PROCRASTINATION MADE ME DO IT

The Bible lists “Seven Deadly Sins.” There are numerous vices, overindulgences, and bad habits to fall victim to.  One of these is procrastination.  I don’t think it gets enough credit.  Give credit where credit is due.

Why am I sitting here watching my grass grow to heights unknown?  Because it’s Saturday and I know I can mow it next week.  I’m well-known for starting things and not finishing.  I’m aware of my bad habit and keep it under control most of the time.  There’s no self-help organization available.   According to well-known sources… “Procrastinators Anonymous never got off the ground because meetings were continually delayed.”

Here are some hypothetical situations.  A potential state senate candidate missed the filing deadline.  As a result he missed the opportunity to run for office.  Why? Was he still collecting signatures on a petition?  …Poor planning?  Or was it procrastination?  Was he fit to be a state senator?  A routine traffic stop, a citation for speeding.  The night before, the driver watched a movie until the early morning hours.  As a result she was tired, didn’t hear the alarm and got a late start.  She procrastinated the time she went to bed.  Movie watching was prioritized over sleep.  Both were poor choices.  Additionally, her driver’s license was expired.  The renewal notice came in the mail.  A decision was made to delay renewal, after all, she had a month.  …Absent-mindedness?  …Maybe?  Pure and simple procrastination started the whole mess.  I failed to mention her “bad hair” day.  A young high school boy missed an opportunity to ask a special young lady to the prom.  His mother cautioned him not to wait too long.  Someone else beat him to the punch.  The young man rationalized, that she probably didn’t want to go out with him anyway.  Procrastination struck once again.      

—-The greatest amount of wasted time, is the time not getting started—-

–Dawson Trotman–

What role does procrastination play in our lives?  Have there been scientific studies made on the subject?  If not, there should be.  The cynic in me says they were probably delayed.  I suspect procrastination plays a greater role than we think.  The effects of procrastination are myriad.  We compromise, settle for second best–even do without.  Extra pressure is injected into our already complicated lives.  All because of a conscious choice.  Don’t let procrastination rule your life!  In my opinion, that’s a sin that could prove deadly.

Procrastination, I know thee well.  I’m going to mow my grass now.  I shamed myself into it.  It would be truly tragic if the neighborhood association sent out sheriff’s deputies.  Imagine my embarrassment, being ticketed for an “Unsightly lawn,” “Bringing down property values.” The kicker, would be the citation for “Excessive use of lawn ornaments and windchimes.” Is procrastination a valid legal defense?  “Your Honor, my client was under the influence of Procrastinational Forces beyond his control and is therefore not guilty!

DOGWALKING

Dogs can indeed tell time.  My two dogs, Max & Maggie follow me around early every morning at the same precise time.  It’s to remind me that it’s time for their morning walk.  Sometimes they stand in front of the drawer that contains their leashes.  They look at me with their expressive eyes as if to say, “We’re ready, what are you waiting for?” Just the mention of the word “walk” has them bouncing with delight.  Our daily walks get me out of the house and I get badly needed exercise.  Walks mean much more to the dogs.

I belong to a very loosely organized neighborhood group of morning dog walkers.  It consists of a half-dozen participants on most days–sometimes more.  We’ve discussed having T-shirts made emblazoned with the words: Retired Old Farts Neighborhood Dog Walkers Club–ROFNDWC for short.  We couldn’t leave out non-retired younger neighborhood walkers. …Friendly non dog owners.  An umbrella organization was formed, Neighborhood Non-Dog Owner Walkers & Geezer Gazers–NNDOWGG.  The looseness of both clubs made it hard to get anything done–the t-shirt suggestion was put on the back burner.  Retired folks are a fiercely independent lot.

We’re an eclectic bunch from different backgrounds.  …Blue collar and white-collar.  One of us was in the automobile business, there’s an aeronautics worker, a former airline pilot, two, (including myself), are former communication workers, and I almost forgot–a former teacher.  There is probably a couple of hundred years experience among us.  Discussion topics run the gamut.  Politics are usually avoided due to polarization of participants.  Both major political parties are represented.  None of our discussions have escalated to violence–so far.  Some of the discussions have been spirited.  We’re retired, set in our ways.  No minds are going to be changed.  This week a topic of discussion surprised me.  One of the guys mentioned Eric Hoffer, the legendary “Longshoreman Philospher.”  I sprang into action.  That was an opportunity to put my liberal arts degree to use.  I hadn’t heard that name since college philosophy class.  Some days my walk takes longer because the discussions are more interesting.   Several participants could write best-selling books based on their life experiences.

