Blogging, Family

Bacon or Sausage

It’s amazing how some of life’s most enduring preferences come about from the most humble beginnings. A discussion over breakfast the other day brought it all to mind.

Our daughter and son-in-law have very different food life than my wife and I. Both couples have a male as the primary cook in the family but I cook very much differently than does Michael.

I cook for a meal. Michael cooks for leftovers. That’s a rather freehanded way of delineating the difference but it is fundamentally accurate. I almost always cook amounts of food that we can consume in one meal. The only exceptions being if I am roasting or slow cooking a joint of meat in which case we will eat the first portion of meat hot from the cooking process and then divide what remains into portions to be used for future meals. The primary difference between our styles comes down to the fact that Michael is still actively a breadwinner in his family and he doesn’t have the same kind of “spare” time that I do. As a result Michael cooks almost everything in excess quantities with the idea in mind that having cooked once he can repurpose anything and everything for “fast” meals throughout the week. He tends to make items that take longer to cook initially, I tend to do the “whatever I can cook in 20 minutes beginning to end” approach. With microwaves and such we still have baked potatoes and rice and other longer cook items but we eat a lot of protein and veg and not a lot of carbs.

So, where am I going with all of this. Michael is far more likely to cook up an entire tray of sausage patties or links, save the uneaten ones for another meal or two or three and have a container in the fridge with the precooked items all ready to pop into the pan. Premade sausage patties tend not to release nearly as much fat and so whatever is there in the pan gets disposed of.

I on the other hand buy 3 lb packages of bacon from the local restaurant purveyor, but I keep them in a bacon keeper and I portion out one, or two, or three strips of bacon as we need. I either cook eggs in some of the bacon fat, or save it in a container reserved for “bacon fat” to be used in cooking at other times. There’s a lot of flavor in bacon fat and used in discrete amounts it’s wonderful.

The thing is, I grew up in a very different home than did Michael. My food choices are very much the food choices I grew up with. You see I have long felt that “Normal is what we grow up with.” And I grew up in a family with a father who worked rotating shifts. He was a boiler operator for our local electric utility. He spent most of his days in an air conditioned control room occupied by one other worker and about 85 gauges and graph plotters making sure that there was always a head of steam to keep the generating turbines whirring away and providing electricity for the thriving metropolis of Milwaukee.

AND, my dad hated sandwiches. Why should he eat a sandwich when he had a multimillion dollar “oven” right outside his cubicle door? He often told friends and strangers alike that mom packed him a lunch, and when he got to work he “threw it on the floor, covered it with a rag and by the time lunch-time rolled around it was ready to eat.” That all sounded a lot cruder than it was, after all he was the Scoutmaster who was hardest on the Boy Scouts when it came time to inspect dishes after they were cleaned — he was rigorous about sanitation, but a meal in a metal container sitting on a hot steel grate protected from contamination was a wonderful way to warm up his leftovers from the night before.

Of course the fact that dad got the hot leftovers in his lunch almost always meant that mom and I were left to eat something else for our meals. He was the breadwinner so he got the best. As he should. And with a stay-at-home mom who had time to cook I always had fresh meals, and I had the “husky” size waistline to prove it. But, bottom line is that I never grew up eating leftovers. I had meals prepared for the time, and that was “normal” to me.

“Normal is what we grow up with.”

I wonder, if you look into your own life how many choices you make you can find that are the direct result of whatever “normal” you grew up with? Once I started thinking about this I realized there are nearly an infinite number of little things I do that I can trace directly back to life choices other people made, which affected me, and which I adopted as de rigeur.

Diary, Family

It’s been a rough season…

With our second great grandchild, the first boy in the family in 3 generations.

All my life I’ve been an optimist. I’ve recognized “problems” along life’s way but I’ve always been able — quite easily — to put them to the side and keep moving forward. But even aside from COVID I’ve found the past year or so to be exceptionally challenging.

