December 30, 2007

Rollover Minutes

I was really busy in the kitchen on Christmas morning. I am an early riser so my job is to get the turkey in the oven. I tucked that bird into the heat and I was on to other kitchen stuff. I even made some breakfast for my dear wife. All of this preparation created quite a mess.

“I’ll clean it up. I don’t want you to run out of energy. We have a long day ahead of us,” she said.

I replied, “No, I’ll clean up. Use me up while you can. Do you think I have rollover minutes?”

Many wireless cell phone carriers have rollover minutes, but I do not. I have a small window of useful energy minutes in any given day. And even that window requires frequent energy renewal breaks (eating.) The window runs from 6 AM to 1 PM. After that I am done. Done, done, done.

One exception to the general rule exists. If I suck down a really big caffeinated Diet Coke at lunch, the window is extended for fifteen minutes. However, during that time I cannot stop talking and flailing my arms and legs. So those extra minutes are not particularly productive.

I want more minutes. Where could I get some? Someone said to try Red Bull, but it has been suggested that Red Bull would probably launch me into outer space.

I wonder if I would get back in time for my nap?

December 28, 2007

Christmas Debris

Even the treetops are done with Christmas. I took this photo one handed while pumping gas – true multi-tasking. The balloons look so stuck. They have lost their shiny edge and are now part of Christmas past.

Christmas sure produces a lot of debris. The wonderful, aromatic spruce tree will soon be dried up tinder stuck in a snow bank. All the fancy wrapping paper and bows are now wadded up and waiting for trash day just like the turkey carcass. And what about all the boxes?

Many of the boxes will go out with the recycling, but some will be saved for next year. Not all stores give out boxes with purchases. On December 10 my Sears store was "out of boxes." Out of boxes!??!! Were they not expecting Christmas shoppers? Did they not have enough time to plan for it? Were they caught by surprise?

So we will need some boxes in reserve for next Christmas. Which brings me to a question about box etiquette. What do you do when the person who opens the gift and ooh’s and ah’s about the name of the store on the box? For example, my wife’s favorite store is J Jill. When she gets excited about the J Jill box, what do I say if the gift is not really from J Jill? Do I ruin her excitement by telling her the truth or do I add to her Christmas joy by remaining mum?

I hate a moral dilemma right in the middle of a major holiday. I would rather be out on the treetops.

December 26, 2007

Male Nurse

I have crossed one more profession off my “what would you be if you had it all to do over” list: nurse.

You know about the severe nursing shortage in this country. It could be remedied easily by an influx of young males. But male nurses make up only about six percent of all nurses. Expensive studies have been done to determine exactly why males do not go into nursing. I could have saved them a lot of money. I know why. I learned when my wife was sick recently.

Males do not possess sufficient sympathy genes. It’s not that we don’t have any sympathy. When my wife gets sick I am very sympathetic for 24 hours, but then the genes wear out. They get tired. We just don’t have staying power when it comes to sympathy.

We get distracted easily and get off mission, especially if it is not our own mission. I can be providing the very best of nursing care when some very important game comes on the TV. I did not even know that the TV was on. Who knew that Ellen Degeneres would be preempted by some bowl game?

I can only prepare one of each meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have only one tried and true recipe for each.

We get worn out quickly. Do you know how much work there is to be done in a household? As a modern male I share the work load at home – and my share is about twenty percent – or less. You mean I have to fill up the dishwasher and empty it later on? Both? I have to clean up after every meal? I actually have to do the laundry and not just put my own stuff away? One hundred percent of the workload is inhuman.

I am not sure how to remedy this situation. It appears to be a natural dilemma of the species. Quicker healing would be good. Robots hold promise. Until then, I have provided my wife with a male nurse action hero. He will spring into action on day 2. I hope that he is more useful than I am.

December 22, 2007

Fleece Navidad

The invitation to the small dinner party said that dress is “holiday – comfortable.” This certainly has caused confusion for me. Is it possible to be comfortable on a holiday? So much is expected that I am usually anxious.

I searched my closet in the “holiday – comfortable” section and came up empty. It was too far into the back of the closet and I could not see very well. I tripped over some old cowboy boots and a dusty Halloween outfit, but I don’t think that is the holiday they are talking about.

