Monthly Archives: December 2011

Storytime Dec 28, 2011

Voices

 A part of me knew I was in the hospital bed and knew I’d been there for quite awhile. I drifted in and out of my dream state, never quite waking, not sleeping very soundly. I felt the cool sheet against my cheek, felt the weight of the blanket on my legs, but had no other sensations. A fog rolled through my head, sometimes thinning, sometimes overpoweringly thick, never quite dissipating.

Voice number 1, again, “Well, none of our drugs are helping and I’m at a loss about what to do next.” This was the medical voice, perhaps a consulting physician.

 Voice number 2, “Doctor, is there any hope?” Sadness in that voice. A relative? A nurse?

Number 1, “All we can do is try.”

I was walking down a long dark corridor, door after door on left and right, only enough light to see these faint images, not enough for clarity. Occasionally a bit of light escaped from under one of the doors but no one responded to my knock; I moved on. At the end of the corridor was a source of light but I seemed to be getting no nearer to it.

 A new Voice, “You say there is no sign of brain activity? Is it time to make the decision?” I tried to shout out, “I’m alive! Don’t do this thing!” I couldn’t make the sounds. Who was asking this dreadful question?

More doors, more small beams of light under the doorways. Still no answer, no matter how I pounded on the doors. The light at the end of the corridor might be marginally brighter now; was it my imagination?

The same legal-sounding Voice, “Call in the family, I’ll get the forms ready.” Forms? Did I need to sign something? Why can’t they wake me?

 I look up from the depths, trying to find the surface of this pool, if there be a surface. Where am I? Back in the corridor again; was there ever a pool at all? More lights, sometimes some faint sounds. Am I the only real person in this strange dark world? The light at the end of this never-ending corridor is definitely brighter now. I try to hurry, hoping to catch it.

 A kindly Voice, “Are you sure? Can nothing be done?” Spoken with tears and deep sadness. The sound of finality.

I’m running now, almost to the light, almost to… what? It’s a doorway with frosted glass in the upper half, its existence beckons me. I reach the door, push against the brass plate and the door swings wide. I pass through and find myself floating above a hospital room; there’s a patient in the bed. Can it be? Is it me? There are shiny decorations on a small tree by the bedside; a woman is seated in a bedside chair, sleeping. Outside the window, snowflakes drift down, blurring the city lights. I hear a Christmas carol on the television set above the bed.

Lower I float, lower and lower until I am touching the still body in the bed, now actually entering the body, feeling more and more sensations within it; the smell of the flowers, the rustling sounds of paper as a lady in a business suit is working with a clipboard at the foot of the bed. I reach up, touch the face of the sleeping woman and she is startled awake. She jumps to her feet and looks down at me, shouting, “My Samantha! Are you alive? Are you back?” Now she is kissing me, hugging me, crying my name.

I’m only six years old but I feel like so much has happened. I want to tell my mother all about the corridor, but that can wait. For now, I’ll enjoy Christmas morning.

 

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Holiday Doin’s

The last few days have been pretty busy, season-wise.  Last Friday (Dec 16th) we went to a Christmas party at Pfrimmer’s Chapel for some kids in the Project Head Start program, and we got to visit and hand out donated gifts to the children.  BIG fun!

Saturday was really full.  It was my last session as Corydon’s Santa, so I was in the Old Capitol building from 1 – 5 PM welcoming all the kids who wanted to come whisper their Christmas wishes.  Lotsa fun, very rewarding!  I ‘punched out’ at 5PM, headed straight home because we (me and Mrs Claus) had to be at the next-door-neighbors for a Christmas party with LOTSA kids!  So, we went over to see Matt and Anna, their two kiddos, and a BUNCH of visiting tykes!  We were a BIG hit, I can tell ya!  I went in wavin’, and the kids almost swooned with ecstacy!  They were hopping around, screaming, we loved it!  We couldn’t stay for a very long time because we had one more place to be that day.