I’m not yet sure if this marks the beginning of my return to regular posting or not. I’m going to give it a try, to see what happens. But I am at least going to give it a try.

That said, the blogosphere as I know it has changed significantly over the past couple years. While I have tried to dribble out a few posts here and there — to keep the site just a little bit active — a good number of the bloggers I have followed with interest seem to have disappeared from sight/site altogether. That makes me sad. I know we are all struggling our way through the longterm effects of COVID isolation but sadly making our own non-face-to-face isolation even worse won’t help anyone’s mental health at all.

Let me take a few minutes and catch you up on what’s been going on.

  • WE have both (Peggy and myself) avoided contracting COVID. That’s the good news.
  • No one in our nearby family did either.
  • That said, Peg’s brother Fred in California did in connection with a fall and broken bones which put him in hospital and at 80+ years of age with throat cancer he sadly passed a couple months ago. It had been several years since we’d seen him and we felt we could not safely make the funeral trip ourselves so that has been the sad part of our life.
  • Just before the beginning of COVID we were blessed without ur first great grand baby — a girl named Sophia. She is now a month shy of 3 and a lovely addition to the family.
  • A month ago we added another great grand child to the list — a boy named James.
  • On the health front we have been visiting more doctors than pleases us.
  • On top of the routine visits I’ve had my appendix removed.
  • And then there was a Fugax Amarousa (or maybe it’s Amarousa Fugax, I don’t know)— which is a short term partial loss of sight in one eye. Obviously they were concerned about a conventional stroke but after more tests than you can shake a stick at they concluded that it wasn’t veins, and wasn’t heart, and wasn’t clogged arteries — that it was just the optic nerve but still they are monitoring me as a stroke patient out of safety concerns. And they permanently installed a LINQ monitor to determine whether I’m having any heart issues that haven’t been diagnosed.
  • All of those things have seen multiple appointments, multiple blood draws, multiple tests and while I’m glad to be near world-class medical help, it all does get boring — and tedious.
Sophia & James / June 2022

With all this stuff going on in the middle of a pandemic it’s been challenging. I freely acknowledge sometimes feeling depressed — but I sincerely believe that anyone alive in 2022 who doesn’t have situational depression simply isn’t paying attention to the world around them. So, while I have talked this through (actually Peggy and I both have) with our general practitioner it’s not something needing treatment.

We live in a suburb of Milwaukee. While Milwaukee is a hugely Democratic community the outlying suburbs are not. Our town of Franklin is way more GOP than I’m comfortable with but there are reasons we live here that override out our dissatisfaction with the political climate. That being the case I still find myself in a very uncomfortable situation. And the idea that literally 1/2 of the country seem to feel that Donald Trump and his kind are good for the nation strikes me as horribly disheartening. While I have always been optimistic I find myself less so than at any point in my life.

On the COVID front we are both vaccinated and twice boosted. My own lungs give me good reason to NOT WANT to contract COVID. As a result we still mask up for anytime we are in public — which isn’t all that often. Routinely we are the only people in the grocery still wearing masks. Even going at early hours so as not to be around many people. We have ventured out a few times to restaurants where we felt less than comfortable even though all the places we chose were doing a decent job of keeping customers separated and taking appropriate health precautions.

The results of all the stress and the COVID-necessitated isolation has been that I simply haven’t felt like putting anything down on paper. Partly because I don’t want to be reactionary — and there have been a lot of events that push me in that direction. Partly because I’ve ben thinking thoughts about the overall world scene that I’m not sure I want to share with anyone yet. And partly because as one ages it’s simply not quite as easy to compose intelligent content.

We still have a place near he Wisconsin Dells where we can get away from the city and it’s a welcome haven. But at the cost of fuel lately we no longer view the 250 mile round trip quite as casually as in times past.

I guess that’s enough of a catch up for now. I’ll try to talk with you again soon.

An now for a moment of senior pride.

