Tying up 2016

An admonition
An admonition

I took this picture while at the Grand Canyon in September. If you want to read the large print on the sign as a life lesson, feel free. I like that they point out that the snakes are almost always harmless. Perhaps that should be our life lesson.

***

I not only want to tie up 2016, I also want to beat it into submission. But I’m not sure to what I want it to submit. Maybe I just want 2016 to admit that it was less than a stellar year. It was more like a black hole because it sucked the life out of so much. Hmmm. I guess that I am not displaying a positive state of mind. I need to work on that.

The following are germs of ideas about which I planned to write posts, but I never seemed to get around to it. Here are those germs.

***

I realize that while I have told you in earlier posts that I did not achieve my Reading Challenge goal of reading twenty different types of books, I have only related sixteen of the seventeen that I did read. The seventeenth book was Shooting In The Dark by Carolyn Hougan. It fulfilled the requirement to read a book published in the 1980’s. It id a thriller along the lines of something that Alfred Hitchcock would turn into a movie. I enjoyed it.

I also want to reassure you that I read more than seventeen books. I read multiples of some types of books, such as mysteries and thrillers. The challenge fell apart when it came to a few other types of books. I hope to show more resolve in that area in 2017.

***

I have spent a lot of time thinking this year. I must admit that it hasn’t been much in the way of thinking “deep thoughts.” No, most of my thinking was about politics or even less important things. For instance, I started wondering when, in the past, we made the switch from calling a class of diseases Venereal Disease (VD) to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)?And why did we make that switch? A quick Google brought up a 1981 article in The American Journal of Nursing by Charles E. Campbell and R. Jeffrey Herten titled VD to STD: Redefining Venereal Disease. The title pretty much explains it, VD had been redefined. The medical profession had loosened the definition to include new ways of contracting these illnesses. I’m not sure why that warranted a change in name, but I’m not a medical person.

***

I have decided that in 2016 many of the local retail businesses have spent time and  money putting their front line staff through customer service training. Specifically they have been taught that every person, upon entering the establishment, must be greeted and shown a toothy smile. In addition, any staff person who interacts with a customer must be effusive in their happiness over dealing with the customer and must show an abundance of good will towards the customer. Very few of these staff people can carry it off without seeming phony, but at least they try.

***

In one motel in which we stayed on our trip to Las Vegas, I am almost positive that the previous occupant of my bed had been a 500 pound cannon ball. Thank goodness we were only there for one very long night.

While at the pool at our timeshare in Las Vegas I was worried that if one of the people who was at, but not in the pool, entered it, there would be a serious displacement of water, and that the whole pool area would be flooded. Thankfully they decided to stay dry.

Believe me, I am not weight-shaming anybody in particular. I have my own problems with weight.

***

I like to have a new wall calendar each year for my office. Usually Cindy buys me one as a Christmas gift. Sometimes I also buy one. Occasionally I will get one in the mail from someone who is trying to sell me something. In the past few years I have waited until after Christmas before purchasing a calendar because if I buy one and Cindy also buys one, I know that I’ll be hanging Cindy’s. It is often the small lessons you learn early in a marriage that serves you well through the years. Before I retired I would hang Cindy’s at home and the one I bought would go up in my office or cubicle at work.

This year Cindy did not buy me a calendar. I wasn’t sure that I would find a calendar I liked, so I was prepared to dig into my pile of old calendars (no, I don’t throw them away), and pull out the 2006 calendar and use it again. But I was lucky and found a calendar with art work that I like, and bought it for 50% off the original price.

***

And then I have the one-line notes:

I can remember when backpacks were only worn by boy scouts and men in the military.

Are you offended when politicians don’t curse?

Anger is a killer of reasoned thought.

Why does no one confuse my writing with that of Salmon Rushdie?

OK, that last one is a joke. Still…maybe in 2017.

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2017 Reading Challenge

The road home #3
The road home #3

This picture is the third that I took on my way home to Lafayette after my mother was buried in Rolling Prairie. As you can tell, I do my best to avoid cities. Not that that there is much in the way of cities between the two places.

***

Well, I failed to meet the goals of my self-inflicted Reading Challenge again in 2016. I read only seventeen of the twenty types of books that I set in the challenge. Has that brought my spirits down? Yes, a bit. Is it deterring me from trying again this year? Not a whit! In fact in 2017 I’ll be shooting to read 21 different types of books. The twenty-one types are:

  1. A book by an author you have never read before.
  2. A biography or autobiography.
  3. A book recommended by a friend.
  4. A romance novel or a western.
  5. A mystery or thriller.
  6. A book on a historical subject.
  7. A book of science fiction or fantasy.
  8. A graphic novel.
  9. A book of short stories or essays.
  10. One of a series of books.
  11. A book previously started but never finished.
  12. A book that has been the basis of a movie or television series, or vice versa.
  13. A book written in each decade that I have been alive, so one in the 1940’s.
  14. A book written in the 1950’s.
  15. A book written in the 1960’s.
  16. A book written in the 1970’s.
  17. A book written in the 1980’s.
  18. A book written in the 1990’s.
  19. A book written in the 2000’s.
  20. A book written in the 2010’s.
  21. And a book of any kind.

