Life on an Island?


How many of us sometimes dream about getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, not to mention the horror of politics, and enjoying a peaceful retirement on a deserted island–or maybe even just a nearly deserted one?

Dreaming that way seems safe enough because few people are in a position to fulfill that dream.

And those who can afford to can also afford to return to civilization if their dream getaway turns out not to be the Utopia they expected.

~*~

Smith Island isn’t a deserted island. Maryland’s last remaining populated island group in the Chesapeake Bay has fewer than three hundred residents, however. Most of them work on the water, although some make the forty-five minute commute by boat twice daily to work on the mainland. And of course there are folks who bake Smith Island cakes for exportation to markets in Crisfield and other places.

The island has a school, but kids above a certain age commute by boat to Crisfield to complete their secondary schooling.

Smith Island has a very attractive and informative museum. But the entry fee must be paid just to come in and purchase a sweatshirt. It’s worth it, though.

Smith Island’s only two restaurants close at 4:00 p.m. because that’s when tourists leave by ferry to return to the mainland. The seafood is wonderful, though. Fresh and tasty.

And the Smith Island cakes? Just as amazing as they’re rumored to be. Yum!

The islanders are big on church. The pretty little United Methodist church has a graveyard out back. The headstones go back a number of years, but fighting off the mosquitoes makes a lengthy examination too much of a nuisance to undertake.

    

Visitors aren’t allowed to bring cars. (The “ferries” are actually just regular boats big enough to carry a few passengers and occasionally some cargo.) Some of the residents have their own cars, but golf carts are popular there, too. So are bicycles.

   

The island is actually small enough to walk almost everywhere.

Birds in abundance are always visible. And so is the Chesapeake Bay itself. Since the Smith Island group is less than ten square miles in size, having an actual waterfront home is probably not considered overly special. And at time of flooding, maybe not even desirable.

   

Just like the island Devon in James Michener’s Chesapeake, Smith Island has been eroding for centuries. Efforts are being made to protect the island from being washed away entirely.

~*~

What do you think? Would Smith Island be a satisfactory substitute for a deserted island paradise?

In some ways it could be. With no crime, no law enforcement, and vehicles that don’t require license plates, life is safer than in what we think of as civilization. (I don’t mean to imply that Smith Island isn’t civilized–just that the resources are more limited.)

But wouldn’t we eventually take the simplicity and beauty of our surroundings for granted? Is it possible we might even grow tired of seafood and Smith Island cakes? And how would we feel about having to ferry to the mainland just to go to a mall (I’m not sure whether Crisfield even has a mall), a movie theater, or even a real grocery store?

And what about hurricanes? How could three hundred people be evacuated when the water gets that rough?

~*~

Don’t get me wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed our overnight visit to Smith Island in May. We stayed at a very adequate Bed and Breakfast, took a private boat ride around the Island, and enjoyed walking around looking at what there was to see. The residents were unfailingly nice.

Nonetheless, I don’t think Smith Island is where I’d want to live. And if a place like Smith Island won’t do, I guess I’ll have to quit dreaming of a deserted island, which would be even more limited.

Drat!

Any comments? I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Parable of a Walking Stick

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I enjoy walking. In fact, it’s the only kind of exercise I do. I’m not concerned about building arm muscles or tightening abs. I just want to strengthen my heart and keep it functioning properly as long as I can.

You may also know that I like to use walking sticks when I walk. As a fellow who could trip over a line in the floor, I’ve found walking sticks to be a simple–but necessary–thing for me to keep in the car and beside the front door as well.

Although I don’t use one for non-exercise walking, I foresee that changing in the near future. Why chance an unnecessary fall?

Although I have a couple of purchased walking sticks, the two in each of our cars are ones I lovingly made. So are the three or four by the front door and the dozen or more sitting out in the shed.

Several months ago I noticed a piece of tree branch lying in the drainage ditch while I was walking through our neighborhood. My first thought was, “Good grief! That’s seen better days. Too bad. It’s the perfect length. But would it be sturdy enough and not so dead it would simply snap in two?”

After passing it by several times and thinking the same thing each time, I finally stopped and examined it. I couldn’t break it.

So far, so good. It was strong enough. Maybe that piece of a branch wasn’t totally unusable after all.

Probably half of the bark was already pealing off. What could be easier than to remove the rest?