Proud Great Grandpa


My Price

My maternal Grandmother lived on the South side of Milwaukee, two blocks North of Mitchell Street. That meant that she could go shopping every day for that day’s needs. Mitchell Street had every kind of store you could imagine and Busia would never have needed to go elsewhere had her three daughters not insisted on taking her shopping from time to time.

Busia (seated) and her friend Mrs Dostal

She was a clever and shrewd gal. She arrived in this country after traveling alone (on a ticket sent to her by her older brother) by boat from Poland to Canada and then still alone by train to Windsor Ontario where her brother Lawrence met the train and brought her to Milwaukee.

Before the Great Depression she and my maternal grandfather whom I never met (he having died 2 years before I was born) had acquired three or four duplexes which carried her through the Depression. By “carried her through” I mean that she was able to live in one while collecting rents on the others until the bank foreclosed on the one furthest behind in mortgage payments. When they foreclosed she moved into the one that was then the most in arrears and waited out that foreclosure. It wasn’t a pretty way to survive, but survive she did.

She learned a lot of lessons during the depression, among them was the idea that she had “her price” for everything and if an item wasn’t at “her price” she wasn’t about to purchase it no matter how much she wanted it.

It seems that was a lesson from her that sunk in even though she never sat down and talked to me about it. It was understood by all the family, the three daughters, their husbands, and my one cousin and myself, and anyone else who came along that she would wait for her price.

The other day Peg & I were at the grocery. I intended to make chicken soup in the next few days and I wanted 5 chicken thighs to put in the soup. As I made my way down the protein aisle I first came upon a package of 4 thighs for $1.99 per pound and because it was the right size package and it was within my intended price range I put it in the cart. Four feet down the aisle I found a package of 10 thighs for $1.59 per pound and I stopped for moment. I “needed” 5 pieces. But I could use 5 now, freeze the others and save $0.50 per pound. Guess which ones I bought?

I would say that the two of us are comfortable in our retirement. There are a lot of things that we can afford to do; there are even more that we aren’t interested in doing — they not being our lifestyle; and there are a lot of things that we can’t afford to do. I know without a question that we are comfortable now because we have always been extremely careful about how we spend our money. We are not scrooges. We are quite generous with others but we have always had limits for ourselves that we simply don’t think about exceeding.

When we were young, and when we were both working, there was a period of about 10 years when we wanted all the “best” things — specially when it came to food; to some degree about clothing. We patronized all the top notch restaurants in town at a time when restaurants were still doing real cooking and there weren’t so many portion-control options available. We splurged on meals, even 7 course meals with wonderful wines to see what “this world” had to offer. I bought really good suits for work, and I bought really nice clothing for Peggy. We had some extraordinary experiences.

But it didn’t take much more than those ten years for us to realize that no matter how posh things were they were just things. We didn’t need all the fanciness, in fact the fanciness sometimes…. perhaps often…. got in the way. We really wanted a different life than consumption got us.

To this day I use Gas Buddy to scope out the best gas prices in the area, and if it doesn’t use more gas to buy at a cheaper station than I would save by buying closer at a slightly higher price I’ll go that short distance.

I shop for hotel and travel prices. Friends pick the higher priced fancier places but seeing as I’m only going to use that room for sleeping, I often pick the more reasonably priced one. Not the “cheap” chain. But a choice that gives us the best overall value for the dollar. And if we miss a better bargain than we might have had… so what. It’s not about being cheap, it’s about making the best use we have of the resources available to us.

I didn’t live through the Depression. On some level you’d think that those lessons of frugality, of making due, of re-using and re-purposing should have been lost on me. After all, it’s not like I was forced to do any of them. But, I’m glad they were not. Being careful has given us a fuller and “richer” (in experience) life than we would have had otherwise. And doing what we chose, when we chose — instead of waiting until we were retired, or older, enabled us to enjoy things that today would be beyond our ability. Had we saved our money instead of doing those things 20 or 30 years ago we might have had more money in the bank than we do, but we aren’t physically able to do many of the things we did back then — so what would we have saved?

