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23 posts from May 2012

I want to add "story-telling" to my baby-boomer bucket list

I never really understood the importance of literature until after I retired in 2005.  I didn't get it.  I felt like fiction was a waste of time.  It was something set aside for the artsy-craftsy side who had an intellectual bent.

Can anybody who has tried to read Faulkner or Hemingway relate?  Learning about the symbolism in these two authors would drive me to distraction.  

That changed after I moved away from my day job and had more time to do some below the surface thinking.

I'm now fascinated by how authors explain a chunk of life through their work.  And I'm even more intrigued by how that's transferred from the pages of a book to a movie.  It takes some real skill.  

For almost a year, I've been trying to write my own story.  There's nothing so unusual about me, but I do have a story just like everybody else.  It's multi-layered and not unlike a lot of other people.  There's pathos, ethos and little bit of eros.  

I'm just a member of the first class of baby-boomers born right after World War II and raised by a single-mom who was the consumate survivor.  When I was barely a toddler my dad vanished pure and simple and never came back.  I found him when I was in my twenties.  There's been a lot of life that I've experienced.  Anything to be learned by others?  I think so.

Can I pull it off and make it readable and useful to others?  I'm trying.

What about the movie of my life?  Who'd play me?  John Belushi?  He's gone.  I'd be happy to have a story that my grandson, granddaughter and grandkids to be can read and learn more about their background.  And I'd be happy if somebody else could pick up some hope from it too.

This seems to be pretty wise observation about life from Beatle John Lennon

As I was searching through Google this morning for information about what other people were doing with their own bucket lists, I found this great quote from Beatle John Lennon.  I need to think about this as I'm sitting in the dentist's chair later today getting a root canal:

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. --John Lennon

There seems to be a tub load of wisdom here.  I know that I have to be careful about making too many plans because stuff can happen along the way.  But you still need focus.

I found the quote on this site about what other people are doing with their own bucket lists. Fascinating.  I absolutely have no desire to swim with the dolphins.  I'd love to go back to Grand Canyon though.  

As a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946, I know that the sands are moving through the hour glass pretty quickly and that I need to sort some of this out.

As a baby-boomer, I'm starting to think about long-term care insurance

While driving to meet a friend for lunch, I heard a discussion on the Diane Rehm show about long-term care and about insurance to provide for it.  As a person who turns sixty-six this year, I know I have to think about this even though I don't want to.  Am I too old to buy the insurance without paying a small fortune that I don't have?  Here's the link to the show which I'm going to listen to as long as I don't get distracted.

Here's one big item I've taken off my baby-boomer bucket list

I had almost always been informed about what's going on in politics on almost any level in my home state of Michigan and many other states.  I knew the players.  I knew the sides and I was involved in the process from a young age.

This started when I was pre-teen and started to wind down when I retired.  In between, I spent my whole professional life in and around politics at a variety of levels.  It was a consuming passion that became a career.

I read about it.  I hung around and worked with others who were involved in it.  I talked about it and I firmly believed that I could make a difference.  Hmmm . . .

It's something that started when I was a kid.  Two things drove this interest.  As a only child of a single-mom struggling to survive, I saw how our local city hall treated her differently than those from traditional two-parent families.  For me, it was a justice issue.  I wanted to do something to change it.

Second, as a fatherless child, it was a way for me to relate to my many uncles and to get them to notice me.  I found they were all interested in politics and liked to talk about it and I could always engage their interest and conversation in the topic.  When did this start?  I was very young, like grade school.

I got involved with the local Republican Party, helped form one of the first Teenage Republican clubs in the country.  I served as a page in our State Senate when I was in high school.  I continued in community college as the head of Students for Victory in Vietnam and College Republicans.  

And then I became a newspaper reporter.  I covered politics at all levels.  And then I swung back to the political side as a staffer in our state legislature where I held a variety of positions.  I was a legislative director, a speechwriter and a chief of staff in a small legislative office and pressroom manager at the State Capitol.

When I retired, I went through withdrawal.  It seemed natural that I would be involved in somebody's campaign or in some cause.  It hasn't happened.

Don't take me wrong.  Politics and governing are important.  But, at this point, it's time misspent. Politics today seems to be about holding power without a defined purpose.  The main goal is to get your team to win without standing for anything.

I do want to be a good citizen.  I will stay informed about candidates and I will speak up when necessary.  But, the energies I devoted to the process will be nothing like it was in the past.

