CHAPTERS

A strange thing happened this morning. For the first time in our 34 year marriage the day after Labor Day neither my wife or I got up at ‘0 dark hundred’ to go to work. I am almost 61 and my wife is almost 58. Actually we have been rehearsing for this day for a couple of weeks now but for some reason Labor Day made it official. Yes too early in our lives not to be working, but I am not going to go into the gory details in this post.

We always knew that this day would come. The turning of a page in our book of life, the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. It is exciting.  And yet?

We have been preparing for this time in our lives for a couple of years now. Oh we will have to work as we truly cannot afford to retire but the days of killing ourselves for ‘The Man’ are over. My wife and I are planning on pursuing things that we love in life and make money along the way.

We have raised two fantastic children. One married with a child and the other unmarried and sorting out his path in life. And us? We are learning, or should I say relearning, how to be alone together in the same room. How to not necessarily fill the air with talk. That it is okay for us both to read and just be. Sometimes  one of us will look over, catch the other’s eye and will say, “What? Is everything alright?” Of course it is, we are just getting to know one another again. We made a spaghetti sauce the other day and for the first time ever I did not get out the mega pot to make a mega sauce (if we had some meat to put into it it would have been ‘gravy’) because we didn’t need a mega sauce. Our Costco membership just ran out. That became a topic of discussion. Do we really need to buy in that quantity anymore? No, we decided but aren’t ready to give it up yet. We both love the Costco Buffet. I spent a good part of the weekend in what has become my ‘happy place’ when not staring at waves at the beach, my hammock, and my wife spent her time doing art, reading, and just relearning how to chillax.

Today I was going to make a special day as it is the first one after Labor Day when she was not going to return to a classroom. But my plans changed. It was even more special than I could have ever imagined. Our daughter-in-law asked us to sit for our 6 month old, first Grandson while she and our son had to work.

Yes this new chapter in our lives is starting off just great. I can’t wait to see how the next 20 years turn out.

Deadhead1155                                                                                                                                                  September 6, 2016

 

BEAM ME UP SCOTTY.

Yesterday I thrilled you all with how my world tipped in 2015. Today my wife and I were out shopping and she made a remarkable observation concerning changes in our life.

Okay let me go back a bit and fill you in. I have been a hyper person for my whole life; a nervous person (although this doesn’t always shine through as I try to hide it). A person that is really a slob, but also someone who must have certain things neat and orderly. Everything must have its place or it screws up the Feng Shui of a room. On the other hand, I can lose something that is right in front of my face and blame it on the rest of the human race. I’m a person that has had ADHD before anyone had ever heard of it. It used to drive me nuts that while walking with my wife, in the woods, stores, beach, etc.,  I would have to slow down to her pace. She was the calming factor in my life. While the neurons in my brain were flashing here and there, setting off firework displays that would put Macy’s to shame, my wife worked for decades to slow me down so I could “smell the roses”.  Bless her for not leaving me for a Yoga instructor. I think that you have the picture.

 As I posted yesterday, our lives have changed drastically within the past year or so. It’s hard to believe that I am actually slowing down now to take in the world around me and watch the show. I don’t find it necessary to “be” the show all of the time anymore.  As John Lennon once said, “I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round” and I find myself loving it. A work injury to my knee was the catalyst of all this change.  I see now that life is more then just working for the man to pay bills, sleeping, and starting all over again the next day.

 These days,  I  am the slow one, the one with the time to stand and figure out if an item in the grocery store really is the bargain that they want us to believe it is. I can sit on the gas line at Costco and not get aggravated at how long it is. Once the initial kick of my morning coffee wears off, I am content to lay in the hammock and read.  You can forget asking me a question, because you might just get an answer that you don’t have the time to listen to. One yarn leads to another and I am okay with this, and hopefully the feeling is mutual… In fact, regardless of what some people tell me, I am okay.  

This brings us back to today. My wife and I were shopping and suddenly she started to giggle. I asked her what she was laughing at and she replied  that she saw men following their wives around looking lost, beaten and downtrodden;  like they have just given up. She was laughing at the absurdity of it. I too used to laugh inwardly at these oppressed,retired men. Monday was dairy day, Tuesday was meat day, Wednesday was pasta day, Thursday might be frozen food day, and Friday, well who knows, maybe it was for things forgotten before the new circular even came out.

Many of these men looked so  miserable. Perhaps  it all started decades ago on a quiet night when the husband  announced that he was going out for a six pack and his wife asked those fateful words, “Honey, while you are out, would you please pick me up a box of tampons?”  He didn’t even realize it , but his transformation started at that very moment.

