20130820 – Grinning and Spinning

I have to apologize for the abbreviated (but good!) post last week; I was having too much of a good time with my Mother-In-Law, who joined me for my Tuesday morning excursion to our favorite local fast food place for breakfast and writing. It was like old times and we shared some great conversation while acknowledging warm greetings from the staff before returning Mom to the security of her assisted living apartment. When I called this morning to see if she could join me again this week my disappointment in her “no” response cast a bit of a pall over today’s routine.
You see, I need to be reminded from time to time that an important part of life in the sandwich is sharing familiar routines, even when it becomes challenging to do so. So we couldn’t stay as long, so we needed a walker, so what? We had a good time, refreshed some nice acquaintances, talked like we used to, and forgot about some of the daily struggles brought on by the ravages of age. Her inability to join me today was just another reminder that things can’t always be the same but that we always need to make opportunities to reaffirm relationships and remember the fun times.
Speaking of fun, on the way to an afternoon family gathering D and I dropped in on the Michigan Fiber Festival at the Allegan County Fairgrounds on Saturday, paid the requisite $5 fee per head, and wandered into the exhibitor barns to exercise our appreciation, for an hour or so, of the varied and wonderful arts revolving around animal fiber. D is a knitter, I would say extraordinaire but she doesn’t agree and to make her point asserts that she gets a lot of free knitting time (that means pulling it out and knitting it over again for you of the non-knitting ilk). I just tag along at these festivals, fascinated by the feel, beauty, and utility of sheared, cleaned, combed, and spun animal fiber (particularly alpaca) and the many associated activities and crafts.
As we moved through the barns who should we discover but friends Zach and Lindsay, owners of Fat Toaster Farm, showing their wares in one of the booths! Zach was seated at a double treadle spinning wheel hand spinning natural fiber from their flock of Jacob Sheep, an activity which I was unaware that Zach enjoyed and which, up until this moment, had failed to capture my interest despite having visited several fiber festivals over the past five years. After lots of questions and Zach’s demonstration of the art I found myself intrigued by the process and the satisfaction he found in pursuit of creating a high quality natural yarn.
As we continued on through the barns, stopping to say hi to acquaintances Rita and Roger Johr, owners of Circle R Alpaca Ranch who we once visited in our quest to learn more about raising alpacas, I found myself continuing to be intrigued by the idea of hand spinning yarn. Here’s a nice portable hobby, very relaxing after a hard day of work or play, and quite satisfying through the production of something both beautiful and useful; kind of like my wife’s addiction to knitting!
So, following a little additional research and some practice, last night I tackled the experience of spinning yard on a drop spindle and found myself with several yards of handspun yarn on my spindle by evening’s end. Who’d have thunk it, a business advisor and ex-auditor spending a quiet evening hand spinning yarn? Well it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks; and that was a perfect example; and perhaps the start of a new hobby for this old dog.
So here’s this week’s lesson for all of you living life in the sandwich: hang on to the old familiar routines that keep you and your family grinning, and tackle something new occasionally, to keep you spinning! There’s a lot going on out there folks, so … engage!
Doing a little more grinning and spinning these days…

-Pops

20130813 – Life Lessons, Another Take

I was reading the blog of a pastor acquaintance of mine who recently celebrated her thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. The theme was relationships and the sometimes rocky road every relationship negotiates on occasion. I thought, “how relevant to life in the sandwich!” In her post Laurie covers a lot of territory, but I think her list of “Top Ten Learnings from 35 Years of Marriage” is spot on for any serious relationship and quite relevant to the intergenerational relationships of life in the sandwich. Her entire post is a good read (as is her entire blog), so today’s post is the link to Laurie’s, repeated for your convenience, and the source of today’s pondering. Please read and enjoy!
Learning from others…