Maybe I could go as a St. Patrick’s Day reveler. I have some green Mardi Gras beads that would look great with my green fleece jacket and blue jeans. Or I could go as an Easter guy with my yellow fleece jacket and blue jeans. Maybe I could go in my Valentine outfit of my red fleece jacket and blue jeans - when I put my palms together at my waist I look like a big heart.

No, I can’t go as any of those holidays. I have to stick with the program. So tonight I am going to break out my red fleece jacket and blue jeans – red for holiday and jeans for comfort. Luckily none of the other dinner guests saw me on Valentine’s Day. I would not want to be caught wearing the same outfit twice.

Maybe I will dress up the outfit a little bit. I have some nice blue fleece gloves – or green fleece gloves. And I could add a matching fleece hat – in blue, green or red – I have all three.

Here's what I have chosen:

Do you think that they will let me in?

Fleece Navidad!

December 21, 2007

A Small Day

Yesterday was a small day – perhaps the smallest of days. I woke up in one of those dark places. No I am not talking about Buffalo! I’m talking about a dark place of the soul, or the mind or the ankle. Any old body part will do.

And I want to place blame.

The dog did it. When in doubt, always blame the dog. The dog cannot respond.

The snow did it. It was snowing when I woke up and it was snowing when I went to sleep. In between, it was snowing. I have been transported to the Yukon. We have had more snow so far this month than we had all of last winter.

The winter solstice did it. It came one day early just to upset me. It deprived me of light with these short days. What is the opposite of light? Dark. Exactly my point. This blame stuff is easy to prove.

I tried to be productive but eventually I surrendered and treated the day as a snow day. Two movies and a nap later, dusk was rushing in. It must have been about noon.

I shoveled the snow and wondered what could help me. I needed a lamp to light my way.

Oh, I guess I've got one.

I needed a life line.

Got that too.

Sometimes the best that I can do is find a piece of beauty...

and hold on for a bigger day.

December 19, 2007

How I'd Love to Strangle Thee

O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.
O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.
You piss me off ‘most every year.
But this is it, I shed no tear.
O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.

~ lost verse to a Christmas carol
from the very dark ages

The best thing about buying a Christmas tree is that you do it only once a year. It’s like that prostate examination. You know you have to go, and it is always as bad as you remember.

The real problem for me in this process is that I am a perfectionist. So you take me to a place with hundreds of frozen trees that are piled up against each other, and ask me to pick out the best one? How many days do I have?

I figured out a way to make the buying process easier: I bought a house with low ceilings. So the tree has to be short. All my life I have wanted the tallest of trees, even though I have never had a house that would accommodate one. So I always overbought. The tree was too tall, too wide, too bushy, too prickly, too this and too that. Now I buy small – small tree, small problems.

I also have changed my method of choosing. I no longer have to see every tree at the nursery. I go on a very cold day and I hold up trees. The first one that my wife likes, we buy. I call that maturity. And learning how to survive.

Notice that I said “we.” Buying a tree is a matrimonial experience in my house. That way, I can make it painful for more that just me. My wife dreads the tree buying day because she has experienced so many bad ones with me. She watches to catch me in a good mood – not always an easy task. She feeds me so that I am not roaming on low blood sugar. She praises whatever small task I do so that I feel like a hero when tying down the trunk lid.

I get it home and wrestle it out of the trunk and past the storm door that wants to refuse entry to anything so wide and green. Now comes my favorite part.

I get out the tree bag in which I will wrap the tree for removal at the end of the season. This bag will stop those pesky pine needles from inserting themselves throughout my house. I find them in my ears in August. I am so smart to be so prepared.

The giant white trash bag comes with the instruction to insert the bottom of the tree into the hole in the bag. But there is NO HOLE in the bag! What happened? Did they run out of time at the factory? So I have to cut the hole – not a happy job for a perfectionist. Where should the hole be? How big should it be?

With the help of my ever patient wife, I get the tree into the stand. I then twirl for a half hour like a ballerina with my arms around the tree so that the best side will be showing. Is the Nutcracker about buying a Christmas tree?

There my story ends. I turn over the decorating job to my wife. I know better than to let my perfectionist, squirrelly brain get lost into decisions about ornament and light placement. I have learned a few things the hard way over the years. I will save my energy for the taking down part. I love to dismantle and destruct. It requires very few decisions.

