All posts by josesphmkockelmans

About josesphmkockelmans

Lots of fascinating things about me to come soon.

From Rebecca: Snow day

As Joe wrote in yesterday’s blog post, we are having a work at home day because of the forecasted storm over all of Pennsylvania. Snow day! State College is forecast to have about a foot of snow today, which is a lot for a first real snow of the season. This morning it looked clear and I was beginning to think that we wouldn’t get much after all, then just before 11:00 it began to flurry. By noon, we had steady snow and the beginnings of a lot of accumulation. Here it comes.

I am so glad that I can be home today – thanks Joe! – and look at my balcony get slowly buried. I feel so cozy in my warm apartment without having to go out in this. The newscast says it is slick out on the roads, and I send a prayer up for the safety of all the people who have to drive in this storm, especially the bus drivers. I take the bus to and from work, and no matter what the conditions I always feel safe with them at the wheel. We are lucky it isn’t freezing rain, like the western part of Pennsylvania is getting. Snow is tough enough for traveling.

My husband Darren is making Hamburger Helper for dinner right now, and it smells great. I have many blessings, including a spouse who cooks so well. I will be doing the dishes after we eat, of course. We also intend to clean the apartment later, which I guess is a good use of a day off work.

Where ever you are, dear readers, and whatever weather you are experiencing, I hope you are safe. May you end your day warm and comfortable.

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X-Plane 11 vs. Flight Simulator X

Greetings, readers. Yesterday morning I purchased the game X-Plane 11, the newest Flight Simulator. If I had a more powerful laptop or a top of the line desktop, I could max out the graphics and make it look awesome. Right now I have a choice. Have it look awesome and run slow as molasses, or make it look average and have it actually perform correctly. The sim I was playing before was Flight Simulator X, from Microsoft. What follows is going to be my comparison between these two major flight simulator games.

Let’s start with Flight Simulator X, which I’ve used for years. I must say at this point I prefer it better, for you can actually choose a flight plan in the game and load it. Also, I’m quite used to this game and have accumulated many mods (aircraft, scenery, etc.), and have gotten the settings just so. I can fly almost any aircraft with relative ease. Take-offs are a cinch. Landings … well, that is a different story. I’ve made a few, but if they had been real flights, the maintenance crew would have had a lot to clean up. Lol.

Flight Simulator X, or FSX as it is known, to me is easier to use, and it is easier to designate commands and functions on the keyboard. Also, I know exactly how each aircraft’s switches and knobs are used and what they are for. In the other simulator I am still learning. I give Flight Simulator X a solid score of 9 out of 10.

Now for X-Plane 11 and I am going to be brutally honest folks so here we go. The graphics are stunning, even when set to medium. But in the $60 base game, there aren’t that many aircraft to choose from. When downloading after the purchase, the computer prompted me with this question, how many countries and continents would you like to load? The more I clicked the longer the download was going to take. I decided to run a test and choose all. The download was going to take 12 hours. OMG! I canceled that download and simply went with Canada, the United States, Mexico, and South America. That in itself took 3 hours. So far so good.

Now for ease of play. As Norman Thayer would say in the movie On Golden Pond, “Good Gawd!” To load a flight plan takes a PhD. Thirteen-year-old YouTubers make it look so easy, yet this 53-year-old dude can’t figure it out. To be honest, I prefer loading the flight plan in the plane’s computer page that pop’s up, for in real-life pilots load their flight plans that way. It gives it that extra realism and I will learn it so help me, I am determined.

I actually got a plane off the ground yesterday starting from a runway. I was so happy with myself. And noticed that even with medium graphic settings, the sun shone off the airplane’s dashboard and moved across the control panel with the turning of the plane. That I thought was extremely cool. It also has a feature to have an artificial intelligence, or A.I., pilot that can fly the plane for you. I think you actually need a flight plan for this to work. I tried it without a flight plan and the plane took off from State College’s airport and nose-dived into the downtown streets. Oops. The graphics were wonderful as the alarm bells were sounding: Too low terrain, too low terrain. Crash. Obviously, I’m still learning how the A.I. pilot feature. It’s got to be more simple than that. How I think it works, folks, is that you choose an airport and a gate with engines off, file your flight plan in the computer properly, key word properly, and when all the ground vehicles have left, click A.I. Flies Plane for Me. Click it any earlier than that, and who the hell knows what is going to happen.

My preliminary score for this game, and yes, I will update this score in a later blog entry, is a very respectable 6 1/2. I’m going to talk via Facebook page to a couple of YouTubers I know to see if they can help me. Here’s a little something about me. Once I get determined to do something I won’t quit until I do it. I will get this game to run and I will play it.

Finally, prayers go out to all the victims and families in the California fire zones and also continued prayers to families who lost loved ones in the recent shootings. I’m praying that one day soon that the insanity will stop.

Well, there you go. That is today’s blog entry. Hope you enjoyed it. Here is what is happening the next two Thursdays. Moderate snow is expected in our area, so I am giving Rebecca a work from home day tomorrow. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, an obvious day off. So one of us will have a blog entry up tomorrow, we will work together next Wednesday as usual, and then have a Thanksgiving blog post up on the holiday.