-Pops

20130806 – Contemplating Lifestyles

I faithfully follow several bloggers who are full timers. In RV lingo, that means they live in their RVs full time and have no permanent home; i.e., no utility bills, no lot or apartment rent, no property taxes, no flooded basements, no 3000 square feet to keep clean, and no lawn to mow or driveway to shovel. Some work full time on the road, some are full time retirees, and some are work-campers and take seasonal jobs in national or state parks, or in other business establishments. They all seem to love their homes on wheels and their freedom to pack up and go whenever and wherever they want. Obviously I’m not talking about the RVers who rent a site for a whole year or six months at a time. That may be full-timing but it’s not an “on-the-road” lifestyle, which is what I consider true full-timing to be.
Some are family-oriented and travel to visit far flung relatives; others are loners with no close family left. Some like the solitude and travel with a pet or entirely alone. Some enjoy making new friends for just a little while. And some have social networks spread all around the world. All of those in the blog-o-sphere find a way to use the internet to stay connected in a big or small way; and are writers, at least enough to be willing to share their lives and adventures. Hmm, I guess I do that too.
I may not be thinking very creatively here, but it seems like life in the sandwich doesn’t lend itself to the full-timer RV lifestyle, or to any lifestyle other than the one we currently choose to maintain. Ignoring the work issue since D does not work from home, I think what keeps me from considering different lifestyles and different locations is the sense of obligation I feel about being close to D’s Mom and my Dad, just in case they need us, and to our son and his wife, to provide something of a safety net.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed having a home base, a place the kids and grandkids can return to, and a place where I can feel as if I’m vacationing without having to go somewhere. I like that sense of place. I think my Dad does too, because he’s lived in the same house for over fifty years. Not to say that I’m not a little bit adventurous; I’ve always enjoyed camping under some canvas, cooking with fire, and exploring God’s majestic handiwork. And there’s something to be said for a pleasant summer evening with a campfire at your feet, a million stars overhead, and moon-shadows dancing across a lake.
Still, Mom is well taken care of in her assisted living apartment. Dad is quite healthy and able to maintain his own home and has my three siblings nearby if he needs anything. Our house-sharing son and daughter-in-law do well enough for themselves when we take our brief vacations. It doesn’t seem like those situations should limit our lifestyle choices and certainly not our ability to travel more.
Borrowing a thought from a Facebook “share” this morning, maybe what it comes down to is making lifestyle choices that help your family have the life they deserve but don’t force them to sacrifice for the life you want. Of course for the other members of this sandwich, this lifestyle choice thing is a two-way street; well … maybe more like a multi-lane round-about.
Enjoying roots, but contemplating wings…

-Pops

20130730 – Solid Foundations

I got to talking with friends this morning over breakfast (he’s a model railroader and his wife is very supportive and “crafty” in her own right) and the subject of benchwork (the wood used to support the railroad) came up. S was talking about a helix he was designing, reinforced with angle iron and solid joint supports so the thing would hold the weight of a model train and itself through several complete circles stacked on top of each other. This is a continuous spiral of track designed to gain 16 inches of elevation, allowing two levels of model railroading in a given space. The thing has to be solid, not subject to warping from humidity, and designed not too steep to prevent a model train from climbing it and not too shallow that it doesn’t provide enough clearance between tiers for trains to pass.
A mutual railroading friend observed that maybe S was over-designing the helix; angle iron, really? This other friend built his foundation for a new rail yard on 1×2 lumber with 2 inch foam on top and S noted that it was already sagging between the supports. A third friend decided to use furniture grade ¾ inch plywood for his foundation and even cut 1×4 “lumber” from the plywood to use as a structure supporting the plywood roadbed. It was a big investment in time and money. When completed, he wryly observed that he wasn’t sure it was solid enough and then proceeded to jump on top of the whole assembly, all ??? pounds of himself, producing nary a wobble or sag in the process. Hmm, seems pretty solid to me.
A solid foundation is essential to a successful and trouble free model railroad. It can stand the weight of the plaster and scenery, and it’s stable so the rails stay put and trains don’t jump the tracks whether the owner is working in solitude or the layout is surrounded by visitors. It’s also essential to living a fulfilling life in the sandwich. I don’t know about you but I sure prefer to have a solid foundation to help me carry what seems to be the weight of the world, and to keep me on track when life seems determined to derail me.
How solid is your personal foundation? Have you built your life on rock, or on sand? What values drive your life? Are you on a mission and focused? Are you self-aware and mindful of how you affect others by what you do and how you act? Do you take responsibility and initiative, and accept accountability for your actions? Do you manage your time wisely? Are you a continuous learner? Do you manage your emotions effectively? Do you make sound decisions? Do you communicate effectively? Do you build productive and healthy personal and work relationships with others? Does your behavior in public or in private always reflect your foundation?
Building a solid foundation is a lifelong endeavor. You’re not born with it. You don’t inherit it. And you sure don’t buy it. You start building it in the sandbox, continue building it through your school years, and reinforce and strengthen it during your entire adult life. If you are not just smart but wise about it, you build your foundation right up until the moment of your death.
What does a solid foundation do for you? It gives you a family and friends who care, and a life worth living. It guides you through difficult decisions and transitions. It shines a beacon that you and others can follow in darkness. It sounds a horn that guides you through the fog and confusion of daily living. It offers a compass when the way is uncertain. It builds your integrity in the eyes of others.
Why is a solid foundation so important to living in the sandwich? It keeps you focused on the important things, and keeps you on track when distractions and temptations try to derail you. There are so many distractions when you are helping parents and children with your own limited resources and finances that it’s easy to get disheartened and frustrated, to sink into uncertainty and doubt, and to lose your sense of purpose.
If you’re feeling a little lost right now, revisit those questions a couple of paragraphs back. Ask yourself what you’re doing today to strengthen your own foundation and to take care of yourself.  For me a little Jazz at the Zoo, a shared prayer with my wife at bedtime, a conversation with good friends, and writing in the midst of an exuberant lunch bunch at my favorite fast food hangout have made these last few hours a real foundation builder.
Mixing a little mortar and laying a few more stones in the foundation…