Oh, I almost forgot. There is one more great part to this story. In the Spring I get to burn this tree! And I sing, “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!” as the flames shoot to the treetops. Few things make me happier.

December 17, 2007

Flim Flam Flan

Flim, Flan, flan. It sounds like a Latin declension. I spent hours memorizing those in high school. But this is not Latin class. This is flan class.

I recently was called upon to make flan for a family member who was ill. Only an ill family member could get me to make flan. Flan is a cream based dessert, or so says wikipedia. I am one of the original dessert kings, but there are certain desserts which will not pass my lips: tapioca, custard and flan. There is a trend there somewhere.

The recipe on the little Jello box does not seem difficult. Pour the caramel packet in the bowl. Pour the dry packet into a pan and stir in four cups of milk. Bring it to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly.

The nasty part was “stirring constantly.” I had to stand still next to the stove for what seemed like hours while stirring constantly.

I do not like to stand still. I like to multitask. But I did not want to report to the ill family member how I burnt the only package of flan in the house. So I stood still and stirred.

My back hates to stand still. It revolts and sends pains darting in all different directions. It wants to weave and bob but I cannot do so while attached to a hot pan by a wooden spoon.

Oh what we do for love.

I have been trying to think of what other activities require one to stand still for long periods of time.

Getting fitted for a suit. I can’t remember the last time I did that. They were still making cuffs.

Standing at attention in the Army. I have never been in the Army.

Waiting in line for tickets to the Red Sox. I only know people who do this.

My conclusion is that making flan is a unique torturous activity. I think it is on the short list of banned activities of the CIA. The pain of making flan must be right up there with child birth. Fortunately, I have not been there either.

Flim, flam, flan. I’m done, done, done.

December 15, 2007

Little Red Shoveler

I have been shoveling for only fifty-two of my fifty-seven years. I took off the first five years of my life and did not start in earnest until I was six. I was resting up. I knew how hard this type of work was in New England.

At six I took up my little red shovel and tromped door to door looking for paid shoveling jobs. I was a specialist in sidewalks. I never gave estimates. I would leave my pay to the kind hearts of my customers. Some were more kind hearted than others, parting with their dimes and quarters. This was not high stake shoveling.

As I aged significantly to eight, ten and twelve, the jobs got bigger, the pay a little better, and the work a lot harder. But I could bear down. Bend over and hump that long side of the driveway! Leverage that back!

The 2007 version of that shoveler has mellowed - not out of choice, but by necessity. My back just will not do what it once could do without pain. I now try to use my legs more. But mostly I take smaller bites of the snow, work slower, rest a lot and hire a plow to do most of the work.

The latest storm and my snow plow guy left a lot of clean up for me. I had to clear out a path for my motorhome so that I could soon make my escape to Florida. And my hot tub needed to be released from the grip of winter. Are you feeling bad for me yet?

But after all the work was done, I felt a lot like that six year old boy. We put away our little red shovel, we took off our snow suit and left it on the floor, and we took a nap.

December 13, 2007

Yoga Imbecile Drowns in Hot Tub

This is the headline that you could have been reading this morning. I was out doing my normal exercise routine in the hot tub. I start with 1,223 laps with flip turns. The laps are short, about 1.5 yards each, so I think that most of the aerobic content is in the turns.

Then I moved on to some vigorous yoga postures. I begin with Mountain Pose, or as it is known in Sanskrit, "someone's sticky." This is a real thrill for my neighbors. Cobra is good if I can keep my head above water. If not, it is bad.

My downfall today was the Headstand. It started out so well.

But in the bat of a closed wet eyelid it came undone. I was tumbling backward and diving down to the deep of the hot tub. I cracked my head on the sharp ledge. Was this it? Was this how it all would end?

I cried for help in an underwater way:

Fortunately my photographer, who is always standing by, came to my rescue.

I did one final yoga pose. In english it is called Embarassed.

December 6, 2007

Puck of Gold

As I get older, seemingly innocuous activities have a way of dredging up memories from deep in the past.

I have been helping my friend pack up his house to move after twenty-five years. Much of my energy has been in the basement and you all know what treasures are kept in the basement. Unearthed were the drum his dad made him, a large family reunion portrait showing his dad at a young age, his bow and arrow set, a small chair handed down by an aunt, his dad’s tools and so much more. My friend is a sentimental guy and each piece had a story attached to it. It felt like an archaeological dig with audio identifiers. It was rich.

