Sunday, January 20, 2019

Turn and Burn

    For years Jan has been after me to replace the last four original windows in the house. They were standard issue back in 1945 when the house was built. They were good windows, wood and glass, but they weren't insulated and were really showing their age, kind of like me.  A quick side note. Did you realize that glass is liquid? A science teacher told me that years ago. The molecules move at a snails pace, but apparently over a period of hundreds of years, it would be noticeable I guess. At least that's what he said. Anyway, back to the story. We finally decided to replace the last four windows, two in the dining room and two in the living room. We also decided to have the bathroom remodeled. A fellow I'd used before for several previous projects showed up on Wednesday with three Mexicans and a stepson. Sounds like a title for a sitcom on TV. "Tune in tonight on ABC for Three Mexicans and a Stepson on channel 8 at 9:00 PM." Anyway, they didn't waste any time. On  Wednesday afternoon, as soon as they got here, they started staging the materials on the front porch. The next day they started right at 8:00 AM and worked until almost 6:30. That first day they got all four windows installed and started taking apart the bathroom. By Thursday afternoon, they had the vanity out of the bathroom and  sitting in my living room, they had taken the toilet out (which fortunately wasn't sitting in my living room) as well as the old tub surround and put a rubber sheet on the walls around the tub. They also put up cement board and sealed it with another water proofing material. On Friday the new medicine cabinet was up, as well as the mirror and lights and  the tile in the shower. Also the new ceiling fan and the flooring. The new "comfort toilet" was installed also, but we couldn't use it yet because the goop sealing the valve needed a night to set. That was a bit of a pain, having to go upstairs to use the potty in the middle  of the night. I like the "comfort toilet" though. It's three inches higher than a regular one. It's much easier on the the knees because you don't have so far to go before being seated. I guess if you had little kids it wouldn't be ideal because their feet might dangle up off the floor, but as long as I don't shrink too much more, I'll keep enjoying it. Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the toilet would be proud I'm sure. By Saturday the tile was all grouted, the towel bar was mounted and the new doors for the shower were installed. I was wondering why they cost so much when I bought them at Home Depot, but when I went to pick one up the other day, I understood. Those doors must weigh seventy five pounds apiece. Holy Toledo! I better keep a phone in the shower in case I get too weak to slide the doors open and have to call 911. Unfortunately, there was an oversight and somehow the handles for the doors weren't sent, and neither was the sealer for the tile, so I still have to go upstairs to get a shower.  Hopefully that will be solved soon. However, it's snowing right now,which means no planes, so it might be a few days before freight comes in. One of the disadvantages of living in a remote place. You can't just go down to the local Home Depot and get what you forgot. There's always a lot of planning that goes into a remodel like this. Anyway, by Saturday afternoon the crew was packed up and on their way back to Juneau. It was a whirlwind experience, but when it comes to having your life turned upside down and your house turned inside out, it sure beats dragging it on for weeks.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Beauty from Ashes

