Don’t Mention It

My increased interest in squirrel hunting had resulted is some very tasty dinners and quite a few raised eyebrows.

I’ve had a hard time carrying on a conversation with people in my life.  For some unknown reason, there is a disconnect that never existed before.  Perhaps it’s my age.  It could be my new aftershave.  It’s possible I’ve lost my mind and everyone else is completely sane.  Whatever the source of the problem, I just can’t get through a conversation without someone pointing out the evils of my life and how I am responsible for the destruction of the planet.

While I know that many topics have passionate supporters or detractors, I simply didn’t realize they were all around me.  To make matters worse, I was unaware and didn’t understand the full scope of topics that are now considered taboo.  It is true that some of my opinions are controversial (for instance, I still hold to the old-fashioned opinion that you should never wear white after Labor Day), but lately I’ve been lambasted and turkey basted about topics that I assumed were safe territory.

Take a conversation I had with a friend the other day.  I mentioned that I worked on a research hog farm while in college.  Big mistake.  Between the outrage of GMO crops, the factory hog farms springing up all around, cruelty to animals, pollution of local waterways, and the global food crisis, I found myself apologizing for even touching a single grain of wheat or scratching a hairy porcine back.

Or, as another example, a few years ago I bought an electric mower.  I thought this was the responsible, “Green” decision.  Most of my neighbors mocked me but they are Republicans so I was okay with that.  When I mentioned my purchase to my tree-hugging friends they just lowered their heads and shook them in shame.  “You know,” they said with sorrow in their voice, “most of Indiana’s electricity comes from coal plants so you’re probably doing more harm to our environment than just running a gas powered mower.”  Seriously?  A guy just can’t catch a break.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Here are just a few discussions I’ve had in the last couple weeks concerning daily life and the negative feedback I get.

  • Want to go deer hunting?  Forget about it.
  • Want to eat a nice fat chicken dinner? Do you know what they do to those birds?
  • Want to drink bottled water?  There are thirsty people around the world!
  • Want to wear synthetic materials? Have’t you heard of sweat shops.
  • Turn down your thermostat? Global Warming.
  • Drive anything larger than a trashcan? Global Warming.
  • Purchase a paper book? Haven’t you heard of e-books…and Global Warming?
  • Print agendas for a meeting? Global Warming and How many trees did you kill?
  • Eat white eggs?  Again, do you know what they do to those birds?
  • Drink soda? Gonna make you fat.
  • Drink diet soda? Gonna kill you.
  • Fertilize your yard? Planet hater.
  • Blow your lawn clippings into the street?  I’m calling the neighborhood association.
  • Brush your teeth with the wrong toothpaste? Blue plastic beads are clogging the oceans.
  • Buy a dog from a breeder? Do you even listen to Sarah McLaughlin?
  • Write a blog about other people’s opinions?  Don’t mention it.

To counter the constant negative backlash I suffer every time I leave the house, I’ve decided there is only one possible solution:  Never leave the house.  So I’m ordering all my supplies from Amazon, having them air-lifted via drone (don’t even start), and mowing my yard late at night to avoid eye contact with my neighbors.


A Preferred View

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow is it possible that just two weeks ago I was standing on white beaches at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.  How is it possible that just fourteen days ago I watched dolphins play alongside our tour boat?

An even more relevant question:  How is it possible that we are back in Indiana and under a winter storm warning today?

Something isn’t right about this picture!  It’s true, we escaped the winter to find the warmth.  I needed a break.  I mean, I love Indiana in the spring, summer and fall.  I actually enjoy Indiana in the winter.  I have fun in the cold and the snow…and it is nice to experience a change of seasons.

But any time you come close to breaking the historical record for the most snow in a season, a person’s heart and mind longs for the warm Gulf waters.

While I’m watching snow fall gently from the sky and cover my Indiana back yard, in my mind’s eye I’m seeing sleek aquatic mammals slide through the warm, shimmering light reflecting off emerald green waters.

I like that view much better!

