Monday, January 30, 2012

Here's Your Sign

You know you're back in Ol' Airy Zonie when you wake up and think about jumping in Roger's swimming pool.  You know you're back on OAZ when you go to the Phoenix Pro ranch market for two giant burritos and buy a giant bag of green chiles for a buck fifty.  You know you're back in OAZ when you go weave your way through the Chinese New Year festival to buy a few pounds of fresh ginger for 79 cents a pound at the "other" Ranch Market.  And you know you really back in OAZ when you hit a bucket of balls late on a sunny Sunday 71-degree afternoon.  It sure is good to be back!


There's many things you won't see in an Indiana January.  One of those many things is an evening campfire.  Nope, nobody's out enjoying the balmy Indiana January weather.  They are all huddled inside their warm houses watching TV or otherwise enjoying some form of indoor entertainment.  As you all know, Campfires R Us.  Campfires are an integral part of our Arizona Experience.  When we're in Idaho, we don't build backyard fires.  We burn a fire only when we are actually camping someplace.  However, here in Ol' Airy Zonie, campfires are part of our world view.

Well, Sweetie Susun knows well how dearly we cherish our fires.  She was an Extra Special Sweetie Saturday.  When we arrived back at her brother's place in Mesa, she disappeared for awhile.  Suddenly, I looked out onto the patio and, LO, there burned a beautiful fire!  Oh, how special it was to return to the Arizona Ambiance with a real, genuine, rootin', tootin' fire to boot.

Meanwhile, we returned here to Second Chance Ranch during mid-afternoon with plenty of time to rustle up fire fixin's.  Since we banked six weeks of unburned wood during our absence, we now have plenty of wood to turn.  A campfire cushion, you might say.  So, we really let a White Man Fire rip last night and it was a delight.  The sun behaved admirably (see below); Dear Friends Gary & Robin came to visit and we hung out there for over two hours.  It was a great way to rekindle the flame of my affection for this place.  As Arizonans speed toward the much-ballyhooed Valentine's Day celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Statehood, there's nothing like a lusty campfire to remind us of why we love to live here each winter.

One More Sunset

Saturday's sunset was one of the more unique and unusual sunsets I've ever witness.  The clouds began turning pink over Missouri and then the Rocky Mountain horizon was etched in the evening sky.  Surreal shades of colors played on the darkening Southwest landscape.  But the wildest of all was seeing a wonderful afterglow of the sunset still shading the western deserts as the plane approached the twinkling lights of Phoenix. This means my sunset on January 28th lasted from Missouri to Phoenix and spanned over two hours!
Last night's sunset started out as a non-starter.  A real yawner.  The only interesting thing about the sun dipping below the horizon was that it disappeared from sight at 5:45 pm, a full 45 minutes later than the day I left back in mid-December.  It's great to have the later sunsets now.  When the sun goes way near the solstice, it leaves with a thud.  It turns to dark pretty quickly around the solstice.  Now, the evening dusk lasts a lot longer.  As we stood around enjoying our first campfire, it was the eastern skies that put on the first show. Georgia O'Keeffe pastel clouds tinted the whole sky.  And then, the western sky cut loose in a patented mid-winter display.  YEA--we're back in Ol' Airy Zonie again!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Welcome Home Sunset

The sunset has been putting on a tremendous show tonight.  Because we are heading west at hundreds of miles an hour, this prolongs the sunset.  The plane finally banked to the Southwest and we were able to get at least a paltry photo of the Glory of this particular sunset.  You simply wouldn't believe what this sunset is doing to the rugged landscape of Southern Colorado.  It's totally off the charts!  Well, the netbook battery is dying so time to say farewell.  Have a great evening & Many Cheers, jp

We're outta there!

Hey, we made it out of Indiana.  Can yo believe it?  We're kind of stunned and a little dazed about it ourselves.  Well, we're someplace over far northern Missouri right now and it feels great to look out the window to see the rolling Missouri hill country.  YEA!

There are a lot of empty seats on this flight.  There's an American Airlines Captain over in the aisle seat.  He isn't on duty.  He's playing chess on his iPhone right now.  He is in uniform though, that's how I know he is a Captain.  There's no one in the middle seat.  How cool is that?  Well, we're two and a half hours from Phoenix and Sweetie Susun.  Our real Captain said we are going to fly over Gallup so that means maybe I will get to see The Hogans out of my window seat on the north side of the airplane.

Everything went pretty smoothly as far as our exit goes.  I stayed up until 10 pm last night getting things ready and then got back up at 6:30 and just barely made it out to the airport shuttle on time.  We packed that cheap suitcase to within a whisker of its legal weight.  You get 50 pounds for your $25 and this one weighted in at 49 pounds.  We did have to jettison some stuff at Lorna's Place to make the weight cut off.  Oh, well.  Naturally, there was stuff we didn't get done but we really don't care.  What's done is done and what's not isn't important at this point.  The house is listed with a Realtor and it's all out of our hands now.  We can kick back and reflect on six of the most intense weeks we've ever had in this lifetime.

I'm sure there will be the inevitable Brush Fire phone calls and a minor long distance crisis or two before this stage play limps to an end something this year.  We spent about $22,000 during the last six weeks.  Ten thousand was on Mom's funeral.  The remaining $12,000 was spent on my transportation and living expenses and all of the stuff we did on the house.  After deducting for the funeral costs, that means I have spent $2000 a week for the past six weeks.  Whew, spending that kind money makes me dizzy.

I am so glad to be on this airplane heading West to the loving arms of my Sweetie and the Hearthy Hugs of my Friends--not to mention the nightly campfires. Oh, how I have missed those campfires during these past six weeks.

Well, here's a karma story for ya.  So, I was sitting in the Chicago airport and you know how they have these giant big screen TV's overhead everywhere.  Well, I looked up--no kidding--and there's this flipping ground hog on the screen and then they cut to a scene from the movie itself and there's Bill Murray standing in front of the camera doing one of his patented performances from "Ground Hog Day."  YIKES!  The metaphor is chasing me!