Until then, have a great weekend, love one another and give hugs, take care, and happy reading.

I’m about to be blocked out of my hobby!

Greetings, readers. As some of my regular readers may know, I am a flight simulator hobbyist. It is so relaxing to sit in my chair looking into my simulated cockpit and looking at the beautiful blue sky at 36,000 feet. I am a hobbyist pilot for PacificAirways.net. A couple of weeks ago I requested a hub (airport) transfer from Miami to New York, but I didn’t get an email saying it was approved or denied. Yesterday I got a message that I am about to be terminated.

I’ve been trying for several days to log on to the website and the page is asking me to enable cookies. There is only one problem with that. According to the computer settings, they are already enabled. What to do, what to do? With the help of Rebecca’s nimble fingers, we typed an email to Pacific Airways and explained the problem. Hopefully someone reads it in time and has the answer to my browser problem. I have 2,000 flight hours accumulated and would hate to see that all go up in smoke.

Usually I use simulators as an anti-depression tool, but pairing it with the airline hobby is an added bonus. I’ve flown everything from the smallest Dash-8 to the Airbus A380. Such fun it is. I actually wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid but once all my health problems hit, there went that dream.

Speaking of wonderful blue sky, it is a gorgeous day here is central Pennsylvania. TIs a bit nippy, but the sky is blue, the clouds are white, and the leaves are turning colors. All in all it is going to be a gorgeous autumn day. Tomorrow we are expecting rain and turning colder with temperatures really nose-diving over the weekend. Fun, fun, fun for the Penn State game.

I will close this blog entry with this paragraph, “Dear Lord, I pray that these senseless shootings happening across our country and around the world cease. They cause death, destruction, and misery. Absolutely nothing good comes of it, except temporary jollies for the shooter. Then that person’s fun is over, for they are either shot dead by police, commit suicide by shooting themselves, or spend the rest of their lives in prison. Please, Lord, make it stop. Let’s shoot love around the world, not bullets. Amen.”

There is today’s blog. We’ll be back next Wednesday. I’m going to try to have the first draft completed via the speech recognition program; wish me luck on that. Until then, love one another, take good care, enjoy your weekend, and, as always, happy reading.

Overhauling the apartment and me

Greetings, readers. Oh how tired I am this morning. I have decided to get my butt out of my chair and actually give this apartment a good spring cleaning a few months early. I’ve talked about it many times and even Rebecca giggles at me now, for she knows that I either won’t do it or can’t maintain the change. This time I am hellbent on doing so.

With Rebecca’s help before the blog entry time we cleaned off the desk and trashed lots of useless stuff. It looks a heck of a lot better already. Is it perfection? Not yet. But I still have big plans. Another big thing we are doing and still will be doing is shredding papers and the election mailers. I had tons of those. With the election now over, hopefully that will stop. The madness of the mailers must stop.

I am concentrating on one room at a time, because it is extremely easy for me to become overwhelmed. When I think of my bedroom, I scream, go into a panic attack, sit down and watch TV for six hours. Suffice it to say that room is my storage unit. That room may require outside help. What an embarrassment that would be. If I chose Molly Maids, or other such services, I would have to make sure to have all my laundry and unmentionables stashed away ahead of time. Then we would be able to plow through the boxes and throw the stuff out. My big problem in the bedroom, is that I am not physically strong enough to lift and toss out heavy boxes. It is true that I would want to go through everything one box at a time, but I am to the point now where I know what is staying and what is going.

I’m trying to concentrate on this blog today, as the construction demons are making their hideous noises next door. We tried to insert a picture of the construction site for you last time around but it got saved to cyberspace, for it was no where on my computer. The cheap digital camera we used has never worked correctly, so it was no big surprise that the attempt to save to the pictures folder didn’t work.

It is a beautiful semi-warm day here. Very nice for central Pennsylvania in November. We will see how long it lasts. I have a feeling I will be back in my down coat by the weekend. Speaking of the weekend, I’ll watch Penn State lose – um play – Wisconsin at noon. It should be a good game if we play well. That is the key. We are already Bowl eligible with six victories, but I don’t want this team to go to the pee-in-toilet bowl. I hate to say it, but maybe it is time for a change in the coaching staff. I like Coach Franklin, but it seems like he can’t motivate his team out of wet paper bag. The Pittsburgh Steelers play tomorrow night, so I’ll have to choose carefully on Sunday. Perhaps the Eagles will be on.

Lastly, continued prayers go out to all the victims and families who need prayers right now. Troubled times don’t pass in mere days. Sometimes they linger. We will continue to pray for you.

Rebecca and I will be back tomorrow with another blog entry, perhaps dealing with yesterday’s election, perhaps not. You know me, I hate blogging about politics. But one thing I can guarantee you of, it will be an interesting blog topic. So until tomorrow, take care, prayers, have a great day, and happy reading.

The verdict is still out on Nuance Dragon voice recognition program

Greetings, readers. I have tried the brand-newest version of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition program, which the creators call a solution. So far I like it. It’s obviously the same product only better. A couple of months ago, The Nuance company sent me a notice that they are discontinuing my version of the solution, and gave me a choice about what I wanted to do. I could continue to use my current version, number 13, without tech support and updates or I could actually purchase the newest version, number 15, at a big discount. I chose the latter. For a hundred six dollars and some cents I could own a three hundred-dollar product. I said yes, please.

