Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Donating Magazines for Mom

The 3rd anniversary of my Mother's passing comes on April 10th. For good reason, it is always a sad time in my life. I dread the exact date as well as the two weeks before when she was in the hospital and then hospice care at home. In fact, I was going to hospitals and rehab centers to visit her for 3 months after she had the accident in late January of 2009.

Often, I would take breaks and just rest or check my messages in the waiting rooms. I swear that I read each magazine several times over. It became annoying that a greater selection of magazines to pass the time was not present. Or maybe they were and others just took them to the patient's rooms or home with them after visiting. Either way, it was a pretty sad selection.

Anyway, my Mother just always loved her magazines. For years she had subscriptions to various women's magazines and others including Country Living, Colonial Homes, and Philadelphia Magazine. I have a subscription to Country Living, partly because I love the magazine and partly as an homage to Mom. Getting her monthly magazines put Mom in a good mood. To this day, it just makes my day getting the latest copy of a favorite mag in my mailbox.

As a tribute to Mom each year, I clean out my home of old mags and collect those from friends and family members. I donate them to the Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville and Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown where she spent so much of her time. I leave them for others who need some reading to pass the time while visiting their loved ones.

I know I have mentioned this to several friends before, but I had never written about it. If I work with you, please consider bringing in your extra magazines for me to take to the hospitals. Those of you who are friends of mine in Lake Wynonah, please drop them off at the Lodge or at my house in the next two weeks. Or, alternately, please donate your used magazines to you local hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center. Just call the hospital volunteer group of the one you would like to donate to and ask them where you can drop the magazines off. They have always been happy to take them for the waiting rooms when I have offered.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Yard Work and Flower the Skunk

Pink Tree
This past Sunday, I worked my butt off in the yard. There is SO much to be done! I am going to do my best to try and keep up with it. I tried last year and did reasonably well. It can get overwhelming so quickly though. With everything growing a month early, I need to start now. I got all scratched up and my allergies went crazy but I persevered!

The cherry tree (I think it is a cherry tree) that was felled by the October snow storm has bloomed beautifully. We weren't sure if it would survive after replanting it. I say it's a cherry tree but I am not really sure what it is. Ha ha. It just looks like cherry blossoms. It doesn't bear fruit though. If anyone has a clue, lemme know. :)  Anyway, thank G-d that it did not die. We still have it staked out and will continue to do so for the next season or two just to let it strengthen up a bit more. 

Forsythia Branches in McCoy Vase

The forsythias are just dazzling across the county. Our back bush is doing really well. They remind me of growing up in my hometown of Wenonah, NJ.  I clipped off a couple branches and put them in a wonderful Art Nouveau white ceramic vase I bought at my favorite second hand store, Trixie's Home Goods, in Cressona, PA. The vase is from the early 1900's. John and I are good friends with Trixie and the gals there. We always get such great stuff. Back to the vase. It is an older McCoy, no chips! I got it for $20. A steal in my book. :)

 The front forsythia bushes aren't doing so well. We planted a row of 6 and they just seem to be so pathetically bare. I don't know if it is the soil or what. Three of them are doing just alright. The others are so sad and thin. There is a great farm market, Martin's Farm Market, just down the road. I need to speak with Jason the owner on what we can do to help these bushes grow.

Lastly, I was cleaning out and refiling the bird baths.We have one in the middle flower bed and one in the back by the hill. I was at the back one and my foot slipped into a hole. I had thought it was just a divot in the grass until I cleared away some leaves and spied a hole  5 by 7 inches. And it was DEEP. I ran to get John.

I said, "I have never seen this hole before, it's HUGE! What do you think it is?"
He looked at it and thought possibly a groundhog. I thought so too but there was no mound of dirt next to it.
He grabbed a 5 foot rod and I grabbed a flashlight. I shone it down to the bottom of it. John put down the rod and it was about 4-5 feet deep. 