Well, we have tons of photos we want to post up here but those will have to wait.  Just wanted to say HI from high in the sky.  In the time it took me to write this post, we flew completely across Missouri and now we're in Kansas.  Pretty soon, I will get to say, "We're not in Kansas any more, Toto!"

Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Note added at 5:30 AZ Time--We definitely won't get to see The Hogans--it will be dark.  But right now we can see a fabulous sunset over The Front Range of the Colorado Rockies.  They are SOOO beautiful to look at etched on the horizon in this kind of evening light.  It's sure a welcome sight to see.  I tried to take a photo with no luck. Ah, well, we have a snapshot of it in our mind.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Rising Son

Angel Lynn is a Very Happy Camper.  After some haggling and cajoling, I was able to get Night Owl (Late Sleeper) Lynn up and at 'em at 8:30 am yesterday.  That's unheard for Lynn.  We told him he had to be The Rising Son in order to receive The Rising Sun. Anyway, we headed out before sunrise through the frozen creek bottom woodlands for Lynn's Special Sycamore Tree.  The Wea Creek was running fairly high from a recent rain on the snowpack (such as a snowpack gets here).  The creek was actually making enjoyable whitewater type noises as its waters ran over various rocks carried here by the glaciers.  After some chit-chat, we settled down to the business at hand.  I made a long speech and talked about honoring Forefathers and fallen warriors and so forth.  Lynn gave a speech of gratitude that moved him to free flowing tears.  It was all very special and emotional.  Afterward, we posed Lynn with the Japanese Battle Flag on his Special Sycamore. 

Here's a factoid I'll bet none of you know.  All of the Subaru vehicles you see running hither and yon were made in Lafayette, Indiana.  Yep, this true.  Well, that means there are a lot of Japanese executives who work and live here in Tippecanoe County.  Lynn knows a guy who is well connected out at the Subaru plant so he expects to get the flag's inscriptions translated very soon.  We are both excited about finally finding out what is being said on that flag.  Lynn will also send a photo of the flag when he puts it on display as part of his military memorial to his Father and other ancestors.  The saga and story of the flag continues.

In other news, we finally finished cleaning the house yesterday.  Oh, there's a few odds and ends remaining but 99.99 percent of it is done.  The house cleaning couldn't have possibly happened had I not learned of Rachael D. via the Craigs List "Household Services" section. (Photo below)  She has been a tremendous "Team Member" and everyone has enjoyed working with her.  She is completely focused on the task-at-hand and does a steady, detailed and thorough job on every aspect of each chore she tackles.  She always shows up precisely on time and works continuously for her scheduled hours.  I told her I hoped I could give her a very enthusiastic and positive reference on her Facebook and so forth.  There's no way we could have completed this phase of the Estate with Rachael.  There is no way we could have a better person than Rachael for what we faced. THANK YOU, Rachael, we are very proud of you and wish you the Very Best of Success!!!!

We are definitely on track to leave on Saturday.  No doubt about it.  We have a Realtor lined up to list the house.  There is even a remote possibility it might sell "by owner" in the next 24 hours.  It is currently FSBO for $85,000 and the price will rise to $90,000 if and when it is listed.  Some people came by late yesterday afternoon who claim to be financially pre-qualified and who claim they are buying the house.  We shall see, as they say.  They are coming back at 8:30 am this morning so we must run along now.  If they actually DO buy the house, that will mean I will have had the FSBO sign in the front yard for LESS than 24 hours.  That would be a pretty amazing finish to a pretty amazing six week saga here.  Miracles DO happen, so you just never know.  Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Home Stretch

It's beginning to look like we might make it out of our Ground Hog Day movie life here.  As you know, we are fond of making comparisons between episodes in our life that mimic scene from the cult classic movie "Groundhog Day.  You can read all about the film by clicking here.  Clearly, I have a few more intense days trapped in the movie mentality.  However, we really, really do expect to be out of here on Saturday, if not sooner.  There is NO way we are going to miss Sweetie Susun's 65th birthday on Ground Hog Day.  Gee, isn't that swapping one Ground Hog Day for another?  Maybe so.

We also have our biggest party of our Arizona Season coming up on February 4th.  Last year, we staged that party on Super Bowl Sunday.  This year we're moving it to the day before so more people can attend.  We sure don't want to miss that.  For me, it will be the equivalent of a Welcome Home party or maybe a party similar to what people probably do when they get paroled or serve their sentence or whatever.  I won't go so far as to compare my departure from here to a jailbreak but the analogy is tempting.

Much, much work remains before we board American Airlines Flight #4148 at 2:15 pm next Saturday.  To look at the long list of tasks remaining is to be overwhelmed by their enormity.  However, we persist in believing that we will be free to roam once again in less than a week.

Basically, here's how we are going to do it.  We're cutting off all our work at the job site (AKA: Mom's House) on Thursday afternoon.  What isn't done won't get done.  Period.  Then we're spending Friday packing and dealing with last minute legal paperwork, reimbursements, etc.  Saturday morning we tidy up our rented room and catch the airport shuttle at 11:15 am.  Piece o' cake, eh?  The key is in being able to let go of everything on Thursday afternoon.  No matter what we get done between now and 5 pm Thursday, there will STILL be a long list of things we coulda, shoulda, mighta and probably oughta done.  But enough already.  We have long since hit the wall here and it's time to jump out the door and pull the rip cord and parachute back down into the real world we know and love.  What is...simply is.  What might have been will no longer matter and we won't look back on how we could have played the hand we were dealt.  Nope, The Home Stretch really, truly looms in the week ahead.  We couldn't be more excited about the prospect.

