Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blog No More

If a man yells in the woods and nobody hears him is he making a sound?

If a man writes a blog and get little feedback or hits is he wasting his time? 

While this is posting I'll be out for my Saturday morning walk / run.

If you read this send me your opinion. 


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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day Dilemma

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday and I planned to spend the weekend much like any other weekend, except that the focus is now on me.  I had planned to take my usual Saturday walk / run in the park and participate in the Sunday morning conditioning class at 9 am.  On our 43d Anniversary I made plans to participate in the Texas Senior Games (see February and March blog archives) and Iris has reminded me that this was “our” day several times since.  My wife says this in an off-handed manner, she is glad that I am healthy but with a hint of displeasure.  In my defense, we did spend the rest of the day (not working) together for lunch and dinner out.  I had it all.  Me and Us.

Back to Father’s Day.  This week I am faced with another crisis.  I have a Sunday morning exercise class which means our Father’s Day brunch at home will be later in the morning.  And all the preparation will be left to my wife.  My sons and daughter-in-law won’t come early enough to help.  She’ll be on her own.  I definitely will be helping her shop and prepare on Saturday, after my morning walk.

My Father and Father-in-Law are both long gone and I want to say something about them.  First, thank you to both.  Both taught me the value of hard work by example.  My father passed before my 28th birthday and specific memories are hard to pull up in detail.  I don’t remember long conversations with him.  I do remember some of his actions that moved me along.  

He punished me once by taking my bicycle away; eventually I earned it back but it took a long time.   I was stubborn and never asked for it back.  He forced me to an unwanted Bar Mitzvah, which I wish I could remember.  But something then must have stuck because I remain committed to my heritage.  He encouraged me start college, but acquiesced when I stopped school after only three semesters of poor grades.   He saw me enter the army and was proud of his son.  He was pleased when I eventually returned to college, but sadly he only lived a month past my graduation a full year before the birth of my first son. He never knew I even earned a Master’s Degree or that I moved to Texas.  His imprint didn’t seem immediate but the lessons stuck.

These pleasures were left for my father-in-law who treated me like a son.  He bought me two suits for my marriage to his daughter.  Helped me through college, saw his grandchildren, moved to Texas for his final years and for a time worked with me.  Both my sons remember him fondly.  

I loved both of these men.  What would they do when faced with my current dilemma?  I feel like a guy with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  Exercise or stay home?  Do what I want or help?  My father probably would be sitting in the living room waiting for my mother to bring him a coffee and the Sunday paper while he watched TV.  My father-in-law didn’t drink coffee; but I visualize him doing the ironing while my mother-in-law prepared a delicious, ten-thousand calorie meal.  

Find out how I resolved this issue in a few days.  I’ll be interested to see how it all turns out.  To read more click on "Read More" below.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Things Seniors Need: Item 8 - Hobbies

In one of my January blogs I revisited Ten Things Seniors Need (October 15, 2011) and today in desperate need of inspiration (a thought worthy of its own blog) I dug back into the original list for inspiration. Item number eight’s brief description of the importance of having hobbies notes the purpose of the hobby is to keep busy.

Perhaps that purpose is too limiting. A person can keep busy playing solitaire, watching TV or mopping the floor. None of these activities could legitimately be called hobbies. My original blog mentioned purposeful activities to keep a person sharp and interesting. But that definition is not very enlightening. Advice that is often given in my writing group is: show, don’t tell. With that advice in mind I will try to breakdown one of my hobbies and show how a simple hobby is really a very complex process with many unexpected benefits and activities.

Refinishing Cigar Boxes

Inspirational box and wine box mini-bookshelf
Many years ago a co-worker gave me a wooden cigar box that her husband refinished. She told me to put it on my desk to store pens, pencils, paper clips and other small items. It would keep my desk neat and be an attractive accessory. I left that position and put the box on my home desk with the same purpose. Now I store flash drives and other small computer related items in it. I looked at that box every day since she gave it to me and thought someday I’ll make one myself.