Back Forsythia Bush, the Good Bush, not the sad ones
I ran inside and looked online. Holes with no dirt are not groundhog holes. Well, that answers that!  They are either raccoon or skunk burrows. Hmmmm, I thought, I had seen a skunk at night around here in the late Fall! I had named him Flower (sorry geek moment) after the skunk in the Disney movie, Bambi. John and I surmised that it must have been his winter burrow.  So we had a skunk hibernating over the Winter less than 20 feet from the house!

Flower the Skunk's Former Home

After some discussion, we decided that it was best to fill in the hole. Poor Flower. He'd have to find a home elsewhere. We live on the edge of the woods, so that shouldn't be a problem for him. After filling it with sand and rocks, I looked at it rather sadly. No one wants to be forced out of their home, even skunks. Still, the last think I need is a skunk this close to the house.  So much for a dull Sunday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quirks and Eccentricities

I have realized over the last couple months that there are some things that my readers still do not know about me. I wanted to share some of the little known facts about a one Marc Alan Haynes.  I figured it would be a quirky thing for me to write about and hopefully (fingers crossed) an interesting blog to read. These are in no particular order.

If I like a song, I will listen to it on a continuous loop until I get sick of it … or the people around me get sick of me listening to it.

I took classical piano lessons for 10 years while growing up and still play. My forte' is classical, specifically Beethoven, Mozart, and Baroque classical music. I realize now that it is one of the best gifts my parents gave me.

I hate forks against my teeth. If while eating, my fork hits my teeth, I shudder like someone dragging nails across the chalkboard.

I prefer things or items in "threes" or "sixes". I don't consider myself having OCD but if things are in "threes" or "sixes" I am alot happier. I also check that the coffee pot or iron is unplugged several times before I go to work.  Maybe I am just a little OCD. LOL.

I have started recycling like crazy but deep back in my mind, I am not really sure if it is doing any good.

In the 90's, my sister and I had my mother stop the car by a canal in Cape Canaveral, Florida. We jumped out of the car and ran down a hill to "commune with 4 to 6 large manatees" floating peacefully in the canal. They were as large as VW Beetles! My Mom was just freaking out. I was thinking, What a glorious experience! They were so gentle and underwater, investigated my sister and I by nuzzling our hands.

I love birding. Love my bird feeders, watching the birds, and hearing them in the morning.

I was bullied in high school. I survived. Another blog, another time.

I credit joining my fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, for helping me socially in college and in life. It was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

I am obsessed with snipping the plastic holders of six-packs so they don't strangle or choke seals, sea birds, and other sea life.

I have had allergies since being a babe. I was once allergic to over 40 different foods and environmental things such as dander, leaves, pet hair, bird feathers, grass, chocolate, strawberries, pollen, and trees. Luckily I have outgrown my food allergies but still suffer daily. Don't worry, I am usually drugged up on allergy meds to get me through the day!

My mother and father took us on month long summer vacations driving across the USA when I was growing up. Those trips were such a great experience.  My father also took us kids to museums, studios, and art galleries.  I consider this such a huge influence on my life, my views, and beliefs.

I am a voracious reader and often read 2 or 3 books at the same time, reading a different one each night. These days, I am reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, Mens' Health Magazine, the Food Network Magazine, and How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis.

I love red wine, beer, vodka, gin, and scotch ... depending on my mood.

I absolutely hate the fact that I have to cut back and eventually give up caffeine and beer because of my high blood pressure. Along with that, I hate having high blood pressure.

I dislike exercise but realize I must do it now for good health as I get older.

I am best friends, I mean BEST FRIENDS with my brother Adam and sister Sheryl.  The three of us know how lucky we are to be this close.

I do not own any white button down shirts. I hate them because they will never remain as crisp and white as the day you take them out of the package.  If I have them, I use them once and then will probably donate them to the Good Will or Salvation Army.

I try to buy only cage free eggs, preferably brown. I support the cage free chicken idea. :)

I would like to buy only organic meats but don't have the money for it.

