Gardening: What’s Up Doc? Carrots!

Carrots as a snack or to cook with, we love them! Three rows sewn.

Second crop in our raised garden beds is carrots. Like the radish, carrots are also a cold weather liking plant.

We are big fans of the carrot. For snacking and for cooking. The radishes we are spreading out over time because they are ready for harvest quickly and we do not typically eat them very often. They are a good started plant for newbies like us.

Carrots will take 60 days to harvest. In the video I state 120, sorry. One take productions are a bummer, or no?

Due to our love of carrots and the longer harvest cycle we are sewing the entire bag of seeds in three rows. Two rows in Bed “A” and one row in Bed “B”.

For those wondering how we prepared the soil for our Raised Garden Beds. There is 6 inches of loam from a local produce farmer that we know. He was kind enough to bring us a bulk load last weekend. The top 6″ is a combination of organic raised garden soil and mushroom compost, roughly a 60-40 ratio of soil to compost. All soil types were blended together.

We spent most of Sunday hauling wheel barrels full of loam from the driveway to the beds in the backyard. The soreness went away today.

Sure it hurt a little, but it was a good hurt. We can hardly wait to plan out where the rest of the plants will be located and get them in. We also can’t wait for our first harvest. But…these are topics for another day…

Gardening: First To Bed? Radishes!

Trench and Radishes Ready for Bed “C”

Operation Green Thumb advanced to our first seeds sewn. One row to Cherry Belle Radishes planted in what we have labeled as Bed “C”.

Radishes are a cold weather veggie that will grow to maturity in as little as 21 days. They tend to be a reliable germinating plant too. We should pretty much have one radish for every seed sewn.

With this information in mind, we will stagger rows of radishes to be harvested roughly every other week. This week we plant one row, in 7 to 10 days and additional row will be planted. 14 to 17 days later we harvest the first row and replace with more radish seeds.

With luck we will be able to harvest radishes at least 3 times from late May to lat June. If this works, we can easily buy more seed and continue the process until late fall.

Correction on the video. I mentioned that most items will be planted after the first frost…nope after the LAST frost will be helpful. These first take, only take videos are tricky!

Novel: Disturbance In The Force: Chapter 7 – A New Day

Chapter 7 – A New Day

Kirk is jogged from a deep sleep by the muffled woof of Gunner at the other side of their bedroom door. He can feel Gwen’s left arm wrapped across his torso and her head nestled atop of his chest. The familiar hiss of dueling CPAP machines is the only sound in the room. All is right in their bedroom again.

He wraps his left arm across her back and gently rubs her left shoulder as Gunner simultaneously gives a more determined and slightly louder bark. The combination of Kirk’s rub and Gunner’s second bark rouses Gwen too. She lifts her head and kisses Kirk and rolls over to grab her phone. “Good morning baby, what time is it?”

Kirk shuts off his machine, grabs his phone and a pair of readers from the nightstand that holds his machine. “Good morning beautiful. It’s a little after 10:00. I’ll feed and let Gunner out.” He exits the bed and looks for something to wear. Yesterday’s sweats are grabbed from a pile on the floor. After performing a smell test on the sweatshirt, he proclaims. “Clean enough!” The sweats are donned, the door is opened to reveal a wagging dog who follows Kirk to the pantry door.

Their feeding ritual is performed just as it was yesterday and every day before for years. Gunner enjoys his breakfast, and Kirk thinks back on the events of last evening. He can’t get the Rubber Knife Gang and the smoking man out of his mind. Who is more dangerous, the punks or the vigilante? Kirk’s unease is interrupted after Gunner has emptied his food bowl. The two head for the sliding glass patio door. It is unlocked, opened and the dog exits for his morning constitutional.

The normalcy of caring for Gunner only eases Kirk’s mind a little. There is still much to do.

Gwen, who has is still wearing PJs, joins him in the reading room. “Mom sent a text. Lenexa didn’t experience any damage. Everyone in Kansas is good.”

Kirk holds up his phone. “That’s good news, my Mom left a voice mail. I need to turn the ringer back on. She’s fine too, Omaha felt nothing but she’s worried about us. She heard the news about all of the Mississippi river bridge closures. Even if gasoline supplies recover, when will anyone be able to cross the river bridges? Air traffic is about to increase exponentially, I guess.”