Politics, you are off my list.

Are you a baby-boomer still trying to figure-out what to do during your retirement?

It seems like it was just last year when my wife, daughter and son threw a surprise 60th birthday party for me where our house and backyard was filled with people who helped me cross-over into the next important phase of my life.

This year on the last day of August, I'll turn 66.  I'm going on seven full years of retirement and my point is simple.  My life seems to be zooming by.  I hesitate to imagine how quickly my trip to being 70 will go.

I've been dogged by the desire to be sure that I get to my list of things I want to do before I'm either too old or I pass from this life to the next.  And that's where the rub comes in, trying to determine what should be on my list.  I've had to shuck all kinds of things off the platter of choices.  

I know I'll never run a marathon anymore.  A bad left knee says that will never happen.  I'll never sit down and talk to my earthly-father.  I found out he's dead and he's been cremated.  I might be able to sit down with my grandson and pre-born grandaughter over a beer or a coffee and talk about life.  But what else?

With the continued clicking of my personal clock, I feel the urge to get my list settled.  I know the first item on my so-called bucket list.  It involves my relationship with God.  I know that everything in my life starts and ends there.  What does that mean?  How does that look in my day-to-day life?  I think I'm finding some of the answers.  

It helps me to write it down and then to make sure that's where I put my focus.  

How about you other retired baby-boomers?  You got this all figured out or still working on it?

This is from my About page on this blog:

Bucket list

Watch my grandson Xavier try to learn to say "Happy Mother's Day"

I really love watching this video of my grandson Xavier and his dad Adam Jones.  Dad's trying to teach his almost two-year-old son to say "Happy Mother's Day."  Putting those three magic words together on video prove to be too much.  But, I know his mom loved it.  I know that his grandma did.

My grandson shows his trophies from Budapest Easter egg hunt

We celebrated Easter this year in Budapest, Hungary where we were vacationing with our daughter and family for five days.  At our rented condo near the Danube River, we made our own dinner with local wine and with a first Easter egg hunt for almost two year grandson.

Our unit was on the second floor which is the first floor in Europe.  We laid out the eggs on the groundfloor enclosed courtyard with some being really visible and some less so.  When we brought his down, he ran to each plastic egg.  It was almost instinctive.  He knew where to do.  

In this little video clip, he shows off this trophies.  They are in a hand-crocheted basket that we gave to our daughter for her first Easter.


Roads in war torn Bosnia are pristine compared to ours

While we were on our vacation to Bosnia to be with our kids who live there, we traveled more than 1,000 miles through their country, Croatia and Hungary.  What about the roads there?

The roads in Bosnia where they fought a war 20-years-ago seem to be just like new.  There was nary a crack, pothole or filled area that could trip up your car or truck.  At least, we didn't see any.  And the traffic was heavy in many parts.

What's the difference with Michigan?  Climate?

Their weather has to be similar if not worse than ours during the winter.  If there's frost-heaving, it's not on the roads.  The roads there are what we dream about here.  Here's a chunk of video from my Flip camera showing what I mean.

Is Wayne County, Michigan more corrupt than Chicago with the late Mayor Daley?

I was sickened when I read this story and watched the accompanying video from the Detroit Free Press about the political fundraising being done in the Wayne County Executive's office.  Citizens in the area and around the state need to start howling for an official investigation and for a response.

Look at the evidence gathered by M.L. Elrick and his team of reporters  that shows what seems to be a "pay to play" culture in Wayne County for anybody who wants to do business in Wayne County.  

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says he has done nothing wrong.  Is that true?  Read and watch.  What's your conclusion?

The Michigan Legislature and the Michigan Attorney General need to provide some effective oversight and take action.  

How many other local governments in our state are suffering from the same ailment?  

The Detroit Free Press deserves our praise.  This is journalism at its best.  The news media needs to be our eyes and ears.  Give us the facts and then let us react.  They did that.


Quotes: This is free and valuable wisdom from Winston Churchill

This is from Winston Churchill and it's pretty profound and it's worth remembering as you step out beyond today:

Sometimes you just swing at the wrong pitches and get a strike and there are times when you get a hit. Right?  It's just a matter of continuing to pick up your bat and going to the plate.

I need to remember this when I step on the scales this week.  I need to stay in the game.  


