Galena Illinois is one of my all time favorite towns. These pictures were taken in October 2009 which was our third visit to the city. Beside having an absolutely beautiful downtown area it was also the home of President Ulysses S. Grant.
I seem to spend quite a bit of my retirement time tending my yard and garden. At least in the warm weather months that is. Don’t get me wrong; I am by no means a perfectionist who manicures his lawn with tweezers. The opposite is more realistic for me. But I do enjoy this type of work providing the weather cooperates. I live in a very rural area about a mile north of a small town. The big city perfectly manicured lawns are a rarity in this neck of the woods. But since I do have about two and half acres it takes quite a bit of time just to keep it mowed and not letting the weeds totally take over. Totally is the secret word there :).
This Spring was one of those special event lawn and garden wise. It was time for a new riding mower. I only get one about every ten years or so. This time I opted to get the Craftsman garden series tractor. It has almost a full five foot mowing width and a supersize engine. It also has quite a few bells and whistles. I am a Craftsman type guy when it come to lawn stuff. They have a complete list of parts available so when I get reckless and break something I can get a new part quickly. That doesn’t prevent the eye-rolling from my wife who always says “be more careful” but at least it gets me back on the road, or I guess I should say lawn quickly.
I am also a veggie garden person. I had one most of my childhood and for the last twenty some years. This time of year we are usually flooded with tomatoes. Yvonne eats tomato sandwiches almost every lunch for over a month when they are in season. It is also my priveledge to take a mess of them to the homeless shelter soup kitchen where I volunteer. We used to also can them but I guess we are just too lazy for that now!
Besides tomatoes we have a pretty good crop of squash and even some watermelons this year. Another crop I have been growing for the last ten years or so is popcorn. I think I rival Orvil with the quality of my popcorn.
The pictures above are of my garden from 1994 or so. It was much more managed than it is now.
And the journey goes on.
I know some people go through life without any pets. We had some neighbors across the street from us once who I deemed as “neat freaks” . Their house was always so immaculate. They would never have considered pets as they were just dirty little creatures who pooped and otherwise contaminated people’s lives. I always felt sorry for their son who had to grow up without pets in his life. He is grown now and I often wonder is he is also a neat freak. Often times the children turn out to be the opposite of their parents in that regard.
I personally have always had pets around my entire life; that is except for my college years where obviously they were not allowed. When I was very young we had several boxers as pets. But we also had turtles, ducks, chickens, and probably others that I just don’t remember now. After college I specialized in dogs I guess.
My wife is much more of an animal lover than I am. I think she actually loves animals more than people (ha). Whenever we watch a movie and it looks like an animal will be hurt she either closes her eyes or worse yet turns off the TV. I can’t convince her that they do not actually hurt animals for movies. Watching people be blown away by Sylvester Stallone or Dirty Harry is not problem; just don’t hurt any animals in the same scene. So obviously after we were married there have been many animals in our home. She also introduced me to cats. Up until that point I had managed to live my life cat free. That is except for the barn cats we had that roamed around our rented farmhouse area. But they would not let anyone within twenty feet of them so it would be a stretch to call them pets.
The amazing thing about dogs is that they give their love unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what your physical condition is they love you anyway. Dogs will spend hours just concentrating on their owners and trying to please them. They say that a dog is man’s best friend and I totally agree with that, especially for a deaf man like me. I also learned that cats can be loving also but more in an standoffish way I guess. We had one cat in our family for over ten years and she was a very loving animal. As she got older she was almost totally dedicated to being on Yvonne’s lap whenever she would sit down. I can’t imagine life without pets. It would not be as full as it was with them always around.
Above are some of the pictures of pets we have had over the years. We loved each and every one of them.
And the journey goes on…
My wife and I have always had pets around our homes. I can’t imagine life without them. So, I have put together this collage of some of our furry, and not so furry, friends. No, we don’t actually have any pet cows but I think if Yvonne could have figured out how to get one in our trunk we would have! 🙂
As I mentioned before my wife and I were not fortunate enough to have had any children. But maybe the post will accidentally fall into the hands of some of you who can learn from one of my life’s lessons.
