Let’s Face It…You Can’t Fight Gravity

My audiologist laughed, maybe scoffed is a better term, when I boasted that I was writing a story titled, ‘My Ears Are Getting Bigger, But My Hearing Is Getting Worse’.

“You may get a few chuckles, but you’d be technically incorrect. Our ears actually stop growing at age six.” Six? Well, that explains the teasing by an older sister, whom, I suspect, had already ‘grown into her ears’.

“It’s probably gravity that’s making your ears look bigger, unless you wear heavy ear fashions”, he snickered. “I suggest you change the one word to ‘longer’.”

Gravity, huh? It started me thinking, is it the same gravity that caused my six pack abs to drop and cover my belt? Truth be told, I never had six pack abs. Have the bags under my eyes settled there because of gravity? What about the sides of my mouth turning down in a constant frown? Gravity? I used to blame my mother who, strangely enough, had the same look. It’s become a workout of constant smiling to keep them turned upward.

So many other areas of the human body change over time and gravity must be the catalyst there, as well. How else can we explain drooping shoulders, double chins and sagging fannies? The inch of height I lost must have gone into my feet because they’re wider and flatter. Gravity, again!

Given enough time, I’ll be measured as one foot high x three feet wide. And it’s happening fast. One day you can stretch like a rubber band, and the next you’re locked up tighter than a rusty nut.

You add Move Free to your daily supplements to help your joints, and suppositories to actually help you ‘move freely’.

When did it all change? When did we cross that imaginary line of tight skin, standing tall, get up and go, to drooping, stooping and pooping? It’s time to fight back.

Tug on those loose fitting sweats (yes, mine were form fitting once, too, but that train left the station years ago), tie up your laces (if you can still reach them), and kick the mp3 into high volume (don’t worry about damaging your hearing, it’s probably shot, anyway) and move to the rhythm of an upbeat tempo (personally, I’m stuck on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’).

You may not draw that loose skin back to place, a doctor can do that if it’s important. But I bet you’ll feel better and look better, at least in your own eyes, if they’re any good.

Let’s face it, this body, longer ears and all, has served us well. Take care of it and have fun moving.

Steve
srbottch.com
January 2018

To Sir Issac Newton who gave us an ‘understanding’ of gavity

“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

PAVAROTTI

“Who was Pavarotti?”

I thought I had them stumped. But stumping wasn’t the end game. The objective was twofold: strengthen our daily dialogue, the fun part; and stimulate their thinking skills, the learning part of our relationship. .

As for Pavarotti, the surprise answer came from a confident high schooler on a unicycle who steadied himself, as best one can on a unicycle, and delivered it with certainty. “Not only was Pavarotti a famous Italian opera singer”, he opined, “but he was a tenor”.  I was impressed.

Crossing Guard PatchI’m a crossing guard for a suburban school district in western New York State. Every school morning and afternoon, I have a minute or so to interact with groups of kids ages twelve to eighteen years, while waiting for their signal lights to change. I try to make the wait meaningful.

“What is the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius?”

Recent mornings been have been cold, bitter cold, the perfect environment to challenge them with this question. And the answer came fast. “(F-32) /1.8”. These kids are good.

It’s become apparent that they almost expect something each day, a quiz, a fact, a general question. An approaching airplane provokes a simple discussion. An unusual sunrise or an odd cloud formation gets us talking and imagining. It’s all about the dialogue.

“Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?”

“What direction are we facing while waiting to cross? Forward doesn’t count!”

“January is named after the 2 headed Roman god Janus.”

“Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

“How many centimeters in an inch, millimeters?”

For the most part, kids haven’t changed over the years. The younger boys are still immature, they run, yell and ask nonsensical questions.  And boys and girls still hold hands. But there are some noticeable changes. Pink, purple or blue hair is common with today’s girls, and even with some boys. The huge backpacks have replaced gym bags for carrying books. And, nearly everyone is connected via cell phones.

