In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog: scratchingforchange.blogspot.com

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

jescordwaineratgmail.com

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's Sure Looking Like....

...the party is over. With all the "no questions asked" free stuff to those that were foolish enough to fraudulently ask for public assistance (some even not legal citizens) and the fact the laws were only ignored, the coming trimming of staff overburden, demand for protecting the law, and easy targets, will lead to a bureaucratic feeding frenzy. Government workers will find they are expected to follow the rules, and those that are so obviously in not need for public assistance will find they are not only expected to return the money, criminal charges might be possible.

The party is over. Philanthropy at gunpoint, willfully ignoring the law, and an angry majority of taxpayers will lead to a reckoning never seen before. It's time, and the mess will be difficult to clean up.

edit: I have to add the change to the amount of government employees will probably startle many. With a business friendly administration, a new demand for accountability, and an unsustainable spending habit by taxing entities, the solution will be layoffs, lower spending budgets, and a realization you can't spend your way into prosperity. 

Many administrative regulation will disappear. While laws may demand certain things, arriving at what's required can lead to creative, agenda-driven, and unneeded administrative rules, which are only allowed by those that run the executive branch of the government. With the removal of certain regulations, the removal of those that administer the regulations will be necessary. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's Christmas

Years ago, the days preceding Christmas day were bitter from an Arctic front. The cold led to temperatures in the teens in the morning, with afternoons right below freezing.

The days were beautiful, with a pale sun and azure skies. Sunsets brought a brilliant orange that quickly followed the sun below the horizon. Other than the cold, the days were those that stamp memories forever.

Christmas day was the day the temperature finally rose above freezing. It was a day of reckoning for many, since the efforts to prevent freezing water pipes were futile during the long cold. Efforts to just drip water were futile, since the water pressure dropped, and the pipes eventually froze.

I had a relative that prepared their dinner, everyone was seated for the feast, and the ceiling fell onto the table. The dinner was ruined, and there was nothing to do, until the appraised surmised the damage, and the repairs could begin.

This morning, I awoke to a temperature of 67. The heavy fog created ghostly tendrils in the stirring air, and the quiet was filled with the sound of dripping of water from the bare limbs of the trees. As I watched the day begin, I realized the air conditioner would probably run sometime during the day, and the mosquitoes will be fierce some in the rural areas.

In a way, a little colder air would be pleasant, but in another, this warmth is much more pleasant than the bitter cold so many have to face. It's what there is, and I'm blessed for what I have.

Merry Christmas to all that venture into this cubbyhole tucked behind the last row in the internet, and may God bless.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

It's Firing Time

In the private sector, when you take over a new position, you look for problems, cut costs were they can be cut, analyze resources, and fire any personnel that serve no use.

It's that time for the United States, and my benchmark for the success of a President. Past experience dictates severe skepticism, but there's always hope. Time will tell.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Democracy and the Electoral College

I once heard Democracy described as two pedophiles, and a young child, voting on the age of consent. It's an extreme example, but accurate.

Today, the Electoral College tallies the votes, and state's rights are once again secured against the large urban centers with few understanding the concerns of the states with smaller populations. Many don't like this, but they probably haven't a clue about the reason for the Electoral College and the concerns of the founders of the United States. They'll complain, and continue in their attempt to erode the Constitution.

These are interesting times, but necessary. With the last eight years of quasi-socialism, the majority of people in the U.S. are not happy, and they showed their displeasure by electing a President without years in politics. That's a good thing, and I hope this expands with more entrenched politicians being removed from their feathered nests. Too many political entities are broke from pandering, and it's time for lifetime political tenure to end.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas and the Interstate (Re-post)

I wrote this a few years ago, using memories of observations from my travels for reference. I didn't proofread it again, so if you find any glaring errors, try to ignore them.

                                                                             ***

W.R. pulled his coat tighter, after closing and locking the door of his truck. Stopping for a moment, he took a deep breath, hoped for a hint of fresh air, but was rewarded with the odor of diesel and the exhaust of the tractor-trailer rigs at the pumps. Moving on, he hunched his shoulders in the cold, damp north wind. The faint smell of the grill in the attached restaurant made his stomach growl, although he wished he was smelling something more traditional on a Christmas Eve.

Glancing around the parking lot, he felt the familiar feeling all truck stops brought. They were all the same, but different. All had different faces behind the counter; some he knew, some he didn't; all were the refuge of those that led a huge portion of their life behind the windshield of a truck.

Across the parking lot, in a corner isolated from traffic, he noticed the small car, with the woman standing and looking under the hood. Steam rose in the cold wind and was whisked away; streamers of lost hope and anxiety.

W.R. paused, silently argued with his inner voice, but succumbed to the urge to help someone in trouble. Changing direction, he quickly walked to the car, stopped for a moment, then offered his help.

"Do you need some help?"

The woman looked his way. For a moment a faint smile crossed her face, but was soon replaced with the hardened expression of someone that felt slight fear and apprehension. She stared at his face, paused, but replied with resignation in her voice: "The engine light came on; the engine died; so I coasted to this spot."

W.R. examined the woman's face for a moment. The glance revealed a young woman with dirty blonde hair, a pretty face, and a determination found only by those unwilling to give up, when faced with problems. He guessed she was around thirty, down on her luck, and stranded in a truck stop, while travelling somewhere important. What little makeup she wore was overshadowed by her unkempt appearance: an old flannel shirt, faded blue jeans, and sneakers that had seen better days.

"Do you mind if I take a look?"

She hesitated before answering: "Go ahead; maybe we can figure it out."

He liked her answer. Unwilling to admit defeat, she wasn't about to defer to the advice of a stranger.

It didn't take long for W.J. to make an initial assessment. The coolant reservoir was empty, and the steam was from a cracked heater hose.

"Have you checked the oil"

"I was about to."

Pulling the dipstick revealed a gray, oily sludge. W.R. hesitated, but soon announced: "You've lost coolant, and you have a blown head gasket."

"Is that expensive to repair?"

W.R. looked at her face and found a worried look. He paused to reexamine the car before he replied: "Probably more than the car's worth."

"My phone is out of minutes. Do you have one I can borrow?"

W.R. felt a pang of apprehension. His kindness had led many places he never wanted to go, but he was raised to be that way. He immediately replied: "Sure", and handed her his cell phone.

She dialed a number, waited a few moments, then answered: "Hi, Mom. I'm broken down on the interstate, so I won't be there in time."

W.R. walked a few steps away to give her privacy. Although he couldn't hear all the conversation, he heard enough to understand the woman didn't have the money, her mother would need to wire her some money, and it wouldn't happen until a family member returned to take her to wire the money.

"I'll be alright. I'll stay in the car, and I'll call to give you the place to wire the money."

Lost in his thoughts, W.R. was a little startled when the young woman said: "Thanks. I appreciate it."

A thousand thought crossed W.R's. mind. Pushing sixty, a little overweight, and with a salt and pepper beard, he felt he looked the epitome of a trashy trucker. He felt any offers to help would either repulse, or cause fear to the woman young enough to be his daughter. He looked at the woman, and her face revealed a sadness that pulled at his soul.

Ignoring his instinct to flee, he asked: "How far are you going?"

He couldn't read her reaction, but she replied: "I'm going East, to Mobile. I was hoping to spend Christmas with my mother."

W.R's. heart broke. It was Christmas eve, Mobile was a few hundred mile away, and it would be after Christmas before she received her money.

"I'm heading East. You can ride along, and come for your car after Christmas."

The woman's face changed from apprehension, hope, fear and a guarded look in a few moments. Pausing, she soon spoke: "I'll wait until you come back."

Feeling awkward, and not really knowing what to say, W.J. responded: "I'm going to get something to eat, so it may be awhile. Why don't you join me?"

"I'm not really that hungry."

"I'm buying. I won a few hundred on scratch-offs at the last stop, so I need to pass my good luck on"

She examined his face for a moment, smiled, and replied: "I'd hate to ruin your good luck."

As they walked to the restaurant, she spoke: "I'm Cathy."

Stopping, he turned, held out his hand and introduced himself: "I'm W.R., and I'm pleased to meet you."

She shook his hand, and replied: "W. R. must stand for something."

"Wendell Roberts; everybody just calls me W.R.; I like that better."

Continuing to the door, she spoke again: "It's not a bad name."

W.R. laughed, and replied: "No, but it led to a few fights in grade school."

She laughed, started to say something, but decided not.

W.R. held the door, as they entered the restaurant. Mostly men sat at the tables and booths. A few looked at them as they entered, but most just continued eating, or staring into space.

Finding an empty table, they were soon seated. A tired waitress soon arrived to take their order.

W.R. responded: "I'd like some coffee, and a little time to look at the menu.:

Turning to Cathy, she replied: "I'll have coffee, too."

After the waitress left, W.R. cautioned: "There's a lot on the menu, but other than breakfast, I usually stick to the hamburger, or club sandwich. Unless they hired new cooks over the last few weeks, everything else isn't very good."

The waitress soon returned with their coffee. Speaking as she set the cups on the table, she asked if it would be one ticket, or two.

"Put it on one ticket", W.R. responded. "I'll have a cheeseburger all the way, with fries."

Cathy was quick with her order: "I'll have the same, but cut the onions."

Writing quickly, the waitress left to give their order to the cook.