One of the things that I found strikingly odd when I was growing up was that our parents would take me and my two brothers to church almost every Sunday and drop us off. They would then go back home and do whatever it was they did. I always wondered why church was necessary for us but not for them. They claimed to be Christians but almost never went to church! This is another example of the old saying “Don’t do as I do but do as I say”. The church thing was not the last lesson I learned in this area. Several more would pop up but this was the one that probably troubled me the most as a kid. Now that I am grown up, at least chronologically that is, I can see what affect this had on my life. Soon after I was on my own I too dropped out of church. I guess the lesson I learned was that church was for children and not grownups. Of course I knew better by that time but that was the lesson ingrained on my memory.
Another strong lesson in the “don’t do as I do” area was about smoking. My father was a heavy smoker and always told us kids that smoking was bad for you but he continued smoking for the rest of his life. Of course, again when I was on my own I almost immediately started smoking and continued to do so for almost twenty five years. Instead of learning the “don’t do as I do” lesson I learned that we are led by the examples of others especially our parents. Dad did try to quit several times but was never successful for more than a short period. He died of colon cancer before any lung cancer could catch up to him. I loved my father but couldn’t understand why he didn’t lead by example.
As I said I smoked for almost twenty five years! I finally quit when my wife had her first heart attack in 1992. At that point I learned just how tight a grip nicotine addiction can grab a person. I, unlike Dad, did manage to quit but it was one of the most difficult things I have had to do.
Dad was a loving father although like most men of his generation he almost never showed much affection. That was another lesson by example I wish I had not learned. I am a much more emotional person than my father but telling someone how you feel about them is still sometimes difficult for me. I just don’t do it as often as I want to or should.
I seem to be picking on my Dad here but I did love him very much. When we were ready to move back from the East Coast to Indiana I was looking forward to spending much more time with him. We had become very good friends by that point and yes he did tell me on a few occasions that he was proud of me and loved me. Unfortunately he died about six months before our return. I still think of him almost daily.
The picture above is of Dad’s high school class from Belle Union Indiana in 1940. He is the first boy from the right in the third row from the bottom just beyond the teachers. I miss you Dad! I wish we could have spent more time together in your final years.
And the journey goes on…
When I went deaf in 1988 there was no way for me to communicate with my wife or others once I left the house. Even at home calling others was almost impossible. I had a device called a TTY but the person I called also had to have one to communicate with me. They cost about $500 and could only be used with deaf people so they were far and few between. I could use a thing called the Deaf Relay service. How that worked was that I would call a special operator with my TTY and they would call the person I wanted to talk with. The operator would then listen to the other person and type for me on my TTY. The inconvenience of doing this and having another person listening in on the conversation made this method of calling pretty much a rare thing. Since my wife is hearing I usually depended on her to make all my calls. But that did not solve the being away from home and communicating with her.
It would take about twenty years before I could call my wife. I had to wait until text messaging on cell phones was finally developed before that happened. Now with my cell phone set on vibrate mode I frequently get messages from my wife and others while on the road (but I don’t actually text on the road. I pull over to do that. 🙂
Text messaging and close captions have indeed made my deafness more tolerable. More on close captioning next time.
The picture here has nothing to do with the post. It is of a college room mate I had for one semester in the 1960’s. His name was Knute and he came over from Norway via a freighter to go to the engineering school at Purdue. Knute learned enough English that he was somewhat able to communicate but with broken English. Of course he taught me how to say a bunch of dirty words in Norwegian and I taught him the equivalent in English :). I think he went back to Norway after he graduated ? Like so many other “lost” friends I wander how he is doing now.
And the journey goes on…
OK, first let me start out by completing the title message. Personal adversity makes us stronger or breaks us. As I mentioned a few posts ago I went deaf about twenty years ago and have consequently faced my share of adversity since then. In the coming months, I will share specific stories about this but I want to keep it on a higher level for this post. When Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind at a very early age, was asked what she would choose if she could get one of her senses restored. She without hesitation said it would be her hearing as being deaf keeps you separated from people and being blind only separates you from things. I certainly can understand her logic but I am not sure I would make the same choice.
Being deaf does definitely separate me from people and that makes me sometimes very lonely indeed. I often say that I am the loneliest when I am in a room full of people. At least sometimes when I am in a one-on-one situation with a hearing person they will go out of their way to communicate via notes or whatever works best. But once another hearing person comes into the room I most often become invisible as it is just easier for them to talk to each other than to me. I have come to accept this situation, even among my friends. That is just the way it is for most people. I thank heavens for the internet and email as that does level the playing field at least some of the time.