-Pops

20130723 – Camp Grenada

“Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh, here I am at Camp Grenada” – Allan Sherman
Unfortunately real life isn’t quite as funny as the song. Mom was having a rough time this week. She said it was like being at camp and she was homesick and she wanted to go home, but she knew she couldn’t. It’s just heartbreaking to hear that, and realize that the only thing you can do to help is to visit as often as you can, and get her out occasionally if she’s willing to go, and make sure she knows you care and always will.
I thought she was acclimating pretty well to her new apartment, but sometimes she doesn’t let on that she’s not very happy. She doesn’t want to be a burden to us, and she is always afraid that she is. We try to help her see that it’s not a burden; this is what families do when they can’t provide a home and adequate care without help. So we handle the mail and the finances and the condo cleanup and property management because that’s what we can do; it’s not a burden, it’s love.
Part of life in the sandwich is knowing your limits in terms of time, money, other resources, and skills. For things you can’t handle, you find help. And you fill the gaps with as much face and phone time as you can fit in. We have to be careful to fully appreciate the value of even a few minutes of face time on a regular basis. I think with the hectic schedule we live we overlooked that little but important detail.
Just like aging parents, sometimes your adult offspring have their own struggles; things aren’t going well and they feel lost and homesick, like they’re away at camp. Guess what, the same rules apply. Sometimes you can offer a roof over their heads and some gas in the car. Sometimes face and phone time is all you can offer.
Sorry Mom, we’re trying to do better. Hopefully you’ll be saying something like this, real soon:
“Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing,
Playing baseball, gee that’s better,
Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!”
Remembering the importance of regular contact, one of those tasty little condiments of life in the sandwich…

-Pops

20130716 – Appreciation

I sacrificed my usual Tuesday routine this morning to do something way more important, to spend some time with a friend and colleague. He invited me to discuss a number of business activities in our organization from planning to budgeting to performance evaluation, and to ask my advice and help.
In the conversation we found time to share some of our personal experiences and business history and to discover some common beliefs that guide us in our business and personal lives. Also in the conversation my colleague made sure to share with me how much he appreciated my experience, knowledge, and contributions to our organization, and I did the same for him.
During the conversation he stopped to apologize for maybe getting a little too deep or personal, and I immediately assured him that I didn’t mind; that in fact, I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind sharing a little more than many who maintain a lot of surface relationships, but not many close ones. In the end we both walked away feeling uplifted and validated by our meeting, and motivated to soldier on with our respective assignments. That was a successful meeting and a rewarding interaction.
I’ve been thinking back on that conversation and realizing that, unfortunately, I don’t make enough of an effort to ensure successful and rewarding interactions happen within my own family. Perhaps the constant closeness of life in the sandwich dulls my perception of the need and lessens my investment in those family relationships. Perhaps I take things too much for granted. Perhaps I get a little too self absorbed and selfish. Perhaps I just don’t think enough before interacting with the rest of my family. For whatever reason, appreciation has been seriously lacking around here, at least from me to them.
So, be it resolved that I will pick up and run with the ball more often, and express my appreciation to my family more often for everything they do for me and for us.
Living appreciatively in the sandwich…
-Pops