There’s a practical side to our daily discussions.  I’ve learned about new places to go–restaurants, entertainment venues, car shows,  vacation destinations.  Where’s the best places to get things done? It’s been covered.  Everybody knows a go-to person for just about everything.  Health issues are discussed frequently, including how to stay healthy.  Where were the best doctors and hospitals?  It’s not my favorite subject, but I’m reminded of my own mortality.  Some of my fellow dog walking friends have health issues.  It’s part of the aging process.  We’re there to encourage them in their struggles.  We also celebrate their victories.  Bad customer service experiences are shared.  Little known facts and trivia are brought up.  I found out that some schools in the South taught a different version of the Civil War.  When Mother Nature sent an unexpected rainstorm, we stuck it out together.  It’s a misery loves company thing.

Our reason for existence is love for our dogs.  The dogs, even though they can’t talk, enjoy our club.  They seek out the treat givers.  Some dogs, like their owners, are grouchy in the morning.  All the dogs look forward to canine camaraderie with their friends.  My dogs express their opinions of new dogs quickly.  I’m amazed, that to them, senses of smell, taste, and hearing are more important than visual cues.  Every scent marking carries a meaning.  Rabbits, squirrels, and cats require an immediate investigation.  They know that if they chew on something long enough it will break.  My advice for humans and dogs–be optimistic and on your best behavior–there could be a treat around the corner!

–The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue–

-Author Unknown- 

A MOVING STORY

It was the summer of ’04 and I was busier than ever.  After years of working my wife and I retired.  We planned to relocate to an area we’d grown to love–the Alabama, Western Florida Gulf Coast.  Our home of eighteen years was put up for sale and amazingly enough, it sold immediately.  In addition, we got more than our asking price.  Now, the race was on, get ready to move eight hundred miles away.  July was a flurry of activity.  I was busier than I’d ever been at work, putting in twelve hours days.  The old saying is “when you move, you find out who your friends are.”

We’d planned to live in our RV trailer until the new house was built.  I planned to work for an additional six years until my retirement benefits kicked in.  I’d already secured employment as an associate at a big name retail discount store.  My employment started in August.  Now the search was on to find a moving company to haul our belongings.  Herein began our cautionary tale.  The youngest of our three grown daughters and her husband planned to surprise us by securing a moving company for us.  They would pay moving expenses as a gift.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think that we were ungrateful.  It’s always the thought behind gifts that matters most.  Our daughter and new son-in-law were experienced in the business world.  They did considerable research over the internet to find the best company at the right price.  A company based in Miami, Florida was selected.  This company knew what our time constraints were.  They would let us know when they’d contracted with a mover.  Time went on–three weeks left, two weeks.  Repeated calls always got the same response, “Everything’s ok, as soon as we’ve arranged with a moving contractor we’ll contact you.”

It dawned on us, this was a fly-by-night boiler room operation.  They only had one thing in mind–taking our money.  They had a nicely designed homepage and an office with phone numbers.  That was about as far as their legitimacy went.  There was only a week before the new home owners moved in.  We were really sweating it.  Begging and pleading had no effect on these people.  We had just a few days left.  I hated to leave my wife behind, but had obligations at our new location.  My three sons-in-law stayed behind and helped my wife move our household goods into a storage unit.

Meanwhile my daughter and son-in-law rented a “DIY U-Drive” type van from a well-known company.  The same day the new people moved in we were still moving out.  My youngest daughter and my Grandson drove the van.  My wife followed behind in her.  During the chaotic moving process, my wife backed her car into the garage wall.  I didn’t know about that until later.  The little caravan headed southeast out of Illinois.  My daughter stopped for fuel before leaving Illinois.  The truck wouldn’t restart.  More frustration ensued.  “DIY U-Drive’s” service number was found and called.

After a couple of hours waiting, a beat-up tow truck arrived.  The mechanic opened the hood, looked around and said, “Hmm.” “I wonder who did that?” My wife, daughter, and grandson are not mechanically inclined.  He told them the alternator had recently been replaced.  An inept mechanic had wired it incorrectly.  The battery wasn’t being charged.  He towed the van to his garage and repaired it that evening.  It was getting late, but my daughter pressed on anyway and made it to North Alabama around ten PM.

I waited nervously for their arrival the next morning at the self-storage facility.  They arrived late morning safe and sound.  Meanwhile the rest of the family came to help unload.  I was proud of the way everyone pitched in and did their part.  Later my wife and I had an enjoyable lunch with everyone.  What did we learn from this experience?  The moving van I could chalk up to “Murphy’s Law,” but I’m not.  I think the van rental company had an obligation to hire competent mechanics.  This vehicle had not been thoroughly checked out.  Was this cost-cutting deferred maintenance?  It was another sad example of poor customer service. 

