Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Year in Review


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We hope your year was kind to you, that you enjoyed good health, that your economy improved, and that you found abundant joy. 
This has been a pretty good year as we look back.  We are still ambulatory, we get up every morning and take nourishment and Bill and Fourteen go to Rover's Run most mornings despite the heat, rain, or lately, bitter cold.
Ann had a very productive year.  She almost sold out of the cookbooks she wrote, Ann’s Cooking From Scratch, and has perhaps five left rather than the cases of them that cluttered the basement for a while.  She also was on the committee that put on the Fiftieth Reunion for her Lincoln-Way High School graduating class. It was a two day affair, with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres one evening in Frankfort and dinner and dancing the next evening in New Lenox.  Of her class of  about 170, around 80 people attended. 
Bill’s year was also productive.  As owner, editor, publisher, typesetter, occasional vacuum-er, and accountant at Ramsfield Press, he published two books.  In August we traveled to the Princess Theater in Danbury, CT, to launch You Are Here, a collection of gritty, noir short stories by Joe Boland, a terrific writer from New Milford, CT.  And in September  we went to Oshkosh, WI, to launch The Main Ingredient, a charming novel by Margo Wilson.  She is English Department chair at California University of Pennsylvania, and we made it to California, PA, to assist at readings at the university and near her home in Monessen, PA.  Both books are available at www.ramsfieldpress.com as well as on internet publishers and in Kindle versions. 
Sadly, we had to put down our dog Brando, affectionately known as Mr. Mellow, because he had cancer.  We soon adopted Fourteen, a fiercely protective Mastiff mix. He has lovely manners and is very gentle - until he perceives a threat, like the doorbell or an approaching human, especially if he’s leashed. He doesn’t slobber, and he is getting friendlier.
Both Ann and Bill continue to take art classes at Prairie State College.  Ann is working in watercolor and we are both pleased with her still lifes. Bill painted portraits in the spring and stretched himself into “abstract geometric seascapes” this fall.  
We continue to do light exercise, both mental (without looking back, what’s the name of our new dog? Hah!) and physical so we don’t end up as burdens to anyone. Bill continues to volunteer at the local Adult Literacy Center every week. 
Our extended family continues to prosper.  Grandson David is pursuing a Masters at Johns Hopkins, and Jonathan had an internship at Viacom in New York this fall. We get to see their dad Tim, his wife Karen and terrific kids Alexa and Greyson regularly.  So soon they grow up! We see daughter Shannon and her husband Ray and more wonderful kids Zach, Ben, and Addi frequently. Son Derek was in for Thanksgiving with his wife Jo and gorgeous four-year-old towheaded Ella and charming three-year-old Gavin.
We’re already planning adventures for next year, and we’d love to see you if you make it to the Chicago area.
Have a wonderful holiday season. Our best wishes for joy, health, wealth throughout the coming year!

