July 29, 2022

The Loves of Your Life

It is likely the title of this post makes you think of a romantic or familial love you may have experienced. It could be your present partner, the one who got away, or even your first serious crush on someone. It could be your family or a favorite Aunt or Uncle. Your relationship with a grandparent might have been a vital part of becoming who you are. Heavens, maybe a pet qualifies. 

While that might make an exciting and emotional topic to explore, I am going in a different direction this time. I want to talk about the love of your life that was not romantic or how you felt (or feel) about another person. 

Instead, I want us to think about the love of our life in a broader context. Maybe it was based on a career choice, a job you once held, or a time at a volunteer organization that really ignited your passions. 

Maybe it is whenever you can curl up with a good book and lose yourself in a magnificent story. Some folks I know can't get enough of traveling, whether in an RV, a cruise ship, or spending a few months on the back roads of a foreign country.

For my grandkids and their parents, it would be anything Disney. If they have a free three days, you will likely find them queuing up for Pirates of the Caribbean or ordering something tasty at Cafe Orleans. These trips are the love of their life, at least for now. The seven-hour drive each way doesn't faze them.

This setup allows me to pick a love of my life with a different definition. Since Betty and I recently celebrated our 46th anniversary, that part is prominent. But, what else would I feel comfortable calling one of the "loves of my life?"

I pick my career in radio. Of course, for younger generations, radio is about as relevant as VHS tapes. Music comes from the Internet. The idea of commercials inserted between songs along with someone talking is silly. Who would listen to that? Not picking what you want to hear but being forced to listen to what someone else selects...impossible!

Disk jockeys don't exist much anymore, but the term DJ does. The young men and women who play dance music in front of a wildly enthusiastic mob of gyrating young people are stars in their own right. 

What captivated me at the age of 12 and didn't let go for forty years has passed from the scene, but not from my memories. There are a few clips of me on the radio fifty years ago floating around the Internet. I admit that, on occasion, I will jump in the wayback machine to hear my 21-year-old self. Those few minutes instantly transport me back inside that radio studio in that city. I remember the sounds, the feel, the lighting, the sense of control, how the walls looked... everything. 

I can recall the lunches a group of us announcers had every day at a nearby cafe. The rush of introducing Rod Stewart, The Moody Blues, and Aerosmith in front of several thousand screaming fans at a concert is still quite visceral. Being asked for my autograph was a very lovely ego boost.

My love of radio continued for another thirty years. Most of this period was not spent on the air but behind the scenes acting as a consultant and market researcher to radio stations that paid me well for my advice. I may not have been "playing the hits," but helping others decide what their listeners would hear.

Without this turning into a biography, suffice it to say, the part of my life spent on and in radio was memorable, stimulating, and rewarding. Of course, there were plenty of problems and mistakes along the way, but never enough to prompt me to consider another way to support me, my family, and eventually my retirement. 

How I earned my living was a forty-year love affair. 

What moment, decision, career path, or creative choice would you label one of the loves of your life? Anything that you remember fondly, or are still doing whenever you can, qualifies. If people can collect toilet seats, barbed wire, or washing machines, the "love of your life" can cover a lot of territory!

July 25, 2022

We Are a Fascinating Species

Do you know what mudlarking is? No? I'm not surprised. I had never heard the word until I read a book with a character participating in this activity. I did a little research that led me to another book written by the self-proclaimed Mudlarking expert in England. Then, I found her on Facebook, where she posted photos of her finds every weekend.

OK, enough suspense. Mudlarking is the hunting for relics, precious stones, jewelry, and antiquities in the mud of tidal river banks. The "tidal" part is vital: the river must ebb and flow regularly to expose portions of the river bed during low tide and refresh and stir up the banks when the tide is high. The Thames River that flows through London and the surrounding area seems to be the center of the mudlarking world. Amazingly, it is regulated to the point that there are different classes of mudlarkers who must have an appropriate permit to stick their hands into the mud.