The so-called moving company I’ll cut no slack.  My son-in-law disputed the charges on his credit card and refused to pay.  He could never find a physical address for the business. That only added to my suspicion–the internet made it easier for charlatans and thieves to hide.  My warning is this, be sure you know who you are dealing with.  Deal only with well-known companies with good reputations.  That is more important than saving a few hundred dollars.  The grief and headaches you may suffer are not worth it.  Relocation is traumatic enough.

THE TEACUP

A skinny blonde, gap-toothed eight year old boy, examined it with his small hands.  “Mom, what does e-x-p-o-s-i-t-i-o-n spell?” “It spells exposition, Honey.” Please put it down.” “I don’t want you to break it.” “That was your Grandma’s–she got it at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.” “Now get ready for bed.” Billy said his prayers and his mother tucked him in.  “Mom, can I go to the World’s Fair sometime?” “I don’t know, maybe someday.” “Settle down and go to sleep.” Billy’s mother was a schoolteacher.  His maternal Grandmother was a schoolteacher before her.  She’d passed away when he was a baby.

He fell asleep thinking about his Grandmother.  She was a teacher like Mom–would she have liked me?  Billy dreamed about carnival rides and cotton candy.  He walked into a large exhibition hall.  On the walls were portraits: George Washington, Kings and Queens,  pictures of Grandma on the back wall.  There were pictures of old men with beards–they all looked grumpy.  Billy asked a man standing by a very large horse a question.  He didn’t seem to hear at first–just kept grooming the horse.  Billy asked him louder, “Is this the exposition?” He answered, “No, this is the Great Depression.” “…Great Depression?” “What’s a Great Depression?” The man got real grouchy, told Billy, “Go away and mind your own beeswax!”

“People didn’t get to go to the fair everyday.” That’s what the train conductor said.  Grandma got off the train with her suitcases.  The train station was huge!  There was smoke everywhere from trains coming and going.   A young woman and a man wearing a suit met Grandma.  It was strange, his Grandma called the woman “Sister.”  The man in the brown suit carried Grandma’s luggage after they hugged each other.  They gathered outside the train station and waited near a large fountain.  In the fountain were large fish statues spewing water.  There were people riding in horse and buggies, in streetcars, and riding bicycles.  “This is our car” the young man in the suit said.  They boarded a wooden streetcar.  “Does any body know how to drive?” Grandma asked.  “He’s too young to drive,” answered the young woman.  “Does he know I’m his Aunt Sarah?” “Of course he does, it’s his birthday.” answered Grandma.  Didn’t they care about not having a streetcar driver?

All the streetcar passengers broke into a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” The strangest thing was, they wished Happy Birthday to an Uncle James.  Everybody seemed to be going to the same place.  It started to rain.  The rain washed away the smoky air.  All the women carried colorful parasols.  Soon they were standing in line for tickets.  Tickets were fifty cents apiece.  Some people seemed to be auctioning off their extra tickets.  “I’ll take a dollar, take a dollar.” “Who’ll give me a dollar five?” “Five a dollar, five a dollar.”  The World’s Fair had many buildings, fountains, fancy streetlights.  There were many things clamoring for attention.  …steam engines, dancers from different countries, wild animals.  They had the biggest ferris wheel he’d ever seen.  There was a big lake with people riding in swan boats.

They had cotton candy–it was everywhere and lots of ice cream.  The most amazing thing about the whole experience was that he was there.  He couldn’t to talk to anyone, but he was really at the World’s Fair!  Grandma and her friends climbed onto the teacup ride.  The ride looked like the one at Disneyland.  Each teacup was painted like the one at home.  A giant steam engine provided the power.  The chugging and smoke belching increased in tempo as the ride went faster.  Riders had looks of apprehension.  Billy wasn’t scared–he held a small souvenir tightly.  Suddenly his Grandma laughed, stood up and said, “Now who’s the brave one?” as she climbed to the edge of the cup.  Onlookers were frozen in horror.  He couldn’t let her fall! …Had to grab her! He reached out farther and farther almost risking his balance.  …Can’t reach her! …Have to try harder, harder.  He fell and  drifted down slowly over the ferris wheel,  the lake, and over the animal pens.

