CHEATING FOR GOOD Mental Health

Since the 2nd week of the year, possible longer, I have done 10,000 steps or more per day. I. Am proud of this feat. There are days that were almost 30000, and there were many days, especially of late, that were just barely 10,000. How ever many steps there were, I earned them all. During rainy days, I put my old shoes on and carried the umbrella. I allowed for great flexibility in my walk times just so I could fit them in. If I needed to take 2 short walks to cover my steps, I kept the carrot dangling until I captured it every day..

This held true until today. Today, while we were still on our vacation, was supposed to be a day spent at my mother’s house. When circumstance changed and my wife suggested a chance to our schedule, I agreed. I knew it would make walking 10,000 steps very difficult today. And, with nearly every vacation day being a “just barely”, I knew 8-10 hours of driving would make maintaining that goal very difficult. And, with the expected rain, it was just not going to be a thing I wanted to save for the end of the day.

Fortunately, I was able to get a short walk in before we left. And, we stopped in the small town of Casey, IL. We walked around and took pictures of all the BIG things. My favorite was the pitchfork. After this stop, it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. I knew my record was on the line. So, did I panic? No, I cheated.

Cheating with steps is something my mother described at breakfast today. The correct arm motion makes your phone think you are stepping. After experimenting with up and down and side to side, side to side was the winner. While feeling guilty during each “step”, I put about 2 miles on my phone while my wife drove across Missouri. When I checked my step counter and realized I only had 70 steps to go, I decided to be done. The remaining steps would get added “the old fashion way” when we walked into our hotel.

I can either claim to have 10,000 steps every day this year with an asterisk, or I can amend my statement to, “My phone says I have done 10,000 steps every day this year.” Since no one is likely to care or ask, I will make what claims I must and keep trying to fit those steps in.

Last night, I had COVID again…

As I got up out of my chair after finishing my book at 11:30, my head was spinning. Not being prone to many headaches, my first thoughts are, “I must be sick.” And, when you are sick during a pandemic, it doesn’t take long to think you have COVID. But, this isn’t the first time I have had “COVID”. I believe it was the 4th or 5th time since the pandemic started.

With my next stop being bed, it is little wonder I didn’t fall asleep immediately.

  • I thought of the irony of the wedding reception we didn’t go to that day. I thought it was people like me who caused me to be concerned about attending the reception. However, sitting in the balcony does give you a view of the wedding not available to those below. It went through my mind how many people I might have exposed if we attended the non-socially distanced wedding reception. Then I flipped over in bed and tried to think about something else.
  • I tried to think, “Who could I have gotten it from? Could I get it from my kids? They have been asymptomatic, but one of the boys gave it to us?” I was at a complete loss of any other way I could have gotten it. I play the mask game as well as anyone. I remove my mask just after exiting, and I put it on just before entering. I am an unwilling participant in an apparently losing effort to reduce the spread.
  • After I woke the first time, I flipped over and I was still slightly dizzy. And, I think I had a fever. I thought about our plans for the next few days. I thought, “Oh, no, I have exposed my mother to COVID.” And, I thought, “I won’t be able to go to breakfast this morning and say goodbye to everyone before we leave.” And, “Will we still be able to go on our vacation? Will we have to drive straight home now? Have I ruined everything?”
  • At best, half-asleep thoughts are not very coherent. When a rational thought hits my brain, it is not after I just woke up and it is still dark out. I wish I could flip a switch and just turn off the thoughts. Once they start pouring in, I am at their mercy. I tried to cut them off, but acknowledging them only makes them think they are worthy of greater attention.
  • The only way to defeat them is to outlast them. When I wake in the morning, I again do my search on COVID symptoms. When I am reminded I also have allergies, the COVID virus recesses again for a few weeks. When I travel, I never seem to drink enough water? Could any of this be dehydration? With a blood donation scheduled for after the election, I will get the bonus of a COVID test. This should set my mind at ease for another few months…or weeks…or days.

The Runaway Truck Ramp Theory

They make you safe. That is what we are led to believe. What are they? If you have never seen one, they are an unpaved lane that runs along the right side of the road in mountainous/hilly areas. As we recently drove US 40 through eastern Tennessee, numerous of these ramps appeared after we crested the top of the various mountains along the road.

If I dig back into the archives of my memories, I believe I can recall at least one time when a truck has had to use these innovations. I didn’t see the impact with the many sand bags or barrels of sand or progressively bigger dirt piles. I just saw that a truck had lost access to its brakes (I am assuming) and plowed into the obstacles designed to slow its forward progress.