I’ve tried it out a few times already and there are a few improvements I’ve noticed right off the bat. For starters, it did not have to relearn my voice. I believe when I was installing 15, it learned from the previous version before replacing it. That is awesome. I just wish when I am creating a new blog entry in the new post screen on my WordPress dashboard, that I could dictate with the voice recognition program. I still have to dictate in a word program then cut and paste it if Rebecca is not here. That is not that hard to do, but it is an extra step.

The one thing that I did that I actually regret – and it goes to show how impatient I can be – I downloaded the digital copy instead of ordering a disk through the mail. Somewhere in the downloaded content, I’m sure, is the instruction booklet with all the commands and other information about what’s new in the product. I’m quite certain I’ll find it somewhere.

The following paragraph has spoilers for the novel Four’s a Crowd, the book Darren Taylor wrote based on my play Kimberly. If you haven’t read the book yet but want to, you can skip the next paragraph. It is a fantastic novel.

Yesterday Rebecca and I were doing some research on a major health issue for the elderly. My new writing project very well could be either a brand new play or TV pilot script, Five’s a Family, based on Four’s a Crowd. The timeline would be approximately five to eight years from the end of the novel where Kimberly gave birth to Emily Alice. I would want the child to be old enough to interact and be an integral part of the family instead of just sitting there and being cute. The issue is can Alice still have the health to be living in the house as one of the main characters, or would she have to be in a nursing home, only seen once in a while. After a little more research, I will know what I can and cannot do plausibly.

And welcome back to anyone who didn’t read the previous paragraph. Both Rebecca and I seem to be unusually distracted today. Distraction number one is the multitude of construction noises from next door. Number two is my rather naughty kitty cat, Princess Josie. And number three is stopping to find the right words for the blog entry, which are not coming as easily as usual, so we have to keep stopping to find the right words and phrases for a clear meaning. But, we trudge through. Yes, we did have a moment there where we had to re-word almost the whole previous paragraph. We were almost finished with it, when Rebecca pointed out what a major spoiler it was. Oops, can’t do that. That is why she makes the big bucks. She catches things way before I do. Could I edit my own blog? Sure. Would it be edited as well? I don’t think so.

As I begin to wind this blog post down, Josie has finally located a comfy spot. Now she settles down. Haha. I guess it is a comedy of errors today. As I’m trying to dictate the next sentence, the jack hammer outside is wreaking havoc with my concentration. The construction progress of said seven-story building will take at least a year or more. When it is completed, I fear I will have no pretty view left. I took this eighth story apartment for the view. Dang it.

There is today’s entry. We’ll be back next Wednesday with more written goodies. Take care, have a wonderful weekend, give someone you love a hug, and happy reading.

Tis a strange day, it is

Greetings, readers. It seems as though, recently, when Rebecca and I start our work day, it is taking longer for us to get down to brass tacks. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I have a feeling. With my low motivation factor for work right now, I think I am just putting it off as long as possible. We’ll talk about politics, the weather, or last week’s blog numbers, but both of us have come to the conclusion that it is taking longer to get down to something called work.

Last Thursday, near the end of the work session, Rebecca and I tried a dictation test on a possible work project to see if Rebecca could keep up with me as I acted out my script. To my delight, she could. Yay, Rebecca. 🙂 There is some talk on the grapevine that we will have to close down operations at the end of the year or thereabouts, but if I can get this new work project going, working together will still be a viable option. The pressure is still on me to work on something that will quickly sell. Therein lies the problem. Any TV script or play that I write will require several drafts, an agent or a publisher, and will probably take years. I’m not sure if we have the finances for years worth of paying Rebecca.

Ta da! It is now after Bill’s meeting and we have to reinitialize our thought processes. Princess Josie has been sprung from her time-out box and is proudly prancing about the apartment. It is true; this is really her place and she allows me to live here. Haha. Princess Josie has calmed herself down over the last couple of months, and is beginning to learn right from wrong. Her only big issue left is not jumping up on my computer table when I am working. That is a big no-no. I’m sure in another year or so she’ll have all the ins and out of a being “good kitty cat” under her belt.

On a very serious final note, prayers go out to the victims and their families of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. Why can’t we have more love shown in this world of ours? It seems to me that we are surrounded by more death and destruction than joy and unity.

Well, there is today’s blog entry. I’m planning some major changes in the apartment and those plans will be revealed to you tomorrow as part of the blog. So until then, have a great day, say a kind word to someone, take care, and as always, happy reading.

A little taste of Four’s a Crowd

Greetings, readers. For today’s blog entry, I decided to give my regular readers, and the folks who read me when I link the blog entry to the Bear Spring Camps Facebook page, a one chapter taste of the novel Four’s a Crowd. Darren Taylor did a remarkable job on this novel, adapting it from my play Kimberly. We collaborated on this work, touching base on his progress and plot points as he wrote it. I think you will be pleased by this sample of the first chapter. There is a small chance that it is not quite the final version that was published, but if it isn’t, it is extremely close to the final. If you would like to read the entire book, it is available for sale at Amazon.com for $14.99, a decent price for a 300 page novel. We do not yet have it as an ebook, so for now it is in print form only. It is also available locally at Webster’s Bookstore Café in downtown State College, PA.

