Climbing in enormous playground structures to retrieve kids

A commercial is airing where they mention a parent climbing into one of those kids’ indoor playground equipment made of hard plastic. You know the ones that cover half a warehouse and are made of plastic tubes and slides, nets, pits with plastic balls, etc. Think of one of those fast-food playgrounds then quadruple its size.

Kids love these creations and there are few places as loud and boisterous as these indoor playgrounds. Parents like them to a point. Before that point, the parent rationalizes their children are at least getting some exercise and having fun. That point occurs when you lose sight of where your child or children are in said structure. Invariably, as the dad, I was obligated to climb in and locate our child.

One of the things they don’t tell you about the playground equipment is the plastic they use is hard. And, when you use achy knees like mine to crawl into those tubes, it bloody hurts. It is one of the reasons I do not do the Yoga poses where the knees take the brunt of the pressure.

What tickled me is most often, one of our children, would just get tired and find a resting place in said structure. Our worries were real, but fortunately the results were explainable. Nonetheless, losing sight of a child is a harrowing experience, whether it the playground or worse, such as a store, ballpark or zoo, which each happened to us. Even for only a few seconds, those seconds seem much longer as you search and retrace steps.

To me the second worst thing about these playground or event places, is playing the mechanical or electronic arcade games (Whack-a-mole, Skeetball, pinball, etc.) to win these tickets to exchange for cheap toys that will be long forgotten in a day or two. These places have this down to a science, spend money for the euphoria of getting a cheap gift. The kids loved it, though.

Yet, I will play those games with the kids any day over climbing into the hard plastic playground. I preferred the fast-food playgrounds as I could visualize the entire set-up and they usually crafted small windows the kids would peek out of to let you know where they were in the structure. Of course, I had to eat those high calorie fast-food meals for the privilege. Pass the ketch-up.

Standing on one leg is a sign of good health

Whether it is the Yoga tree pose, a one leg lift pose or something similar, standing on one leg has been shown to improve one’s health. In an article from last fall, called “Standing on one leg is a sign of good health – and practising is good for you too” by Dawn Skelton of Glasgow Caledonia University, a few data based observations are noted. Here a few paragraphs:

“Research shows that people’s ability to stand on one leg is an indicator of health and that getting better at standing on one leg can add to fitness and potentially lifespan.

Being able to stand on one leg is linked to increased levels of physical activity and decreased risk of falls and is associated with both quality and length of life. Around 37.3 million falls per year worldwide are severe enough to require medical attention.

The inability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer is linked in otherwise healthy people to an increased risk of small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced ability to understand ideas. You are less likely to be able to stand on one leg without a wobble if you have a multitude of medical conditions such as Parkinson’s diseasestroke or Alzheimer’s disease). 

Pregnancy, menopause, the diagnosis of diseaseand retirement can also alter our strength and balance and ability to stay upright, mostly because of the way these affect our ability and motivation to engage in regular physical activity.

Sitting or reclining while awake is associated with lower muscle strength, risk of falls and physical function, sometimes irrespective of the amount of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity you do. People who sit for prolonged periods are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, higher waist circumference and obesity.”

I have noted before a gerontologist said there are two key points in the life of older people that hasten their demise. One is the inability to drive, while the other is the inability to walk. If we can continue to walk on our own, the better off our health will be. The ability to maintain your weight on one leg will help in this regard. I would also argue the ability to push yourself off the floor will help when you do fall.

Standing on one leg for twenty seconds won’t occur immediately as there are balancing issues. So, start with a few seconds and stand near a wall or imbedded bookshelf where you can rebalance if you teeter a little. Even though I can stand for a count of thirty with various arm stretches in a tree pose per each leg, I still stand next to a set of shelves if I start to teeter. But, I built up to that number of counts.

So, best wishes on the one leg standing exercises. If you want to see options just google “one leg standing exercise” and see what pops up. There are a number of sites to choose from. One bit of caution on the Yoga tree pose, make sure you don’t place your foot to the side of your other knee as it will cause some undue pressure on the knee. Either go above or below the knee or cross the leg over the other.

Wednesday wanderings – lawns, pollen, owls and Les Miz

These old bones need to finish mowing the grass before heading out on my walk about. Many moons ago, I bought a battery powered lawn mower, where I charge the battery before I mow. Either the grass is getting taller or the battery is getting older (this is electric mower #2) as the battery died before I finished. It is not unlike its owner who tires more easily.

So, today I will tidy up the remainder (usually I get about 75 minutes of mowing per charge). Mowing with an electric mower is healthier for me and better for the environment. I don’t have to breathe in the gas fumes, nor does it drown out my hearing. All of my power tools are battery operated now, as a result.