Gwen interrupts: “Oh, also, the local ER sent an email, they are understaffed today they want to know if I can fill in until the docs out of Milwaukee can make it back to town.”

“What about wound care? Are you cleared to work ER at our hospital?” Responds Kirk.

Gwen explains; “I’m still on staff in wound care and Emergency Medicine, but everyone needing wound care cancelled their appointments. The ER is slammed. I told them I could be there at noon. Is that OK?”

Kirk’s eyes widen. “It’s the right thing to do. I’m going to call the factory. It will be interesting to see how many people made it to work this morning. Finding gas to get back and forth to work could be interesting for a while. Give me a minute babe.” He heads outside to watch Gunner and make the call to work.

Gwen heads to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. Whole coffee beans are poured into an electric grinder, five seconds later ground coffee is dumped into the paperless filter. She pours enough water in to make 8 cups, presses the ‘brew’ button, and turns her attention to the fridge for breakfast fare.

The patio door opens, Kirk and Gunner reenter the house. “We’re shutting the plants down for at least the next business week. The crews can take vacation or excused time off without pay. We do not have any way to get materials to or from our customers and suppliers west of the Mississippi river. This is NOT good.”

Alarmed Gwen asks; “Excused without pay! What if the shutdown is for longer than a week, or a month?”

“There’s a plan for that too. If we shut down beyond this week, they can file for unemployment insurance from the state. Currently there is no federal program for an act of God like this. FEMA is concentrating on the St. Louis area for now, but this quake is affecting the entire country’s supply line and transportation system. No one considered back up planning for this type of disaster.” Is Kirk’s response.

“What about you Kirk? You’re salaried, will you stay on the payroll?”

“For now. But that will be a corporate decision down the road. Remember COVID? The entire salaried staff took a 4-week furlough. No pay, but benefits stayed intact. I could see that as a possibility. Either way, I’m working from home until further notice. As long as the internet connections continue to function.”

This news comforts Gwen. “I feel better knowing that you will be closer to home for a while, with or without the income. When talking to Lou Ann, it sounded like my hours in the ER can be as long as I wish. That can keep our boat afloat for a long time.”

Kirk has an idea. “As long as I’m not traveling to work each day, I’d like to drive you to and from the ER. Less chance that someone siphons gasoline from the tank in the hospital parking lot. Keeping the cars locked up in the garage as much as possible reduces our odds of losing gasoline. If things go south people will get bolder about when and where they steal.”

Gwen initially agrees but thinks of something that Kirk has never experienced at his factory. “As long as we have an ability to communicate. I have a land line at work plus my mobile, but you only have the iPhone. Even in good times drug seekers will break into medical facilities. Plus, drugs can be barter for non addicts too. Between people needing money and addicts needing a fix, the hospital will be a target”

Kirk thinks. “Good point. Hey! Remember that box of items from dad’s garage?”

“Yes, I remember. It was full of odds and ends. Why?” responds Gwen.

“I think there were a few locking gas caps in there! If so, you can drive to work and back. It will save on gasoline too. Only one trip back and forth.” Kirk exits to the garage with Gwen and Gunner following him out of the house.

Picking through a box “There! Four of them. Let’s see if any of these fit our cars.” Luckily the couple do find locking caps that fit their cars and each of them have two keys. “We need to label these key, with each of us able to unlock the other’s gas cap.” Gwen goes back inside followed by Kirk and Gunner to find ID tags for the new gas tank keys. The tagged keys are placed on each other’s keychains.

Gwen needs to take a shower before putting on her scrubs for work. Remembering that there is now a bladder full of drinking water in the tub, she turns to Kirk. “We will need to shower in the basement bathroom until we decide what to do with all of the water in our tub.” She gathers her clothes, a towel, all of the soaps and lotions that she needs then heads downstairs to shower.

Kirk stands at the top of the steps. “I’m going to check on the neighbors while you get ready for work. See if everyone is doing well. Maybe someone will know something that is not on the news.”

Gwen peeks around the corner to face up at Kirk. “I’d like to go with you. There will be plenty of time after I’m ready to leave. Can you wait please? I’m better at asking questions.”

“True baby. Yes, I will wait.” Kirk begins to walk down into the basement too. “The camping gear needs to be inspected. It’s been forever since some of that stuff has been used. Remembering and relearning how to use our portable, outdoor gear will be good to do.” He is now at the bottom of the steps next to Gwen. They kiss. Gunner descends to meet up with his humans.