One very esoteric task that remains is the presentation of a Japanese battle flag from World War II to Angel Lynn.  Chances are we will make the presentation down on the bank of the Wea Creek at Lynn's Sycamore Tree. (Shown in photos accompanying this blog post.)  The Wea Creek holds special meaning to both of us. Lynn's tree has been his special spiritual spot for many, many years.  He has taken me to his tree twice.  Once on a blissful day that resembled mid-April weather and once when it was freezing cold and covered with snow and ice.  We need to go there one more time to present him the flag.

I feared the flag was long lost when the agonizing house cleaning process began December 26th.  My some minor miracle, I stumbled on the flag before it was sent off to the landfill  in one of the nine dump truck loads we filled with garbage from the house.  In April Mom said she had given the flag to someone a few years ago.  Luckily her memory was faulty on that score and the flag surfaced in the nick of time.

Well, there's a long story behind this flag.  When young Japanese men were sent off to fight the Americans in WWII, their family and friends would present them with a special silk flag of the Rising Sun.  People from all walks of life would sign the flag.  SUpposedly, the flag would protect the warrior from being killed or wounded.  Well, the flags didn't work very well for that purpose but, true to the call of duty, every Japanese soldier or airman who actually had a flag really did wear the flag into battle.  One of my Uncles from my Mom's side was a sailor who served in the US Navy from just after Pearl Harbor all the way through the War in The Pacific.  He had one ship blown to piece and sunk beneath him and finished his war duty as the enlisted man in charge of the crew of one of the battleship USS Wisconsin's giant 16-inch three gun turrets.  Each of the three barrels on these mighty turrets could hurl a 2,700 pound projectile over 20 miles.  (Interestingly, each of those barrels were individually tested out on what's now the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls!)

Well, the story that Teddy told everyone when we returned from the war zone was that one day a kamakazi airplane crashed into the base of his gun turret but did not explode because the bomb was a dud.  It also did not burst into flames as it had run out of gas and glided into the battleship.  Someone stripped the flag from the dead Japanese pilot and his crew presented it to him as a token of their admiration and respect for his charismatic leadership.  That's the story foisted on me my whole life and the story I believed right up until the last few weeks.

Well, it turns out Lynn's Dad was a front line soldier in numerous of the epic hand-to-hand combat Pacific island battles.  Lynn's Dad told stories of mass death and destruction during battles beyond what Hollywood has been able to depict.  I can't repeat them here, they are too terrible to tell.  Anyway, Lynn's Dad's combat unit would periodically get sent to the rear lines for some rest.  Before they would pull out for the safety of the island beach, they would collect as much "war booty" as they could find from the dead Japanese soldiers.  Then they sent word to the naval ships standing offshore and barter the war souvenirs for hot food from a ship's galley.  The sailors would bring a launch to shore filled with big pots of steaming real food and then carry a boatload of war souvenirs back to the ship.  There the souvenirs would be traded back and forth, bet in card games and so forth. In this manner, large quantities of Japanese relics and artifacts would make their way into the hands of ordinary seamen.  It was a lively trade and one that the island-based grunts eagerly anticipated as a welcome change from the boring C-rations they were otherwise forced to eat.

Well, Lynn spotted this flag and really wants it to augment the memorial he is building to his Father.  He offered to pay upwards of $200 for the flag but I am giving it to him for free.  It's not fair or ethical to sell stuff like this under these circumstances.  Meanwhile, Lynn and I have been doing a lot of research.  The USS Wisconsin is now permanently moored on the East Coast as a museum.  Every single thing that ever happened to the giant ship is documented with incredibly descriptive detail.  No kamakazi airplane ever hit the mighty vessel. Nope, it never happened.  It was a "make believe" story invented by my Uncle Teddy.  How else could a sailor have wound up with a Japanese battle flag?  He could simply say he got it in a card game.  Nope, Teddy was too proud for that honesty.  He HAD to make up an impressive story for his Friends & Family.  Well, Teddy was killed September 15, 1947, in a race car accident in Kokomo so dead men tell no tales and we will never know how he got the flag.  Lynn's Dad's story offers some clue as to how it might have happened.

Meanwhile Lynn is busy finding a local Japanese person to interpret the flag and tell us what it says.  Hopefully that will happen this week before we take the flag down to the Sycamore Tree for a formal presentation to Lynn.  We both have studied was involved in finding the family of the fallen warrior.  These days odds are astronomically slim that such a connection can be made and the lucky ones who do often spend 2-3 years in the process and then thousands of dollars in the transfer.  We're not going that route.

So, yes, there remains a lot of work to be done in The Home Stretch but there also remains one very special ceremony by one very special tree alongside one very special creek for one very special Angel.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Job

 Just before leaving the job site Thursday.
 The late Thursday afternoon view north on 9th Street from the driveway.
What you see above is a fairly typical Indiana January day.  The snow is doing its job and everyone scurries around doing their job.  Traffic crawls along in slow motion on skating rink roads.  People know that with any speed at all, they will spin out and wreck their vehicle and ruin their day.

This week has been very busy at Mom's house.  I've been working steady 10 hour days with one 12 hours one throw in just for fun.  This morning, I got up at 2 am and went out there to check on things since the temperature was zero degrees and I wanted to make sure everything was OK.  I keep having nightmares that a pipe will burst and flood the place.  There has been a steady stream of workmen coming and going at the place all week.  It is mostly cleaned up--half the kitchen floor remains.  Two more moppings of the place will be necessary.  At least four workmen will be there today--two will be working on termite damage in the garage and two will be painting the roached out ceilings in the utility room, entry area and hallways.  They might be doing some wall paper steaming, too.  We think we have a line on a good used Jenn Air counter top stove to put into the kitchen.  That might get done today as well.  A lot of electrical work will get done this weekend and we might even start on demolishing the concrete in the north half of the garage.  It settled about six inches and it is tilted toward the sunken side and looks terrible.  Hopefully, we can get that done in a few days.  It's a big job.  Well, obviously, I am not coming back to Ol' Airy Zonie on January 21 as hoped. Nope, we are now booked on flights on January 28 instead.  Each week we hope to get out of here and then the week goes by and we are still here for yet another week.  Interestingly, if we do leave next Saturday, we will have been here in Indiana the same number of days that we were in Arizona after we came down from Idaho and before we received the news of Mom's death.