Neither spoke, until they fixed their coffee and took the first sip.

Cathy was first to speak: "The coffee is good."

W.R. smiled and replied: "It's some of the best around. It's fresh ground and makes up for the food."

Cathy examined W.R.'s face as he looked out the window. Mostly unwrinkled, the only clear lines were his smile lines. His beard was neatly trimmed, a little curly and his pale complexion was free from damage by the sun.

"Have you driven trucks most of your life?"

W.R. turned to look at her face, when he answered: "Since I left the Army in my mid-twenties." I started working for others and eventually bought my own rig. I've hauled just about everything, but it's mostly been flatbed and long hauls."

"Do you have a home?"

"Not right now. My wife of 15 years got it in the divorce settlement, and I kept what little I had for my retirement."

"Do you have any children?"

"I have a step-daughter, although she's like my own. I was hoping to see her, but she's spending Christmas with her mom; and her grandfather. I'll see her when I get back to North Texas"

"Is that where you're from?"

"Amarillo. I was raised there, left for the Army, returned long enough to marry, and start trucking."

"What about your parents?"

My dad died in a farming accident, when I was in the Army. I wanted to request an early out, but Mom wanted to sell the farm, since there wasn't much money to made and she didn't want to keep fighting so hard for so little. She's living with my sister and her husband. We never really were that tight of a family, so I only see them a few times during the year"

Saddened, Cathy spoke without thinking: "That's sad." She wished she hadn't said anything, when she saw the momentary look of sadness, and defeat, in J.R.'s expression.

"I guess so. Those types of things just happen."

Cathy decided to be quiet, but W.R. continued the conversation: "What about you?"

Cathy stared out the window and replied: "I never married. I thought I would, but my ex was full of more crap than a Christmas turkey."

W.R. silently waited for her to continue.

"He had a good job offer in Houston, persuaded me to leave Mobile, so I went to find my dreams. One year later, he's fired for drinking on the job; six months later I had enough, and a little over two years after leaving, I'm here, fresh quit from a crappy retail job, and broken down on the interstate."

Before W.R. could ask any more questions, the waitress returned with their order. Placing the plates in front of each, she placed the ticket in front of W.R. and left.

Cathy spoke: "She could have asked if we wanted some more coffee."

W.R. laughed, and replied: "I'll flag her down in a minute. It looks like only half the wait staff is here, and I wouldn't be surprised she doesn't have a relief."

Cathy looked around, and realized W.R. was probably right. Feeling a little sheepish, she commented: "I should have known. I waited tables for a few months. It's tough to be helpful, when it's all you can do to keep up."

As they ate, Cathy remarked: "The burger is good."

W.R. replied: "They make their own patties, and cook them on an open grill."

As they finished, W.R. flagged down the waitress, and pointed at his empty coffee cup. She soon returned, filled both cups and asked if they needed anything more. Both answered "No; thank you", and she was soon gone.

Sipping her coffee, Cathy said: "I'm guessing my car will be towed before tomorrow night."

"Maybe not."

"It doesn't matter. It isn't worth the towing fee."

Sitting silently, W.R. thought of a friend, made an excuse to go to the restroom, and was soon away from the table to make a phone call. Returning to the table, he asked Cathy: "I have a friend that will buy your car for scrap; if you're interested."

Cathy sat for a moment before replying: "How much?"

"He wouldn't commit, but said he just finished repairing a tire down the road, and would meet us in the parking lot."

"Well, let's go find out."

Rising from the table, W.R. picked up the ticket, and examined the cost. When they reached the checkout, their waitress was there checking out another customer. When finished, she quickly rang up their bill, and announced the cost of a little over sixteen dollars. W.R. pulled a twenty from his pocket, peeled another with it, handed it to the waitress, and said: "Keep the change."

Shocked, the waitress started to say something, but didn't when she noticed his wink. A huge smile appeared, but soon faded, when a customer called from one of her tables. With a quick "Thank you very much", she was soon gone.

"That was more than kind"

"She deserves it. Waiting tables is a thankless job, without tips."

A gust of cold wind caused both to bend their heads to the wind as they left the restaurant. Looking towards her car, they could see a service truck parked next to it, with a man looking it over.

As they walked up, the man held out his hand and spoke: "Howdy W.R.; Merry Christmas."

"How are you doing, Hank?"

"I'm tired, but the business is too good to stop. Most of my competition is off tonight, and I just had another call for a flat repair."

Cathy introduced herself and asked: "So, what do you think?"

"I'll give you a hundred dollars for it."

W.R. quickly responded: "The tires are almost new; you'll get twice that much for selling them used."

"Yeah, but I'll have to put them on, so there's labor involved."

Pausing, Hank offered another price: "I'll give you another fifty, but I won't go any higher."

Cathy looked at W.R. with a questioning look on her face. He nodded "yes", but she was hesitant.

W.R. waited, but Hank quickly responded: "You're killing me. As it is, I won't make much money."

W.R. replied: "Maybe not, but she's probably losing money."

"Okay, I'll give you one hundred seventy five, but that's my final offer."

Cathy quickly responded: "I'll take it; I even have the title."

"I don't need it, but I'll take it anyway. You sign it, and I don't have to worry about you reporting it stolen."

Pulling the title from her purse, she signed the back, and handed it to Hank.

"If you have anything in it, you need to get it now. I'll probably tow it before morning,"

Opening the back door, Cathy pulled out a suitcase and two Walmart bags, with wrapped presents. Placing them on the ground, she quickly took the money Hank pulled from his wallet.

Shaking her hand, he said: "It's pleasure doing business with you, but I need to get me a cup of coffee to go and get out of here. There's money to be made."

Quickly shaking W.R.'s hand, he was soon off towards the door of the restaurant.

Cathy stood quietly as he disappeared. W.R. could see her eyes were brimming, so he quickly said: "We need to go put your things in my truck. After that, you can go use the restroom, I'll get us some coffee to go, and we'll be off.

Hank was sitting in the truck, with the engine running, when she returned. The heater warmed the cab, which made him a little drowsy. Taking a sip of coffee, he watched, as she climbed into the passenger seat. Fastening her seat belt, W.R. put the truck in gear, and started from the parking lot.

Cathy was first to speak as Hank accelerated up the entrance ramp on the interstate: "I want to thank you for your help. I figured the car was total loss and I'd get nothing."

W.R. didn't know what to say. It was obvious she had almost nothing to her name, and little more to show for the last two years of her life.

Cathy's laugh surprised W.R. as she commented: "I only paid five hundred for it; and used it for months. Truthfully, I was surprised it lasted as long as it did."

W.R. continued to drive silently, but Cathy was in the mood to talk. He decided she was probably a little nervous and was glad for the company.

"I'll be home in time for Christmas with my mom. She'd have come with Uncle Bill to get me, but he doesn't drive on the highway any more; he broke both his legs last year, while driving to Florida, and is too scared to drive any farther than the grocery store."

"Your mother doesn't drive?"

"She doesn't have a car, and Uncle Bill won't let her drive his pickup. I'm sure he'd have brought her to wire me some money this evening, but he's visiting his daughter. Even then, I doubt they'd find any place open"

W.R. digested the information for a moment. Cathy soon commented: "You need to meet my mother. I think she'd like you."

"What about your father?"

Cathy's response was quick, and full of vehemence: "That sorry bastard is probably in jail, or shacked up with some whore."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Mom left him years ago, and if she hadn't, I'd probably shot him for beating her."

W.R. didn't know what to say, but Cathy did: "She's about your age, and she's still very attractive."

The comment made W.R. nervous, but raised he curiosity. If she was as pretty as her daughter, she might be someone to meet. He'd been lonely, since his divorce, and his life didn't allow much time for dating.

Handing Cathy his cell phone, W.R. advised: "You should call her, and let her know you're on the way."

Cathy felt guilty for a moment. In all that happened, she hadn't called her mother, and all she knew was she was stranded in a truck stop.

"Hi Mom. I found a ride, and I'll be there in a few hours...No, a kind trucker offered me a ride...I know, but I can take care of myself....don't worry, I'll call when I get close....I can walk to the house, it's not that far from the interstate.........okay, but tell your neighbor I'll give them some gas money......I love you, too....Bye.

"She's worried. I can understand that, she hasn't had much luck with men."

Both were silent for the next few hours, except for comments about the traffic, or things of no importance. Cathy eventually nodded off, so W.R. turned on the radio and listened to music as he drove.

When they were getting close to Mobile, W.R. spoke loudly, so Cathy would wake up: "We're almost there. You probably should call your mother."

Cathy woke, took his phone, and stared through the windshield for a few moments, before dialing.

"Hi Mom. We're almost there...I dunno....that's on 65, isn't it?"

Recognizing the interstate number, he told Cathy: "I'm heading north on 65. We can meet her somewhere there."

Cathy continued: "That's that Super Walmart past Airport?....I'll ask."

Turning toward W.R., he quickly answered: "I know where that is."

"Okay...I'll see you, when we get there...Uncle Bill's home?...Great."

For the next few minutes, Cathy talked about how Mobile changed, even in the short few years she was gone. They were soon at their destination, so W.R. pulled into the parking lot and came to a stop. In a few minutes, an older pickup pulled next to the truck.