    Those of you who know me, know that I'm not a big fan of cold weather. Can't say I really like it too hot either, but when it's warm you don't have to shovel snow, or let your vehicle warm up or turn on the heat in your home. Cold weather brings with it a variety of extra problems, frozen pipes, condensation in your fuel tanks, hypothermia, snow covered roads, the list goes on and on. Right now Alaska is in the middle of a pretty good deep freeze. Especially further north. One of my grandsons is living in Fairbanks and according to the local news channel, they can expect from minus thirty to minus fifty degrees over the next few days. No thanks. It's been in the teens here, and that's plenty cold enough for me. With all the troubles that winter can bring, there is also an uncommon amount of beauty, as seen in the above pictures. What is fascinating to me is that all the snow that is depicted here, is made up of individual snow crystals, all of which have six sides, and from what I can gather, no two of which are alike. How can that be? When I think about it, it seems like a miracle.It's quite mind boggling. Look at the design on these snow flakes- they're stunningly beautiful, like works of art, but when the weather warms up, they'll melt away. The same snow flakes that pile up and delay flights and cause highway accidents also water the earth; they keep rivers running and lakes full.They water the land and give life to all of creation. On the one hand they can bring death and destruction and on the other life and beauty. It makes no sense to me. Yesterday I got an email from a lady we met in Idaho, a real estate broker. A nice gal in her seventies, she was still working because she needed to support her invalid son at home. She wrote to apologize because she wouldn't be able to help us anymore in our search for a house, she was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. She would soon be confined to a wheelchair, and it's all downhill from there. Again, it makes no sense.About six months ago I spoke to the gal who does my taxes. She mentioned her husband was in the hospital. A few months later I called and was told that her husband had passed away. He was only in his fifties. They had just built a house, had recently been married and were planning their lives together.She's devastated and trying to make sense of it all, taking each day as it comes.I offered my condolences and mentioned that I would keep her in my prayers. There's not much more I can do, although it seems inadequate, perhaps because I don't fully understand the power that prayer is. Down through time mankind has struggled with loss. Loss of health, loss of wealth, loss of loved ones and loss of life itself. Who hasn't sat at the sick bed of someone we love or attended the funeral of a close relative or friend? We wonder why did this happen? If God is love, and claims to love us, why all the trouble and sorrow in the world?Great men in the bible asked the same questions. David, a man after God's own heart, was pursued by King Saul who sought his life. Job, a man who God held up as an example to all of heaven, suffered with the loss of his family, all his possessions, and his health, and Joseph, one of the twelve patriarchs of Israel was sold into slavery by his own brothers and thrown into an Egyptian prison for years. Do you think they didn't spend a lot of time asking God why? I bet they did.What none of these men knew at the time was that God was at work for them, using the circumstances for good. David became the second king of Israel. After all his trials, Job was blessed with ten children and twice as much  belongings as he had before. Joseph became second in power in Egypt, saving not only his family from famine, but all of Egypt as well. Jesus said, "in this world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world." There are a whole lot of things I have questions about, a lot of things I would change if I could, but fortunately I can't. I don't have the wisdom or foresight to see that what I might view as a disaster is a blessing in disguise. Today's blizzard is providing tomorrow's drinking water. I can't begin to know what will happen in the future, either for these two ladies nor for myself and my family. I can offer my friendship though, and my prayers, which I hope will provide some comfort as we all wait to see how God will move in our behalf.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Night at The Beach

Digging on the mud flats for crabs

Success- five Dungenss Crabs ready to cook

Star fish

A Sun Star

Star fish on the beach
Sea Cucumber

A Horse Clam
 When most people talk of going to the beach, there are visions of warm water, bikini clad beauties, sand, surf, wading in the water and swimming. I decided to join my family members the other night and we didn't experience any of the above. Instead we faced snow, wet boots, mud flats and exercise with clam rakes. On December 23 and 24 of this year, we were blessed with unusually high tides. As I've mentioned on this blog before, really high tides create really low tides about six hours later. It seems that the lowest tides are usually in the evening, as was the case the other day. Both nights experienced a minus 4 foot tide. When that happens, all the areas that would usually be covered by water are exposed, and it's the prime time for going beach combing, looking for clams, cockles, or Dungeness crabs. I have never picked up crabs off the beach before, so it was a new experience for me. On the 23rd, several members of my family and myself donned some head lamps and grabbed a flashlight and braved the elements in search of the elusive Dungeness crab. Most people just use crab pots to catch them, and there are an abundance of them on the flats behind Pitt Island. However,since I don't have a crab pot, and I didn't want to borrow one, and I had heard that you could pull them from the shallow mud on the flats behind the breakwater, and I like to scavenge anyway, we decided to give it a try. A wet, miserable, slushy snow was blowing sideways as we waded our way across a shallow but very swift running creek, trying to see where to place our next step so as to not let the water top our boots. Fortunately, once we crossed the creek, the mud flats were semi- solid so we didn't sink down too far with each step. There were several other folks out on the flats wearing head lamps or using Coleman lanterns to shed some light in the area where they were digging cockles. Personally I don't care for either cockles or clams, although I do like digging for them. I love to find things.  Anyway, a friend of ours showed us how to spot the areas where the crabs were hiding just under the surface of the mud. We searched a lot, and did a fair amount of digging, but we finally managed to find five legal crabs- just enough for Christmas Eve crab melts at my daughter Jen's annual Shoe Box Dinner. We took our catch home and cleaned it, then my daughters Jen and Autumn shucked it and put it in the fridge until Christmas Eve. On the 24th, after a delightful dinner, we headed down to the cannery to look for lead. Years ago there was a storage building for the seine nets down on the beach that burned down, so all the lead weights ended up on the beach. Over the years, the wind and waves buried some of it, where it's easy to find with a metal detector. It's lots of fun, and you never know what else you might dig up. That particular night, I guess because the tide was out so far, there were a number of sea cucumbers down at the water's edge, as well as countless star fish and sea stars. My son-in-law also managed to dig up several horse clams. They're pretty impressive. I suppose one or two could feed a family. Of course you wouldn't want to eat them off of that particular beach. After an hour or so, the headlamps started dimming and the tide turned and started to flood back in. We picked up about 1/2 a coffee can full of lead, as well as finding a brass ring, and what looks like a brass handle for a small shovel. All in all, it was a fun, productive two nights that set the tone for a delightful Christmas day. I hope that all of you enjoyed time with your family and friends and that you'll stay safe during the upcoming New Years Eve. God bless!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Blang