I am spending time writing about an activity that most of us can't and probably wouldn't want to pursue because it vividly demonstrates what an interesting species we are. People will collect and display anything, and I mean anything. There are clubs and societies for literally whatever you can dream up. 

One of the small joys of traveling is to run across a museum or display of something that wouldn't seem worth the effort except to those who are passionate about something. One of the more exciting places we have visited is the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, with over 20,00 examples on display. And, don't forget the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, a large auditorium covered inside and out in corn cobs. Somebody loves their veggies.

For fun, I gathered a list of some of the more unusual museums and collections in the U.S. and a few in Europe.

The Mustard Museum, Middleton, Wisconsin. I know the French love their mustard, but so does someone in the Cheese State.

The Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID. Not a great surprise for a place that brags about its spuds.

The Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, TX. Did you know there are over 2,000 different types of barbed wire? Consider yourself informed.

The Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa. Run by the Hobo Foundation, no less.

The Spam Museum is not in Hawaii, as you might guess, but in Austin, Minnesota.

National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska. I am guessing that the sidewalks out front do not ban skates.

Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame, California. Every type of Pex dispenser ever sold is here, and that would be over 1,000 of these little devils.

The UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. This is run by some earnest believers. 

The Banana Museum, in Mecca, CA. I have nothing to add to this.

The National Museum of Funeral History, in Houston, TX. Probably best seen on Halloween.

The Crochet Museum, in Joshua Tree, CA. There is not much to see in Joshua Tree, so pay the lovely lady a visit. I understand she does not even know how to crochet, she just loves the end result.

The Mutter Museum, in Philadelphia. All sorts of medical stuff, including a tumor removed from President Grover Cleveland's mouth.

The Hammer Museum is safely nailed in place in Haines, Alaska. It is dedicated to the history of hammers.

The Ventriloquist Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. 800 scary things are on display for your silent and nightmare pleasure.

The Internation Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center is in Baraboo, WI. No, thank you.

The Museum of Bad Art is in two locations in the Boston area. Contrary to what some may think, my paintings are not here yet.

The Bayernhof Museum in Pittsburgh is a 19,000-square-foot mansion packed with music boxes and antique music machines. Bring ear plugs.

The Toilet Seat Museum in Colony, Texas, has collected over 1,400 seats for your viewing and sitting pleasure. And, yes, that is collector Barney Smith in the picture above. 

And, just to give a few overseas oddities their due:

The British Lawnmower Museum is in Southport, England. Over 300 machines dating as far back as 1799.

The Sewers Museum in Paris sounds interesting. It is the place to learn all about the city that is under the city above.

The Pencil Museum in Keswick, England, has more than you ever need to know about this ubiquitous writing instrument. The museum claims to have the very first pencil ever made.

The Dog Collar Museum in Leeds, England, claims to have the only (and therefore the biggest) collection of dog collars in the world. Somewhat surprisingly, the website doesn't say if dogs are allowed.

This is an appropriate "end" to this list: The Poo Museum in England. I have nothing to add to this one, but it is filled with precisely what the name implies.

Welcome to the oddity of being a human being!

If you have been to an unusual museum or collection, please add it to this list.

What a wild and wacky world in which we live. 

July 21, 2022

Aging and How We Live: Part One


A solid development among retirees is the desire to remain in one's home as long as possible. In fact, a recent study quoted by AARP shows 87% of those 65+ want to age in place for as long as it is safe. Even among those 10 years younger, 71% would opt to stay put. Familiarity and community ties are the biggest draws.

Even so, the market for retirement communities remains strong, In my area all the different Sun City communities and other planned offerings have adjusted to a more active lifestyle and the positives of providing care that includes nursing home facilities. Construction is very strong in the Phoenix area.

The ability to choose between staying home or moving to a retirement community or co-op housing setup is a new development. In part, it has occurred because there are more options available to receive medical care in one's home. With nursing facility costs out of reach for many retirees, it is good news that other choices exist.