Looking at the truck for a moment brought a huge smile to Cathy's face. Climbing from the truck, she hurried to meet her mother, who she hugged tightly and kissed on the cheek. Quickly hugging her Uncle Bill, she turned to find W.R. approaching with her suitcase and bags.

"Mom; Uncle Bill; I want y'all to meet W.R."

Both smiled, and held out their hands. W.R. shook both their hands and said: "I'm pleased to meet you."

Cathy's mother responded: "I'm Ellen, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help."

W.R. examined her face, and replied: "It was nothing. It was on the way."

Ellen was pretty, just like Cathy said. Far from young, W.R. could see Cathy in thirty years.

We'd like you to have Christmas dinner with us."

"I appreciate the offer, but I need to keep going. I'm due to deliver my load tomorrow and pick up another for delivery in Dallas in two days."

Cathy pulled a small pad from her purse, quickly wrote down a number and handed it to W.R.

"This is my Mom's number. Call, if you're this way again."

W.R. took the piece of paper, stuck it in his coat pocket, and replied: "It's nice meeting you all, but I need to get going."

Cathy quickly hugged him, and said: "Merry Christmas, Wendell Roberts; and God bless."

W.R. hugged her back, looked at her face, and saw her tears. Turning, he returned to his truck, placed it in gear, and waved as he pulled away. Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw them standing together, and waving in return.

Pulling back on the service road, he was soon on the next entrance ramp and accelerating into the traffic. Rolling down the window, he reached into his pocket and threw the piece of paper out the window.

For a few moments, he regretted what he did, but knew it was best. Turning on the radio, he found a rock station and turned the music up loud. He'd stop a few miles up the road; and continue on, after a short nap. He'd work on his log book tomorrow, while he waited for them to unload his truck.

Friday Malaise

For the last few hours, I've had that feeling that I'm either catching the creeping crud, fatigue has won, or both.

My plan is to leave work early, stop for some Nyquil, take some with a shot of scotch, soak in a hot bath, and retreat to the bed.

Bleh!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Well. When You're Gone for a Few Days.....

....they change the format of Blogger. So, I get to wander through the buttons, and hope I don't accidentally turn off the harmonic warp balance control and release the antimatter.  If that happens, don't go outside because the sky looks pretty.

You've been notified.

Monday, November 14, 2016

No Rest for......

.....I have no idea the proper description.

I'm back in Galveston for a project. It's not big, but it will take a few weeks...if not longer.

I won't complain about the difficulties of dealing with the customer, but there are some, and they can cost money, if not addressed.

Still, Galveston is a wonderful place during off-season. The Gulf is beautiful; the beach is less crowded; the citizens seem to take a sigh of relief; and there's a quaint, comforting feeling, when sitting on the seawall, and feeding the birds. The cooler, drier Autumn air has a feeling of anticipation. Winter will arrive, and it can be a harsh, bitter, damp cold. A strong north win will penetrate light clothes and chill to the bone.

I'll write when I can. As time flies, and I age, I realize these are the moments when the season of life offers strong memories tempered by experience. If I don't share them, they'll leave forever; tenuous filaments of smoke in a light breeze.  


Monday, October 31, 2016

I'm Still Around

I may one day write about the last few months, and the few months ahead; but not right now. There are some raw emotions I'm still dealing with, and lots of work on a house.

I miss writing, but time limits thoughts to thoughts, and the written word as a future task. Eventually my life will settle down, and I'll have the time to either astound, confuse, irritate, or instigate a laugh.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It Was a Beautiful Morning (Annual Repost)

I was reading again about the attack on the World Trade Center. The horror returned, the anger at those that hate because they hate our society, and how a nation was stunned by the brutality of others. While those that committed the acts of terror thought they were gaining followers, those they attacked decided they would fight their cult...as long as they remember.  

****


It was an early Fall. The temperature was in the mid 50's and the skies were crystal clear. I had just finished breakfast and we were driving to the job site in the twilight of dawn. The motel was close to our project site, so the trip was short.

Traffic was light as we placed the advance warning signs and started closing down the inside lane of U.S. 59 in Cleveland, Texas. We had five sections of concrete to pull. We sawed the concrete the day before, drilled lifting holes and now needed to pull the sections of failed pavement and start preparing for the new concrete. The pour was set for 10:00 am.

It didn't take long for the lifting machine to pull the first section of paving. As soon as the broken slab was moved to the shoulder, the crew started drilling holes for the anchors. When the anchors were placed, the crew placed a mat of rebar and moved to the next patch.

The procedure was moving as planned, so all five patches were well on the way to being prepared by 8:00 am. We would be ready for the concrete. I checked the work and started documenting the sizes on a daily report.

Around 30 minutes later, my boss called my cell phone. I assumed he was checking our progress, but he wanted to tell me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers. He didn't have any details. I wondered what failure had led a pilot to fly their small plane into the tower. Bad weather? An error in judgement? I thought about it for a few minutes and then went back to work.

It didn't seem very long after that when my boss called me again, which I thought would be a progress check. It wasn't. He explained that it was a passenger jet that hit the first tower and another had flown into the second tower. He described the preliminary news feeds he was watching on television. I could only stare while my mind raced.

We continued working. My boss kept me informed. It was now clear it was a planned terror attack. He was in contact with the area engineer office for the Texas Department of Transportation. We were working for them and their decisions would decide whether we would pour concrete, which required hours of time to set, or place a temporary material to be removed in the future. The decision was to proceed as we always did, so we prepared for the concrete pour.

Before the concrete arrived, my wife called. She was terrified and wanted me to come home. I told her I couldn't leave until the concrete was poured and we were off the highway. Even then, I couldn't leave if we were to continue with our project. I told her I would come home immediately if the project was shut down, and to go to her mother's if she became too worried.

More information was now available, so I knew there was an immediate call for all air traffic to land. I noticed the absence of air traffic immediately. We were close enough to Bush International in Houston to see the constant flow of air transports, which dwindled and eventually ended.

We poured the concrete and started the process of preparing for the next day. I went to the motel to catch what I could on television. The loops of the impacts, the falling towers and the smoking section of the Pentagon was almost unbelievable. My mind was having a hard time wrapping around the fact we had been attacked and the result was the death of thousands of innocent people.

We finished the day as usual. We were prepared for the next day when we started opening the lane in the early afternoon. I had spent long minutes as we were finishing staring at the empty skies, It was bizarre to not see the heavy air traffic. Contrails from military jets stretched across the skies. I wondered if they were ours, or the jets of an enemy that was in the process of invading.

I had kept in contact with my wife during the day. After I reached the motel, we had a long conversation. She was calmer. I knew she still wanted me to come home, but she understood that it probably wouldn't happen until the week was over. Since I was only about two hours from home, I reassured it wouldn't take long to reach home if anything changed.

Watching television was like watching a fictional disaster movie. I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around the events of the day, but it was becoming clearer that it was a middle eastern terror group. My anger was rising and all I could think of  was how cowardly it was to attack innocents. I wanted our military to bomb half the Middle East to Hell. Kill them all and let God sort them out.

I'll never forget that day. Time stopped and it became apparent that the cruelty in the world is always only moments away. Barbarians had tested our defenses and managed to find a weak spot for their advantage. It wasn't a pleasant thought then and still isn't. I feel no compassion for such people and can only offer their death be swift, although many days I'd prefer they would suffer the agony of those trapped on the upper floors of the World Trade Center Towers.  Even after fifteen years, I'm still angry. I'm not ready to forgive, or forget.

Friday, September 9, 2016

So, I Learned Something Today

I was reading a news report about those having a hard time returning to New York City society, after going to "Burning Man". Many are depressed, which - to me - means somewhat of a traumatic return.

I never heard of "Burning Man". I had no idea the event existed, until I looked it up on the internet, After reading, I realized the event, which started as a bonfire with friends on a beach in California, now involves thousands in the Nevada desert. A "radical form of self expression", as described by the creators of the event, which involved burning a man, and his dog, in effigy, is now an annual event in a pseudo-city built for the event. After the even the city disappears, without a trace; a requirement demanded by those that volunteer, and the Bureau of Land Management.

From what I've read, the conditions are rather primitive (many only bathing with wipes for the week), and the Woodstock atmosphere of free expression allows for the attendees to throw away their daily lifestyle for an alternative lifestyle reminiscent of the days of the flower children.

So, now what was once just a few friends gathering on the beach, is a worldwide network of similar events, which promote an alternative lifestyle for one week. I guess that's good, but in a way, it reminds me of a cult, and cults can be disasters.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Purges

Society purges those that conflict with those that want supreme power. In the past, the rulers banished, or murdered those they felt were a threat. In present times, one great purge of recent history was when the Marxisst took over Russia, and those in power purged millions from society. They were a threat, and considered unnecessary.

The Muslims are doing this today, and the current Democrats are making every attempt to remove firearms from private citizens, so they can start their complete purge.

One purge of note was the purge that ended with the creation of the United States. As opposed to others in the past, individual freedom was the reason for the purge, and those that attempted to prevent this freedom were purged from power.

The United States is due for a purge. Who is purged is the question. Those in power obviously want it to be those that question their abuse of power. The citizens feel otherwise. Time will tell how this ends. .

Friday, August 5, 2016

Where Does it Stop?

The government is laundering money, allowing high ranking officials to break laws with impunity, distorting the Constitution for "feel good" results, raising the debt at alarming rates, wasting money to the tune of billions per day, harassing citizens to keep the bureaucracy intact, and ignoring those that furnish the money.

Where does it stop?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not Paying Attention

I check my blog, but time restraints prevent much posting Many will still take a peak, which leads to the reason for this post:

Over a quarter of a million visitors perused this site. I know some by name, but not many, and have the feeling many visits are by aliens, or internet spiders. Still it's a tremendous number, and I'm grateful for the visits.

Thanks to all that visit, whether human, or not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Useful....and Maybe an Idiot

The world is a dangerous place. Those that dabble all over the globe realize this, and those that abuse their power should; but many have ego problems that prevent the realization they're expendable to those that really don't answer to any higher authority.

After watching the current administration ignore many laws, dabble in the politics of dangerous countries, take payoffs from foreign powers, and ignore the ethics of a healthy society, I wonder who is in so deep, their only out is to disappear, whether they want to, or not.

Time will tell,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Letting My Feet Hang Down

I have much to write, including a few stories, some personal observations, and the finish of my novel. Unfortunately, life led to some tasks that will consume much of my time. So, I'll write when I can, perform my tasks, and continue this journey on the bozo bus. It's fun, like Disneyland, with Charles Manson as the tour guide. You never know what's coming next, but you know you're taller than the signs.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Now, They Must Move On

The woodpeckers raised two healthy males this season. Early last month, they came with a parent, which would give them food, while teaching them to learn to feed. It was endearing to watch, but over the last few days, I noticed a change.

Since the young birds were now independent, and will feed without help, the parents are establishing their territory. They'll chase the young birds away from the oranges, or feed. The young birds still sneak in for a morsel, but are chased away, when caught at the task.

It's time for the young birds to move on. They'll be around, but the constant attacks by the parents will eventually extend their range, and they'll be more comfortable where they're not harassed by those that brought them to this earth. They'll establish their own territory, and eventually find their own mate.

It's been interesting to watch. Last year there was only one fledgling, and it was gone quickly, which made me wonder if it was the victim of a cat, or hawk. This year brought a larger family, and more opportunities to observe the habits of the red belly woodpecker. Their tenacity is amazing, and their fierce nature while feeding leaves most birds, even blue jays, wary of approaching, and unable to budge them from their feed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Immigration Nonsense

First, the current problem with immigration is not a problem with immigration; it's a problem with an illegal invasion. Avoiding the legal process only means the respect for the citizens doesn't exist. It's as criminal as burglary.

The United States is the home of a multitude of races, religions, and ethnicity heritages, but the mandate for all is allegiance to the country, a demand for liberty, ethics that only accept a willingness to be productive, and understanding that individual rights are written into law. There are no gray areas to these requirements, and too many are unwilling to accept these things are necessary for a healthy society.

I don't think enough in Washington D.C. understand the requirements of citizenship, abuse their powers to illegally try to change the Constitution, and are unwilling to discard their contrary agendas. Otherwise, they may be more of a harm to the nation than those coming without permission. Regardless, they too should be taken to task for their transgressions, and made aware of the consequences, which due to their actions, requires criminal charges, and prosecution.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Quandary of Corruption

After years of management, I've observed people at both ends of the spectrum, and how they perform their tasks. While there are many methods, only two important distinctions can be applied to all: right and wrong. Either a person is willing to correct mistakes to do things the right way, or they're willing to do anything to absolve responsibility for bad decisions, or actions; and the methods to handle this usually don't shine a favorable light on the person.

Hillary Clinton erased emails she said were not important. Her further explanation detailed those she erased were frivolous, with the content only involving the wedding of her daughter, the death of her mother, or yoga techniques. Investigation revealed she destroyed records of communications with her aides, and the emails were about business of The Department of State. Her action of erasing these emails not only violated policies she swore to uphold, they violate criminal statutes.

So now, the evidence is accumulating, many members of the Department of State obviously are involved, and it's likely the F.B.I. investigation will lead to a recommendation for charges, indictments and prosecution.

Loretta Lynch is the Attorney General with the power to bring evidence to a grand jury. With what's known, honest people will  think she has no other options, and must pursue indictments, but there's the opinion she won't, which leads to her quandary: Should she continue pursuing the agenda of her political beliefs, which allows a lack of integrity? Or should she do what's right, and honor her oath to uphold the laws of the United States?

Time will tell what she does, but even if she doesn't pursue charges, there is the possibility of future Attorney Generals finding her malfeasance as criminal, and she could have her pension removed at best, or spend time in jail, with monetary fines.

She has a quandary, has the eyes of a nation on her actions, and will face many problems, however she decides to act.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Leo" Revisited

I wrote the following a few years ago. My wife brought him up today, since we were talking about the wisdom of those that labor, make an honest living, and agonize over the correct amount to charge. It may seem high, but if the person is honest, it's only fair. 

Some people don't realize the labor of a person is trading pieces of their life for material goods, that can be building a road, or baking a special wedding cake. It's trading time - which is more precious than all the gold in the world - for something that is tenuous. 

Enjoy

                                                                     ***

I'll call him Leo. That wasn't his name, but his name isn't as important as he was.

Leo was born near Baton Rouge in the 40's. His early years in life didn't include school, but they did include long summers of helping with the bills by picking cotton. His fate in life was the fate of many others, unless he escaped, which he did.

Leo found a job with a contractor working in a refinery in Baton Rouge. It was hard labor work at first, but he wasn't content, so he patiently learned different crafts. He learned to build forms, pour concrete and finally, he learned to operate heavy equipment, which is what he was doing the first time I saw him on a project.

Leo had the touch for operating heavy equipment. I remember the first time I ever saw him suddenly stop, take a look, and announce: "There's something down there". We were excavating for pipes and he felt a difference in the controls. I took a shovel and jumped in the trench.

As I carefully hand excavated, I kept expecting something large, such as a piece of concrete, or a large tree root to be uncovered. Instead, I found a telephone cable smaller than my little finger. He hadn't even skinned the insulation. Other than a small crimp, the cable was like new. I was impressed. I was, also, relieved to know I didn't have to worry about my safety, since careless operators had killed many by digging through a gas line.

Over the years, Leo and I, worked many long days on different projects. Although he usually operated equipment, he wouldn't hesitate to help with anything. His skills weren't lost. He could hang with the best and work young men to the point they had to admit respect. He seemed tireless and his strength was phenomenal. He would hand tighten a fitting and I had to take a wrench to remove it.

I know Leo lost money over the years helping some of the hands through a pinch. Most would pay him back, but some left and never settled their debt. It would anger me, but he'd let it go. I felt they were abusing his kindness; he was wiser of such things and knew he would never loan money he couldn't afford.

Leo had good advice for many a young men. He'd give it to help; not to prove anything. His experiences in life weren't to be dismissed, although some would ignore what they should have paid to acquire. When he realized his advice was falling on deaf ears, he never became angry, or attempted to help any longer. He'd only shake his head and walk away. I could see the sadness on his face. He knew suffering would follow his ignored advice.

Leo wasn't a saint. He had his brush with the law. While it could be blamed on the amount of alcohol he'd drink after work, I only felt it contributed. He had good cause. I still remember when it happened:

We started that morning at daylight. We were preparing a concrete pour and were pushing hard to get the concrete poured before the rain that was forecasted. It was early winter and the high cirrus were a sign of what was to come.

We finished our preparation before noon and started pouring, which meant a sandwich, if you had it, and a long afternoon finishing concrete. It was hard work and added to the fatigue of the morning. We were finished pouring before 3:00 but there was much more to be done.

The high cirrus had long been replaced by a lowering deck of gray stratus. We could smell the moisture in the air and knew the damp cloudy weather would only slow down the curing of the concrete. Finishing the concrete would take long hours and we were only "babysitting", until we could put the final finish. We hid from the cold damp wind and waited; the cold had found the lost injuries of youth, which it pulled and twisted until they ached.

By dark, the concrete still hadn't set enough to place the light broom finish required. This meant even more long hours. We didn't finish until 10:00 pm. We'd done all we could, we covered the slab and left with the first sprinkles on the windshield.

Leo was giving me a ride to my truck in the adjoining town. I asked him to stop at a convenience store, so I could get something to drink. He suggested a Sprite and some plastic cups. I thought it was a good idea. I did what he suggested, he poured us each a half glass of Bourbon and I topped them with Sprite. We were set for the 20 minute ride. He turned the heater up and we thawed as we traveled. Leo dropped me at my truck and went home. His recollection of reaching home has stuck with me to this day.

When Leo walked in, he found his warm home full of in-laws, his family, and a few visitors. The smell of home cooked meal caused his stomach to growl. As he surveyed the group of people - some he cared about; some he felt abused his kindness - he went to the kitchen to eat. He opened the covered pots, only to find they were empty. They hadn't left him anything to eat. His blood boiled.

Leo returned to the front room and told everyone to leave. He went on a tirade, told them how worthless they were, and was rewarded with disbelief and words about not having to leave. His response was to go to the bedroom, get his 380 and return. After emptying two rounds in the ceiling, they decided to leave, but the night wasn't over. The police came, brought him to jail and he didn't go home until the next morning.

Leo's wife, who he later divorced, decided not to press charges, but new laws allowed a junior District Attorney to pursue charges. Leo was given 5 years probation, AA and community service. He completed all and put that chapter of his life on a shelf.

One early Spring morning, Leo slipped from the dew-slick tracks of an excavator and injured his back. He tried to work through the pain, but was forced to leave and consult a doctor. Preliminary tests didn't find anything, so they chalked it up as a strain and the doctor started treatment.  It didn't help.

The doctor decided to run more tests, which found something they weren't expecting....cancer. They made an effort, but the cancer was the type that metastasizes before it's found. Leo dropped one hundred pounds in a month, faded, and was gone. I guess I was shocked. I know my heart hurt.

As I write, I realize there's still sadness from losing Leo. I can still see his big smile, which he had every morning without fail. Nothing fazed him so much as to not find a brightness in the start of each day or prevent him from whistling the same happy tune.

I don't think you can ever really put in words the admiration you have for some people. It's beyond words, so you only do the best you can. I'm thinking life gives you some treasures. Knowing Leo was one of mine.




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Woodpeckers

In the early Spring, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers homesteaded a hole in the pecan tree. I watched them fight off Starlings and hoped they'd win. Eventually, the tree budded, and then filled with leaves, which left the woodpeckers unseen. Trying to see if they were there was fruitless.

On Sunday, while in the yard, I heard a bird sound that was familiar, but I couldn't remember what type it was. After a few minutes, I realized it was the fussing of the Downy Woodpeckers' and they were intent on making an intruder leave.

Eventually, a few doves flew away, and I caught a glimpse of one of the small woodpeckers. They were still homesteading, and I was content they'd stayed.

The mated pair of Red Belly Woodpeckers are a different story. They have no fear of any other bird, and will chase them away from the feed I place, when they call from the trees. They chase off any intruder, and will spend long minutes eating the oranges placed in a cage on a tree.

My father loved to watch birds. I never realized why, until the last few years. Birds are remarkably intelligent, take care of their family, and woodpeckers have become my favorite. I hope a few Red Headed Woodpeckers will eventually come, like those I watched when I was young. They'll add to the families of woodpeckers I love to watch.

Relative Heat

According to the NWS wizards, the heat index is 106 degrees today. I believe them, and am not looking forward to the rest of the Summer.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Twenty Gone

According to a news report, twenty people lost their life to a gunman in Florida. They were enjoying the last few minutes of a night out, and did nothing, except be at the place chosen by the gunman.

I wonder if we'll get an accurate assessment, and honest reporting on the incident. We haven't in the past; and the current administration is willing to do just about anything to protect their real interests - which are not the best interests for the United States.


Edit: Reports now say fifty are dead.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Political Obfuscation

Years ago, my cousin ran for a local office. Although I didn't support their party affiliation, I knew they were more than capable of the job. Then, the process started.

The ads were horrific against their opponent. It was muckraking, conjecture, and outright attacks that left me wondering how my cousin could allow such dirty actions to continue.

They lost, but the process is seen in all elections today. Somewhere the true candidate is to be found, but the effort to find the candidate is a waste of time. To make things worse, too much of the information presented to voters is a Hollywood version of reality, and voters end up voting for hype, instead of substance.

Maybe the future will bring a demand for less glitter, honest reporting, and avoiding the candidates that are so willing to let their campaign obfuscate for a win, instead of what's right.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rain and Physics

It rained all morning; adding more water to areas that can't take any more.

A pernicious cut-off low pressure area in the upper atmosphere adds lift to warm, moist air, with a constant supply from the Gulf of Mexico. The meandering of this low led it through a slow passage across Texas, where it now sits near Corpus Christi.

The accumulation of rain is over a dozen inches in some areas, and the outfalls are full. Saturated ground, like a sponge in the bottom of a bucket, offers nothing for helping with the accumulation, and even a half inch of rain adds thousands of gallons of water to a few thousand square feet.

I'm not terribly affected by the rain, although construction work is halted; but many are facing a flood they never envisioned. Houses are under water; rain swollen creeks are claiming lives; and the rain will continue for at least the next twelve hours.

The low is forecast to move into the Gulf, and on to the East. At this time of the year, that can mean a tropical system that thrives on the warm waters of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The coast will have much rain, and Florida may experience some torrential rains; if not more.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Honor and Ignorance

I was reading a news report about the desecration of war memorials. Besides anger, I found I couldn't comprehend the mindless effort to tarnish where those that died defending the country.

For those that performed this dishonor, I hope you realize those you insulted are represented by those still alive that understand the sacrifice; and many are trained to covertly find their way into your bedroom, while you sleep.

You made a serious mistake, and it will haunt your existence.

There is no compassion, and I doubt many will miss your passing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Summer Appears

Summer may not be officially here, but when it's above 70 degrees before the sun rises, and it's pushing 90 in the afternoon, it's summer enough; especially when you add high humidity from the weekly rains.

I don't know what the next few months will bring, but I have a feeling the uncomfortable threshold will be reached way before noon each day. I'll need plenty of water, supplements, and patience. The first two demands are easy. The last is yet to be seen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Twenty Four Hour News Cycle

Finding news in the current news cycle is like picking through manure for kernels of corn. Thirty seconds of news is all that's found after hours of conjecture, speculation and editorial opinion. Facts are abbreviated to fit a narrative, and distortions are presented to sway opinions, or achieve ratings.

I really don't know how a journalism student would want to pursue such a career. The highest achievement is hot lights, too much makeup, and the ability to read a teleprompter without mispronouncing words. It's an ignoble quest without substance.

Bleh!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Presidential Qualifications

We've had few Presidents that were qualified. While the founders fought a brutal war to secure their liberty, those that didn't live during that struggle have increasingly been isolated from those that pay their way, and insure their safety.

With the above in mind, I think the following are one week of labor requirements before a candidate can run for President:

- Pulled concrete on a paving crew
- Cleared fence rows
- Dug fence posts.
- Carried shingles to a roof.
- Carried bricks for a bricklayer.
- Placed underground conduit.
- Worked as a welder helper.
- Stacked cement on pallets.
-  Hand dug pipe for a water line.
- Spent a week in a combat zone

These are only a few I can think of off the top of my head. I invite readers to add to these requirements.

A President should have empathy, and a goal to represent those all decisions affect. While an ivy league education has prestige, it doesn't address the daily chores of those that foot the bill. Liberty, without excessive taxes, or regulations, is something that demands those chosen for leadership can understand, and cherish.

I'm adding to this post, as suggestions arrive. 

- Work in a clinic, an ER, or a hospice. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Getting Old

I'm tired of Presidential coverage, the media, and the crap. Where shall I start?

Let's face it: Politics suck; as do most politicians. When you add the wannabes, it's a constant media frenzy of wanting to be the first to report, analyze, or just throw in two cents worth of pundit manure to fill the spots the commercials pay to be in between. A healthy society would call it madness. Our society sucks it up like a shop vac in a sawmill. There is no explanations, or a reasonable discourse; it's just mind-numbing piles of crap.

I'm tired of the constant attack on decency. Regardless of religious beliefs, decent behavior demands you don't discuss the pedigree of someone's mother, while sitting in a public restaurant. If your grandmother would tan your hide for such language, don't brandish it where someone else's grandmother can hear your putrid, insulting diatribe and want to flay you with a hickory branch. Loud music at the red light is included. Your " Ho" song is disturbing, and the sweet voice talking about her sexual preferences would make a porn actress blush.

Driving is not a video game. I know the comfortable, quiet, mad rush - or text chat - makes you think you're only a spectator. You are hurling a ton of steel down the highway, which can turn someone into pieces of meat scattered for hundreds of feet.

I don't care what race, creed, religious sect, cultural identity, political views, or sex you are. When you demand I give you special preference for any reason, I get angry. Assimilate into this great nation, pledge to protect it from harm, and spend some time reading about how it was formed. It has a constitution, and it isn't in a language you don't understand. Stop expecting nine people in robes to determine what is not only simple, it gives directions, forbids government from many things, and never is allowed abridge your liberty.

I have one caveat: Liberty requires responsibility. Not only does it allow freedom, it allows me freedom from you. Don't expect me to understand your point of view, or think it's more important than sitting on the back porch watching the birds. Be quiet, walk softly, and never threaten my peace. The blue jays are eating the bread, and I'm waiting for the woodpeckers to make an appearance.




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Have No Title

I have much to write about, but time - and my sometimes inability to put it all into words - prevents me from writing. Still, I have some things to relate.

                                                                 ***

I think I need a squirrel trap. If there isn't what I envision, I have a good idea that involves bird seed, a good spring door, some heavy cord, and little patience. The only problem I have is what I should do with the squirrels after capture. I have some ideas:

 - Make gumbo.
 - Take them down the street, and release them in the neighbors yard.
 - Catch a few, and teach them how to ride little bicycles, and jump through tiny hoops.
 - Build an elaborate system, and let them run on wheels to generate electricity.

There are probably more things I could do with squirrels, but sending them to Washington, D.C. would only add to the problems with Congress. Enough squirrels have offices, and write laws.

                                                                 ***
I'm having a hard time with the presidential election. Not that it's not interesting, but all problems are caused by a lack of basic fiscal responsibility. With the current state of our Capitol, such problems are way beyond their mental acuity, and elections are only a waste of money. Promising anything only costs more, and the credit card is maxed out.