20130709 – Health Care Messes

Seems as though our wonderful government has done nothing but muck up an already confusing health care system, and left “We the People” in the dark. Even the Medicare and health insurance professionals are at a loss to explain anything satisfactorily if our experiences of the last week are any indication. And of course, us sandwich dwellers are left to puzzle through the puzzle pretty much on our own. It’s no wonder my 88 year old mother-in-law is happy we’re trying to deal with it and begging us to not mess it up!
Mom has Medicare, Blue Cross through the school employees’ retirement system, let’s call it BC-SERS, and Blue Cross through the university’s retirement system, let’s call this one BC-URS. Medicare is primary, BC-URS is secondary, and BC-SERS is tertiary; she’s had this coverage arrangement for years with no apparent issues. Because she pays premiums for both of the non-Medicare plans we’re reviewing her coverage to see if we can reduce her health insurance costs.
First, no one seems able to provide us a plan summary that says what is covered and to what extent it is covered. We have to dig through her paperwork and see what we can find. Second, no one seems to be able to explain how the various coverages coordinate. And third, no one can explain what, if any, impact Obamacare will have on their program, although it’s become pretty obvious that all programs will get much more expensive, add tons of red tape, and result in less coverage.
In the midst of our investigation BC-SERS notified Mom they must set her up under a Medicare Advantage plan and they say she can only have one; if BC-URS sets her up BC-SERS Advantage Plan is automatically cancelled. So we called BC-URS several times over a period of days and finally got someone who can answer our questions, only to be told Mom can’t be double covered at all outside of Medicare, she can only have Medicare and one private plan. Of course their plan doesn’t cover dental and vision, so she can keep the other plan for those two, just not for general health care. So where did this apparently new rule come from? Who knows; probably another Obamacare mandate. And we still don’t know exactly what is and is not covered under the plans – kind of hard to make an informed decision; we might as well head over to the bar and throw darts.
And that’s just the bottom half of the bun in this sandwich. The top half of the bun has its own problems; the kids don’t have health care. Both are self-employed, and one has a part time job less than 28 hours per week so health care is not offered. They’re still digging out from some unplanned emergency care expenses and trying to figure out how to get affordable health insurance so they don’t have to pay the tax required of the uninsured. Businesses just got a one year reprieve from their health care sentence, but not the people. The tax on individuals hasn’t been postponed, at least not yet.
A short time ago former Speaker Pelosi said “we have to pass the bill so we can see what’s in it”, one of the most stupid comments on legislation I’ve ever heard. And of course now that they’ve passed the legislation and it’s being implemented, we still don’t know what’s in it! And nobody can explain it to us, but we’re sure going to get stuck paying for it.
So you sandwich-dwelling Grasshoppers, the point of this tirade: Before your doctor sticks his finger you-know-where, start now to learn everything you can about your health insurance, your parents’ coverage and your children’s coverage. It may take you the next six months to sort everything out and you definitely do not need costly surprises.
Meanwhile, my dear wife is cleaning up health care messes, one patient at a time…

-Pops

20130702 – Rats and Taking Breaks

I’m thinking about a lot of things today, but particularly the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots and the loss of so many good men. My sympathy and prayers to their families; what a terrible loss for a community.
We ran into cousin G and spouse J Friday night about 10:45 after some late night grocery shopping and he shared with us that she was showing some serious dementia symptoms along with painful bouts of arthritis. We had quite a conversation about the difficulties and the heartache of caring for a spouse with dementia and I hearkened back to my post last week about my Dad and my Mother-in-Law. It is a very tough road but when it’s your spouse you don’t think twice; that “in sickness and in health” commitment just kicks in and you do everything you can to stay connected and care for them. D and I suggested the reference over in the resource section of this blog; it’s full of good advice and techniques for family caregivers. Meanwhile, our hearts go with you G and J.
Last night was another Jazz at the Zoo concert, this time honoring local legend Arno Marsh on sax. He played with all the greats including Stan Kenton, played in Vegas, and played as good as the best. At 85 his music and performance were spot on and we couldn’t have asked for a better show. What a chance to really mellow out and we did! Arno’s son Randy is a great drummer in his own right and he played one of the meanest jazz harmonicas I’ve ever heard.  It was a real blowout of an experience and a great way to get out of the sandwich for a few hours and recharge.
Looking back a little further, Sunday turned out to be the perfect day for a bike ride in Millennium Park so we loaded up and headed out. It started a bit cloudy but soon cleared up and with temperatures in the mid-seventies and a slight breeze I don’t think we could have had a better first ride of the season. Too bad it didn’t come two months ago! We did our typical tour around the lakes, then out to the east end of the park for a quick protein bar and water break at the pavilion, and returning for a final lake loop before calling it a day. After that ride the kayaks out on the lake looked really inviting – we’re going to have to rent a couple one day and go for a cool down paddle after the ride. Anyway, now we’re really motivated to get on those bikes regularly and get some serious exercise, something we could have used a lot more of ever since the weather turned nice enough for outdoor activities. Surprisingly we got in eleven miles, not bad. Other than feeling a little tired I was none the worse for the ride and found myself planning to get out much more often the rest of the summer. Yet another good way to get out of the sandwich and recharge!
Two days break and all it cost was a $5 donation and a fast food dinner. Not too bad on the wallet! I think that’s one of the challenges of caregiving and sandwich living, finding inexpensive ways to break away and give yourself some rest. It’s much tougher to find that time as a twenty-four/seven caregiver like my Dad was, but my weekly visits on Thursdays gave him a little break; not much but it was something and Mom wasn’t the mental challenge that a dementia patient can be.
And it’s not just caregivers and sandwich dwellers that need a break, we all do. It’s too easy these days to jump into the rat race and just run along with all the other, often much faster, rats. Why not step over to the curb and sniff a few roses instead of just dashing after the cheese? When we were biking Sunday we scared up a huge heron not ten feet off the bike path in the marsh we were riding through. It was a majestic sight (and slightly surprising) that close. And on our Fathers’ Day cruise to watch bald eagles soaring over the river and listen to the rush of water beneath the paddle wheels was quite a treat for the senses. To think we could have missed out on those treats had we not taken a little break from the race. Eventually you realize the rat race is not much more than a treadmill – you never really get anywhere meaningful and you miss out on a lot of real life experiences.
No matter what your lifestyle, and regardless of the challenges you face, give yourself an occasional break; you may find yourself experiencing a new perspective on life in the process.
Running the rat race … with a few other jazz-loving mellow rats …