So I brought it home, finished stripping the bark, and cut off the worst of the nodes where smaller branches had been attached. Then I did my usual sanding with coarse sandpaper and then with fine. I applied one coat of linseed oil–boy, did that bring out the grain!–and three coats of polyurethane. Maybe a little excessive, but I not only wanted to protect it against rain and other water, but also to give it a super-glossy sheen.

Then I fitted a rubber tip on it. (Furniture tips are a lot less expensive than cane tips.) I couldn’t tell you the number of compliments I’ve gotten on it. I love telling people the story of how I turned an otherwise useless length of tree branch into a thing of beauty–and something that’s extremely useful as well. Something to lean on when needed.

The left-hand pictures below are of a piece of branch I rescued earlier this week. The only thing I’ve done to it was to break off enough of the little branches to get it in the car. The right-hand pictures are of the walking stick I’ve been talking about.

             

I believe God sees us when we’re broken, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually–and useless to anyone, including ourselves. He sees the potential. He knows what it will take to rejuvenate us and turn us into something more beautiful and more useful.

How easily He takes us into His perfect hands and strips away the useless parts, cleans off the rough places, and puts on us a special finish of love, mercy, and forgiveness–and we end up shining like never before.

Only under God’s workmanship do we become useful for other people to lean upon as the walking sticks He knows they need for their journey.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Aging Gracefully: Fitness Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility (guest post) – Conclusion

Thanks to Kaki for last week’s guest post and today’s conclusion to what she shared last week.

Kaki is the Vice President and co-owner of Ames Walker.  After graduating from Virginia Tech she went on to work for Pepsi for several years before joining the family business.  When she is not working she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, Virginia Tech football & spending time with family & friends.

 

Aging Gracefully: Fitness Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility

 

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has many benefits, both mental and physical, for older adults. Here are just a few of the things that can happen as you start to exercise.

  • Exercise reduces the risk of:
    • falling and fracturing bones
    • dying from coronary heart disease
    • developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes
  • Exercise can help improve:
    • blood pressure in some people with hypertension
    • stamina and muscle strength
    • symptoms of anxiety and depression
    • physical signs of stress
    • joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis
    • thinking and memory skills, especially verbal

Tips for Exercising as a Senior

It can be hard to build a fitness habit at any age, but it’s far from impossible. Plus, it’s never too late to start. Follow these three tips to help kickstart your new fitness routine:

  • Start slow: If you’ve never exercised before, don’t try to do too much too soon, especially if your mobility is really limited or you’re contending with chronic conditions. Even just five minutes of movement a day can be a good place to start, and then build on that as you are able.
  • Do it daily: Trying to be active every day, even if it’s not an official workout, will help you build the habit faster. The sooner you build the routine, the less likely you will be to stop exercising. Many seniors like to exercise in the morning, before the day can get away from them, in order to stay on track with their daily goal.
  • Listen to your body: It’s normal to feel a little soreness and discomfort as you begin a new exercise routine. However, stabbing or joint pain isn’t normal, so if you start feeling that, stop exercising immediately to avoid exacerbating it. As always, you should consult your doctor before beginning any fitness routine, and check in with him or her if you feel any pain.

Exercising as a senior comes with certain considerations, but there are a wide range of activities you can try, no matter your level of mobility. Seniors of any age and fitness background can start with as little as five minutes of stretching a day and then build up from there, even if they are currently wheelchair-bound. Follow these tips and exercise ideas to start your fitness journey today.

 ~*~

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Aging Gracefully: Fitness Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility (guest post)

Thanks to Kaki for today’s guest post; part two will be posted next Sunday.

Kaki is the Vice President and co-owner of Ames Walker.  After graduating from Virginia Tech she went on to work for Pepsi for several years before joining the family business.  When she is not working she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, Virginia Tech football & spending time with family & friends.

 

Aging Gracefully: Fitness Tips for Seniors with Limited Mobility

Sitting for extended periods is a major contributing factor to a variety of health issues, even if an individual is young, fit and otherwise healthy. As you age, your mobility naturally becomes more limited, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on moving entirely — indeed, staying active can actually increase your mobility or maintain it for a longer period of time.

However, sometimes it can be difficult to come up with ideas to be active if you have limited mobility, especially if you’re bound to a wheelchair. We’ve outlined five activities seniors of various mobility levels can engage in to stay fit and age gracefully. We’ll then discuss the mental and physical benefits of exercise and offer tips for starting your fitness journey later in life.

