Back in the saddle again.

09-11-14a

This has really been a long week which has truly made me weary. When I set out for a walk this morning, I was glad to escape the house and the computer screen, albeit just for a little while – a chance to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Fresh air indeed! The wind was whipping around out there at nearly 25 mph and I felt like a tumbleweed as I strolled along Fort Street … and a cold tumbleweed at that.

It seems I have yet to catch up with the one day I lost when there was no power. I had an agenda of my own inside the house for that Saturday, none of which was accomplished, and it seems I have been scrambling around to catch up ever since. I have been very busy at work and was trying to get time-sensitive documents done before the advent of yesterday’s predicted bad weather. Bad weather makes me nervous anyway, and needing to churn out work with a storm looming had me staying home hunched over the laptop and foregoing several walks. The storms never materialized because it was cloudy and rainy all day, but that’s okay with me. The various meteorologists started previewing dire weather conditions as early as Sunday, so when I went to the store, I was reluctant to get many groceries needing refrigeration since I lost everything in the fridge and freezer from Friday’s power outage. Gone were my collection of preserves, one of the indulgences I allow myself now that I no longer eat sweets. The other indulgence is the rustic bread I buy for Buddy and I to share, and that, too, was lost as that bread is baked with no preservatives and it thawed quickly in the freezer. So Buddy and I have lived on bagels the past five days. I wasn’t going to put any more in the fridge than necessary, so I had a bottle of marshmallow cream that I bought on a whim to slather on peanut butter with my toast. It stays in the cupboard since it doesn’t need refrigeration. So, I’ve eaten more sugar in five days than the past five years.

It is nice to get on a nostalgia kick every once in awhile. Back in the 60s, we kids used to eat Fluffernutter sandwiches all the time. I have always loved peanut butter, and it used to bug my mom when I’d have a hankering for some and I’d dip my spoon into the jar, draw it back out and enjoy a big mouthful. I guess that bad habit is akin to opening the fridge door and drinking from the milk carton. But, back to Fluffernutters … when I was growing up, it was a big treat to have a Fluffernutter sandwich. This was circa the mid-60s, long before people really watched their sugar intake. In fact the thought of all that gooey, sweet creamy marshmallow might either give you a sugar rush, or make you feel ill. But all of us kids ate them and they even had a commercial called “The Fluffernutter Song” … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6gljDcLrvQ&feature=related

Well, that video might bring back a few memories, but enjoying that treat wasn’t as easy as portrayed in the commercial. I usually made my Fluffernutters on toast, not bread, and the marshmallow cream had to be taken out of the jar with a hot spoon. I’d soak my spoon in my mom’s coffee (or my own when I indulged after I was “grown up”) and then slip it into the marshmallow cream. Otherwise, you had to wrangle that spoon around in the marshmallow cream which was a real messy sort of treat. You took your hot toast, spread it generously with peanut butter then slapped on the ooey-gooey Fluff. Mmmmm.

Remembering youthful good times and treats is always memorable – even those fleeting memories, like the man who ran the pony rides at the nearby carnival who walked one of his ponies around Sandmere Place, our cul-de-sac in Oakville, on a sunny Saturday afternoon. He was quite the crafty carnie because he figured all the neighborhood kids would want a ride and all their parents would drag out their cameras and pay him to take pictures. Smart man.

It’s good to take a look back sometimes to get you grounded, even when you dredge up the sad events and memories. This morning and evening I listened to retrospectives which replayed some of the horrors that took place thirteen years ago today. I heard a reference to the young man in the red bandana and his significance on 9/11. I’d never heard the story of that hero who rescued a dozen people in the World Trade Center, yet lost his own life when the South Tower fell. I just watched a video of Welles Crowther’s life and his heroic efforts. Just a little boy who grew up emulating his father and living life to the fullest, with his trusty bandana always within reaching distance. Even at the end. In the video, I watched his father crying for the loss of his only son, whom he said was also his best friend, and it caused me to sniffle and mist up when I saw him unabashedly dabbing at his eyes to wipe away his tears. I’m sharing the story and video in case you, like me, never heard of this brave young man: http://www.boston.com/sports/colleges/2014/09/11/boston-college-honor-welles-crowther-the-man-the-red-bandana/lL30e6HJBhBmH9sgOzxYPJ/story.html

We can return to a simpler time in our minds and hearts, but admittedly, we are all just a little less carefree today than before that fateful day.

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Mum’s the word.