-Pops

20130624 – Care Giving and Remarkable Living

Monday
I was thinking about my Dad today, and my Mother-in-Law, and then I saw this story, and this one, and understood; because, in a small way, I’ve experienced care giving with my Mom and my Father-in-Law. But I was never the caregiver to the extent that my Dad and M-I-L had to be. And I can’t hold a candle to their light. Thanks Dad, for taking care of Mom; and Mom, for taking care of Dad. Thank you both for showing me the way, even though I hope and pray the day never comes when I have to walk that path.

Tuesday
Well, it’s obvious I started this post on Monday, strongly motivated by those two news stories. Today’s a new day, but caregiving is never really out of my mind, just tucked back into the recesses of the brain for a while.

I had a nice chat with a friend during the break at Jazz at the Zoo last night. He’s writing his third book and getting ready to tackle the publishing end of the business. A retired teacher and school principal, he’s taking extra care to make sure that all three books are “just right” before he submits them. He said it wouldn’t be right for someone approaching his seventieth birthday to be submitting books to a publisher that weren’t very competently edited and representative of his best work. Writing and publishing makes a statement about who he is, not just what he does. I wonder how many people look at their work the same way as he does.

The evidence splashed across our computer and TV screens, public signs, and printed stories would suggest otherwise. The number of misspellings and grammar errors appearing in published work these days is positively depressing and highly annoying. I guess I shouldn’t let myself be troubled by the garbage that passes the editor’s eyes but it really bothers me. Hey, I’m not perfect; I wasn’t one of those “A” students in high school English class, well not always anyway. I’m sure you’ll find grammar and spelling errors on my blog but I’ll guarantee it’s not for lack of knowledge or editorial effort to make it right before publishing my posts. I will promise to not put an apostrophe before every single s at the end of a word, only where it represents possessive or a contraction, NOT A PLURAL for Heaven’s sake! That is my biggest pet peeve in contemporary writing, but there are plenty of others; just don’t get me started!

Speaking of writing, today I saw a piece by Seth Godin, “Different or Remarkable”, on creating a remarkable product. Marketers are always talking about how you differentiate your product from the competition in the marketplace, particularly when there are many similar products from which to choose. He points out that maybe it would be better to create a truly unique and remarkable product, one that earns remarks or comments from its fans rather than trying to differentiate a product that can barely be distinguished from its competitors. In the writing world that translates to books sold and read, blogs read and commented on, business ideas that catch fire, web sites that draw big crowds and I’m sure there are many other examples out there.

What about you and the things that make you unique? Do your work and your life pass that test? Do you love what you do? Is what you do becoming a part of who you are? Are you the craftsman of your life? Is what you do and how you live appreciated by those who benefit from your work and your life? Do others remark about and comment on your example in a positive way? Are you making a difference and not just differentiating yourself? Are you living your remarkable life?