Well, life goes on.  Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alive and well

Howdy from Indiana once again.  It's hard for me to believe my last blog post was days ago.  I took a self portrait tonight to send to Sweetie Susun.  It looks good enough to post up here on the blog.  It shows I am at least of Good Spirits here.  Yes, we are locked into a Ground Hog Day movie scenario but at least I am of Good Spirits.  That's the important thing.  Of course, I have my down days and my "moments," but I am mostly looking the way you see me here.  That's the important thing.  I try to find the positive in everything and I try to make the best of whatever curve balls come my way each day.  Life really isn't about the lemons you get, it's all about how you make lemonade out of them.  Aye, that's the key, wouldn't you agree?  Below the photo is a great poem Susun sent last night.  It's such a touching poem, I just had to post it here.  Thank You, Sweetie Susun, I Love You!
Keep on Wackin' thru
The Wilderness of Whaky and
By  Cracky the Wild Flowers will bloom!

This could be a new tune

where we  all gather

and Celebrate the Moon.

and watch our Moon Shadows

as we hold hands

and celebrate our halos

of Angles here and there.

We are One.

Bring on the hours of showers

they bring the flowers

and our awesome powers.

Work hard, care much, live simple.

listen to the flowers

they know

We are One.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reefer Happiness

Most of us remember the cult film "Reefer Madness." Well, it's too bad I can't put together a short video called "Reefer Happiness," concerning an entirely different kind of reefer--a real refrigerator. Yes, some people actually call refrigerators "reefers." No kidding, they really do.

Well, here's the story. Dear Mom filled her fridge with perishable food and then let it all spoil inside the fridge. The unit was in such incredibly bad shape, none of us wanted to even go near it, let alone actually open the door. I took one look inside and shut the door as fast as I could. The smell coming out of the fridge can't possibly be described. Words don't exist to describe smells like that. We all talked about the fridge for days--wondering how the heck to deal with it. Finally, Angel Doug took the bull by the horns, donned a special respirators and emptied out the mess inside. What a Hero! That took amazing courage--far greater courage than I could ever summon. Well, after the fridge was emptied, it sat there exuding an ominous odor even with the door closed.

A day or two later, Angel Ginny showed up to assess how she might help out. When she saw the fridge, she asked, "What's up with that thing?" I told her the sad story and how we were trying to find someone to pay to haul it off. Ginny said, "Oh, don't do that, I want it." Are you kidding? Surely you have lost your mind? Are you off your rocker, Ginny? But no, Ginny simply smiled and said, "Don't worry, it will be OK."

Little by little, Ginny tackled the fridge and soon it was cleaned of the many caked layers of old rotted food that coated everything inside the fridge. Then she put in a ten pound bag of charcoal spread out in layers throughout the fridge. We left it sit running for a few days. On Saturday, January 7, Ginny brought out the big Habitat for Humanity truck and Angel Doug helped her load it. Doug said he almost had a coronary moving the impossibly heavy thing. (That was just a few hours before Doug fell off a ladder at his home and broke his heel. It was the last thing Angel Doug did at Mom's house.)

Well, Ginny carted the fridge off to the Habitat ReStore. I stopped in a few days later and took the photo you see accompanying this post. Ginny was all smiles. She said, "Open the door and stick your head inside, John, and tell me what you smell." Well, it was with GREAT hesitation that I opened that door. LO! There was no smell. In fact, the fridge smelled like new. Ginny said two Habitat volunteers spent a few hours detailing the fridge and taking off every panel and cleaning every little tiny nook of the unit. I noticed she had put a price of $225 on the fridge. I asked, "Do you really expect to get that much money, Ginny?" Oh, sure, she replied, no problem. I just shook my head. "No way," I mumbled to myself.

Well, I took out a couple of items to Habitat yesterday and walked in the front door of the ReStore. Ginny was behind the front counter all smiles. "It sold, John," she beamed. I stood speechless, utterly dumbfounded. "NO WAY," I proclaimed. Yep, Ginny said it sold the first day she put it up for sale, not long after she moved it onto the sales floor. The buyer paid full price and didn't quibble and had it loaded and gone in a blink. Ginny said he was SO very happy to have it. Of course, Ginny was SO very happy to have another $225 for the Habitat program. And Little Yonni is SO very happy to be able to tell this very happy story. So, there you have it--Reefer Happiness.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Pier

YEA! We finally got it! Mom Sarah sent a video from her iPhone. We converted it to YouTube and have now successfully posted it on the Da Blog. This process has been a Long Time Coming. The video is 15 seconds but mastering the process has taken way more than 15 months. THANKS, Sarah! Send more. "We got it now!"

PS--Video of Mema Susun and Van on the Pacific Pier at Oceanside, California, January 13, 2012.

A Normal Indiana January

Snow plows, snow blowers, snow shovels, below zero wind chill, blowing and drifting snow, skating rink ice on streets, fender benders galore all have one thing in common--a normal Indiana January.  We're back to normal now and everything is feng shui here.  The wind chill is two below and chimney steam and smoke are blowing horizontal in winds gusting as high as 30 mph.  Yep, this is the type of Indiana January weather we have grown to know and love (Not!).  This area really doesn't get that much snow.  This particular storm is progged to leave perhaps 4-5 inches here.  However, the wind is usually ripping when it's snowing and so the snow blows all around and drifts and piles up and seems a LOT deeper than 3-5 inches.  Snow has an uncanny ability to only drift and pile up where you walk.  You can look at other nearby areas and they are nearly blown clean but they don't happen to be where you walk.  Maybe snow here is Smart Snow, who knows?