For purposes of this post, let's assume you would like to stay where you are for as long as you can. What do you need to consider for this to be a logical, safe, and enjoyable decision? Here are several factors to mill over:

1. Is your housing safe for aging in place?

A single story home is almost a necessity. Certainly, your bedroom and bathroom should be on the first floor. As our knees and hips start to act up, a two or three story dwelling becomes dangerous. In addition to our joints, our balance erodes over time, making stairs a constant hazard. Adding stair lifts is expensive and not always feasible. 

Doors must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. The cabinets you use every day should be low enough to reach from a sitting position. Door knobs can be replaced with level handles. Throw rugs should be eliminated since they are a serious tripping hazard. The list of changes to your home can be long, but it is important. Take a fresh look at your home and decide what would have to be modified. Have an expert check your roof, heating and cooling system, electrical, and plumbing too.

2. Does your community help seniors age in place?

When you can no longer drive, is there a bus or senior transportation system that can take you to stores and medical appointments? Would you be comfortable using a taxi or Uber-type service? Are there any tax breaks for seniors, like a freeze on property taxes? Is there an active senior center that you can use? Are health care facilities, as well as an adequate choice of doctors, within a reasonable distance? 

3. Do you have options when you must move out?

Are there good nursing home facilities in your area? Is there usually a long waiting list? When it is time to make that move, you will probably not be up to a long move or a long delay. Facilities that are nearby give you the opportunity to visit them on a regular basis. As you get nearer to making that move you will know which ones have maintained their standards, quality of care, and affordability. 

4. Do you like where you live?

Not only does your home have to be safe as you age, it should make you happy and be in an area you enjoy. There is no point in staying in your present home if the neighborhood is less than ideal, the closest shopping is several miles away, and the yard or living space takes constant maintenance and upkeep. If you feel more like a prisoner in your home rather than comfortable and relaxed, consider finding another place to age in place. There are enough struggles without adding unhappiness with your current home. Remember, renting instead of buying is always an option, particularly in our over-heated housing market at the moment.

For many, being close to family and friends are keys to deciding to age in place. In addition to the joy they can add to one's life, having relatives and good friends to help with life's little challenges is a blessing. Even something as simple as a drive to the doctor's office or the car repair shop is easier when someone you know is along for the ride. It makes aging in place less stressful.

Deciding to age at home for as long as possible is a choice many of us are making. If this includes you, please be sure to review the steps above. Make your decision not just emotional, but is one that will keep you safe, secure, and protected. Betty and I want to stay in our current home for another six or seven years, at which point I will be 80. We have made some of the modifications noted above, but are looking at retirement community options, too.

There are plenty of on-line resources to help you decide if this is right for you. Age in Place  and Aging in Place Tips are two I found that seem like good places to start.

July 17, 2022

I Want To Retire Someday: How Do I Get Ready?


Just in case the post, Twenty Years On My View of Retirement, caused you to think this retirement stuff sounds pretty good. I felt it important to help you prepare.

What if you eventually want to retire, just not now? You are not there yet. Maybe it is a savings and money issue. Perhaps you enjoy your job and the stimulation it gives you. Maybe your responsibilities with your family must be front and center for now. Maybe retirement scares you a bit.

That just makes you normal. For whatever reason, you want to remain in the workforce but would like some suggestions on preparing for the day when you are ready.

Here are some essential concerns:

A) Make Your Financial Projections: Get a paper and pencil, a spreadsheet program on your computer, or anything that will help you with the following:

What is your projected income from now until you retire? Obviously, this is a guess. Your job might disappear tomorrow. But, based on your past situation, you should be able to make an educated guess of what you expect to make from now until you do quit. 
    What do you expect to receive from Social Security? Avoid the "it won't be there for me" panic attack. We don't know the future, but we know the present.

    If Social Security undergoes revisions, those changs won't take effect immediately; they will be sometime in the future. The political cost of not protecting this vital part of our social fabric will not allow it to go away.

