“Reflections — On a Rather ‘Moving’ Summer Experience”

It has been a while since I posted a new piece on the Writing Blog here with Little Red Bear, but with the completion of a long-drawn-out relocation over the summer and now past Labor Day, we are ready to get back in the writing saddle again. There are still boxes waiting to be unpacked, mostly bear making, jewelry, and other art supplies, but my Writing Muse has returned from her summer break, will wait no longer, and is waking me daily at 5:00 a.m. with more Little Red Bear characters and stories again, along with other fun new ideas, so it is time to crank up the laptop and get busy.

But first, a question – Are you or someone you care about possibly considering a move and relocation in the future? If so, I urge you to please read on before embarking on such a torment venture.

Because we thought perhaps it might be best to start back by bringing you up to date with some observations about –  ‘The Move’ – a “Moving Postmortem”, if you will. It should be noted that this is move number three in the past six years and number four in fourteen for Little Red Bear and me, some local and some cross-country, two self-moved and two with so-called ‘professional’ movers, so we do feel a bit qualified to address the subject, hoping others may benefit from our misfortunes experiences.


With this somewhat broken-down, cane-in-hand (and some days two) baby boomer pushing into the shadow of seventy soon, this most recent move stopped just short of overwhelming. Aside from an improbable winning lottery ticket and penthouse condo dream in Fort Walton Beach, if forced by unavoidable calamity or circumstance to move yet again in the near future, the only box I will order will be made of pine and be done with it. Let others do the heavy loading, lifting, and lugging next time. “Waiter – check, please.”

As physically and mentally stressful and taxing as it was, not to mention severely strained family relationships on the actual moving day and apparent ongoing communications blackout since, I am happy to report that I have once again somehow managed to survive a relocation and lived to tell the tale. Or, at least to pass along some hopefully helpful insights garnered from the experience to perhaps ease the moving journey for the next intrepid soul contemplating a change in address. And beneficiaries, perhaps.

They say that moving is right up there with the death of a loved one, job change, and divorce as life’s biggest stressors. Having experienced all firsthand, they will get no argument from me.

So at this time, in mostly random order as they occurred to me between nightmares and hallucinatory flashbacks of moving day, here are a few nuggets I consider worth mentioning. I say “I” and not “we” here, because for the majority of the time Little Red Bear was in a dazed state of nervous, glassy-eyed distress, obsessing over the safe transport of his honey stash, and not the most aware or observant to offer meaningful commentary on other matters.


My first thought, superseding all others, is to simply take a match and set fire to everything right at the start. Don’t stress over downsizing, what to take, what not to take, what is an heirloom somebody three generations down the line may treasure, who might benefit the most from giving whatever away? Simply torch it all in the name of Righteous Downsizing and be done with it. Nobody really cares. Save the pile of money spent on boxes, packing materials, dish padding, bubble wrap, packing tape, box labels, a moving truck, dollies, furniture pads, movers, Band-Aids, and aspirin.

Simply purchase a cheap brand of kitchen matches instead, together with a box of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Light up the night, make S’mores and set off some fireworks. Collect the insurance money, replace needed items with brand spanking new, thumb your nose at future generations who most likely won’t give a hoot about your grandmother’s vintage teapot anyway, and take a vacation trip to the beach to celebrate letting go and outwitting the moving gremlins.

(Side note — It should be noted that I am still researching and waiting for our esteemed attorney, Brooks the Badger — Attorney at Lawlessness, to get back to me on any possibly relative arson, insurance fraud, and other niggling details which may interfere with this plan, so you may wish to hold off on the matches and taking action on this one until I confirm the “Match Plan’s” viability, despite the clearly obvious appeal.)

Bonfires notwithstanding, feel free to go ahead with the S’mores, though. S’mores are always a good part of any plan. And, you may want to consider doubling or tripling the recipe, depending on how neighbors may feel about your moving away from the neighborhood and possibly wanting to celebrate your departure, as well. Certainly not that any neighbors would be celebrating in your case of course, but thought it worth mentioning for others, perhaps. Just in case.

Here is a tantalizing recipe for Campfire Waffle Cone S’mores from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen to help get you started! These look amazing and provide a cleaner handle for the little ones in the crowd at the same time. Moving is hard enough. Why add chocolate-covered little hands to the mix?


‘Moving’ on, in case “The Match Plan” does not interest, I have always been a collector of books, still preferring to read a book in hand vs one on my Kindle. For me, something still just doesn’t feel quite right holding a Kindle in my hands compared to a good old-fashioned, page-turning, ink-scented, hard-bound print book. And since the print version of the “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler” short story collection has outsold the Kindle version by over two to one since its publication despite the necessarily higher price, I tend to think I am not alone in this view.

That being said, after packing, stacking, moving, re-moving, sorting, re-stacking, and then unpacking ten heavy boxes of collected books (treasured, each and every one!), someday I want to track down the inventor of Kindle and eBooks and give them a big bear hug and jar of honey!  Moving the stacks of books nearly killed my back, while my Kindle made the move nestled comfortably in my backpack as it always does. I have clearly not given eBooks the credit they deserve in that regard. The ability to carry your bookshelves in your backpack is a strong selling point for eReaders.