                                                                ***

Johnny Manziel, with a promising future, decided he'd rather be a spoiled rich kid, and drink himself to obscurity. It's wasted talent.....literally.

                                                                ***

Hillary Clinton is a criminal. So is her husband, and anyone that supports the Clinton Foundation.

                                                               ***

We've had too much rain. While some may blame this on Global Warming,, or Climate Change, or whatever they're calling it today, I know it's the weather, which is what we have every year; regardless of the current effort to steal money with "feel good" legislation and general B.S.

                                                               ***

If someone came into my house without permission, I'd be upset. If they tried to take my job, demand I speak another language, and want free healthcare, my squirrel trap idea would become larger....except the gumbo.

I wonder how many people it would take to run in a hamster cage to keep my house cool?

That's all for now. More will come.





Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Beatles - A Day In The Life

If you had the original album,and  listened all the way to the end of the album, after this song, you could hear a screen porch slam shut.



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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Passing of a Legend

Merle Haggard has died. Fighting pneumonia, pneumonia won. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lagniappe

Lagniappe, and "baker's dozen" mean the same thing, unless it's not baked goods, or it's really not something extra, or you expect such things; and you are irritated because you didn't get lagniappe, or an extra doughnut.

You're welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sail Away

These lyrics for a chorus have some music attached, but the song may never be complete. The words fit a current event, and bring back memories. 



As we sit and think of days gone by
And the time that slipped away
He used to stand so straight and tall
It seems like yesterday

And he lays there now, so small and frail
And sleeps most every day
He can't get up; he can't go on
We never thought it would be that way

So, sail away, sail away
The lord is waiting for you across this storm tossed bay
He has built a house of memories
He'll take away your pain
Sail away, sail away, sail away

Live Oak Madness

Live oaks are beautiful trees, but strange. Evergreen, they pick Spring to drop leaves, and the amount is almost staggering. Raking is futile. An afternoon of raking leads to frustration, since the next day reveals the same amount before the raking on the day before.

This Spring seems a little worse, but then again, it might be current tasks have left my stamina depleted, and my thoughts just as deplenished.

So, the yard is mowed, the leaves are blown into the street, and I don't care if the city has a problem with the amount. They have machines to sweep them away, and it's their job to accomplish this task.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Afternoon in the Attic (re-post)

The passing of a parent brings family together. Sometime old wounds are reopened; and sometimes they heal. 

This was written years ago. Enjoy.

                                                         ***

“Hello”

“Hey, Mark; I was tied up, so I’ll be a little late.”

“That’s okay; I’ll see you when you get here.”

Mark thought of his sister and realized he had no idea how Erin would look. He teased her by calling her the “chameleon”, since she constantly changed her hair, her fashion and even would pick up the accent of the current culture she decided was most interesting.

“How’s it going?”

Mark thought for a few seconds before answering. In those few seconds years of thoughts crossed his mind.

Erin spent her entire adult life immersed in a search Mark knew would only yield failure. She was constantly dabbling in new things, searching for new friendships, travelling or just avoiding any semblance of what someone would consider “normal”. It was her obsession, which Mark knew was her effort to not confront the fact she didn’t like herself. Why? He had no idea, although he felt it had much to do with their parents.

“I’m mostly sorting things out; labeling what needs a label and trying to make an inventory.”

“Are you finding any treasures?”

Mark laughed before answering: “It’s all treasures.”

“Only you would look at it that way.”

The words stung. His sister was quick to say such things to tighten the wedge she drove between them years ago. He knew it wasn’t an endearing comment. She wanted to belittle her brother and could do so with a simple remark.

Mark changed the subject: “Will you be here in time for supper?”

Mark knew the answer. His sister wouldn’t commit. It was against her nature.

A long pause passed before Erin answered: “I don’t know. I’ll see you when I get there.”

Mark felt bad for his comment. He knew the answer and she knew he knew the answer. He reacted to her comment and she was probably relishing the moment. Adversity and strife were her strong point. Where most people avoided such things, she seemed to attract both without effort. To make things worse, she seemed to enjoy living a life in constant turmoil.

“Drive carefully.”

“I will…I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Mark knew she did; as much as he loved her. He wished they could get along.

Mark spent the next few minutes staring out the small window in the eve of the small attic and thinking. Dust motes drifted lazily in the still cool air. The morning chill was now broken by the heat of the sun, which beamed onto the roof above his head. The insulation in the bare rafters would keep it bearable during the day, while he sorted through the boxes stored on the floor.

Mark thought of the last time he saw Erin. It was Christmas and she was completely different than the time before. Her hair was longer, a different style and a different color. She’d traded the urban socialite look for something he could only describe as bizarre Western. Horses were her current passion and she was spending time learning to ride. She mentioned even buying a horse, although Mark knew her compulsion of change would remove the possibility. She would grow tired of horses and find something new to occupy her mind.

Realizing he was wasting time, Mark started going through the boxes on the floor.

As he glanced through the contents, he was constantly reminded of the past. The first box he opened revealed some old toys from when he was a child. He remembered most; even the broken pieces of the erector set his sister destroyed. He was so proud of his creation; he dismantled the entire thing so he could glue the pieces together. Thinking of passing it on to a future son, the miniature replica of the Empire State Building stayed on a shelf in his room until he was sixteen. Erin, in a fit of pure mean, crushed it one afternoon, while he was at a friend’s house. He remembered her ugly words and how they burned. Already set on her path in life, she was determined to make his life as miserable as she felt hers was.

Erin still called Mark “geek”. It felt a little more endearing; although the root of the comment was during the time she was old enough to realize Marks scholastic abilities would always surpass her own. She resented him and would make the last years before he left for college a hell she would orchestrate.

Looking through the rest of the box didn’t yield anything worth saving, so Mark wrote “Trash” on the outside of the box and placed it to the side.

Glancing up, Mark was startled for a moment when he caught his image in a dusty mirror leaning against the wall. Examining his reflection, his first thought was he looked just like a software developer, which he was: Slight build; glasses; comfortable slacks; a neatly pressed shirt and a face that would never stand out in a crowd. His age was revealed with crow’s feet and gray at the temples. The thought made him laugh. It was a shrewd realization of his appearance.

“You are a geek.” Mark commented to himself. Smiling at his image, he could see how his sister arrived at her description.

For the next few hours, Mark carefully examined boxes, documented the comments and dwelled on memories.

Mark remembered his father, who died over twenty years ago. Genetics and lifestyle took him early, just like his father and his father before. Mark, aware of the problems he faced, took much better care and was far healthier than any of his predecessors. He would live much longer and his son would probably follow the same path.

Mark was much like his father, although of a different generation. Mark wandered into software for robotics and his father was a machinist. They did the same thing, although Mark’s task was far less strenuous than his father’s. His father would take the specifications, set the milling machines and patiently work with the metals to acquire the shape he desired. Mark only had to sit at a typewriter and write the code that eventually ended with the same thing.

One conversation changed Mark’s career. Fresh in the trade, and wanting to make a name for himself, he spent a few minutes telling his father of his new program, what it would do and how it would change things. His father, wiser and patient, admonished Mark for his arrogance and lack of knowledge. He spent the next few hours explaining some important things that Mark had neglected, which were the characteristics of the materials he would manipulate. The advice led to research by Mark and the research yielded a software package that eventually reaped millions in profits. His future was secured and his father was more than instrumental in the event.

Mark still felt regret for not telling his father of the importance of that afternoon. Life was so fast at the time: he had a new child; his wife had some health problems and his father was gone in what seemed an instant. He still remembered his father’s patience and willingness to lead his son through the years of accumulated experience. He managed to stuff decades of knowledge into one afternoon. The thought led to tears, so Mark stared out the window for a few minutes. He still grieved for his father and would until he too was gone.

“Are you okay?”

Mark jumped at the words of his sister. He didn’t hear her come into the attic.

“I’m fine. I was just thinking about Dad.” 

Embarrassed, Mark examined Erin for a few moments. Her hair was stylish; her clothes were conservative and her makeup was far subdued from what she usually wore. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was a successful business woman.

“So, how’s it going?”

“I’ve been through a few dozen boxes. Most are not important, but I think you should look through those I’ve marked with a question mark. “

“Where’s your wife?”

Mark took a little offense at Erin calling Mary “his wife”. He knew they didn’t get along, but Erin could be a little more civil.”

“She didn’t want to come. She described it as “digging up bones” and she felt uncomfortable going through Mom’s and Dad’s things.”

Erin didn’t reply. Instead, she started looking through boxes.

The first box she looked in was the box with the crumbled pieces of Mark’s model Empire State Building.

“You’re throwing this away?”

“It doesn’t mean anything and only takes up space.”

“I remember the day I did that.”

Mark turned to observe Erin's face as she continued: “I was mad at you, Mom, Dad…everyone…the world. I took it out on your model.”

Mark only watched and waited for her to continue.

“You were already working on college admissions and I was still trying to figure out the basics of Algebra. I knew I was a dummy and would be forever.”

Erin's face revealed she was still frustrated and angry. Mark couldn’t fathom how it would still bother her after decades.

“I relished your reaction. It was as though I’d finally penetrated an impenetrable barrier and I had gained some power.”

Mark didn’t know what to say. His sister was revealing things she’d hid since her childhood.