Ok, let’s get back to the theme of this post. If a person goes through life with little or no adversity they certainly take for granted what they have. When you lose something you then tend to realize just how important it was to you. Adversity also causes humility and to me that is one of the most important human traits. The other is compassion. That is where the second part of this post title comes in. Some people just can’t handle the adversity at that particular time in their lives and it breaks them. For some it means drugs or alcohol. for others it is deep depression or something else. We should all realize that “but there for the grace of God go I” and have compassion for those broken by their personal adversity.
Humility and compassion makes us the type of person that the Lord intends us to be.
And the journey goes on….
My wife Yvonne and I did not get married until we were both over forty years old. This was the first marriage for both of us. We have been married almost twenty five years now. Although we had been working in the same building together for more than fifteen years our paths just never crossed. It was a very big building! Yvonne said if we had only met when we were young we would have had six kids and many grandkids by now!! It does sadden me that she wanted so many children and ended up having none.
Sometimes I think she is Ying and I am Yang as we frequently differ from each other in our likes and dislikes. But that just makes life a little more interesting. Yvonne is one of the most stubborn people I know; but then so am I. Maybe that is why I love her so much.
Fortunately Yvonne is an avid picture collector so she has quite a collection of pictures throughout her life. The one above is probably my favorite childhood picture of her. She thinks she was about six years old or so. She is certainly the love of my life.
And the journey goes on….
I like most people I guess, seem to go through my life concentrating mainly on the giant leaps. Getting my driver’s license, my first legal drink, the first job, getting married, retiring, etc, etc. These always seem to be things I am waiting for. But I have come to realize that by far most of life is the little steps. Those things we choose to do day in and day out are mainly what defines the quality of our lives. This is a difficult lesson for me to learn even in my retirement years. I by no means have that concept completely down but it is slowly sinking into my infinitely hard head. But little steps does not mean that you have to be resolved to a life of boredom!
One of the problems I have with retirement is that there seems to be no giant leaps to look forward to. About the only giant leap left is the leave this life for the next one. I am like most people I guess, I want to get to heaven but I don’t want to have to die to get there!
Currently one of my favorite books is entitled 1,000 Places To See in the U.S. Before You Die. I am resolved to see as many of them as I can; or at least the ones that interest me. Since I don’t really know how much longer we will be on the earth I want to do them all now! So I guess I have replaced the giant leap with one thousand smaller steps. Now my main chore is to get my home body wife as infected on the list as I am. That will be a giant chore indeed! Maybe if I take it one at a time she won’t realize I have a grander scheme in mind.
The picture above is me and my big brother. I think I was still waiting for my first birthday when it was taken.
And the journey goes on..
I must admit that I am a U.S. history nut. In my life I have read several hundred books on the subject. Being non-violent at my core this list does not include many books on our wars but instead I focused on the people of the times. Except for the Revolutionary War which is necessary to understand the foundations of our society, I pretty much avoid the subject of war. Some of the most fascinating reading were of the trapper’s journals in the Rocky Mountains.
Part of that love of history includes going to many historical sites. My wife and I have been doing this for twenty five years now and I was doing it alone for fifteen years before that. On our trip to California and back last summer we discovered Bent’s Old Fort. It is a reconstructed fort in southeastern Colorado. It is in the top five of the most favorite historical places I have visited.
After an archaeological exploration the fort was rebuilt on the same footprint as the original. Fort Bent was a commercial fort not a military one. It was used for trading with the Indians in the area as well as supplying trappers etc. We were told that all the shooting at the “Fort Zent” from the mini-series “Centennial” made in the 1970s was filmed here and a good bit of Levi Zent’s life in the show was based on Robert Bent’s past. Of course Robert Bent was an actual person and Levi Zent was a make believe character. Anyway there was a Calvary officer who spent several months at the fort while he was recovering from an illness. He was fascinated with the fort and proceeded to make detailed drawings of the fort with a lot of detail about it. Fortunately the drawings survived and were used to reconstruct the fort. The reconstructed fort was meticulously made and it was amazing how real it looked. Every room was detailed out according to the drawings and other surviving documents.
Bent’s Old Fort is definitely a gem in the National Park Service holdings. Even though it is a reconstructed fort I got an eerie feeling that the original inhibitors were still o the premises. We spent about four hours at the fort and I want to go back again someday. Enjoy the pictures below and for more pictures go to my photo blog at www.InTheSlowLane.net
And the journey goes on..