However, kids are still kids. If I can make them smile or laugh as they start their school day, then ‘mission accomplished’. And it all starts with a greeting…and, maybe a new question…

“Good morning, kids. Have a great day!”

woodchuck

“Oh, By the way, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

To my surprise, they had answers. We’re learning from each other.

Steve
srbottch.com
Jan 2018

Dedicated to a wonderful teacher I’ve been fortunate to know, Jennie, and her cadre of lucky students.

Hidden Treasures

Treasures 4 score card

There it was, buried in a cardboard box from a house move several years ago, an old scorecard. But not just any scorecard, here was the scorecard that told a hole by hole story of the best nine holes of my golfing adventures, a poignant reminder of a ‘special moment’.

Life is that way, isn’t it? Along the way, you acquire reminders of the ‘road’ you’ve traveled: a trophy, a plaque, token or charm of some sort, maybe a photograph or special book, hidden treasures among our bric-a-brac, often of little or no value, except to you.

Over time, these treasures found their way to drawers, closets, or boxes, out of sight and mind, seemingly disappearing within the fabric of your house, until, quite unexpectedly, you come across one that makes you pause and reflect on a certain ‘special moment’ in your life.

Army hat

My old army hat rests ‘at ease’ on a filing cabinet.  An occasional glimpse stirs memories of a brief period (it seemed forever) as a young man when I had ‘nothin to say about nothin’, just do as ordered. Challenges were met, obstacles were overcome, I did things I didn’t think I could do. It all comes back.

Treasures 2 Ring

A ring with a few sparkly chips ‘hides’ in my stocking drawer and I feel it when rummaging for a matching pair. It reminds me of some career successes, wins and losses, and the camaraderie with associates who supported my efforts. And while it will never be worn again, it moves me to look back at my career with contentment and satisfaction.

Lure

The wooden fishing lure that hangs by its treble hook near my workbench opens a floodgate of images of time spent with my dad, fishing at ‘the Cape’, and learning about life.  He was always teaching, often by example. It’s difficult to let go of ‘treasures’ he gave me.

Old photos are some of the best ‘treasure’ finds. We hold them and vividly recall details of where we were, who we were and what we did.  If we close our eyes for a moment, we’re there.   Photos help tie our life segments together, connecting us to our past. We mustn’t lose that bridge.

Someday, our children will chance upon their copy of our Christmas holiday songs, recorded when they were youngsters. I know they’ll laugh aloud when they hear the singing, arguing, the joy and the love. Briefly, they’ll return to a special family time, remember us fondly and be joyful. What a treasured moment, never to be lost.

What’s in your ‘treasure chest’?

Steve
December 2017
srbottch.com

To ‘treasure hunters’, one and all…

The Bar Chronicles: #14, A ‘One Beer’ Night

Rock ‘n roll, ants and war…we covered all the bases…except baseball.

Bar Night 2

Another evening of beer and brotherhood convened at Caverly’s Irish Pub on South Avenue in Rochester. Here, the beer is reasonable, the people friendly and the ‘bar dog’ can sniff only as high as your knees.

Caverly’s is cozy and casual with a few round tables scattered about a high bar rising over a well-worn hardwood floor, a common man’s pub. The bar area, itself, is a colorful array of tap handles and an oversized chalkboard menu featuring an ample variety of brews.

Bar TAps

With beer in hands, we raised our glasses and cheered each other in genuine fashion. These nights of friendship give us Seniors a chance to get caught up with each other. Sometimes, we learn something new, sometimes we’re surprised and sometimes it’s both.

Tonight was just such a night when one of us offered that ‘ants weigh more than humans’. The rest certainly were surprised and showed it, as the ‘huh?’ look spread across our collective brows. But when the source* was cited…well, we learned something new, and ‘ant weight’ aside, we were bemused that someone in our group actually read, ‘Journey To The Ants’.

Does the adjective, ‘eclectic’ apply to a group that can drink beer and discuss ants in the same evening?

And would you be surprised to learn that another traveled 75 miles to see a former Beatle, Paul McCartney, in concert? Remember, we’re products of the 60s, give or take a decade.

As teens, we borrowed the family car and drove around with other music lovers, slapping out rhythms on the dashboard ‘drums’, our mops flopping side to side while head bobbin’ to rock ‘n roll. We still move to the beat when we hear the oldies, but ‘head banging’ today with scarce a wisp, leaves much to be desired.

Detailing an event or destination as vividly as the concert was allows me to feel there’s no need to go there, myself. I often say, facetiously of course, that ‘the listening is the same as the going’. I’ve ‘been to many places that I’ve never been’ with this philosophy.

Unlike war…

One among us went there**, and we deferred to him briefly when the topic surfaced. A cacophony of silence spoke volumes to our lack of personal knowledge of the real horror of war, except for the one. There is no substitute for being there, a loud exception to my ‘philosophy’

We paused with our own thoughts, finished our one beer and called it a night, a rather solemn ending. The summer-like evening air on this fall night was comforting as we took our time to the car. Another enjoyable evening was behind us…

Friendship is a wonderful thing!

Steve

stephen.bottcher@gmail.com

*‘Journey To The Ants’ written by Harvard professor E.O. Wilson
** Viêt Nam

It’s Only a Rumor…

“Excuse me, where can I find sardines?”
“With the tuna fish? Okay, where’s that, now?”

Rumors 2

Some days, up is down and down is up. That would describe my ‘grocery shopping’ life, since my grocer reorganized product on its shelves ….. again.

One day, you know where everything is, the next day, it’s a new landscape. I had conquered the layout from the last reshuffling and felt an inner calmness navigating  the store’s aisle maze.  I could find the lo-fat Graham crackers, sauerkraut was just around the end cap from our favorite high fibre and heart healthy cereals. The no-salt pretzels were in an odd place, but I knew where to find them.

Rumors 3

I had the store geography ‘down pat’, didn’t even need the smart phone app to direct me. And that was important because while we shop twice weekly, on Wednesday I fly solo. My shopping orders are to ‘get in, get it and get out’. I got good at it.

My efficiency even allowed some chat time with stockers Jim in bananas, or Annie in toothpaste. Barnabus, the beer guy, was favored with a quick quip, too. Incidentally, beer has never been relocated and many folks are happy about that, mostly guys, although their internal instinct takes them directly to beer, no matter where it’s shelved..

Yes, all was well until this change, the second in a year. Shopping now is a slow trek through a labyrinth of new colors, shapes and sizes. Where once I was accustomed to the ‘going in, grabbing and getting out’, now I’m adrift, lost somewhere between 11A and 16B.

‘Aisle directors’ stand by to help. How embarrassing when they answer in booming voices, “Suppositories? Just around the corner from adult diapers!”. Yikes!

But, I’m determined to learn the new layout, and I’m succeeding with my Senior mind. It’s just another one of life’s healthy tasks, teaching me to be resilient rather than cranky. However, I’m just a bit uncertain about the rumor mill (aisles 8-10) .

The next time the store is reorganized, so goes the scuttlebutt, the aisles will be set up by shape: flat product with flat, round with round, and figurines together (ex. Mrs. Butterworth syrup, Honey Bear honey). All boxed product in the same location, and screw top items will have their own aisle.

Rumors 1

It’s just a rumor, now, but I’ll accept the challenge, if it happens.  Besides, what are my choices if I want to fill my own randomly arranged pantry shelves with survival food for Life’s next challenge?

Steve
October 2017
Stephen.Bottcher@gmail.com

To shoppers everywhere who accept change as inevitable

I Met A President, A Hall-of-Famer and Annette Funnicello

I struggled in vain to get my team hat signed by a star player; oh, the indignity of being squeezed out by little shavers and hovering grannies who obviously were ‘veteran warriors’ at this ‘contact sport’ of autograph seeking.

