Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gene

Another edition of the “people I knew, but lost track of” includes my good pal Gene. Gene was also in choir with me, and I will say this right now. Many good friends were in choir and/or church; but NOT ALL! I really had some “Mutt and Jeff” relationships that no one would ever expect, and probably they won’t make it to this blog—sometimes because they didn’t involve my own classmates.

But back to Gene. His family was in the Air Force and he was only in our town for his three high school years. I tend to think of him being here forever, but that is not the case. After graduation, as with many others, his family moved to Texas and never looked back. He resides there today.

I didn’t hear from him until our 20th Reunion. Gene called me to “reserve” a place at the Reunion on the absolute worst day of my life. That day is the day my little baby brother was in an auto accident that left him a quadriplegic. I could never have known how much he would be rehabbed and have a real quality of life. All I heard was “quadriplegic.” I could hardly put one foot in front of another. I had babies to take care of. That is all I could do, other than man the phone for the family and information from his girlfriend.

So, Gene calls me, and I basically said, “I can’t talk. I can’t think. I’m barely functioning here.” He said that he would call me in two weeks, and he DID. Right on schedule. By that time I had much more information about my brother, and how our lives would forever be affected. When something like this happens in a family, I firmly believe that God doesn’t let us have it all at once. We can’t handle it.

Gene and I kind of reconnected that year, and he came over to visit us at the house we lived in at that time. Jerry and I were both glad to see him and enjoyed the visit, because the reunion itself was chaos for me. I had to rush to it after my daughter’s dance recital and barely got there to eat. I also was cramping really badly and didn’t enjoy the evening at all. 

I probably didn’t hear from Gene until we got together on Facebook. He was going through a rough divorce, and when things like that happen—I really keep my distance, knowing it won’t be forever.

On the river.
The year that I was diagnosed with cancer, Gene planned a trip to see everyone. This was two years after our 40th Reunion, but things were just too complicated for him to get to that. We were planning an evening riverboat dinner cruise, so that drew him “home.” He had more people to see than us, he had been in a band that he wanted to visit members of, and some other things to do.

We all got together on Thursday evening at our favorite restaurant. There were probably 20 of us and we had a good time. Gene had a rental car and it was a Mustang convertible. He and I wanted to take a tour of town. I must admit, driving around with a guy in a convertible was big fun! I had a plan to take him through different areas of town, some of which were not fun places to be, and we also ended up seeing some thriving parts of town.

I had a plan, we ended up at my house and had another good visit with Jerry. Gene did have to drive me back to the restaurant to get my car.

On Saturday, I did go to the riverboat cruise with other friends, because a girlfriend and I stayed in a room together after the cruise. However, Gene was there, and we ALL had a great time! Those who were there would do it again in a heartbeat.

Gene and I have a thing about texting silly pictures to each other. It’s just another fun way we keep in touch.

I expect Gene to come to our 45th Reunion next year. He’d better!



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mike

Previously, my “vignettes” have been about people that I did not know personally in high school. Today, I am going to switch gears a little.

Yes, I did know Mike in high school. Everyone knew Mike. Mike twirled a baton and people came from three states to watch this guy do his 50-foot aerials, fire and three batons at a time. He was awesome!

Mostly I knew Mike from being in A Cappella Choir with him for two years. (actually, we sang in junior high also) I won’t pretend that I knew everyone equally, but Mike and I were talking the other day about choir, and I couldn’t remember anyone I DISLIKED. It was a good group to be a part of.

So glad I could find this!

Unfortunately, Mike was in an accident after high school that took his middle finger. Now, I know that in the grand scheme of things, a finger is, well, little; but for Mike it took away the possibility for fame (maybe not fortune) at the college level. So he reinvented himself. And this reinventing says two things about Mike.

  1. He had the ability TO reinvent himself.
  2. He used service to others to do it. In other words, he passed on his knowledge to younger students.

Mike worked with bands, drill teams and color guards. This was NOT his day job! He may have had a stipend, but these types of jobs are SERVICE to the community and the students involved. Even today, he is adored by former students and co-workers.

As is typical with this type of work, he knew everyone everywhere in the area. He knew people who were not in the area, or had moved.

We lost track of Mike. He didn’t come to reunions, and he wasn’t interested in them. This was NOT HIM. Although he has shared some of his reasoning and I am not going to share that here; the lesson is that THINGS CHANGE, PEOPLE CHANGE and if EVER there was a person who should be involved with connecting classmates and encouraging them to attend reunions, it is him.

I just sit back and watch it happen.

The things that I do are administrative, and I like to think of myself as likeable, but Mike is a natural at this! Facebook and our Class of 1971 web site are his best friends….

Mike has another side also, a deeper side. He was married to a woman for about ten years and she died of breast cancer. Because of this, he has been, other than family, my biggest supporter. I joke that if anyone wanted to look at my cell phone records, they would surely think we were having an affair! Fortunately for me, my husband knew him then and knows him now, and while aware of our great friendship, he knows where I am at night!

