Monthly Archives: November 2015

Do bad things happen in more than threes? …

They say bad things happen in threes but after these past few weeks it seems entirely possible that they occur in bunches of four or more.

But no one was hurt in the most serious of the instances and the true cost was only money. As Ellen and Reid found out in last week’s letter, it’s how you react to what’s on your plate that really matters.


November 22, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Well, it’s been one hell of a last 30 days; job loss, phone dunked in the saltwater near Charleston, and then the crash.

Waiting today to hear from the appraiser but the policeman at the scene saw the Camry’s front end and said “That looks like it’s totaled.” But we shall see. At least no one was hurt. The officer called it a ‘garden variety’ crash at a site – where two lanes of traffic join into two lanes from opposite directions on Tyvola onto I-77 northbound. The poor Hispanic woman was at a dead stop in the right hand lane as I had my eye on traffic merging from my left. When I began to speed up, bam, there she was. Of course, having no phone was a real problem since she spoke little or no English. My first words to her were “Are you okay?” and then she returned to sobbing to whomever she was talking to on the phone.

In the eyes of the insurer, my Camry was totaled. But the silver lining is that no one was hurt. I'll spend sufficient cash for a new car but as they say, it's only money.

In the eyes of the insurer, my Camry was totaled. But the silver lining is that no one was hurt. I’ll spend sufficient cash for a new car but as they say, it’s only money.

She hadn’t called 911 yet. Really, not having a phone was the most maddening part, and Verizon has been almost no help in helping me get a new one. What really frosted me the day before was that the replacement phone from the insurance company was ‘reconditioned’ – so, I’d been paying $10 a month on insurance for a ‘reconditioned’ phone whose battery wouldn’t hold a charge. I almost went nuclear at the Verizon store when they wouldn’t replace it on the spot and that I’d have to work through the insurance company. What a total rip off. The ‘new’ phone ostensibly arrives sometime today. Once it does, the Verizon manager said she’d help me set it up.

The police were nice enough to let me retrieve a few valuables – notably my golf clubs – and gave me a courtesy ride home. For the first time, and hopefully the last, I got to sit in the rear seat of a cruiser surrounded by iron bars. The police woman and I had a nice Continue reading



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“All we have to fear …” and assurance the world won’t end

A big part of parenting is assurance to your children, beginning at young ages, that things will be okay; there are no monsters under the bed, you’ll find friends in your new school, keep your head on straight and your wits about you in your new job.

As you know, your assurances continue into their adulthood. The horrific events in Paris were yet another time for parenting to calm the waters and lend your older perspective to an uneven, uncertain world. The monsters have changed from the harmless childhood variety to the chilling persona of pure evil.

Our answers become a little more complex but are assurance nonetheless. Our children may be older now but the truism for their parents is that parenting never stops.


November 17, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Ellen, as to your question ‘… is the world going to end?’ given the horrific Paris massacre, my answer tilts toward ‘no.’ The murderous ISIS thugs might be propagating a new generation of insanity but the world has been down this road before. I think it’s a question each generation asks itself when the world seems headed toward certain ruin: ‘What is going to happen to us?’ Your grandparents in the 1940s asked it of the Nazis. In the 1950s we wondered if the hair-trigger nuclear standoff with the Soviets would be the end of us. The solution has been a world that stands united rather than divided and arrives at a strategy to end the evil. I suspect that is what will happen this time around but likely not before more pain is inflicted. What ISIS is successful at is promoting fear. Granted, there aren’t many direct parallels between times long ago and now, but President Roosevelt told Americans at the onset of World War II that the only thing we had to fear “was fear itself.” We have to have calmer, sensible heads come to the head of the table. It’s interesting to me that the focal point of this strife, this woe, touches on religion. How is it that religion excuses such killing in the name of its God? The temptation, as the late Air Force General Curtis LeMay promoted, was to nuclear bomb our enemies “back to the Stone Age.” No doubt we’ll have to match ISIS force with force – but not to their level of brutality – yet my uneducated guess is the strategy has to be much broader at several different levels; diplomacy, a consistent unity between nations, a smack down of the caliphate and its rogue mullahs by moderate Muslims, etc. It will take time, but we can’t just use air power or boots on the ground. My take is that the Syrian refugee situation is a good chance for us to show the rest of the Muslim world Continue reading


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Miss Emma heads to Florida but she won’t go to Liverpool …

By now you’re tiring of all my retirement blather. Alas, Ellen and Reid get the full dose of it so you’ll have to endure the same narrative they read in the weekly letters.

Such as when you take a look at a lot of retiree bucket lists. Travel seems at or near the top of a lot of wish lists but globehopping is not so much for me. Still, there’s a little bit of domestic / foreign travel in the foreseeable future.

As you might surmise, the events in France last week have complicated the decision somewhat. As of now I’ll plow ahead with the planning but my kids know I’ll keep an eye on developments. There is a silver lining to staying put; if I don’t go over there it gives Miss Emma and I more time to spend over here.


November 9, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Trying to wean myself of the work time/old habits. Still waking up about 5:00 a.m. but am trying to force the issue with mixed results about nodding back to sleep. I guess you have to start somewhere. I used to turn on the office lamps before I clomped downstairs to start the coffee. That habit has now gone by the wayside. I find myself sitting at the breakfast table while it’s dark outside trying to figure out what to do on that given day. The Charlotte Observer got a check from me for $446 last week to keep my subscription alive to the physical newspaper for the next year. That’s one thing that won’t be going away anytime soon. It wouldn’t hurt either of you to start a subscription to the Chicago Tribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and not of the online variety. Your grandfather would be smiling at the thought of you guys reading a real newspaper.