I am no example of how to live. The choices we have made in our life are very individual and I’m certain not a lot of other people would make the same choices. But I am here to say that the choices we make have a definite effect upon the lives we live. We can make our life better, or we can make our life worse — more difficult, less satisfying, a catastrophe even. It’s not all about price. It might not be about price at all. But never underestimate the impact of your own choices upon the life you live, or the life you want to live.

Family, Old Diary, Quotations

Dreaming about a Broken Dream

man dreamingI swear that there are times my own subconscious is wicked and perverse.  It waited until I had written (yesterday) about sharing dreams to share with me a literal dream  about a broken dream!  Sheesh…. I mean, have a heart!

In the spirit of full disclosure I suppose I ought to share it with you…

In real life 20 years ago I left the ministry when my own theology began to veer off into a direction that my flock weren’t interested in following.  And, I was particularly cognizant of an Old Testament verse which cites several things which God hates, among which was this one:

“He who sows discord among brethren.”

In my mind it was pretty clear, if I was the divergent one then I ought to be the one who left instead of hammering away at my congregation and disturbing their faith.  The issues were significant, it was never going to be likely that I convince an entire congregation that a fundamental aspect of their faith might be flawed, and so I stood up, made clear the reasons to those who would understand the theology behind the decision and leave.

Around that time I had thought — and it was only a thought — about visiting with folks in the U.K. with whom I had become close in spite of having left the organization.  And that germ of an idea lay there for a while, I even thought to myself that I might wait a “couple” years and make the visit then.

Well, a “couple” years stretched into 10 and then nearly into 20.  And last night I had this dream that it was “now,” and suddenly that dream was going to become a reality.  Someone handed me tickets to make the trip and I sorted out my luggage and started off on the trip — only to wake up in the middle of the night to realize that “Always Ready Peter,” that “Never Say Die Peter” had set off on a trip for which no plans had been made, no one knew I was coming, I didn’t even know if the people I had intended to visit were still alive (more than a couple were older than me — perhaps they had passed already) — it was a right mess.

flipphoneThe dream got even more weird because my phone rang — the one in the dream — and it was my wife and daughter calling to check on me — on an old fashioned flip phone with extendable antenna (if that gives you any idea how dated the dream was).

Suffice it to say, and I’m cutting the narration short because the dream is fading as fast as I keyboard the details, that I was going lickety split in an effort to save the trip.  I had moved some business furniture to a friend’s house and they were helping whilst I was overseas attempting to save the routing and still connect with a disparate group of people spread all over the U.K.  It was a mess.  And in my dream I realized how much of a mess it was and I couldn’t find a way out of it.

One might think that such a dream would raise my real life blood pressure.  In fact it did not.  I got myself out of bed at 5 a.m., dressed, forgetting to weigh myself, then undressing, weighing myself, and getting dressed again, and then taking my blood pressure.  Whew!  I’m tuckered out just talking about all that activity so early in the morning.

And to top it all off, it has now been 6 days since we had our new InterWebs installed and our installer had told us that we might be well advised to power off our interface box “once or twice a week” to keep the connection refreshed and I had not done that.  My dear wife came to me wondering what was wrong with the InterWebs as she had already been up for a couple hours and “the little thingy was going round in circles” and nothing would connect.  So, I unplugged and replugged the box and life returned to normal — another catastrophe avoided!  Now I’m even more tired!

There is no end to this story. It’s an anecdote that I shared because I had just written about sharing dreams — and even though the nature of the dreams I was talking about in that post were more about goals and visions of the future, this little dream about something very real and concrete just seemed to real to ignore.  Maybe having written it down my brain will think about it and a year from now it will mean something to me.  Or maybe one of you, dear readers, will suggest something that will make sense out of it.

All I know is my subconscious can be a sneaky conniving so-and-so.  And that’s all for today.