09-07-14

I was mum indeed! We lost our power at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night and didn’t get it back for 24 hours. Mercifully, nothing came crashing down during those 75 mph winds, but I lost food in my fridge and freezer. No use bemoaning it I guess, as I tried to put it into perspective and think what other havoc those high-power winds might have wreaked. I was concerned about it getting too warm in the house for my canary Buddy, but with the windows and blinds closed, it stayed fairly cool in the house and we lived by the light of a large fluorescent lantern which I placed near his cage so he would not be afraid of the dark. I kept a smaller lantern for myself and carried it around the house, feeling a little like a pioneer woman toting her oil lamp with her. The fluorescent lantern cast shadows on the wall and Buddy was fascinated with his shadow and that was amusing to watch, plus I had to stop myself from making shadow puppets and reliving my childhood. The only thing more irritating than the darkness and the loss of food, were the dueling generators nearby which were running non-stop during that 24-hour time period. I was happy to see the power turn on, especially since DTE had called in the 7:00 p.m. hour to say due to the extensive damage from the storm, our power would be restored by late Sunday evening.

So, I walked roundtrip to Meijer this morning to replenish the produce at least. It was a beautiful morning and I logged four miles back and forth and just meandering around the store. At the entrance to Meijer, they had a beautiful display of chrysanthemums in every color. They looked like jewels as they were lined up upon the many bales of hay and some were nestled near the large pumpkins. The first harvest décor of the season and it was just as gorgeous as the weather which had an almost Fall feel.

Today is Grandparents Day. If you are lucky enough to still have them, take the time to benefit from the wisdom of their years, not just today, but every chance you get.

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Snuffling and slobbering …

09-04-14-patch

Well, that’s quite a description, but then again they are quite the pair … a pair of English Bulldogs that is. When I make my morning trek to the Park, I often see them, walking two abreast, hogging the sidewalk, with their pet mom hovering close behind. She is a rather slight woman and they heave and ho on their leads and pull her forward. The pair will stop on a dime, as dogs are often wont to do, to sniff or investigate everything that crosses their path. They generally travel on the opposite side of the street as me, but sometimes I’ll get aggravated by an automatic or oscillating sprinkler in my path, so, despite being a creature of habit, I’ll growl about the inconvenience to myself and simply cross to the other side of the street and walk there. After exchanging pleasantries a few times with the trio, I finally asked the woman who walks them if I could take their picture. “Of course” was the answer. I had to move quickly to get a few shots, while they twisted and turned their large heads this way and that, all the while emitting alot of slobber. I waited to see if they would both look at me at the same time, but they were rather disinterested, so several blurry images were about all I ended up with for my efforts. So, why were pooches the post for today? Well, I was sure I’d melt into a pool of sweat before I got inside to chug down the chocolate milk, because doggone it, today felt like the Dog Days of Summer.

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The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round …

09-03-14

That song has been on my mind all day today. I decided to walk to Meijer to get some fresh produce and happened by Howard Street where a fleet of school buses congregated up and down and all around the block. They queued up in an orderly fashion, then their respective drivers tooted at each other as they took off one by one. There were fumes aplenty as those school buses chugged along carrying precious cargo scheduled to be deposited for the day to learn their three Rs. I wonder if I’m somewhat of an oddity, since, in all my years, I’ve never ridden on a school bus. Field trips during middle school were via charter bus and I always walked to school. Well, in between the bus arrivals and departures, kids were getting dropped off at a record rate at their respective schools – John Paul II Catholic School and across the street at Hoover Elementary School. A contingent of kids were gathered in front of the public school, with backpacks weighing them down … some of the skinnier kids looked like they might tip backward with their groaning canvas packs. Equally gargantuan was the stop signs that the fluorescent-strapped and buckled-up crossing guards used to wield their power to oncoming vehicles. Those crossing guards didn’t hesitate to use their big silver whistles either. The problem, as I saw it, was there was a whole lot of waving and whistling going on by the crossing guards but only one or two kids crossing the street. I watched a mom try valiantly to leave her little boy at the entrance of JPII school, while he was clinging like a burr to her leg. He wailed, then he threw his stuffed toy across the sidewalk and with tears streaming down his face said “I don’t wanna go!” Despite much foot stomping on his part, she tried to console him, but they were empty words and her little pat on his shoulder did nothing to quell the temper tantrum. Wow! I know I looked forward to starting school every year, even kindergarten. What wasn’t to like? All your playmates in one spot, a big room to romp around in, nap time and a cookies-and-milk break. The tradeoff was just expending a little brain power. Maybe it was more fun way back then in the early 60s, when all you needed to do was show up with your fresh-scrubbed face, a scribbler and a chunky #2 pencil.