Yesterday was a real adventure being out on streets that were coated with pure ice, the kind of ice they love to have in skating rinks for hockey players and little kids dreaming of being Olympic stars.  I saw more fender benders yesterday than I can count this morning.  I also narrowly dodged one almost certain fender bender myself.  Luckily, I noticed the other guy driving way too fast toward his stop sign and knew he wouldn't be able to stop.  I swung way out into the other lanes as he slid through his stop sign turning sideways right where I would have been had I not taken evasive action.  It was definitely adventure travel out there yesterday.

Likewise, we had another dose of adventure travel this morning.  We woke up before 5 am with the panic realization we forgot to turn the heat on in Mom's house last night.  We've been keeping it off during the recent tropical weather to save on the gas bill.  Well,we forgot to turn it on yesterday when we left the house.  We looked at the online weather site and it was 16 degrees at the time.  It's 13 or 14 now.  Anyway, we didn't even brew coffee--we were outta here like a cannonball from a pirate ship.  Well, trust me, Lafayette city street crews aren't exactly at work at 5 in the morning.  Most of the streets and intersections hadn't been plowed or salted.  YIKES!  Luckily, this is a city that sleeps in so there were few people driving at that time of the morning.  Most of them appeared to be pretty savvy winter time drivers.  Well, we put Mom's house back in the safety zone and checked all the pipes.  None had frozen--at least yet--that we can tell.  Then we shoveled the sidewalk and driveway and went back to our rented room.  A chicken noodle soup breakfast never tasted so good!

Here's an interesting reflection on the weather we experienced here.  Somehow, by some miracle, we were able to tackle the clean up of Mom's house during a record-breaking heat waves in an Indiana January.  What are the odds of that type of weather happening here?  The odds are Slim and Non and Slim just left town, as they say.  Anyway, the guys who bought the contents of Mom's house loaded the bulk of teh stuff on the day with the highest temp--53 degrees.  They loaded up the final stuff two days ago just on the edge of the incoming storm.  It started to drizzle as they pulled out of the driveway. Yesterday, Ed and I removed the last bits of trash and detritus from the house, making a huge pile out front for the city to pick up today.  Also, I took 11 boxes to the Post Office and spent $110 in postage to mail them to Idaho Falls.  (Thanks go to Houn' Dawg for holding them until May when we return.)  As I made the second trip to the Post Office, the snow had started to fall.  When Ed and I finished the last of the trash hauling, the snow was deep enough for us to leave tracks in it.  This morning, the placed is essentially snowed in.  By some incredible miracle, we were able to get this entire incomprehensibly difficult job done within a few hours of the onset of terrible January weather.  Totally amazing.

Well, have a great day & Many Cheers! jp

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Broken record

It's so warm back here, the high temp set a new record yesterday and will definitely do so again today when the temp sneaks up over 50 degrees.  Yesterday's high was 49, breaking the old record by one degree.  Last year this time the high was 29 and the low was 3 degrees.  The temps right now are running about 15-20 degrees above normal for this time of year.  Our tropical weather will crash to an end later this week as a "normal" January returns to the Hoosier Heartland.  By that time, we will have completed all of the outdoor stuff that needs to be done to Mom's house.  What a miracle gift the weather has been.  Thank You, God!

Well, here she is "in her element" again, courtesy of Mom Sarah's fine iPhone foto.  Yes, you guessed it, Susun has been having a blissfully wonderful time in Vista, California, hanging out with her Grand Sons.
Way to go, Sweetie!

We received some sad news yesterday.  Angel Doug fell off a ladder Saturday afternoon and broke his heel bone.  He's in a lot of pain and paid up in a big walking cast.  He has to use crutches now to get around.  We're sorry, Doug, and we pray for your speedy recovery. He fell off the ladder at his own home removing Christmas lights and that was just after he helped Angel Ginny move out the fridge and washer-dryer from Mom's house.  Angel Lynn will be working at the house today as we finally remove all of its remaining contents, except for the fugitive dust bunnies and cat hair.

Angel Ron came down badly ill the day he hauled off our last dump truck load and has been confined to his home ever since.

Monday was yet another Ground Hog Day-style chapter in the ongoing saga here.  The good news is that I was able to close out her most expensive monthly account with Comcast--$150 a month year round.  It included telephone, internet, TV and all sorts of mysterious "upsells" they had added to her account.  It had so much stuff on her bill I gave up trying to figure out what it all was.  Anyway, it took three trips to Comcast HQ where the proverbial long waiting line is a way of life.  But we got 'er done.  Whew.  We also managed to deal with her natural gas bill through a back door manner.  The phone people at the gas company were the worst of them all.  Ugh.  I won't even try to tell you about them.  Well, anyway, using data from my Dad's 1998 death certificate and a little internet savvy, I was able to set up an online account with the gas company and deal with them without being humiliated and frustrated.  Sweet, as Napoleon Dynamite would say.

The attorney informed me yesterday I goofed up by not having a professional appraisal done on the vehicles and the antiques.  I invoked the Forest Service Motto: "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission."  After a lot of hand wringing and mea culpas, I got out of it all OK but I do have to get an appraisal done today on the house.   There's two buyers circling overhead like vultures soaring in the wind.

If we don't get a good offer on it today or tomorrow, it will get listed with a Realtor on Thursday.

Our biggest challenges aside from helping to load all of the artifacts onto the dealer's trailer today, is boxing and shipping the papers and photos we wish to save.  That's a downright biggie and it's going to be an expensive biggie, as well.

Angel Lorna normally arises between 9-10 am as she is a Night Owl.  Well, I asked for a bunch of empty boxes and he agreed to get up at the ungawdly hour (for her) of 7:30 am so I can be on my way early today.

