When  It’s Time to Go, It’s Time

When It’s Time to Go, It’s Time

We sometimes hear about people who are determined to stay alive a little longer, despite circumstances that threaten their health and well being. And we also hear about people who feel so hopeless about their current situation that they would welcome death. Some of them consider committing suicide, and some actually do it.

Please relax. This blog post isn’t about the life and death of human beings. Or of animals, either.

In fact, it probably won’t disturb you at all, no matter how sympathetic you might be.

Almost three years ago, I posted an article about my favorite houseplant, a ZZ plant. It looked gorgeous then.

If you’ve been with me that long, perhaps you recognize the picture.

Some months ago, that pot-bound beauty was starting to lose leaves right and left. But only on certain stems. So Kathleen and I decided to get rid of the nasty parts and re-pot the rest. We divided it and put it in two separate pots.

We put the fuller one in the bathroom. Uh, the outer part of the bathroom–on the ledge surrounding the appropriately labeled garden tub. It’s still looking great, as you can see here.

The other ZZ plant looks pretty lonely in that big pot; I question whether we shouldn’t have used a smaller one. Nonetheless, after a month or two, one stem began losing leaves. We eventually cut that stem off. What remains of that plant seems healthy enough, but I keep a close watch on it.

Laugh if you must, but it’s difficult keeping myself from praying for its survival.

Not long after buying our mobile home, I planted a small pyracantha bush. “Bush” is actually a bit of a misnomer; over the last seventeen years it has grown taller than our home (the picture below doesn’t do its size justice). Keeping it from taking over the front porch has been a challenge, but watching robins and mockingbirds use it for their nests has been wonderful. Despite a less-than-pleasant odor, the blooms are pretty, too. So are the berries.


This tree has meant a lot to me because it’s been in the yard almost as long as I’ve lived here.

As much as I love snow, it’s no respecter of pyracantha. Especially when coupled with ice. Our most recent snow storm left the pyracantha hopelessly split in a couple of places. Even if I could successfully trim it to get rid of the nearly-detached branches, it would never look the same again. (Only the part leaning to the right would be left.)

My wife has complained (mostly nicely) from time to time about the way the pyracantha has taken over the porch and blocked the way to the shed; this morning she pointed out that I should’ve planted it a foot or two further from the porch. Hindsight is wonderful. isn’t it?

We’ve pretty much decided to make the sacrifice and get rid of the pyracantha. A crape myrtle should be much more satisfactory.

How do I feel about the probable loss of the pyracantha and the possible eventual loss of a ZZ plant?

Yes, I feel a little sad. But I suppose plants and trees are like human beings. They have a limited life span. And when it’s time for them to go, they go.

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,

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Tale of a Snowy Spring Day

Although the calendar moved from winter to spring this past week, the weather couldn’t keep up with it. On Wednesday we had snow that started early and kept falling for hours. Schools were closed, but my wife was able to get to work without any problems.

My usual Wednesday morning nursing home ministry was cancelled, however. That meant I could still get two walks in at the mall. Clearing the car off didn’t take much; the snow was so soft it brushed off easily. The roads were mostly just wet, and the parking lot at the mall was slushy in places, but not dangerous to drive on.

 I always go in through the entrance at Penney’s salon. My wife and I have been doing that for a long time because the nice salon employees are generous are letting us hang our coats in their little customer closet, even though we get our haircuts elsewhere.

Although I hadn’t been taking advantage of that closet recently because the mall hasn’t been well heated this year, it was a real necessity that day. I was wearing boots–definitely not what I wanted to wear for a thirty-minute walk–but I’d brought my walking shoes in a plastic bag.

The salon was empty–no employees, no lights–but I changed into walking shoes and put my boots in the closet. Walking through the store, I admired some electronic gear that was on sale and cute tee-shirts displaying a rabbit head with part of an ear broken off (labeled “Oh, snap!”). Then I headed into the mall and had a good walk.

Several hours later, I decided to get my second walk out of the way. So I returned to Penney’s and went through the same routine about my shoes and boots. But I hung my coat in the closet that time. And why not? I was wearing a heavy sweater.

I’d seen only a few walkers that morning, but now–this was a little after 1:00–nobody else was walking. In fact, I marveled at the number of stores that had closed early. Considering the number that had never opened, things looked rather ghostly.

I’d been walking about ten minutes when one of the security guards stopped me and said the mall had just closed. He was nice enough to let me go the short distance to my turning spot, but I didn’t think I should take advantage of his kindness by attempting to do my second loop as well.

