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.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

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.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

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.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

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!

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!  

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.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

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!

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

The Universal Playlist Challenge

Life is Short! Don’t Forget to Have Some Fun!

While I was mowing the lawn last weekend, I had my bluetooth headphones on and I was listening to one of my favorite albums by Bowling For Soup. Then I decided to mix it up, literally. At last count, my phone had about 450 Albums and over 6000 Songs in my Music Library. I decided to put all of the songs on Shuffle and see what happened. I was able to finish mowing the backyard without listening to the same old stuff. It was quite refreshing actually. Then, something really funny happened.

Just to let you know, I have virtually ALL of my music on my cell phone. Some people like to separate different types of music, not me. Spooky Halloween Sounds, Christmas Music, Barry Manilow, it’s all on there. I was in the shower, with my phone connected to my bluetooth speaker, rockin’ out as usual. All of a sudden, the unmistakable voice of Bing Crosby filled the bathroom. He was belting out, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”. Talk about Christmas in July!!! This was followed by a song by Billy Squier, so I thought we were back to your regularly scheduled summer program. Then it happened again! The Ronettes were happily singing, “Sleigh Ride” when my wife came into the bathroom and yelled, “What the heck are you listening to?”

Then an idea came to me. The Universal Playlist Challenge! The challenge is simple. Take your phone and a speaker to an open area like your backyard or a local park. Or, if you’re feeling really brave, do this in your car with the windows rolled down and the volume set to 11! I know what you’re thinking, “Where’s the challenge?” If you’re like me and have a good selection of Christmas Music on your phone, it can get very interesting. Start with a 10 Song Challenge. Set your music player to All Songs, and Shuffle, then play it LOUD! If you can play all 10 songs without recoiling in embarrassment when, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”, “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, or “Who Let The Dogs Out?” comes on, you win the challenge! Bonus Points are awarded to the challenger who sings along with a Christmas song all the way to the end! Try to get people around you to join in! Life is short, you gotta have some fun!!!

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting! 

Peeling Away the Layers of Time

How to Access Your Personal Time Machine

Have you ever noticed when a building or business in your neighborhood has just been torn down, you can’t seem to remember what was there a moment ago? A dry cleaner? A jewelry store? A hair salon? Even though you drive past that corner every single day, now it’s just an empty lot. However, if you travel back to a favorite spot from your childhood, you can easily picture every business on every corner.

This past weekend, my wife and I rented a tiny cottage on Clark Lake, in Irish Hills, Michigan. We were there for a family reunion my brother was hosting at his cottage across the lake. I mixed up the days and wound up missing most of the folks. I’m sure I’ll catch up with them all at Christmastime. Anyway, my wife and I wound up going out to dinner at the Beach Bar. For me, that place is in a time bubble. Not much has changed since my family used to go there over 50 years ago. On the way back to our tiny cottage, we passed a market named Mugsy’s. I told my wife it used to be called the Town & Country.

That reminded me of a wonderful sensation I always have whenever I visit this area. It seems like the layers of time peel away as I drive through “town”. I point out a cottage our family always rented when we were kids. How my mom and dad ever fit four kids and a dog in there I’ll never know. A chalet-style cottage across the street from my brother’s place used to be painted a nice redwood color and is now a dull gray. I have always been fascinated with the concept of time travel. Now it occurs to me that we all carry a time machine with us. All you need to do is visit a well-loved place from your youth to access it. Suddenly you’re back at the Town & Country, with some pocket change in your sweaty little hand, ready to buy some penny candy.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!

Death of a Chirpy Bird

How to Keep a Song in Your Heart

A few years ago, we noticed some very bright yellow birds in our neighborhood. I presumed they were songbirds because of the wonderful noises they would make just outside our kitchen window. We called them Chirpy Birds. In order to keep them near our house, singing their beautiful songs, I put up a thistle seed bird feeder. It took a little while to catch on, but soon our backyard became the local IHOT (International House of Thistle) for goldfinches, as well as house finches and chickadees.

About a week ago, I was driving down the street and it looked like a male and female goldfinch were either having a fight or were in the throes of passionate romance. It appeared they weren’t paying attention to oncoming traffic, so I slowed down and tooted my horn. They both came to their senses and flew off. A day or two later, Skittles found a male goldfinch in the middle of the street, dead. This made me very sad, since we consider these beautiful creatures to be our personal songbirds. I know all about the Circle of Life, however, it still put a damper on my day.

Yesterday on our morning walk, Skittles was nosing around a bunch of daylilies. All of a sudden, a bright yellow and black goldfinch burst out of the flowers. Skittles barked and I smiled. I considered it a sign that even though one finch had died, another one had come to take his place. Circle of Life and all that. As we headed home, I had a spring in my step and a Chirpy Bird song in my heart. All was right with the world.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting! 

The Reign of Terror

Cut Off My Table Scraps, Eh?

Our dog is crazy. I never knew just how crazy (and crafty) until recently. My wife and I decided it was time for Skittles to stop her chronic begging. So when we returned home from our April vacation, we cut her off from table scraps completely. Skittles appeared to take it in stride, at first. In retrospect, I should have realized she wouldn’t take it lying down.

In order to put all of this into perspective, I need to backtrack a little. As you can tell from this picture, she is a beagle, but also has basset hound in her as well. Two weeks after we brought our crazy dog home from foster care, she made a break for it. She got all the way across Schoenherr (a very busy road) during rush hour and was coming back over when a lady spotted her and held onto her until our son could pick her up. My son has called Skittles a Tactical Genius. He has no idea how right he is.

Skittles determined that the Begging Boycott was an Act of War, and like any good General she consulted her battle plans for that very contingency. Her opening salvo was an attack on a forgotten box of candy canes in the basement. This resulted in red dye stains all over the carpet, along with small candy cane pieces stuck to it as well. She quickly followed up with a tactical strike on a box of fiber bars that she had previously ignored, or so we thought. Without going into too much detail, this resulted in a very disgusting week on our morning walks. Many similar attacks followed. This weekend, I am going to watch Patton again, to better get into the mindset of my adversary. She’s looking at me right now saying, “Come at me, bro. I’ve been planning this for years!” Stay tuned for more news from The Front.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new postings, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Thanks for visiting!