So, she's up and I'm outta here.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Three weeks

Good Morning!  We've been here three full weeks as of last night.  Those three weeks seem more like three months, actually.  It's pretty incredible to think of everything that happened in the last three weeks. Well, it's time for one of our patented rambles and meanders here on Da Blog. 

Soooo....whazzup now?  We sure enjoyed yesterday's Holiday in Atlanta.  We really needed that.  Plus, it was Half-Price Day at all of Indiana's Goodwill thrift stores.  Even though we have been dealing with mountains of stuff, we did manage to buy a lot of "new" stuff.  You know how we are about t-stores.  One of the key items we bought is a large suitcase.  We got the really nice suitcase, a rice cooker, a hat and a soup bowl for a mere 81 cents.  Yep, you read that right.  The Goodwill system here is amazing--they are actually better than Deseret Industries back out west and light years better than the Goodwill stores in Phoenix.  Believe it or not, they actually build new thrift stores from scratch and they are just like a real department store.  They even have plastic "rewards" cards that they scan whenever you donate stuff so you can manage your itemization and tax records online.  Well, when you donate stuff, you get credits on your card.  We've been donating so much stuff, we've built up quite a credit with Goodwill, hence the 81 cent purchase on that stuff.  We went to a second Goodwill and bought six really great wool sweaters.  It's going to get real cold here again soon--our "faux spring" here in January will end this week.  Anyway, the sweaters are good enough quality to actually bring back to Arizona and Idaho.

The suitcase will hold some of the stuff we want to save from Mom's Estate.  We're only bringing back photos and some mementos from Dad's Prisoner of War days.  Even so, there will be a few boxes of stuff to ship or carry on the plane.  That's our big goal this week--get all that stuff packed and shipped or prepped for American Airlines.  Friday we sold all of the contents of the house for one flat price to a couple of "stuff dealers."  They will have it all out of the house no later than Tuesday.  We also have now sold and transferred title on both vehicles.  We paid the termite people $1500 Friday to spend 8 hours treating the house.  The termites basically owned Mom's house but $1500 will set those termites back in their tunnels.  The guy who did all the drilling and so forth said he used over 300 gallons of the chemical solution on the house. 

This week, the house should be totally cleaned (such as it can be cleaned) and completely empty of everything except stray dust.  By the end of the week, we hope to have had the place professionally inspected, documented, appraised and listed for sale at a giveaway liquidation price.  There's a lot of damage to the house, especially the roof and also the termite damage.  It's going to need an entirely new kitchen. The hardwood floors are trashed and will need to be replaced.  We're estimating the bare minimum of repairs and rehabilitation will cost well in excess of $50,000, possibly much higher depending on how extensive the damage is to the roof rafters and ceiling joists.   Nobody's gonna want to buy a house in such disrepair unless the asking price is cheap-cheap-cheap!

We're going to a huge gun show at the State fairgrounds down in Indianapolis Friday and will undoubtedly have a busy weekend next week, too.  At this point, it looks like we will be able to return to Ol' Airy Zonie roughly about January 21.  That's barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course.  The next two weeks should be a lot less stressful than the last two weeks.

We have a couple of special stories to tell.  One is about the 39 Chevy and the other is about Cousin Ginny.  Both of the stories require separate, stand-alone blog posts.

Oh, here's a couple of interesting notes.  DF& LBR Terry M. totally finished his travel book yesterday.  That means it's actually printed and bound and exists in a form that you can pick up and read.  Congratulations, Terry, your perseverance has been (and will forever be) a HUGE inspiration!  Terry informed us that we show up on the Idaho Falls Parks & Recreation Commission roster as having been reappointed to serve until December 2014.  We hadn't expected to be reappointed so that's Big News.  Thanks for passing the news along, Terry.  And, by the way, it appears that Susun has been appointed to the Idaho Falls Beautification Commission where she will get to serve alongside Terry, too.  What fun!  No doubt Terry & Susun will hatch some plans to really beautify River City, eh, Terry?

That's all for now.  Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy Day!

I was finally once again able to go shooting today.  This time, I had to drive 60 miles to the Atlanta Conservation Club,  There were 58 shooters,  It was a real hoot.  The Match Director loaned me a Glock 19.  I ordered in a left hand holster, bought factory ammo at Wally World and had a TREMENDOUS DAY!  The match lasted four hours.  Everyone was so nice to me.  I did real well.  I did not embarrass myself or our LBRs.  I suspect I finished within a "standard deviation" of the middle of the pack.

In the photo where I am standing, here was the scenario.  You are walking your Dog, Fluffy, when you are attacked by three vicious coyotes who want to eat Fluffy for an appetizer. To protect your dog, you must shoot the three coyotes.  However, the plot thickens.  You are not only holding Fluffy's leash, you are carrying a bag of Fluffy's doo-doo in what's called your "strong hand."  So, when the buzzer sounds, you must throw down the bag of doo-doo, transfer the leash to your weak hand, draw and fire on the three coyotes. It was quite a challenging Course of Fire.  (That's what they call a "stage" in IDPA--a Course of Fire or COF in IDPA lingo.)

Anyway, I hit everything I was supposed to in those COF's and I finished feeling really good about the Match and the Day.  Life is GOOD!

Many Cheers, jp

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I finally saw the light

Well, it's been a long time coming but we finally saw the legendary light at the end of the tunnel last night--both figuratively and literally.  At the end of the work day as we finished loading out 9th dump truck full of trash, Angels Lynn and Doug and I stood together practically panting from the raw exertion of the heavy lifting up out of the basement and from the general chaos of the past oh-so-many-daze.  I cried tears of thankfulness for the miracles of their friendship and hospitality.  I truly felt I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I was overwhelmed with emotion.  The house is essentially now emptied of trash--There one big carpet in the basement that has to go and a few odds and ends but we did it.  We have cleaned out her house.  We shook hands and hugged and tears rolled down my face and we each then went our own separate ways.

