Friday, December 14, 2018

Taking a Breather

I'm shutting this blog down for the rest of the year but don't worry, I'll be back next year. I'm off to spend Christmas and New Years with my family on the backside of the globe from here. Back when we started planning this trip, about this time last year, my family was going with me this time. None of them have been to the Philippines and we thought they might enjoy the trip. Unfortunately when it came time to buy tickets this summer, we didn't know how to proceed. My mom really wanted to come but probably wasn't going to be around that long. My brother and wife really wanted to come but were reluctant to come if our mom was no longer around so someone could be home with our dad.

As I should have expected, my mom, the matriarch of our family, decided for us all saying she wasn't going after all. My brother told her that he would stay home this year to be with her and my dad. It wasn't an easy decision but the right one. I wasn't worried about getting my mom to the Philippines but I was worried about getting her back if something were to happen and to allow her to die at home per her wishes. In the end, she didn't make it to the trip but she did get her wish.

So this time it is just my wife, kids and I going and in a couple years, we'll try again with my brother and his wife. I'm pretty sure since my dad refused to go this time even when mom swore she was going, he won't come the next time but I will invite him just the same. Maybe is we have any ashes left, mom can come with us too after all.

It should be an interesting trip. We are taking a different route there which could cause some excitement but I hope it just makes for a better trip. My wife's adopted brother is getting married and I'm one of the Godfathers so I shipped my tuxedo there a couple months back for the occasion. My wife's extended family (of 300+ people or so) have their annual family reunion on January 1rst and this is the first time since we've been married, (though we've been to the reunion before), where it appears EVERYONE is going to be there. Should be exciting.

So if you don't hear from me for the next several weeks, know that I'll be back next year sometime post 14 hour jet lag recovery with I'm sure, plenty of stories to share and pictures to show. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wedding Bells

Mom, bio-dad and me at 3 months after conception

My mom got married at age 18, four months before she graduated high school. I was born six months later which may explain the young age. Her husband, my biological father, had just turned 19 ten days prior. I guess as one would expect in this day and age, those marrying that young have a rough go at staying married for very long as statistics show. So it was the case with my parents. After roughly six and a half years of marriage, my father left during the night and other than a few times in the following months, was never to be seen again.

I think for obvious reasons, mom never really liked to talk about her first marriage. It wasn't until I was graduated high school and out of the house that I even knew wedding photos of her first marriage existed. The only reason I knew that was on one visit home, my mom went out to a storage building for something and came back inside distraught because a raccoon had made a whole in the roof, right over a pile of boxes, one of which contained her photo albums from that time in her life. I spent the day helping her lay the photos all over the guestroom bed until the dried out and then helping her box them up and store them in the bottom of the cedar chest that serves as a coffee table in the living room.

They remained there like a dark secret for the decades since. I think after I got married, mom brought out an album of me when I was a baby to show my wife but most of the pictures remained in the bottom of that chest. I never got the sense that they were ever hidden, just that it reminded her of a time in her life that didn't have good memories and thus best not talked about.

A few months ago when her death was more certain, my mom said she wanted to go through those pictures when my brother was up with harvest and I told her I would love to do so. Due to weather and other problems, we never had time to look at them at that time. After my brother left and my mom was losing her ability to walk in the space of a week, I brought it up to mom that we should look at those pictures but she wanted to wait for my brother to get back. He came back two weeks later but by that time, she was just a week from slipping into a drug induced slumber never to wake again. So we never got to look at those pictures together, something I regret though really don't feel blame over. It just didn't work out.

Those pictures still sit in the bottom of that cedar chest and sometime when the time is right, I am going to get them with permission of my father and scan them so that the are preserved digitally. However, my maternal grandmother gave me her small wedding album of mom's wedding, another thing I never knew existed until the other day, containing some of the pictures I remember seeing drying on the guestroom bed two decades ago. Unfortunately, these are the textured photos that were popular at the time and horrible to scan but it is better than nothing. The one above is the earliest known photo of me, three months after conception.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Honoring Mom

When writing up mom's obituary, I pondered a bit about whether money is still given to the family of the bereaved instead of flowers. I honestly didn't know and since mom was being cremated and no services planned, we certainly didn't need flowers. So I took a chance and put in the obituary that instead of flowers, people could honor my mom by contributing to her favorite charity. Later after mom passed away, I asked my dad if they had a charity they give too and he did.

When I was still living at home, my parents bought a cabin next to the Buffalo River National Park in NW Arkansas. It consists of hundreds of thousands of acres surrounding the Wild and Scenic designated Buffalo River and in all those acres are hundred of miles of trails which I have spent a good chunk of my life hiking upon or using them to get to a point where I simply walk off the beaten path. As part of the trail system, one trail follows the river throughout the park but at one point, the cliffs and river pinch together and the only way to continue on is to walk across privately owned land. A foundation has been trying for 40 years to purchase the private land without success. My parents have contributed to this foundation and last year, they finally were able to purchase the land and make the trail complete. The same foundation also use funds to help improve and maintain the existing trails. My parents have regularly volunteered their labor over the years for this purpose.

The week before mom died, she and my dad had been invited down to a special dinner for supporters of the cause to celebrate this achievement. Unfortunately mom didn't make it. So when I finished writing mom's obituary, I but this foundation as the charity to honor my mom. I called the foundation a few days later to let them know that they might possibly receive some money and I was amazed to learn they already had. People had looked them up online and used Paypal to already contribute. They said they would collect it all and send us a total when all was said and done as well as put her name up on a plaque and a memorial on their website. I don't know if my dad has received any money but I have been swamped with checks written out to this charity and am in awe of the generosity people have shown.