Our best!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Year in Review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Ann and Bill Moser!
Our year in review:
January:  Both of us sign up for free (to senior citizens) Drawing I at Prairie State Junior College.  We are old enough to be the professor’s parents, of course, and grandparents to the rest of the students in the class. We don’t feel that old! Ann is writing a cookbook. Bill swims a mile three times a week. Ann does 180 crunches at the health club three mornings a week.  If it’s a contest, she wins!
February: The art class homework is getting us down - we’re adult over-achievers, of course.  Ann says she doesn’t have time to go to the grocery, and certainly can’t vacuum too. We’re in the first year of her five-year plan not to clean house, and she begins to let go. Bill takes over vacuuming - and the dog hair in the family room swirls around our ankles.
March:  A sweet child at church announces she wants work to pay for summer camp.  We hire her to vacuum.  The house is clean once more, and she’s cheap. Meanwhile, neighbors enjoy the results of Ann’s test recipes.
April: Ramsfield Press gets manuscripts submitted.  One is apparently a memoir and is 600 pages long.  The protagonist can’t get ahead because of her personal hygiene, and Bill wants to put her in the Slap Room.  He decides not to publish the book.  Shannon (who chose Bill her Dad) is getting married, so she and Ann go shopping for a chosen-mother-of-the-bride outfit.
May:  Our drawing class is graded on our attendance and following directions rather than talent, thank goodness.  We both get A’s in Drawing I.  Grandson David graduates from Beloit College with a degree in International Relations. Daughter Shannon gets married and Bill officiates.  Bill says he thought Venice was the most beautiful experience he had in his life until he saw Shannon in her wedding dress.
June:  Ann’s hearing aids die and she buys new ones.  Grandson David takes a job in Chile, working for a pittance.  He loses weight.  Bill goes to Clockhouse Writers’ Conference at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, for a week.
July:  Ann has weekly trips to the audiologist for tweaking of her hearing aids.  They don’t work as well as the old ones.  Bill speaks more loudly. And enunciates.
August:  Ann finishes her cookbook and Bill decides to make it Ramsfield Press first project and trial publication. The neighbors are disappointed her culinary experiments have ended. Bill learns the very  complicated Adobe In Design. Derek’s daughter Ella has her second birthday. Time flies!
September:  Classes start again at Prairie State Junior College.  We both take American Sign Language (we want to communicate beyond the universal digit) and Bill signs up for Drawing II with the same great instructor.  Our girl who vacuums has too much school work and Bill becomes the lackadaisical cleaning lady once more.
October:  We send Ann’s book to the printer.  American Sign Language class is based around a dictionary instead of conversation, with up to 144 new signs each week.  Bill can sign, “I’m drowning in American Sign Language class.”  But we persevere.  
November: Ann’s cookbook finally arrives from the printer and we are delighted that it looks so good.  We start marketing and distributing it. Bill figures out Pay Pal so we can sell Ann’s Cooking From Scratch on line.  Derek’s son Gavin has his first birthday.  Time flies.
December:  Ann bakes -  and sells her cookbook.  Bill takes training to become an adult literacy tutor. For the first time in 18 years we put up and decorate our Christmas tree without help. 
We wish everyone a wonderful, prosperous, happy, and healthy new year!

As always, feel free to comment below.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Matches

     When I was a young married adult, my wife, son, and I used to visit my Great Aunt Lyda (pronounced Lie- dee) in Uniontown, PA.  She was my grandmother’s sister on my father’s side, born in 1883, and never married (she remained a maiden lady, a curiosity these days). 

     Aunt Lyda was well educated, having attended college.  She taught a couple years until her sister, my Great Aunt Sadie, became ill with tuberculosis. Aunt Lyda took care of her sister until she died in 1903, and continued to live in her parents’ home and care for them. My great-grandfather, her father, died in the epidemic of Spanish Influenza that followed World War I, and Aunt Lyda took care of her mother, until the middle of the Second World War.

     Aunt Lyda died in 1981 at the age of 98.  Until she was 90 she lived in her parents’ house.  On her 89th birthday, while we were newly marrieds visiting her, she fell down the back stairs and broke a vertebra in her neck.  The fall didn't kill her and she lived another nine years, which I find pretty amazing. We were shaken, but glad we were there.  She had taken the wallpaper off the closet under the front stairs and painted the floor in the basement the week before we came to visit.  
    After her recovery, Aunt Lyda slowly went blind.  She had cataracts that were inoperable.  She moved to an apartment, and a woman came in each late morning to make lunch, clean, run errands, make and clean up supper and set out breakfast.  Aunt Lyda was an amazing lady, in all respects a great Great Aunt.

In one of our conversations, I asked her what the most important invention of her lifetime was. Aunt Lyda’s reply was not, as I expected, the airplane, but the match.  Matches, she explained, allowed the starting of fires effortlessly.  Prior to their invention, people had to beg a coal from a neighbor, keep a fire banked in the furnace or stove, or start a fire with two sticks or a stone and flint.

In my research on matches, I found that Aunt Lyda was only partly correct.  Matches were invented in the 1830’s.  However, Joshua Pusey patented the book match in 1889.  He later sold the patent to the Diamond Match Company in 1896, and they became universal.            