    Years ago, after I had grown up and gone, my parents moved to Florida. Dad loved the warmer weather, and unlike Ohio at the time, there was a building boom going on. In addition, my brother and his family lived there. It was a win-win situation. For reasons I'm not sure of, my folks ended up taking over the care of my brother's dachshund. Perhaps my brother felt that they needed a dog in their lives, so he gave up ownership of his dog Oscar. Oscar Meyer, which was a fitting name since he was a wiener dog. Like many animals, dogs like a routine. At a given time every night, Oscar wanted to go to bed. I"m not sure why, but my folks kept his bed in a coat closet. What was even more bizarre was the Oscar insisted on being wrapped up tight in his blanket. When it was time to go to bed, my Mom would say "OK Oscar- go get your "blang". So he dutifully grabbed his blanket, and they wrapped him up tight and laid  him in his bed and there he would stay until morning, when he would fight his way out of his "blang." It was quite entertaining to watch. Frankly, I would have had a panic attack if I had been wrapped up like that. I can't even stand to have my sheets tucked in under the mattress.  A few weeks back, I did a post on my Luster Loft blanket, from the American Blanket Company. It's by far the softest,  most comfortable blanket I've ever had the pleasure of sleeping under. I had told my friend Mark Smith, the postmaster,about it and as I had mentioned in the previous post, when my "blang" arrived, we opened up the box and both of us had our arms shoved in between the folds of the blanket up to our elbows. He talked about buying one, but never did, at least not until he acquired a girlfriend. We had spoken to her about my blanket in glowing terms, so when they came to Thanksgiving dinner, I let them come in and fondle my Luster Loft . Actually I had some reservations about letting Mark in to run his hands over my blanket again. I didn't want him developing an unhealthy attachment to it. However, after he'd experienced the luxury of that fleece delight, he decided he had to have one of his own. He ordered the evergreen and for an extra ten bucks had -The Blang, hash tag-Be Somebody-embroidered on it. He waited with baited breath for it come and when it did, he called me so that I could witness the revealing of his own blanket. As the pictures above depict, there was great anticipation and excitement when it was finally released from the box. As I've mentioned before, it's so soft and luxurious, it's almost sensual. Mark initially was going to use it as a throw blanket on the back of his love seat, but upon further consideration decided that the couch wasn't worthy of such a fine blanket and ended up ordering a new love seat so as not to taint his wonderful new cover. While he's waiting for the couch to arrive, he's using the "blang" as a throw blanket to ward off the cold while he and his girlfriend sit outside on the porch sipping hot chocolate and watch the sun setting over the mountains. Like myself, he's delighted with his purchase and I know that he's purchased several other items. His girlfriend, Sarah was also impressed with the quality and ordered a throw blanket for her mom from American Blanket Company. They both had an opportunity to speak to the Blanket Lady - Ari, and like me were delighted with her. The bottom line is, if you want to give a great gift, or if you just want to spoil yourself a little, give the Blanket Lady a call. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