Speaking of being outside, this is supposed to be a more severe pollen season. My hometown is a city of trees, so we rank in the top ten in pollen in the US. Yippee. It used to not bother me as much, but with the creeping northward heat due to climate change, the warmer seasons are longer, and pollen is more severe. Hence, my daily routine includes a Cetrizine pill (generic Zirtec) and squirt of the generic Flonase up each nostril (I highly recommend).

Pollen brings other challenges as well. Over twenty years ago, we built a pool. It was a great decision, as it is good for relaxation and exercise, and we got to meet our kids’ friends. Yet, EVERYTHING gets into the pool, pollen included. So, cleaning the skimmer baskets is an event during the spring, with that stuff coated on the liner I put on the baskets.

Plus, when the pollen is in there, I cannot see if we have any guests in the pool such as brown snake (not poisonous), frog or deceased vole. There is nothing like pulling out a skimmer basket with a small snake in it to get the heart pumping. Fortunately, copper heads do not care for the water as much.

I think the voles are trying to run away from the hawks and owls we get on occasion. Right now, we have three owls in the neighborhood trees, two together and one separate. It must be a love triangle, with a younger male pining for the committed female. Off the subject, but when we went to see Les Miserables for the first time, a good buddy had read up on the wonderful and multi-part story from the playbill and told us all, “Basically, it is a love triangle.” We still laugh about that today.

So, let’s head out for a walk about after the lawn is taking care of. I will look for the odd-man out owl and see if we can find him a new love interest. As his mother tried to tell him, “there are many owls in the trees.” Maybe he can find him one named Cosette or Eponine.

The emu and the gold mine

When my in-laws were alive, their family property included an old dried-up gold mine that never did amount to much. From what I gather, it was an expensive hobby for my mother-in-law’s father. One day, I was out walking their trails and came upon the large opening to the mine, which in essence is now a large pit about twenty meters in diameter and that much in depth.

As I looked at the bottom of the pit, I saw the skeleton of a very large bird. It looked like an ostrich, which would be very uncommon for this neck of the woods. When I got back to the house, I had to inquire.

My father-in-law laughed and said that was an emu skeleton, which would also be rare. It turns out, one of his neighbors was raising emus and one had passed on. So, he asked my father-in-law if he could toss it into the pit. Although it sounds like a person who just did not want to dig a hole, my father-in-law appeased him and said it was OK.

Currently, there are series of themed TV commercials for Liberty Mutual (who some call Limu or Lee-Moo) insurance, where the mascot is Limu the Emu. Note: some ad agency is making money off this idea. I guess they are combatting the Geiko Gekko (who is a CGI mascot), with an Australian man mimicking a Cockney accent – go figure.

Yet, as I watch these commercials, my mind drift backs to looking down into that pit and seeing the now known emu skeleton. Since I was alone on the trails, it was actually an out of body experience. As I was thinking WTF, I felt like someone was watching me see this skeleton in a Rod Serling sort of way. A spaceship had crashed, created this crater and its bird like pilot died as he crawled out.

Then, reality set in and the acknowledgment it was some kind of large bird came to light. The story of the throwing an emu carcass into the hole did not cross my mind, My saner version of the ET story is a large bird was running and did not know the hole was there and fell in. I like that story better than it just being used as a lazy person’s burial ground. It makes me feel the emu died what he liked doing best – running.

So, while Limu the Emu (and his buddy Doug) are peddling insurance, I am thinking of my ET-like emu skeleton. Since there was no cell service this deep in the woods, I could not “phone home” for this ET. It was truly a very weird day. Almost Twilight Zone-like. Cue Mr. Serling and the eerie music.

Every community needs a Mama

Since we are at the Ides of March in a month to celebrate women’s history, let me offer a brief glimpse of a woman who almost everyone in a small community in southwest Georgia called “Mama.” Not that they were related, but Mama was a health care giver for the community, a self-appointed nurse who helped many while the regional doctor was away.

When the doctor was in the area for his monthly visits, Mama would accompany him on his visits to hear and see what he had to say, but also to share her thoughts. She had such a good rapport with the doctor, she named one of her twelve children after him. In the interim, Mama would make sure the patients took their medicines, rested and did what the doctor asked. Since this was in the 19th century, many of the cures were home or natural remedies.

I have shared the story before about how her youngest boy loved gymnastic type exercise and would tumble or use any prop for his swings and dismounts. One day, he fell and knocked his two front teeth out of his mouth. He gathered them up and ran in with his bloody mouth. Mama sat him down and boiled some water while she cleaned his mouth. She then dipped the end of a dish towel in the hot water and rinsed it quickly. She told the boy to put the towel in his mouth “as hot as he could stand it.” She cleaned the teeth off and then shoved them back into his now-swelling gums and they held.