Lastly, I will not eat fruit which I have to work for. I won't eat seeded grapes or seeded watermelon. I hate having to avoid the seeds. I won't eat apples because I cannot stand apple skin. It's a pain the ass to take it off. I also dislike peach fuzz intensely. I opt for nectarines instead.  I will only eat seedless Naval Oranges. Orange seeds aggravate me. I make an exception during Clementine season. I'm what you call a picky fruit eater.

Well, that's about it for now. No doubt some of you are shaking your heads thinking TMI!  Hopefully, a couple of you can identify with my quirks. They seem to be coming out more as I get older but I figure it's my prerogative to be quirky and eccentric. In ten years, I am just gonna be a mess!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wake Up Call

This was supposed to be a funny blog about losing my hair and gaining weight in my 40's. That was until I was sitting in work yesterday and started having chest pains. It was like a twisting twinge in the middle of my chest. I had pain, right under the middle interior of my pectoral muscles. I started getting nervous and sweating. OK, Calm down Marc, I said to myself. Lemme just call the doctor and make an appointment for the evening and just have her check me out. You are not having a heart attack, you are not having a heart attack.

I spoke with the nurse on duty at my doctor’s office and she ordered me to come in around 1 PM for a walk-in appointment. She said we shouldn’t wait until the evening. Get in here! She actually wanted me to go to the hospital. I convinced her that I didn’t feel it was a heart attack (yet) and would leave work in a bit.

I figured I would stay and finish up some case files. I could have stayed another hour but my mind was racing. Am I having a heart attack? Maybe it’s just angina. Maybe it’s just heartburn. Am I making this up? Now a dull pain right in the interior pectoral region. No, I’m wasn't making this up, but am I making much ado about nothing? I couldn’t concentrate. I got up and left work.

Speeding home in the car, I started thinking, what if I have a heart attack on the highway? I quickly glanced over to the mile markers. OK OK, I thought, remember which mile marker you are at in case you keel over and careen into the concrete median. I moved to the slow lane and drop my speed. The idea of careening into a concrete median was not appealing. I instead called everyone in my family to tell them of my impending doom.

Once at my doctor’s office, Dr. Melinda McGowan (or Rose McGowan, as I call her) saw me right away. (I call her Rose McGowan constantly even though she looks nothing like the actress. It is purely by accident. I must have called her that at least 50 times and she always laughs about it.) After a review of my symptoms, they did an EKG test on me. It came back completely normal. In fact, the only thing out of whack was extremely high blood pressure. After blood tests and stress tests, my doctor laid it on the line. I had to give up caffeine!

UGH! My friend Caffeine and I had to part ways. Luckily, it did not have to be an immediate break up. Rose McGowan said that I needed to wean myself off and that it could be a break up over time. She even said I could have one cup of coffee a day but had to give up large amounts of coffee. ice tea, sodas, energy drinks, and my Hydroxy Cut weight loss supplement.

So it looks like I will have to lose weight the old fashioned way by working out. UGH! And by working out, she meant actually physical exertion. I gave Rose McGowan a dirty look.

“So you mean shaking the martini shaker vigorously doesn’t count?”
She laughed, “No that doesn’t count. You need to work your little butt off!”
“What about taking out the garbage, that’s gotta count for something. The street is at least 50 feet from the house. “
“No!” Rose McGowan exclaimed. “Not unless you walk back and forth 200 times!”
“OK, OK, then,” I said. “Exercise it is.”

I also have to give up beer. From now on, unless it’s a special occasion, I need to stick with red wine and vodka. Well, I thought, that’s not so bad. I love red wine and vodka. I needed to replenish the family room bar anyway.

After blood work, I headed home, tempted to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a pick me up. No, I kept going. I just wanted to be home. I was a good boy, I passed by my friend Caffeine’s home and did not stop. I began thinking about my doctor’s visit. I was thankful that my diagnosis wasn’t the worst, but pissed at myself to even let myself slide down hill in terms of health. Dr. Rose McGowan said that while I wasn’t having a heart attack, if I didn’t give up my love affair with caffeine and change my sedentary ways, I would be a prime candidate for one a couple years down the road. And 30 is too young to have a heart attack. Oh yeah, you already know I'm in my 40’s. :-)  But still, too young for a heart attack.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Fever

I am feeling the spring fever my friends!  I saw my first robins of the season last week. The daffodils are up. The rabbits are out at night to feed!  Springtime has a way of rejuvenating and reenergizing the body, mind, and soul. I wasn't eager to get outside today and start the yardwork but once I began, there was no stopping me.

My normal outside work during the winter is cleaning up branches and refilling the bird feeders. Pretty mundane. It's not like you can do much. I ventured outside today just to take the tarp off of the bistro set on the side deck. I figured I wanted a place to enjoy coffee again each morning. It was in the high 60's without a cloud in the sky. I noticed a holly branch or two jutting from the tree right by the front door. No wonder my 70 something fabulous neighbor Charlotte seemed to complain about it. Every time she came over to drop off some home baked goodies or a bottle of wine, she would wince about getting scratched from it. Snip snip, the branch fell to the deck. Snip snip some more branches fell about. After an hour of snipping, I finally felt satisfied.

The holly bush was trimmed. Well, I think I over trimmed it. John said while smiling that it looked naked. Well, it'll grow back ... hopefully soon. :)  I forgot how allergic I am to the prickly leaves. Where ever I get scratched, I develop hives. Oh well, such is the pain for a perfectly pruned bush. I did start itching madly but nothing a Benedryl with vodka chaser couldn't help. I was now in the snipping mood! The rose bush is now pruned and ready for spring. I went larger. I got out the pruning saw and hit the oak tree as well.


While by the side deck, I decided to see if my family of salamanders survived the winter. YES, I said SALAMANDERS!  We have a family which have thrived over the last couple years under a plank of wood by the deck. I saw three in October and wondered if they would make it through the winter. I carefully picked up the plank and counted not one, not two, but six salamanders! I know it sounds crazy, but the rough and tumble kid who used to trek through the woods of my hometown really comes out in me and I love seeing wildlife thrive. :)  I was just thrilled that they made it through the winter!

I am sure the crazy chipmunks will be running about across the yard soon enough. We had one on each side of the house last year. A cousin was also living in the rocks by the rhododendron across the yard and still another by the birdbath in the far back by the woods. Hopefully they will evade Charlotte's tiger striped tabby by the name of Abby. (No I am not making that up!) Charlotte adopted a beautiful tiger stripe kitty last year and named her unknowingly after my recently passed mother. I don't question it but enjoy having an "Abby" wander between the yards!

After my day of yard work mixed with excitement, I filled the bird feeders, collected branches across the yard from the March "lion" winds, trimmed up the pussy willow, uprighted the bird baths, and ... the most mundane task of all, took the trash out. Hey, the basic chores gotta be done too!

Happy Early Spring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stumbling Through Life

We all have weeks like this. You feel like you are just stumbling through life. Some people equate it to "being in the weeds", "drowning", or "just trying to keep your head above water."  That is how the first two weeks of March have gone for me.  And as a result, once again, I have become frazzled.

I sometimes get down on myself and feel that I am just not good at this "adult life thing." I just want to crawl into a hole and hide. Now I am not talking about life such as being alive. I am talking about juggling my bills, my job, my home, the yard, my writing, the antique business, and my volunteer work in the community.  I get overwhelmed and something always gets pushed to the side or buried.  You have also, no doubt, heard the expression "Something has got to give!"  My sanity perhaps? :-)

Over the past several months, it has been the antiques that has fallen by the wayside. The past two weeks, it became the writing and staying in touch with my close family. I can't let that happen. Two of the most important things in my life and I feel like I dropped the ball.