And where do you strike the balance between “overly-heavy boxes” and “too many boxes” for a move? Heavy items (like ‘books’) are supposed to be packed in small boxes, avoiding overly-heavy large boxes weighing the same as a baby elephant and too weighty to carry. So, you end up instead with stacks and stacks and stacks of small boxes if you have a moderate-sized book collection, and moving helpers suffer immediate panic attacks at the site of all the stacks. Likewise, the old vintage vinyl record albums. I will always keep my books and albums, but moving them seems a no-win situation.


If at some point during all the moving work, I say –  “Hold on for a minute, I need to take a sit,” – please listen closely. That should not be confused with something else. It merely means that my back and legs are aching very badly and I need to sit down and rest for a few minutes before passing out and risk dropping a 50-pound box on your foot. There is no need to dash about opening windows and searching for spray cans or push me out the door towards the little shack in the back, especially on a 95-degree day. Perhaps I should try to be more clear.


Over the course of the move – organizing, packing, stacking, reshuffling, reorganizing, re-stacking, and schlepping about – all of the boxes and I became very well acquainted, especially those whose handles tore and gave way while carrying to customarily crash on my foot. Familiar to the point where I often felt obliged to give names to my cardboard companions. None of which are suitable for printing in a family-friendly blog it must be noted, so that’s about all I can say about that. Nevertheless, you should feel free to name your boxes beyond the requisite Room/Content information label, too. It makes it all a bit less stressful to be on a first name basis when your foot gets pancaked. Even if the names aren’t printable.


With regards to the Room/Content labels for boxes –  use them or don’t, being aware that they are solely for your personal comfort and use and nobody else will notice. In my experience, movers could care less, if they even bother to look at them at all. You politely request –  “Please put the boxes in the correct rooms as indicated by the labels, with like boxes (as in “Books –  #1 of 10) in stacks with the labels facing outwards so I can see them.”  You actually get – Box Chop Suey –  with boxes randomly placed helter-skelter anywhere in your home, most often closest to the entrance where a spot was available at the time they were carried in.

One possible solution to this, instead of labeling merely the box top and front as I have naively done in the past, is to next time label every side, top, and bottom, so that no matter which direction a box is placed in a towering stack, you will be able to read its contents at a later time and locate things. Bearing in mind, they will still in all likelihood, not be sorted by rooms. Half a win, possibly.

Marking boxes as “Fragile” is also at your discretion, as inevitably light boxes labeled “Fragile” most often could be found at the very bottom of stacks, with heavy boxes on top of them. I caught one mover actually kicking a “Fragile” box into place at the bottom of a stack. If it makes you feel more comfortable and helps you sleep at night by labeling glassware and the like as “Fragile”, by all means, do it. Just bearing in mind again that it will probably make no difference whatsoever.


Every small accomplishment is a positive step forwards in the sometimes seemingly endless treadmill march in relocation and should be celebrated. I think this helps to keep spirits up and maintain momentum going forward. And that’s important. Seal up a box or unpack one at the new destination? Find a box that you have been searching for an hour amongst the mish-mashed stacks? Stop for a few minutes and have a piece of cake to mark the accomplishment!

No need to worry about extra calories or packing on unwanted pounds, because there will likely be much more packing, unpacking, and hefting ahead to burn them off anyway, if not simply to avoid abject deprivation and starvation in the process altogether.

So have the Cupcake. Or a Twinkie. Or a Snickers bar. If destined to pass over to the light during the ordeal, I would much rather go out with my last thought on Earth being the fond remembrance and aroma of a Brownie or Butterfinger bar, than being mired in packing tape with the smell of cardboard in my nose. I think it will make for a much more enhanced next life, Karmic experience.


One can never have too many boxes at hand, or too much packing tape, bubble wrap, and wrapping paper. It is very unsettling to discover that you are out of any of these items the night before a move and the stores have all closed.  The importance of peace of mind and normal blood pressure at 2 a.m. when the movers are scheduled to arrive mere hours later cannot be overemphasized and greatly outweighs the minor hassle of what to do with a few leftover boxes at the end. (Tip – U-Haul buys back any unused boxes, so save your receipts.)

It is my observation that the normal life expectancy of many life forms on this planet is sadly not long enough to pack a kitchen and dining room. However long you think it will take, add six months. Unloading cabinets while individually wrapping each glass, cup, mug, shot glass, dish, bowl, plate, serving platter, cutting board, trivet, cooking pot, skillet, griddle, wok, spatula, serving spoon, knife set, pancake turner, ladle, potato masher, salad spinner and bowls, cookie sheet, muffin tin, pie plate, cake pan, loaf pan, bread pan, measuring cups and spoons, cake and serving platter, utensil drawers, and more, seemed (like this sentence) truly never-ending. Not to mention cookbooks, recipe boxes, and innumerable spice and storage containers.

Every time I turned around thinking I was nearly finished, another cabinet awaited. Packing the kitchen cabinets, pantry, and dining room hutch seemed truly never-ending. Add the six months to your schedule to be safe. Minimum.

If there is any outside chance that you may possibly even consider moving in the next three years or so, regardless of how remote the possibility, start packing the kitchen now to be safe and avoid heartache.


Are you like me and have a nice inventory of cast-iron cooking utensils? Skillets of various sizes, grills, griddles, and Dutch ovens?  God bless you.  And have mercy on your back and movers. I absolutely love all of my cast-iron cookware. But moving them –  not so much. If we could fit a battleship onto a scale, I believe that we could balance it with the counterweight of a Dutch oven and three assorted cast-iron skillets.

My one little 9” specialized cast-iron wedge pan for making cornbread and scones is approximately the weight of a St. Bernard all on its own. And despite how often used as that pan is, I stand a reasonably better chance of the lumbering St. Bernard coming to me when I call it, especially if I am holding a slice of bacon. And there’s an outside chance he may arrive with a little barrel of brandy, to boot.

The ponderous skillet? Bacon treats or not, indifferent at best, just sitting there waiting to be carried like a whining baby Titanosaur.


And then there are the kitchen appliances, each seeming to only want to fit into its own individual box, with every one larger and heavier than I remembered having merely observed them serenely sitting on the countertop over the years. I confess to never really having appreciated just how heavy and cumbersome a stand mixer, toaster oven, and microwave truly are. Were these things this heavy when I purchased them and set them on the counter in the first place? Or was I simply so excited over the new acquisition that I was running on adrenaline at the time and did not notice? In all likelihood, I imagine that, like me, they seem to have gained weight with age, to be honest. I’m sure all of those calories that they processed must have had some cumulative, weight-enhancing effects over the years, wouldn’t you think?


And have I mentioned yet that one can never have too many boxes at hand? The coffee maker, smoothie machine, iced tea maker, and toaster all sat comfortably in peace side by side by side by side in a small area on my kitchen counter. Like children in the backseat of a car, will any ride peacefully along in the same box with another? Of course not.

And while on the topic of appliances, the oh-so-carefully set toaster settings which we labored so hard to perfect over time will inevitably be reset during any move. Box gremlins apparently can’t wait to dive in and twist the blazes out of the light-to-dark toast setting dial. I was reminded of this little moving reality by a perfectly cremated breakfast bagel yesterday morning.

May its little cranberry/walnut-filled soul rest in peace.

Here lies my bagel,

‘Twas just a wee little wisp,

Done in by my toaster,

Woefully burnt to a crisp.

 


If you can avoid it, never seek the help of a bear when preparing and packing for a move. Little Red Bear occupied the time leading up to the move either worriedly pacing back and forth in the kitchen, or on my laptop researching the safest and most recommended ways on YouTube to move his honey stash. And then he spent the entire packing time sitting ill at ease in a corner fretting over the possibility of a pending honey calamity, nervously wrapping, unwrapping, rewrapping, re-unwrapping, and re-rewrapping a dozen honey jars over and over and over again, night after night.

By the time moving day dawned, the poor fellow’s ample-sized bear claws had been anxiously nibbled to nubbins. In the end, each jar of honey occupied its own medium-sized box, securely wrapped in half a roll of bubble wrap, with packing paper firmly stuffed into the corners so there would be no jostling of the cherished honey jar. Treasured works of antiquity have not been transported by museums with such care and concern.

Our Bear Cookie Jar was wrapped the same way. In a predictably even bigger box.

Needless to say, Little Red Bear grew ever more relieved, excited, and happy as each box was unpacked later in our new home to find a safely-transported jar of honey inside.  Spare yourself the trouble and the tranquilizers (not to mention a small fortune in bubble wrap) by packing any honey jars yourself. Give the bears your new address to meet back up at a later date and send them off fishing somewhere. It’s best for all concerned in the end. Trust me.


If you haven’t guessed yet at this point, stock up ahead of time on aspirin and antacids.

Aside from nervous bears, cranky family members, and inept movers though, some trusted friends can truly be of assistance surviving the relocation turmoil and stress.

Overall, the two most dependable and helpful companions that I relied upon the most during the transition, move, and subsequent resettling were named Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan.


This information has been offered in the hopes that it may help ease someone else’s moving day experience, should anyone be forced or so misguided as to voluntarily embark on such an undertaking of their own in the future.

Speaking of undertaking — I may have forgotten to mention that while an ominous flock of buzzards circled patiently above my apartment during the weeks of moving preparation, it was really the three black hearses and undertakers following along on moving day, incessantly jockeying to be first in line behind the car en route, who were undeniably the most unsettling and worrisome.


In the end, when all was done and dusted, nothing of major consequence was damaged or broken aside from a few more nicks, scratches, and battle scars acquired on furniture pieces and my legs. A carelessly self-inflicted cut has healed, and black and blue marks have at last begun to fade. Yet another successfully completed move in the history books.

Unexpected at this time as it was, the strenuous move aside, Little Red Bear and I are delighted to be in our new home. Still settling in, finding forgotten about treasures from the past while unpacking, meeting wonderful folks and making new friends every day.

Any major life change is stressful at the time, and frequently a very bumpy road to travel sometimes littered with potholes and challenges. But from my experience — in the end — each and every one has been for the better in the long run and have no doubts at all about this one being the same.  Every new location and each new person we meet is an opportunity to learn more, expand our horizons and awareness, and to become a better person ourself. And that is what we are all really here for, is it not?