I'm Your Right Hand Man

When I was a kid, winter was always a challenge for me. I didn't like cold weather, and Ohio in the winter was quite cold and frequently snowy. Like any kid, I wanted to be out with my friends though, throwing snow balls, sledding, building snow forts and whatnot. There was one closet downstairs for the whole family to share, and into that closet was crammed as many coats, hats, snow suits, gloves and mittens as possible. Every year for Christmas I was given a pair of gloves. By December 26th I had usually managed to lose at least one. No matter how diligently I searched the closet floor or shelf, I could never come up with a glove to match it's mate. On more than a few occasions I went out with mis-matched gloves. I don't recall now, but I may have had to settle for a glove on one hand and a sock on the other. Socks were notorious for getting lost too. Gloves and socks are probably part of the same genus- Clothingus Disappearus. Well, obviously I'm not a little kid anymore, and surprisingly I'm able to wear the same pair of gloves from one season to the next. However, I'm still having a problem with mis-matched gloves. More accurately, I'm sorely lacking in left handed gloves. All of the gloves pictured above are for my right hand. I didn't lose their mates, I cut them on the teeth of the fish that I clean. If I were ambidextrous I could switch hands and hold the fish in my right hand, thus giving me an equal number of both right and left gloves that were cut and I could throw away both. For some reason there is a flaw in my thinking that I can't seem to overcome. I have no problem throwing out the left  hand gloves that are cut- they're useless for keeping my hands dry. But the right hand ones are still fine, so I hang on to them. It doesn't seem to matter that there is no mate for them, they're still good. Why throw out something that is still useful? Years ago when my friend Buffalo Bob was fishing, we were able to help each other out. He's a southpaw and was always cutting his right glove. When we came to town we would get together and exchange gloves. It was a great system for both of us. I guess I'm going to have to break down and put a note on the bulletin board in the harbor this spring and see if I can find a lefty that wants to do a trade. My odds aren't good though. According to some research I saw, only about ten percent of the population is left handed. It also stated that lefties have a higher rate of psychosis. For those with mood disorders like depression or bi-polar disease, they were about average, at 11%, but in people with psychosis like schizophrenia, the number was closer to 40%. Holy cats! Maybe I could just walk the docks and casually strike up a conversation with my fellow fishermen and slowly bring up the subject of gloves and whether or not they're more inclined to clean their fish with their right or left hands. I wouldn't want to get on the bad side of some schizophrenic southpaw.Maybe I should write to the good folks at the Vinylove Glove Company and see if they can't start selling just left handed gloves for all us right handed fishermen. It might open up a whole new market. Perhaps I could recycle them as antennae devices for your car. Fill them full of Styrofoam, seal the bottom and stamp friendly sayings on them like Have a Nice Day!, or Pleased to Meet You. I could market them under the name Howdy's! On the other hand, I could just fill the middle finger with Styrofoam and have less cordial remarks like Get Lost! or Out of My Way! They might be big sellers in high traffic areas like L.A.  Either way the gloves wouldn't be going to waste. It's a win- win situation. I'm open to any other constructive ideas- just don't expect me to pay for them.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