I am feeling a little better since the week began.  My bills are organized, on time, and back on track. I am going to work on the house and yard this weekend but each day I have been doing some type of cleaning so I don't feel so overwhelmed.  I will work on the writing and get out a couple blogs in the next week. And I openly promise to call all my family by the weekend!

I also tend to take on too much.  I need to start saying no for my sanity's sake. I just can't take on another favor or request. Not until I can get a better grip on all the above. Otherwise, the first one who suffers is me.  I think people have too high of expectations on what they can achieve.  We all just keep piling and piling on requests from others until we feel as if we are going to explode and keep thinking that we can get everything done!

As I get older, I need to keep reminding myself that it's alright to say no if someone asks me to do something and I genuinely do not have the time to do it. If they don't understand, that's their problem. After all, it's my life not theirs.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cloud Animals and Beach Memories

I was driving home from work today westward towards the setting sun. It's a long drive home along Rt 78, just straight for a good 20 or so miles with the expanse of the sky ahead of you, the Blue Mountain Ridge to your north, and farmland to your south. I glanced up and spied a cloud moving quickly in the winds that looked like an elephant galumphing across the late afternoon blue sky. What is galumphing you may ask? It means to gallop triumphantly, but also clumsily, or heavily!

In 1959, my father Robert Haynes and his first wife, Nanda Ward, wrote and illustrated a book, The Elephant That Galumphed.  It was a children's story about a young Indian elephant named Tajal who refused, despite parental disapproval, to walk quietly. He instead "galumphed."  One can imagine the noise associated with a young elephant just galumphing through the underbrush! The cloud I was watching (while driving) looked just like an elephant galumphing across the sky on strong March winds. I smiled thinking about my father's books. And I always loved that word, galumphing.


My sight moved to other cloud shapes. There was a dove streaking towards the setting sun! And in the corner of my sight, above the mountain ridge that I follow home, was a dog in the midst of barking laughter at the entire ridiculous scene playing out. My mind wandered back to the summers of the 70's when as a kid, I would lay on my back on the sandy beaches of Strathmere, New Jersey, staring up at the clouds rushing by, imaging shapes as I was doing now.

My family and I would take day trips down to the beaches of the Jersey Shore. It didn't cost much, and for a family watching every dollar, it was a cheap getaway. We piled into the car with beach chairs, beach towels, coolers of food for lunch, jugs of sweet iced tea, sunscreen, a battery operated radio, paddle ball, buckets and shovels for that necessary sand castle, and of course who could forget the Frisbee!

Staring at the clouds, I would drift in and out of sleep from the hot summer sun. The air smelled of sea spray and only the occasional Jersey horse fly would awake me from a sun-baked stupor. Adam and I would also spend time investigating the tidal pools which existed near the inlet for sea creatures or we'd hunt for sand crabs in the departing waves, looking for their air bubbles.  We'd boogie board the small waves for hours and then make our sand castles only to have them torn down by the approaching tide in the late afternoon.

Mom and Dad would corral Sheryl, Adam, and I together for our requisite family walks down the beach. Watching the surf, sea planes, and sailboats, Dad would stop us to look at an occasional shell or interesting rock that had washed up on the beach. He was and still always looks for the beauty or art in the ordinary. After we got back, we'd relax another hour or so. A chill in the air and the incoming tide signaled that this day at the beach needed to draw to an end.

We'd gather all of our beach belongings and head for the car. Even though we brushed most of the sand from our feet, we inevitably brought some into the car. I remember my feet itching the hour or so drive back to our home in Wenonah. Dad and Mom would treat us to soft serve ice cream at one of the many stands that dotted the local highway back to town. We three kids would look at each other with such happiness, such contentment, faces dripping from ice cream.


My thoughts came back to the highway, driving home from work. My exit was coming up. I gave one final look to the elephant galumphing across the sky southward. He was disappearing into the "underbrush" of the other clouds. I smiled and gave a him a thank you for the fond memories during a long drive home.