Gentle Stretches

If you exercise regularly, stretching should be part of both your warm up and cool down routine — and if you don’t work out a lot yet, stretching is an easy way to start being active. Stretching eases stiff joints and tight muscles, making it easier to work up to a more involved activity. Common “problem” areas that will loosen up from stretching include the neck, chest, back, lower back, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings and ankles.

Try to stretch at least once daily to build the habit, but you can always do it more often if your muscles feel tight. However, if you feel pain during a static stretch, back off — that’s a sign you’ve pushed yourself too hard.

Restorative Yoga

Yoga might make you think of twisting yourself into a pretzel, but there are many types of yoga classes at a variety of intensity levels. Restorative yoga is a gentle version that focuses on overall wellness, relaxation and improving balance, coordination and flexibility.

It’s a great way to start recovering from an injury or addressing a chronic health issue such as arthritis. You’ll move through the poses at a slow, meditative pace, concentrating on your breathing throughout the exercise. You may use props such as blocks or blankets to help you hold the poses. Consider signing up for a few restorative yoga classes first before you try anything at home, so an instructor can walk you through the poses.

Core Strength Exercises

Your core is far more than just your abs. It engages in just about everything you do, from sitting to walking to picking up an object. Deliberately building your core with exercises can make it easier to get around — and may even help with back pain.

Exercises that seniors can use to target their core include planks, bridge lifts, leg lifts, seated side bends and the Superman. You should also try to engage your core in other scenarios, such as sitting up straight or walking around the neighborhood.

Chair Exercises

Even if you’re wheelchair-bound, you can still work on improving your activity levels. Numerous strength-training exercises — using a resistance band, small weights or even your own body weight — can be done while seated. Many flexibility exercises can be modified for a seated individual, including stretches, yoga and Tai Chi. Even certain forms of cardiovascular activity, such as aerobics, can be adapted for those in a chair.

Supportive Therapies

Of course, you need to make sure you’re taking care of your body during and after your exercise, especially as you age. Compression socks with graduated compression improve circulation and provide extra padding for your foot as you stay active. Therapeutic shoes with Velcro closures give your feet the proper support they need, plus they’re easy to take on and off. Elevating your legs using a leg rest after being on your feet awhile can take the pressure off your veins and discourage the blood from pooling there.

~*~

 I’ll be back again next Sunday with Part Two of this interesting and informative guest post.

If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Habit or Obsession?


I suspect you would agree that each of us does a number of things daily out of habit–without even thinking about them. I imagine we also do at least a few things quite intentionally. As if obsessed about it.

When does an obsession become a habit, though? Or vice versa?

I think back with some embarrassment to this obsession from my post-college years. I started scheduling practically everything I did in fifteen-minute increments. If something took longer  than I’d allotted an adequate number of fifteen-minute slots for, I got seriously bent out of shape.

In order to track my time properly, I had to start on one of the quarter hours. Oh, my! If I was five minutes past one of those times getting on the road for a trip, irritable wouldn’t adequately describe my state of mind.

That was definitely an obsession–one I’ve long since outgrown.

Let me share a few other things that I’ve done in the past or I’m currently doing.