No Earthquakes Here


   It's hard to imagine when looking at these tranquil pictures, that a very different scenario was playing out some 546 miles away. Anchorage of course was hit with a pretty strong earthquake several days ago- a 7.0 . My daughter, Autumn called that morning shortly after it happened, around 8;30 in the morning. She was working in a cafe in Palmer when it started and mentioned that things were falling off the walls and something fell down and hit a glass table top which shattered. Everyone rushed out into the streets and hoped for the best. Back in 1964 a magnitude 9.2 quake hit Anchorage with the loss of over 130 lives. I heard that the ground dropped over eight feet in places during that one.  When I spoke to Autumn, she was still pretty shaken up, and rightfully so. You never know if that's the worst of it or if there is more to come. Unfortunately there are aftershocks that can go on for some time. The USGS mentioned that in the next week or so you can reasonably expect anywhere from 84 to 610 aftershocks of magnitude 3 or above. Needless to say, sleep can be hard to come by when you're not sure if the ceiling is going to collapse on top of you or your bed will end up on the ground floor during the night. Fortunately, there were no deaths related to the quake, and I haven't even heard of anyone injured, although I'm not up  there so I'm not on top of it all. I found it somewhat interesting that the Anchorage Daily News ran an article about who to really thank that there weren't any deaths compared to earthquakes around the world. While I acknowledge that building practices in Anchorage have greatly improved since the 1964 quake, I suspect that God in all His mercy played an even bigger part in the fact that the loss of life was non-existent. Autumn's home sustained mild damage,mainly broken glass wear and a heavy dresser that had been turned over. No gas or water leaks though, and the electricity was back on in a matter of hours, which was really fortunate, as the temps were in the twenties and without heat, the water lines would eventually freeze and burst. I mentioned to her to video tape the damage or at least get pictures for insurance purposes. Her friend Molly didn't fare as well. There was damage to the sheet rock and extensive damage inside the house with broken mirrors, dishes, glasses, pictures, plants knocked over and more. I saw a notice from the city of Anchorage asking that people put off taking their broken items to the dump for a day or two to keep from overwhelming the business. I watched the news on Friday night and saw a lot of cars on the highway trying to return home from work in Anchorage, which required a lot of patience as the roads in some places were severely damaged. I saw long lines of people in the supermarkets trying to buy bread, water, milk and other items. It was a reminder to keep a supply of non perishable food on hand in case of emergencies, as well as bottled water. We never know when an emergency might happen, whether fire, flood,earthquake or some other disaster, and having the necessary means to deal with the every day needs can alleviate a lot of stress. It certainly doesn't hurt to make sure your car is at least half full of gas, that you have an adequate supply of any meds you might take and plenty of working flashlights or candles. I'm just so thankful that there was no loss of life. God knows it could have turned out different.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Inspector

  Well, Thanksgiving 2018 has come and gone. I hope yours was pleasant. If you were one of the tens of millions of Americans who took to the roads and skies this year, I pray that you made it home safe and that the trip was worth the expense and hassle. I, for one, have no desire to travel more than two or three blocks for a holiday dinner, and for as long as I can remember, haven't gone much more than ten feet; from my easy chair to my spot at the table for a Thanksgiving meal. I do miss having all the kids sitting around the table during the holidays, spilling their milk, hiding the stuffing under their plates and arguing about whose turn it was to do the dishes. Ahh, the good ol' days. This year we only had my oldest daughter Jen for dinner, but we were blessed to have five friends share our meal. I like to have a table full of folks for the holidays. For reasons I can't fathom, Jen finds the word pickle to be rather hilarious, so at the appearance of the relish tray there was a round of laughter and a discussion ensued about different words and their origins. As for pickles, I don't find them all that funny, but I do find them tasty.  I believe it was last year, or perhaps two years ago when I went on a walk to the cannery with a chicken hat on my head. It's a classic. More than a few people honked the horn and waved. Some folks just stared, probably wondering what kind of buffoon would openly waltz around in public looking so ridiculous. This year, someone, I don't know who but I have my suspicions, managed to find a turkey hat. I'm sure some mad hatter in China is laughing all the way to the bank. Oh well. I like Thanksgiving, in part because I really like good food. However, after raising seven children, we can't seem to get the part about cooking less under our belts. I believe we had an eighteen pound turkey this year, which meant we had about fourteen pounds left after the meal.I was really counting on my friend Mark to make more of a dent in the ample supply of food that had been prepared, but I think we were either the third or fourth dinner that he and his girlfriend  attended and at his last dinner, there were nine different pies, which he sampled from.Fortunately they came by the next day and we were able to pawn some of our excess off,  but  I've still had four or five meals of turkey sandwiches, and I believe tomorrow the fare will be the same. We finally managed to wipe out the green bean casserole and the last of the pumpkin pie last night. For breakfast I finished off the final piece of apple pie. Today at lunch the cranberry sauce, jello salad, sweet potatoes, gravy and broccoli salad made their last appearance. Our dog, Rigby checked out the fridge to make sure we weren't hiding any fugitive foods that he would have to take possession of. He was a total nuisance on Thursday, barking and whining and making demands. Jan finally had enough and he was banished to his cage upstairs for the remainder of the meal. He still managed to get more than his fair share of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy though, so I didn't feel too bad for him. I kept hoping that the tryptophan  in the turkey he managed to wrangle from me would put him to sleep, but I found out later that that is just a myth. However, had I given him more stuffing or yams, it would have helped send him to bed early. Oh well, maybe next year.