family

Hurricane Irma & Others

And Florida has once again survived yet another “killer” hurricane. Hurricane Irma was a storm you only see every 500 years, but it came just days after Hurricane Harvey which was a storm you only see every 500 years.  So either something has gone terribly bad with the space-time-continuum, or Mother Earth is really pissed at us humans right now.

Watching the weather reports as I sat at the Port Orange EOC (Emergency Operations Center), I saw the devastation that the Caribbean Islands received. Having cruised to some of those islands, I was heart-broken to see the damage. South Florida, where I grew up was hit very hard. Lots of flooding. My older brother and I were texting back and forth (he’s in the Atlanta area now) about past hurricanes. We lived about 10 – 15 miles from the coast in Miami when Donna hit in 1960. I wasn’t even two yet, so I don’t remember it.  He told me we had about 3 – 4 of water in the yard from storm surge. That’s pretty bad.

Since I’ve retired from the Army and moved back to Florida, we’ve had a fair number of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. In 2004 we had three in rapid succession. Charlie did a great deal of damage to the Daytona Beach area. I remember driving with my younger son (older son was out with his National Guard unit doing hurricane recovery) trying to find a chain saw. A neighbor’s tree fell into our yard taking out our power lines and blocking the door of the shed. Which, of course was where my chain saw was. So we needed to buy a chain saw to get to our chain saw. Nobody had a chainsaw to sell, but we did pick up a nice 5Kw generator that we use to this day. Which was good, since we were without power for ten days.

The next storm was Frances, but she wasn’t too bad. But the third storm, Jeanne seem to sit on top of us for days, just dumping water. Our street was flooded, but it didn’t reach the house so all was OK.

Last year we had Hurricane Matthew. Since Matthew went straight up the east coast of Florida without really making any landfall in our area, there was a lot of wind and rain, but not too bad as we were on the west side of the storm. I spent one night in the EOC working to keep the IT infrastructure running. Then went home and cleaned the yard of all the oak tree debris.

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The calm before the storm. COPO EOC.

This year was Irma. She couldn’t make up her mind where she wanted to go. She was going to follow Matthew’s course and go up the east coast between Florida and the Bahamas. Then she started shifting more west. At one time she was going to go straight up the middle of the state, basically targeting Disney World, and head towards Tennessee where my granddaughters evacuated to. Next morning, she was going up the west coast, leaving Daytona out of harms way.  Finally she made landfall in the Big Marco Island area of the west coast, looking like she was going to ride the coast line. Nope, turned easterly and headed back to Disney. Maybe she doesn’t like the rat (Mickey Mouse) anymore that I do.

So my brother and I are texting back and forth, while I’m in the EOC, he’s in Atlanta, his wife and mother-in-law are just outside of Orlando and it looks like they’re going to take a direct hit. The only good thing is that Irma is now “only” a category 2 storm. Not the major category 4 it was at first landfall. But now the track also takes it straight to Atlanta! And since it’s moved more easterly, Daytona is gonna get hid hard again. We just couldn’t avoid this storm no matter where we were.

But, since I lived to tell the tale, all is well. I did my three shifts in the EOC, the house survived with only minor damage, lots of debris in the yard, and the apparent loss of our papaya tree.

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Only damage to the house. One piece of fascia was blown off.

And while I was doing my work at the EOC, Wifey® put on her Wonder Woman outfit and went to work. She not only cleaned up the major debris from our yard, she did it for the elderly lady next door who is the process of moving out and selling the house. Pretty big pile she made too.

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Debris Pile.

She says that there’s one branch she can’t move by herself. But all in all, she did wonderfully. I absolutely love how she’s not afraid to jump in and get stuff done when it needs to be done.  Thanks babe!  Love ya!

Now we wait for FP&L to get our power back on. It usually takes days for us, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s property value.  Take care of the guys in the higher tax brackets before fixing the peons.

But what do I know?

Hope you all made it through the storms OK.

Peace,
B

Wonder Woman (And No Not The Movie)

(Or How We Spent Our Labor Day Weekend)

If you read my Home Repair as Therapy post, you have the beginning of the story. This weekend Wifey® and I put down the flooring. I estimate we put down about 1000 square feet in all. We did two rooms and the hallway over the three days. Plus I took the Friday before off to finish up the prep work for the first room and take the all the carpet and tack we pulled up to the dump. It was a lot of work, but it was a smart decision to do it on Friday.