Possible the truck I witnessed was just a token runaway truck. Its purpose was to reassure all of those motorist who had even once awoken from a nightmare where they and their car were about to get ran over by a truck as it flew down the road toward them in their rearview mirror. Maybe that is a good thing. People need to sometimes see the things that are there to protect them actually protecting them. If they don’t, they are just a theoretical creation to provide engineers an additional inclusion in any roads built in mountainous terrain. The ramps don’t save anybody physically. Emotionally is another matter. And, if this theory is not a theory even once every few years, then a bunch of somebodies will be grateful it is there. Just like child safety caps…

Hurricane Headache

I woke dark o’clock that morning with a headache pounding the middle of my forehead. Was it low-pressure induced? Was it lack of adequate hydration? Were we in the path of the hurricane and the cone was projecting out its mayhem?

As we traveled across the country, another 36 hours in Nashville would have put us firmly in Delta’s path. If we would have taken the southern route (taking US 20) to the east coast, We have no idea what type of traffic and rain we would have encountered. As we were driving along US 40, we saw multiple convoys of electric trucks driving toward the hurricane in anticipation of the chaos it was going to leave behind.

Even though our race to get ahead of the cone seemed successful, as we continued to journey east of Nashville, the rain increased. Coupled with the construction, the fewer miles to travel on our second day was ultimately more painful. Rain, construction, fog and mountains are some of the siblings hated by all distance drivers. Would we have left a day earlier, the southern path to the east coast may have been more available. Having made the northern choice, we are taking credit for being good citizens. We left the southern path open for our rain deluged brothers in the bayou.

If the percentage of driving done by me is factored in, I have no room to whine. My biggest valid complaint is, “I find it very difficult to read on a winding, foggy road when it is raining.” Just me and my 1st world problems!!

Weaving Lines

With a driving trip coming up in our future, I have begunt he process of going thru my list. And, when I am done with the list, I expand it out and try and take in other issues of concern. Yesterday, I realized a possible big one.

When we bought our new vehicle on February 29th, we were looking forward to driving it. When it arrived in our garage, it had a full tank of gas. With a hybrid engine, we were excited to see how long one tank of gas would last us. Little did we know how long it would last. The first fillup took place this past weekend. If all vehicles got 7 months to the tankful, those who profess global warming would have nothing to complain about.

The problem was not with the gallons per month. The problem was the registration sticker. This sticker is placed on the bottom of the driver’s side of the windshield. This vehicle was a treat, so we were not well versed in when the stickers get stuck. Because it wasn’t there when we left the dealers lot, I thought little more about it. When the replacement for the temporary tags arrived, I saw nothing that resembled a sticker in the envelope. With all the oddities of life during the pandemic, I just had no time to realize I was stickerless.

While grace may be abundant during the pandemic, I don’t like to be caught unprepared. After a call to the dealership where they confirmed they did “everything right”, my only recourse was to go and get a new sticker. My instructions were to, “Take something with your VIN, proof of insurance and ID.” This advice turned out to be accurate. COVID caused a frustrating experience to be visually much more overwhelming. When I entered the line, I was outside of the building. After entering the building, the “reminder spots” were following the walls at 6 foot intervals. Fortunately, they did not force us to follow the hallway completely. The winding was cut short by some erected barriers. Just as in a line for an amusement park ride, you sometimes don’t know how long the line is until you see some of the same faces emerge from the shadows.

It took me approximately 30 minutes until I was checked in by my “reason for being there.” For the next 25 minutes, I was “R161.” I was frustrated by the person who was R159. He tied up one of the clerks by hoping to accomplish a handful of requests in one visit. After the clerk handled him and the other clerk came back from her potty break, my number was activated on the screen. With my sole purpose of just needing a sticker and no new plates, I was done pretty quickly. The most difficult decision I needed to make was whether I would write a check for $6.50 or pay an additional $2.50 to use a credit card. “Tightwad” must have been written on my forehead. She knew which direction I would go.

As I left, I saw the line winding outside the building was longer. Not only was it longer, but it was more densely packed–being socially distanced while outside was a lower priority. I considered telling those at the end of the line, “Plan on at least an hour.”, but what kind of person would I be to take away their hope for a speedy processing?