I love this example and have heard and told this story many times. Her name was Carrie Jane and she was my great grandmother. Since everyone called her Mama, my grandmother’s children included, they would call their own mom “Mother” in deference to Carrie Jane. I never got the chance to meet Mama, but I do know her children grew up as both characters and with character, my grandmother included.

As an example, she called one of her daughters Carrie Bell, but my grandmother would not call her sister that. Instead, she would call her “Cow Bell” as a means of teasing. And, when Carrie Bell would come to visit, she would ask us kids if we wanted to play “marbles” which was her name for the board game Aggravation.

Growing up in a rural area (using town would be inappropriate), people formed a kinship and helped each other out. These folks could not pay Mama for her services, but would bring the family fresh produce as a means of recompense. If a baby was coming, everyone would go find Mama. I think there are mamas like this in every small community.

These are the kind of women I wish to honor today. People may not have been related to them, but they touched many lives. Thanks Mama and all of the mamas in our history. Tell me about the mamas in your history.

Wednesday wanderings the second week of 2022

Good morning all and happy Hump Day. Let’s get out today and wander around some, weather permitting in your area. Even if it is snowing, dress warmly and listen to the crunch of the snow beneath your boots.

I have about finished cutting up a strategically located Wax Myrtle in our back yard that fell over due to all of the rain and wind about ten days ago. It provided such privacy from one backyard neighbor’s view. Now, we can see their house more clearly and vice-versa. Wax Myrtle’s smell nice, so as I took the smaller branches to the curb, I had an aromatic walk. I have cut up many a tree due to high winds from hurricane remnants or just windy storms as our backyard has a small forest which we left for privacy. But, I hate chain saws and love to exercise. So, it is a slower process that takes days.

Today, we will be shedding our house of the many versions of Christmas ornaments we have in the attic. I think we have enough ornaments for ten Christmas trees. We label them by year, but in essence we have the brown, copper and gold Christmas ornaments, we have the blue and silver ones with an artificial white tree when we put up two, we have several variations of red and green ornaments, and we have colored and white lights. Right now, we have pulled them out of the attic and have small paths to walk around upstairs. If I report a sore back tomorrow, you will know the reason why. It won’t be due to the tree cutting, it will be due to ornaments removal. My guess is other folks have this problem.

I have noticed the marketers are mailing less now that Christmas is over. I am sure they will pick up the pace, but the respite is much appreciated. I have shared this before, but my sister gets marketing mail for my mother who passed away several years ago. And, my mother never lived in the house where my sister lives now. This is the definition of eternal life – you remain on marketing lists forever. When my sister tries to remove my mother’s name, they just change it to my sister’s. I wonder how many trees are killed sending mail to dead people?

Speaking of marketing, I saw where Congress is going to address the number of calls, as they did before. Talk about a waste of time. Counting the fingers on 435 members, they do not have enough digits to plug the holes in the marketing dam. Now, many of the calls are recorded voices trolling the listener. You can tell by the delay, then spiel. Yesterday, Samantha called me, but she was not really there. We usually don’t answer, but if it is real person, I want to tell them to please take me off their list. I think I am up to 768 “final” calls to extend a car warranty, get a better interest rate, etc. “Final” must mean “eternal” as in the previous paragraph on mailers.

Those are few wandering thoughts for the day. Best wishes on all your errands and chores. May the force be with you.

Day Tripping

For those of you old enough to remember, I am not referring to The Beatles’ song by this name or the one the Rolling Stones called “Mother’s Little Helper.” So, narcotics or amphetamines will not be part of this story. I am referencing my wife and I like to do short one day excursions around the region.

Today, we are off to the mountains to see my daughter and her boyfriend. She has an afternoon planned of BBQ, mountain views and hiking on a cool autumn day. It will be just over a two hour journey, so it is not a bad trip for even our old bodies. Of course, we have to add time for the inevitable rest breaks on the way to and fro.

It will be a fun day. She lives in a cabin-like home halfway up a large hill (or small mountain) in a very eclectic area. She has a coop of eight chickens, so when we visit we bring empty egg cartons for their use. I have shared before the town close by is very artsy, so there is a lot of wall art on buildings, galleries and craft shops. There is even a place where they show how cheese is made.

My daughter is an environmentalist, hiker and rock climber, so she is in heaven up there. She met her boyfriend’s sister first, as they were on the climbing team at college up there. And, the sister is the one who made the introductions to her brother. He is a very nice and grounded young man.

So, I will keep this one brief and report later on our journey. Have a great rest of you day.

Celebrating success with too much gusto concerns me

Watching the Ryder Cup, which every two years pits twelve US golfers against twelve European golfers in team competition, it continues to concern me over the lack of sportsmanship the match has devolved into. Dating back to the late-1990s, the televised competition has created a fervor of fans cheering the mistakes of their opponents. There was a time when Jack Nicklaus picked up the coin of Brit Tony Jacklin marking a ten foot putt to halve a match resulting in a tie, but those days are long gone.