We said goodbye to the kids at the party, then rushed home to change into our ‘rustic costumes’ for Corydon’s Old-Time Christmas celebration.  We were volunteers and were scheduled to appear at the old cabin out at the Civil War battleground site just at the south end of town (for those who don’t remember, the site commemorates the raid by the Confederate troops under General John Hunt Morgan – their incursion into Indiana was one of only two invasions by Confederate troops onto Northern soil – the other was at Gettysburg).  Anyway, my assignment was to sit in a rocker in the cabin and read the newspaper, Kate was to pretend to be baking cookies in the kitchen end of the cabin, and to pass out ‘actual cookies’ to the visitors.  Kate had made me a very nice vest for the occasion – I’m constantly amazed at her skills with needle and thread!   You can see me sitting there (sans newspaper), appearing as ‘local flavor’, I guess  🙂  Check out Kate’s outfit (which she made, of course) – very nice dress and apron, and I LOVE that little hat!

Well, when we first entered the cabin we were VERY pleased to discover that the Corydon Dulcimer Society had 5 of their folks inside the cabin performing.  It was wonderful!  They had 4 folks on dulcimer and one fellow on guitar – later, they had a lady show up wtih her antique harp and she joined in.  Quite the musicfest!  I also got to help feed the fire, since I couldn’t play the dulcimer  🙂

I’ve included a few photos of the musicians and a few miscellaneous shots (including a photo of me with Jamie Eiler, a fine fellow from New Albany who’s a regular at these re-enactment things – the lady with the tray of cookies is Nancy Snyder, the usual ‘straw boss’ for these events.  That gal is an ORGANIZER!)

 So, if any of this ‘old-timey’ stuff seems NEAT, be sure to attend next year, OK?

The Blue Forest

Almost Christmas, and time to do the wacky outdoor lighting thing.  I had this idea that it might look nice to put up some strings of blue lights all along our VERY LONG driveway (100 yards long).  I first pictured stringing them above the driveway, horizontally about 20 feet up, but then I modified the plan and decided to have the light strings hanging down the trunks of the trees on either side of the drive.

Here are some elements of the plan:

1.  Use LOW VOLTAGE!  I really didn’t want to get fried on the ladder while hanging silly Christmas decorations.

2.  Low voltage = LED lights.  No problem.  But, as it turns out,  strings of LED lights cost TEN TIMES the cost of regular (cheap imported) 115VAC lights. Hmmm – I still think LED lights might be cheaper than a funeral!

3.  I’ve worked in electronics for MANY years for various companies, used lots and lots of different kinds of wire, never thought too much about what wire costs.  Let me tell you, they’re not giving that stuff away!  I finally settled on a 1000 foot spool of 16 gauge speaker wire.  Fortunately, I got out for only $65 on that item.

4.  Regarding the source of the required 12 volts DC to operate the lights:  there are WAY too many options there, and I wasn’t real sure where to start shopping for that item.  I wound up buying a computer power supply (for an XT computer) from Tiger Direct for about $11.00 – not too bad.  It has lots of various voltage outputs, and I might be able to use it for some other project after Christmas is done.

So, assembly time! ( Let me say now, Kate was a lifesaver on this project!  She helped me in so many ways, from helping me carry the extension ladder and assisting with many of the other tasks involved.  She’s a hard worker and really helped make it all happen.)  The assembly itself was nothing technically challenging, it was easy enough to keep the polarities straight on the speaker wire, and for the most part it was just moving the ladder, climbing the ladder, splicing wire and using fencing staples to attach to the trees.

The last picture (didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped) will give you *some* idea of the finished project.  I’ll try to get a better picture later.

Anyway, that was our big project for December 2011.  So, Merry Christmas to all, and I hope you enjoy the Blue Forest when you come visit during the holiday!

The Norwegian Spirit awaits!

We had such a great time on our cruise this past February (I’m sure you remember all my posts about that), we’re going to do it again – same ship, same cruise, same ports of call!  We’ll drive to New Orleans to arrive in time to board the ship January 22nd.  The ship will sail at 5:00 PM, heading for warmer climes (I’ve included a graphic that shows our itinerary).