 

Four’s a Crowd

CHAPTER ONE

            “Well, that was a waste of my time,” Alice thought to herself as she got dressed.

After going through the embarrassment of disrobing and donning the paper-thin gown that allowed nothing in the way of modesty, she waited for a solid twenty minutes for the doctor to grace her with his presence.  And when Doctor Keeting finally did breeze in, he spent a total of fifteen minutes with her, if even that.  He did a rudimentary physical examination, asked her a few asinine questions, and was gone again before she could say, “uncaring, incompetent moron.”

She never would have agreed to come here in the first place if it hadn’t been for the fire.  It wasn’t a big fire, but it was her fault.  She’d simply gotten distracted and left a pan of bacon unattended on top of the stove when she went to answer the phone.  It had been Mrs. Donohue, from next door, calling with wonderful news regarding the total profits from last week’s church pie sale.

If it hadn’t been for Henry, and his quick thinking with the flour jar, the whole place might have gone up.

Taking one last look in the mirror to see that her blouse was straight, she pulled her jacket on and buttoned it up, making sure the collar lay properly.  Next, she produced a small comb from out of her bag and smoothed over any visible imperfections in her steel-grey curls.  Satisfied with the results of her efforts, she shouldered her purse, opened the door, and stepped into the chilly hallway.

The stench of industrial strength carpet shampoo and antibacterial cleansers made her want to sneeze and the clamor of voices and ringing telephones, emanating from the nurse’s station, assaulted her ears.  A toddler being pulled down the hall by one tiny hand as she screamed at the top of her lungs, only added to the din.

Turning to the right, she walked to the first junction, took a left, walked to the next, and paused.  Suddenly, all the hallways and doors looked the same, becoming a never-ending labyrinth of hideous grey carpeting, taupe walls, and severe fluorescent lighting.  The posted signs, meant to act as a guide, only succeeded in confusing her further.  To her horror, it was then that she realized, she had no idea where she was.

“Mrs. Detmore?” a soft, feminine voice asked from behind her.  Alice turned toward it.

A petite red-head, an obvious bottle-job to Alice’s experienced eye, smiled at her with way too many teeth.  The bright pink scrubs the girl wore, adorned with dancing teddy bears, offended Alice’s every sense of good taste.

The girl’s mouth moved but her words were lost in the ambient noise that filled the hallway.

“Excuse me?” Alice replied indignantly.

“I asked if you were alright,” the girl said.  “You look a little lost.”

“One is never lost if one maintains her sense of self,” Alice pronounced with false confidence.  She turned back around and took several steps, not wanting to make her fear and confusion readily apparent.

“Mrs. Detmore?” the nurse said.

“Yes?  What is it, child?” Alice asked, her back still to the girl.

“Your husband is in waiting room three and…”

“I know where he is.  I don’t need some little miss know-it-all to tell me where I left my own husband.”

The young woman closed the distance between them and put a gentle hand on Alice’s shoulder, “But Mrs. Detmore,” she said with soft patience, “waiting room three is back this way.”

*          *          *

With her escort leading the way, Alice found her husband of almost fifty years asleep in one of the poorly padded wooden chairs.  His legs were stretched out in front of him with his feet crossed at the ankles and his nose was buried in the lapels of his heavy brown jacket.  His chest rose and fell with each deep breath and a low, growly snore rumbled through his hairy nostrils.  A copy of last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue lay open, face-down, on his considerable belly.

The girl bid her a good day and departed.  Alice just shook her head and rolled her eyes in exasperation before she approached the sleeping man and loudly cleared her throat.

He snorted, blinked awake, and looked up at her with a sleepy smile.

“Good old Henry Detmore, always on point,” Alice grumbled.  “I’m ready to go.”

“I was just resting my eyes,” Henry proclaimed.

“And dreaming of swimsuit models I see.”

Henry sat the rest of the way up.  The magazine took a dive for the floor, but he caught it and tossed it onto the jumbled pile of other periodicals; the newest of which was an issue of Time from May of that year.

“No, I was reading an article in there about Ben Roethlisburger’s car collection,” Henry retorted but Alice had already turned away and made for the elevators.  She was practically half-way there by the time he was on his feet and out the door.  Leaning heavily on his cane, he picked up the pace and caught up to her.  Ignoring the mild case of pins and needles in his left foot, he took her by the arm.

“You move pretty fast for an old gal,” he said, nestling against her.  “What say I buy you breakfast?  But only if you’re willing to fool around on the first date.”

“Who are you calling old?” Alice asked.  “And don’t be vulgar, Henry.”  She frowned at her watch.  “It’s half past ten.  Breakfast is over.”

“Lunch then,” Henry countered and pushed the button for the elevator.

“It’s too early for…look, can we just go home?” Alice barked, her blue eyes flashing angrily.

“Sure thing, babe,” Henry admonished, looking a little down-trodden.

The elevator arrived, the doors opened, they stepped in, and Alice pushed the button for the ground floor.