And today I saw them schlepping their wives pocketbooks around the store trying to be invisible, staring out into space, adding insult to injury.  Is this what I have to look forward to in my “Golden Years”?? Beam me up Scottie, for I am surely doomed.

AS THE LORD IS MY WITNESS, I WILL NOT, CARRY HER POCKETBOOK. A MAN HAS TO DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE!!!!!      deadhead1155

 

A MITZVAH, BUT FOR WHO?

Mitzvah: (Hebrew)-a meritorious or charitable act.

I am 60 years old. Last year I had to leave a profession that I worked in for 25 years for medical/physical reasons. So you can imagine that I have time on my hands. For a couple of decades, I have developed a passion for technology. Oh like most people of my generation, I started out reluctantly but have really been sucked into it. When Windows was going to hell I learned to use Linux. When phones became ‘smart’ I was drawn to the Android operating system. But for some reason the Apple, or Mac, OS never really caught on with me.  

Recently one of my High School friend’s Mother passed away. She and her husband were/are both 86 years old. My friend’s Mother really took to the iPad that was given to them but his father found it not as easy. After the funeral we started talking and he asked me if I would teach him how to use the iPad. In the course of the conversation he admitted that technology like that scared him a bit. I assured him that I would work with him and teach him how to get by and ‘be connected’.  Now remember that I have never used an iPad or iPhone and a Macbook only rarely. So I went out and bought a used iPad and a book on teaching Seniors how to use it.

Let me jump back here a moment and say that my own father passed away in 1986. He was just 59 and I was 30. My Mother is still alive and has been in Florida for 26 years. My wife’s Mother passed away when she was very young, I believe 5 or 6 and her father passed away when my oldest was 3. So my children grew up without having a close relationship with a Grandparent, and my wife and I raised our children without having the pleasure of sharing the experience with our parents, so to say. 

While growing up, I had a close relationship with a few of my friends parents. When at their homes I always felt like a member of the family.  My wife and I took this same route with our children’s friends. I always refer to them as my adopted children. To this day, we are in touch with them even though they live all around the Country. We get calls on Mother’s and Father’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas, New Years, etc. We Skype with a few and when asked offer advice.

Yesterday I went over to my friend’s Father’s house and spent the afternoon with him. We talked, a bit. We worked with the iPad for a while until he was getting overwhelmed and then put it away. Afterwards we had pie and sat and talked for about an hour. He told me stories of growing up in New York City, about some of the jobs he had to make money and then all about his courting the girl that became his wife. It was very emotional for both of us. We discussed many things but really just scratched the surface. Suddenly I realized that the afternoon had slipped away and that I had a meeting some distance away at my Boy Scout Council and had to leave. But not before setting a ‘play date’ for next week.  We hugged, kissed and were all smiles when I left. As I was getting off of the elevator I noticed a mirror opposite me. In it I saw myself smiling from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat. When I got into the car I couldn’t wait to call my wife and share my feelings with her.

casablanca

So really, which of us was performing a Mitzvah?

 

 

Medical Costs Rise….. My Own Experiences

Above is a link to an article in today’s (2/1/2015) NY Times. It got me thinking about my own experiences in regards to the rising cost of Health Care. This will take me a couple of days to write as I need to contact my Insurance Company and they are closed today so hang in there.

This actually begins about a year ago. My wife has, for seven years, worked in a school as a Special Education Aid. In June of 2013 we were told that they were going to cut her hours from full time to twenty five but that for one last year she would be allowed to participate in the School System’s Health Coverage Program. Which I might add was very good. But that to do so she would have to contribute to the monthly premiums. Let me add here that the District was asking everyone to also pay into the monthly premiums for the first time so her job was not alone in this. The premium was low enough so that did not bother us. What really hurt was the loss of income. This was a major cut especially since I was dealing with work related health issues that I cannot go into here because of ongoing Litigation.

I work in an industry that supplies products to retailer stores. Most of my retailers have told me that they will no longer be hiring full time employees and only part timers (at about 25 hours a week) because of the new Affordable Health Care Act and it’s ramifications.

Now let us move ahead to the summer of 2014. Although my wife’s coverage wouldn’t end until August 31st I began to look at various options open to us. The company I work for used to have GREAT insurance but since I hadn’t needed it for seven years I had my homework to do. As it turns out, the premiums were constantly on the rise, and the types of coverage were constantly changing. At one time were able to pick from three tiers of coverage depending on our family/personal needs. Of course each had different monthly premium costs but that was to be expected. By 2014 there were still some choices but not as good, and of monthly premiums were up as well. The best one that I could find was a $3,000 family deductible but prescriptions were in three tiers. The tiers ranged from $50 to $15 per month for a prescription depending on what kind of medicine it was. Okay so far, as prescriptions were concerned it was up from the tier program that my wife’s insurance had but not by that much. But, now instead of a $15 copay for a Doctor visit (yes I know that that is very very low, but remember that her insurance was through a Public School System) I now had to pay full price until the family hit the $3,000 deductible. Not wanting to feed the deductible for the last quarter of the year, we all changed our existing appointments to the beginning of this year.