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It was a dark and stormy …

09-01-14

… well, just fill in the blank here … day, night, or maybe even overnight. Another Summer storm is on the horizon, and, so here I sit, writing today’s blog post to get it done before the bad weather arrives. I kind of feel like Snoopy sitting atop his red doghouse and pecking away on his manual typewriter … he also wrote “It was a dark and stormy night.”

I was glad to get out for a walk this morning, though the hot and sultry temps made it feel like we turned the calendar page over to August instead of September. Yesterday, weather and work-related woes kept me huddled over the keyboard, thus, there was no pounding the pavement for a walk. The weather folks predicted stormy weather yesterday and I needed to get a 30-page document finished for Tuesday morning, so those two factors kept me tethered to the keyboard and my eyes running together to get ‘er done. I was glad to escape to the great outdoors this morning, but the heat and humidity almost made me wish I was still inside the air-conditioned house. When I left, there were low clouds and a dark-gray sky which looked like it was going to open up any minute. I decided to head down to the River and managed to make the round trip before the rain began and without getting stopped by the train.

This weekend, specifically Labor Day, is an anniversary of sorts for me. It was three years ago on Labor Day that I began my walking regimen. I needed to get out and stretch my legs more than just in the garden, and, after I began working from home I didn’t feel I was getting enough exercise. The American Heart Association heartily endorsed walking as the best way to keep fit. So, I decided my world was going to include walking. The first day it was hot and steamy, just like today. I only went a few short blocks and called it done. Then I began gradually increasing a few more blocks daily. I walked through the Fall of 2011 and most of the Winter of 2011-2012 since it was so mild and it only snowed a handful of times. I never used a pedometer but had mapped out the mileage in my car for my favorite treks, so I figure the first year I got about 250 miles in during that time period.

By the Spring of 2012 I figured walking was going to be my permanent way to keep fit and stay healthy. I bought a pedometer and two more pair of walking shoes, intending to rotate the shoes every other day. The alternate pair is still sitting in the box. I had good intentions, but sometimes I’d just get ready to head out the door and didn’t want to stop and fiddle around; I just wanted to get on my way. Starting May of 2012 I kept a daily record, just in my head, of the mileage I walked that day. I figure I walked at least another 250-300 miles based on my daily calculations and the frequency of the walks.

In 2013 I started my walking blog and set out in the Spring with a vengeance to reach the ultimate goal of 500 miles for that year. I started keeping a daily record of my mileage, as well as the mileage I put on the car. I walked 500 miles, and surpassed the car mileage by 100 miles in 2013.

This year, due to the Winter which wouldn’t go away, and a cold Spring which languished ‘til mid-April, it seems like the walking regimen thus far in 2014 has taken a hit. I made a goal of 500 miles by year-end once again and hope to make it. Last year as of September 1st I had 340 miles and as of today I’ve walked 335 miles thus far in 2014. So, I guess I am not too disappointed. I am still in the same pair of walking shoes, but, I noticed a little hole in the sole today. Time to break in the alternate pair. I am way ahead of my car mileage this year since my mantra is “Why ride when you can stride?” While I trudged along this morning, sweltering in the heat and humidity and dying to get home to chug down a tall glass of chocolate milk, the calculations in my head tell me I’ve walked about 1,400 miles in three years. Wow! So onward I go, striding toward the ultimate goal, knowing the sun gets up later, and soon the longer walks to rack up the miles might have to wait for the weekends. Nothing is going to break my stride now.

Walking is man’s best medicine. ~Hippocrates

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Wheels are wheels, no matter your age.

08-30-14

Perhaps this faded photograph of me sporting pigtails and my cat-eye glasses, circa late 60s, would have been more fitting for “Way, Way Back Wednesday”, “Throwback Thursday” or “Flashback Friday”, but I decided to dig it out and use it for this post since bicycles were on my mind today.

My morning trip to Council Point Park was reminiscent of my Sunday stroll which told of encounters with an older gentleman and a young mom with kids, only today it was the reverse, and I merely watched and never spoke to any of those involved.

