Monday, January 21, 2019

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
I can remember my mom Sybil Miner Beck singing that old song on cold mornings. With the temperature at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill of minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s way too cold for me. In my youth school schedules were never delayed, just because it was cold. Only ice and snowy roads cancelled classes. I can remember walking to an unheated wooden bus shanty, huddling inside. At least we were out of the wind as we waited for the long yellow and black behemoth to arrive trailing a plume of steam and fumes. The brakes squealed as it stopped opening its maw. We would hurry to be swallowed by it, joining fellow students for the ride to school happy for the small but welcome warmth inside.
My mom had a quirky trait of singing a chorus of a song when it matched something one of us kids would say. The song always had some tie in with what we had just said. She only did it at home for us, so I’ve always thought that it was special for the family. If she would have tried it in public, people probably would have thought her crazy. I must have thought that it was special, because I picked up her unusual trait and will often sing a few lines from a song, but I have added telling a story or sharing a joke that mimics some word in something that was said. I did this when I supervised at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure if anyone thought I should be wearing a straight jacket or not, but most of the time, it did bring a smile. Hopefully, I made a fellow employee’s day go a bit better.
I decided my New Year’s resolution for several years and have been practicing. That promise is “If I am grumpy, I don’t leave home. No one wants to deal with a grumpy old man.” So far, I’ve been able to keep it. It makes people smile when I share my resolution with them. Those who enjoy it the most are the cashiers at stores where I shop. They sometimes will share a horror story of a rude or irate customer.
So, to my friends and readers, I challenge you to adopt the same New Year’s resolution.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Dog Days
Thinking back to the days of my youth and the dogs that have graced my life, I would like to share some of their names and what I can remember of them and the spots they still hold in my mind. The first dog that was introduced in my life, I can’t really remember, but because my parents told me stories of him. Although I cannot remember his name, I must include this almost mythical beast. He was a Great Dane and became my self appointed babysitter. My parent’s house was near busy highway, Rt. 711 and If I wandered too near, that dog would grab the seat of my pants and drag me back into the yard.
The next dog I’ll mention is Laddie. He was my Uncle Charles Bottomley’s dog. It was black and brown with a white patch of long hair on its chest. My uncle would talk me into holding onto the leash, then call from across the yard, “Here Laddie.” I would be jerked off my feet, but I refused to release the leash, and would be pulled along with my feet barely touching the ground while Uncle Charles laughed.
I’m sure there were other dogs, but the next I remember was Bimbo. He was my mother’s dog, a Jack Russell mix and smart as a whip. His territory in the winter was our basement. My mom, Sybil Beck would sometimes give Bimbo a bone to gnaw on. If he wasn’t chewing on it, he would bury it in the coal bin. When my parents tossed on a shovelful of coal in the furnace, I’m sure he lost several bones before he decided to rescue them before they too disappeared. Mom said, “When I entered the coal bin, Bimbo would sit there with the bone between his feet. After shoveling the coal and hanging the scoop shovel back on the peg, Bimbo would dig a new hole to hide his prize.”
I found a pup behind our home and took it to my grandparents Miner. When Gram Rebecca saw it she said “Look at those paws. It’s going to be a big dog.” She named it Laddie and decided to keep it. Laddie followed my granddad Raymond around the farm. That was a Godsend. This was the beginning of Granddad’s dementia and Laddie was his guard and guide. There were several times Granddad would wander the fields and thickets on the farm getting confused, and Laddie would always lead him home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tending the Flock
At Christmas 2018, my daughter Anna Elizabeth Prinkey came to my house to borrow the plywood sheep from a nativity set I made over twenty years ago. If I’m ambitious, I pose Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the manger and two sheep in my front yard with a spot light on them. This year, I left them stored in my basement and shed. I wasn’t feeling super Christmassy and felt happy and satisfied that I was able to put up the artificial tree with all of the lights and decorations.
I was really lazy in 2017. I hadn’t put away two crèche manger scenes. They were still perched atop the barrister cabinets for this past Christmas. This year, I decided to store them away when I dismantled the tree.
The church needed sheep for the Christmas play and Anna cattle-rustled my two sheep for the scenery of the play. When the performance was over and I was able to claim my sheep, our Pastor said to me, “I really wish we could have sheep that are knee high for future plays.” The sheep I had from home were only fifteen and eighteen inches high.