    So, for now, use what is real today. You get a yearly report that tells you what you can expect based on your past earnings.

    Do you think you will have to take your payments as early as allowed, or will you be able to wait? There are logical reasons for both courses of action based on your status. Add that monthly amount to your projections.

    What is the current status of your retirement savings and investments? You can't predict what the market will do; just look at the last several months! In fact, don't look at all unless you have a strong stomach.

    You can project how much you plan on saving and investing in the years ahead. Using a conservative growth projection, what should you have when you are ready to retire? What do you need to have available when you retire?
      Here's a biggie: what about health care costs? None of us knows what the future holds in this area. Personally, the only thing I expect is prices to keep on rising, deductibles and copays to increase, and coverage to get skimpier.

      Plan on an increase yearly until you are eligible for Medicare or an Advantage plan. Even after you turn 65, the average American still spends $250,000 on medical care. 

      OK, now with those figures available to you, can you live on that for 30 years? People in good health today who are in their 40s or 50s can expect to live into their late 80s or mid-90s. If you retire around 65, you may have to take care of yourself for another 20-25 years. Can you?

      B) Make Your Lifestyle projections: Your financial situation will determine the overall life structure you will lead in retirement. Lifestyle issues will determine the quality: whether it is enjoyable and satisfying. Are you ready?

      Where will you live? Many folks want to escape weather they don't like and use retirement as the motivation to move somewhere more to their liking. Or, their family lives elsewhere in the country, and moving closer would make them happier.
        Others like the roots they have established where they are, have family and friends nearby and don't want to go anywhere. Moving to a retirement community on the other side of the country would never cross their mind. Aging in place is the plan.
          Do you envision yourself in an "active adult" community, an age-restricted setup, an urban or rural environment, or selling everything and becoming a nomad in an RV?
            What about the complications that arise when spouses are with each other 24/7? Trust me, this is a significant adjustment for both partners. No matter how many books on relationship building you've checked out of the library and how much you love your partner, being together all the time is tough without some planning.
              Do you have something besides work that you love to do? If work is your vocation and avocation, what will you do when you don't have that anymore? Do you have any interests, passions, or hobbies you'd love to explore? It is best to figure that out before you walk in the door of your house, retired, with no idea what to do next.

              Many times in multiple posts, I've made the point that retirement is a huge adjustment for anyone. I don't care how well prepared you think you are. There are things you have not foreseen that will happen. Such uncertainty shouldn't freeze you in place. Life is all about change. There is no way to cover all your bases ahead of time.

              So, what to do? Plan, plan, plan. Then plan some more. Consider everything you know and things you know you don't know. Then, when the time is right for you, just do it. Be ready to throw out all or part of your planning, though. Life will evolve in ways you never had projected.

              Do not insist on rigidly sticking to what you thought would happen. You will learn to adjust. You will struggle, grow, panic, and thrive. That is life whether you are retired or not. Even the struggles and disappointments come with their own life lessons.

              And, as I begin my 22nd year, I can vouch for the satisfaction that comes from having your time and your life under your control.

              July 13, 2022

              Travel Plans: Are We Too Optimistic?

              I don't need to remind you that travel for the last few years has ranged from impossible to foolhardy to inconvenient to very expensive. So many employees were let go during the pandemic period that airlines are now drowning in a sea of cancellations and delays; there are not enough people to fly, stock, load, or ride herd on unruly passengers.

              Every flight in Canada my youngest has taken in the last few weeks has been either canceled or seriously delayed. Her baggage went missing for 36 hours. A few weeks ago it took her 19 hours to fly from Halifax to Vancouver, a trip that normally takes 7 hours.

              Even though we know flying has become a spin of the roulette wheel, airports are packed to overflowing. The pent-up demand to get out of the house and go...anywhere, has put a strain on the airlines and airports that seems to threaten the viability of the entire system. Don't even get me started on the cost of a rental car. I've had lower mortgage payments than what Avis or Hertz wants for 24 hours in a compact something or other.

