Living Your Life vs Documenting It

The Title Says It All!

In these days of self-obsession, it’s rare to find anyone who’s actually living life and not just documenting it through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. There’s an interesting TV show I’ve been watching called Reverie. The main character is a college professor who teaches her students how to interact with each other and sharpen their observational skills. She says that most young people won’t take their eyes off their phone for half a second, let alone look each other in the eye. Check out any group of young adults. Are any of them actually talking to each other? If they are, do they look each other in the eye? The art of conversation is becoming a Lost Art indeed.

I like to dictate some of these articles while I’m on my morning walk with my dog. I’m a victim of Phone Tunnelvision myself. I just walked into a tree branch full of wet leaves! Yuck! We’ve all seen the videos of people falling into fountains or stumbling down stairs while looking at their phones. If nothing else, they are providing endless hours of entertainment for viewers of YouTube and America’s Funniest Videos. After my interaction with the tree branch, I did a quick look around to see if anyone was watching, shook the water out of my hair, then quickened my pace towards home.

Even though kids these days don’t talk to each other much, they sure take a boatload of pictures (at arm’s length). My old friends Jim and Joe recently joined me at our local minor league ballpark, Jimmy John’s Field. The place has all the ambiance of a small town ballpark, but it’s just a few minutes north of Detroit (and the abysmal Tigers). Since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, I wanted to take a picture to commemorate the evening. I realized the next morning that I had completely forgotten to take the picture. However, we had a few beers and a lot of laughs, so I don’t really need a photo to remember the night. It was a true nostalgic evening. I think we all need more of those and fewer selfies.

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SuperFish

What Happens When You’re the Last Fish in the Tank?

A few years ago, I cleaned out an acrylic cookie jar and turned it into a fish tank. It has worked out very well. Since it has a watertight lid, it‘s great for traveling. Putting a spear plant in the tank for oxygen has turned out to be a perfect ecosystem for our four guppies and one ghost shrimp. They were all very colorful fish and I loved seeing them chase each other around the tank nonstop. Honestly, they wore me out just watching them play tag.

Then, as will happen, they started to die off. First Ghost and Pumpkin, followed by Sunshine, then Blue. Now only Wolverine remains. Aptly named, he just keeps on keepin’ on. He doesn’t swim around as much as he used to and seems lonely now that he has the tank all to himself.  I was thinking about picking up a few more fish to keep him company. However, my wife and I travel a lot. So I have decided that when Wolverine’s time comes, that will be it for our fish.

Currently, he is watching my dog Skittles as she snoozes in her favorite chair next to the fish tank. They have gotten along well over the years, outside of a one scary moment when Skittles broke into a bag of dog food. She was so parched at the end of her feast that she drank a load of water out of the tank. That must have scared the fish flakes out of Wolverine. He responds to me as well, swimming up to the front of the tank whenever I walk by. This makes me sad. Is this how some of us will eventually end up? Swimming around in a tank, all by ourselves, because everyone else has moved on to that big aquarium in the sky? I resolve to spend more time watching him interact with Skittles and the world at large. However, his name is Wolverine, so he may be around for many years yet to come! Stranger things.

(Author’s Note: Unfortunately we lost Wolverine on Thanksgiving 2018. He was a good fish and will be missed!)

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Muggy Walks

Sometimes an Old Dog Can Learn a New Trick

Most of the time, walking my crazy dog Skittles is a challenge in itself. However, on muggy days, it turns into an especially frustrating exercise. You see, Skittles is a Beagle-Basset Hound and she has an extremely sensitive nose. During a recent two week span of excessively muggy weather, every smell, on every blade of grass, was turned up to 11 on the Smell-O-Meter. This resulted in massive amounts of zig-zagging during our walks, from front to back and side to side. Normally, this sort of activity would occur right before we’re leaving on a trip. It’s almost as if she knows what’s going on and she’s dragging her heels because she doesn’t want us to go. Other days, I think she’s just being a pain in the ass!

However, one day a blinding piece of insight hit me. You can’t fault a hunting dog for being a hunting dog! That’s what she was bred for. Even though it makes for an excruciatingly crazy walk when the humidity kicks up. Eventually, the air will dry out, and our walks will go north-south again. Making them much more enjoyable for both of us (well, for me at least). This got me thinking about human behavior and how hard it is to really change your ways. If it were only as easy as waiting for a high pressure system.

A few years ago, after an especially brutal vacation where just about everything seemed to go wrong, I resolved to change. I had a tendency to have my temper on a hair trigger when we were on vacation, mainly because I wanted everything to go perfectly. After that trip, I decided that even though Mr. Murphy was often an irritating travel companion, I resolved that he wasn’t going to ruin any more trips for me. During my morning prayers, I ask, “Please grant me wisdom, patience, and understanding.” This has helped me to keep my cool on vacation, as well as when my dog is acting like an out of control yo-yo. Give it a try, it works for me.