It Is What Happens

As I was working on the pool today, I was smelling a very unpleasant odor. I knew what it probably meant. I just could not find the source. When going to church this morning and visiting friends last night, the roadkill was quite frequent. With no roads or highways in our backyard, I didn’t expect to find this type of sacrifice. My mind did go back to yesterday when I put new poison in the rat trap…

I wish I didn’t have to police rat/mouse poop, but it goes with being a homeowner. After a significant rat infestation in the garage a number of years ago (When my son’s dog and his dog food resided there.), I am always looking. When the dropping get thick and concentrated, you either have to shrug your shoulders or decide to do something. My “something” was buying another feeder to dispense the special candy. I situated the dispenser in the thickest part of the droppings. They disguise the dispenser as a black box. The disguise allows the rat to think he is such a smart rat for exploring and finding the treat.

As I continued to work on the pool, the odor was unavoidable. The house was the center of the smell. In front of the house, the flower bed would be a likely path for any critters running the perimeter of the house. Slightly covered by leaves, the rat rested lay. I grabbed an inverted plastic bag and used it to pick up his remains. It is likely the rat was chilling in the flower bed the previous day. (It was a warm day, so his “chilling” led to him “smelling” today.) I tied the bag in a knot and tossed into the trash can.

I will keep filling the candy dispenser. If our slain foe was a hermit, he had no problems with irregularity. The most likely scenario was a rat scout who went down. If the dispenser needs filled a couple more times before Halloween, I will turn my nose-dial to “sensitive” and see what else shows up. When rats eat poison, death does happen.

Wasp Meets Man

I didn’t intentionally meet the wasp today.  In the past, I have wreaked havoc in their worlds through a variety of methods.  Primarily, I have done this wasp spray.  I have a small stockpile of spray ready for an active nest.  I am not one to say, “I am too busy relaxing right now.  Let me put that nest on my list.”  I run into the garage and emerge with both hands loaded for action.  When I see wasp landing on an external wall and sneaking into the house (not sure where the path leads, but it does lead in), I put expandable foam on my list so I can fill that void.  And, after I fill a void or spray a nest, I would be lying if I did not admit to taking some small pleasure in watching the chaos that follows.

Today, I was doing a little yardwork.  With buzzing wasp being a regular feature of the backyard landscape, I rarely let them bother me.  With today’s efforts being focused at the pool slide, it only took a quick glance under the slide to see there was a new nest.  I put my small project on hold as I shifted my attention to getting loaded with wasp spray.  Apparently, my previous peek had put me on the wasp “attack radar.”  I had no sooner approached the slide then my proboscis became a pincushion for the attack wasp.  His dance on my nose was not pleasant.  After my frantic shoos and swats dislodged him, it left me with a pricked nose.  There was no stinger protruding from the prick.  Yes, my nose is certain it took on some unhappy juice.  The nose has not swollen, but my sinuses and sneezes are a clear indication they were left a little tickled.  If I would have only been wearing my mask, the wasp might have been afraid of me and sought someone who was willing to sacrifice their nose for his frustrations.

Oh, if it matters, I did spray the wasp nest.  After cursing my bad luck, I completed the spraying of the nest.  Ideally, I could have just killed the angry bugs.  Instead, it approached revenge.  I did not pull a mirror out to see what kind of crooked smile I was wearing as I activated the death button on the can.  At the end of the encounter, the wasps were dead.  And I was grateful I didn’t have my dad’s allergy.  Fortunately, one thing not lost when you age is your ability to take a wasp/.bee sting…or at least I hope.

Rejects And Outtakes

Sometimes, you have something to say, and sometimes you don’t.  I am sometimes possessed by something I egotistically think is sheer brilliance.  Then I walk away without writing it down.  I am left regretting my arrogance.  “Oh, I can remember it.”  When I do this enough times, I attempt to make a blog post with the thoughts that didn’t rise far enough.