*          *          *

On an oddly warm Friday in mid-September, Alice and Henry Detmore pulled out of the labyrinthine parking structure that serviced St. Claire Memorial Hospital, a large medical facility that served the residents of Mount Lebanon, a medium-sized suburb about thirty minutes south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Detmore’s home town.

They turned off Bower Hill Road and onto Route 19, heading south.  Henry, growing weary of the mind-numbing silence, reached over, and clicked on the car radio.  He ran through the pre-sets until he came across W.Z.O.O. and the morning sports talk show; The Morning Zoo with Hal and Al.  The two throaty hosts, Hal Nelson and Al Kelly, were ranting about the up and coming Sunday afternoon match-up between the Steelers and the Bengals.  This decision earned him a look of disapproval from his wife, so he turned it back off.  Alice simply turned back toward the window and they continued the trip in silence.

About ten minutes of angry quiet later, Shari’s Dairy, a small ice cream stand, came into view as they topped a small hill.  A red, white, and blue OPEN flag rippled in the warmish autumn breeze.

Henry’s face lit up.

“Hey!  Shari’s is still open.  She usually closes after Labor Day.  It’s been forever since we’ve been in there.”  He snickered and smiled to himself.  “You remember the time we accidentally left Lyle there?  We were so busy arguing, that we got about halfway home before we realized that he wasn’t in the car.”

Alice didn’t respond.

“And when we finally made it back, we found him where we’d left him, sitting at our usual table just as calm as could be.  We expected to find a hysterical, crying child, but he was so engrossed in his electronic football gadget, he never even realized we were gone.  You want to stop for a cone?” Henry asked, letting up on the gas in anticipation of pulling into the small, gravel parking lot.  “They might still have your favorite; butter crunch.  I think I’ll get black raspberry.”  Secretly, Henry wasn’t in that much of a mood for ice cream.  He would just be glad to see his wife smile again and ice cream always used to cheer her up.  He activated the turn signal.

“No,” Alice finally said.  “We really don’t have time to stop for memories.  There’s just too much to do.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Henry agreed, and his heart sank.  “We still have a lot of packing to get done before the movers get here.”  He disengaged the turn signal, put his foot back on the gas, and they hummed past the small ice cream parlor, headed for home.  He looked over at his wife, who had gone back to staring quietly out the window.

Maybe it was the fire.  Maybe it was something the doctor had told her.  She would talk about that in her own good time.  Maybe it was the move.  And maybe it was the realization of everything that awaited them over the next few days and weeks.  Either way, something had caused her to go quiet in a way he’d never seen before.  And he couldn’t say that he blamed her one bit.  Neither one of them responded well to change and neither one of them was looking forward to leaving the home they had both grown to know and love.

*     *     *

At about half past eleven Henry turned the Buick into the narrow gravel driveway and pulled in under the car port; nothing more than a simple tin roof nailed onto a wooden frame, just something to keep the worst of the rain and snow at bay.   A large, dark stain and deep tire grooves in the gravel marked the place where they’d parked many vehicles, in the same spot, over many years.

He put the car in park and shut it off.

We’re home, Mother,” he said.  When she didn’t respond to being called mother, something he hadn’t done in the years since their son, Lyle, still lived at home, he reached over and touched his wife’s arm.

She jumped a little, as if being jolted out of sleep.

“What?” she asked grumpily

“We’re home,” Henry repeated.  “You know, that place where we keep our stuff while we go out and get more stuff.”

“I can see that,” she huffed.  Collecting her purse from its place on the floor between her feet, she opened the car door and started to get out before she realized that she was still belted in.  With a grunt of frustration, she hit the release button for the seatbelt, and climbed out, slamming the door shut hard enough to rattle it in its frame.  Henry couldn’t hear what she was saying.  He could only see her lips move as she muttered to herself and walked around the front of the car, digging into her purse for the house key.

Henry didn’t get out right away.  After his wife disappeared inside, he sat for a moment, staring up at the 19th Century Colonial that he, Alice, and Lyle had called home for the better part of four decades.  The two coats of sunlight yellow paint he’d paid Greg Farmer a small fortune to put on the old place, not one year ago, were already beginning to show signs of sun-fade and cracking along the foundation and around the windows.  And that really toasted Henry’s ass.  People say it over and over because it’s an undeniable truth, “You just can’t find good help these days,” and, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

And before his health had begun to fail him, he had lived by that very policy.  He had done the painting and all the other maintenance himself.  Sure, most of the time, he would get Lyle to assist on things like cutting and maintaining a yard that spanned almost an entire acre around all sides of the house.  And maybe he would even hire one of the neighbor-kids to pitch in on the bigger jobs; like painting the house or changing out the storm windows in preparation for another hard Pennsylvania winter.  But, for the most part, he had done it all himself.  And, like any other man, he took a lot of pride in that fact.

However, as he got on into his later years, and Lyle grew into his late teens, he found that his legs would no longer take him up a steep ladder or that he couldn’t chop fire wood without becoming winded.  More and more Lyle had to take over.

After Lyle graduated high school and went off to college at The University of Pittsburgh, he took to hiring local kids to do things like raking the leaves.  Eventually, even that pool of employees dried up as some of those kids followed his son’s path and went off in search of higher education.