The adhesive we put down was a very bright blue.  I asked my granddaughters if they could guess how many Smurfs I had to squeeze to get that much Smurf Juice.  The 8-year-old replied, “Papa how could you squeeze a Smurf? They’re not real. They’re fictional!”  Smart kid she is…

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The Great Smurf Bloodletting

Saturday morning Wifey® was not doing well.  She had some kind of stomach bug going and had been up on and off since 3AM. Never the less she was right there with me laying out the flooring in the living room.  It took us about four hours to do the room, about 370 square feet.  The hardest part was the cutting, I think I went through 15 blades in my razor. So I spent most of Saturday on my hands and knees cutting and placing the flooring.

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Living Room Floor

Having already had surgery on my left wrist it was very uncomfortable. And even with knee pads, my knees were quite sore. After the floor was in, we moved the furniture from the dining room into the living room, where Wifey® showed off her Tetris skills.

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Two Rooms In One

We were most pleasantly surprised when Wifey’s® brother stopped by and invited out to dinner, his treat. There was no way either of us had the energy or the will power to cook that evening. So son #2 prepped the living room floor for us and off to dinner we all went.

Sunday morning found us quite stiff and sore, but in better condition than expected. I made us a nice breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits, which we enjoyed thoroughly, so we got started a little later.

Wifey® was feeling much better, so all I really had to do was the cutting. She did most of the actual placing of the flooring. Again about four hours to lay in the floor for the dining room, about 350 square feet. Son #1 came by after work and helped us move all the furniture back to at least close to their intended locations. We had planned a cookout for Sunday (beer can chickens, YUM!), which son #2 cooked perfectly.  So we stopped around 4PM leaving only the hallway left for Monday.

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Dining Room

So Monday rolls around. And if we thought we were achy and sore on Sunday, this was worse.  Without a doubt this was the worst leg workout I’ve ever done. But all we had left to do was the hallway.  Should be quick and easy we said. It’s the smallest area, so it shouldn’t take long. We’ll be done and time for a relaxing dinner and some TV.

Nope! We didn’t take into account all the cutting around all the bedroom, bathroom, A/C and linen closets. We made sure to eat a good breakfast on Monday (more of the wonderful biscuits and gravy, I even added two fried eggs on top of mine). It was close to 7:30PM by the time we finished up. Since we had to trim pieced on both sides of the hallway, it really was the hardest part of the entire weekend. But it really looks good. And we can say “We did it ourselves”.

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The Hallway

There is still much work to be done.  All four bedrooms still to be done. Then painting (inside and out) and putting the quarter round molding down. And the kitchen floor tile needs to be replaced. (No pictures of that mess). Not to mention all the stuff that’s been piled in places that it doesn’t belong (like the china and glassware) needs to go back.

Which brings me to Wonder Woman. When I was growing up I wanted to be a pro baseball player. My dad took a baseball drilled a hole through it and then threaded a rope through the hole and secured it. Someone could then swing the ball around while another person could take swings at it to practice hitting. Since I came along quite late in my parents lives and my dad had bad emphysema (smoking kills), he was not really able to practice with me. My mother refused to. She would say “I use my hands to make a living, I can’t hurt them like that”. She was a bookkeeper/secretary. Meanwhile, Wifey® spent the entire three-day weekend doing manual labor.  She too is a secretary. yet she loves to get in there and work with her hands. She cut several small pieces of tile (but at 4′ 9″ she just doesn’t have the upper body strength to do a lot of the cutting). Hell, I was damn near wiped out at every quitting time, and my hands are still very still from holding the razor while holding the flooring piece in place so it wouldn’t move and I could get a nice straight cut.

Not only did she work while sick on Saturday,as well  as the rest of the weekend, she also managed to get the laundry done AND all the dishes all weekend long. Now that is a definition of Wonder Woman.  Love ya Babe!

All in all, it’s looks damn good for a legal secretary and a computer geek!

Peace,
B

HOW DOES A WHO MAKE HERSELF HEARD TO HORTON?

This is a guest post from Wifey®, please retweet, repost or share as much as you can.

I feel like the Who inside the puff-ball shouting to be heard by Horton the Elephant. Remember that story? Horton is the only one who can hear the Who – but no one believes him.

Father gave a majority of his life to AT&T (and Southern Bell prior to the merger) – over 31 years of faithful service. He was proud of that fact and was rewarded with a small pension and employee benefits.

Fast forward – Father died last year. Mother died 2 years prior.