So, once again, Little Red Bear and I are delighted to announce –

WE’RE BAAAAACK!

Thank you as always for visiting,  kindly spending part of your day with us here, and for patiently following along as we seemed to take way too long to get thru this latest move. Little Red Bear and I are very anxious to be sharing new information, stories, and adventures with you again, along with new features and tidbits about Red’s coming new adventures in the works now.

We look forward to your visits with us and hope that you drop by often for new posts and features as we now enter our favorite time of year here in the backwoods – Autumn and the approaching Holiday Season!

The rest of the boxes will just have to wait,

Because now we have Muffins and Pies to bake!

Very best wishes and bring on all the pumpkin and fall recipes! Watch for a new Autumn Recipes feature coming soon, and a reminder to register and follow my writing blog to be notified of every new post. – Jim (and Red!)


“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” — Maya Angelou

“Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts. Here’s a happy one for you.” — Dale Evans


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier


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                 “It is amazing how nice people are to you when they know you’re going away.”           — Michael Arlen

“The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there.” — Ellie Rodriguez  

Broadening Horizons — My Introduction to the Beard World

The first week of November found me dog and house-sitting for my daughter while she and her husband visited Walt Disney World. What does that have to do with anything about Broadening Horizons? Please, allow me to continue, because I had no idea that week would lead to a new journey and life adventure of sorts for me, as well.

Since they were on vacation I decided to also give my razor a break and didn’t shave for the week, just for the heck of it. No other intentions or plans at the time. Just tired of shaving every morning all my life, to be honest, and wouldn’t be seeing or be seen by anyone other than two German Shepherds for the week and they certainly wouldn’t be complaining about stray hairs. Didn’t bother to pack the razor, shaving cream, or aftershave.

When I got back home, I texted my three sons just for fun, saying “You should see me, I’m rocking a seven-day-old beard!” with the “Ha, ha, ha’s!” in parentheses. Before I could set the phone back down I received three immediate replies (most unusual, I hasten to add) saying –

  1. “Keep it!”
  2. “Keep it going!”
  3. “You can’t shave it off, it’s No-Shave November. You have to keep it!”

I hadn’t given any thought about it being No-Shave November, never having participated in it before. According to the site – “The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Donate the money you typically spend on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.”

Well, that seemed like something I could and should support, so decided to go ahead and let my seven-day stubble keep on growing until the end of the month.

I had never tried to grow a real beard before except for a week at a time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day each March in college many years ago, and back then it could only be described as “patchy” at best. And, not that I missed shaving every morning, anyway. So, kept it was – a three-week extension to the end of the month. My razor was granted an extended vacation. Something new, something to do.

But, I was then soon informed that I had to keep it going for TWO months, because it supposedly takes that long growing a new beard in to see what you have to work with before trimming, shaping, or making the decision it was a misconceived, failed, and doomed project from the start and shaving it off all together. Letting it go at the end of November then became holding onto it until the end of December and thru the holiday season. Why not? “Razor, take a break and enjoy the holidays!”

Shortly after though, several others advised that a two-month period is really inadequate to base such a weighty, life-changing, keep or shave decision, and I must leave it alone to grow for a minimum of THREE months. Do you see where this is going?

Well, now I am about nine weeks into it and still growing, looking at the end of January now to be the end of the three-month analysis and all important Keep or Shave review.

Some family members seem to have formed opinions already, a few negatives right away, truth be told. But then, some in life are always resistant to any changes around them or affecting their lives, so not totally unexpected, that.

My own opinion varies thru the day, being much higher in the morning when fresh out of the shower and glimpsing the hinted suggestion of a distinguished college professor look in the mirror, than late at night appearing more of a tired and disheveled, ragged and worn, old wino reaching for his half-empty bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.

As I tell anyone who asks about it, the beard does not yet have a long-term contract and is here on a day-to-day, tryout basis only. It seems to comfort a few while worrying others.

Nevertheless, despite the beard’s uncertain status, I received a rushed early Christmas gift delivered by Priority Mail, an electric beard trimming razor kit from one supportive son who felt that I definitely should and would keep the beard. Followed by a steady stream of advice about beard oils, beard balms, moustache wax, and other such things I had never heard of, from another.

And then I was surprised by a 1 oz. vial of pine-scented beard oil in the mail from an unknown source, perhaps not wanting to be publicly numbered in the “keep the beard” camp. And yes, there are periods during the day when I smell as though I rubbed my face in a pine tree. Walking to the mailbox each afternoon, the birds seem to enjoy it.

Overall, it is turning out to be quite the learning experience. I learned right away that one is not supposed to use normal shampoos or conditioners made for head hair on a beard. Nope – too strong and they strip out the oils from facial whiskers, making whiskers tough and brittle. Head hair and whiskers are two entirely different things, it turns out, along with the composition of the scalp and facial skin.