Recently that desire came to fruition. A current co-worker is a cigar aficionado and I came into the possession of a few unfinished boxes. My experimentation began with a little refresher of my ancient woodworking skills and a visit to the local lumber center. The purchase of a small orbital sander, sander paper, several small paint brushes and a variety of stains rounded out step one.

One Saturday I cleared a space on my work bench and began. The initial steps included removing old labels and sanding the box smooth. Next the stain was applied. After the stain dried the finish was further smoothed with steel wool, then a second coat of stain applied. The end result was a box with an uneven coat of stain and a few bubbles. But I could see the potential and techniques that needed refining.

Subsequent boxes came out a lot better. I gave a few boxes to my young niece and nephew. My nephew excitedly asked if he could do them with me. After the acquisition of a few more boxes he came over one morning and we worked on those boxes. Now I was beyond learning, I was teaching, another unexpected result.

Sporadically I have been collecting and working on boxes. The process is surprisingly simple but still requires attention to details: prepare carefully, work clean and allow time between steps. A six or eight inch square box might take two days to complete.

At a recent neighborhood garage sale I asked if they had any cigar boxes and was rewarded with a different item. They had a small, dried up, warped box of unknown origin. I bought it for a dollar. It sat on my work bench for several weeks while I looked at it and tried to figure a method for restoration. Another run to the store for some hardware, wood glue and a dark stain was needed. I disassembled the box, sanded the individual pieces and glued the box back together. A few very small holes were drilled and tiny brass nails used to secure the top to the sides. The box was stained in sections, reassembled and two brass screws and nuts were used to plug two holes. The completed box now sported a dark finish to hide the imperfections from age and wear. My wife looked at the plugged two holes, one in the front and the other in the rear, and declared that the original purpose of the box was probably a card catalog from a library or a recipe box. The holes were for the rod that prevented the cards from being removed. I tested the idea by putting a 3 x 5 index card into the box, a perfect fit.

Last week another co-worker who was cleaning out the household goods of her grandmother brought me another box of unknown use. The box was in excellent condition and was ornately decorated with a carved design. A small label on the bottom of the box and a partial label on the underside of the lid gave a few clues to the boxes history. A brief internet search (with my friend – Google) gave us the answer. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s wood burning was a popular art form and hobby. The box originally contained a kit of wood burning tools and a stencil. The stencil and tools were used to burn the design onto the box. The tools could later be used with other stencils for other projects.  I had an art history lesson.

The box is pristine and the only restoration needed is the application of a clear protective finish to prevent any future damage to the wood.

A simple hobby of refinishing cigar boxes resulted in a wealth of pleasures: relearning old skills, learning new techniques, working with my hands in an artisan fashion, teaching skills to my nephew, searching garage sales for other items to restore and an excuse to go the home center for gadgets (and every man needs gadgets). And of course now I have attractive boxes to put more of stuff in and give as gifts. At one of my favorite Italian restaurants I traded a refinished cigar box for an empty wine crate which I made into a mini bookcase for my 1950’s vintage wood office desk which I refinished many years ago.

1950's Desk Restoration Project
I have two painted flying frogs that are in desperate need of refinishing.  I am working on the smaller of the two frogs developing a method on how to bring those pieces back to life.  From boxes to flying frogs, what a leap!
Flying frog and two unfinished cigar boxes

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time Machine

Do you want a time machine? There are things and events from our past that we want to remember, or experience again or at least have a better recollection. The wife of an army friend (speaking of time machines – a 1964 friendship that still exists) sent me a time machine.

It was great and I think you should try it for yourself.

First of all, this is not a Science Fiction story. It is real. Good deals are always suspect and should be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of skepticism. If it sounds too good to be true watch out. But this one is real and it works.  And it is priced right.

Knowledge of physics, astronomy or advanced engineering is not required. Just click here for any year between 1940 and 1999. Have fun and enjoy.

I've got to go now.  I am working on my personal time machine: my Saturday morning walk and my conditioning class on Sunday.  Perhaps I can be 65 again.

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May's Visual Blogs

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