We didn’t sign up for a lot of ‘shore excursions’ this time – we’re mostly planning to enjoy the journey itself with possibly some time spent wandering around the tourist areas nearest the docking point.

As you may note on the itinerary, one of our ports-of-call will be Roatan, Honduras.  Kate has done some  research and gathered some information about an orphanage we had heard about on Roatan and we’ll be visiting that facility while we’re there.  We’ll be making some modest donations of clothing and food to try to help out in a small way.  We’ll get a tour and get to meet the children during our visit – should be quite rewarding.  There are State Department traveler advisories about Roatan that tell us not to go off on our own there – robberies not uncommon.  We’ll be escorted during our time there so we shouldn’t have any difficulties.  If I post my obituary here in February you’ll know things didn’t go well  🙂

And, as usual, we’ve notified our nearby neighbors to watch the place, just lettin’ you burglars know to stay away!

So, if you’re desperate to have some more ‘Jim n Kate’ time and want to escape winter’s grip, come join us in New Orleans – we’ll be lookin’ for ya!!

Storytime: Night Sounds

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Note from Jim:

I’m going to try to get back into writing mode, so from time to time I’ll put a story up here for your perusal.  Comments appreciated – if you like the story, if you don’t like the story, leave a note  🙂

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Night Sounds

He had almost dozed off when he heard the voices again.  The bedroom was dark and quiet, there were no sounds coming from outside, no air conditioner racket, nothing.  He held his breath, waited.  After a bit he relaxed, felt sleep drifting over him, almost asleep… There it was again.  Two men talking in low voices, strange accents.  It was English, but somehow foreign, perhaps archaic.

Slipping quietly out of bed he went to the window, opened it slowly and leaned out.  The summer night held only the noises of insects and the occasional rustling of nesting birds, restless in the branches.  He leaned out as far as he dared, but could see no one.  Living in the country as he did he hardly expected to see anyone out there.  He lowered the window, returned to his bed and tried to find sleep.

Furtive whispering, “Mayhap he’s on the old Post Road.  We can look for him on the morrow.”  Then the other voice, “Yes, that’s it!  We’ll grab ‘im, then Bob’s your uncle!”

That did it; up he jumped and flipped on the light, then grabbed the revolver from the night table.  Someone had to be in the hallway and he was going to confront them.  He went to the door of the bedroom and opened it halfway.  He peered into the dark hallway.  So far, nothing.  He opened the door the rest of the way and warily stepped through, half expecting to receive a blow.

The entire house was quiet, nothing moved, there were no strange men in the hallway or anywhere else.  He waited for his wildly beating heart to slow as he leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths.  He went back into the bedroom, placed the gun back in the drawer, and turned out the light.  Sleep finally came, followed eventually by sunlight streaming in the window.

Saturday morning, at least he didn’t have to work today.  It would be hard to face the traffic into the city feeling as bad as he did.  Very little sleep and he felt like someone had thrown him down the stairs several times during the night.  The temporary work assignment to Vermont was an interesting change, but this problem with the “night visitors” was getting to be a major annoyance.  The old house he was leasing was comfortable enough, but apparently, it held secrets.  Well, he had the whole weekend to unravel this particular secret.

He decided to go into the village to the library – maybe he could find the original plans to the house and get some answers that way.  One possibility was that there were secret passages that would allow the owners of those voices to prowl the walls of his bedroom.  He wasn’t scared, he was mainly just irritated, and if this was a prank it was a damned poor one.

The librarian was also an amateur local historian, and she pointed him to the precise volume he needed: “Architectural Plans of Historical Homes in Bennington County”.

He was able to go directly to the plans for his old house, and then it was no problem to find the layout of the second floor bedrooms.  The bedroom he occupied was described in great detail in the plans, with annotations alongside the drawings.  The house had been re-done early in the 20th century and some significant changes had been made in the process of adding modern conveniences like bathrooms.  Although interesting, the plans didn’t seem to be yielding many secrets.  He was about to throw in the towel but then he noticed an addendum referenced at the bottom of the page.  He flipped to the end of the section and found some builder’s notes that mentioned having to shorten the main closet to avoid the problem of the last window on that side of the house.  The window was awkwardly placed, and it certainly wasn’t needed in a closet, so they just hid it behind the closet wall.  Ok, now he had something to pursue.