Apparently AT&T thinks Mother owes premiums for her Medicare she received through Father’s benefits since his passing. It doesn’t seem to matter than they have been notified 4 times of her date of death and provided with a Death Certificate. Last week, another invoice for past due premiums came to my home. Again, I wrote “DECEASED” across the invoice and returned it inside their own return envelope.

On the flip side, Mother received a refund check for Father’s Medicare that was deducted from his retirement pay for the month in which he died. A check a dead woman could not cash. I mistakenly thought a simple phone call would correct the error and request the check be reissued to his beneficiaries.

AT&T Benefits Center is a funnel through which life insurance, medical insurance, pension benefits, retirement discounts, Medicare, and other options are passed to the retiree. However, the funnel only runs downward. The notification of an employee’s death process is a tangle of departments and subsidiary companies; none of whom talk to another.

Four phone calls – waiting on hold for hours, transferred to 3 different individuals in 3 different departments – I was finally directed to “Joe”. Joe assured me the record for Mother would be deleted and the record for Father would be updated to reflect the dates of both of their deaths. Joe also assured me the refund check would be reissued again.

It has been 8 months since the first check, payable to Mother, was issued and 5 months since the reissue, also payable to Mother. Today, 8 months later, a letter from AT&T Benefits Center arrived notifying Mother of a uncashed check. I can assure you again that a dead woman cannot cash that check.

I am tired of this fight. I am frustrated with the incompetency and the insensitivity of the customer service representatives employed with AT&T Benefits Center.

Editors note:  I have reached out to AT&T through both Twitter and Facebook, with no response.  I can only assume that their social media accounts are “one-way” only and used solely for propaganda. It is truly a shame that a company as structured as AT&T would not have someone monitoring their own social networks. I would like to think that the representatives Wifey® spoke to are only limited in the scope of what they can accomplish and are not incompetent, lazy or downright uncaring. But it looks otherwise, and AT&T just doesn’t give a rats ass.

It’s Been One Week (Since I Had A Beer)

(With apologies to The Barenaked Ladies)

Well, I’ve made it one whole week.  And what a week it was.  As I’ve posted before, the job is causing lots of stress right now.  To quote one of my favorite movies;

drinking

Last night we took the girls for Mexican food. Somehow I had the will power to just have a glass of water and not a Negro Modelo as I usually have with Mexican. It didn’t help the heartburn any though. Today’s grocery shopping will be even more difficult when walking down the beer aisle.

Which leads to this.  Lots of folks have told me when you quit drinking lots of “good” things happen.

  • You’ll sleep better.  Bullshit. I have had more weird dreams in the last week than the rest of my life combined.  It used to be if I dreamed, I didn’t remember them when I awoke. Now, the weirdness just keeps following me all day long. Most of the dreams seem to put me back in the military, but I don’t recognize the locations.  One dream was supposed to have the whole family back in Fort Greely. It was very lush, with palm trees and other tropical like vegetation.  Problem is, Ft. Greely is in Alaska.  Damn near the middle of Alaska.  It’s rather remote (89 miles to the closest McDonalds when we were there). It did reach 95F one summer, for about 15 minutes.  But it was usually about -50F. Needless to say there is no lush tropical vegation. In fact all there is are gnarled pine trees.  And not much snow as it was to cold to snow. Yes that’s a real thing. Too damn cold to snow.
  • Your digestion will be better.  Again, not true.  I have had the worst heartburn for the last week. Now this may have a different cause. My insurance will no long send me Nexium for the usual $9 co-pay, it went up to $40. But, I can get a generic brand for free. So I gave my doctor the list of alternative choices and she picked one. I started that one about two weeks ago, so it may not be working as well, or it’s taking my body some time to adjust. So the jury is still out on this count.
  • Your mind will be clearer.  Clearer than what?  I still sit and stare at my computer at work trying to remember my password. It’s not all that difficult of a password, and I have to use it at least 50 times a day, but still, I sit and ask myself “What’s the password again?”. Not to mention I mistype it constantly. But I never did take typing lessons, so that part is understandable.
  • You’ll have more energy.  Maybe this goes along with the dreams and not sleeping well, but I am dead tired by 2PM every day. That makes going to gym in the evenings just about impossible.
  • Your mood will be better. Seriously? The frustration level is through the roof. (See this post).  Wifey is constantly reminding me to mellow out.  And I need it. It seems the granddaughters and the stupid end-users at work get the brunt of my frustration. Sorry folks.