One needs to purchase special, gentler shampoos and conditioners made specifically for beards. Who knew? At this point, I am guessing that the famously bearded Vikings may have used seal oil for their grooming regimens, but again – just a guess. The list of beard items seems much longer than my old shaving supplies list. And this all for a fellow who has never been into styling gels or sprays for my hair, never taking the time or liking the feel of all that gunk and muck in my hair. Towel dry, comb and go, that’s the way.

Beard Oils. Beard Balms. Moustache Wax. Beard Wash. Beard Softeners. Utility and Styling Balms. Most all in different scents and flavors. Not to mention the wide variety of Specialty Combs and Beard Brushes.

Did you know that plastic-toothed combs are not advised for beards because they may cause split ends? Split ends are bad because they must be trimmed. Trimming means bye-bye to beard length! Recommended – wooden combs with the teeth handcrafted to be perfectly round not to tear into the whisker cells. Whoever would have guessed that they actually make handcrafted wooden combs? Guess which is more expensive. And a hint –  it ain’t even close.

I have yet to take the step of purchasing and investing in specialty beard products. Again – here on a tryout basis only. And let’s just say the specialty products do not qualify for the “inexpensive” category in my budget.

One can use vegetable or olive oils in place of specialty beard oils for the same effect of keeping the underlying skin moistened. But who really wants to go around smelling like a salad all day? You can also use Coconut Butter, Shea Butter, or Cacao Butter as the base to make your own homemade beard balm at home. But the first batch will set you back about $50 in starter supplies.

What about baby shampoos? They are gentle. – “Well, yes,” they reply. “But the beard shampoos do not taste bad when you get them in your mouth, which is likely to happen since it is located right where you are shampooing.” Well, that makes sense. And, I don’t know if they make hair conditioners or softeners for babies, anyway. I tend to doubt it.

I do know that shampoos and conditioners made for dogs are formulated to be much gentler than those for humans, but that may be opening me up for more “scruffy” and “mangy” look comments. Attracting birds with a pine-scented beard oil is one thing, but attracting stray dog packs and coyotes with dog shampoos and conditioners would be another. I don’t really run that fast anymore.

Some use Mane and Tail shampoo made for horses on their beards, probably cowboys I’m guessing. But how would I honestly answer or reply if the friendly sales cashier at the store inquired while purchasing – “Oh, what kind of dog/horse do you have, sir?” Having neither, I will probably not be shopping in the dog and horse care aisles, even if they are cheaper than the specialty beard products.

Out in the West, it is an unwritten but well-known rule – “You don’t touch another man’s hat.” Apparently, there is the same rule governing beards – “Don’t touch my beard!” It is considered very rude, and after all the time and effort that some put into growing, trimming, shaping, and maintaining their beards, well – just please don’t do it. But, as for every good rule, there seem to be exceptions, in this case for ladies. But, by all means, don’t do it if you’re another dude, bearded or not. Just sayin’.

Other beard-growing advice and tips abound on the internet on just about any topic one searches for –

  • “My beard itches.” – Use beard oil to lubricate the skin beneath your beard and to prevent Beardruff, the bane of beardsmen everywhere it seems. (Beardruff — Think Dandruff but from the beard. Another new word learned and added to my vocabulary.)
  • “My beard still itches.” – Use more beard oil. Down deep. Work it in. It’s the skin itching. Whiskers don’t itch.
  • “My beard still itches.” – Use more beard oil, and keep it from drying out overnight.
  • “My head slipped off the pillow from all the oil.” – Try a beard balm. Balm it up good before going to bed and sleep on your back to give your beard air and to allow it to breathe.
  • “My girlfriend left because I was snoring while sleeping on my back.” – Find another girlfriend, keep the beard.

And other salient points –

  • “Growing a beard builds character. It teaches the art of patience.” –  I already consider myself a fairly patient fellow, so that’s a non-sell.
  • “Help your beard grow faster by eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and losing weight.” – I think I may have heard that same advice from my doctor last year, but I don’t recall him mentioning beards at the time. Interesting.
  • “Growing a beard, you become a member of the Beard Community, a Bearded Brother — a Beardsman.” – Not much of a joiner here, best left by myself with the bears. Hold the brotherhood club card and save the postage. I am a member of AARP only because they force me to in order to get the supplement health insurance. But wait — does the brotherhood offer Beard Insurance? Wondering about a fire hazard with all this oil and pine resin in it, to be honest.
  • “Keeping a beard helps your skin to look younger in the long run because it protects and shelters your facial skin if you shave it off when older.” – I am much closer to seventy than sixty and quit caring about what I will look like when I get old quite a while ago because I’m already there. The younger-looking skin ship already sailed. And sunk.
  • “Do not trim or cut anything, including your moustache, until the initial three-month grow-in period is over.” – Not sure I will ever get used to hairs in my mouth. Some mornings I wake up feeling like I kissed a Golden Retriever.
  • “Beards are warmer in winter and cooler in summer.” – Taking that summer part under advisement, with a good deal of skepticism. But, must add that the sensation of the wind blowing thru your whiskers on a chilly, breezy day is pretty cool. I’ll give you that one.
  • “To get an award-winning, competition quality handlebar moustache use a glue stick heated with a blow dryer to cement and hold the whiskers firmly in place.” – Seriously? A glue stick?
  • “With a white beard (which mine 98% is) you can make extra money during the holiday season playing Santa Claus.” – If I would have any goals about growing a beard, it would not be to grow a Santa Claus length beard, although fill-in work during the Christmas season might come in handy next year for a little extra pocket cash to pay for all the beard stuff. I always wondered why those gentlemen do it each year, spending all day with other people’s screaming kids in their lap. Now I know – they’re in it for the beard supplies money. What is the going rate for department store Santas these days? I may actually have to look into that as there may be an opportunity there. Making a note. I’m hard of hearing already anyway.