  • I used to always take a hot dog for my lunch before I retired. I continued to do that years after retirement. Then I suddenly desired to have something different. For the last several years I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches. Not just on weekdays, but for Saturday lunch and Sunday supper.
  • When dressing, I sit on the bed to put my left sock on first and then my right one.
  • When my Harry’s razor blades are a few days later than expected in arriving–I use one a week and change them on Sunday–I’m apt to email Harry’s and ask why they can’t be more consistent in their shipments.
  • When riding with my wife I tend to keep my eye on the speedometer. Even though she’s never gotten a speeding ticket, she tends to push the limit. I don’t hesitate to let her know I doubt the police might not be as tolerant of the excess as she thinks. A speeding ticket is certainly not in the budget.
  • While visiting family out of town, I’m apt to pick up my guitar and play quietly while other people talk. If I hear something I want to comment on, I do. Otherwise, it’s just me and my guitar.
  • After I take clothes out of the dryer–yes, I do the laundry–I do three things: clean the filter, set the dial to optimum dry, and throw a clean dryer sheet inside the machine. I get mildly irritated if I have to one of those things the next time I use the dryer.
  • When I buy a carton of my favorite frozen yogurt flavor, I allow myself exactly half a cup per day, confident that amount of sugar won’t hurt. If I get really daring, I use a half-cup container, not a bowl.
  • I don’t like crispy bacon. I’m not going to be rude if served overdone bacon at someone’s home, but I’ve been known to ask for different bacon when eating breakfast out.
  • My mother always watered the grape juice down with water when I was a kid; that’s what I got used to. So when I started buying grape juice a year or two ago and found the taste of straight juice unappealing, I started watering it down slightly, too.
  • I always wear a nice leather man-bag when I go out. I have too much stuff to carry in my pockets: small notepad, pen, and pencil; hearing aid batteries; emery board and nail clippers (I have to have my fingernails just right for my guitar playing); a comb; two business card cases; a flash drive; and the coins referred to in another bullet point. Oh, and–of course–my cell phone. I feel absolutely naked if I forget my man-bag.
  • Ditto if I fail to have my cell phone with me when I go out, even though I rarely use it for anything.
  • I keep two one-dollar coins in my man-bag for emergencies. I don’t cheat and use them for anything else just because I don’t have any other money on me at the time. I wouldn’t even think of doing that.
  • At bedtime, I have to clean my hearing aids and put them away before I brush my teeth. The two things have nothing to do with one another, but I get mildly frustrated if I do them out of sequence.

What do you think? Maybe I’ve simply confirmed your suspicions that I’m at least a little weird, and that’s okay. I write quirky fiction, so I should have the right to be a little quirky, too.

Regardless of that, which of those things are habits and which are obsessions? Do you have any particular habits or obsessions you’d be willing to share in a comment?

Sometime I may ask my wife for a list of what she thinks I should’ve included in today’s list.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Hope for Unity Day by Day

Divisiveness is a word I’d never paid much attention to until I officially became an adult and began teaching school in Cambridge, Maryland, following my graduation from Frostburg State College (now University) in 1968.

~*~

You need to understand that I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught that all people are equal in God’s sight. My father served as a minister in Farmville, Virginia, for the first eight years of my life. He left that pastorate in 1955 because he foresaw what was coming and knew his congregation would never tolerate his loving, tolerant attitude towards people of color and even shut down the school system to avoid integration.

When we moved to Norfolk in 1959 I ran into the effects of prejudice more personally. Mayor Duckworth–I referred to him as Duckworthless because I resented him so much–refused to let the schools open that fall for several months in opposition to integration. Once the schools finally opened, we had to attend classes on Saturday for a while to make up some of the lost days.

Integration was in, but in my six years in Norfolk, I don’t think I knew a single black person.

When my father took a pastorate in Cumberland, Maryland, I began attending the local community college which, incidentally, was meeting in what had previously been the black high school, I had at at least one good black friend. Neither of us had any reason for prejudice. We viewed one another as individuals, not members of different races.

During my senior year at Frostburg and during the summer, I started applying for teaching positions throughout the state. When I heard back from Dorchester County–Cambridge–I didn’t even have to return from my summer job in North Carolina for an interview. They were desperate, and I got the job over the phone.

Yes, they were desperate, but little did I know why. I’d been in school, isolated from any knowledge of the race riots there in 1963 and 1967.

Teaching in 1968 brought me into the remnants of hatred and prejudice, even though I’d been brought up to oppose such things. Things were still tense, and I couldn’t escape the reminders of what had gone on several years before, including the burning of seventeen buildings.

The tension reached a high point for me personally in 1970 when H. Rap Brown was to be tried in absentia for inciting the riots.

After dreaming I’d heard a gunshot during the night preceding the trial, I learned from my landlord’s daughter that my dream had actually been the dynamiting of one corner of the courthouse, which was just a block or two (as the crow flies) from my apartment. Was recent history going to repeat itself so soon?

I don’t recall the names of any of my less lovable black students, but I can still remember many of the ones who were as accepting of me as I was of them. Much to my pleasure, one of them has become a good friend on Facebook.

I had one extremely close black friend during my teaching days. Close enough that he and another friend were happy to drive to Illinois to participate in the wedding to my first wife.

~*~

I hate the racial divisiveness that seems to have come back into America stronger than ever during the last eight to ten years. It’s so unnecessary.