Like Lyle, they left Mount Lebanon for the excitement of dorm life; parties, girls, booze, and all the other things that the college experience had to offer.  Others joined the military and went off to serve their country.  And others simply threw caution to the wind, packed up, hit the road, and lit out for parts unknown.  A few made some very bad decisions and went nowhere.  Like little Eddie Gilbert, who ended up in Pittsburgh’s Correctional Institute for armed robbery.

With no cheaper labor to bring in, Henry was forced to hire professionals and contractors to do the difficult work.  People like Greg Farmer who possessed the unreasonable expectation that, just because they owned a business and a truck with their name decaled on the door, they had the God-given right to charge the moon and stars to perform simple tasks; such as putting a coat of paint on a house, changing out storm windows, or drying out a flooded basement.

Again, this brought him back to the paint job on the house.  The five-hundred dollars he’d given Mr. Farmer should have bought him a much longer lasting result.  A good quality outdoor paint should not fade or crack in the span of ten months.

Then again, ultimately, it didn’t matter anymore.  Because, as of a week ago, the place had gone on the market.  A reflective aluminum sign from Franklin Reality Inc. stood planted in the grass on the edge of the front lawn with a FOR SALE plate hanging from the bottom.  He and Alice finally had to face a hard truth and admit to themselves that they were no longer able to take care of the house or the property.  It was just too much work.  And too much worry.

Especially after the fire.  While it had only charred part of the wall behind the stove, melted two of the control knobs, and ruined the curtains above the sink, the damage had not been that extensive.  The insurance had paid for all repairs, a replacement stove, and new curtains, but the one thing insurance could not bring back was their piece of mind.  Alice would never admit it, but Henry knew that the fire had put the fear of God into her.  For at least two weeks afterwards, she didn’t want to go into the kitchen to make so much as toast.  What other mistakes was she going to make?  Maybe next time no one would be there and something worse would happen.

Finally, despite all her initial objections, the call to Dr. Keating’s office was made and an appointment was set up.

Their realtor, Janet Franklin, called the day after the papers were signed and the house was posted on the company’s website thing.  She informed him that she already had not one, but three, potential buyers on the hook.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that he and Alice were going to have to take a bit of a beating on the price to facilitate a quick sale.  Also, the kitchen fire would have to be disclosed even though it had caused no structural damage.  She’d list it as a fixer-upper with a ton of potential and a starting price of eighty-thousand.  After some debate, he and Alice decided to vacate the property and leave the sale and other final doings in Mrs. Franklin’s capable hands.

Regardless, he sure was going to miss the old place.

*          *          *

No sooner had Alice stepped back into the house, surrounded by their lives packed into dozens of cardboard boxes, six suitcases, and four trunks, when she decided that now was not the time to dawdle.  After a brief restroom stop and a glass of water to wash down her medication, she set to work in the small parlor where dozens of small, ceramic figurines stood, row upon row, within the confines of a locked, glass and wood curio cabinet.

She had been very clear about the fact that she was to be the only one to take them down, wrap them, or box them up.  No one else, including her husband, was to touch them.  She unlocked the cabinet, gathered her supplies, and set to work, taking them out one by one, brushing each with a yellow feather duster, rolling it into a layer of plastic bubble-wrap, and placing it, ever so carefully, into its own compartment within the moving box; a box that would come with her in the car and would not be loaded into the moving truck or the tow trailer.

Each figurine contained its own memories:

The grinning clown, holding a colorful swarm of balloons in one white-gloved fist, purchased on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, where she and Henry had taken their honeymoon.

The whistling boy with a fishing rod on one shoulder and a bundle of school books over the other, a 25th birthday present from Henry’s mother, Grace.

The slobbering, diaper-clad baby, holding a rattle and grinning a one-toothed grin, a gift from The Connors to commemorate Lyle’s birth.

The winged angel with a golden halo, a house-warming present from her Cousin Martha to celebrate the acquisition of this very house.

As she dusted the angel, wrapped it, and placed it in the box with the others, she found herself struggling to hold back tears.  The thought of leaving this place and leaving everything and everyone she knew behind suddenly became too much.  She looked around to make sure Henry wasn’t lurking anywhere about and then she let the tears come, allowing herself to weep for a good minute before she drew out a clean, white handkerchief and expertly removed her tears without so much as smearing her make-up. No sooner had she started back on task, when she heard the front door open and close.  Followed by Henry’s familiar footsteps on the hard-wood floor.

“Alice?” he called, his voice echoing eerily through the mostly empty house.

“In here, Henry,” she called back.

*     *     *

The next day, Saturday, Teddy Sheldon and his Merry Movers pulled into the Detmore’s driveway at 8 A.M. on the dot.  One solid business policy that Teddy stood by was, “If we’re late, we’ll move you for free.”  And Teddy made sure his Merry Movers were never, ever late.

Henry and Alice were already up, packed, and ready well before the truck ever pulled in.  As a matter of fact, neither one had slept much at all that night as the laundry list of things that needed done, and details that needed to be remembered, seemed to grow longer and more daunting with each passing hour.