So having said all that, I still plan on going 30 days or so without beer to see if things clear up (7 days isn’t a long enough time for a valid test). I have dropped two pounds during this week, so maybe it will facilitate some weight/fat loss.  And I’m sure some of this is age. I am getting to that special age where you go to bed just fine and wake up in stage 4 of something or other. As my brother says, “We ain’t spring chickens any more.” (Were we ever?)

I’ve posted the video that I stole the title for this post from below.  I like this song a lot for several reasons.  I really dig the cars; the General Lee from “Dukes of Hazard” and the Grand Torino from “Starskey and Hutch” (complete with requisite hood slide).

I also like the line;

“I wear my mind on my sleeve, I have a history of taking off my shirt.”

I really do feel like I’m losing my mind some (most) of the time.

And what about the line;

“I’m the kinda guy who laughs at a funeral”.

 

At my grandmother’s “viewing” (what a stupid concept – have a wake instead. Get drunk and tell stories. Not just walk up to the casket and say “He/She looks so natural”.  They’re dead. (“He’s dead Jim!” ~ Bones McCoy) Say good-bye and go get a drink, and pour one into the coffin for the dearly departed as well. Can’t hurt.).  Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, my grandmother’s viewing, we were in a small room in the funeral home off to one side. Apparently there was a rather large funeral going on in the main chapel. Even without the booze, a staff member had to come in several times to ask us to keep the laughing down.  We were disturbing the funeral guests.  We were just sitting around telling stories of Nanny, as we called her. Easily the best viewing of all time, hands down, if we had some booze we would probably been asked to leave.  Hell, I’ve been thrown out of better establishments. I can’t wait for someone to say “He looks so natural” when I’m dead. I plan on being cremated, so if an urn of ashes looks “natural”, then I’m worse off than I thought.

So I present to you The Barenaked Ladies and “One Week”, enjoy! (And I can’t understand half the words either…)

I think somebody should have made me sign a waiver or something before I started this.

Peace,
B

 

Einstein Hair??

Since we do our workouts in the evenings after work, I take my showers in the evening. Some days my hair just dries quite funny. The fact that I wear a full face CPAP mask doesn’t help much either. My younger son says I have “Einstein hair”…Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue

Hope this give you a chuckle.

Peace,
B

Jesus and Me

(This is gonna be a long one.  Grab an adult beverage of your choice and maybe a snack… Also I am not a bible scholar, but I do read many books about the bible and ancient history. I will include some links at the end of the article.)

Before I start, I want you to know that I am an Agnostic.  By that I mean I do believe in a higher power, not necessarily a sentient being, but a creator of sorts.  It may be the Judaeo/Christian God (YHWH, Jehovah, Elohim or just God). It may be the Muslim Allah. It may have no name, gender or form. I really don’t know.  But I do believe that this universe didn’t happen by chance. That’s just too many coincidences for me.

When I was a little kid my parents (mom specifically) would drop me off at church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.  My older siblings, nor my parents had to go but I did.  I would attend Sunday School and then meet with my age appropriate group afterwards.  As I’ve said before, I’m rather introverted so this was very difficult for me, especially during those all important middle and high school years.

During these times, I had much trouble with the usual bible stories. A man swallowed by a fish and lives for three days? A “loving” god drowns the entire earth except for one family, that just happened to build a boat big enough to hold an enormous cargo of all types of animals? And why are there two different creation stories? If this bible is inerrant it doesn’t live up to its billing. And what’s up with heaven and hell?  Again, how could a loving god condemn the majority of planet earth to hell just because they didn’t believe or understand a message?  If god’s grace is unconditional, then it just doesn’t make sense to me.  And there are many more questions where that came from.

The little UMC church I was forced into, early on was more on the liberal side than most. The pastor was well-known in the community as an outspoken critic of Vietnam, and when his daughter came out as gay he immediately started marching for gay rights. (He also had a very pretty wife that I admit I had a school boy crush on). He welcomed my questions and doubts and answered them as best he could. But unfortunately, his activism cost him his position in our church and he was moved elsewhere as Methodists tend to do.

But I continued to ask my questions. And by the age of 17 I was basically told that I don’t belong here, please leave before you corrupt any of the other youth.  By then my parents didn’t seem to care if I went or not, so I stopped going.

Fast forward to 2001.  My wife was attending a CBF Baptist church (mostly to appease her parents) but I didn’t go (she was raised in a very fundamental SBC church). The music minister and I somehow became acquainted and knowing that had I been a former radio DJ, asked me if I could help run the sound board for worship services.  And for whatever reason I agreed.