That’s one reason I so enjoy walking at the mall, where I see an equal number of blacks and whites and no obvious signs of prejudice on anyone’s part.

I usually see two particular black ladies, one of whom is pushing a double stroller with two of the cutest little kids. We–the kids as well as the ladies–are so used to my coming over to speak to them that they realize I’ve grown to love those children in a special way. No matter how squirmy they were, the boys didn’t object to my taking this picture.

Although the smaller boy in front can be quite shy at times, he’s usually willing to give me a handshake. He obviously doesn’t know what prejudice is, and that gives me a sense of hope for much-needed unity, if only for the duration of that day.

But I know I’ll see those kids again, and I pray that–as they grow older and are no longer being pushed around the mall–they’ll grow up to be among the best of the best, helping to replace divisiveness with true unity.

Feel free to comment about this or any of my other posts.

~*~

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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A B&B-Hoppin’ Vacation


Only since marrying Kathleen in 2003 have I learned what staying at a bed-and-breakfast is like. We’ve done it on several short getaways in the past, but this time we took a week-long vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Staying ONLY at B&Bs, we returned home this past Wednesday.

What a unique experience! No two places were alike.

Probably the nicest one was at Cape Charles, just a mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel coming from Virginia Beach, where we’d spent the day at the Virginia Aquarium and on a Dolphin spotting cruise. The rooms were spacious, and we had a wonderful private balcony, from which I enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset.

    

From there we went to Ocean City, where we stayed at the Inn on the Ocean, which is supposedly the only B&B in Ocean City. What made it so special was it’s right on the boardwalk. Despite Kathleen’s arthritic knee, walking some on the boardwalk wasn’t too much of a problem.

One high point of our time in OC was meeting a former English student of mine–she “just happened” to be coming to OC for the week on one of our days there–for an evening meal. Another high point was a visit to Assateague Island, where we were able to see some of the wild horses.

    

Our room in OC was smaller than at Cape Charles, but the breakfasts were great, and so was sitting on the front porch to eat.

After two days in Ocean City–it has a much better boardwalk than Virginia Beach–we spent two days in Cambridge. Our B&B there, the Albanus Phillips Inn, has quite a history–it’s a restored mansion, and we actually had a suite for the price of a room. Our host sat at the breakfast table with us and told us tale after fascinating tale about the house and about Albanus Phillips himself.

    

Because I used to live in Cambridge, a visit to my old church enabled us to see some of the folks I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. It was the pastor’s last day at the church–he’s retiring–and we were blessed by seeing him and his wife, both of whom had been students of mine while I was still teaching school.

We spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting two of the best friends I’ve ever had and then a lengthy supper with two others. We had to go to Walmart to say hi to one old friend who had to work during the time we didn’t already have plans for.

    

On Monday we drove to Crisfield to take a forty-five minute ferry to Smith Island; although the islanders have vehicles, visitors aren’t allowed to.

    

Since the Island’s two restaurants close at 4:00 when the last ferry to the mainland leaves, our B&B hostess was nice enough (for a reasonable extra cost) to fix us the most wonderful crab cake dinner that evening and provide a slice of famous Smith Island cake, Maryland’s state dessert; it has from eight to ten VERY thin layers. Interestingly, she doesn’t live in the B&B. Since we were the only guests that night, we had the house to ourselves.

          

The house faces the water. Smith Island is VERY small. I don’t know how many people live there, but I suspect the number is in the lower hundreds. Church–the island has only a Methodist church–plays a big part in the lives of the islanders. Most of the islanders are water-men, although some people commute (by ferry, of course) to the mainland to work. Incidentally, the streets are few and quite narrow, and cars don’t have license plates. Crime is non-existent among these folks, all of whom probably know one another.

We enjoyed a private boat ride around the island (Smith Island is actually made up of several tiny islands, each with a town of its own; we stayed at Ewell, the largest town.)

         

On Tuesday we ferried back to the mainland, returned to Cape Charles, and spent another night at the same B&B we’d stayed at on our first night. Not counting the suite in Cambridge, the rooms there were unquestionably the biggest and most comfortable.

It’s impossible to describe a week’s vacation–especially one that was one of our best vacations yet–in a few hundred words or to show you more than a few of the dozens of pictures I took.

If you’ve never stayed in a B&B, you might want to consider trying it sometime. 

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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