Autograph seekers can be aggressive, pugnacious and rude. They don’t give ground easily, as I learned during my brief moment as an interloper into the arena of idol worshippers.

Why do we seek autographs, anyway?  Well, to start, it’s gratifying to have a celebrity pay momentary attention to us and it’s fun to brag about who we saw, and who saw us. And some autographs actually become valuable over time. A rare baseball card recently sold for more than $3,000,000.

The pushing and shoving to reach the celebrity is one way to get an autograph, or shake a hand. However, sometimes the moment comes when you least expect it.  So, be prepared and don’t be shy about engaging the target.

A former middleweight boxing champ gave me an autograph when I approached him in a restaurant. Carmen Basilio, a one time great, was alone at the bar, and a long time removed from the boxing spotlight.  Hence, he was ‘low hanging fruit’.

President GW Bush (#46) gave me a handshake following a speech, his not mine. A large Secret Service agent focused on me, laser like, as I stopped the President in-place and offered a suggestion, something that ordinary citizens can do in America.

I ran down former Chicago Bears coach and football Hall of Famer, Mike Ditka, at O’Hare Airport for his autograph, but just shook his hand and a offered a nice word on behalf of my father-in-law, a huge fan of anything ‘Chicago’. Ditka was intimidating.

One of the earliest and most enjoyable autographs I got was from the queen of Mouseketeers, herself, Annette Funnicello, during a Mickey Mouse Club ‘meet and greet’ at a local K-Mart parking lot. I was crazy about her, every 10 year old boy was, and now we were face to face, across an autograph table, my naturally big ears lined up opposite her costume ears. As she handed me the signed black & white glossy photograph, my knees went weak and my voice cracked.  I mumbled something forgettable before being shoved along to keep the line moving.  Nothing has changed, it’s every man for himself for the autograph seekers.  Nevertheless, I think she looked at me.  Yes, she did, I’m certain of it.

I don’t have the autographs but the memories remain. It’s not important. Today, I’m collecting footprints and ‘signatures’ from two new special people in my life, my grandchildren. Stars come and go, but the ones who count the most crawl into your life and stay forever.

Twins crawling

Steve

srbottch.com

Sept 2017

Today, I Brought Balloons

balloon 1
I brought balloons, three of them tied into a bouquet and weighted. It was the first day of the new school year.

I’m a school crossing guard, one of a dozen in my town. We’re the first and last ‘person of authority’ most kids see when they begin or end their school day. Awesome responsibility.

This morning, I brought balloons to my post, then waited. And it worked, there were smiles and audible whispers of ‘oohs & awwws’. The first day of school was off to a pretty good start, a happy start.

All the students managed to cross safely across a busy road going to their middle and high school buildings. That’s the number one priority. But our job begins and ends before and after the crossing, itself, and that helps make their school day a positive experience. Often, it’s just a smile, a greeting, maybe a ‘great day’ wish, or a compliment, something positive they can take with them every school day.

Do you remember your first days? First day of school, first day of a new job, first day in the military? A bit unnerving, wasn’t it? Meeting new people, having new bosses, understanding new rules; phew, I feel pressure just recalling it all. Imagine how a kid feels.

My first teacher was Miss Fanny, we giggled at her name, until she slapped ‘ours’. Mrs.Downes was my first of many bosses. The principal at an elementary school where I taught before making a career change, Mrs. Downes (Isabel) was a civilian drill instructor, tough but fair, with high expectations from her staff. Drill Sergeant Davis was my first real drill sergeant (Army). He was tough, too, and fair, he showed no favoritism when delivering his wrath.

Initially, all three of these supervisors gave me pause on my ‘first day’ but I adjusted. The kids we cross daily will adjust in time, too, some sooner than others. I like to think that our approach and interaction with them will expedite that adjustment period.

So, today I brought balloons, and waited…       balloon 2

Steve
Srbottch.com
September 6, 2017

To school crossing guards, everywhere
To students of all ages
To everyone experiencing a ‘first time’