We got the red carpet treatment from our new friends in Livno, Bosnia


While in Bosnia, we had a chance to visit several of our daughter and son-in-laws friends in their homes.  Wow.  They know how to make you feel welcomed.

Language is an obstacle, but food seems to bridge that.  Each family we visited greeted us at the door with each of their kids introducing themselves.  We sat around their coffee table an within a few minutes we'd have a cup of Turkish coffee and some type of super-sweet pastry or cake.  It brought a smile to my face.

Then it was time for the next course with homemade sausages and cheese with homemade white bread that had real character and personality.  We had pickles, pretzels and dates.  We were told that such reaction to guests is just part of the culture.  I like it.  Here's a short video clip with our grandson at the full coffee table of Bosnian snacks.  He likes it too.

Minarets at mosques dot the landscape in Bosnian towns and villages

Bosnia is an ethnic mosaic that goes back centuries.  When we were there for our recent vacation with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson, we traveled through Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary.

The minarets that pop up in city and village neighborhoods in Bosnia are very noticeable.  We also saw churches established in the same neighborhoods.  The only place where we heard a call to worship from a mosque was in Sarajevo.  

I didn't sense religious antagonisms as much as I got a sense for bad blood that went back centuries.  I'm not sure how accurate that observation is, but the churches there don't seem to be built around religious beliefs as much as ethnic identity.

Everytime we moved around the area, you get a sense that we were walking on streets paved by a long history dating back to ancient times.  I want to read more about the role of this area in the crusades that the hatred that has led to the killing and brutalization of so many people.  Here's just one video shot of a drive through a village.

Truck and bus watching in Croatia with our grandson

We were on our way to Budapest and pulled over to get something to drink and to stretch after a longish car ride.  Our grandson needed to run around a little bit at the convenience type store along the side of the road.  

My wife held him for a couple of minutes as trucks, buses and cars whizzed by.  His neurons were popping and his neck was turning as the vehicles flew by.  Is this just a typical reaction from an almost two year-old boy?  Or is he a gearhead in the making?

He loves vehicles with big wheels, big motors and which make loud noises.  Put a dump truck outside his door and he'll watch til it leaves.  Here's grandma holding him as the action takes place on the highway.


It would be way too easy to put down the Michigan-made movie "Water Walk"


A small town Michigan newspaper editor wrote this book about his relationship with his son and how they tried to fix it with a canoe trip.
The movie is based on this book.

I got an email from the publicist for the Michigan-made movie "Water Walk" asking me to review it for my blog.  I clicked on the link and it got my attention because of the topic, the relationship between fathers and sons.


It's based on a story from a book by Steve Faulkner, a northern Michigan newspaper editor, who lost touch with his teenage son and found the chasm between the two of them almost uncrossable.  They just didn't know how to communicate together.

We went to the first showing for the movie at Celebration Cinema in Lansing.  There were two other people in that theater beside my wife and myself.  It was an uh-oh moment that the lack of attendance meant that the movie was a real dog.  As senior citizens, young ones, we paid the $7 per person rate. There was always the supper afterward at the nearby Applebees, we figured.

Here's what we saw:  A movie that could be watched at two different levels.  Look at it through Hollywood eyes and look at it through the lens of accomplished film-makers, you will leave really disappointed.  

The sound quality wasn't quite at the sweet spot and there were times when scenes had a few seconds where they seemed like they were shot with a Flip video camera.  And there were times when the actors seemed like they were reading their lines off of que cards.  That feeling wasn't terrible, but it was there.

Look at it from another level and it told a story that cuts to the heart.  A father and a son give their relationship one last try.  They were going to recreate the canoe adventure of explorers Father Marquette and Joliet from northern Michigan to St. Louis.  Remember this is based on a real story.

The dad was a workaholic and the son was getting ready to go to college.  And then the dad loses his job.  The door opens for this trip and they go through it.

The photography along the water part of their trip, particularly, the part down the Mississippi was beautiful.  

Did the filmmaker pull it off?  Kind of, sort of.  I'm anxious to read the book that the dad, Steve Faulkner wrote about the experience.  

Does he expose more layers to his relationship with his son?  The film peeked over the edge to another layer, but never quite made it.  What about the complexity of interaction that exists between fathers and sons and those who are estranged?  I didn't see it in this film.  It portrayed it as coming far too easy.

Well, should you go?  It depends on your expectations and the filter that you view it through.  