              In 2020 our month-long cruise to New Zealand never happened. Our trip to Montreal and Quebec bit the dust. Thinking the worst was behind us, Betty and I went to Disney World in February. All was OK until American canceled our flight home, rebooking us on a connection through Austin, that was, you guessed it, canceled. A full day later we managed to arrive home but only after getting up at 4 am to catch the only available flight from Orlando to Phoenix. 

              A post about travel plans seems sort of, well, irrelevant. But, as a people, we tend to be either optimistic or pig-headed, in equal measure. All those people standing in line at the airport must be trying to go somewhere.

              Our plans for the rest of this year are certainly less ambitious than two years ago. In a week we are heading for the cool Alpine town of Greer. At 8,900 feet, temperatures are comfortably stuck in the 70's. We have a cabin in a wooded setting that will give us a respite from the 112 degrees of a week or so ago in Phoenix.

              Come September, we will fulfill a long-delayed dream of taking the Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Portland. Yes, it takes 26 hours, but that is the point. Bowing to the uncertainty of flying, instead of a 75-minute flight, we will drive the 7 hours from our home to Los Angeles. The train runs once a day. We won't risk missing it because of cancellations. 

              After spending five days in Oregon we have booked a flight home. If that one is seriously delayed or canceled, so be it. Getting home doesn't have the same urgency as meeting Amtrak at Union Station.

              Next year we are toying with something a bit farther afield: either the United Kingdom or fulfilling the previous plans to visit parts of Canada and northern New England. To proceed with both these trips will require a substantially improved airline system over what exists today.

              Our health and energy clock is ticking regardless of airline staffing issues or costs that seem to know few boundaries. We can't take it with us...so I guess we hope for the best and plan for something else!

              July 9, 2022

              Twenty Years On: My View of Retirement

              Life without employment seems almost unnatural. From the time we are five years old our parents, schools, grandparents, and pretty much everything we encounter and experience is part of the process of preparing us to support ourselves, maybe a family, too. 

              Sure, we intellectually accept that in the very distant future we will not be working. We see our grandparents and at some point, our own parents, getting off the treadmill. But, for us, this is a hard concept to personally grasp. We live in a culture that believes very much in the "no pain, no gain" model of living. 

              We believe that people who don't work hard do not enjoy all the fruits of life. We grasp the concept of a social safety net for those who can't provide for themselves, but we can see quite clearly that net has huge holes in it; a lot of folks slip right through and disappear. We will not permit that to happen to us! We will stay employed!

              Work is important, sometimes gratifying, and absolutely essential to life. However, and here comes the spoiler: not working can be ever so much more satisfying, enriching, exciting, and full of joy. I absolutely loved what I did for a living. Now after two decades of being on the other side, retirement can take you to an entirely different type of satisfaction.

              What has happened that I didn't plan for, didn't even know was possible?  

              Financially Much More Relaxed. There were several ups and downs in the economy and my investments, even before the Great Recession and now the double whammy of inflation and supply chain issues of the past two years. In the first few years of retirement, I was constantly worried that I had miscalculated or forgotten some major expense. 

              At least once a week I'd use a calculator to re-check my financial plans. Each time, the numbers confirmed we should be OK. I did not expect health insurance costs to go up so rapidly, year after year. I actually forgot about having to buy new cars. But, overall, the financial plans my wife and I made have held up. Today, I am much less likely to stress over every up and down. We have made over 20 years. We'll be OK.

              Much More Aware of The Passage of Time. When you first retire, the time horizon does seem rather far away. That is an illusion caused by the sudden end of daily job responsibilities. Days of the week suddenly become much less meaningful. Monday is every bit as good as Saturday. There is no rush. 