Talk to you tomorrow.

good night snoopy

Activities, Family, Images, Old Diary

Springtime Snowstorm

I’m writing this Saturday morning as the local newscasters are hyping the population up for another spring snowstorm.  It will be the second storm in April in two weeks.  That’s not actually all that unusual for Wisconsin.  Of the past 150 years we have had snow during 130 Aprils.  Some years we have had as much as 8 inches. Other years under 1 inch.

The Two of Us — from late ’17, just before we moved out of S. Texas

Peg must have been paying close attention to the weather forecast — but then she’s more of a worrier than I am and she pays closer attention to a variety of things I tend to ignore — but she wanted to make sure we get out to the grocery on Friday to stock up our as-yet-empty-pantry.  We haven’t been through a snowfall here at the Park yet.  Duh.  We haven’t been through much of anything here, yet.  And with forecasts for as much as 4″-8″ of snow for Saturday the idea of perhaps getting stuck out here with no food in the house seemed to bother her.  I don’t know why?

The good news is that I did my husbandly duty and we went shopping, loaded up the fridge a little, filled up a couple kitchen cabinets with boxed and canned goods, and checked the gauge on our propane tank. We’re set.

Now, let’s see how much snow we get….

It turns out that this storm wasn’t as bad as they forecast. fourcountiesmapWisconsin Dells sits at the juncture of four counties — might be the only town in Wisconsin to do that.  We (meaning the four county junction of Sauk/Columbia/Juneau/Adams) were on the edge of the storm and what we saw — in addition to 28º temps was a very light and fluffy spring dusting of flakes — followed by a light rain.  That meant that the trees and grass took on a lovely white, while the hard surfaces pretty much stayed their true color.  The beauty really only lasted about an hour.

One of our neighbors needed their water disconnected in case of frost, so I went next door to take care of that and made these three photos while I was out.  30 minutes later I looked out the window and the snow was pretty well gone!

One can’t be too upset about that kind of storm.  At least not if you don’t have to drive in it!  Transient, wonderful, rare beauty that disappears in the blink of an eye.  There are times when the wonders of nature ( or creation ) reach out and slap you upside the face! I often find myself amazed at the rare beauty that exists for such short moments in this world.

So, later today the temp will rise to 54º and it will be as if this late spring snowstorm never existed — at least here.

Family, Old Diary, Travel

Live From the Sleep Center

live from the sleep center 1I’m talking to you “live from the sleep center.”  Well, not exactly “live,”  as I’m writing this almost a week before it’s going to post — but you get the idea.

The second time’s the charm.  My heart specialist wanted me to have a sleep apnea evaluation 6 months ago.  United Healthcare ditzed around with the request, and ditzed around.  I followed up with the clinic twice, but still nothing happened and eventually I forgot about it.  When I returned to the specialist for my next appointment (last week) they re-wrote the order saying that the sleep study was necessary to put off any need for a surgical procedure — which I don’t know whether that’s actually a fact but suffice it to say in three days we had an approval.  It turns out that a prior appointment for today (they called yesterday) cancelled so instead of waiting one to two months for an opening I am sneaking in “under the cover of darkness.”

If you, like me, happen to have hypertophic cardiomyopathy and don’t know it, obstructive sleep apnea is common among HC patients  with over 40% of HC patients diagnosed with OSA.  You might want to talk with your specialist about it.

I had a sleep study done 10 years ago and never adapted very well to the old fashioned headgear that was available at that time, so I used the gear for 6 months and said the heck with it. Now doc wants me to do this all over and I guess I need to do my best to cooperate if I wanna hang around on this lovely green planet, so we’ll see what happens.

Well, my “keeper” is coming back to finish hooking me up so I better sign off for today.