Eating and drinking apparently can be problematic with a bushy moustache or full beard. Experiencing a bit of that already, I must say.

  • “Learn to carefully lift and hold your moustache and beard out of the way when eating, not to mess them up. Always eat with plenty of napkins at hand. And cut your burgers and sandwiches into bite-sized pieces.” – There are videos showing how to artfully, albeit not gracefully, hold your moustache up and out of the way of food while eating, using one or two fingers of the opposite hand. I don’t know if I am that coordinated with the capacity of forethought when really hungry with a juicy hamburger in front of me to remember to lift and separate before each bite. That could be a problem. And as they say, it takes both hands to handle a Whopper. Cutting up a hamburger or other sandwich into tiny bits might raise some eyebrows around the table and restaurant, too.
  • “Learn to carefully lift your moustache up and out of the way when drinking from an open cup or glass. Always use a straw whenever possible, carrying one with you at all times. Or, use “To Go” cups with lids, sipping out of the little opening.” – Again, videos are available to show you how to lift up your moustache before taking a drink of coffee from a cup or a sudsy brew from a glass. I cannot imagine how any of this would be impressive on a date or on a dinner interview. Nor can I imagine sipping a cup of beer from a “To Go” cup or drinking it thru a straw. But, not to worry, there are moustache-saving specialty devices to carry along with you, if you choose. It appears there are specialty products for nearly every circumstance and occasion a beardsman might encounter. Men have obviously been at this beard game and problem-solving work for a long time. I do not ever recall seeing Gandalf, the Vikings, or dwarves struggle with these drinking and dining issues onscreen. So much for reality TV.  Well, Tolkien’s dwarves, though – never mind. I don’t think Gimli and the others really cared. But for the rest of us who do, there are ‘Mustache Guard Drink Attachments’ and ‘Whisker Dams’. You don’t have to take my word for it, just Google it. Go to Amazon. And they aren’t cheap, so don’t get drunk and leave them behind at the bar or on the table when you leave.
  • “Soups and such should be eaten only at home, preferably alone.” – Think lobster bibs if you have a full or long beard, to shield and protect it from staining (especially if white!), together with the pesky lifting the long moustache up out of the way of the soup spoon issue. Soups and the like seem to be pretty much a banned food group, at least in public. I wonder if the Campbell Soup Company knows about this and if so, why haven’t they come up with a solution yet? Possibly missing a large market segment here, it would appear. Beard-staining tomato soup thru a sippy cup, anyone?

I don’t know what happened between senior year of college and “almost-seventy”, but “patchy and sparse” back then seemed to have changed into “seeing a noticeable difference daily” over the years. And no patches, much fuller. So, if you are of young age reading this and disheartened dealing with open, bare spots and patches trying to grow a beard, or can only grow one of those scruffy and shaggy throat-beard things, have hope. Just wait until you are old and couldn’t care less about growing a beard in the first place, and then give it a week or two. I suppose the whisker-growing change probably happened around the same time that my nose and ears became involved in the hair-growth business. Just a guess.

Reaching the seven-week mark at Christmas, I was awarded the new nickname of “Grizzly” from two different people at holiday gatherings, both for my grizzled appearance at the time and for the obvious comparison to Dan Haggerty who played Grizzly Adams years back in the late 1970s, with my own affinity for bears and writing about them with Little Red Bear. I took it as a compliment and am honored to “bear” the name, having always been a fan of both the character and the actor. So, just call me “Grizzly”, folks.

And did you ever notice that the words “Bear” and “Beard” are identical in English, with only the extra “d” being the difference? Another of the English language idiosyncrasies. If “bear” is pronounced “bare”, then why is “beard” not pronounced “bared”? I don’t think it would be a problem to be consistent because I have never heard or seen the sentence – “The man was arrested and taken into custody after drinking all night when he later bared his beard in public” on an evening news report. No serious risk of confusion, I don’t believe.

More than exceptional beard length which I don’t care about and see only as problematic and likely more work trying to maintain than shaving ever was, my only “Holy Cow!” objective would be to grow an honest-to-goodness handlebar moustache. But not a Snidely Whiplash, curled up at the ends, “tie-someone-to-the-railroad tracks” type, or a Salvador Dali, not at all.

More of a bushy Texas Longhorn look. If I could pull off a Sam Elliott stache, that would be a keeper! Or perhaps a walrus moustache as a nod to one of my favorite authors and guiding examples, Mark Twain. Or William Farnsworth from “Anne of Green Gables”. Or Grandpa Walton, Will Geer. Pretty good company, those.