Dave H. called this morning to invite me down to Ft. Lauderdale to spend the first week of December at his place. Actually, I get the run of the house to myself while he’s out of town for the bulk of the week. That’s awfully nice of him. The thought is to fly down but the kayak has made the 10 hour drive before and it would be fun to lug it over to the open ocean at

Miss Emma fits like a glove atop the Camry. She knows the way to Charleston (like a down-and-back trip Wed., Nov. 18) and pretty soon she'll learn of the open ocean off Pompano Beach.

Miss Emma fits like a glove atop the Camry. She knows the way to Charleston (like another down-and-back trip Wed., Nov. 18) and pretty soon she’ll learn of the open ocean off Pompano Beach. Reid, at the wheel last year, will also get a shot at redfish over Thanksgiving in Hilton Head.

Pompano Beach to see if the wahoo or dolphin are biting. I’d need to paddle about a mile offshore but if the waves/ocean surge isn’t too bad it would be a lot of fun for a change to give it a whirl. But it is nice of him. Not entirely sure how that will impact my trips to see you both of north but I suspect I’ll head that way sometime before Christmas. Gotta stop in Des Moines, too.

Still trying to process all of the closure materials for Bank of America. The bank is not extraordinarily helpful Continue reading

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No wolves at the door …

So, what do I do now?

Whatever that is is already beginning to unfold. Perhaps the larger point for my two is to continue to underscore that things indeed are ‘… far better than fine and far better than well.’ It’s not enough for them to read between the lines; they’ve heard as much from me as I double-up on assurances.

So that’s where we are today. Adjusting, as many of you have, to the new regime that is retirement. I mean, what the hell? The hand has been dealt and now it’s about playing the cards.


November 2, 2015

Ellen/Reid: So, what do I do now?

That’s the $64,000 Question (that’s the title of an old game show when I was a kid). I can’t sit around and read the paper all day or spend time posting inane fishing videos on FaceBook or just idle around or walk or pick up trash. There has to be something of substance out there for me to do. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to work a part time job. What that might be, there is no clue. No real thought has devoted in that direction but the noodling on it begins right about now.

There’s no particular rancor directed at Bank of America. It’s just a big business, that’s all. Employees account for roughly 60 percent of expense cost, and something had to give if the bank wanted to make its numbers and assuage The Street. Some friends have asked if I was shocked but the correct answer was no; if you didn’t feel this coming something was wrong. My run there was fine although I was never sure they knew what they had in me. They are caught in such a trap of corporate lingo/non-communicativeness that it is beyond its ability to escape. It’s just the way it is in business. What’s maddening is that is not the way the rest of the world communicates. They ought to gravitate toward plain English/plain spoken-ness. But I guess musing about that kind of foolishness isn’t my concern now, is it?

The ‘package’ arrived over the weekend via FedEx and it’s nothing that wasn’t expected. There were a few pages of added – and likely unintended – tidbits included; someone’s hand-written notes about me Continue reading

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There’s always Hilton Head, kiddo. There’s always Hilton Head …

This letter was literally old news not 36 hours after it was mailed, overtaken by mid-week events that turned my life maybe not upside down but at least sideways. Depending on one’s perspective on the specter of unfortunate news, it either dims the lights or turns the bulbs up bright.

I prefer the latter over the former. To be otherwise doesn’t really doesn’t do anyone much good. You either fall on your butt and stay down or stand on your two feet and move forward. I’ll take the latter over the former in that case, too.


October 26, 2015

Ellen/Reid: At last the guest bath is done. Or at least 98% of it is done. The towel racks and other hooks are minor annoyances but the installation will be done soon enough. It should be all done within the next 24 hours. It’s somewhat amazing that it came together as quickly as it did; the contractor, Brian, is really good and I just fell between the cracks, in a good way, in his work schedule.

Sure, this may be a man's take on a guest bath but what the hell. It beats what was there.

Sure, this may be a man’s take on a guest bath but what the hell. It beats what was there.

The lighting gave me some concern since I wasn’t sure how big the hole in the drywall was behind the crappy old fixture. But the hole was small, and I could finagle a junction box in there so there wasn’t as much drywall work as anticipated. The wiring was cinchy. The tile worked out well and the coloration of things seems to these sad eyes to be relatively coordinated. Ellen, I’m not hep on what’s ‘in’ in terms of towels and bath mats and stuff like that so you’ll need to continue to guide me down that primrose lane. I’ll take a debut shower in it later tonight.

This was the outdated ugliness that should have been gutted years ago.

This was the outdated ugliness that should have been gutted years ago.

The downside is there is dust everywhere on everything in every room. Such are the wages of home renovation. I’ve yet to sit down to compute the total tab but the guessing is about $2,700.

Ellen, now I’ll turn the attention to the horrid first floor, brown-painted bathroom disaster. It won’t be much other than a touch up of paint and some new faucets and lighting fixtures so it shouldn’t be overly problematic. But I made grand pontifications, too, about the guest bath upstairs and we know how that turned out. Cha-ching.

Another teenager was killed this weekend in a speeding related accident a couple of blocks away from here. I drove by this morning and the crash site is literally directly across the road from another fatal teen wreck almost 10 years ago – that one was loud enough for me to hear Continue reading

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