As I pulled into a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot, the sun was setting behind me.  I pulled the truck around and--LO!  I couldn't believe my eyes.  There is was--the real, honest Light At The End Of The Tunnel.  Of course, I started crying again and could barely focus the camera on the sunset, I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  It only continued to get better and became--honestly and easily--the finest sunset I can ever remember seeing in my entire life associated with Indiana.  I definitely have NEVER witnessed a sunset there as spectacular as the one last night.  When I came back out of Wal-Mart, the after light filled the entire sky in a manner similar to an aurora borealis.  It was an Act of God Sunset--the kind we humans rarely witness anywhere, let alone in the gray, dark, dim winter recesses of Indiana or let alone on the heels of seeing the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel earlier in the afternoon.  My heart was filled with emotion as I drove home offering prayers of thanks that I can finally see my way through this process and can visualize an End Game evolving soon.  Thank God!

Have a Great Day & Many Cheers, jp

New Habitat for Holy Family

 There are some things coming out of Mom's house that I simply can't let go to the winds of change.  This is one of them.  It is an original oil painting of The Holy Family with an Angel overhead.  I bought it from an Estate sale long ago and it hung over my bed both in Mom's house and later when I lived down in Zionsville, Indiana.  It has served as a source of spiritual inspiration for me all my life.  In fact, I have always tried to live by the latin motto on the banner carried by that Angel.  In latin it says, "Ora et Labora."  I have translated that in my life to mean "Speak and Work," or "Talk and Toil."  Whatever.  Anyway, I dearly love this painting and simply couldn't bear the thought of it going to a stranger or simply disappearing into the Great Unknown.  Well, Angel Ginny worked for two days at Mom's Place and fell in love with the painting.  The painting exudes a special spirit that one can only experience when they are alone with it.  It's alive.  Anyway, once she had been captured and raptured by the painting, I suggested that it take a place of Honor behind the counter at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Ginny immediately said an enthusiastic "OK!"  After all, Habitat is a faith-based organization.  And, after all, this shows Joseph with his carpenter's saw and, after all, Jesus WAS the son of a carpenter, ya know?  And, after all, isn't life all about Angels and Miracles and speaking and working?  Well, Lynn and I took the painting out to Ginny's Place yesterday and she hung it immediately where everyone can see it and will Honor it.  If things change, the painting goes home to Ginny's house.  Now I can rest easy knowing that The Holy Family won't be a trio of vagabonds shuffling from house to house.  They will serve to inspire many more people in the years and lifetimes to come. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Happy Angel

 This is what an Angel looks like when an Angel is Very Happy.  Why is Ginny Happy?
 Well, you see, it goes like this: Ginny was VERY close to our mutual Grand Dad.
Ginny grew up with Grand Dad's stories about his days in the U.S. Army Cavalry.
He had a trunk that held all sorts of Things Magical to Ginny as a child.
Ginny loved that trunk.
Ginny prayed that the trunk was somehow still inside Mom's house.
Oh, how mightily she prayed.
And, well, you see, Angel Doug found the truck hiding at the bottom of piles of trash.
Angel Doug didn't know about Ginny's longing for the trunk.  
When he showed it to her, she broke into sobbing tears of joy.  
Her prayers were answered.  That's why Angel Ginny is so Happy!  
She finally has her beloved Grand Dad's military trunk.  
It even has his name carefully etched into one of the metal hinge plates.
And it even has his old Monon, Indiana, shipping address on it, too.  
Yep, there's no doubt about it. 
Of course, Angel Doug is VERY Happy, too. And Little Yonni?  
Yeah, Little Yonni is VERY Happy as well.

And there was much rejoicing among the Angels.

Have a Great Day & Many Cheers, jp

Monday, January 2, 2012

Touched by Another Angel

This is what an Angel looks like.  Her name is Ginny.  Ginny Parsons, to be exact.  Some people would say she is my cousin because she's my Dad's brother's daughter.  But don't let that family relationship stuff fool you.  She's a card-carrying Angel and keeps her wings tucked nicely behind that Habitat for Humanity shirt she's wearing.  Angels like to hang out around Habitat ReStores and "builds" as Habitat calls its housing projects.  Ginny is manager of the Lafayette Habitat ReStore and she's an amazing Manager & Angel, too.  When I was at my lowest ebb last week, she called me up on that rainy day and picked me right up out of the pits I was wallowing in.  She said, "Randy (that's my name here) I'm coming out to your Mom's house New Year Eve so we can make The Plan."  Sure enough, she was Ginny on the spot at 10 am Saturday and we spent two hours making The Plan.  Angel Ginny will be coming out today at 9 am to spend the entire day carrying out The Plan.  You see, Angel Ginny is not just any old ReStore manager, she is one totally Type A Parsons kind of person.  You should see that ReStore--it's like a CostCo of Restore's.  It's huge and it's totally departmentalized and everything is organized like the inside of a swiss watch.  It's simply and utterly amazing.  And it's all because Angel Ginny always works with The Plan in hand.  She follows The Plan to the letter. 

Angel Ginny is taking control of Mom's place for a day today.  The Plan calls for all the clothes closets to be completely cleaned out by the end of the day.  She's already arranged for all Mom's clothes to be taken to The Soldier's Home where they will be wash, dry-cleaned and put into a "store" in which the facility's elderly clients can shop for free.  Angel Ginny will also take Mom's Baldwin organ out to Soldier's Home, too.  Once that's done, Angel Ginny is going to find an appropriate home for all of the many hundreds of books in the house.  She's excited many of those books will be in valuable dollars to benefit Habitat's local projects.  Oh, my, Angel Ginny is a ball of Heavenly Energy.  She is so fun.  I am blessed to have so many Great and Wise Angels helping me now.  Lorna, Lynn, Doug, Ed and now Ginny.  How good is this?  VERY GOOD!