Kirk turns to the back-northwest corner of the basement where all of the camping gear is stored. Grabs the largest tote, turns and heads back up the steps and onto the deck from the garage exit. Gunner chooses to stay in the basement to guard Gwen’s shower. Besides, he likes to stick his head in the shower and drink the warm shower water.

There are several items fueled by propane: a lamp, two cook stoves, and a portable space heater. Once all of the items are out of their original boxes, he reenters the garage to grab a propane torch that is used primarily to light the grill and the outdoor firepit.

When he is back outside Kirk notices that the tote does not contain any cylinders of camp stove propane. Before heading back inside the house for propane it occurs to him that propane is a resource worth conserving too. Instead of getting more propane, he takes the cylinder off of the torch to use on all the items that he wants to test.

The source of fire starter for each item will be two types of zero fuel fire starters that were collected the last couple of years. One a magnesium flint and one a solar powered fuel free lighter. The lantern and space heater both have their own internal flint. Kirk was able to light both the lantern and heater, then adjust the amount of light that the lantern emits and adjust the amount of heat that the space heater can produce.

The camp stoves do not have their own flints. They are perfect test subjects for the flint and solar lighter. With some effort, Kirk is able to light both stoves. They have each developed a little rust from being stored with burned on food still on the burners. A wire brush is retrieved from the garage and Kirk brushes the soot off of each burner on both cook stoves.

As Kirk puts each item back into their original boxes and storage tote. He makes a mental note to test theses fire starters during the next bonfire plus the tiki torches at dusk tonight, and goes back into the house to put the tote away.

Gwen is in her robe with Gunner at the bottom of the basement stairs watching Kirk bring the tote back downstairs.

“Everything works and, remarkably, I remembered how to use them all. The stove needed to be cleaned with a wire brush…deer camp spillage…now they work like a charm. I even test drove the magnesium flint and solar lighter. The flint took me a few attempts, it is more art than science. But, the solar lighter works like a charm. I left it on the deck to recharge under the sun.”

Gwen gives him a kiss and swats him on the butt as he passes by. “That’s my stud. You are going to teach me how to use all of the camping gear, right? I’m going to dress quick, then we can make the neighborhood rounds. OKAY?”

Kirk is in the back room by now and shouts; “Absolutely baby, we will practice after you get home. You can start the bonfire and tiki torches too!”

“Sounds like a plan babe!” Gwen and Gunner go back upstairs.

First stop is Delia Brooks home next door to the east. Delia tells them that she and her family is doing as well as possible, all things considered. She has one daughter in town who has already checked in on her. However, she does have one daughter in Minnesota and is not sure if or when she will be able to cross the Mississippi river bridge near the Twin Cities. Delia assures them that she has everything that she needs for now. She has plenty of gasoline, food and essential supplies and no need to drive anywhere for the moment.

Second stop is the Steele home directly across the street to the north. Gunner barks from the front room window as they cross the street. Gunner knows that the Steele’s Labrador Aaron will be at the door to greet his people and expresses his displeasure about being left out of the action. As vowed, Gunner was not put into his kennel while Gwen and Kirk leave the house to make the neighborhood rounds.

The Steele house was full, neither Bill or Betty went into work today and all three children are home. Virtual classes were called off too. Bill’s family have good sized gardens in several locations around the area. Food is not an issue thanks to the gardens and plenty of outdoor sporting for foul and venison last fall and winter.

The Gage’s shared their story from the night before at the BP Station downtown. Bill thought that Smoking Man with the handgun was most likely Tom Chesterfield. Tom is a concealed carry advocate and lives in that part of town with his wife and kids, but his family also owns farmland west of town.

Betty assured the Gage’s that Tom is only dangerous to people that cross him, he would probably be a good ally to have when the chips are down. The Gage’s mentioned that forming a neighborhood cooperative would be a good idea for communication, skills, resources, and the safety that numbers bring.

Bill added; “Have you talked to Chuck and Char Tschappen two houses to the west? Chuck is a retired Marine Raider. He trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. If there is anyone in the neighborhood that we need in the fold it is Chuck and Char.”

Chuck and Charlene Tschappen keep mostly to themselves. Oh sure, they always wave and smile when driving by, but conversation has been limited to one or two sentences in passing. Heck, this is Wisconsin, everyone is Midwest friendly in Wisconsin. It is almost illegal not to gesture a friendly wave when passing a neighbor on the street. Gwen and Kirk vow to get acquainted with Chuck and Char. Marine special forces experience could come in real handy if resources become scarce.

Next stop Kay Long the Gage’s next door neighbor to the west. It was odd that Kay didn’t come outside to see what the Steele’s and Gage’s were talking about. The three homes were the closest in the immediate area of the block. Not noticing was out of character for Kay who is an outgoing social animal.

Gwen presses the ‘ring’ bell and waits. Kay responds on the video instructing them to let themselves in. Kirk enters in Kay’s security code; the door unlocks, they open the garage door and walk in. After shutting the pedestrian door behind them, and slipping off their sandals, Kay’s kitchen is entered. “Hello? Kay? We’re here.” Gwen announces.

“In the front room.” Replies Kay. As they approach, Kay is not her usual energetic alert self.

“Are you OKAY?” Gwen asks.

“No, I’m not.” Responds Kay. “Andy’s niece Francis and her family live near St. Louis. Andy’s sister in-law Rita lives near Francis too. Frank works in St. Louis. They are in the middle of this mess. I’m worried about them.”

“Oh, I remember you talking about Francis” Responds Gwen. “When was the last time you heard from them? Have you tried to contact them since yesterday?”

“I tried to call Francis yesterday right after the quake, but all of the lines were down. Then when text messages all came in at once, I checked for one from her, but nothing. Finally, around sundown I got a text message from her telling me that she was headed to Wisconsin, but she didn’t know how long the trip would take. I also missed a call that she placed one minute after the text arrived., but no voice message.”

Confused, Gwen asks; “What about her mom, husband and son? Are they with her?”

“The text didn’t say, and I’ve lost contact with her. Her phone and the lines are working, I was able to leave a voice message asking her to call me when she can. She has yet to respond”

Kay looks as panicked as the Gage’s have ever seen her. This is her husband Andrew’s side of the family, and this is the only part of Andrew’s family left. They are very important to Kay.

Gwen looks at her phone. “I’m running out of time. It’s time to get to work.”

Kay perks up looking surprised. “You just got home from the northern clinic; surely you are not headed back up to Chippewa?!”

Gwen shakes her head no. “The local ER is shorthanded. All of the Milwaukee docs and support staff couldn’t make it in today. I’m just filling in until things settle down. I told them I’d be in by noon.”

Kirk finally speaks up. “Think positive thoughts Kay, we all need them right now. Let’s bring as good of a universe to us as possible. After Gwen leaves for work, I’m going to pitch a tent to air it out. It has been in the basement getting smelly for several years. If you want, you can come over and help. It might take your mind off of things for a while. Sometimes doing something normal during a crisis can ease your mind.”

“That’s not my idea of doing something normal. Tell you what, I’ll sit on my deck drinking a Bloody Mary and supervise your work. Gunner will be helpful, I’m sure.” Replies Kay.

Kirk smiles “Fine, be that way. Let me know if you need anything. I’m not going anywhere today.” The three say goodbye for now and go about the next duties of the day.

Kay continues to worry about Francis and wonders why she has not responded to any follow up communication. Something does not feel right.

Farming Is Hazardous…But This?!

Photo by Jan Kopu0159iva on

Farming has always been known as one of the most dangerous careers. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) farming is the 8th most deadly occupation in the USA by total deaths. The National Safety Council shows farming as second in the nation in deaths per worker employed in the trade.

The vast majority of agricultural deaths, according to the USBLS, are due to motor vehicle accidents. This means of death is not surprising, transportation accidents have lead for all industries combined for as long as I can remember. Next, and probably the most preventable means of AG death are contact accidents: crushed by, pulled into, and struck by equipment. Farming is also a job that is likely to get you killed from violence by another human being or an animal.

The second half of the last sentence above is the reason for this post.

Farming is a job that is likely to get you killed from violence by…an animal.

I just read a story in Women’s Health detailing the death of an Indonesian farm woman who was found in her corn field swallowed whole by a 25 foot python.

Let me repeat that sentence…

I just read a story from Women’s Health detailing the death of an Indonesian farm woman who was found in her corn field swallowed whole by a 25 foot python!

