Tag Archives: high school

Another Change of Pace

In my last couple of years in High School I took a lot of photography classes. Back then (this was in 1964 – 1966) there was no such thing as digital photos. Everything was film and darkroom work. I remember enjoying taking pictures at football games, using Kodak Tri-X 400 black & white negative film.

I had to take it into the darkroom and develop both the film and then use the negatives obtained from the film strip to project onto photographic paper, which we then developed ourselves in the darkroom. It involved a lot of banging around in the dark, getting used to working by dim red light, and lots of chemicals to develop, set, and finish the work.

I’ve long enjoyed photography and still enjoy using tools like Photoshop to tweak and improve photos; sometimes to create political memes from them as well. I recently started using the magnification app that came with my iPhone XR and I’ve realized I can produce some interesting photos by zooming way in on subjects that have intricate or visually remarkable patterns.

Several of the ones I’m publishing here should be fairly easily recognizable to most people. At least one of them requires a bit of engineering knowledge and, perhaps, familiarity with space hardware. A couple of them should be easy to discern. Two of them relate to cooking in one way or another. What do you see?


Cramps For Gramps

OK, so I’m not actually a grandfather though, at 73, I believe I’m old enough to be a great grandfather. Alas, I am but a father . . . and an adoptive one at that. My children are 19 and 16 and, although they are growing more and more independent, my youngest still has two years of high school remaining and my oldest wasn’t ready to attend college the past year and is only now taking six units at our local junior college. She kinda had to be coerced into doing that.

I bring this up in part because I’m feeling the inexorable acceleration of my physical and mental decline as I age. I’m thankful I notice it and, truth to tell, there are times I’m not sure I know what’s truly happening. I often say I’m unclear as to whether my memory is going, or I just don’t give a shit anymore, which means I find it far more difficult to pay attention to those things I don’t give a shit about.

Being stuck almost exclusively in the house during this pandemic presents its own challenges as well, and I’m pretty sure it’s adding to the pressure I feel to keep up with my kids and help them as best I can. At the same time, I have come to realize we really don’t have enough retirement savings to generate the income we require . . . at least not while the kids are here consuming large quantities of food, etc.

My oldest was working part-time for a while and she would have been able to reduce the burden somewhat, but when they decided she could no longer work remotely, she knew that wouldn’t fly at the time due to my and my wife’s ages, as well as our underlying conditions. This was especially true at the time it happened because there was a great deal of uncertainty then regarding how COVID-19 was transmitted, as well as resistance to the actions that would mitigate some of the risk, e.g. social distancing, wearing of masks, etc.

Truth to tell, there are times when I find myself understanding, somewhat viscerally, why some men “give up” and die after retirement. My situation is considerably different than most men who have reached my age, and the need to be there for my girls is a powerful motivator. Still, the angst and conflict sometimes wear me down.

Ouch!

To top it off, there are lots of physical consequences to aging I don’t believe most people even consider until they’re older. One of those is leg cramps. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the majority of adults over the age of 60 experience leg cramps at least once every two months. I’ve been experiencing them for years and have found that increasing the amount of potassium in my diet seems to keep them partially at bay. The easiest way for me to get that supplemental potassium is by eating bananas.

Unfortunately, the night before last reminded me I must not be eating enough of them. Normal leg craps—at least for me—happen mostly in the anterior muscles of my lower leg (looking at an anatomy chart, I believe the muscle involved is the Tibialis anterior, but don’t hold me to it.) This time was very different.

I awoke to the realization I was having a cramp, but it manifested itself by pulling my left big toe completely back so it was nearly vertical with relationship to the plane of my foot. It was painful and took nearly five minutes to slowly push it back to horizontal, where it belonged. I hope to never experience that particular form of cramp again as long as I live, though I have no confidence that will be the case.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish with my blogging was to share my experiences of aging. I haven’t checked the stats lately, but a decade ago there were very few bloggers as old as I am and it seemed I had the opportunity to share something that is both universal (in that we all age, unless we die young) and specific (in that it’s happening to me.) I hope I’ve done that, regardless of whether or not many people read what I write. I’ll continue doing so because it’s somewhat cathartic for me, it’s a way to leave behind some proof I actually existed, and it’s helping me in writing my memoirs, which I hope to finish sometime next year (though it may have to wait until my youngest finishes high school.)


Dan Mirrors My Feelings

I have to share these few paragraphs written by Dan Rather. They mirror my feelings well. I would like to add that staying home during this time has exacerbated the difficulties we’re experiencing with (mostly) our younger daughter. Things were tough enough when she was actually attending school. Now that she’s home all the time, it’s increased the friction and made my life far more stressful than, perhaps, it’s every been. Now for some Dan:

Dan Rather

I sit locked in a self-imposed isolation as a deadly virus surges outside. Time frames for returning to any hope of a faint echo of normalcy stretch into the many months or years. This distant horizon strikes particularly deep for those of us at a certain age and stage of life. Our nation is adrift amidst rocky shoals with cruel incompetence as our captain and enabling cravenness as the first mate.

What a perilous time to live.

I know I am extremely fortunate. Neither the roof over my head nor the food on my table are in doubt. I have the privilege of protecting myself and my loved ones more than many. We don’t work in meat processing plants, or distribution warehouses, or even in hospitals. I strive to keep habits and schedules, but hours bleed and to-do lists go unchecked.
What a moment to contemplate the future.