The Boys Are Out

IMG_4644One day they were here, drinking our milk, eating our meat, leaving dirty dishes in the sink.  The next day they were gone.

My two boys (young men of 23 and 18) signed a lease together and moved nearly all of their worldly belongings to an apartment in Indianapolis yesterday.  It was a day of celebration and a bright future; Both are employed full time.  Both posses their own cars.  And both enjoy spending time together.  So, this is the perfect arrangement.

Another two trips with the truck and they’ll be completely out, or nearly so.  I’m sure we’ll find a random book on a shelf or a single sock in the drier, but by the end of today, the dirtiest of the work should be over.

Life transitions are good.  Even when they are hard.  Even when they are painful.  Even when they are uncertain.

Babies learn to crawl.  That’s good.

Toddlers learn to walk.  That’s good most of the time.

There’s a first day of school:  Good.  First lost tooth: Weird but good.  First crush, first date, first kiss:  All good.

There are school programs and graduation.  There’s a first job.  A first dented fender.  And the first home away from home.

We’ll miss them, sure.  We’ll wish they would stop by once and a while, of course.  But this transition in life is long overdue and much anticipated.  They’re going to love being out on their own.  I love that they are out on their own.

Yes, the boys are out.

Day 157 – High Mountain Ride

2013.07.28 SundayToday was amazing.  We started the morning with a horseback ride up into the mountains where we were fed a wonderful breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes.  We all agreed, they were the best pancakes we’d ever eaten at 7,000 feet.

We then saddled up again for another three hours of riding through pine forest, over rocky canyons, across stream beds and along ridge lines.  Always, ALWAYS we had an amazing view.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat astride a horse and my legs were pretty wobbly when we dismounted at the end of the trip.  But it was worth every minute and every penny.

If I thought I’d be able to walk tomorrow or the next day, we would do it again!

More of the Same

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow Austin’s Acre, you know that I post pictures, thoughts and comments from time to time.

But did you know that I also post daily to my second blog, “My Journey to 50 Blog“?  It’s true.  If you are one of the 120 people who follow Austin’s Acre, you might also enjoy some of the posts in Journey to 50.

Journey to 50 is my attempt to track my life during this last year of my 4th decade of life.

Feel free to visit, to read a little and to follow the blog.  By clicking the button in the upper right-hand corner of the page, you’ll get an update every time I post.

It might not change your life but it surely can’t hurt.  And that’s really my goal.

The Meaning of Life

IMG_4373You might find that some people have a smile on their face all the time.  They may have discovered the meaning of life.  Or, it’s possible that they’ve finally found the right combination of medications.

You might find that some people are constantly boasting about their newest grand purchase.  Perhaps they are showing off their third boat, or their second home, or their sixth car.  They may have more money than is good for them.  Or they may be longing for something real to fill the void in their life.

You might discover people who are in perfect shape.  They spend countless hours running, jogging, or biking.  They eat just the right amount of protein.  They count their calories to three decimal places.  They roll their eyes at you when you offer a slice of cake.  They may live longer than us all.  Or it might just feel longer.

I’ve decided that the meaning of life isn’t just about how fit we look.  It isn’t about our possessions alone.  The meaning of life is not singularly reflected by the smile on our face.  It can’t be about just these individual things.  That’s shallow.

In truth, the meaning of life is a finely tuned balance of the medications, the money and the especially the cake.  Now that’s living.

Beating the System

new radarI saw this on Facebook today and already it is raising eyebrows.  Mine sure went up.

How can the government be allowed to place silent, unmanned radars in remote locations?  How is it possible that they are allowed to monitor my MPH’s?  It use to be a free country.  My rights and liberties are being infringed upon.  I will not stand for this.  Don’t tread on me.

But, I have a plan.  I know how to beat this new electronic surveillance system that is invading my privacy and challenging my right to drive any speed I choose:  I’LL DRIVE THE SPEED LIMIT.

That’ll fix ’em.

My Fellow Birders…

IMG_4172[1]I spoke with someone this week who is trying to convince her husband to travel but he seems reluctant.  By what appeared to be a calloused  manipulation of a man’s passion, she’s looking at places she’d like to go, exotic locations in which there is good birding so that he’ll come along.  He loves to bird watch.  She thinks she has the hook she needs.

More importantly for her, she loves tennis and hopes to see every major tennis event in her lifetime.  She’s working hard to combine her love of the game and his love of birds.  For instance, January would be a great month to visit Australia with average temperatures in Sydney close to 80 degrees, perfect birding and the Australian Open just beginning.

Shameful.  As a fellow birder, I’m shocked that she would stoop to this level just to see some tennis. 

On the other hand, that could be some pretty good birding.  His wife gets to watch her tennis.  He gets to spy some amazing life-birds.  It’s all guilt free travel that fulfills life-long desires on both parts.

What’s not to lose?  This is a win-win!  This woman is brilliant.  She should book the flight, dust off her sun dress and polish his binoculars immediately.  Down Under, here they come!


The Cookie Project

IMG_4068This past weekend I wrote about the need to engage our neighbors.  We must do more than judge them, we must get to know them.  I mentioned that I would be baking some cookies and delivering them to a particularly troubled and troublesome neighbor.

I’ve been asked for an update.  For those of you who think I just write stuff, I thought it would be good for you to see that I really do live out my words.

And so, I baked the cookies, just as I suggested.  I wrapped one dozen of the fresh-from-the-oven goodies and walked over to the neighbor’s home.  I rang the doorbell.  One of the boys answered the door.  I handed the home-made goodness to him and said, “I thought you might like some cookies and so I made these for you.  They’re chocolate chip.”

I smiled my warmest neighborly smile.

He looked at the plate full of home-made goodness, said, “Okay”, and turned around and went inside.

I didn’t get a “Thank you,” a “Sweeet!!” or a “That’s keen, Mister!”  Nothing.  He shut the door and I walked home.

And they kept the plate.

As I mentioned before, it isn’t always a story book ending.

Day 88 – Driving for Dollars

2013.05.20I’ll be honest, I’m writing this blog a few days after Monday.  The look on my face from earlier this week should tell you why.  This was quite a week.

Monday, May 20 was just the beginning.  I loaded the car, picked up my coworker and visited two patient homes before noon.  With each home we take in a very large computer bag filled with ultrasound equipment.  We also bring in a very large bag on wheels that contains the rest of the gear and towels and wires she needs to perform the ultrasound on the patient’s neck and arm.  I carry in two folding tables and a folding chair. For the next hour-and-a-half, I get to watch her work, the adult son sell drugs from his bed room, the wife smoke, the children scream, the dogs bark, the husband mindlessly view ESPN or any other activities that you can think of.

We did that twice.

After I dropped her off at her office, and unloaded the equipment, I stopped in my office for an hour and dropped off files and picked up more files.  I carried out two CPAP machines, my laptop bag, and more patient files and then drove to three patient homes to follow up on their CPAP use. I replaced one machine in a home that was so filthy that the dirt had clogged the flow of air.

From there, I drove to a sixth patient home to complete a sleep study (to determine if they have sleep apnea.  Monday was rather warm but not warm enough for the patient to open a window or turn on the air.  For two hours, I stood behind him, attaching wires, making small talk, making sure equipment was properly connected.

When I was done, I loaded all my gear and headed home.  By the time I walked in the door of my house (15 hours after leaving in the morning), I was hot, sweaty, tired and agitated.  The worst part was knowing that I would get to turn around and do it all over again the next day.

It wasn’t a good day for my diet, my exercise or my mental well-being.  And the week had only begun.

The Lord’s Prayer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

forever.  AMEN.

A Prayer for Patience

flower fieldDear Lord Above,

I want answers.  I want results. I want things done.

And I want them now.

But my timing has proved, in the past, to lead to more problems than solutions.

Your timing has always proven to be perfect.

And so I ask for patience today.

May I be satisfied with where I am, what I am doing and who I am with.

May I seek nothing more than to wait on you.