Living is a challenge, making a difference is a real calling; using your God given gifts, talents and passions to make that difference is what we’re all called to do and how we’re challenged to live.

Trying my best to write remarkable insights and answer the call…
-Pops

20130618 – Hats, Fashion, and Function

I wear a hat. Winter, summer, fall, spring, I wear a hat. You can see it in my profile picture, my avatar, and in my Facebook profile. My wife can find me in the store or the mall, because I wear it. My grandkids grin, because I wear it. My kids call me Indiana Jones, because I wear it. My granddaughter likes it when I play peek-a-boo behind it. And of course she looks absolutely adorable in it when she swipes it from my head and puts it on hers, usually when I’m driving and she’s sitting behind me.
Before I hit my forties I never saw myself as a hat person. My Dad first suggested I start wearing one after he noticed he was getting sick less often once he formed the habit, particularly in the winter. He kept on suggesting it and, as my hair got thinner, the more sense it made.
Now I’m a form follows function kind of guy so when I started looking for “the hat” it had to be the right one. It had to keep the sun out of my eyes, the rain and snow off my glasses and off my neck, and keep my head warm, all while looking “right” on me. The classic baseball cap served no useful purpose other than to make a fashion statement – don’t waste my time. My search began, lasted for several years, and ended at The Nature Company store in downtown Toronto that we visited on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. There it was, “the hat”, an almost khaki colored fedora, felt, broad brim, narrow leather band, crushable and packable, a very functional and serviceable hat. It was perfect, and I’ve worn it every cold day for the last seventeen plus years.
A few brief years later “the hat” became two hats as I realized being outdoors during the warmer months without a hat was creating serious sunburn issues up where I actually used to have hair. The fedora was way too hot for summer wear, so the search began again, for the next perfect hat. It ended in a little shop in Tubac, Arizona. There it was, perched on the rack, a Bush Hat by Barmah Hats of Australia. Called a “Foldaway Cooler”, it has a broad leather brim, flat leather top, a crushable mesh crown and a braided leather band. It has become my second perfect hat and I wear it every warm weather day for work, play and gardening, any outdoor activity including just going to and from.
I was wearing “the hat” on Fathers’ Day when my wife and I plus S and L went for a cruise on the Grand Lady riverboat, the Sunday Picnic Cruise (bring your own food; buy beverages of your choice on board). It was a really great afternoon cruising the Grand River and seeing a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and several herons gliding low over the water. It was a beautiful day and a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon for just fifteen dollars per adult ticket (I promised I’d put in a good word). But I digress.
While on the cruise we had the pleasure of listening to one of my favorite jazz musicians and a local celebrity, Tom Hagen, perform. We’ve heard and seen him perform at Jazz at the Zoo the last few years and have developed a real appreciation for his music. I was planning to go introduce myself at some point during the cruise and tell him how much we enjoyed his music, but to my surprise, during the break he came over to our table and asked if he knew me from somewhere. I was briefly flustered and thought for a second and then volunteered that perhaps it was at the concerts at the Zoo. He agreed and we thought maybe it was “the hat”. S and L, and Deb also agreed and suggested that “the hat” was probably becoming my trademark. At any rate, we had a nice chat and closed out the conversation with expectations of seeing each other at the Zoo last night where he was again playing. Then he got back to business and we said a brief goodbye at cruise’s end.
Last night we attended another great Tom Hagen ensemble performance at the Zoo. Immediately after the show I headed toward the stage. He beamed as I stepped up to shake his hand and thank him for another wonderful evening. It was “the hat”. Tom said he saw me out there in the crowd of about a thousand or so, and commented that there were quite a few hats but none like mine. It was definitely “the hat”, my trademark or so it seems.
I actually like being identified by “the hat”. It’s a reminder of who I am, practical and down to earth, a bit of a loner, and a little outdoorsy in the camping sense. At the same time it helps get me out of my shell and get a little playful and adventurous. And I guess it serves as a good conversation starter with the occasional local celebrity!
So what’s the point of this post, nothing really. It just seems to me that if you’re going to wear a hat you ought not to jam a baseball cap on your head backwards and call it good. What’s the point of that? Fashion, affiliation, or being “cool” or “in” I suppose. And maybe that makes sense; maybe it’s the perfect choice for some folks. On the other hand, maybe getting a little older helps me make sense of things and question things that don’t make sense, at least to me.
Function over fashion, and a little common sense thrown in; it works for me. Now excuse me while I go look for my plaid Bermuda shorts, black socks, and dress shoes … it’s time for a walk.

-Pops