Admittedly at nine weeks right now, there is only a hint of a possible handlebar in the future. The beginning of a bushy longhorn, perhaps. At the least a good effort and hopeful indication of future possibilities, but nonetheless merely a start. And we all know that not all “prospects” make the big leagues.

I must add, that trying to train a baby handlebar moustache so far is about as easy as herding cats. Although despite the oft-used expression, I have never seen anyone really try to herd a mess of cats, even on video, so it’s all left pretty much to the imagination, I suppose.

But it sounds tough, and maybe that also explains why I’ve never seen anyone actually trying to do it. Regardless, you get the idea. It’s training time for the stache to separate it from the beard growth and guide it out to the sides into a brave new world. Hold the glue sticks, though. That’s not happening.

Some have tried to talk me into a Yeard (another new word), letting my beard go totally untrimmed for twelve months, a year’s length. Not going to be doing that, either. If I would end up keeping the beard at all, I would most likely end up with what they call a short, one to three-inch beard. Maybe in the style of Ernest Hemingway. He’s another writer I have always greatly admired. But with a full, bushy moustache borrowed from Sam Elliott or the others. That shouldn’t precipitate any sideways glances or comments, should it? I never was much at conforming. Might need the fellowship of that bearded brotherhood, after all.

 

As I keep pointing out, the beard and moustache are still trying to earn spots on the team and only here on a day-to-day tryout basis, anyway. I still catch myself wondering who that strange, seedy-looking character in the mirror looking back at me is occasionally.

Clearly, a mantra to keep repeating — “Time and Length Will Solve All Problems.”

The plan at this time, being just under a month away from the noted Three Month Benchmark, is to keep it all going until then, trying to guide, grow out, and train an unruly baby stache into a full and bushy handlebar moustache along the way. Herding whiskers trying to rope in a Longhorn.

Please do not write in and ask for any pictures yet. I do not do selfies and Little Red Bear’s paws are too large to work the tiny camera buttons. Just imagine Santa Claus on vacation at the seaside on a 104-degree day, beard trimmed shorter for summer, after a non-stop, three-day bender at The Shattered Shanty Beach Bar, and you’ll be close.

Maybe a picture later provided the beard, moustache, or both land a permanent appearance contract. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Sam Elliott. If the beard goes in the end but the stache stays and ends up anywhere close to Sam Elliott, well – I can live well with that. I already have a hat and boots. We can all dream.


Perhaps the most illuminating point of all this is how we so frequently make random, off-the-top-of-the-head decisions every day, never giving thought to how they could be possibly life-altering down the road. Even in a small way. I simply decided to stop shaving for a week, just for the heck of it and ended up being introduced to a new bearded brotherhood culture that I never knew existed, and developing a whole new level of respect for people with well-cared-for moustaches and beards. And although admittedly a slight change in the big picture view, possibly a different way of life for me. We never stop growing, changing, and evolving as we go along thru life. Nor should we.

Nor should we live our lives confined within the limits of the familiar and comfortable boxes we unconsciously seem to fashion for ourselves over time. Venture outside and go with the flow. I think it especially important to keep expanding our horizons as we grow older. Even if the beard goes away and is history come the first of February, I will have developed an appreciation for and learned a great deal about things and people I never knew before. And that’s always a good thing.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us! Is someone around you working on a change in their life, too? Maybe they could use a kind word, gesture, or encouraging support. Will you do that for them today? Maybe send them an anonymous vial of beard oil or a Whisker Dam, if appropriate.

‘Til next time! Happy Trails! – “Grizzly” Jim (and Red!)


“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” — Christopher McCandless

                                    “Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic.                                  You don’t mind going thru a little bush to get there.” — Minnie Pearl  


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      “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”    — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


 

“Warning” Poem by Jenny Joseph — “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple”

With April being ‘National Poetry Month’ and a focus on spreading awareness and appreciation of poetry, it seems appropriate to share a few favorites along the way.

The “Warning” poem by English poet Jenny Joseph (born May 7, 1932 in Birmingham) is one such poem, because I hear her speaking to each of us, male or female, in an ode to nonconformity, one of my personal favorite rants and topics.   In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek and  fun way, Jenny Joseph conveys a serious message for all, to never take ourselves too seriously or lose the twinkle in our eyes.

Age, after all, truly is only a number.  Contrary to earlier admonitions in my youth to the opposite — “Act your shoe size, not your age!”  It’s a lot more fun.

“Warning” was penned in 1961 at the age of twenty-nine.  Although having published many works in her lifetime and having received numerous awards, Jenny Joseph is best known for this defining poem.  The second line became the inspiration for the founding of the Red Hat Society, the self-described playgroup for women where there is “Fun and Friendship After Fifty.”

“Warning: When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” and Jenny Joseph’s other works are available on Amazon.


“Warning” by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple,
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves,
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


Interestingly, Jenny Joseph is apparently not a fan of the color purple in her own wardrobe (“It doesn’t suit me”), even though the two have perhaps become inseparably linked thru her poem.  But for her to now wear purple against her own personal tastes would be to conform to popular expectations, and that’s really what the poem is all about, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.  Always remember, one very small act of kindness can change someone’s whole day or life around.  Be the reason someone smiles today! — Jim (and Red!)