This leads to a curious coincidence.  On the other side of the family tree, my mother’s father, my Grandpa Bill, worked at Diamond Match.  He completed third grade, worked on farms, and left Pennsylvania for Barberton, Ohio, in the early years of the last century. Initially he was paid $.035 an hour.  Because he was a good worker, he got raises and eventually made $.055 an hour.  He worked there for a few years, met my grandmother (she completed fifth grade), who also worked at Diamond Match, married and had children, including my mother.

O.C. Barber, an Akron industrialist, founded the Diamond Match Company and with three associates created Barberton out of 550 acres of farmland he purchased.  The  stick match (we know them as wooden kitchen matches) company - pre-Diamond Match - was very profitable during the Civil War.

Today we have little use for matches.  Our stove has electronic ignition, as does our furnace, and the gas grill has a little button to push.  We have a fireplace, which we occasionally use, and we start fires with paper, matches, and kindling.  We hardly ever use candles.  
But matches changed the world, especially for my Great-Aunt Lyda.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memorial Day and Cpl. Everett H. Wade

Memorial Day was not designed as an occasion for mattress sales, which unfortunately seems to be the way we celebrate most national holidays in the United States lately.
This year I am calling attention to the late Cpl. Everett Heber Wade, my wife’s uncle.  He was declared Missing in Action on November 30, 1950, a day my wife remembers because her grandfather called her mother with the news that post Thanksgiving week.  Everett was “presumed dead” a little more than two years later, on December 31, 1953. 
Everett was one of fifteen children, Ann’s mother’s brother.  Only four of the siblings remain alive: Aunt Laura, Aunt Mary, Aunt Ruthie, and Aunt Ida May.  Ann’s grandmother waited and hoped and prayed until the day she died to hear that her son had been found alive and was returning home.  That never happened.
Ann is the eldest of her generation, and she is the only family member, aside from the aunties, who remembers Everett at all.
Last weekend my wife Ann and I went to Green Bay, WI, for a POW-MIA “briefing” by JPAC, under the auspices of the Department of Defense.  JPAC is the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command.  Its mission is to find and identify the remains of United States military personnel.  
November 30, 1950, has the dubious distinction of being the date of the heaviest casualties for U.S. troops during the Korean Conflict - the worst since WW II.  Nearly 800 soldiers - 781 to be precise - died.  The Battle of Chosin Reservoir lasted for 17 days, and had over 3,000 casualties.  There were reports that Everett was captured and marched toward North Korea, but that he died on the march and was buried along the route.  Conflicting reports suggest that he died in battle, or that he died later.  In any event, his remains were not recovered.  At this point, that is JPAC’s mission, but, frankly, we have little hope.
It’s been been almost sixty years since the Korean Conflict went into a permanent cease fire, but the pain remains. When we entered the briefing room, we could feel the palpable sadness.  At the briefing, the man next to me was a small child when his brother went missing, but he remembers and grieves him.  Also at our table was a woman who was keeping the memory of her great uncle, a man she had never met, alive.  
To date, JPAC has identified the remains of 170 Korean Conflict soldiers, mostly through DNA from survivors.  In addition to having given a DNA sample, Ann is sending JPAC an envelope from a letter Everett sent her mother to help with DNA identification.  Remains can also be identified through dental records and chest X-rays.  The clavicle is practically as unique as a fingerprint.
There are still almost 8,000 American soldiers unaccounted for from the Korean Conflict.  Many remains are buried at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu, HI.  But hundreds in that cemetery remain unidentified, and because of the method of burial, DNA was destroyed.
In addition to unidentified soldiers from the Korean Conflict, unidentified soldiers from World War II and the Viet Nam War remain missing, and at this point, are presumed dead.
Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1868 to honor the fallen hero soldiers from the Civil War, and the tradition has continued.  There will be parades across the nation, and countless families will honor and mourn the loss of loved ones who died protecting freedom. 
Cpl. Everett Heber Wade was just one of tens of thousands of soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom.  We honor them all this Memorial Day.
The remains of a soldier from Everett’s company, one who may well have known Ann’s’ uncle, were returned to his family in time for Memorial Day last year.  Read the story here.

