Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money Pit

The money pit continues to consume my savings and my patience. UckingFay OuseHay.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not What I Planned...But...

I've been walking quite a bit during the last couple of weeks. A couple of miles or more most mornings and the occasional midday walk have been good for me. I awoke this morning with the intent that I'd go for a long walk, but sloth and the desire for coffee, coupled with bad knees and the knowledge that I'll spend a good bit of the day mowing the yard and doing other yard-work conspired against my good intentions.

So, instead I am spending my time futzing around on the internet and otherwise being unproductive. Speaking of coffee, I had been enjoying my new Keurig coffee maker immensely since buying it a couple of weeks ago, but then something went awry. I loved the fact that I could drop in a K-cup and have a fresh, hot cup of coffee in just a minute. But then after only a week, it stopped working correctly. It insisted it needed to be "primed" in order to produce a cup. I followed the troubleshooting directions, then called Keurig. The customer service tech walked me through the process of getting it operable again, but I was concerned that it was giving me grief so early in the process. The next morning, it happened again. Again I called Keurig. Instead of the usual insistence that I go through a lengthy process of troubleshooting again, the tech apologized for my inconvenience and said a new machine would be shipped to me in short order. The old machine obviously is defective, she said, so I need not return it; just discard it. But she asked me to mail in the K-cup holder from the old machine as evidence that the machine had been taken out of service. I hate that I have to delay my coffee gratification, but love the actual customer service Keurig delivered! This will provide fodder for my languishing customer service blog.

My wife returned home earlier this week from visiting her sister, whose husband died unexpectedly about five weeks ago. We'll be making another trip to Boston soon, though, to accompany my sister-in-law when she takes her husband's ashes to Illinois for burial in his family's plot. His 94-year-old mother lives there and wants him buried with his other siblings and his father. We will accompany her on the trip, which probably will be via Amtrak from Boston to Chicago and then on to Aurora. I'm not sure yet how we'll get to Boston; we may drive, as my intent to go on long road-trips during my year-long sabbatical has, thus far, been derailed by one thing and another. I had hoped to drive from Boston to Aurora, but my SIL would rather take Amtrak, so that's what we'll do unless she changes her mind. It's a 26-hour trip to Chicago from Boston via Amtrak. I look forward to the train trip; I enjoy travel by train.

For the past couple of days, I've had a guy working on replacing the soffits all around my house. The existing soffits had been painted several years ago by incompetent painters who had done virtually no surface preparation, resulting in bad blistering of the paint. The cheap masonite material, coupled with the difficulty of removing the old paint, argued for replacement instead of repainting, so that's what we're having done. It's an expensive proposition, but one that's been desperately needed for some time. After that job's done, he'll fix the rotting bases of the columns on the front of the house and will replace the front door and the door leading from the house into the garage. There are a few other odds and ends he'll do; these are things that are not apt to be highly visible "fixes," but they are badly needed and obscenely expensive. I sometimes wish we could sell this house and build a new one from the ground up. At least that would give me several years' freedom from expensive repairs.

But expensive repairs on the house are only part of the equation. If the weather cooperates and the contractor shows on Monday and Tuesday next week, we'll have our driveway and front walkway jackhammered and removed, then replaced with fresh new concrete. The sidewalk is tilted badly and cannot be righted. The driveway is cracked in pieces and heaves and swells with every season. New concrete, I hope, will improve both the appearance and the utility of both of them.

Enough of this. It will be time, soon, to begin the yardwork.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I can feel summer coming on. If it were within my power, I would put the brakes on that nasty progression, as summer in Dallas can be overwhelmingly miserable. During the worst of the worst days, the air itself is scorched and brittle. On such days, every breath one takes fills the lungs with tiny, sharp shards of burnt molecules of air. It's enough to make dogs growl and cats scratch and humans lash out with sharp razors, the latter in vain attempts to cut through the oppressive envelope of super-heated air to reach the cool comfort just beyond.

But that's not the case today. Though I feel summer coming on, as evidenced by yesterday's high of 82 degrees, this morning is absolutely glorious.

I started the day by getting out of bed a good 40 minutes later than I had planned, thanks to getting to bed later than I should have done. It was still dark, though, and by 6:25 AM I had weighed myself, put on my walking clothes, positioned my iPhone and ear buds just right, and headed out for a walk. Inasmuch as I've only recently returned to what I hope will continue to be a regimen of daily walks, I did not walk as far nor as long as I once would have done on a Saturday morning. It has only been this week that I've finally persuaded myself to muster a bit of discipline and go for morning walks, and some afternoon walks, as well.

Today, the Runkeeper app on my iPhone tells me I walked 3.68 miles in 57 minutes 39 seconds. I started off much slower than normal because I was wearing a new pair of shorts to which I had clipped my iPhone and had to get used to the way they felt. I kept getting the sensation that the iPhone was weighting them down and that they were slipping down. That apparently was not the case, but it felt like it. So, I started slowly. But it felt good. I was ready to call it quits by the time I got back home, though; I look forward to building up my stamina and addressing concerns about chafing, both of which will permit me to take longer walks. Before slot overtook me last fall, I was walking 5+ miles per day on weekends, topping out at just under 10 miles on a few occasions.

Before I summarize my week in walks, I want to record what this morning is like as I sit at my breakfast table looking out the window. Since I returned from Boston, leaving my wife to stay for awhile with her sister, I have made it a habit of opening the casement windows in the kitchen, breakfast nook, and living room. Not only does this allow in an abundance of fresh, cool air, it fills the rooms with light that no ceiling fixtures can ever replicate. It is absolutely delightful to sit here, after I return from my walks, and sit facing the windows. The early morning temperature when I start my walks is in the low to mid 60s. As daylight comes, the temperature rises fairly quickly, reaching 70 or above by 10:00 am. With a light breeze, 70 degrees feels wonderful.

When I return from my walks, I turn on the ceiling fans in the house to help the air circulate, hoping to replicate inside what I experienced during my walk outside. I then make my breakfast (one egg, two slices of turkey bacon, a glass of tomato juice, half a clementine, and at least one cup of coffee from my new Keurig brewer, which I adore) and then I sit and gaze out the window.

Many of the trees in the neighborhood have begun to leaf, some extensively, and the lawns have begun to get green. With a blue sky punctuated by puffs of white and grey clouds as a backdrop, the trees and lawns and houses look welcoming and happy. I know...but "happy" is the best word I can use to describe how they look.

The occasional walker or jogger comes by, but rarely do they acknowledge me when they pass. I suspect they may feel a bit embarrassed to look in the window and see someone looking back. I wish they would stop to chat, or at least wave and say hello. But, then, I think of myself as I'm off on my purposive walks: I don't want to stop and chat with anyone, I want to get some exercise. Maybe a walk a little later in the day might have better social results.

I do feel summer coming on, but for now I am entranced with this wonderful, but brief, spring.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


My wife has been helping her sister cope with the immediate challenges of widowhood for almost three weeks. I returned home after just a week and have been playing bachelor for nearly two weeks. In many respects, this time to myself is welcome. I'm learning a bit about myself as an individual versus one component of a couple.

It is good and important to recapture, if only on occasion, one's individual characteristics. I find myself with more time to reflect on things that rarely receive a moment of my thought. What I don't find, though, is the discipline to capture my thoughts by recording them in words. Even now as I type this, my ability to put my thoughts into suitable words seems to have escaped me.

I miss my wife and want her to come home. On the other hand, I may need more time yet to remember who I once was...if that person is someone worth remembering.