Miraculously, he could suddenly fly like a bird.  He flew slowly over the city.  …Over houses, factories, the river and riverboats.  He couldn’t wait to show his friends at school–especially the school bus bully.  He’d show him a thing or two.  A couple of power dives would be all it would take.  His whole body twitched.  …Couldn’t breathe.  Had he fallen out of bed?  Abruptly, it ended–the feelings of ecstasy, flying.  Ecstasy changed to anger.  Why couldn’t he go back?  It wasn’t fair.  The sun shone brightly through his bedroom window.  Should he tell Mom about this?  No, it was Billy and Grandma’s little secret.  Someday he planned to visit her again in dreamland.

 

ON WITH THE SHOW

If somehow I could be magically transported in time back to the nineteenth century.  I’ve been told it has something to do with shifting paradigms and space-time continuums–whatever that is.  I wonder if kids these days learn about that in elementary school?  I’m not a technophobe as some of my generation are.  There are, however, some things in the digital world that intimidate me.  It would take a time machine to pull this off, like in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” I don’t have the skill-set to build one and my local hardware store wouldn’t have the necessary parts.  I’ll settle for building a bird house.  What colors do I want to use?  I’ve got red, yellow, green, black, and white.  This is something I know I can handle.

I’d like to go back to the Old West.  What I would like to see the most is an old-time travelling Medicine Show.  Colorful wagons plied the dusty roads carrying hucksters selling myriad healing potions and elixirs.  It was travelling entertainment for people eking out a living on the western plains.  The proprietor had the title of Doctor or Professor and often did feats of magic to accompany his presentation.  There are parallels in today’s culture: infomercials, kiosks in the mall, door-to-door sales persons.  The more entertaining the presenter is, the more they capture and hold our attention.  The first time I saw the late night infomercial for spray-on hair I couldn’t stop laughing.  I’m sure the inventor of the product laughed all the way to the bank.

I have a collection of antique patent medicine bottles.  They’re different shapes and colors and originally contained various elixirs and potions.  The product names and logos are embossed into the glass.  In the old days they didn’t have the colorful graphics we have now.  Many of these concoctions contained alcohol or narcotics.   Some potions were described as being “lithiated,” which meant they contained trace amounts of lithium.  Lithium is known to have a tranquilizing effect.  So your Great-Great Grandma or Grandpa may have been flying high.  Let’s imagine we’re in the Old West and a medicine show is headed our way.  An advance man hands out flyers.  The flyer might read like something like this–

____________________

—-Dr. Jokulardi’s Travelling Exposition & Magic Show

More wonderment than mortals can ever know

Of late from Schenectady and Kalamazoo

Feats of amazement performed for you!—-

—-He’s entertained kings and heads of state

Step right up! It’s worth the wait!

Come see this worldwide sensation!

Guaranteed not to be prevarication!—-

—-Mystifying feats of prestigitation!

Predictions, Prognostications,

Levitations, and divinations

Preceded only by his reputation—-

—-Dementia, lethargy, weak constitution?

Dr. Jokulardi’s Panacea is the only solution!

Lumbago, dyspepsia, and other pains

Phlegmatisms, disorders of the brain—-

—-Whether consumption, anemia, or harmful biles

It’s guaranteed to cure and bring you smiles!

Results will quiet the hardened skeptic

Hurry now, his schedule is quite hectic!—-

___________________

Some of these products carried on into the twentieth century.  I’m thinking of “Carter’s Little Liver Pills,” for example.  In my father’s generation, everyone took something called “spring tonic.” One of the ingredients was sassafras root.  There seems to be a resurgence of patent medicines.  People are self-medicating with various herbal remedies.  Doesn’t seem that far removed from snake oil if you ask me.  There are some childhood remedies I could just as soon done without–castor oil and cod liver oil.  Yuck!!

Curtain Call

Givers–takers

Movers–shakers

Beggars–braggarts

Dreamers–schemers

Felons–philanderers

Defenders–menders

Diplomats–Chesire cats

Poets–that didn’t know it

Rastafarians–alphabetarians

Leaders–followers–hangers on

Drama queens–kings–pretenders to the throne

People inside and outside the loop

Central casting couldn’t make up this group

Performances that brought the audience to tears

“People come and go so quickly here”

Shut up Dorothy, try to keep up

The “Amazing Race”–“Lost in Space”

“Twilight Zone”–“Mission Impossible?”

Beach chair–so comfortable

Leave me alone!

I’m on vacation!

A Not So Helpful Place

I don’t have a bone to pick with the nationally known hardware chain.  This is about pet adoption–something I feel strongly about.  There are too many unwanted pets put to death everyday.  If I could, I would adopt them all.  It was a shock to lose our beloved pet in May of last year.  It was the day after Mother’s Day.  My wife and I decided after a few weeks to adopt another dog.  We found a mixed breed Australian Blue Heeler about a year old.  He was at the county animal control shelter.  My wife, before we got ready to leave, spotted him.  “Look Honey, Isn’t  he cute?” His kennel name was Ranger.  We took him outside for a walk.  He immediately rolled over on his back submissively.  “Aww, he already likes tummy rubs.” Soon he’d worked his way into our hearts and home.  The name just didn’t seem to fit.  I christened him Max and he became part of our family.