Ironically, her reason for inspecting her corn field? Wild hogs (who are also known for eating humans). She left her home Thursday night to visit her cornfield about a half mile from her home because wild hogs were destroying her corn crop.

On Friday, 100 villagers searched the area and found a 23 foot-long snake with a very swollen belly. The villagers killed the snake, cut it open, and found her inside intact. She probably didn’t die inside the snake: A reticulated python secures its prey with a bite, then wraps its body around the victim, squeezing down until the victim cannot breathe, before consuming them.

I’ve heard stories about farmers falling down inside of a pig pen and being eaten, which I’m sure is not a pleasant way to go, but being swallowed whole by a snake is the stuff that B level horror movies are made from.

We will stay with gardening a few small garden beds where the snakes are not venomous or able to constrict our bodies.

What’s In Your Bucket?

Chitted Yukon Gold Seedlings atop of 3″ of Raised Garden Soil

As we plow deeper into Operation Green Thumb, the unorthodox but YouTube successful technique of growing potatoes in 5 gallon buckets is next on our list of adventures.

Several weeks ago a bag of Yukon Gold and a bag of Russian Banana Fingerling seed potatoes were purchased from a local home improvement store. The seeds were placed in egg cartons and stored in the coolness and darkness of our basement to be chitted. This weekend we planted the seeds in a combination of five gallon buckets and 4 gallon water jugs where they will reside for the next 110 to 120 days before harvesting.

What is chitting? Good question, it will undoubtedly be one of the phrases defined in our end of the season Gardening language post.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of chitting: a method of preparing potatoes or other tubers for planting. The seed potatoes are placed in a tray (often in egg cartons) in a light and cool place but shielded from direct sunlight. All but three or four of the “eyes” (sprouting parts) of the potato are removed, leaving the strongest growths only. After the sprouts are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, the seed potatoes are planted in the ground.

Chitting box for the Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes

Once the potatoes were chitted we prepared the buckets for planting. The bottom of each bucket was filled to 3″ with soil. We used raised garden soil mix because it had already been purchased for the raised beds.

Three each of the potato seeds were placed, sprout side up, in the bucket and covered with 6″ more soil that was enhanced by 1.5 tablespoons of bone meal.

Why bone meal? Bone meal adds phosphorous to the soil which will help the roots grow stronger. Calcium in the bone meal helps prevent root rot. Plus bone meal is an organic material. It is our intent to keep our garden completely organic.

As the potato plant emerges to the surface we will add another inch or two of soil every other week or so to keep the roots from being exposed to the sun. Potatoes that are exposed to the sun while growing may turn green. Green potatoes are poisonous.

We will also spray our potato leaves and our tomatoes with an aspirin and water mixture occasionally to keep blight away. But that too is for a different post.

Potato buckets getting some sun and fresh air in front of 2 of our 3 raised beds.

Battle Hardened

Hardening off the seedling plants. We are learning so many new terms. I should write a blog just on all of the new words, phrases and terms we’ve learned during the process of becoming gardeners…but that’s for another day…

The process of hardening prepares our indoor planted seedlings to slowly adjust to the great but sometimes harsh outdoors prior to being transferred to their garden beds. Plants experience stress every time that they are moved from one container to another. The stress of being removed from mostly ideal conditions indoors to all of the different weather conditions outside is especially stressful.

The process of hardening is recommended to span over a 7 to 10 day period. On the first day, the plants should be exposed to the outdoors for one hour. Each day an additional hour should be added to their outdoor exposure until they are ready to be planted in their final destination before harvest.

Ideally the plants will be exposed to several temperatures and precipitation or sunlight conditions.

You can see 2 of our 3 raised garden beds in the background. With luck I will get them leveled, lined and filled with soil by the end of this coming weekend.

By the end of mothers day we hope to have all of these seedlings transferred and most of our seed packets that were not started inside planted as well.

Public Speaking Over Death

R Dub Rehearsing for A Christmas Carol 2016 Old Time Radio Show, My Eyes Are On the Sound Tech!

A quick follow up to Death Over Public Speaking.

Corporate HR supplied us with the structure and tools to catch our hourly employees up on training that could not be performed due to COVID19 restrictions in 2020. My boss took me up on my enthusiasm to lead my crews through the training.

Because we are an after hours work force, we do not compete with anyone for meeting rooms. Because we do not have any support staff beyond yours truly we are self sufficient.

For these reasons my crews were used as a beta group to determine how long to expect the training to take and how well the electronic training tools would work with our lap tops and projection equipment. All useful knowledge for our traditional hours crews in scheduling time and conference rooms.

There were nine modules in the training: Raising Concerns, Avoiding Retaliation, Social Media, Conflicts of Interest, Workplace Safety, Ethical Leadership, Avoiding Discrimination, Avoiding Harassment, and a second version of Avoiding Retaliation.

The training which included a battery of questions or scenarios to solve at the end of each module took a grand total of 55 minutes. Which I found interesting.

Why? In the earl 2000s I was invited on campus at the University of Wisconsin Platteville once per semester to teach a lab on industrial safety. If the class went one minute over 55 minutes I would finish the session with an empty classroom. So, I got used to designing my speeches in 55 minute lengths.

Irony tickles me.

Upon arriving to work today my co-supervisors gave me a hard time about performing the task as soon as the materials were available. It does not phase me, I love public speaking. If there were a full time trainer position available, I’d apply immediately.

The path has been cleared for my contemporaries. Now I’m looking forward to the next set of training modules dropping down.

FYI – while they were signing in I treated them to my YouTube video, “That’s Just Drummy”

Reflecting Operation Green Thumb

Aluminum Foil “Drapes” For Our Seedling Planters

Operation green thumb plows forward and we continue to try techniques gleaned from YouTube videos.

We learn as we go. This picture shows several things. One are the three levels of shelving that hold our seedling trays and planters. Another is the presence of one grow lamp per level. This has not changed since starting seeds.

What has changed is the addition of aluminum foil drapes on two sides of the shelving. Why? One of our dilemmas has been uneven growth. Outside row plants are leaning inward toward the grow light while the middle row grows straight up.

The potential solution is to use aluminum foil drapes as a mirror. The result is giving the outside plants more light that reflects off of the foil mirror. The planters on the top of the shelving were on the center level when we put the foil up last Thursday evening. Those plants reacted so well and grew so quickly over the weekend that we had to move them up and place additional blocks of wood under the grow light to keep the plants at least 2″ under the lamp.

Mission accomplished. What is difficult to see from this photo are the tomato seedlings on the bottom shelve. Many of them have grown above the grow light lamp. We will need to find them a new and more open space. The light on lower shelves are as high up as we can get them.

Thankfully the problem will be short lived. According to a YouTube gardener in Michigan, many of our seedlings can be planted a little before last frost. So we can transfer them as soon as soil is added to our raised beds.

We will however, check the 10 day forecast before doing so. There is a wintry mix of rain and snow forecast for Wednesday, but slightly warmer temps on Thursday. Looking forward the temps should warm up into the 70s and 60s next week. Thinking good thoughts.

Fortunately, a successful produce farming friend in our area is delivering our raised bed soil in bulk sometime this week. By the end of the weekend we hope to transfer all of the seedlings except the tomatoes to the raised beds. Tomatoes and herbs must wait for warmer weather.

It should be quite exciting! Yes, I’m easily entertained…and that’s OKAY.

Scamming The Scammers

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Beth’s parents showed me an article in their April 2021 AARP Bulletin entitled “Lessons From Inside The Fraud Factory”. The story features an Irish computer engineer that tired of receiving scam pop up warnings stating that his PC was infiltrated by myriads of viruses. The pop ups then conveniently provided a toll free phone number to call and ‘fix’ the problem for a nominal fee.

The scammers almost always ask their potential victims to allow the scammer to access control of their computer. At this point they are a victim because the scammer will access any online bank accounts and attempt to transfer funds. Other times victims will voluntarily send funds to the scammer due to fear that their computer will have a fatal failure.

It is unclear if scammers call more senior citizens than any other age group, but the majority of victims are clearly and overwhelmingly people over the age of 60.

This vigilante who goes by the false name of Jim Browning, for his and his family’s safety, decided that he would set up a virtual computer and begin calling the toll free numbers to talk to the ‘technicians’ who are standing by to assist with fixing the fraudulent viruses. The more “Jim” talked to the scammers the more determined he became to slow them down and eventually stop them whenever he could.