November 2014, open enrollment time. Holy Shit!! My Company now cut our benefits even more. No longer did we have three plans to choose from, now we had only one. And here it is: The premiums pretty much held, the family deductible stayed at $3000 for the family and, (are you ready for this?), now any copay for prescriptions doesn’t kick in until we hit that $3000 deductible. Then  it was an 80/20 copay based on a three tier system.

I looked into the Affordable Health Care act and it would cost me $1800 a month in premiums and not much better in deductibles and prescriptions costs. Before my wife’s policy originally ran out I checked Cobra and that was going to be $2800 a month but the coverage was still really good. But who has $2800 a month to shell out for premiums, and remember that because of the A.H.C.A. we lost a chunk of monthly income because of her hours being drastically cut. So as you can guess we hung in there with the insurance offered by my employer and started an Health Saving Account with what little I could afford and prayed that my employer would not cut their contribution to it.

I happen to take about seven types of prescriptions for various reasons. Some because of my genetic make up and others because of my genetic make up. (Yes you read that right). One prescription that has always been in the highest tier came up for renewal last week. I went to CVS and it came to $542 under our new plan. I did not bring it home. I went home, logged onto the manufacturers website and applied and received a discount card which brought it down to $252 a month. HOLY SHIT.  Well that was yesterday. Tomorrow, Monday I am going to call the insurance company, which won’t do much other then make me feel like I gave it the ‘All American Try’, then the Pharmaceutical Company that makes the medication and see if they can do better for me, and lastly put in a call to my Physician and if necessary see if something else exists that will cost me less a month. So hang in there, I will be back momentarily, in print time, with an update.

Monday February 2, 2015:

Here is the update. I called UMR (our Insurance Carrier and a division of United Health Care). They were very nice but all they would do is reiterate what I wrote above. They did suggest that I call OptumRX the company that deals with prescriptions for them. Which I did. They told me that under our NEW plan the fees were correct and that there was nothing to do except call the prescription discount card people that I downloaded. They were also very nice but said that the fee was correct based on the Parent Company’s policy. Next it was suggested that I call the Pharmaceutical Company itself because they have a Patient Assistance Program. [You see where this is going, right?] Well under their guidelines, and looking at our current W2 forms, we make too much to  be considered for their program. Not a lot more but still too much.

So there it is, I have said it for many years now. Insurance is going to break the backbone of this once great Country. Blame it on Obama Care. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on anything you like, but a run away freight train will still, eventually derail and cause a major accident. And that is what we have here.

Well tomorrow I will call the Doctor and see if I can get some samples to hold me over until I figure out this whole mess. I will keep you all posted.

In the mean time: “Attica, Attica, Attica!!!!!!!!!!!” Google it youngun’s.

Rights of Passage (one of many)

I follow a Blog entitled ‘A Day in the Life‘ if you have never read it, check it out.  Last week this person posted a blog called ‘Take a Drive’. Well this got me thinking about the ‘good old days’ when I was in High School and had just gotten my Driver’s License. Just like today, getting your license was the epitome of FREEDOM. I didn’t need Mom or Dad to bring me to a friends house or to the Bowling Alley. If I could do my best acting and convince my parents that I was going right to my friends house, the movies, the ice cream parlor, and then straight back home life was hip. I was one of the first in my class to get my license to drive. Now I was no longer the little freckle faced kid that had his lunch money stolen in the boys room, no no I was now the hip guy that could provide transportation to my friends. We didn’t have to sit in a friends house wondering what to do, now we could get into my parents Wide Tracking Pontiac 1971 Catalina and cruise around wondering what to do. Gas was cheap and plentiful. Where we went didn’t matter the simple fact that we could just go was good enough. Even when we were bored we were free to move around and be bored.

But then suddenly there was this thing called a ‘Gas Shortage’.  This was a time when countries in the Middle East were Nationalizing the oil fields. No longer were Shell, Exxon, Sinclair, Getty running the show. Suddenly a group called OPEC was calling the shots and it was wreaking havoc on my being cool. How dare they. Suddenly we went from idle cruising to cruising to find gasoline. Gas was being sold on and odd even basis. If your license plate ended in and even number you could buy gas on an even day, odd on an odd day. Maybe!

gas

 

But that’s not what I wanted to share with you today, no. That was just setting up the background of the story.  Let’s move on to the nitty gritty.