Adopted dogs carry baggage from abuse in many cases.  We knew our dog lived on the streets as a stray.  It was obvious from the way he tried to scavenge.  He dug up everything our previous dog buried in the backyard.  I was ever vigilant in case he tried to carry unearthed treasures into the house.  After three months it became apparent that he had occasional lameness in his left back leg.  Several trips to the Vet, the diagnosis was torn ligaments in his left back knee.  Surgery was called for with several months rehabilitation.  Our Vet recommended a specialist in another city some distance away.

Max came through with flying colors.  The surprise was Max’s true age.  His bones were still growing.  That delayed the healing process.  I have nothing but good things to say about the medical surgical center.  They allowed us to board Max over the holidays free of charge.  Consequently, the rehab period stretched to six-months.  During that time Max was confined at home.  I took him out on a leash, day or night, every time he needed to do his business.  Because of being caged up Max gained weight and lost muscle tone.  How could we get him to lose weight?  He’d already been on a strict diet–that wasn’t the problem.  We discussed getting a second dog.  If he had a playmate he’d get more exercise.  Max was cleared February of this year.

We set out on our quest this past March.  A female dog would be better because there wouldn’t be fights for domination.  Ideally we wanted a medium sized dog about the same age.  Max was easy-going and weighed about forty-five pounds.  We answered an ad from a private local shelter.  The county animal shelter had several candidate dogs.  A couple of dogs caught my interest.  There were no outstanding candidates.  Max came along to meet his potential new friend.  Our new pet also had to be friendly with us.  We made a trip to a nearby city animal shelter.  My wife sat outside with Max.

I went with a staff person to view adoptable dogs.  We walked past rows of kennels.  The barking and yapping was deafening.  It made it hard to concentrate.  There were at least six dogs per kennel and the stench was unbearable.  No matter, I had a job to do.  Near the end of the row was a white and tan medium sized female dog that caught my eye.  The other dogs were barking, growling standing on the bars.  She wasn’t cowering, just stood there and looked back at me with expressive brown eyes.  “Can I look at that dog?” I asked.

We walked to the waiting area.  This dog immediately liked me, my wife, and most importantly, liked Max.  She looked like a mixed breed Border Collie.  Her fur was as soft as rabbit’s fur.  It looked like a perfect match.  We signed paperwork and paid the necessary fees and headed home.  The nice thing about shelter dogs is that they have been neutered or spayed, given necessary shots, and tested for diseases.  Shortly after arriving home I gave our new friend a bath.  My wife went to the pet store to buy her a new collar and leash.  She also selected her name.   This was going to be Maggie–Max and Maggie.  Somehow the two names went together.

Maggie turned out to be a great dog.  She is very sweet natured and a great companion to Max.  They pick on each other and play just like brother and sister.  Maggie was a little shy around strangers at first.  There were certain things she was afraid of–like loud noises.  I think these were all due to her past experiences.  Maggie went to our Vet for her first check up.  We were in for some surprises.  She tested positive for heartworms.  After a couple of months we noticed some unusual signs.  Maggie appeared to be going into heat.  We were skeptical, wasn’t she already spayed?  After two trips to our Vet, we found out that she hadn’t been spayed.  Neighborhood dogs started hanging around our property.  We didn’t need any unwanted puppies to deal with.

We called the city animal shelter.  Finally, a manager helped us.  How could this have happened?  Wasn’t adopting out unneutered dogs illegal?  What were they in business for?  They agreed to pay for Maggie to be spayed and made an appointment for early June.  Meanwhile I shooed off love-crazy dogs for several weeks.  We love our Maggie and didn’t want to take her back.  Our Vet has been treating her for heartworms.  The treatment could go on for as long as two years.  She shows no visible signs of any distress.

The most astonishing thing came later.  At the spay & neutering clinic, the personnel advised us, we didn’t have the correct medical records.  The medical records we had belonged to another dog.  My wife asked the Vet, “Would it be a good idea to go back and get the right records?”  The Vet answered, “There’s no point, they screw-up records all the time.”  “They’d probably never find them.”  We went through a lot of unneeded trouble because of bad or nonexistent record keeping.  I’d considered contacting the consumer affairs department of a local TV station.  There are too many needy dogs out there. This shelter was not part of the solution, but rather part of the problem.  I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them to anyone.