I thank God for the relationship I have had with my son.  There were the several hundred grocery shopping trips preceded by drinking cappucinno, our trips around the country to various Promise Keeper events.  Those memories are treasured.  I hope that relationship can grow as we go through the transitions of life.

Would I want him and my son-in-law to see this movie or read the book?  Yes.  I just ordered the book from Amazon and I'd be happy to lend it to them when I'm done reading it.


Talking on Flip video in Budapest with my almost two-year-old grandson Xavier

I loved the times when my grandson Xavier and I could sneak away for at the world around us.  While in Budapest, I tried to shoot some video with my Flip camera of he and I talking together.  I stuck out my arm and pressed the red button.  I couldn't see the viewfinder.  You can see the results.  I still love it.  Next time we see him, I bet he'll be putting together sentences with a subject, verb and direct object.

We saw a lot of these--ashtrays--in Bosnia and Hungary

When was the last time that you saw an ashtray in the United States?

On our recent vacation to Eastern Europe to visit our kids, we saw them all over the place.  This is a picture of a window sill in the courtyard of the old condo complex where we stayed in Budapest.  Okay, they smoked outside here, but I bet they smoked inside too.  After a couple of forays to coffee bars in Livno, Bosnia, my clothes reeked of smoke.  I had almost forgotten that smell.  Here's a pic to help you remember what a used ashtray looks like


I told her that I wanted to live in Split, Croatia

We were spending our last day on vacation with our kids in Split, Croatia where we were going to catch a flight to Frankfurt.  And it's where I fell in love at first sight with the Adriatic Sea.

After parking their Skoda, we walked a few blocks through narrow cobblestone streets to the seafront and there it was.  Palm trees.  A waterfront cafe area that ran a couple of blocks with people sipping all kinds of stuff.  It was cool, but sunny.  I told Gladys I wanted to live there.  I was kidding.  But I want to go back.

The Adratic caught my eye.  We were directly across the water from Venice, Italy.  But, I was also taken with Diocletian's Palace.  I remember his name, but I don't remember specifics.  I think he was kind of the Richard Nixon of his day.  Or maybe Nixon dreamed of being this old Roman Emperor who really had a taste for houses.

His palace is amazing.  It's now filled with narrow alleyways where there are small shops for everything.  I'd definitely put it on my "see again" list.


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Our kids in Bosnia drive a Skoda

We drove more than a thousand miles while on vacation with our kids who live in Bosnia.  We travelled through their country, as well as Croatia and Hungary.  Their vehicle is a Skoda made in Czechloslovakia.  It resembles a Honda CRV.

It has a diesel engine and it's built for the mountain driving that we did on many days.  It held the road and made the up and down curves like a Porsche.  I'm not a big mountain driving person.  Usually mountain driving does wonders for my prayer life.  Maybe, it was that I had confidence in my son-in-law's driving while we passed on curves on roads where the edge went down quite a ways.

I'm not sure about the mileage because of the conversion from the metric system, but it seemed like we didn't stop for diesel fuel very often.  And, oh yeah, they have full service gas stations.


My first Ikea experience was in Budapest, Hungary

I was still an Ikea virgin.  I can't believe that I've never been to one in the United States and had to wait till I was in Budapest, Hungary

We were on our way out of Budapest heading home towards Bosnia and saw the signs for Ikea.  Our kids had a list of items that they could get there, but not where they lived.  We stopped.  I was enthralled.  I had a combination of feelings, including the time when I was in a LasVegas casino with my son and had trouble finding the exit.  It was built to keep you inside.

The assortment of merchandise was incredible and so was the thought that you had to assemble most of the bigger things you bought there. It was a perfect place to take an almost two-year-old grandson.  It was a visual feast for him.  I took a bunch of pictures.  By-the-way, when we got home, we went to the Ikea in Canton, Michigan, just west of Detroit.



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Be ready to pay if you have to pee in Budapest, Hungary

When we were in Hungary with our family, I was very careful about having that third cup of coffee.  If you have to use the restroom in a public facility there, you have to pay.  While at Starbucks, I had to navigate a locked facility where you had to provide the combination numbers from your receipt.  At the Budapest Zoo, I went to the restroom and there was a lady there collecting about 75 cents.  The Budapest City Market was no different.  The cost was about a buck.  Here's my Flip video of the sign: