tomorrow, we’ll place an order for the tent I think will suite me better, and all will be well.

There are cards and gifts and cakes and all sorts of other goodies here on WoJ but that hits the highlights. I’m taking Monday (today) through Wednesday off and I’ll post more as the fabulous celebration of little ol’ me continues. Best gift so far? Time with Suzy!

Hope your celebrations are sometime you can look forward to all year!

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Little stories

Posted by joeabbott on October 22, 2017

A handful of years back this world lost my uncle and, in that moment, a great storyteller. He comes from a family of storytellers: his mother (my grandma), his brother (Uncle Bob), and now I’m finding the same comfort hearing the little gem-like tellings from my mother (his sister). These tales come out typically in firsthand conversations; perhaps on a long drive or maybe over a game of cribbage in the evening, or anywhere folks gather. Most recently, I’ve received a few in mail or email and in that they’re golden … the easier to read later or to share.

To be clear, these aren’t structured stories with proper beginnings, middle, and endings. They aren’t about great people or pivotal times in history. They’re not incredibly worded and masterworks for language study classes. These are small stories about small town happenings in average times. Sentences may not be complete, may trail off, and maybe a less apt word is used here and there … but they’re short and simple and always make me smile.

These stories are more important than all those things they’re not … they are about the lives and dreams and times of people in and around my life. And here’s one I’ll share that came from my mother a couple months back. While she’s passed on many years ago, it arrived on my grandmother’s birthday and in response to mail I’d sent to my mother remembering some trait or other of my grandma.

Thanks a lot, Joe.  I love hearing memories that you kids hold dear. 

She [ed. my grandmother] had a wonderful heart and at one time or another nearly all her siblings spent time at our home.  Aunt Clarice was there with Terri and Monica, before her little John was born, when Uncle Ted was in the service, in Alaska.  They used my bedroom, and I’d moved up into my mom’s sewing room.  Little did I know that I’d be staying there again, helping out Uncle Joe!   Uncle Jack (John, she always called him) came over for years for Sunday Dinner with our family, and to read our Sunday papers, and when the City told him they were taking down his house (the oldest in Virginia), he returned to my family home for his last days. 

Uncle Stanley and Uncle Wally also were cared for by your Grandma.  I’d bring lunch upstairs to Uncle Stanley and he’d have me go into his wallet, in the drawer of that little desk up there in “the boys room”, and with shaky hands he’d count out 6 $1 bills, “for the children”.  And always there’d be a $100 bill just before Christmas, that I’d use to fill the Christmas stockings.  And of course Uncle Wally used to go to the Target in Duluth (first one in Minnesota) to shop with Grandma and they’d arrive at our house with his trunk and back seat piled high with all manner of foods, which we would so happily haul into our kitchen. 

And Aunt Mitzie – well, I was glad to be able to put food on the table for all of us, but at Christmastime she always made me feel like a Queen, with her opulent gifts to me  – once it was the Fruit of the Month Club, and our first delivery was a box of kiwis which none of us had ever heard of as they weren’t in our stores here yet.  Imagine, those funny fuzzy brown things, and all of us looking down at them with our mouths open! 

The funniest sibling that came over was Aunt Rose, who used to crochet slippers for all you kids.  She and my mom would be talking in the breakfast nook, and splitting a beer (shocking, as my father neverI imbibed), and more than once they’d break into speaking Polish when I’d come into the kitchen and once they were laughing so hard they both rushed upstairs to the sewing room, and continued their laughing.  We all laughed too, and I wonder what it was that was so hilarious. 

Uncle Ed used to come over with his wife Ailie, whom I liked because she had a great sense of humor.  And they’d bring their kids, Liz (who became a nurse, married a doctor, and they live in Duluth; And Eddie became an attorney and practiced in Chicago – I think they had a family even bigger than ours, and often have a photo of all their kids/grandkids on their Christmas card.)  Both Liz & Craig  and Eddie & Cora came to UJ’s funeral, and always visited him when they were in town.  I wonder if you have memories of them? 

Well, you’ve probably heard all these stories many times, but it’s fun for me to look back on my childhood, as it was full of happy times.  And also lots of summer vacations – out east or into various parts of Canada. 

Have a good day, Joe.

Love,  Mom

And how could you not have a good day after reading such a beautiful thing?

I’m not sure what brought this topic to mind; maybe the article on Humans of New York that I read in this morning’s paper. But it’s sure a fine read the second time … and saved for many more reads in the future.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing this little story with me.

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Speaking of books …

Posted by joeabbott on March 10, 2017

WP_20170305_14_45_21_ProFor about 10 years now, Suzy has been compiling our annual photographs into a “best of” printed volume. The books are 100-ish color pages of glorious us. Yup, we have all these images digitally; yup, we lived that life so there’s nothing new here; and, yup, it’s just a photo album … but I look forward to paging through these every time I find one on a coffee table or on the bookshelf.

I’m not sure what makes these books special; as I noted, we have the digital images. But, there’s something about the tactile quality you can get paging forward, dropping back, and seeing the various instances of our lives in a curated fashion. And it’s not the many thousands of pictures you might get clicking through something on a computer or flicking through them on your phone: they’re just the select, best-of moments that are special in so many ways.

Take for instance last year. Suzy chose a picture of me in the bed of my new-ish truck, arms wide, grinning madly at a tilted rhododendron we were about to plant in our new property. New truck, new property, a plant that a buddy gave me that will grace our new home for years … and that smile that says, “I’m enjoying life!” It’s hard to beat seeing that printed on the cover of a hardback book!

And so, sure, we lived that life so there’s nothing new or truly surprising that we’ll bump into in the pages, but she was a little late on the 2015 book and as we sat side-by-side paging through it when it arrived, we continued to say, “was it that long ago that happened?” or “I thought we had that <insert name of thing here> a lot longer than that!” It’s just fun to relive the very best moments of your life with a quick flip-flip-flip. Even those photos that won’t be meaningful to anyone else.

So, that’s it. If you keep scrapbooks, you’re probably ahead on this score but if you’re use to just cataloging your vacations and days by snapping digital pics and saving them on a hard drive somewhere, I strongly recommend spending some time making your own best-of.

Thanks for dropping in.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Suzy

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2017

imageMy wife does many things well but in one of her many exemplary qualities, she shares of herself; and as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, she handed me an envelope to get into the mail to her father in a distant town. Yup, good old USPS mail for a family member who lives farther away than is easy to share our day-to-day events with.

In addition to a newsy letter and some pics from recent gatherings and to-do events here in Seattle, she had created a St. Patrick’s Day greeting card for him. While the original art is based on the Farmville game, she spent the time making a quick recreation rather than just cut-and-paste from a web search. The clever design gave me a bit smile (perhaps you have to be a chicken owner), but I really liked that she continued to keep family in the loop and put time and effort into that connection.

So, for those of my family members who aren’t receiving a St. Patrick’s Day greeting in the mail, this post is for you!

Smile

Thanks for dropping by!

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