  • Furnace Dies:  Technically, I guess this would be the air conditioner.  But, since that is what I started with, I will just go with it. The a/c has been a fickle character over the entire summer.  (The original owners put in 3 air conditioners-not my choice.  The upstairs unit collects all the rising heat.  It is also the area with the most difficulty in zapping the heat and making it cool.  After the upstairs folk survived a couple of warm days (I attempted to freeze us out downstairs and send the cool air upstairs.  Yet, without getting the heat to leave, the cool air was content to hang out on the first floor.)  The cold front spared the upstairs guys when the temperature was 20 degrees cooler the next morning.  Getting the a/c fixed long-term involved bribery and raising my voice, but not to the same person.  The game room upstairs now has a new return and a new vent.  The “non-cooling” problem was resolved by fixing a faulty connection outside.  The inside stuff was only because we finally found an a/c guy who knew how to listen and solve problems.
  • Neighbor on walk:  When new neighbors move in during a pandemic, it may take a few weeks/months until you figure out who they are.  Our newest neighbors have been there nearly 3 weeks…or is it 4?  I have spoken to the wife and talked briefly with her.  Part of our conversation involved their “bark-happy-rescue” dog.  After she apologized for him, I let her know the previous owners whopper-of-a-dog story.  As long as she didn’t surpass the previous neighbor’s accomplishments, she had nothing to worry about.  Fortunately, I am almost certain my failed attempt to start a conversation with a couple I passed while walking was NOT my neighbors.  If it was them, their avoidance of my conversation effort was a formal disapproval of my “neighbor’s ghost dog” story.
  • Vietnamese on walk:  Along my walk, I go through two neighborhoods.  Along one street, I frequently talked to a Vietnamese man.  The last time we talked was last October.  It is his habit to go to Vietnam for the winter.  This past year, they lengthened his trip considerably by cancelled flights.  When he could finally fly back, it was through Korea.  He claimed only about 15% of the seats were full. (out of 350) Lucky for him, he has a neighbor willing to take care of his house.  Presently, he claims there is approximately a 4 week quarantine if he goes back to Vietnam.
  • Smoking Neighbor:  Not having a/c is not a problem when you have enough windows to get things cooled down.  But, if the same windows bring in all the smoke from the neighbors “low and slow” meat efforts next door, then it changes the impact.  The fickle a/c wouldn’t allow us to close the windows, so we got to experience calorie-free smoked meat at our neighbor’s–or was is our–expense.

Normally Scheduled Texting

The contrarian response is somebody has to die so I can live to 100–we can’t all live that long. But, the reality is it is very sad. I have hinted at this before…the big question is whether we/you are ready to die and meet your maker. There is no time for adjustments after you are called out of this world. Okay, the preaching is now over. I return you to your normal texting. 🙂

I replied to a friend’s text yesterday.  At the beginning of the week, a high school classmate died.  I had no idea he was sick or was suffering in any way.  After a couple of decades, you just don’t keep track of that many classmates.  Coming from a small school, I am possibly held to a higher degree of accountability.  Clearly, this post is not about the choices you make in maintaining relationships.

In a senior class of under 100 graduates, my friend and I have counted 5 classmates that have died.  Some went from popularity to obscurity, and one of them died before she graduated from college.  We never know when our time will come.  Our body may tell us it is not well, but it gives us no guarantees.  When nothing is for sure, we better make sure we have eternity locked down, or as much as we can lock it down on this side of the grave.

When I text with this friend, I am often tempted to hop on my soapbox temporarily.  He knows where I stand on faith, and he knows what I have faith in.  But, as we have our regular text back and forth, I don’t make it prominent.  He is my friend, and we share many views.  We just don’t share the same view of eternity.  So, when this death took place, I wanted to make sure I gave a little nudge.  If he responds, I am available for the discussion.  If he doesn’t respond, then I hope this attempt lodges somewhere in his mind.

We are all accountable for the life choices we make.  I care for him enough to remind him, but I will not have a one-sided conversation if he doesn’t want to have it.   I can’t force him or anyone else to accept something he is unwilling to accept.  I can only give out reminders of a day I hope is far in both of our futures.  At some point, we both will die.  At that moment, our ability to change the direction of our eternity is forever revoked.  God locks in our eternal destination.  For the sake of my friend, I hope he eventually hears me or hears someone else.  Eternity is a long time to suffer for believing a good life is enough.

If he never delves into this text, that is okay.  I will probably take liberties when another classmate dies.  Once the text is sent, I can just pray that is the text that will tickle his heart and cause him to ask, “What about that eternity stuff?”

…And Then Day 22

After completing 3 weeks of language studying while walking, I started to think I was going to skate through until day 30.  I even wrote a blog post bragging on how well I was doing.  I bragged on what I was going to accomplish.  And I made it seem like Level 5 was mine if I was only willing to show up every day for 5 months.

The Pimsleur system was holding back a surprise.  On day 22 ( i.e. as I write this, that was yesterday), they switched everything over so they gave the instructions in German.  Now, I had to hear what I was being told to do in German.  After doing some amount of translating in my head,  I would construct a proper German response.  After the first listen, I did fair.  After the second listen, I did a little better.  Finally, after the third lesson, I may have had about 80% of it.  I am not sure if my replies were from memory, but most of the replies communicated the desired meaning.

As I write this after the 23rd lesson, it seems Pimsleur felt guilty in their treatment of us on day 22.  They asked us to convert many English numbers into their German equivalent.  That was easy for me, and an opportunity to rest my mind.  This was a treat compared to the feelings I had prior to my walk.  Maybe I won’t dread tomorrow’s walk nearly as much!