As I watched the rest of the mall stores closing right before my eyes, I couldn’t keep from thinking, “What if Penney’s closes its mall entrance before I can get there?” I started moving faster…and praying.

Sure enough, as I rounded the final corner, there Penney’s sat, its gate closed and no one who might have been able to let me in visible inside. When I saw another security guard, a very pregnant lady I’d gotten to know better since she passed out one morning many months ago, I told her my problem.

She couldn’t get me into Penney’s, but she did lead me down a corridor I’d never noticed before, one that led to an exit probably a hundred yards or so from my car. And an equal distance from where I was to Penney’s salon entrance.

I felt so blessed that the snow had practically stopped; I wouldn’t get very wet. But the temperature was barely above freezing. No matter how warm my sweater was, I moved as fast as I could towards the salon entrance. I nearly burst into a song of praise when someone exited through that door. He must have been store personnel since he questioned why I wanted to come in. He believed me, fortunately.

I changed back into boots, put on my coat, and headed to my car.

I was tempted to leave you in suspense about whether I got into Penney’s or not, but I was already concerned about whether anyone was still reading this post, and the conclusion of the story would not have been worthy of a sequel next week.

Have you ever had an unusual experience–maybe something that could have been either disastrous or, as in my case, simply a huge nuisance–that turned out okay? Or maybe not okay. How about leaving a comment.

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,


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More on “Snow Is Beautiful, But…”

While in junior college, I was living in Cumberland, Maryland. A very snowy place. I didn’t have my driver’s license yet–that’s a story for another time–and frequently mooched rides with friends and girls I wished were girlfriends.

I’ll never forget the night–I don’t recall the time, but the fact this event took place at night is important–when I was riding back from somewhere to my parents’ house. Keith’s car was slipping all over the street, but it wasn’t until I said something about it that he admitted he liked to make his car slide on snow and ice. I grant you he had his car as perfectly under control as anyone could under those circumstances, but I never rode with him again in bad weather.

I don’t know if he’s still alive or not.

No, that’s not the snow story I told you on Sunday that I would talk about today. But it should help to give you a better understanding of just how cautious I feel when the roads are snowy and/or icy. Fortunately, Kathleen agrees totally.

Here’s the the way the story has worked out.

Kathleen’s father had been in bad health for a number of years. Although he was a likable fellow when she and I married twelve years ago, he had become a grumpier and grumpier old man, plagued by pain and easily irritated.

We knew that J. A.’s  (he only has initials and goes by “JA” as if his name was “Jay”) health was declining and my mother-in-law, Anna, felt the end was getting close. Although as a former nurse she had a good understanding of health issues, she didn’t have a God’s-eye-view of JA’s actual condition, though. When he suffered a stroke in November, his problems proved more complex than the stroke itself.

Although he was soon moved from the hospital to a rehab facility, he didn’t make any effort to cooperate with the therapists. He seemed to have given up. With the encouragement of the doctors, who agreed with Anna that JA would die soon, she moved him to a hospice location.

Although he survived Christmas, he continued to decline.

Kathleen had already planned a trip to visit her mom near the end of January, and her plane tickets were unchangeable.  We were in a real quandary. We had always intended to drive to Memphis when the time came, but a major snow storm was expected this past Friday.

JA passed away away early last Thursday morning. We’d thought maybe we could still drive if we got away from the east coast that day, but we learned that Memphis was already getting bad weather. We wouldn’t be able to drive until this past Monday at the earliest.

But Kathleen was still scheduled to fly out today. Rather than make me face the possibility of driving the whole way back by myself, we thought the best solution was for her to go ahead and fly, extend her stay, and pay the $200 fee to reschedule her return flight. Fortunately, a very understanding Delta agent didn’t charge her for the change.

No, this snow wasn’t convenient. Although it necessitated quite a change in our plans, we believe things have worked out for the best. But it sure had us making and remaking tentative plans until JA’s actual death permitted us to make the final decision.

I promise to let the subject of snow thaw out and evaporate now.

Do you have a story of a time when snow or some other weather problem has changed your plans drastically? How about leaving a comment?


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

Best regards,

Snow Is Beautiful, But…

I love to watch snow falling, especially when the flakes are nice and big. I’ve written previously about how I used to walk in the snow during college to buy a slice or two of pizza and eat it while walking back to my rooming house. Ever since then, eating pizza on snowy days has become a tradition.