As always, feel free to write your comments below.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spam and religion

First my disclaimers:
1.  I consider myself a reasonably devout, greatly flawed, Christian.
2.   I attend church regularly. 
3.  I have close friends, relatives, and chosen family of various faith communities: Christians, Jews, Buddhists - and atheists.  I also know and enjoy the company of people who are Hindus and Muslims.  I respect the beliefs of all these people.
4.  I have friends, family, and chosen family who are various shades of color, and from Asian, African, European, and Central American backgrounds.  
5.   I also have friends, family, and chosen family who are considerably younger and considerably older than I am.
Having said that, let me get to the point:
I am truly tired of getting paranoid, forwarded emails that tout religion.  

For some reason many of them start out with “The United States is a Christian Nation” or they demand that God and prayer be put back in public schools. 
Let’s start with a short history lesson:  Many of the people who came to the Americas to start a new life were indeed Christians.  (Indeed, my Moser ancestors immigrated from Europe around 1750 so they could have religious freedom; they were Dunkards [not drunkards!].) But a lot of immigrants were convicts, who may or may not have practiced Christianity, and most of the slaves - who contributed immensely to the building of this nation - were Muslims or practiced what we consider today to be primitive religions.
This country was founded on ancient principles that date back to the Greeks.  These were not religious principles. Indeed, the First Amendment to the Constitution (the same Constitution that many of the folks who forward the religious spam give lip service to) says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ” and then goes on to give us free speech and and a free press.
President George Washington in his 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote:
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Way back at the founding of this country our first president  expressed the idea that each person could have his/ her own belief and, it’s worth reiterating: “there shall be none to make him afraid."
History lesson over.  When, in a former life, I was a teacher, the idea of having prayers in my classroom (that weren’t uttered silently by panicked students taking tests) was a nightmare.  Who would write a prayer that didn’t offend the non-Christians in the class?  Which non-Christian would write one that wouldn’t offend the Christians?  How would we include or dis-include those who did not believe?  By the time a prayer that didn’t offend anyone was written, it would be so weasel-y as to offend everyone.
Let me address the other side of the coin, also.  Just as I am inclined not to proselytize in favor of Christianity, I do not wish to be proselytized in favor of any other denomination or religion except the one I have chosen.
And I want to hear neither barbs or witticisms about my religious choices.  I choose to believe.  If people do not, that’s their choice.  I may not understand it, but I continue to love them.
That doesn’t mean I can’t make jokes about my choices.  Self-deprecation is a time-honored method of humor.  (Why does it take two hands for an Episcopalian to water the lawn?  One to hold the hose and the other to hold the martini glass.)  I can tell jokes on myself, but don't tell them about my religion.  And I won’t ridicule your beliefs.
We all believe and act in different ways.  I try to appreciate and honor yours.  But and it’s a big one - do not try to persuade me to accept your belief - or lack of - as my own.
As always, I welcome your comments below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life-Long Learning

When I turned 65 I got some old age perks.


In my previous post I explained how I want to be treated as an old person, and that includes discounts or free stuff if it's available.  My enthusiasm for free stuff and discounts has to do with being cheap more than being old, let me make that clear.  Just don't condescend or patronize me.


One of the old age perks is that I'm not paying close to $16k annually for health insurance.  Between Medicare and our secondary insurance, that number is just under half.  Another perk is that I get free rides on the Metra and CTA, the trains into the city and the busses and El/ Subway in Chicago.  That perk is going away, and I understand why, but it was very convenient while it lasted.


The best perk so far is free tuition at the local junior college.


I'm taking Drawing I.  I have been painting watercolors and oils for years, but the only formal art class I ever had was when I was a sophomore in high school around 1960.  It was very hands-on and I learned not to color in the lines, but other than that I didn't learn very much back then.