But, I must confess, when I played sports, trash talking was something I just did not do. I was taught taunting an opponent is just poor form. As my basketball coach used to preach to us, the way to get back at an opponent is to win. The way to get back is not let them score. I mention the last point as it takes more effort to play defense, so to shut down an opponent from scoring brings satisfaction.

I know the crowds in team sports and some competition want to see demonstrative theatrics. They want to cheer success, even if it is for only one play. Yet, one coach used to say, if you are going to draw attention to your successful play, should you not draw attention when you mess up? Look what I did, I missed a tackle.

With that said, I do love offensive linemen in a football game. Usually, they only get attention when they mess up. It could be a penalty for holding or missing a block that leads to a tackle for a loss. On the flip side, these linemen are the reason games are won and lost. Yet, they don’t get the same upside notoriety when they are doing their job well. Their running backs and quarterback get the glory when they are blocking their opponents.

Mind you, it is OK to be happy with a successful play. But, the baseball term used is “you do not want to show up your opponent.” It is better not to rub it in a pitcher’s face that you just hit a home run, as you may have to face him or her again. One famous football running back used to say when he scored a touchdown, act like you have been there before. Of course, the fans want to see more. Maybe this is why drunk fans should steer clear from the other team’s fans.

I recognize I am old school. What I wrote runs counter to what is being done today. To me, it promotes this we/ they mindset on too many things. It has bled over into tribal politics. Fans are too invested in winning, that they don’t realize what is truly at stake. When politicians are too invested in winning than governing, we all lose.

You never know, so please hug your family

If the 9/11 memorial ceremony did not heighten our focus to hug our loved ones when we leave them in the morning and return to them in the evening, let me share an abrupt reminder from yesterday. My wife and I learned a 56 year old neighbor passed away from a heart attack.

The night before, a fire truck and EMV was outside of his home. The next morning we learned he died while his wife and kids were away. He had been working on a stationary rowing machine and was found by a friend his wife called to check on him when she could not reach him.

The tragedy is puzzling as he appeared to be in good shape and was routinely out doing yard work or washing his cars. He was also the most congenial of people stopping to chat as folks walked by. In fact, he seemed to be younger than his actual age given his temperament and work ethic.

We don’t know when it is our time. We don’t expect that today will be the day. So, the best we can do is take care of ourselves and hug our families goodbye and hello. Tell the people we love that we love them.

May our neighbor and friend rest in peace and his family remember more his smile than his passing over time.

That boy sure is a runnin’ fool

Those familiar with the movie “Forrest Gump” know the title is one of the many one-liners from the movie. We learn early on that Forrest could “run like the wind blows” after his legs got better from wearing braces. And, that was his primary means of transportation.

I used to be a runner, but after a lot of up and down running efforts, my joints told me I needed to walk more. It is much easier to start walking again after stopping a walking regimen, than it is is to start running.

Yet, I see many who run both along the streets and on trails that fail to heed a few lessons that might help. I learned from others, but still had challenges with the yo-yo running efforts. Here are few tidbits that I hope are more redundant than not.

  • Do not run on sidewalks made of concrete. The concrete does not flex, so your knees, feet and ankles (and other parts) take the brunt of the impact of each step.
  • Do not run with headphones on if you are next to car traffic or by yourself on a trail. Not being able to hear puts you in danger of turning cars or nefarious folks on trails. If you must have music, heighten your other senses to avoid getting run over.
  • Stretch before and after running. Sometimes the after part gets left off, but warming down is as important as warming up.
  • Start out slow (or even walking) and build up speed to the pace you want. Starting out to fast can cause pulled muscles and charley horses.
  • Wear shoes that have a good tread and are designed for running. A worn out tread can add impact shock to knees, feet and ankles.
  • Courtesy of the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, wear two pairs of socks, one reversed inside of one normal. The combined friction in the socks will cause less friction on your feet. Wooden would actually teach this the first day of practice.
  • Stay hydrated. This is a no-brainer, but never pass a water stop in a race and have a water bottle with you or in the car waiting for you.
  • If you do run on trails, have someone with you or run on popular trails designed for running. Some trails have way too many tree roots that are painful when stepped on or could trip you (I have done both).

I know much of the above may be well-known. But, as an old fart, let me just add I have read in my local newspapers of more than a few women being sexually assaulted on trails, I have read wear joggers were run over and killed not realizing a car was turning (one woman did not comprehend that a truck was pulling a trailer because of her headphones and stepped into traffic after she thought the truck had passed) and I am aware of many falls, bumps and bruises and arthritic or worn out knees.

Be safe. Be healthy. And, run like the wind blows.