Thanks to “Jim” thousands of scammers have been arrested and put out of business. Unfortunate, this is a tip of the scam business iceberg. The world needs more people like “Jim Browning” in it.

I have linked the AARP story and one of “Jim’s” many YouTube videos. He’s become a viral star on the subject.

Taken For Granted

R Dub and Mom posing in front of the banner that Beth provided

Taken for granted.

An expression that most people use to describe someone or something that was not appreciated or given the appropriate amount of gratitude.

The actual meaning of the phrase is to accept without question or objection.

The two meanings are opposite in context. Yet both meanings fit my mood this evening.

My mother celebrated her 85th birthday this past Saturday. It has been our practice to visit mom each year as close to her birthday as possible. This year we were fortunate enough for the day to land on a Saturday.

Normally we buy her a gift with a card and take her out for a nice meal somewhere and generally just hang out with her at her home. This year we chose to celebrate the day by inviting her immediate relatives who live within a relatively short drive from her home.

We called a local hotel and asked if we could hold the party in their commons area. The answer was yes as long as we understood that other hotel guests get equal access to the area. A quick and short list of potential invitees was made. Her brothers and sisters, their spouses, and children (I call them cousins) and grandchildren plus a couple of close friends who live in the same town and Beth’s parents. We called mom to let her know what we were planning and asked if she was up for it…and available.

Mom was in, we asked her what she would like for food and told her that we would provide everything. She mentioned a couple of things and we asked if she wanted an ice cream cake. Unfortunately, the local DQ is closed while constructing a new building. No ice cream cake.

Twenty-four hours later mom leaves a voice mail that she’s planning to cook a ham, potatoes, her world-famous Bridesmaid salad, and she’s baking her own birthday cake. Our only cooking job became smoking 9 pounds of pork shoulder and making pulled pork. No problem there. R Dub’s Rub was kicked into action for the first time in 2021.

However…Suddenly what we thought would be mom simply enjoying the presence of her favorite people on her special day turned into a day of her cooking for her own birthday. I was to say the least perplexed and frustrated. I’d never heard of someone cooking for their own birthday before. Not what my mind’s eye saw at all.

Mom is a child of the depression. Being frugal with money is hardwired for her generation and we were talking about catering food in. Plus, mom was the caretaker for her three youngest siblings from the age of 8. Doing the heavy lifting is also hardwired.

However, this is mom’s day. If this is what she wants, then this is what we will do. Beth and I will provide pork, buns, soft drinks, potent potables, cups, plates, plastic ware, and the guests. Our good friend Keith provided a fabulous appetizer that he saw on the Food Network show Pioneer Woman and we are set.

Every person on the list attended plus a couple of happy extras. Awesome. The day went better than I could’ve expected. As you can see by the smile on mom’s face, she greatly enjoyed the day.

So…why is this post about being taken for granted?

Good question. At sometime during the weekend I turned to Beth and reflected that I could never remember attending a party that was specifically thrown for mom. I’d attended and planned celebrations for dad and for their wedding anniversaries, but never one just for mom. It was possible that her brothers and sisters had thrown one for her on a year that I couldn’t get back, but I could not remember that either.

After the party, the subject came up with or by mom. I forget. She confirmed that this was her FIRST birthday party…EVER.

That word is correct…EVER.

My mother, the second oldest of 8 children, experienced her first ever birthday party at the tender age of 85.

Hence the title Taken For Granted.

My mother and everything she may want for herself is accepted by me unconditionally, yet until Saturday I had never given her the gratitude extended that a birthday celebration would provide.

This revelation was humbling. Plus, I had a twinge of guilt. She certainly provided plenty of birthday parties for me and my brother when we grew up.

Also taken for granted this weekend by me was Beth. As I look back at the weekend’s pictures, there is not one with her in it. Beth is the person who suggested the party and spent as much time or more planning as I did. She was my rock for staying on course and making sure that every box we planned was checked off.

Thanks to Uncle Don there is a photo of the beautiful Beth who remained calm all day while R Dub fretted the small stuff!

R Dub has plenty to learn about being aware of those he cares the most about. I’m a work in progress even as I approach the milestone of 60 years old. But…that’s for a different post.

Mom preparing to blow out the candles on cakes that she baked the day before the big event. Beth decorated them and R Dub lit the candles.
The LeGrande Kids: Aunt Sharon, Mom, Uncle Denny and Uncle Harold