The basic tenets of decency, truthfulness, and compassion are torn across our political divide. We see scientists denigrated and charlatans exalted. We see the rule of law and the norms of our democracy debased for personal gain. We see our allies bullied and our adversaries coddled.

What a time to be an American.

But that’s just it. It is a time to be an American, to contemplate our future, and to live. We have had very dark days in the past. We have had deep, systemic injustices. We have faced daunting odds. And women and men of courage, of ingenuity, of resolve have stood up time and time again. They have said some version of, “we will not abide.” It is our duty to not abide either.

From the streets, to newsrooms, to online social and political activism, I see countless millions of Americans who are not abiding. We are living through damage, loss, and sadness that could have been avoided. Much trauma lies ahead. But I know most of my fellow citizens agree that this shall not be us.

I desperately wished this was not our lot. I wish so many things. I wish the hospital wards were empty. I wish kids were having a summer and could go to school safely. I wish small businesses weren’t closing. Heck, I wish I was at a baseball game trying to not have the mustard drip on my pants. That’s not where we are.

We must be true to ourselves to recognize that much of what we are seeing now was not only the product of the last few months or even the last three-plus years. We have big problems, wherever we look. But we see them now. And we must do the hard work to fix them, not only through the ballot box but through the energy of our hearts and power of our imaginations. Whatever despair I might feel is tempered with a hope that is growing within me. I will not abide, and I believe most Americans will not abide either. Courage.

Dan Rather


Gloomy

A Little Spring Backtrack

I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!

Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.

Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.


My “Daughter’s” Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces, and I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for the last two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to begin with and had to scale them down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so here ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

Back At It!

Welp . . . after a Summer vacation punctuated by a month of Summer School, the new school year began yesterday. As it now stands, I have another three years of taking my youngest to High School and picking her up. That means I will have just celebrated my 75th birthday when she graduates, unless I can afford to buy her a car before then.

Problem is, She has so many issues I’m worried she will be a real danger behind the wheel, not so much to the world, but to herself. I should be able to afford driving lessons for her pretty soon, then we’ll find out how well she’s going to do.

I have to admit I’m reaching the point where I really miss being a grown-up, solely a grown-up. If I live to be 90 I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy my children as adults, and plenty of time to once again enjoy being an adult. Since I’m already close to 13 years older than my father was when he died, I’m not sure I’ll make it that far. Which, basically, leads me to believe I need to just appreciate what I have now and stop worrying about the future. I’m normally pretty good at that, but it seems the beginning of school has jarred my psyche somewhat.


I Feel Much Better Now

I think I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago. Shortly after my oldest participated in her final dance recital at Santa Susana High School, I was hit by the realization my baby is now an emancipated adult. She just got notification of her registration to vote yesterday. I was a little beside myself but, as you can tell, it passed fairly quickly, in large part due to numerous friends who were willing to listen and allow me to vent, which helped me understand what I was feeling.
Aimee Grajeeatin’

As many of you know, the impending graduation and emancipation of my oldest has hit me kind of hard with a case of “empty nest” syndrome. I know my grief is unwarranted, especially since she’s not leaving the house for the foreseeable future, and I know I’ll get over it; already am. Please don’t worry about me. Two things (among many) I’ve learned so far:

1. My greatest sense of loss involves time and it’s having passed. “Did I do the right things?” “did I help her enough?”; “did I neglect her by paying too much attention to her younger sister, who desperately needed it (still does)?”

2. Merely talking to Aimee helps for two reasons. The first is she reassures me I have been a good father and she feels no lack of love or attention. That feels good. The second is related, because talking to just about any teen with tude is often enough to make you want to cut yourself. Doesn’t feel as good, but I’m real familiar with it.

I really appreciate everyone who has reacted to, or commented on, my cries of agony. Special thanks to those whose shoulders I cried on, both figuratively and literally. Y’all are wonderful therapists.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


They Grow So Fast!

Last weekend was my oldest daughter Aimee’s final dance recital in High School. Our local paper did a nice little feature, and that’s her in the very front of the line of ballerinas. She’s been doing pointe for at least her Senior year. I can’t believe she’s graduating in about three weeks. Frankly, I’m not handling this transition all that well right now.

Our Aimee’s Final Ballet Performance

I lost—and grieved over—the relationship we had when we adopted Alyssa, who required so much attention, and it was exacerbated by Aimee’s quiet nature. Part of me fears we’ll never be close (typing these words nearly brings me to tears). I’ll get over it, but there’s a part of me that worries I haven’t really been a good parent and it’s too late to do anything about it. Another part of me thinks I’m being silly, but it’s not helping right now. Hopefully, it’s just the gloomy weather that’s affecting me.

I posted this on Facebook and got quite a lot of wonderful replies, most of them assuring me that most, if not all, parents feel inadequate and many recounted stories of their own experiences with their children. I’m grateful for the friends I have on Facebook, many of whom are also friends IRL. Quite a few of them were with us when we adopted both our girls, so they have a special connection to us. In responding to some of them, I offered another picture of Aimee, which I think is gorgeous (as is she). I’m including it here as well. Both photos were taken with my iPhone XR, without flash, which was prohibited during the performance. They’re not close to being HiRes, but they’re serviceable.

Modern Jazz (or Something Like That)

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