I remembered that I had a half sheet of wood paneling stored in my shed. An idea slowly formed in my head. I could make a few sheep from it. I had paint left over from my bathroom remodel and craft paints from past projects. I dragged the half sheet into my basement, placed it on a table, then studied it to see how I should sketch the patterns for the most sheep from the wood I had.
By placing the heads, backs, and tail ends in different positions, I was able to design a flock of four sheep. Each one was nearly twenty-four inches high. Only one got short changed. That wooly lamb was in a laying down position with its legs tucked under it to fit the amount of space that remained.
I cut them out, painted them, and even slotted their feet to allow slotted bases to slip on. The bases allowed the sheep to stand without propping them up. Later, after several splinters in my fingers, I was able to finish the entire flock and take them to church. I had no desire to store them at my house until next Christmas.
By making the sheep, I’ve accomplished two purposes; the Pastor now has his sheep and I have less clutter at my house.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Snow Way
My house is located off the main highways and as a result the nearby roads are less likely to be treated as quickly as Route 30, Route 31, or Route 711. The snowfall is the same as the main roads, but because there is a little less maintenance, coupled with the fact that the wind causes drifting snow to cover the road more rapidly, I have on several occasions been snowed in and unable to travel.
The minor “snowed in” times were when snow plows would deposit the drifting snow from the road just above my house and fill my driveway. Sometimes, they would push three feet of packed snow into the end of my drive. I don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle and to escape, I have to use sweat, work, and muscle to unclog my drive.
But what I really want to talk about are the times when the snow plows themselves get stuck and are unable to keep the roadway open. There have been many times it has been a close call, only having one lane open, but there were at least twice my family and I were cut off from civilization, unable to get out, even in an emergency.
Between my house and Route 31, there are several open fields at the top of knolls. Yearly, they manage to fill with some of higher drifting snow. I can recall a time that a snow plow actually got stuck and the second came to pull it out. They both became trapped in the packed drift. The Penn Dot management finally sent a huge vehicle with a fan-like snow blower on the front to free the trucks.
Another year after working the 11-7 shift, I was able to make it home with my bumper pushing drifts much of the way. I parked my car on the road at the end of my drive until I could open the drift that barred my entrance. That was on a Saturday morning. By 10 AM Saturday morning, there was no more traffic on the road; nothing. Although the wind continued to fill my drive with drifts, I didn’t shovel. There was no use with no place to go. I felt very fortunate that the electricity stayed on. Between the wood burner and the oil furnace, we were able to stay warm. Sunday evening at 10 PM, the road was finally opened by a tractor with a large scoop bucket. It lifted the snow and dropped it to the side of the road.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Keeping Promises
I mentioned several things on my Facebook posts that needed follow up to tell the full story. I looked back through my previous Blogs and wasn’t able to find them. I have so many stored from the past. They’re listed under titles and sometimes I can’t find what I want. My titles are often obscure and don’t share the facts that are buried in the text.
There are two stories I wanted to share. The first was in response to a cartoon about a person that was too hot under a blanket, too cold without being covered, but with the body covered and one leg protruding it was “just right.” My wife Cindy had the same attitude. She called her leg “her thermostat.” Most of the time, I had no problem, but in the middle of the winter, it would get icy cold. When it became too cold for her, she would draw in back under the covers and place against my back. The shock can be a real eye-opener in the middle of the night. The worst part was, she would immediately stick her other “thermostat” out from the blankets to cool. Oh how I miss that shock therapy.
The other story was a post saying, “Don’t tell me about your childhood problems, I was forced to watch Lawrence Welk as a kid.” Lawrence Welk was a staple our Saturday evenings. Just as sure as I knew the sun was going to come up in the morning, I was positive that my dad Carl would sit in his swivel reclining rocker directly in front of our black and white television to enjoy the music, then almost immediately fall asleep. I tried on many occasions to stealthily change the channel pf that old television to anything that was more interesting than music of an accordion or “The Shrimp Boats are Coming.”