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  “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”    — Michael Pritchard


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“Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” — Betty Friedan


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“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” — Henry David Thoreau


 

Speaking of Dogs & Cats & Boomers

As a general rule, I endeavor to keep it on the light side here, and do not get actively involved in political discourse. Goodness knows there are already enough serious and worrisome issues and events in the world these days. On the other hand, I have a growing awareness of what I perceive to be a serious problem in this country. As such, I thought it important to bring it to the attention of the soon-to-be growing number of presidential hopefuls and candidates for the next presidential election. I say both “hopefuls” and “candidates”, because I am never quite sure if they are really one in the same and want to be certain to bring the issue to everyone’s attention, not leaving anyone out.

Here is the crux of the matter, to get right to it. I am a baby boomer, and there are a growing number of us reaching the years when we are empty nesters, and/or without spouses or companions for various and obvious reasons. In other words- alone. Aloneness is generally regarded to be unhealthy, thereby impacting the issues of medical care, mental health and associated social costs and issues.

To combat the isolation and solitude, many seek the solace and companionship of pets, primarily dogs and cats in vast numbers. Dogs and cats are excellent companions most of the time, providing sympathetic comfort, great for snuggling and warmth during cold winters (although not so much hot summers when they seem to have the curious urge to snuggle even more), they serve somewhat as alarms and guard dogs against intruders, many perform invaluable service assistance to the challenged and disabled, requiring walks and outings they aid in helping us to exercise and get fresh air, their own food and upkeep costs help to support the economy, etc. All good things.

That being said, here is the concern. All of the above listed benefits of having a dog or cat companion are “physical” or “emotional”. They do very little to stimulate the “mental” side for aging boomers, a very important thing in maintaining a fulfilling, vigorous and healthy lifestyle by challenging and maintaining an active brain as well as body. I have become increasingly aware that dogs and cats in general seem to be very unread and sorely lacking in knowledge of current events beyond issues of food availability and scheduling. They are frustratingly difficult to hold an intelligent conversation with. Great listeners, without question, but clearly deficient in conversation skills and a base of knowledge to draw from to foster insightful discourse and discussion. They don’t distinguish Dali or Degas from a dog dish, or Kipling or Kierkegaard from kibble.

"So, what you're saying is that it wasn't really a Chew Toy? Seemed like it."

“So, what you’re saying is that it wasn’t really a Chew Toy? Seemed like it.”

Indeed, most dogs mistakenly perceive books to be chew toys or pillows rather than tools of enlightenment. And it is we who have allowed this sad state to continue. It is a rather poor reflection on our species, that given our long and close relationship to dogs and cats over thousands of years we have allowed this matter to go unattended for so long, turning our backs on the educational and intellectual development of our dearest companions.  Some certainly seem to be sending us clear messages that they are at the very least interested in books and higher education.  We just have not gotten the message.  Until now.

Accordingly, it seems reasonable that the next group of folks aspiring to be President of our great land and all its people should address the issue of illiterate, uneducated and incommunicative pets, for the sake of not only the ever increasing number of lonely boomers but also for the long term benefits for all the citizenry. With the copious “pork” projects that Congress always seems able to generously fund without risk of government shutdown, I am sure it should be no problem achieving bipartisan support and finding adequate sums to fund Dog and Cat Literacy Research with concurrent studies in Household Pet Speech Therapy, given the proper leadership of the future President.

“O Day of days when we can read!  The reader and the book, either without the other is naught.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In fairness to others, I readily admit that Chimpanzees and other primates would seem to have a leg up on dogs and cats as far as literacy and communication possibilities go, given the advances made earlier in sign language communication with Koko the Gorilla, among others. Along with Parrots and some other avian members perhaps, already given to outbursts of spontaneous, albeit limited speech, most frequently revolving around a desire for crackers. But the prime focus of this is to foster mentally stimulating pet discourse for the sake of aging baby boomers, and so few of us have Chimps, Gorillas or Parrots as pets in the home.  And quite honestly, the troubling images from the “Planet of the Apes” movies still haunt many, making it more difficult for an educational movement to gain traction for the primates, given the opposable thumbs and all.

Dolphins would also offer great promise, displaying consistently high intellect, but even fewer of us are able to keep large sea mammals as household pets. We own more dogs and cats to be sure. Regrettably, the others will have to wait their turn. In a democracy, numbers rule. However, I am confident that whatever scientific strides made in the field of Dog and Cat Literacy and Speech will also benefit the chimps, gorillas, parrots and dolphins down the road as well. And the whales, not to be left out, of course.  So there’s that.

Dog- Reading, Google 11

Doctor Dolittle spoke the language of the animals. It is now incumbent upon us to teach them ours. The time has come to educate the furry members of society. Dog and Cat Literacy.  Free Speech for Pets.  The time has come. For the benefit of baby boomers and their pets in the interest of an intelligent conversation, for goodness sake.

Thanks as always for visiting! —  Jim (and Red!)

"According to this book, I can't read. Why is that, human?"

“According to this book, I can’t read. Why is that?”

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