As we unearthed more and more over the days, I thought back to my own storehouse of childhood riches. Mine is not really a storehouse because I am not much of a collector. I have the “kitty stool” from my home, so named because of the embroidered kitty that once covered it. In a basement box is a coal grate that my mother and I once gleaned from the dump. The well worn shoe shine brush of my school days sits unused on a basement shelf. Do they even sell shoe polish anymore? I have three pictures of me from my childhood and the one with my dad and brother sits on my bureau. A varsity letter is tucked in one of my bureau drawers. But that’s about it.

I used to have more, but during one cross country move I became vicious about throwing out old stuff. Out went the ten inch silver bowl that I won as second medalist in my local Jaycee golf tournament as a teenager. It was a pretty fancy trophy for a dinky little tournament. Out went a collection of little trophies from baseball and hockey. I thought that I was just too old to be holding onto this stuff. And out went my gold puck.

Several years later the gold puck reappeared in my life. The phone rang and an unfamiliar voice said,

“Is this Jimmy Hession?”

“Yes,” I answered with a questioning tone since only a few family members and some childhood friends call me “Jimmy.”

“Is this the Jimmy Hession that scored the winning goal in the CYO championship hockey game for St. Mary’s in 1967?”

“Yes it is.”

I can remember that goal in complete slow motion detail even though it was forty years ago. Some would say it was because I did not score many goals. I was fore checking the puck at the blue line. On the left board the defenseman tried to flick a pass by me but I kicked it forward and broke in alone on the goalie. I was coming in at an angle and as the goalie came out to meet me I slid the puck to my backhand and scored into the open net. I had been practicing that move in my basement for years.

On the phone was the team captain who had read an obituary for my mother in my old hometown’s newspaper. He liked to keep track of the players on the team, so he called me and we caught up. He filled me in on the whereabouts of many of our teammates and he sent me the original team picture. And then I thought of the gold puck.

After our victory we had a team dinner at the church hall. In front of each place setting was a favor: a hockey puck spray painted gold with the player’s number stenciled in black. Mine was “13.”

I remember the last time I handled that puck. It was in 1996 during that cross country move. I hesitated just before I threw it in the trash - maybe I should keep it? No. I was too old to be keeping these things.

There is an old Irish saying, “At the end of every rainbow is a puck of gold.” Or something like that. I miss my puck of gold. I miss my old number 13. I miss my childhood.

It is easy to rationalize my actions. I was saving my children the trouble of throwing out all of this junk when I am gone. But a hockey puck is not too large. They could have held it and wondered what it was all about. Or maybe they would have remembered the story about the day their dad was a champion.

It was only a small spray painted hunk of rubber, but I wish that I still had it in a box somewhere. It was the last tangible connection to an important day in an important time in my life. It was my puck of gold.

December 2, 2007

Forever Young

What age are you? No, I am not asking how old you are. I am asking, what is your internal age? What age are you in your head when you think of yourself? The forty-two year old character in The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland claims, “It’s usually thirty to thirty-four. Nobody is forty in their head. When it comes to your internal age, chin wattles and relentless liver spots mean nothing.”

I am not asking how old you look when you look in the mirror. Forget about that lying visage. The lights are too bright and the images too sharp. Think darker. Think smokier. Think inside your head.

Twenty-two. That’s the age at which I live in my head. I think that there is a Sinatra song about it. “When I was twenty-two / it was a very good year.” Unfortunately any reference to Frank Sinatra is not a positive age reference. It certainly dates me.

When I think about myself, I first notice my hair. It is forever dark brown and bountiful. It flops across my forehead like an early Beatles haircut. (Another dated reference.) And it is with that hair that at age twenty-two I was in my prime. I had just finished my first year of law school and my grades were good. I was going to make it in the lawyer world.

And I was about to get married. I was crazy in love and looking forward to many years of marital bliss. Life was great. You can see it in the wedding pictures. Just notice my hair! At age twenty-two my life was filled with newness, excitement and possibility. Isn’t that the way life should always be?

Forever young. It is the youth in me that carries me forward. It is the innocence, the naiveté, the bravado that only the young possess. Bob Dylan captured it best in “Forever Young:”

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

What age are you?