I'm learning a lot now, however.  My drawing (rendering; there's one of those new vocabulary words) is improving and the required self-portraits even look like me.  Doing them taught me that I have heavy jowls (I look like my Grandpa Bill) and lots of wrinkles in addition to those dark spots old people get on their skin.  I don't like looking at myself in a mirror for hours while I draw the self-portraits, but I soldiered through.  I'm going to suggest the professor create an alternative assignment for the old people who take the class.


I have picked up all kinds of vocabulary - and half of any new discipline is vocabulary.  I know the difference between saturated and broken colors, I know what contour line is, and I can stipple, hatch and crosshatch with the most mediocre of them - I wish it were with the best, but that may come over time.  If I live long enough.


One of the glorious things is that it's re-connecting me with the "youth of today."  Things have changed.  Big Time.


All but one of other students in my class are young enough to be my grandchildren or, if I had been both precocious and promiscuous, my great-grandchildren.  Some are still in high school, some are regular junior college students, and one is Ann, my wife, who's my age.


As in any class, the students have a wide variety of interests and abilities.  They are all genuinely pleasant, however.


What I notice most is their obsession with being electronically connected.  This takes different forms, but a lot of it includes texting.  Almost constantly.  I am not a fan of texting, but I got a phone that allows me to text without substituting words on my screen.  I text a few people, but mostly my grandsons away at college,on occasion, and I enjoy their responses.


The kids in the class text -  a lot.  They also listen to their own music on ipods, MP3 players, and those tiny, portable play stations.  One student always has ear buds in.  The professor asks him to remove them, but the student doesn't hear him because his music is too loud.  That guy misses assignments and has to ask a lot of questions, which leads me to conclude that when people multi-taski, most of what they do is pretty half-assed.


Despite their fixation with their gadgets, they are nice people and ready to help if I need anything.  I am really enjoying getting to know them.  And the professor is far more patient than I would have been - than I am or want to be.


What is most important, however, is how much I am learning.  One of the assignments is to choose a late 20th Century or 21st Century artist, research him/her, and let him/her mentor us.  We are creating power point presentations (PPP's) on them and presenting them to the class.  It has to be five to seven minutes long, and I've been working on mine.


I used to do kick ass slide presentations when I taught in a previous life, but I'm learning power point, the electronic version of slides.


I chose the living artist Lucian Freud as my mentor.  He is Sigmund's grandson, is even older than I am, still paints, and sells his paintings for about a gazillion dollars.  I fell in love with his work when I saw this painting Sunny Morning - Eight Legs at the Art Institute of Chicago last year when the new Modern Wing opened.  I could stare at it for hours and keep finding new stuff.


I'm going to include the image (I almost wrote slide, how antediluvian of me) of Sunny Morning - Eight Legs in my PPP and talk about all the art-y stuff in it with my new vocabulary.  This painting is about four feet wide and eight feet tall.


This very small portrait of Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, is only about six inches wide and nine inches tall.  Despite its small size, Freud worked on it for over a year an a half.  You may note she's clothed, but she is just as vulnerable and exposed at the model lying on the bed in the upper image.


After I retired, my grandson David noted that I had been in school - either teaching, taking classes, or both - for all but four years of my life.  That number is now seven, but if I have my way, it's not going to change.


As always, please leave your comments below.  I love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't Patronize or Condescend To Me because I'm Old

Old people in our society are purported to be revered, but I’m finding we are not.  I don’t want to turn this into a rant because I’m not Andy Rooney, don’t have the eyebrows, and don’t want that kind of a reputation.
But I am going to offer some suggestions about how to deal with us seniors.
First treat us as you would anyone else.  We have the same parts you have, they’re just more experienced.
Treating us the same as you would anyone else means that you don’t tiptoe around us or walk on eggs.  We like a good joke, and some of us enjoy a good dirty joke.  Our vocabularies are about the same as yours (except for mine because I was an English teacher and mine is bigger, hah hah hah), and many of us use more crude words because we aren’t around children much to influence them badly.  My favorite bad word these days is the same as it has always been, and it’s really versatile:  I can use it as an expletive/ interjection, a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb.  It doesn’t work as a p fucking ronoun or a preposition however.
We are old.  We know we are old (just like fat people know they are fat and people of color know they are people of color) and you can’t soften it with patronizing, condescending word games.  