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

January First Greetings to One and All DFs, LBRs and Esteemed Visitors!  May your day be filled with much Holiday Cheer and may your upcoming year be a Joy & Success in every way!  Here on The Banks of The Wabash, Mother Nature is blowing in the New Year with much gusto.  Winds are blowing a steady mid-20's with gusts so far up to 46 mph.  Meanwhile, the sky is spitting those little pseudo rain drops for which the Heartland is famous.  Just another cheery gray Indiana day!

Well, we promised you a fun story and so here it is.  First, we must digress, backtrack and meander.  (Typical, huh?)  Many of you know about the Legendary Bicycle Karma Story.  It began November 20, 2007, when DR & LBR Mike V. gifted me with a fabulous mountain bicycle at Freeman Park in Idaho Falls.  I was ready to pay him $50 for the bike and he coyly asked, "Have you ever heard of bicycle karma?"  Well, I wasn't sure I had ever heard of bicycle karma.  So Mike said, "Well, I need some bicycle karma so this bike is yours--take it home and enjoy."  He wouldn't take a dime for the bike.  Thus began a story that evolved much farther and further in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  Mike and his Family and we are Dear Friends and will remain so forever.

OK, now for a historical note about my Mom.  In the last few years, Mom was fond of periodically telling me and lots of other people, "Well, I just got back from the Doctor's Office and he says I have the body of an 40-year-old."  As her time on Earth dwindled down, so did her age in this vignette.  In the last few months it became, "Well, I just got back from the Doctor and he says I have the body of an 18-year-old."  Of course, in her own mind, she DID have the body of an 18-year-old.  However, in reality, she had the body of an 87-year-old.  Since the operating paradigm of my Mom's mind convinced her she had the body of an 18-year-old, the summer before she died, she decided to buy a beautiful Schwinn girl's bicycle so she could ride her 18-year-old body around the neighborhood, waving gaily at the neighbors.

Naturally, she sent photos of the bicycle to us and told us how much she was enjoying her daily bicycle rides around the neighborhood and along the many winding bike paths of the city.  We certainly imagine she actually took all those bike rides in the fertile imagination of her mind.  However, in reality, the new Schwinn sat totally unused in her garage, never to be ridden even once.  Mom's bad knees would have made it impossible to pedal a bicycle.  Nevertheless, the purchase of the bicycle was a very wonderful thing for her self-esteem and she talked often of her delight in having taken those wonderful rides on her new bike--one she had wanted her whole life.

OK, fast forward to my first visit to her vacant home shortly after my arrival here.  When the garage door lifted the veil on her rubbish-filled garage, there the bicycle say like a gleaming gem amid the rubble of her life.  Oh, how shiny it was.  I had to smile at the mere sight of it.

Well, meanwhile, my Angel Lynn S. appeared out of nowhere at Mom's front door.  I had just met with the Funeral Director and the Director told me I had to find a photo of my Mom within 60 minutes.  I was inside the house with respirator, tyvek suit, the whole nine yards and Lynn knocked at the door.  So that was his first sight of me, Mister Haz Mat answering the door, looking for all the world like a clone of the Michelin Man and the Pillsbury Dough Boy combined.  Lynn and I hit it right off.  He took one look at the overwhelming mess in the garage and declared he was going to help me clean it up and pressure wash it, too.  He spied the bicycle and declared he wanted to buy it for his wife's Christmas gift.  I said nothing.

Meanwhile, Lynn came right back the next day, ready to rock and roll on the garage.  He started out by fixing her bent door--a door which I believed was beyond salvage.  He did it cheerfully and as easily as merely shaking my hand.  He had that "let's git 'em dun" attitude that's priceless in times of chaos such as I faced then.

Lynn kept looking at that bicycle and I could tell he really wanted it.  Finally, he said, "John, I really want to buy that bicycle."  So, I took the bike outside and we talked about bicycles while he held it and looked it over.  And that's when I said, "Well, Lynn, have you ever heard of bicycle karma?"  Well, Lynn hadn't heard of bicycle karma so I said, "Well, Lynn I need some bicycle karma so this bike is yours, free, no charge." Oh, you should have seen his face and his eyes.  He couldn't believe what he was hearing.  And he kept saying, "Are you sure, John?"  Well, yeah, I'm sure Lynn.  Put the bike in your truck and have a Merry Christmas!

Lynn (and my other Angel Doug) turned out to be Great Gifts from Heaven.  Without their miracle work, there is no way on this earth I could have coped with what had to be done inside Mom's house.  There are no words that can possibly describe how far beyond the beyond Lynn and Doug went to remediate and stabilize the haz-mat situation inside Mom's house.  There's was a true Christmas miracle beyond compare and without peer.

A few days ago, Lynn suggested he, me and his wife Suzanne go out to dinner on New Year's Eve.  Of course, I said I was buying.  After dinner at a local steak house, we went back to their beautiful country home and Lynn proudly showed me all of the incredible vintage gas pumps he has lovingly restores.  He is nationally known for his gas pump restoration and has sold over 100 of them,  His basement is filled with the most incredibly beautiful gas pumps you have ever seen or imagined could exist.  Off in a corner of the basement sits a vintage Schwinn bicycle.  I asked Lynn, "What's the story on the bike."  (Lynn told me earlier that everything he owned had a story.)  Well, it turns out Lynn's Schwinn was a Christmas gift when he was 10 years old.  It was his first bike.  My Mom's Schwinn is the perfect color match for Lynn's boyhood Schwinn and now Lynn and Suzanna will be able to ride together along the blissful paths of life together on color-matched Schwinn bicycles.  And so it goes with Bicycle Karma.

Mom would be very proud.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp
 Bicycle Karma Day
New Year's Eve