He left the library and headed home.  He wasn’t a carpenter or contractor, but just maybe he could do some poking around and figure this out.

Now inside his bedroom he opened the closet door, removed all the hanging clothes and laid them on the bed.  He went inside the closet and decided to just sit on the floor for a bit and listen.  It was still daylight, but who knew what the rules were here?  After two hours he gave it up and tried moving slowly around the closet walls, tapping along, trying to find an area that was somehow unusual.  Nothing.

Bedtime again, but this time things were going to be different.  He left the closet door open and laid down on a pallet just outside the closet.  He felt foolish, but felt he needed to at least try something.

He tried to stay awake, but was so tired from last night’s loss of sleep that he quickly dozed off.  Sometime in the night he awoke suddenly with the feeling that he’d heard a noise.  Yes, there it was, the same voice, “We’ve come a cropper, mate.  ‘e didn’t show up after all.”  The second man, “Blimey, wot now?”

He jumped to his feet, then stood stock-still, listening.  The conversation continued, but it was more of a murmur now and he couldn’t make out the words.  He stepped into the closet, moving his ear along the walls until he came to a point in the middle of the back wall that seemed to be closest to the source.  He tapped on the wall, then stopped and listened again.  The voices kept on without interruption, still too low to be understood.

The garage doubled as a workshop, and he needed a saw.  He crept from the room and made his way to the shop, found his saw and returned to the closet.  With as little noise as possible, he began to saw a line in the closet wall, making a right turn at the bottom and continuing over.  He continued until he had described a rectangular cut, approximately four feet high and two feet wide.  With his pocketknife, he pried at the left cut until the section of wallboard dropped to the floor and then he was able to set it out of the way.

Behind the exposed section there was some kind of dusty fabric, like canvas.  Using his knife again he slashed at it to get it loose.  After thirty minutes, he was able to pull the stubborn old rags out of the hole and saw that the old forgotten window was now accessible.  He stopped again.  He could no longer hear the voices.

The glass was still in the window but it was so old and stained it was not possible to see anything through it.  He pried and strained, and was finally able to get the window to move upwards a bit.   With much squeaking and complaining, he pushed it up to its limit.

There was a chill wind blowing, and snowflakes were now coming in.  But it was summer, how could this be?  He squinted  his eyes against the cold and snow and leaned out.

It was at this moment that he lost his balance and fell out, falling and sliding down the slope of the roof until he catapulted over the edge and fell with a thump into a loaded hay wagon.

Red-uniformed soldiers carrying muskets quickly surrounded the wagon.  He held up his hands in surprise and surrender.  What was going on here?  Was there a re-enactment outside his window?  He shivered in the cold.  This was all wrong, all wrong.

The officer commanding the men shouted, “Another damnable spy hiding on the roof, eh?  Hang him with the others!”

As they led him to the tree he realized he was about to get more rest than he bargained for.

Santa Season is here

As I probably said before, I get to be the official Corydon Santa again this year, and it’s already been big fun!  Just last Saturday Kate and I participated in “Light Up Corydon” where I got to do the countdown to turn on the lights on the square.  Kate was in attendance as the beautiful Mrs Claus, lovely as always!  Immediately following the countdown we were escorted to the Old Capitol Building, just a short stroll from the bandstand.  They were all set up for Santa’s arrival there with a comfy chair and the official photographer ready to capture the moment for all the kiddies who came to visit.

For the next 3 Saturdays I’ll be back at the Capitol Building from 1 – 5 PM.  I hope we get lots of kids again this year, it’s always lots of fun!

I have a couple of other ‘Santa gigs’ lined up, charity shindigs, and I’m sure those will be equally rewarding.

Merry Christmas to all, HO HO HO!  🙂