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Coffee on the Patio

Sometimes Your Dreams and Reality Intersect

Here in the Great White North (Michigan Branch), our Summer Months usually run from June to August. Temperatures normally start cooling off in September, and by early October, Jack Frost is knocking at the door. During our frigid Winter Months, I have a recurring idea that keeps me going during my subzero walks with my hound dog. I dream that someday I’ll be able to relax on our patio, read the morning paper, and enjoy a good cup of coffee to start my day. Not as grandiose as Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, however, I have never claimed to be that deep.

Eventually, Spring (hideous as it is) and Summer take their turns on the calendar. Then a strange thing happens. As tantalizing as that coffee fantasy is in January, I tend to forget all about it once the snow melts. The warmer weather seems to have its own sense of rhythm and life has a tendency to reset your priorities. Most mornings, by the time I finish writing my journal entry, walk Skittles around the block, water the flowers, and try to get to the gym on time, coffee on the patio is long forgotten. That’s how life works.

The other evening, my wife and I went for a bike ride. As we rode past a house with a nice little patio, I could easily picture myself sitting there, drinking my morning coffee and reading the paper. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! DUH! You have your OWN patio! You can sit out there tomorrow morning! You can read the paper, listen to the neighborhood chirpy birds, and have that delicious cup of coffee! Sometimes your dreams and reality intersect. Take advantage of it! As the great philosopher, Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Wise words, Ferris. I think I’ll have another cup.

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4 Pounds of Fury

Knowing When the Time Has Come

(This article is dedicated to my friend Don and his beloved Panda)

A friend of mine recently had to put his dog to sleep. It was a decision he had been struggling with for quite some time. A few days after Panda was put to rest, he was still broken up about it. Knowing when “the time has come” is one of the saddest decisions you will ever have to make. My heart went out to Don and his family. I told him I knew how he felt. Many years ago, we went through a similar experience when we had to put our cat Jewel to sleep.

Jewel came into our lives when my son Jeff was in the first grade. She was a calico who loved to curl up in the sun and softly snore her days away. Of course, this gave her plenty of energy to run up and down the halls at night. Her collar bell jingling like some sort of demented ice cream man. When the time came to put her to sleep, Jeff was in his third year at Michigan State. Years before, she had run into some serious problems with her kidneys. This required her to receive a bag of fluids every Saturday, for two and a half years. She hated it, and would always meow loudly in protest when we arrived in the vet lobby. She became known among the vet staff as 4 Pounds of Fury. However, she would always rebound after receiving her fluids. When we got home, she would always return to her spot, curled up in the sun on the back of the couch.

The dreaded day eventually came. She suddenly took a turn for the worse, and it was obvious she wouldn’t be able to carry on much longer. When our family took her to the vet to have her put to sleep, Dr. Julie told us the staff had asked to say their goodbyes to our 4 Pounds of Fury. It was an exceedingly sad day, and I’m getting choked up right now writing this. Unfortunately, it also makes me think of the day when our dog Skittles will eventually pass away on her own, or have to be put to sleep. We love our crazy dog, and she has been a beloved family member for over seven years. The thought of that day fills me with dread and sadness. This article is dedicated to my friend Don and anyone else who has lost a beloved family member. They live forever in our memories.

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Too Much of a Good Thing

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Along with most of the country, we have had a very hot and dry summer. It’s been one of those years where every lawn is struggling to stay more green than brown. Last week, we had a fair amount of rain and I was finally able to take a day off from watering the flowers. I was back at it the next morning because the weather report had no rain in sight for the remainder of the week. It really makes you appreciate a summer with normal amounts of sunshine and rainfall.

During a summer like this, you can easily tell which lawns have automatic sprinkler systems. What really makes me laugh is that after few days of a good soaking rain, it’s hard to tell which lawns have built-in sprinklers and which ones don’t. I’m in the don’t category. Most years I can get away with cutting the grass on Sunday, then watering  thoroughly. My lawn would usually be good for the rest of the week. Not this year! No matter how much I water, that strip of grass next to my neighbor’s driveway remains burnt to a crisp.

Given all this dry weather, my major concern is flooding. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when most of the lawns in the area are the consistency of  concrete, all it takes is a heavy downpour to turn into a horrific flood. In August of 2014, Warren and the surrounding Detroit area was hit with its worst flooding in 100 years. We had 4 inches of water in our basement, which caused over $5,000 in damage. However, on Masonic a few blocks away, there were people who had water up to their top step. It was so sad to see everything from their basements piled up by the curb. For a long time, Warren residents were very nervous whenever a hard rain moved into the area. I still am. When the rains finally do come, I pray they will be gentle and soaking. Until then, it’s time for me to move my sprinklers again.