Family, Old Diary

Will Swedish “Death Cleaning” Organize Your Life

A few years before my father-in-law passed away he got to the point that he recognized his days were limited and he started a thorough top-to-bottom housecleaning.  I mean he was rigorous and almost scary about the way he divested himself of old treasures and even older trash. I have to say, I admired him for it.  I wished, at the time, that my dad were was forward thinking as Frank was being — though to tell you the truth I thought he started a little earlier than might have been necessary.  But then Frank knew his own state of health better than Peg or I did, and he knew his own mind.

I can’t say that Frank was following any kind of Swedish Death Cleaning concept.  His concept was quite simple:  straighten up his affairs so that his family didn’t have to do any more than necessary when he passed. He looked at his finances, at his legal documents, at his possessions, and at the people in his life and he took steps to sort out the lot.  packing up your affairs

I want to share this article about sorting out your clutter for what it might be worth.  We in the U.S. have a strange relationship with death, most of us avoid acknowledging it in a great many ways, but it’s something that we would do well to treat more rationally.  For ourselves — to insure that what happens after our passing is what we intend; also for others to relieve them of burdens they don’t really need to deal with.

It’s the decluttering method to end all decluttering.

By KATIE HOLDEFEHR October 23, 2017

Move over Marie Kondo, there’s a new decluttering guru in town. Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish woman self-described as “somewhere between 80 and 100,” has recently written a book that may hold the key to the ultimate decluttering secret—one so thorough that it lasts, well, forever. In her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, now available to pre-order and set to release in January, Magnusson explores the concept of Swedish death cleaning, or döstädning, the process of organizing, decluttering, and giving away your belongings “when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet.”

At first blush, it sounds morbid, but Magnusson handles this touchy topic with humor, and presents death cleaning as a thoughtful process that ensures family members won’t face the burden of digging through mountains of clothing, books, furniture, and tchotchkes later on. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, only to realize you’ll have to sort through an entire lifetime of belongings while grieving your loss, you’re already well aware of how difficult this process can be. “Many adult children worry about the amount of possessions their parents have amassed through the years,” Magnusson writes. “They know that if their parents don’t take care of their own stuff, they, the children, will have to do it for them.” The book can be used as a conversation starter for children to broach this sensitive topic with their aging parents, and it also serves as a guide for those starting the process themselves.

So, if you’re going to start death cleaning your own home or plan to help your older family members, how do you begin? “Be aware of the fact that to downsize your home will take some time,” Magnusson says. “Old people seem to think that time goes so quickly, but in fact it is we who have become slower. So—do not wait too long…” she advises with a touch of humor. She recommends starting early, around the age of 65, as the process isn’t a race to get rid of your things before you die, but should help you enjoy your life unhindered by belongings you no longer need. “Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your life run more smoothly,” she explains.

Like most decluttering methods, death cleaning is about more than sorting objects—it’s about emotions, too. Going through a lifetime of books, photos, and letters is bound to bring back memories, and while Magnusson suggests going through photos and other emotionally-loaded possessions last so you won’t get sidetracked, sorting through these feelings is an important part of the process.

Despite the emotional aspect of death cleaning, Magnusson insists it isn’t sad. “Death cleaning is also something you can do for yourself, for your own pleasure,” she writes. Before she says goodbye to each object she no longer needs, Magnusson takes a moment to reflect on the memories associated with that table, jacket, or cookbook, whether good or bad. “One’s own pleasure, and the chance to find meaning and memory, is the most important thing,” she writes. And so it turns out, once again, that the difficult process of tidying up has more to do with sparking joy than you might think.

I want to add something else to this.  your digital clutter

Our lives have gotten increasingly digitized and I really want to encourage you to declutter your digital life as well.  I know that while we are involved with paying bills and planning our finances that passwords and such are in a constant state of flux and it’s hard to think ahead far enough to put such things as passwords in a file your loved ones can find and will know what to do with.  But it’s only fair that you do.  As much as you care for your loved ones you don’t want them ending up in default on loans or missing bank payments just because you didn’t share a password or a user ID.  Take the time when you have it and document what needs doing, what will take care of itself (we all have some auto-pay bills I’m sure).

Be kind to those you love.