“I felt inconsequential. You were the brain, on the path to success and I was the “other child”, who was hopeless and in the way. I would wonder if Mom and Dad regretted having me.”

Mark could only say: “I didn’t know.”

With a quiet fury in her voice, Erin replied: “Of course you didn’t. You had the whole world ahead of you and I was just another distraction.”

A little shocked at his sister’s reaction, Mark carefully thought of his words before he replied: “I couldn’t reach you; mostly because I was too young to know how. I knew you weren’t happy; then or now.”

Defensive; Erin quickly answered: “I’m happy.”

Mark waited for more, but she only stared out the window. He could see she was wrestling with his comment.

Mark went back to examining boxes. Erin soon started helping.

“Oh my God!”

Mark turned to see what caused Erin's comment. She was holding a photograph of their mother in her prom dress.

Studying the photograph, Mark remarked: “I recognize that dress.”

Erin was quick to reply: “Okay smartass; how can YOU recognize the dress.”

Pointing at clothes hanging from a closet rod, Mark replied: “It’s about fourth in line from the left.”
In seconds, Erin found the dress and held it as though she was checking the size.

“She was so beautiful.”

Mark nodded and added: “And she was smart. I found her college transcripts in one of the boxes.”

After a long pause, Mark looked to find Erin holding the dress to her chest and crying. Not knowing what to say, he went back to looking through the contents of the attic.

“I miss her.”

Mark, a little angry, replied: “She missed you.”

When there was no reply, Mark looked and found Erin was still crying and staring out the window.

After a few minutes, Erin replied: “We just never got along… I don’t think she ever really liked me.”

Thinking of the last few months with his mother, Mark replied: “She thought the same. She’d bring it up when she thought of you.”

“She thought I didn’t like her?”

“What else could she think? You rarely visited and you argued when you did.”

“I guess we were both just different.”

The last comment gave Mark a thought, which he had to explain: “You were damn near identical. Both of you found the world fascinating. The only difference is you explored and Mom stayed here. “
Erin only stared; waiting for Mark to continue.

“That’s why we had the big, two story house. Dad would have been happy living in a hut. Mom wanted a house with a den, an office and a library. She’d made the decision to stay where she was, but she wouldn’t allow her world to be without room and the things she felt were necessary. That’s why there were so many beautiful things and the planters were a glorious sight every spring.”

Erin was quiet, which emboldened Mark: “Both of you were so busy “discovering something new”, you never spent the time exploring what made you tick. Both of you could have learned so much from each other, but you were both too hard-headed to make the effort.”

Mark continued: “To make things worse, you would act like boxers; circling the ring; waiting for the right moment and taking the first chance to score a hit. Holidays were damned near intolerable because of you two. It reached the point I dreaded Christmas.”

“I never realized it was that bad.”

Now angry, Mark replied: “I guess you couldn’t. You, and Mom, were so determined to be something special, you never thought about anyone else. It didn’t matter that everyone resorted to walking around eggshells and you damned sure weren’t going to pay attention and see what a disaster you made.”

Erin was quick to reply: “They treated you like you were the prodigal son. Mark this, Mark that. Look at Marks grades: aren’t they great? Hey! Mark was accepted at M.I.T.; he’s going to be a software designer. I’m betting he’ll be working for N.A.S.A. before he’s thirty.”

Mark didn’t reply. Now angry, he had to take a few minutes to let the anger subside.

Erin continued: “I struggled through school. You made it all look so easy, and I could only barely keep ahead of failing. All I ever heard was: “You can do better than that.” And I realized I was doing all I could. I felt like I was a failure”

Mark looked at Erin and realized she was still struggling with feeling she should have conquered decades ago. Thinking for a few moments, he decided the truth would be best.

“For years, I thought you were a failure. Your relationships sucked; you bounced from job to job and you were constantly changing your appearance like a chameleon. It bothered me…I don’t know why…but it bothered me. All your efforts seemed to end with disaster.”

Now interested, Erin waited for him to continue.

“After Dad died, I found it hard to cope with the loss. It reached the point my job was suffering and my home life was terrible. Mary suggested I tell my doctor, so I did.”

Erin waited for him to continue

“The doctor sent me to a therapist. He wanted to put me on antidepressants, but I refused at first. The therapist convinced me they’d help.”

Mark paused, which caused Erin to remark: “So, then what happened?”

Mark continued: “After a dozen visits to the psychologist and the medications, I realized I was trying to accept responsibility I shouldn’t accept and living in the past. I was overwhelmed by trying to get Mom through it all and felt guilt for not spending more time with Dad, while he was alive.”

“So, what does that have to do with me?”

“I resented you for not helping. I resented your constant changes, your selfishness and I was constantly angry because I didn’t think you cared.”

Erin was quiet. Mark was right in some ways, but she felt she had reasons.

“My therapist told me I was expecting too much of people; especially my family. I was holding them to an impossible standard and not realizing people are who they are. “

Erin examined Mark; his expression told he was trying to find the right words.

“I finally realized I’d spent my life not really examining the people I love most and understanding they had their reasons for everything they did. It was a sobering thought. I decided to change my thoughts and start analyzing why I was so upset.”

“So, what did you find?”

“I found me and I found that life is exactly what I make of it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nobody is perfect and nobody can say they’re not influenced by their relationships. With you, I was comfortable with an adversarial relationship…I even accepted it. I was critical of your lifestyle, your dress, your makeup….everything. I was refusing to accept you for who you are and trying to make the best of what we have.”

“What’s different now?”

“With the loss of Dad – and now Mom – you’re all I have left and it hurts to think we can’t be close.”

Erin waited for Mark to continue.

“I need to tell you how proud I am of you. You walked in today, looked very nice and I didn’t say one word about how nice you look.”

Erin was embarrassed and replied: “It’s my work clothes. They like a little more subdued version of me at the museum.”

“That’s another thing. I didn’t tell you “congratulations” when you landed that job.”

“If it helps, the job sucks. I’m only in it for the money.”

Mark laughed and replied: “I hope they’re paying you well. You deserve it.”

Erin was suddenly uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say.

Mark, noticing her discomfort, quickly replied: “I’ve wanted to talk with you about Mom’s last afternoon. I don’t know why, but it’s been on my mind.”

Erin waited, although she didn’t think she wanted to hear what she was about to hear.

“She was sitting in the den watching an old Western rerun. She commented on how movies used to be so different: the hero took care of the bad guys and the ending was happy.”

“I noticed she seemed to be uncomfortable. I asked if she was okay and she replied she was having a little indigestion.”

“She asked me to sit next to her, so I did. She took my hand and we continued to watch the movie.”

“In a few minutes, her grip tightened on my hand – so tight it almost hurt – I glanced over and her face was contorted with pain. Before I could tell her I was calling 911, she stopped squeezing my hand, smiled and looked at me.”

Mark was now sobbing as he finished: “All she said was: “I love you”; and she slipped away.”

Mark was quiet for the next few minutes. Erin, now crying too, put her hand on his shoulder; uncomfortable with seeing her brother’s tears.

“The paramedic arrived within minutes. I tried CPR, but it was futile. It felt like I was crushing bones.”

“You did all you could.”

“That’s what the doctor said. She had a massive heart attack. Nobody could have saved her.”

Erin spent a few minutes thinking about their conversation. The last few minutes revealed more about her brother than their entire life before. She felt a peace she hadn’t ever felt with her brother and wondered if it would end as soon as it started.

Erin was first to speak: “I’m going to miss this old house.”

Mark replied: “Me too. I’ve been going through the papers, but what’s left of the estate won’t support it forever.”

Erin, with a moment of inspiration said: “It would make one hell of a bed and breakfast.”

Mark digested her words and replied: “Somebody would have to run it. I don’t know enough about that business to know if it’s sustainable.”

Erin laughed: “Always the analyst. I’m betting it won’t take you long to find out if it is.”

Inspired, Mark replied: “I could do a web search and find out what there is to know.”

Erin, tickled at her brother’s new quest, replied: “Or, I can ask my friend who runs a successful “Bed and Breakfast”.

“You know about it?”

“No, but my friend does. She’s run one for fifteen years and keeps it filled. She has to turn people away”

“Does she have someone to run the business?”

Erin laughed and replied: “No, it’s her parent’s old house. She lives there and runs the business”

Mark looked at Erin. Before he could say anything, she spoke: “Now that’s an idea. I could run a Bed and Breakfast, dabble with what I like to dabble with, and get paid.”

Mark was now optimistic: “What about your job at the museum?”

“I told you it sucks. I wouldn’t miss it for a minute.”

“There’s enough in some of Mom’s and Dad’s investments to get you started. There might be enough to allow you to run for a year with few customers.”

“I’d have to advertise.”

“That’s easy. I know enough to make any search engine make any site I chose to be on the first page.”

Erin was a little surprised: “You’re serious?”

Taken aback, Mark replied: “You’re not?”

Erin realized she was, although she felt uncomfortable with the realization.

“I guess I am. Now what happens?”

“Mark was enthusiastic: “I can build a web page, although I’ll need your artistic skills to make it presentable.”

Erin realized he was asking for her help: “So, I guess the geek needs some help with his computer stuff?”

Mark, pushing his anger aside, was quick to respond: “Not only will I need some help; it will take a miracle to save a web page if you let me do it alone.”