I saw the boy and his dad first, then the elderly man, both on the Park path. The little boy had a mid-sized bike, which looked to be his first two-wheeler sans training wheels. He had a slight build and was wearing a huge, yellow helmet that kind of overwhelmed the rest of him. In fact, as skinny as he was, it made him look like some type of alien. He was pedaling his bike, not very confidently, and a young man was right behind him, holding on for dear life. There was trepidation on the little boy’s part as the front wheel wobbled back and forth a little bit, and he kept looking over his shoulder asking “are you there Dad?” and “yes, son – I am here” was the response each time. “Okay” … he continued wobbling along, front wheel wiggling first to the left, then to the right, but he didn’t tip over, and his father dutifully kept bringing up the rear, his big palm plastered on the back of the bike seat.

I watched the interplay from my side of the perimeter path loop as the boy suddenly seemed to gain confidence and he got that front wheel straightened out. Suddenly, it was like everything just meshed and he started pedaling faster. Soon Dad was hard pressed to keep his hand on the seat and he was huffing and puffing to keep up with his son. A wide patch of perspiration started staining Dad’s gray t-shirt. Then suddenly, he let go of the bike, and I wondered if he could no longer keep up, or, perhaps he decided it was just time to let him go. The little boy pedaled fast and furiously, rolling along on the perimeter path while his dad just stood in place on the track, a big grin on his face. Then, Dad figured everything was going well, so he loped across the grassy area, to catch up with his son on the other side. The little boy, from what I could see of his face, since the helmet took up most of the expanse of it, was all smiles too. I wanted to salute this dad because I remember all too well, my attempts to learn how to ride a two-wheeler with a father who had no patience, and in a cul-de-sac where the street was just a gravel road. There were no helmets in those days and I had a brand-new, full-size bike. I was terrified of falling. My father gave me a few lessons on how to keep the bike upright, then slipped behind the bike and suggested I take off. I begged him not to turn me loose, but he did. I fell down and scraped my leg and whined a bit, so we never went out again. I took my new bike to my friend’s house where her dad patiently circled ‘round and ‘round the backyard on the grass, his hand on the bike seat, until I was comfortable enough to ride on my own. One day this little boy will remember the first day he had wheels and could go anywhere and who helped take him there.

By contrast, when I reached the other side, I saw an elderly man walking the perimeter path, while wheeling his bicycle . I don’t know if he was afraid to tether it to a stand in case it was stolen, or perhaps he needed the reassurance of that bike … maybe in lieu of a walker or a cane. But he was trudging slowly, gripping onto a very old-style, turquoise-colored bicycle. It made me kind of wistful to see him, just sadly walking and rolling his bike along, right on the heels of the youngster who was about to learn the freedom that owning a bicycle brings.

Four miles of foot power today for me and still another glimpse into my past for you ….

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Whistles and whimpers.

08-29-14

Well I stole out of the house and headed to Council Point Park for my infusion of nature that has sorely been missing now for one day shy of two weeks. I arrived and found myself solo, only to be joined by several other walkers by the time I’d finished the first loop. The Park was fairly still and there was just a whisper of a breeze. Soon I heard the train blowing its whistle, long and loud, as it approached the tracks at Emmons Boulevard, and it sounded haunting in the quiet morning. Finally it stopped and I could concentrate on the beautiful birdcalls and whistles as I meandered around the perimeter path. I kept up with a little sparrow until my lips were parched. Then, I had to smile because even though I had been whistling back while I was walking, once I stopped whistling, that sparrow dipped down right in front of me, then flew ahead to a tree closer to where I was. I didn’t know whether it was miffed I had stopped our “game” or simply wanted to get me engaged once again. An angry blue jay was chattering and shrieking from a nearby tree. I looked for him up in that tall tree, which has lost most of its leaves after last year’s brutal Winter. It is an ugly-looking tree which has scant leaves and is mostly dead wood, but though I scanned those bare branches thoroughly, there was no beautiful blue jay to be found, so obviously it was playing hide-and-go-seek.

On the second loop around, I saw a woman stationed on a park bench while she watched two children cavorting on the playground equipment. The pair were rather petulant and arguing with one another and soon their raised voices turned to screams and tears. The woman, probably their mother, called out to the boys to “shut up and play” in her shrill voice which carried in the still morn. They looked up, whimpered some more, then started pummeling one another with their fists. She threatened them that they’d go home and they just taunted her from atop the tunnel and slide. By the time I finished the loop the trio was gone. Ahh … the little darlings will be headed back to school soon. In a Summer that was coolish and rainy, not offering as many days to play outside as usual, I’m sure moms everywhere are breathing a collective sigh of relief that school starts next week. The pictures above are some stone cherubs and angels I’ve photographed over the summer – they are probably the only babies and children who are well-behaved 100% of the time.

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