              For me, about seven years into this journey, however, there was a shift. I became more aware of the passage of time. I understood that each day seems long, but goes by quickly and will never be repeated. Anything not done today will never get done today. By pushing it into tomorrow that will force something else into the next day. Time isn't as elastic as it seemed at first. I turned 73 two months ago; time is blazing by now.

              Much More Open to New Ideas. The first few years are spent finding your rhythm and becoming comfortable with the decisions you have made. There are a lot of adjustments as you move through the stages of retirement. I did not have the inclination to take on additional challenges in my life. About 15 years ago I felt the need to begin to grow and take on new projects. I was comfortable thinking about how my life was being lived in new ways. I have shed some old convictions and approaches. In this 21st year, my brain is too full of new things I want to try. I am moving full speed ahead until my time is up.

              Zero Interest in What is Going On in My Old Industry. I spent 35 years in my field of choice. I knew a lot of people. I had a lot of former clients whom I wished the best for. I was interested in staying in the loop. About five years into retirement, I began to lose interest. 

              I no longer felt I had to check on the latest developments or stay in touch with people I knew who were still working. Now, I have no interest, whatsoever. That was a former life. It was a good one and allowed me to live this one. But, I've moved on. What is going on in the broadcasting industry is no longer relevant to me.

              Much Better at Saying "No."  When someone first retires there is often a rush of requests for that person's time. Volunteering for this or that, heading a committee, helping with the Boy Scout meeting..... the lack of a full-time job must mean you are constantly available to help others. 

              As the years pass, the ability to filter out the things you don't want to do becomes greater. The ability to say "No" comes more easily. You find the strength to say "Yes" to the things that are meaningful to you and most helpful to others.

              What about your retirement journey? Regardless of how long you have been without a full-time job, I bet you have noticed differences in that period of time. I'd be fascinated in learning what you have observed. Please share one or two thoughts.

              July 5, 2022

              Being A Good Citizen


              Is it just me, or does the political "season" never really end? Some of us are still trying to relitigate the 2020 results, while the primary season for 2022 is well underway, and those with the desire to take the top spot in 2024 already making noise.

              The public hearings concerning the January 6th insurrection attempt (that is what it was, like it or not)  are not changing opinions that have solidified over the past 18 months. Our country is in the grip of tribalism with factions hardened into solid rock. 

              The hearings did bring to mind a post I had written several years ago. In light of what has happened since it was originally published, I have rewritten parts of it to reflect my feelings today, in the summer of 2022. This country can not continue to exist in its splintered form, much less prosper, if we expect leaders in Washington or the state capitols to do all the heavy lifting, while we are just along for the ride.

              A citizen has responsibilities, too. We cannot take the position that politics is a dirty business, the people often self-serving, and I can ignore it all while just living my life without paying attention to all that stuff. The obvious flaw in that argument is all the effects of those faraway decisions (or lack of them) do affect you, every day. 

              Given all the struggles and impediments that exist at the moment, we still have to evaluate and pick those who we hope will do the best job. We have to be part of the "team" on the ground, working to correct mistakes or flawed decisions, promoting our vision, and not sitting back only content to blame the system. 

              So, here goes. What are our "qualifications" to take part in this grand experiment known as American democracy?

              1) Commit to being educated. I would argue this is the most important requirement. A citizen must take the time to learn about the issues, to think deeply about the problems and opportunities we face, and avoid the tendency to accept whatever the media or our favorite talking heads have to say. Even something as seemingly simple as a primary requires work. 

              Example? There are five people on the August ballot to be on our city council. I am to pick three. I have never heard of any of them. So, I took the time to pull up the statements and web pages of each. After reading what their backgrounds were and what they thought were the key problems facing Chandler, AZ, I was able to choose the three that I thought would be best for the job. 

              Just because something is on the Internet, TV, or radio does not mean it is accurate and true, though it may be. A citizen's responsibility is to dig deeper. Consult multiple sources for insight including those outside your normal comfort zone. Talk to others, and form your own opinions but be prepared to change what you think if new information becomes available. Rigidity is not compatible with education.