When Mike and I talk about the “deeper” things of life, I am AMAZED at how similarly we look at them; people, things that are happening, politics and anything you can imagine. We both think it’s downright creepy. We do not finish each other’s sentences, but we have a random and maybe a little controversial thought about something, only to find that the other person has THOUGHT THE EXACT SAME THING! Fortunately for us, we don’t care if we are politically correct or not.

This deeper side is shown on Facebook. While my posts are light-hearted, for the most part, he has some things to say. People respond. It is wonderful to watch.
 Mike at his "retirement" party.
As IF, he will continue to serve
others in some capacity.

This is an example of a friendship that has been totally reinvented. I consider him in my top five of all friends. He is not the only male in that elite club, but he’s the one I hear from regularly and have the support of. What a gift! Thank you, Mike. And thank you, Jerry, for allowing me the freedom to have a wonderful male friend like Mike. He enriches my life.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Class of 1971 Web Site

Over six years ago, I did something “new” and different; something that had intimidated me for years. I created a web site for my high school graduating class and upcoming reunion. Every paying job that I had ever had, I had IT people to help me with tasks. I didn’t think I was capable of doing this. Wasn’t there someone else with more experience?

No one stepped up, and I felt led to do something. I was inspired by what the class ahead of us had done. Specifically, I was impressed with how our high school music had been presented. I remember the night of my “muse,” if you will. Remember that I am married to one of our high school teachers, so although he never taught me, he “gets” a lot of the issues, activities and individuals that I went to school with. Most people do not have that “luxury.” Their spouse just is out in left field and doesn’t understand at all.

I was specifically listening to the music of Christmas 1969. We always ended the concert with Silent Night. I have sung Silent Night in every style possible, but my mind always goes back to this arrangement. There’s a solo. This particular night, it was being sung by a young man whom I had dated the previous year. He died when he was 52 and that was a very sad thing for me. I was sobbing, and I grabbed my laptop and chased my husband down on the other side of the house. “Jerry, come listen to this!”

In my mind, I could do this. I could share this feeling with my classmates.

I remember a late night conversation on the telephone with the creator of that web site. He said to me, “Denise, if I could do this, YOU can do this!”

So I looked into the product and presented the idea to some of my committee pals. Was this worth the money? I went ahead, and once it was live, asking for donations was easy. People are more likely to donate when they SEE what they are getting. They did.

The hardest thing is uploading the database. I always prided myself in data management. After all, I did this for a living! The upload humbled me. Many mistakes had to be corrected. Fortunately for me, no one had to know. Most of this consisted of commas in the wrong place, the wrong state abbreviation, or the phone number entered incorrectly (not XXX-XXX-XXXX). It was annoying but easy enough to fix.

The next major job was creating an album of our yearbook on Photobucket and embedding that to a page on the site. Other admins have chosen to do this differently, but by using a third-party, I don’t use our vault “space.” It is limited, but we can always BUY MORE! The music is on a third-party site also. As time has marched on, I have used Dropbox, YouTube, Photobucket and something called Reverbnation. I also used the now-defunct Playlist.

With each new function, I felt more proud of myself and felt that I did have an ability to take on something new and that which I had never done before. I did receive much help from the vendor founders (we used Class Creator©). They were great, and I am sure I would not have attempted as much without their help.

Invitations were sent to classmates to join and I was inspired by the reaction and interaction. I continued to and still continue to build new pages and interest in the site. People continued to join. It was fun to watch folks “find” us. Registration was through the site so people joined during that time also. (We do provide a way to register for the reunion for those who do not want to do so online).

My biggest joy is when people “find” each other. I know they are enjoying their old friends.

Here we are again and it will soon be time to register for the next reunion. During this process, I expect to see some new people joining. That will be exciting to me.

If you are interested in taking a look at our site, it is at www.fairborn71.com. Much of it is locked to protect our members, but much of it is open too. A person can definitely get an idea of what can be done.

What an admin does or does not do depends on the amount of time the person has to donate to the project, the creativity and ability of the admin, and the amount of content available. I have used almost every picture I own and would love for people to donate more! I must decide how much time I will donate to the project. I have a spouse and family and church and other stuff to do. So, as with many other things, it’s about balance for me.

This is to say that there is a wide variety of what different classes do, but I am still just amazed at what all we CAN do.

Things we couldn’t have imagined when we graduated!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Aging Issues: Social Security's Calendar

If you are on Social Security, or know someone who is on Social Security, you should read this.

By no means am I complaining that “I didn’t get a raise this year,” or anything of the like. SS has always been the plan for my “running around” money. Literally that is what it is. We decided to take it early because we wanted to put at least that amount into a savings vehicle that we took money from to buy our condo and be debt-free.

I am NOT suffering!