Graduation Gifts Excepted

IMG_3940My youngest will be graduating from high school in a few weeks and in an effort to impress all his friends, we’ve decided to make some major changes in our kitchen.

Okay, it isn’t about impressing anyone.  It’s about taking our house from the 80’s and moving it into the 90’s.

But, we’ve realized that what started as a very minor paint job has now become a very major over-haul.  If we paint these cabinets, we have to paint those cabinets.  If we remove this tile we must replace this counter top.  If we replace this counter top, we must get a new sink (pictured here for a small fortune, hardware not included).

Our local PBS station just finished it’s fund drive and successfully raised a whopping amount of money for radio waves.  Seriously, RADIO WAVES.  I think people want brick and mortar.  That’s why Austin’s Acre is starting it’s first ever Kitchen Remodel Fund Drive!

And so, here’s the pitch:  Please send us money.

It is a great way to support a worthy cause.  For your generous donation, we will put name-plates on each item that you want to fund.  Underwrite a cabinet and get your name handsomely engraved on a small brass plaque prominently displayed, telling everyone that you are a supporter of the remodel.  For $25, you can proudly proclaim that you contributed to a cabinet door.

Feeling extra generous?  Back splash tile can have your name on it for only $100.

For those big hearts and big givers, a generous donation of $250 will get you two feet of counter top and your name engraved for all perpetuity.  We have 10 more feet of counter top to go, so call NOW!

Phone lines are open.  Call today and make your pledge.

Day 68 – Back On The Road

2013.04.30My work week is now under full swing.  I finished a sleep study in a patient’s home last night and have two more to do before the week is out.

Staying out past 9 at night to complete the studies isn’t too bad.  It’s the fact that I have patient visits first thing the next morning that is tiresome.  Thirteen hour days are fine once in a while but not three or four days in a row.

It makes the schedule nearly impossible to live with when I have weeks like this.  It makes my meals, even if I pack, less that inviting or healthy.  It means at least five hours in a car every day.

It means I’m not reaching my goal.  And, in short, I’m getting very discouraged.

The Key to Happiness – Who Knew?

dollar billsMany Sunday mornings we like to watch the program, CBS This Morning.  Thankfully today’s program was dedicated to finances and money.  Because of today’s program, I have learned something that could possibly change my life:  I was pleased to see Suze Orman provide three easy steps to help every viewer find happiness.  Imagine my surprise to learn that the key to happiness isn’t good friends, a solid faith, loving family or a obedient dog.  According to Orman, the key to happiness is as simple as Saving Money.

I immediately felt sorrow for the many men and women have climbed to the highest mountain tops, searched for wise men with answers, sought solutions to the hard question: “What is the secret of happiness?

Some might have suspected that inner peace provided happiness.  Many have focused on serving others to find meaning in life.  A pitiful few have self-medicated with legal and illegal means.  Once in a while someone might search for the Key to Happiness in family, friends, pets.  Poor lost souls.

Little did they know that the secret to happiness is putting aside a few pennies from time to time?  Of course, according to Orman’s approach, the more money I save, the happier I’ll be.  A few pennies might not provide the level of happiness that I need to get me through my day, let alone my life time.  A few dollars in my bank account might only make my week brighter.  But a million dollars squirreled away would give me so much happiness that I wouldn’t need anything else.  It must be true because every millionaire is happy.  Right?  Elvis was rich.  Wasn’t he happy and healthy right before he died.  Howard Hughes was rolling in dough.  Wasn’t he at peace with his life and free of problems.

So, following Orman’s advice, it follows that more money means more happiness.  I’m glad that question is settled.

Or is it?  What if Orman is wrong?  What if money in the bank isn’t the key to happiness?  What if the Boston College study that investigated this claim is right and Suze Orman is wrong?  What if rich people are actually just as miserable as poor people and middle income people and people who use shells for their currency?  What if money is NOT the key to happiness?

I suspect Suze is doing pretty well, financially speaking.  And, to be honest, she looks pretty happy.  But I would be curious how much happier she would be if she owned a puppy.