But I’m the first to admit that snow isn’t always convenient.

I’ll never forget the Christmas my first wife and I were driving to visit her family in Illinois and stopped overnight at my parents’ house in Cumberland, Maryland. I don’t recall whether it snowed any before we got there or not, but it literally “snowed up a storm” that night.

The snow wouldn’t have been such a problem if we hadn’t received a call that night that Debbie’s grandfather had been killed in a tractor accident that day. But when we left the next morning, burdened by shock and grief, we found the road to Bedford, Pennsylvania, where we were to catch the turnpike, to be so impossible to drive–it took more than an hour to drive twenty miles–that we had little choice but to return to my parents’ house. The weather didn’t let up for several days, and–by no fault of ours–we couldn’t get to Illinois in time for the funeral.

That snowfall might have been beautiful from inside, but…

Another time when we were on our way to Illinois, this time for my former sister-in-law’s wedding, we again ran into snow. A very blinding snow. I have two very specific memories of that trip.

The first was of the interstate when it was so covered that we couldn’t even see the surface of the road. And there were no tracks to follow. We soon learned they’d already closed the interstate. Fortunately, we were right at an exit and the nearby Holiday Inn  had a room. Staying there two nights until the highway reopened wasn’t in the family budget, but we didn’t have any choice. I’ll never play Uno without thinking about the hours we spent there.

The other memory was of the strangest eighteen wheeler accident imaginable. You know how underpasses have support columns and then are apt to angle uphill at what I’d guess to be a thirty-to-forty-five degree angle from the roadway itself? Well, we passed a tractor trailer that had somehow slid and gotten wedged between a support column and the adjacent hillside.

We made it in plenty of time for the wedding, but still encountered snowy conditions that forced us to make a few strategic detours when we got close to our destination.

Beautiful snow, but…

I have another snow story to relate, but I think I’ll save it for Wednesday. Since the blizzard didn’t start until several days after I wrote this post, some of the story hadn’t happened yet.

What about you? How has weather–snow, rain, or whatever–affected you at times? How about sharing a comment?


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

Best regards,

Snow & Pizza

SnowAndPizza 001     SnowAndPizza 002

Some things never change, no matter how old I get. Like having pizza when we have snow.

That’s a tradition that started when I was in college. I attended Frostburg State College (now University) and lived in a rooming house a block or two from campus. The town and consequently the college were named after a family named Frost.

But—with the kind of winter weather we had there—the name really fit. While it’s hard to remember many details about my time at Frostburg—I told you I’m aging gracelessly—I remember snow being on the ground on a regular basis.

I didn’t have a car yet. In fact, I didn’t get my license till late summer after graduation and my first car three or four months later. So I had to walk if I needed anything from Frostburg’s modest “downtown.”

But the only thing I ever really “needed” from the main drag was a couple of slices of pizza. I could’ve eaten more, but I couldn’t afford it.

So it wasn’t unusual for me to trudge out while the last little bit of daylight remained and slip and slide up and down a few hills to reach my pizza place.

My intentions were always good: to wait until I got back to the house before eating.

Have you ever carried a box of fresh, hot pizza at chest level? Hard to ignore that delicious aroma, isn’t it? Especially if every part of you but your hands is freezing.

So I inevitably started nibbling on my treat while slipping and sliding my way back to the house. I was careful, though. As careful as possible considering what I was doing. But I don’t question that—had I fallen down—protecting the pizza would’ve taken priority over protecting myself.

After all, broken bones would mend–eventually. But I couldn’t afford to go back and replace any lost pizza.

That started a tradition for me. One that continued with my first wife and has continued with Kathleen. Whenever it snows, we have to have pizza. And we don’t order and have it delivered. One of us goes out to pick it up.

We do NOT walk, however. Neither do we eat in the car on the way home. We have to be practical. Texting and driving isn’t safe, and driving and eating pizza is even more dangerous.

This winter has broken our tradition, though. Or at least thrown it off kilter a little. We’ve had so much more snow than usual that we would look like a pair of Pillsbury Dough Boys if we’d indulged with each snowfall we’ve had.

But talking about it brings back those same fond memories, and I hope I never get too old to enjoy pizza when we have our first snowfall of the season—and periodically thereafter. Living without that would be graceless indeed.

Do you have any quirky traditions? How about sharing them with us?

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. Please join me then. Better yet, go to the top right hand section of this screen and click to follow this blog by email. That way you’ll never miss a post.

Best regards,