I am not sixty-five years young; I’m sixty-five years old.  Please don't address me as young man: that’s way too condescending.  I am Bill.  I am occasionally sir, or Mr. Moser.  I hate the term Mr. Bill because of what SNL did to it years ago.  If you feel you must have a title in front of Bill for your children, you may add Uncle or Grandpa.  Or come up with something and ask me about it.
Just because we are old does not mean that we want it pointed out or particularly want special treatment.
My wife and I do not go to bed at 8 p.m. or dark - which ever comes first.  We do not eat at 4 p.m. to get the old folks’ special.  
We do, however, ask for AARP/ senior discounts.  But before we got old we asked for the AAA discount, the teacher discount (which I still get at Apple), the student discount (I’ve been  in some form of school for 53 of my 65 years, and I’m taking a class at the local junior college currently), the nice guy discount, the couple pairs of socks with a pair of shoes, or whatever we could get.  In my case it’s a function of being cheap, not of being old, and cheap is a completely different dysfunction.
We wear age-appropriate clothes, which for me means comfortable without being stuffy.  I wear jeans, shorts (well, maybe not age-appropriate), tee-shirts (but generally without much writing, and certainly without the word fuck or even FCUK on them), and sandals when I can get by with it.  I don’t own a suit, and don’t particularly want to.  I own ties (some from the 1940’s that I got from my late father) and I wear ties about three times every two years on average.  My attitudes about clothes haven’t changed much since I graduated from college.  I don’t wear my pants below my butt because I (I AM conceding here to old age) don’t want to trip.  I’m scared of breaking something, and they just aren’t comfortable.

My wife doesn’t wear miniskirts any more.  It’s not that she doesn’t have good legs (believe me, she does); it’s that she doesn’t want to have to always worry that she looks like some of those people in the viral email photos of The People of Walmart.  She doesn’t look like those people and never will, but she’s still a little concerned.  She is somewhat more conservative than I am, dresses more nicely, and cleans up a great deal better.
We don’t want to be given the check at a restaurant because we are the oldest.  Nor do we want to NOT be given it because we are the oldest.  We generally pay our share.  Occasionally more, occasionally less - it evens out over the long run.
Our cell phones are merely basic.  That has to do with cheap and what we like to spend our shekels on - NOT age.  We don’t go very many places and we don’t work, so we don’t need to have internet, email, puzzles, GPS, bells, whistles, and pizza take away on our phones.  Our cell phones, which we use whenever we want, will text if necessary and  receive texts and voice mail in addition to their main use - calling people, or the cops, or the AAA if we have car trouble.  
We got the phones a couple years ago and bought 1,000 minutes.  At the end of the first year we had to buy another hundred minutes to make the old minutes roll over.  The end of the second year is coming up, and we’ll buy another hundred minutes.  My wife will have around 700 minutes.  I text occasionally, so I have fewer, around 500.  Our phones will cost us about - amortized - $2.50 a month this year.  They do everything we need.  We still have a land line through our cable company with free long distance. I throw my money away on art supplies, not cell phones.
I don’t like organ recitals from acquaintances.  If you aren’t part of my family (extended and chosen), I generally don’t want to hear about your ills, your prescriptions, your surgeries, your aches and pains.  And I don’t want to tell you about mine.  If you’re part of the intimate circle, I love you too much not to listen - and worry.
If I do something stupid or that offends you, call me on it.  My true friends always do.  I find that I have more filters rather than fewer as I age.  I bite my tongue more and don’t say as many of those clever hurtful things that pop into my head. This is the reverse of conventional wisdom where old people say whatever they want.  I always have, and got by with it because people accepted me that way.
In short, my age should not temper your dealings with me.  I’m still in here.  Don't treat me so softly you create a self-fulfilling prophesy and give me dementia.
As always, feel free to comment below.