The light was dimming in the attic as the sun set in the west.

Mark spoke: “We need to find a stopping point and finish on another day.”

“I’m off next weekend. The museum is closed for some remodeling.”

“Why don’t you have supper with Mary and I. She’s making a pot roast and there will be plenty.”

“She won’t get mad?”

“She’ll get over it, if she does. After all, it’s not every day we get to visit.”

“We have a lot to discuss.”

“Believe it or not, Mary will probably be more than willing to help you with starting a business.”

Janet was a little unsure: “You think so?”

“I know so. She’s admired you for years and always wondered why you weren’t famous.”

Not knowing what to say, Erin was silent as they closed boxes and started down the stairs.

The old house was unchanged from when they were children. The smells were the same and the familiar creaks were heard in response as they made their way to the front door. The dim light in the hallway reminded both of their childhood and the past. Both were gone, but firmly held in their memories.

“I’m not going to change a thing.”

“You will, but they’ll be good. You always know what’s best.”

Closing and locking the front door was a familiar sound. Both paused to relish the sound for a moment. Things were exactly the same but different. Changes were on the way and they could hold on to the past as they happened.

When Words Don't Work

I wrote last week about an impending passing. They were given 48 hours to live, but that was over a week ago. Their time is very near.

Words don't seem to work during these times. No matter how much you know of the experience, you can't quite find the words that fit the sorrow, loss, relief and emptiness that fills your emotions. You witness them one last time before they're taken away, and all you can think of is how alive they look; even as they lay without breathing.

We all pass, and someone may be there for the final moment...or not. It's part of life, but one of the hardest times of the experience.

Monday, March 21, 2016

I Took This a Few Weeks Ago

We were helping with a detour, so I had the opportunity to be on top of one of the tallest bridges in Texas.

It was wonderful, so I took some pictures. This one is the best.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Spring Afternoon (Re-Post) Again

I spent a substantial part of this weekend with people I love dealing with a father that will never wake again. Massive strokes led to hospice, and his strong body is refusing to give in to the call for the next journey. 

So, why am I posting this again? I thought of this story as a beautiful Spring afternoon unfolded. Trees are full of new growth, azaleas are in full bloom, the gentle north breeze is filled with a freshness only known at this time of year, and a homecoming is soon to happen. 
                                                                      ***

It was a glorious spring afternoon. The tug between the seasons was almost over; the passage of late front the day before left cool temperatures, which yielded to the afternoon sun.

The new leaves on the trees signaled the final break from the grasp of winter. Almost impossibly green they were a brilliant contrast against the azure sky.

Shawn sat on his front porch and soaked in the day. His thoughts wandered between different subjects, but the unique weather had led most of his thoughts to years before. It seemed just about everything brought a memory, or a feeling of something so familiar, it tugged at his concentration.

The neighborhood was quiet, like it always was before. Generations were represented by each house. While the houses might not be childhood homes, they weren’t far away for the occupants. They only needed to go a short distance to find a neighborhood that held the memories of their youth.

A few houses down, a neighbor was cutting their lawn for the first time of the season. As the grass, straggly dandelions and clovers succumbed to the whirling blades they released a perfume, with a hint of wild onion. The odors wafted to where Shawn sat and pulled his thoughts to a collage of spring days he lived long ago.

As he thought, a honeybee landed on his leg. Resisting the urge to swat it away, Shawn quietly watched as the bee seemed to rest and regain its strength. It reminded him of a long gone day when he arrogantly interrupted a bee and was rewarded with a sting. His mother carefully removed the stinger and his father made a poultice of cigarette tobacco. Although the pain was soon gone, he spent the remainder of the afternoon showing his playmates, who were fascinated by the angry red swelling with the red dot in the middle.

Sufficiently rested, the bee soon left, made a few quick circles around the porch and left. Shawn watched as it flew across the street; soon too far away to see.

“Good afternoon Mr. McIntyre.”

Looking over, he saw the women that delivered his mail walking across the yard.

“Good afternoon, Gladys. It’s a fine day, isn’t it?”

“It sure is. I’ve been waiting all winter for this.”

Walking onto the porch, she asked: “Do you want me to put it in the box?”

“Please. I’ll get it on the way in.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have anything but junk. No bills, letters or cards from your sweetheart.”

Shawn laughed and answered: “So, it’s just another day?”

Laughing, Gladys replied: “I guess it is.”

Placing her hand on his shoulder for a moment, Gladys spoke as she hurried on her way: “You have a good day.”

“I will; you too.”

As she walked away, Shawn admired her as he always did. He found her attractive, although he knew he was far too old to ask her out. He longed for the days when such thoughts would never cross his mind. Age had won the battle against his youth long ago.

A car passed slowly and stirred the smell of sun heated asphalt. The scent soon reached Shawn’s nose; returning him to his childhood, when such heat allowed removing his shoes and playing barefooted. He remembered the cool, spring ground was a sharp contrast to the sun heated pavement. If his feet got cold, he only had to stand for a moment on the sidewalk and the feeling would leave.

Looking at his hands, Shawn examined them for a few moments. He had a hard time recognizing the wrinkled, spotted appendages that were his own. Thinking hard, he realized he couldn’t remember his hands when he was young. The thought saddened him; such things should never be forgotten.

The warm air soon conquered Shawn’s unwillingness to not enjoy every moment of the afternoon. Drowsy, he soon fell asleep.

“Shawn!”

Waking abruptly, Shawn looked up to find his neighbor, Caroline, standing next to him on the porch.

“Are you okay?”

Shawn was embarrassed. Caroline was always worried about him, which was understandable, even though it bothered Shawn. Alone, and with his family miles away, she would constantly check; even offering food, which Shawn refused. He was adamant about taking care of himself.

Caroline would “visit”, although Shawn felt it was more of just making sure he hadn’t lost his ability to survive and was a danger to himself. Even though he was suspicious of her reasons, the visits were always pleasant and welcomed.  Shawn appreciated the company, which was a rarity these days. Almost all his friends were gone and only the youngest of family members were left.

“I was just taking a nap.”

“It’s a good afternoon for a nap.”

Shawn smiled and examined Caroline’s face. He could see the worry through her smile. It made him sad; she shouldn’t have to worry about such things

Shaking away his thoughts, Shawn answered with a happy tone: “It’s a wonderful afternoon for a nap.”

“I brought you something.”

Looking at her hands, he found she was holding a pie, covered with clear wrap.

“It’s apple.”

Shawn was pleased. He loved a pie – which he allowed as an offering – and apple was his favorite.

“I’ll put it on the counter.”

As she went into the house, Shawn thought of his mom’s apple pie. He helped her when he could, which always left enough dough for a treat. His mother would cover it with butter, sprinkled it with sugar, add a dash of cinnamon and then bake it until a golden brown. He would enjoy it with a glass of cold milk.

A robin landed in the yard, which diverted Shawn’s attention. It soon started picking at the ground for a meal of the insects that were emerging from the cold ground. Mesmerized, Shawn felt as though he’d lived this exact moment before. Digging in his memories, he couldn’t find any reference, but everything felt so familiar.

“Shawn!”

The voice sounded far away, but familiar

“Shawn!”

Suddenly worried about the time, the sound of a distant train whistle signaled it was 6:00 pm.

“I’m late” Shawn said in a panic.

Jumping from the porch, he ran to the sidewalk and paused. The warm concrete felt good on his cold feet. They were tender, but summer would bring the thick calluses that allowed walking on hot pavement.

Looking back from where he came, he started to examine the old man and young woman on the porch. He knew who they were, or did he? Isn't her name Caroline?

“Shawn Michael!”

Glancing one last time, he saw the woman shaking the shoulder of the old man. Pushing away any thoughts, he started running down the sidewalk toward his mother's voice. She only used his middle name when she was mad or worried.

It was time to go home.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Loss of Words

A very dear person in my life is facing something I faced, yet I find I'm at a loss for the right words. I faced the same thing long in the past, but I find I'm digging deep for the correct thing to say, and can only watch the event that is near.

I wrote about the passing of my father. He had a struggle, and it wasn't pleasant to watch. I was young, though, and he was too, but I was surprised by how quick he was gone. Maybe it was avoiding the inevitable on my part, or maybe a denial of the possibilities, but at the age I was, my father was still a rock of strength to hold to forever. Losing him was something that never crossed my mind.

I watched late last night, as family gathered to be with someone that the doctors say will never wake again. A minor stroke led to the initial hospital visit, and a seizure last night was followed by a massive stroke. Surgery is risky, and it's not his wishes for heroic measures that can only leave him unable to perform the simplest of tasks; his life one of lying in bed; intubated; all days possibly in a coma; and all dignity stripped away forever.

So the death watch has started. A man that once was a leader of his fellow workers, a rodeo competitor up to months ago, and dearly loved by a family now huddled in a small room filled with medical instruments, is now at the start of another journey. His time here is short, and the time of loss is starting for those that must wait for their journey,

I guess there are really no words that can comfort, or take away the raw emotions these times bring. Only prayers, and hugs seem to offer some relief. Nothing can take away the loss, nor erase the memories that tumble into your thoughts like oak leaves on an Autumn day. It's a finality to one journey, and those left behind can only gaze across the great chasm and imagine what lays beyond for those they wish could stay longer.