The throaty whisper of the box truck’s diesel engine and the steady pulse of the backup alarm cut through the chilly, early morning, autumn air.  Henry watched from inside as the large vehicle drifted to a stop with a hiss of air brakes, not ten feet from the bottom of the porch steps.  The cab doors swung open and six burly men bubbled out, their breath forming clouds of white mist in the air around their heads.

Teddy Sheldon, at an impressive six feet, four inches, climbed down from behind the steering wheel and came to the front door with a clipboard in his hand.  Henry opened the door just as he was reaching for the doorbell.

“Hey, Ted,” Henry greeted.  “Come on in.”

“Morning, Henry,” The big man replied.  Wiping his boots on the doormat, he stepped in, and Henry offered his right hand.  Ted removed one work glove and accepted it, shaking with a firm grip.  “Are you and Mrs. Detmore all set?”

“You bet,” Henry said, closing the door.  Ted flipped the clipboard around and handed it to Henry.  It held several sheets of paper with the Merry Movers’ letterhead printed at the top.  Each sheet contained a numbered list of Henry and Alice’s belongings,

“This is an invoice of everything we’re packing into the truck and bringing with us,” Teddy said, running one wide, calloused finger down the edge of the first page.  “If you could look it over, make sure everything’s on there, and sign at the bottom of the last page, I’ll put the guys to work.”

Henry quickly skimmed each page.

“I saw a tow trailer parked out front,” Ted added.  “You need help loading anything into that?”

“If you could,” Henry replied.  “We have four trunks and some luggage.  Alice travels like the Queen of Sheba.”

“I heard you there,” Teddy agreed, and the two men shared a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Alice asked briskly from the top of the stairs.  She was dressed in her gray pantsuit, cut so that it hugged her figure quite nicely and the blouse buttoned all the way to the collar.  A stylish lavender hat, pinned in place no doubt, sat askew atop her head.

“Nothing, dear,” Henry replied sheepishly.

“Mrs. Detmore,” Teddy greeted with a slight nod.

“Mr. Sheldon, see that nothing gets a scratch.  There’s still a curio cabinet that needs prepared for the move in the small parlor.” Alice ordered.

Satisfied with what he read, Henry took the attached pen, noted the items to be loaded onto the tow trailer, and signed the bottom of the last page with a flourish.

“Not a scratch.  Yes, ma’am.  I guarantee it.  We’ll crate and wrap the curio before it goes on the truck.” Teddy assured before he reclaimed the clipboard, signed his own name under the customer’s, tore off the pink copy and handed it to Henry.  Then, stepping back outside, Ted signaled his guys with a piercing whistle.  And the men of the Merry Movers went to work like a well-oiled machine, making the trunks and luggage a priority.

No sooner had Henry backed the Buick onto the trailer hitch, then the men had the items in and set to go.  They even double-checked the trailer’s connection to make sure it was secure. By the time the box containing Alice’s ceramic figurines was secured onto the Buick’s back seat under her specific supervision and she was in the car with her seatbelt fastened, Henry was already behind the wheel with the engine warmed up, the heater on full, the interior nice and toasty, and the windows clear of autumn frost.

Ted knocked gently on the driver’s side window and Henry hit the button to lower it.

“Okay, Henry,” the man said, leaning down to the open window.  “Just to confirm, we are taking these items to 2141 Revere Lane in Danbury, Connecticut.”

“Right,” Henry agreed.  “The best way to get there is to take…”

“I already have it programmed into the GPS.  We’ll find you easily enough.”

“GPS,” Alice scoffed quietly from the passenger seat.

“Alright,” Henry said.  “We’ll see you this afternoon then.”

“Count on it,” Teddy replied confidently.

Henry closed the window and took one last, long look at the old homestead.  He looked over at Alice, who was busy pretending to adjust the knot on her scarf.  He reached over and touched her shoulder.

Let’s go, Henry,” She growled without looking at him.  “Let’s go before I change my mind.”

Henry drove to the end of the driveway, pulled out into the street, and pointed the car toward Connecticut.

end of chapter one

 

Well, there it is. We all hope you enjoy it thoroughly and it entices you to want to read more.

I bid everyone a wonderful weekend, prayers to all who need it, and happy reading.

The numbers game

Greetings, readers. This morning Rebecca and I were going over the blog numbers for the last week. They were quite good, so we dug a little deeper, by going to search engines and typing in certain search terms. My entry on modern conveniences published in 2013 is sixth from the top on a search for modern conveniences on Bing, and the blog entry Remembering my father Professor Joseph J. Kockelmans, was number 1 on the Yahoo! search engine when I put in his name. Yoozers. I’ve never been number 1 on anything before. 😉

Entries that come up almost every day are Top ten list of Air Crash Investigations stories parts 1 and 2, a few of the technology grrrs, and the aforementioned ones about my father and modern conveniences. Rebecca believes, and I agree, that the blog entry about modern conveniences might be used in classes to teach computer skills or in poorer countries that are learning about modern technology.

As I’ve said before when I started this blog in 2011, I figured I’d go a few months, get bored, and be done with it. But I’ve kept going and it is amazing how many topics I’ve come up with to talk about. I have really learned how to express myself in writing. I can dictate to Rebecca about almost anything … just not politics.