The challenge begins on January 1. As in all of my challenges, you are invited to play along with me. I don’t take myself so seriously that I don’t see this as play. If I did, I would be weighed down with self-recrimination over past failures to achieve my goal.

If you want to play, you have a few days to start picking your books. I would be interested to know how you do. I already have my first three books in mind; and I’m eager to start. I’ll give updates on my progress as the year goes along.

Happy reading!

Late year updates

The road home #2
The road home #2

This picture is another that I took on the road from Rolling Prairie, where my mother was buried, to home in Lafayette. I was more interested in the clouds when I was taking the picture than the rest of the scene. As I look at it now, I realize that the entire picture reflects the sorrow that I was feeling. If the sun hadn’t been shining I might still be driving around on county roads.

***

I haven’t been as productive this year as I had planned. Here are a few updates on various things in my life.

First is the annual reading challenge that I set for myself. Update: I failed. Yes, I know the year hasn’t ended yet, but I still have three books to read, and I have no intention to read them. It isn’t that they are uninteresting books, but that I have read almost nothing in the past few months. Actually, I have read a total of one complete book since we left on vacation in September. I’ve started the three additional books I need to finish the challenge successfully, but there seems to be too many other things that need to be done that are more important. I hope to be more successful next year. By the way, the three types of books I have started but haven’t finished are 1) a book on a historic topic; 2) a book that I once started but gave up on (history repeats itself; and 3) a book written in the 1940’s. Perhaps I’ll finish one of them next year.

Next is the Thumper Challenge that I set for myself back in August. If you don’t remember the Thumper Challenge, it was to live up to the statement “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Update: I failed. My defensive excuse is the 2016 election in general. and the Presidential election specifically. I found myself losing patience as I watched the television coverage and saying disparaging things about most of the candidates and the talking heads who purported to be analyzing the campaigns. I think that the longest stretch I achieved was thirty-six hours. Perhaps I can be a better person next year.

This year I chose to not participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge because 1) Cindy asked me to not dedicate the month of November to writing. 2) I hadn’t finished last year’s novel, nor had I finished editing the previous year’s novel. 3) The aftermath of the flooding of our house has kept me too preoccupied to write (or to read…see my reading challenge update above). I haven’t decided what I’ll do next November. It will probably depend on if I get any great ideas.

In conclusion, the final third of 2016 has not been one that I would wish to relive. But trying to see the brighter side, the first two-thirds were pretty alright. 2017 will probably be a better year. There; I’m trying to be optimistic.

Not a great day

The road home #1

I took this picture on the road back to Lafayette from Rolling Prairie. Using back roads allowed me to do some thinking and composing in my mind.

My mother was buried yesterday. It was a sad day. And at the risk of being considered a bad son, it was a day about which I have conflicting feelings. Of course, I am sad that my mother is dead. But when I consider the quality of her life for the past months, I am happy that she is no longer mentally and physically distressed.

Quite a while back I wrote about the hallucinations she was experiencing; and I found amusement in them. As time passed the hallucinations became a larger part of her life; and I found them less amusing. That was when I stopped writing about her. At the end the hallucinations were her only reality; and they were a mystery to us. The only things we were sure about was that she saw and spoke to her brothers and sisters who were already dead, and that she was very upset about what she was seeing and hearing.

She was exhausted from lack of sleep. The last time that I saw her she would close her eyes and appear to sleep, only to take a few shallow breaths, open her eyes, and say, “Oh, My God!” It was as if she was in a perpetual nightmare. She could only sleep with the aid of a prescribed soporific.

She lived with my sister, who took care of her, for the past thirteen years. My sister is a better person than I am, because I don’t believe I could have done that. It was not always easy to get along with my mother. I know where I inherited my pig-headedness and feeling that I am always right. I did not inherit it from my father. In that respect, at least, I am my mother’s son.

Maybe that is one reason why my mother showed a preference for me over my sister. I never understood why that was, I just accepted it. And yet, it was my sister who cared for my mother daily for all of those years. I hope that my sister can now devote her time to enjoying her life with her husband and daughter. She deserves at least that much.

I’ll miss my mother’s weekly, occasionally daily, phone calls. Of course, my sister told me yesterday that she will take over that duty. I can hardly wait.