Then we were asked to go on a retreat of sorts.  This particular one was “The Walk To Emmaus” (other denominations have the same basic retreat under different names such as Tres Dias and Cursillo). I found the walk interesting and more what I thought a church (the people not the building) were supposed to be like.  My wife and I got heavily involved in the local group.

Until (there’s always an “until” isn’t there?  My wife posted a poem on Facebook that was attributed to Brigid of Ireland (before the Catholics took her out of pagan lore and made her a saint).

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.
If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make men happy for their own sakes.
I should like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.

Next thing you know my wife is getting assailed from a member of the community (a pastor’s son no less) about “heathen” posts.  You know when a post starts out “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you’re going to take it the wrong way.  That started the decline. (Wifey wrote a very polite rebuttal that basically told him to mind his own business. My reply would have been much more crude.)

Right around this time I was laid off from my job.  At 50 years of age, with no real IT certifications (but 20+ years of experience) to my name it was very difficult to find a job.  In fact I was out of regular work for about three and half years.  During this time, no one in the community ever offered any kind of help for us.  Although they were planning all kinds of fund-raising activities for other folks (including the person that was against the Brigid post). But all we received were well wishes, good luck!

“If one of you says to them, “Go In peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? ~ James 2:16 NIV

By this time I was pretty much done with this organization.  I no longer attended the monthly gatherings, and politely turned down any requests to serve on the weekend teams.  My faith was quickly returning the 17-year-old me.

So now, the Jesus and Me part (sorry it took so long – but I did warn you).

There are enough extra-biblical sources to convince me that there was a historical man named Jesus that lived in first century Palestine and was crucified by the Romans under orders from Pontius Pilate. Was this man the “son of god”? I don’t think so.  I’ve read several books on the historical Jesus, authors such as Bart D. Ehrman, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  All have different views as to the divinity of Jesus (I tend to think Ehrman is closest to my beliefs).

I also don’t believe that the words attributed to Jesus can be considered actual “quotes”.  Scholars today agree that the first gospel written was “Mark” (the names on the gospels are not believed to be the actual authors of the writings. They were given these names centuries later). Mark’s gospel was written about 50 – 60 CE. Almost 25 – 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  I seriously doubt anyone could remember the exact words that were said that long ago.  Hell, I have trouble remembering what anyone told me yesterday!  Not to mention that the trial before Pilate, there was nobody else in the room!  So how did the dialog come about? If Jesus’ disciples (and probably himself) were from a backwater town like Nazareth it is highly doubtful they were literate.  Considering the gospels were written in Greek, and a very “formal” version of Greek, it’s a long shot that any of the gospels were actually written by a follower of Jesus.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think the bible is a falsehood.  As another of my favorite authors, Pete Enns says, you have to take the bible in context of a first century Jew. Remember who they were writing for and why.

To me the words of Jesus (the “red-letter” words) may not by historical, but they are important.  The gospel writers got the gist behind the stories and parables that Jesus may have said, that’s whats important. I think the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the bible are relevant for today as much as they were for when they were written.

A pastor once slammed his bible on a table, pointed at it and said:

“This can be summed up as such: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart.  And love your neighbor as yourself”. 

That still resonates with me, even as I struggle to define “God”.

So all this to say, I believe in a creator (close to a pagan/Native American belief), a “Mother Earth and Father Sky” if you will.  Jesus was historical, but not divine. But he was very in tune with this “creator” and was a very moral and wise teacher.  His teachings have impact on the world today as much as they did some 2,000 years ago.

Maybe it’s my Pict roots that are calling me back to nature god/goddess pattern, I don’t know.  But I will continue to search and learn.

Hope you will too.  And please leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts and if you agree or disagree with me.  I do believe we’re all in this together, and we need to be here for each other.

Peace,

B

Links (in no particular order) go to the authors page on Amazon.

Bart D. Ehrman   I especially liked his “Did Jesus Exist”, “Misquoting Jesus” and “Lost Christianities” but I have several others as well.

Rob Bell  His “Love Wins” is an exceptionable book on why there is no Hell. “Velvet Elvis” was the first of his books I read.

Pete Enns  “The Sin of Certanity” and “The Bible Tells Me So” really sparked my interest in going deeper into the history of the Bible.

John Shelby Sprong  “The Fourth Gospel: Tales Of A Jewish Mystic” and “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” are both excellent reads.

Brian D. McLaren  “A Generous Orthodoxy” – probably the book that started it all for me.

Books:

“Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber

“Our Great Big American God: A Short History Of Our Ever Growing Deity” by Matthew Paul Turner