              2) Commit to participate. Did you happen to notice the news stories about record low turnout in two recent political contests? Not voting makes you no better than a non-citizen. Not supporting candidates and issues you believe in leaves you no right to complain about the outcome. Of course, you have every right and responsibility to advocate for or against things you feel passionately about. But, if you don't play in the game, you can't complain about the score.

              3) Commit to support or deny support as appropriate. Even if your dream candidate wins, even if every ballot proposition that you support passes, your duties are not over. There will be people, maybe lots of them, who disagree with you. You must work to support what you think is important and withdraw your support if someone or something doesn't seem right.

              As the next point states, that doesn't mean you stop paying taxes if you dislike the IRS. It doesn't mean you occupy a federal building to protest a policy you find odious. It does mean you vote against people or things. It does mean you legally protest, with signs or petitions. You use your money and time to support or deny support. 

              A democracy will always have disagreement among well-intentioned people on both (or multiple) sides of an issue. Don't demonize those with different viewpoints. Work to educate them about your point of view, or accept that we are human and can come to very different conclusions about almost everything.

              4) Commit to following the rules. With a civilized, organized society comes the rule of law. As much as a citizen disagrees with the speed trap south of town, if caught driving faster than posted, he will pay the fine. If called to jury duty she will serve. If someone disagrees with a point of law you don't disobey it but work to change it. 

              As our society is structured, the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbitrator. Has the Court become as politicized as the rest of society? Absolutely. The last week has proven that point quite clearly. Is it time for a change in the Court's power, construction, or term lengths? Work to change the laws. A citizen doesn't have the right to disobey legal statutes he disagrees with, no matter how wrong-headed you view them to be. Otherwise, we face anarchy.

              5) Commit to being committed. Being a good citizen is not a part-time job. You can't "turn it on" in an election year and then hibernate until the next one. As the points above should make clear, this is a full-time responsibility. 

              It isn't lost on me that this post is being published right after the 4th of July holiday period. I can't think of a better time to remind ourselves, that after the fireworks and celebrations, being a citizen of this country brings with it costs and obligations. If we don't take them seriously, we risk becoming a society that doesn't work for anyone, and a society we no longer recognize.

              July 1, 2022

              Hidden in Plain Sight

              Sometimes we miss the obvious. What we see every day can lose its importance, or its ability to please. Things that once caught our eye become part of the decor. That is until someone else points out what is right in front of you.

              That someone else was RJ Walters. In the midst of his 6,000-mile drive around a healthy chunk of this country, he paid Betty and me a visit. As part of our time together, we gave him a quick tour of our home. He was interested in where I sat to write this blog. 

              When he entered Betty's office/creative space, his eyes opened wide. She has covered most spaces with her current favorite pursuit: flow art. Dozens of examples cover a corkboard and are displayed on all four walls. I see them every day, RJ really "saw" them. 

              Later we spent some time on our back porch. RJ's aversion to heat kept that experience short, yet he still had plenty of time to notice, and emphatically point out, the artwork and clever hangings Betty has mounted on the property walls. Much like her office, I have "seen" those examples of her creativity for years, but it took someone new to appreciate them with a fresh eye.

              Before he left, RJ made me promise to write a post that features some of Betty's creativity. Regular readers know I have been amazed at her abilities for decades. I have written about her capacity to paint rings around me, though she always is quick to praise my substandard efforts in return. Her photographs could easily sell on a platform like Etsy.

              So, to fulfill my promise and give my bride of 46 years (as of two weeks ago!) her proper spotlight, enjoy what I had stopped seeing until I was given a fresh perspective by a friend.

              Including the painting at the top of the post, these are examples of her flow art technique:

              Using pallets of wood, old barn hinges, crates, and some other add-ons, here are some samples of what Betty designed for our backyard walls:

              And, because she has a modesty streak a mile wide, she insisted I add a few of my recent painting attempts: