Today's thoughts

Author: mikeljohnston1 (Page 1 of 138)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Independence Day #1373

Today we’re celebrating the anniversary of when Will Smith saved us from the aliens. It happened 24-years ago, just 220 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. How do we celebrate? Let’s tear down the statues of our forefathers, light fireworks to scare the dogs, and have a kegger! For many of us, it’s a three-day break from work that’s worth toasting in and of itself. Cheers and Happy Fourth!

I got my independence from work three-and-a-half-years ago, so I celebrate every day. I even felt a temporary sense of normalcy yesterday when I drank beer once again with friends at Buffalo Wild Wings. It seemed like forever since we were able to get together for what was once an every Friday tradition. It had only been four months, but felt like a lifetime. Coors and chicken wings never tasted so good! Yes, we were tempted to go out and tear down some statues, but we’ll save that for another day. 

Flags, National Anthems, and Patriotic Spirit don’t have much of a place in today’s world of discontent. Apparently, if you’re not really angry about something, you’re not living. There’s no respect for history, let alone the artists who tried to capture it. I see their work set on fire, toppled, or covered in graffiti. You can’t change the past by tearing it apart; build for a better tomorrow. 

Back in 1776, weren’t we really just slaves to the British? By definition, our freedom was restricted or at least that was the perception. We fought for change and today most all of us benefit from those actions. Similarly, Will Smith took preemptive steps against the aliens, knowing that we were in danger of becoming their slaves. Even into the next century, people were grateful for the leaders of the Revolution. They named their towns, parks, and schools after these heroes and built monuments as reminders to their greatness. In addition, they commissioned artists to do the skillful work. These men and women would undoubtedly be more horrified to see them come down than their subjects. So, who are we really punishing by destroying them?

Granted, the perception of these “heroes” has changed over the course of 224 years, but they’re still part of our heritage. They’re also no longer here to defend themselves, nor did they plead for any such recognition. Let them rest in peace this Independence Day by simply honoring their sacrifices to our country. They deserve a non-break! We’ve already had our share of terrorists, now there are tear-orists, bent on destruction. Or, are they just bitter Brits? They are literally tearing our country apart, one statue at a time. Please take your anger out on yourselves rather than defenseless statues this Independence Day. 


Retirement is not without Hassles: Apple #1372

Every once in a while I try to surprise my wife with a gift. She collects hand-painted Limoges boxes, so I ordered one that looks like a sliced apple and hid it in her fruit bowl. At one time, she would make me an egg every morning before she went to work. Once she retired, the daily routine changed to a sliced apple for lunch. My tradition has always been to tuck a poem inside the hinged box:


You’re the apple.
Of my eye.
‘Cause I Love You,
Sweetie pie.

“I Love You,”
To the core.
You say back,
“Love you, more.”

You’re my slice,
So much Ap-peel.
Awesome Sauce,
The Real Deal.

As your daddy said,
“You didn’t fall far.”
He made you,
Who you now are.

It stems from love,
And blossoms pink.
Oranges can’t compare,
Most people think.

The first bite happened,
In The Garden of Eden.
The Forbidden Fruit,
Was it worth eatin’?

Sleeping Beauty,
Ate a bad one.
If a witch offers,
It’s best to run.

An Apple a day,
Keeps Microsoft away.
If Stephen Jobs,
Has his way.

What is that,
On your head?
William Tell,
Might have said?

“Something rotten,
Has fallen on me.”
How Isaac Newton,
Found gravity.

A Golden Apple,
For the teacher.
Was that wormhole,
Made by a creature?

Why does Bob,
Have to work for his?
If you don’t like cider,
Try Apple Fizz.

If you don’t
At first succeed.
Johnny on the spot,
Was Appleseed.

Dip mine in caramel,
Put it on a stick.
Is Green Apple candy,
Worth a lick?

“How do you like em?”
The expression teases.
A shiny red apple,
Always pleases.

Copyright 2020

Retirement is not without Hassles: Insanity #1371

I went penniless on this morning’s run with moments of gratitude that I’m able to do this every single morning without fail. I’m suffering from what I think is a stress fracture or possibly shin splints on top of my left foot and have switched to the other side of the road crown to relieve some of the impact. Ice before and after seems to help, while the fresh air revives my spirits. It’s tough being stuck inside all day, so the forty-five minute stretch of exercise is essential to my mental health. I’m fortunate that my foot injury is not getting any worse. Aging leads to lots of new aches and pains, and hopefully this too shall pass. 

My wife and I finally finished House of Cards and have moved on to Yellowstone. It’s my second time to watch the Kevin Costner production, but wanted a refresher on the first two seasons before investing in the third. It’s good that we find something to watch together every evening since the rest of the day we’re often on different paths. I have finished my A Killer novel at 80,000 words and will hopefully find a couple volunteer readers before I do any more refining. This has kept me from going insane from the pandemic isolation, but has also exposed a degree of hidden personal insanity through the characters. 

Speaking of insanity, I heard an alarming story on the radio this morning. There are rumors of COVID-19 parties down in Alabama. It’s the modern version of Russian Roulette, with the virus substituted for a gun. To play, you invite a group of friends over to your house, along with people who have tested positive. There’s a cash reward for anyone who catches it! “I wanna party with you,” if you’ve ever seen the movie Stripes? These folks are just as insane as I am, trying to maintain a silly personal streak that’s been part of my life for the last 11 1/2 years. 

From another perspective, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Some people might say that if your foot hurts, why not rest it for a few days and allow it too heal. Why expect it to heal by repeating the same action that caused it? Granted, running with pain is insane, but I would counter by saying that not running just might drive me crazy. I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand why 4,204 consecutive days is important to me. Maybe insanity all starts with running every day?

Retirement is not without Hassles: No Plan is Perfect #1370

I’m getting excited about the prospect of moving, even though it will be a major hassle. It will be expensive, stressful, and exhausting. The same will be true about the design and building process that will start in two months. We’ve picked out the floor plan and lot and will make our way to Florida by car for my 69th birthday, two months from now. We’ve decided to bypass New Orleans on the drive, hoping to meet up with my half-sister in Alabama. In the meantime, my son will turn 47, another indication that life is moving quickly. We’ll soon live about 15 minutes apart as opposed to the current 43-hour, 2500-mile drive.

Our plans call for a two-bedroom with den and lanai. This will give us room for guests, a dedicated office space, and a pool/outdoor kitchen. The lot sits on a pond and across from a nature reserve, so there will be some privacy. There are three community/recreation facilities on the grounds that is adjacent to the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Facility. Venice Beach is nearby where I first saw the Gulf as a child. Life is going full circle with retirement in the same area as my grandparents. They’ve been gone now for 41 years. My son still has fond memories of playing board games and making shell figures with my grandmother. In fact, he named his youngest after her. 

My cousins would come down to visit with my grandparents in Englewood, Florida. They also got together at Corey Lake in Michigan during the summer months. My closest cousin now lives in Thailand, where we got together last year.  We also share a birthday, although he’s 10-years younger. The rest of his family lives in Indiana, where my wife and I were both born. Her sister still resides in Indianapolis, while my sister is in Elkhart. We’ll be more likely to see them when we move to Florida. 

Today is the first day of the second half of the year.  If everything goes as planned, next year at this time we’ll be settled in our new home and getting together with family for the Fourth of July. We’ll leave behind my wife’s two daughters but will provide them with a warm place to vacation. The oldest is here in Portland, while her sister lives in San Francisco. Both were married last year, and the daughter here adopted a dog, Falco.  Our schnauzer, Tally, has become a close companion. In fact, Falco stayed with us this past week while the sisters got together in Coos Bay. The only sad news of our plan to move is that the two pups will probably never see each other again. No plan is perfect!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Wake Me Up, Part 2 #1369

Exactly 3 months and 100 posts ago, I wrote about the Green Day song, “Wake me up when September Ends.” (See Post #1268). In another three months it will be the end of September, yet the nap may need to last longer. Coronavirus cases are on an uptick and social restrictions are getting tighter. The largest social gatherings are now protests, while major sporting events continue to be pushed back. Restaurants are struggling to stay in business and money is tight. “Whatever you do, Marty, don’t set the DeLorean to 2020.”

Today on the radio, I was reminded of the comments I made three months ago because of the Avicil song lyrics, “So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over.” This panic certainly won’t be over when September ends. I made some observations when this pandemic started, but like everyone else I couldn’t imagine that it would last this long. I didn’t foresee everyone required to wear face masks or live in fear of their neighbors germs. We’ll never come together if we’re scared of each other. Race, Religion, or Status are no longer the reason we’re divided. Other people in general are becoming the threat. If you breathe – you’re dangerous. 

Those with COVID-19 symptoms are the modern day lepers.  Soon they’ll be shipped off to a deserted island. It’s getting to the point where those who catch it are deemed irresponsible. They didn’t wear a mask, failed to properly scrub their hands, went out to eat, got on an airplane, or went to the store. There is no sympathy, only pity for their stupidity. It’s no wonder those with symptoms try to hide them. Who wants to admit they were somehow reckless in their actions to the sanctimonious who hide in isolation?

There are many contrasting opinions and reasons to not believe the stories we read. A recent article with the headline of “CDC CONFIRMS EXTREMELY LOW COVID-19 DEATH RATE,” claims that a child is more likely to die from a lightening strike than the virus. For an old fart like me, I’ve been at greater risk in a bad flu season. I’m certainly not discounting the need to take precautions, but I don’t think they need to be extreme. For example, I watched a guy wearing a mask yesterday turn away from me and put his hand over his mouth as I approached at least ten feet away.  Yes, I had taken a shower, brushed, gargled, and used deodorant. So, please wake me up when it’s all over!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hunt a Killer #1368

Is it healthy to be obsessed about murder? I apparently can’t get enough of it in these times of self-isolation. If I’m not writing about a killer, I’m reading, watching, or playing the game. I do like untangling a good mystery, but I’m not very patient. There’s also my fickle nature, hopping from project to project in search of contentment. Yesterday, I couldn’t focus on watching Hinterland, distracted by looking up the Sydney Vosper painting, “Salem,” and its hidden devil’s face. Just pulling out my phone to Google the picture, sent me in an entirely different direction. ADHD!

I’d then jump over to my computer, where my novel still has many rough spots. It’s all too easy to then get lost in financial matters or personal DNA mysteries through Ancestry.  Do I really need more relatives than the 23,000 I’ve already found? Most of them are either dead or total strangers. At least, I’ve recently been in touch with a distant cousin that is far more advanced on Banister family research than I am. He’s suggesting that I take a third y-DNA test through Living Tree. Y chromosomes are passed down virtually unchanged from father to son, as opposed to mtDNA from mother to child. Solving this mystery is more about life than death. Maybe, hunt a relative?

Reading about killers is strictly limited to bedtime, where I too often get lost after dozing off. I fall asleep to a murder mystery and wake up to write one. In between, I played the Hunt A Killer game that I got for Father’s Day. It was a nice change of pace from all these other mental outlets that I use to pass the days at home. In about an hour, I solved the first of six mysteries – determining the murder weapon. I’m waiting for the next box to arrive in the mail, so I can continue to Hunt A Killer!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Dime #1367

This morning I reached the 4,200 consecutive day mark of my 11 1/2 year running streak. It’s daunting to think that it will take another 2-years and 2-months to reach 5,000. On September 6, 2022, 10 days after my 71st birthday, I will get there. When I look at the current active list on the website, 147 people have already achieved that mark. I stopped to pick-up a dirty dime in celebration, a coin I had passed many times this week. Not a day has gone by of late when I haven’t found at least a few pennies abandoned on the streets. My new rule is that if they’re still there after a few days, I’m going to give them a home. 

This is actually an indication that I’m getting a little more comfortable with the germs around me. There was a time when I wouldn’t have thought twice about picking up a homeless penny. However, after months now of hand scrubbing, social distancing, mask wearing, and passing by dirty money,  I’ve loosened my standards on abandoned coins, especially if they’re silver. The dime qualified! I brought it home, sanitized its surface, and deposited it in the coin jar for a rainy day. I know this is living dangerously, but a game worth playing. If I had a put a dime in the jar for every run so far, I’d be $420 richer. Even a penny a day would be a $42 bonus. Pennies may still not be worth the germ risk, even if you consider them to be a wink from an angel. (See Post #183).

As I look forward to the next 800 days, it’s really one day at a time.  There’s 26 days until we drive to Walla-Walla and into Glacier National Park. We decided not to risk the now inaccessible Canadian border in favor of a U.S. hotel. It’s another 37 days until we start our trek to Florida. Add 41 more days and we’ll be in Egypt, tack-on 60 for Hawaii, and suddenly the year is over. The new year will start in Florida, with a side-trip for my wife to St. Kitts, followed with our move and a journey to Spain. It will take a lot of dimes to get all of this done. One thin dime at a time!


Retirement is not without Hassles: Halfway #1366

We’re now halfway to  Christmas for those keeping track of remaining shopping days. My wife was always envious of those born on June 25th for this reason – the midpoint of gift getting. This says something about her, while I never made the connection. It was also “Custer’s Last Stand” at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Too bad he missed out on Christmas and his 37th Birthday. Sitting Bull got all the gifts. 

I escaped from the apartment yesterday afternoon, and put down the convertible top for a drive to Tualatin. It was a welcome break from the quarantine routine. A couple of beers and some burgers on a friend’s grill were the added reward. I should do getaways more often. Next Friday, the Buffalo Wild Wings “Leadership Meetings” resume after a 3-month furlough. I’d like to say that things are returning to normal, but that would be premature. Instead, I’ll just have to take advantage of opportunities to socialize as they present themselves. The pessimist in me is warning of a relapse. 

I should get my own grill back when we move to Florida next spring. In this apartment, all we have in a tiny balcony that does not allow for grilling. I call it the “Tally-o,” because it’s really a patio barely big enough for our schnauzer, Tally. However, we can open the doors and smell the aroma of neighborhood restaurants. I have mixed feelings about living downtown, so having a home again will be more than welcome. Thankfully, we’re now at the halfway point of our lease with lots of travel plans to break-up any monotony. 

I did just discover that there is a Halfway, Oregon near the Idaho state line. The community was named for the fact it is roughly halfway between Pine and the ghost town of Cornucopia. It has about 300 residents. Wikipedia reports that Halfway earned a place in the history of the dot-com era in December 1999, when it received and accepted an offer to rename itself as, Oregon. This promotional publicity stunt was in conjunction with the e-commerce start-up that eventually sold to Ebay. The unusual one-year partnership was in exchange for $110,000; 20 computers for the school; and other financial subsidies.

It became the first city in the world to rename itself as a  It’s also interesting to note that Halfway is within four miles of the 45th parallel which makes it halfway between the equator and the North Pole. For us in Portland, it’s halfway to Manhattan….Montana, that is!


Retirement is not without Hassles: Out Of Service #1365

Today started with an extra dog to take outside and no internet service. Two big hassles that got me up early and out-of-sync. In my old age, I’m not adapting well to change. I like a routine, and even travel is getting more difficult. The rigors of waking up in a different bed, adhering to tour schedules, and making early flights is disturbing. Sometimes, I just want to hide in the comfort of my own home.

Thoughts of moving cross-country are exhausting, probably because last night’s sleep was so restless. Just dealing with a simple internet outage is like climbing a mountain. The extra pup, though cute, is whining, and now so am I, after an hour on the phone with the cable company. They have to send out a technician to add to the frustration. I can’t get on-line to do this daily blog, so I’m writing only to myself for a few days. It gets the anger out, and makes me feel like I’m doing something constructive. My wife has a physical this morning, so the dogs are also out-of-kilt on their routines.

I’ve crossed the 75,000 word mark on my novel and can at least continue that work without the internet. Also, the TV is working so I can get most programs, including House of Cards that it seems we’ve been watching forever. I’m headed over to a friend’s house to cook some burgers, so I won’t miss the internet this afternoon. I wonder how long we’ll be out of service?

Retirement is not without Hassles: Stay Safe #1364

It’s been two weeks now since the Florida trip and I’m feeling pretty confident that there were no adverse viral repercussions. My temperature has been taken twice this week in visits to the hairdresser and hospital. Admittedly, I’ve had some psychosomatic moments of imaginary fevers, coughs, and sore throats. There was also a week of constant headaches that have now passed. I still attribute the latter to eye strain following hours of computer work. Stress has played a significant role in airline travel, dining-in, and actually being inside a hospital of late. 

There are no signs that Coronavirus is going away in the near future. I’m concerned for those who have lost their jobs, shut down their businesses, or gotten sick. Every day is a new risk, but we can’t stay isolated. Last year, we visited beautiful Santorini in the Greek Islands. Since the breakout began, they’ve shut their island down to tourism. The good news is that they don’t have a single case of COVID-19. The bad news is that they are crumbling financially. It’s now a question of personal vs. economic wellness. They’ve decided to re-open the island, just as we have to make similar choices on whether or not to leave the safety of home. 

If the “creek don’t rise,” we still plan to travel to Walla-Walla, Washington  and Glacier National Park next month. I’ve confirmed with my accompanying friends. It looks like we won’t be able to get over the Canadian border to the Prince Albert Hotel as planned. We’ll make the necessary lodging adjustments as it gets closer to departure time. There are other compromises that will have to be made in the interest of safety. Viking has not cancelled or delayed our October cruise down the Nile River. We’ve also finalized most of our late August drive that now includes three nights in San Francisco, one night in Cambria, two nights in Desert Springs, two nights in Marfa, Texas, two nights in Austin, and one night in New Orleans. The Florida leg of the journey has yet to be determined, waiting in part to collect more Marriott Rewards points on credit card purchases this month. The goal is to leave the car we drive in Florida permanently and fly back to Portland.  

We’re still working out financing and design aspects on the Florida move next March, so getting one car down there is the first step. At that time, we’ll finalize our building plans that will take about six-months to complete. We’ve made arrangements for the lot in IslandWalk at the West Villages in Venice Florida. We’re excited for the warmth & sunshine, but will miss our friends and family here in Portland. Very good reasons for frequent visits back to Oregon.  Stay Safe.


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