What I’m worried about when looking at the numbers every day is how many, if any, bots we have, which would inflate our numbers. If I have 30 total reads, but 16 of them are bots, oops – that’s not good. I want mostly readers. I wish there was a way to figure out which are readers and which are not. It would be nice to have a feature here on WordPress to see who was reading my blog, unless they are in privacy mode. I know I am read all over the world; it would be kind of cool to see if Cousin Wino [pronounced wee-no] read my blog that day in the Netherlands.

Finally, this morning I took a brisk walk at 6:30. It was still dark, and was cold and breezy. When I got back to the apartment I actually felt energized. I’m going to start walking more in an attempt to keep my upper legs and hips from stiffening up. I don’t know if arthritis is setting in or what is going on. In any event, a little exercise never hurt anybody. And for those of you who know I hate winter, no I will not be taking said walk in the ice and snow. Yay exercise! 🙂

There is today’s blog entry. Rebecca and I will be back tomorrow with a brand new one, so until then, take care, have a wonderful day, and happy reading.

Have you ever had one of those days?

Greetings, readers. I have had many of those days, and today was one of them. It started with my alarm not going off, which threw my entire morning schedule haywire. People knocking at my door, an unusual amount of crank phone calls, and me not feeling energetic. The only event that came off as planned was my appointment. Thank goodness I didn’t miss that.

I have had days where everything runs like clockwork. My alarm goes off exactly on time, I take my meds right on the second, Rebecca comes and we get a lot of work done, etc. As I said in yesterday’s blog entry, I hope to not have any need to call Rebecca off for at least the next several Thursdays. Besides, we still have some book promoting to do. 😊

Even though it was a blustery day today, I was thankful for the sunny weather. It made the highs in the low 40s F bearable. As we all know, sunshine helps people who are depressed. I am still working on battling my depression, but it’s an ongoing process. Some days I’m all smiles and laughs, and then there are days like today.

I’m going to make an appointment with my primary doctor and ask him to give me a head-to-toe check-up. I’m expecting him to say that I’m either slightly under nourished, or I’m suffering from some vitamin deficiency. I swear, all I ever want to do is sleep these days. That’s not normal. Maybe I need more potassium or iron.

Rebecca will edit this short blog entry quite soon and post it up to the page. We’ll be back next Wednesday with brand-new material. Until then, have a great weekend, take care, and as always, happy reading.

Run, don’t walk

Greetings, readers. I recently, on Facebook, changed my relationship status from single to it’s complicated. Yes, I am in a relationship right now, but its dynamics are quite bizarre. I’m going to keep her name out of it for obvious reasons because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Here’s what is going on.

One evening a couple of months ago, a female friend of my ex-fiancé knocked on my door and hit me with some news. She told me that she had a crush on me. Then she prepared me for more. She told me that she was in love with me. While flattered, I still felt like a deer in the headlights. I didn’t know how to react. You know me, readers, I tried to be as gracious as possible and said something like, “Oh, that’s nice. Wow!” Apparently her love had been growing for several months, even while I was engaged to my fiancé.

I talked to Traci, my ex-fiancé, about our mutual friend. I asked her if she knew about the feelings of said friend. She said no. Once I learned that, I felt worse. What to do, what to do? I decided to play it very cautiously and very, very slowly.

After a couple of coffee dates, and one home cooked meal at her place, it quickly became apparent that my new love interest had more feelings for me than I did for her. This is a huge problem. I’m not going to settle just because I want to be in love, but I’m also terrible at hurting people. I already feel like I strung her along a little bit and I am afraid that when I end it, this nice woman’s feelings will be crushed. That’s not going to be pretty. Unfortunately, I believe it has to happen. If only one of the two people in a love situation is actually in love, it’s never going to work. I’ve heard that the Lord tests people, and if this is one of those tests, it is not funny.

I’ve talked to a number of friends about this, and they all agree. Run, don’t walk. A friend whom I had dinner with last night told me that exact phrase. She said the woman came on too strong and that I do not have the same feelings. It just won’t work. I’m going to take this advice, but it will still be hard for me, because again I hate hurting people. I’ve been dumped many times before and I know how painful it is. Tact, planning, and luck will be all needed here. I say luck, because I do not want this love interest to turn around and take her frustrations out on Traci.  I don’t think she will do that, but you never know.

I know dear readers I don’t usually get this personal. I tend to talk about TV, the weather, or sports. But if anybody has any suggestions on a good way to proceed, I’m all ears.

I was not going to mention this, but I’ve decided to. Several years ago, I took a very good friend of mine who I was in love with on my Christmas Eve light ride. Afterwards we stopped at McDonald’s for coffee, and I professed my love to her and she reacted the exact same way I did the other week. Now I know how she felt. Trapped, scared, and not knowing what the hell to say. After learning that I was being rejected, I kind of mentally closed the rest of the evening out. It didn’t ruin the light ride, thank goodness, because we were on our way home after coffee anyway.

I’m taking a personal day tomorrow for an appointment. Rebecca and I will be back with you next Wednesday. This should be the last Thursday off for me in a while. Time will tell. One of us will post a new blog entry tomorrow. Until then, take care, have a wonderful day, and happy reading.