As it so happens, we decided that no one was going to dictate to us whether we could drive around idly with no destination or not. Not our parents, not the police and especially some countries halfway around the world. We were Americans. Old enough to fight for our Country, old enough to drink in our Country (in those days the drinking age was 18) and it was our God given right to drive aimlessly in our Country. Damn it. So, what to do? We could drive from gas station to gas station for enough gasoline to get to the next station, or we could take matters into our own hands. Which is what we did.

Now I didn’t have my parents car this Saturday night but by now my friends were driving as well. On this particular night I don’t really remember whose car we were in but it didn’t matter. In those days almost all cars were big, had bench seats and got 6 mpg. No matter what we needed gas.  Suddenly we had a great idea. We’ll siphon it. Sure easy as pie.

[Let me pause here a moment to tell you that I am not proud of this and do not condone this kind of sociopathic activity at all but this is now and that was then].

The problem was that we had never done this before. Well there had to be a first for everything. So we found a house with a garden hose laying on the lawn. And one of us cut off a length. Next we found a nice big Cadillac parked facing uphill. The rear license plate folded down and the gas cap was underneath it. We backed our car up to just about the bumper of the Cadillac, turned off the lights and the engine and got out. But as it turned out we all knew the idea of what we had to do but no one had ever done it before. Once, twice, three,shoot. Damn I lost. Okay boys it was up to me to keep us going. I took the cap off of the Cadillac and slid the hose into the gas tank. I flipped down the license on our car undid the cap and proceeded to suck the air out of the hose. It seemed to take forever. The guys were telling me to hurry up before someone came by. I was nervous enough but kept on sucking on that garden hose. Finally just as someone announce that it wasn’t going to work, I took one large suck in from the bottom of my lungs and bazinga. I inhaled, swallowed and was covered in gasoline. I was soaked in it. I dropped the hose and the golden liquid was pouring out onto the pavement. So was my insides. I was heaving all over the place. My friends were laughing, very funny. Between heaves I mumbled, “Put the fucking hose into our car you’re losing all the gas.” After looking from one to the other someone picked up the hose and began to fill our car. Finally we were back on our way with everyone laughing in stitches but me. I was burping gasoline and stunk to high hell. But we had gas to carry us through the night for more aimless cruising.

After a bit my friend Duke took out a cigarette and some matches and went to light up. I started screaming like a madman. “STOP!!!!! Don’t you know that it is the fumes that ignite not the liquid. You’re going to blow us to kingdom come you asshole. More fits of laughing and me burping gasoline. but he put the match out. Thank you.

Well they dropped me off at home, I got undressed outside, snuck into the shower, went to bed and prayed that I wouldn’t die from gasoline poisoning in my sleep. The next morning I woke up grabbed my clothing from behind the bushes where I hid them and washed them all the time hoping no one would smell the gas. If they did no one, not even my brother mentioned it.

So that was how we survived the first gas shortage.

Postscript: Twice a year I empty the gasoline out of my generator and put fresh gasoline into it. The last time, I asked my oldest son to help me. We drained as much as we could out but there was still plenty in it. I didn’t want to run it dry and waste the gasoline so I told my son that we were going to have to siphon out the gas. He looked at me like I had three eyes. Finally he said asked if we had a siphon. To which I replied, “are you nuts? Don’t you know how to siphon gasoline?” No of course not. He was going to go to NAPA and buy a siphon until I yelled out, “Stop right there boy, your old man is going to teach you something that you should have learned years ago!” And so I got a piece of hose, siphoned out the gas (didn’t inhale a drop) and we filled the 5 gallon can. Later he asked me how I knew to do that , I winked told him the story about growing up during the gas shortage and then asked if there was anything else he needed his old man to teach him.

The Busiest Shopping Day of the Year

Being born Jewish I never really paid much attention to the Christmas Season or all of the traditions, trials and tribulations that go along with celebrating Christmas. While in College I met the girl that would become my wife and the Mother of my children (I have told that story in the past and will not subject you to it here). Man what a culture shock. I mean her family welcomed me with open arms which was very nice but suddenly I was thrust into a whole new world. First off, my wife comes from Italian stock and the first wake up call was that they really do have Sunday dinner at 1:30 pm and don’t leave the table until about 8:00 PM. My Father-in-law would hold ‘Court’ for hours on Sundays and my Mother-in-law somehow kept food coming and coming and also got to eat. But this is not what I wanted to go into today.

What I wanted to go into is kinda sorta related.