As soon as I would click the knob, my dad would sit upright and snort, “I’m watching that.” My hopes dashed, I’d turn the channel back and we’d continue to watch Lawrence. One time, I thought I’d prove Dad wrong, I slowly turned his swivel rocker to face away from the T. V. Great planning, then click…the chair bolted upright with Dad sputtering, “I was watch…” His voice faded to nothing when he wasn’t facing the set. He returned the chair to face the television and we watched Lawrence Welk. Needless to say, Dad wasn’t pleased and tried to kick my butt as I walked past. He missed and nearly fell out of his chair. Although I still don’t like to hear the bubbly music, that program continues to have a special memory for me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Family, God and Now Doctor
It’s unanimous. They all agree, I’m too old and too whatever to climb onto the roof for repairs or to clean my chimney. After last Friday night when I became ill with nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations, I called my doctor Monday to arrange an appointment. At the office, I filled her in with my symptoms and a bit more history of my fall in February of 2015. I shared that I’d had two bleeds in my head from the fall, that I’ve had several episodes of disequilibrium prior to the fall, and that I’ve recently had several instances of an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeats occur randomly and would last about 20 minutes. I also shared that I didn’t go to the hospital because of its short duration. By the time I would go to the hospital, there would be nothing to evaluate. She nodded her head like she understood.
While a talked to her, I said that this recent incident delayed my need to climb onto the roof to clean my chimney. Her look was something akin to horror. Now she was shaking her head and telling me no, stay off the roof. Her warning coincided with my family’s wishes and God’s delays from the illness and the weather.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having someone tell me I’m too old to do something. When I get to the point in life that feel I’m too old, that is completely different, but back to my story.
She began to type on her computer. When she was done, she turned the screen to me and said, “I’m ordering some blood work. No EKG yet. Without having the symptoms now, it would accomplish nothing. It’s too soon to order a Holter monitor and with the symptoms so random it would be senseless.”
But she did order a major battery of blood tests. Myocardial enzyme tests because as a diabetic, heart attacks can be silent, only appearing as nausea. The next test was a complete blood count to rule out a sinus infection. She ordered a urinalysis and electrolytes. An A 1 C was to check my blood sugar. Because I’d complained about aches and pains in my joints, she threw in a test for Lyme’s disease. After all, I do go hunting and ticks are prevalent in Pennsylvania.
So, now I sit and wait to hear the results from the tests and dream about prancing about on the roof waving a chimney brush singing “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cheree.” Where is Mary Poppins when I need her?

Monday, January 7, 2019

It’s God Calling
I had plans for Friday. After taking a friend to her morning appointment for physical therapy, I had planned to pull my ladders from the basement and give my chimney a good cleaning. My son gave loan to me his chimney brush and the rods. However, on my way to the appointment my front wheel made a grating sound. That isn’t something that any driver likes to hear.
As soon as I got home, I called my mechanic. He told to bring it over to diagnose the problem. Once my car was up on the lift, he popped off the wheels and as I thought, the brake pad was wearing thin. “About a month and they’ll need to be changed.” The rotors were starting to have grooves worn into them as well. He suggested that I change them. I’m mechanically dyslexic, but I could see the wear on the brakes and the wisdom of changing them before I really had problems. He’d have to order the parts, so I go back this week for repairs. When I returned home, I decided to eat lunch and wait for the sun to completely dry off my metal roof before I attempted to climb Mt. Everest to the chimney top.
I’ve had several episodes with disequilibrium and my fall in 2015 causing two bleeds in my head, I’m not comfortable higher than one story, but I cautiously will climb onto the roof of my two story house for a chimney sweep. As I waited, I began to feel nauseated, then a bout of disequilibrium arrived. I checked my blood pressure. It was a little high, but my blood sugar was okay. I waited to see if it would pass. It didn’t and my pulse became irregular for a short period of time. No roof for me right.
The ill feeling continued all Saturday, although my pulse steadied. The irregular beats usually last 30 minutes. My kids say, “Go to the hospital,” but by the time I’d get to there, the symptoms would be gone and they would be evaluating nothing. By Saturday evening, I was feeling a bit improved, but my equilibrium was still off. Darkness interrupted my rooftop plans again.
Sunday was church day. Morning services, Sunday school, then we had a gathering for a noon meal and combined evening services. Everything had improved to the point that I may have been tempted to make an ascent to the peak, but I choose not to work on Sunday since I’ve retired. No more forced labor on the day of rest. God has spoken. I am hoping he gives a good health and weather day soon.