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Anticipating Autumn’s Arrival

Bring It On!

With the arrival of August, I have always said you can feel Fall in the air. My wife tells me I’m crazy. However, something special seems to happen every year at this time. No matter how brutal June and July have been, August comes in with the promise of warm (but not freakishly hot) days, and cooler nights. The prelude to Autumn. Our maple tree out front is an early turner and by mid-August, I’ll usually find a few red defectors on my lawn. Even though I know it will be a long time before my lawn is covered in leaves, it makes me think of football, sweatshirts, and hot cider & donuts.

I noticed the tree in this photo the other day and it made think of the cool weather ahead. It’s located in the schoolyard on the next block. Hopefully, it’s the sign of an early (or even on time) Autumn season. What really has me concerned is the Fall of 2017. Summer was late in arriving and so was Fall. As a result, we hit 90 degrees on September 26th and 75 degrees on October 22nd! With the brutal Summer we have already had, the prospect of temperatures not cooling down until Halloween is unthinkable!

I remember when I was a kid. As soon as we all went back to school, the sport of choice would quickly switch over from baseball to football. We played tackle in an empty lot that connected the streets of Lakepointe and Roxbury. No matter how hot it was, the football season would begin. In a way, we knew the game we played was part of welcoming in the Autumn season. So we returned home sweaty, smelly, and sometimes bloody. However, we all knew we had done our part in welcoming The Great Pumpkin to our neighborhood. So here’s to hoping we all smell Pumpkin Spice in the air, sooner rather than later!

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Defend The Tower!

Hearing Voices is Never a Good Thing!

I thought I was losing my marbles. I kept hearing “Defend the Tower!” and various other noises when I would hop in my car to drive to work. What does it mean? Is there some deep psychological or spiritual message I’m not picking up on? At least I wasn’t hearing, “If you build it, he will come.” I don’t have room for a ballpark in my backyard. I do know that hearing voices or sounds you cannot identify is never a good thing!

Last night, I saw two gleaming amber lights in the dark and heard the sounds again. Now I was really becoming concerned for my sanity! I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that this sort of thing does not end well. When I finally realized what it was, I laughed out loud (LOL for you kids out there). It was the toy castle on the front porch next door. It has a motion sensor, and I was tripping it whenever I would walk past to get into my car. I was relieved that my reservation at the loony bin could be put on hold, at least for now.

When my sons were in grade school, I would take advantage of the quiet house and grab a quick nap before work. One time, I definitely heard a voice coming from my youngest son’s bedroom. I crept to the doorway and peered around the corner. Nothing. As I laid back down, I heard the voice again. It was saying, “To Infinity and Beyond!” This was followed by, “Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue!” Suddenly, it dawned on me what was happening. My son’s Buzz Lightyear action figure in his toy box had apparently shifted. This resulted in Buzz randomly spouting off some of his greatest hits from the movie Toy Story. He finally shut up when I kicked the toy box. After I jumped back in bed, I was just drifting off when I heard, “There’s a snake in my boot!” I yelled, “Buzz, tell Woody to shut up!” Then I rolled over and went to sleep.

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How to Record Your Own Nostalgic Moments

Opening Your Own Idea Factory

The other day I received an email from my friend Lynn. She loves this blog and wanted to know how I got started writing. I began a journal in 2014, the morning after I was laid off from my old job. Most of those early entries were directed at the company that had the audacity to let me go after 26 years of loyal service. Once my keyboard stopped smoking, I directed my venom in a more positive direction. As a way to help others who have had the same horrible experience, I created a website called The Brown Parachute Club. It was designed to be an online resource for mature job hunters who have been kicked to the curb by their previous employers.

Making a journal entry every day is not only a great way to blow off steam, it’s a terrific way to improve your writing skills. I wasn’t always the smooth-typing master of the keyboard you see before you. It takes time, but you’ll eventually develop your own writing style. Plus, journaling is an excellent way to organize your thoughts and keep them handy for future reference. You’ll be amazed at the stuff that pops into your head as you log the day’s events. You’ll be writing about the great lunch you just had at Andiamo’s and suddenly remember you forgot to make dinner reservations for your husband’s birthday. Keeping a journal is really an Idea Factory. For more info about Journaling, please refer to this article from The Brown Parachute Club.

If you have read (and liked) other articles on this site, you may be inspired to start writing down your own Nostalgic Moments. To create this blog, I began jotting down quick notes on any article topics that popped into my head. When I was ready to unveil Become Nostalgic About Today, I had over 30 ideas in my notebook. Using a journal to record your feelings and daily observations is a great way to gather ideas for your own Nostalgic Moments. If you come up with any that fit the BNAT description, I would love to hear them. Please feel free to leave a comment in the section below. Thanks, and until next time, remember to Become Nostalgic About Today!

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