I was listening to the News and found out that yesterday, the Saturday before Christmas, is the busiest shopping day of the whole year. Now I was surprised to hear this as always thought that the busiest day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. Apparently I was wrong.

When my wife and I met back in the late 1970’s and I now had to become part of the madness of Christmas shopping my head would ache by the end of just the first day of shopping. I couldn’t get it. To me, I thought that Christmas was celebrating the birth of Christ three month’s early, NOT about how much money was spent or how much stuff was under the tree. Boy was I wrong. I had a lot to learn about Democracy and Capitalism it appears. Oh and Christmas too.  For now I was part of the shopping frenzy. Why I even saw two women fight over a sweater in Macy’s one year. I finally learned why the parking lot at the Mall is as big as it is even if it is empty most of the year. Silly me.

Now lets jump ahead some years. We are now married, have two children, two dogs, a nice little house, and eighty immediate relatives on my wife’s side. Only kidding about eighty relatives but at Christmas time it sure feels that way. So my boys are lucky. Not only did they get Christmas presents but they got to play with matches and light Hanukkah Menorahs and get a gifts for Hanukkah too. Hanukkah  is not really a big holiday in Judaism but not wanting our little ones to feel left out of the Season of Joy we give presents to. Traditionally for all eight nights but being very Reformed, or really on the fringe, we just did it for the first two nights. But Christmas, well that’s another story. Now I found myself running from Kay Bee toys to Toys R Us like a madman searching for the latest Power Ranger or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. As they got older I found myself standing on lines that reminded me of the food lines during the Great Depression (not this one but the one my parents grew up in) and not only in toy stores, now I am running from Circuit City and Best Buy to get the latest Nintendo 64 console. Then years later it was for a Nintendo WII, then the one and only Xbox.  One year I fell for that old ploy and went to Walmart for their Black Friday special for an unbeatable priced laptop (that was for me because I never owned a laptop). After standing in the cold from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM I ran into the store and found out that they only had two in stock, no rain checks and I should have been the first online Thanksgiving night instead of eating Turkey and sipping wine. What parent didn’t lose a nights sleep wrapping toys on Christmas Eve to keep the idea of Santa Claus alive? Boy those were the days my friends I thought that they would never end but they did. And thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet. I know he didn’t really invent the internet but that last line wouldn’t be funny now would it?

Let’s come to the present. My wife and I went to the Mall once, Friday, we were there for a couple of hours and then back to the ranch. Does that mean that we didn’t do any Holiday Shopping this year? Au Cont-rare my friend. We shopped like fiends. Oh today the gifts were less but the cost is much more. Not from inflation but from the age of our offspring. But yet, here it is, five days till Christmas and everything is bought, wrapped and we are still sane, we still love each other, and all thanks to……….AMAZON!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes we did it all on the internet and were done about a week ago. So there, no more cold nights standing on line, no more fighting over the last sweater, no more swearing because the only spot left in the parking lot is the Handicapped spot. For we are blessed by the internet.

So, never mind Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. I say let’s Celebrate the Internet. Yes my friends the Internet, without which I might be divorced, or suffering from alcoholism, or even yet in jail because in my heart of hearts I know that I saw that sweater first.

My Legacy

For a few weeks now I have had this idea for a blog. My Legacy. But I have been unable to put anything to words that even come close to being appropriate. I write and then erase, and do this over and over. Why is this so important to me? Well for one, I turned 59 last month, my Aunt passed away the day before having succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease after nine long years. I was in Florida visiting my Mother at the time. Second, my oldest son moved out with his Fiance and is going to get married next year, my youngest son moved back home (temporarily) while looking to go to school back here on the East Coast. And the year is winding down. So As my wife and I look at the the end of one chapter in our book of life (trying very hard not to flip through the pages of the next chapter to see what is coming which would be cheating) I wonder about My Legacy. Is having a legacy important? When you pass a cemetery with those thousands of Headstones I wonder about all the people that have come before me and think, “I wonder if they had a Legacy?”  And if not, so what?

Last evening I decided to discuss this with my wife. We had a nice long conversation about it. Then miraculously I got an email in my ‘in box’ that seemed, to me to answer the question beautifully. Here is the photo that came with it:

forest-witcraft-quote-for-fb

I always thought that the quote ended with the word ‘child’ but apparently not.  It just so happens that I am a Scout Leader and have been for about 17 years now.

So there it is, the answer to my question.

If you have the time and are so inclined here is the link to the WordPress blog that it comes from. The Blog is called Bryan on Scouting.     http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/12/11/forest-witcraft-quote-first-appeared-scouting-magazine/