But this month reminds me of something that has been going on for many years now. In an effort, which I supported, to spread out Social Security benefits so that everyone is not getting them on the same day—I worked in a bank for many years and the first and third were horrors—the Social Security Administration deposits your check into your account on a day that lines up with your birthday. Mine happens to be on the third Wednesday.

Four times a year, it’s every FIVE weeks, not every four weeks. I have to squeeze the buffalo on that nickel just a little tighter, but I certainly won’t starve. (Coming at Christmas is not the best, but every year will be different.)

For those who are paid on the first, such as my husband’s STRS pension, there is a different feel to February’s 28 days and March’s 31. We got used to it, and if you aren’t retired yet, you will too.

I got to thinking about my former clients, and other older people for whom Social Security is their primary income. (For our age group, that should never be in the planning, but there are still some folks for which this is true) Going five weeks between checks would be a hardship for many of them!

For me, I will plan, and there may be a few times that I DON’T go out to lunch, or make a trip to some outlet mall to go shopping. But I will NEVER be without medicine. I will never be without food, although I may not have the healthiest food in the house, and the car may be running on fumes.

However, for some people, even if they have the best medical coverage and are as “healthy as a horse,” there still is five weeks between checks, for groceries, for rent, utilities, and all the things required for a household. It could be more of a hardship for them.

All I am saying is have some awareness of those who may be in your world of influence. Without coming out and asking “What day do YOU get your SS check?” be aware that it might be “that time of the month” for them. (Crap, didn’t I get rid of "that time of the month?")

My Grandma used to get her check on the 3rd. I would drive in to see her at least once a month, taking my little girl with me. She never knew my son. She insisted on giving me $20 for “gas.” I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and it was nice to have a little money in my purse. However, I never wanted her to think that I went to see her for the gas money, so once in a while I would show up on the 2nd of the month, chuckling on the inside. She lived on her Social Security, drawing off of her husband’s earnings, and the interest from the proceeds of selling her home.

This is not a problem for me and will not be a problem for me. I still have a husband and a source of income should I run short. However, I do try to “live on my income” just as I did when I worked. It just gives me an awareness of how this works, and how it impacts budgets.

I’ll definitely be looking at the calendar when I make my hair appointments!

Until we "connect" again.......

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Fitness Report for 2015

There are some years that “even Steven” is the best you can do. This is one of them. Actually, so was 2014. 

Pain is pain. I’ve been in it most of the year. I have taken more cortisone shots than I am comfortable with. I had arthroscopic knee surgery in July, recovery and physical therapy. I have worked hard.

I did sort of a “cleanse” in August, where you remove a lot of things from your diet. I did lose weight, but the idea is not to eat like that the rest of your life. I lost about 13 pounds and with the holidays have put about 5 back on. However, I had gained before the cleanse, so my net from January 2015 to January 2016 is about 2.5 pound gain. I need to get on that STAT!

I moved to a condo in June. If that isn’t enough exercise, I don’t know what is! We have a pool and workout room available to us and I used them. I will say that while my legs and back were aching, my upper body strength was pretty good for an old lady!

I worked and worked on my knee and was still in pain. We went on a vacation in late November and it was clear that I was a mess and could not even keep up with “old people.” Not exactly encouraging.

So I went to the orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday of the week I returned from vacation, got two cortisone shots and know now that the next step is knee replacement. That’s on the docket for 2016. Yippee!

I also sought the treatment of a chiropractor for the first time in my life. What I know: the anti-cancer medication that I take causes osteoporosis. What I also know is that there is some compression between Lumbar 5 and Sacral 1. The doctor is doing “decompression therapy” and it IS helping! This never completely solves the problem, but I am more comfortable with doing this than having someone cut into my back. We are NOT there!

This doctor is very reasonably priced and there is no reason not to continue this treatment and keep my back from hurting as much. I also take a lot of Vitamin D and Calcium and do what I can there, but there is some discussion as to how much of that my body actually absorbs. He does recommend that I do nothing that resembles a sit-up or crunch, so to work on core, I sit on a ball and lift. I have a ball at home too, but it’s not as nice as the gym’s.

So, here I am in December. I am not in pain because of the cortisone and I have been weight lifting and riding a recumbent bike. Depending on who you talk to, the personal trainer or the PE teacher, weight loss is 80/20 or 70/30 about eating the right things and less of everything. I am not dissing exercise and never will, but right now, I need to work on what I put in my mouth. It’s so hard in December!

With knee-replacement on the horizon, I hope I can work hard and get back to fairly normal. I have been told it takes a year. I will work to make that happen. I have stuff to do. I have grandchildren to take care of!

P.S. In 2006-2007 I lost 40 lbs. during a bout of plantar fasciitis. I am almost ten years older and recognize that, but I don't think 25 lbs. is unreasonable at all. I just have to eat less and move as I am able. If I am sitting in the recliner with a recovering left leg, I CAN lift those weights! Hopefully I have a better report next year.