Mom would be thrilled.

Friday, December 7, 2018


A few nights ago, I saw a concert by Garth Brooks would be on television later so I recorded it to my DVR. Unfortunately for me, the DVR pretty much stopped working since that point and keeps rebooting itself nearly continuously. After an hour long slog through the phone service troubleshooting followed by a real live person telling me to do the same thing I've done four times already, unplug and reboot, they finally scheduled me for a service call to replace it sometime three days away between 1 and 5.

However, sometimes after a reboot, it will work again for about ten minutes so while I've been waiting, I've been watching the concert 10 minutes at a time and it has brought back lots of memories to me. I never was a country music fan and still don't consider myself one. If I'm flipping through the radio and come across a country music station, I keep flipping and if nothing else is on, I just turn it off. I don't have anything against those who love country music, but it just isn't my thing.

But Garth Brooks came along and I really dug his music for awhile. I went to several concerts of his and to this day, they still rank as some of my favorite concert going memories of all times. There is more energy on display at one Garth Brook concerts than ten of any other concerts put together. It was captivating.

When I was in college, Garth announced that he would be coming to our campus and put on three concerts. I went out twelve hours before tickets would start selling and waiting in line in a pretty good spot. However an hour before they went on sale, "to be fair", they assigned everyone in line a number and then drew a random number out of a hat. I no longer remember the specifics but to give you an idea, I drew say number 40 and they drew number 42 out of the hat. That meant 42 was now at the head of the line followed by numbers 43 through 218, then 1 through 39 followed by me and number 41. I went from near the front to way in back.

The tickets went on sale and the hours ticked by and concerts began being marked as sold. Finally three people away from being able to purchase a ticket, the last concert sold out. As we stood there stunned, someone came out and told us to hang on for a few minutes. Sure enough, two more concert dates were announced and tickets were being sold. I had only planned to buy one ticket but when I found out that there was going to be another concert on a Saturday and I was at the front of the line, I bought the maximum allowed which was eight. I wasn't sure I had enough funds in my checking account to buy the tickets and pay next semesters tuition but I took the chance. As it turned out, I think our ticket selling agent was behind the curve because the seats I received were still a long way from being near the front of the stadium. Nevertheless, as I was walking back towards the dorm after purchasing the tickets and the two extra concert performances were sold out, someone asked if I would sell them tickets. They bought six of my $45 tickets for $200 each, in cash, right there on the spot. I felt like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs as I practically ran the rest of the way to the dorm with one hand on that wad of cash in my pocket.

It is nice to see Garth Brooks back out of retirement and as I caught another ten minutes of the show before my DVR stopped again and rebooted on its own, he still has an amazing amount of energy and can pull it from the crowd so easily. I'm not sure I will be standing in line anymore to see him in concert but I might pause and listen to a new song of his on the radio if I hear it, before I flip on to find a rock station.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Paper Trails

I belong to a fraternal organization and took over the financial secretary position earlier this summer. We do about four fundraisers a year and give all proceeds off to local charities who are dedicated to serving those in need. It is all very simple which is how we like things to be to get the biggest bang for our fundraised buck.

Shortly after assuming the title, I met with the old financial secretary to have my name added to the checking account and have his taken off. Long story short, they wouldn't do it unless we had some meeting minutes to show that I was in that position. So even though we don't keep minutes, we had to generate minutes for that specific time, vote and approve them so that I could get my name added to the account. I again met the old financial secretary at the bank for attempt number two only to be told that we had to list exact account numbers in the minutes. We decided at that point to take our business elsewhere rather than wait another four months until our next meeting.

I called up my bank to see what their requirements were and was assured that all I needed was $50 to open up an account and a form of identification. Easy peasy. Trip three ended up in another stalemate with the bank requiring that we now needed articles of incorporation to set up a checking account. According to them, recent changes in federal laws now require all business entities, even non-profit clubs like ourselves, to prove that we are legitimate.

I went home and printed off some "articles of incorporation" and made my fourth trip to establish a checking account. This time things were accepted and we were issued a checking account. For a month I used said checking account to issue a total of two checks after of course ordering new checks. Then I got a notice in the mail stating that our checking account status was in limbo and to please head to my nearest bank branch to clear things up.

Trip five happened and the bank manager assured me that everything was okay and that wires must have crossed in the mail. He said something about the name they typed into our account didn't match our "articles of incorporation."

Three days ago I received a final notice stating that the account would be closed unless I again ventured to the nearest bank branch and cleared up some things. I immediately called the branch manager, whose phone number I now have memorized, and he assured me that no sixth trip was needed and that he would clear things up.

Yesterday I received an email stating my account was closed and showed a zero balance.

Today I made the sixth trip down to the office. Evidently in order to set up a checking account these days, I have to have articles of incorporation files with the secretary of state which requires a lawyer, more money than what is/was in the checking account or file for a tradename in our surrounding area. So I opted to do the latter and after a trip to the courthouse and $7.50 later, I now have a tradename created so that I can once again attempt to open a checking account on my 7th attempt to do so.

I miss the old days when the federal government gave local authorities the ability to make judgments like this.