Elephant costume jewelry
Elephant costume jewelry

Have you ever had a loss?  Losses come in many shapes and sizes, also

Grandmother's wedding ring
Grandma’s wedding ring

emotional and unemotional.  Take for example the loss of a piece of costume jewelry, it is not something that has any great intrinsic value and probably little emotional value. But if it were your grandmothers wedding ring and it were lost or stolen then the value increases greatly both intrinsically and emotionally.  Everything has its own worth, large or small.


2008-08-24 12.20.07

Almost three years ago, Scamp my miniature Schnauzer, died after a


severe stroke, and last year we lost Chloe, another schnauzer, to cancer.  We had Scamp for almost 13 years and Chloe for only one.  We were devastated over the loss of both dogs even though we only had Chloe a year, she had become part of the family and burrowed herself deep into our hearts.

'57 Chevy
’57 Chevrolet

Cars are sometimes as big a loss just like the loss of a pet.  According to one insurance company ad on TV we are so close to our cars that we name them and if we have an accident and it is totaled, we are depressed beyond measure, then when the insurance company pays for a car that is newer you break out into your happy dance.  Really, you must kidding.  I have had cars I really liked but never to the point that it was a love affair.

Some people are that way about their houses or the possessions in them.  When we sold our house 11.5 years ago there were some nostalgic feels I had when we left, it is only normal, it is not like losing a pet or a loved one.  Within just a few months we were settled into our new home and had pretty much forgotten about the old house.  but if that loss is the result of a fire or a violent storm would that change how I woud feel? More than likely I would be devastated, the loss of everything that Kathy and I have worked for over these many years and the memories they represent.

But these losses are trivial compared to the loss of someone you love. The physical death of someone is devastating at the monent and the feeling of hurt will last a short time and turn into a mild ache coupled with the memories that will last a lifetime.  What about the loss of a loved one, not by death or divorce, but by an illness.  It is a toughter loss than can be imagined.

2012-07-21 12.32.05
Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.

My wife, Kathy, has Parkinson’s disease, it is hard to feel the loss when she is right here.  Her walking has slowed, balance is an issue we can overcome with a walker.  Sometines cognitive issues have come up and has caused friction between us, it is not like losing someone to dementia or Alzheimer Disease.  We get irritated with each other, but that is because we are around each other a lot more now that we have entered in that part of life call retirement.  Because of the changes that my wife has gone througth I now do more things around the house, such as grocery shopping, doing laundry, making beds, doing the dishes after meals.  And then there are the doctor’s appointments and since she no longer drives I take her to all of her appointments.  Someone told me not long ago, they having recently lost their loved one, that it was like losing your loved one twice, once to the disease and again when the loved one passes on their rewards.

I had hoped that the two of us would be able to do some traveling and visit places that

New Year Celebration Anywhere
Illumination by fireworks

we had never seen or do again things that we had done in the past, but that is not going to happen.  If I want to see or do something, I have to plan it for the times that I take for respite care.  This does not mean that my wife and I can not go places and take some time to enjoy ourselves, it is just not very often. For example, this July we are going to the Oregon Gardens in Silverton to see the 4th of July celebration. Can you imagine seeing the Gardens lit by the exploding rockets?  It should be spectactular.

Ainsworth UCCLosses like these are what you make of them.  They can be devastating and overwhelming or with a lot of love and support it can be rewarding.  Support comes in many varities, your church (if you have one) can be a great resource, disease related support groups, your city/county may have programs to help with care while you are taking respite time, organizations that you belong to (Masons, Elks, Eagles) might also be able to help.  While on respite ensure that your loved one has plenty of stimulation, lonelyness can turn into depression which can lead into much tougher issues.  Some places, like here in Oregon, have organizations that support particualar diseases or illnesses, ours is Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon

Masonic Square and Compass
The Masons
Elks Lodge

And for goodness sake take care of yourself, be involved with activities that will help you relieve the pressures that build up.  If necessary get yourself a therapist, this a great way of blowing off steam without judgment.  Many therapist have tools to help you cope with loved ones suffering from diseases or illnesses that may or may not linger on for years.


What are they thinking?

The other day something remarkable happened, it was how it was done and by the person who did it.

A plane going from New York to Texas lost an engine, well not really lost; the damn thing blew up, exploded, went where it was not suppose too.  A large part of the engine was found 60 miles north of Philadelphia, the rest of it came down with the plane.  The plane, an older model Boeing 737, was cruising at 30,000 plus feet when the engine blew apart, it broke a window and opened a gash in the fuselage.

A woman seated next to the window or very near was sucked part way out of the plane, another passenger immediately grabbed her and with the help of a couple of others were able to pull her back into the plane.  According to the reports several other passengers had minor injuries.

ARABIAN GULF (July 31, 2016) – An F/A-18F Super Hornet  prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

During all this the pilot, a US Navy veteran, had her hands full, you read right I said her, Tammie Jo Shults.  She was the first woman to qualify to fly the F/A18 in the US Navy and qualify as a Top Gun pilot, but being a woman she could not be a Top Gun flyer, but she could be a trainer, because women were not allowed to fly in combat.  She trained our finest Navy aviators.  During  her own training she landed planes on the decks of aircraft carriers pitching and rolling on the sea.  She learned to fly, as they say, by seat of her pants.  The F/A18s were not fly by wire as most planes are today, these lessons came in handy when her Boeing 737 lost its engine.

Older Boeing 737s are not computer controlled as they are today.  So when the engine blew she had to use the yoke to fly her aircraft.  The first thing she had to do was get that plane down from 30,000 feet to 10,000 just to equalize the pressure between the inside and outside of the plane, that took about 10 minutes.  During the next 10 minutes she brought the plane in for a landing with only one engine and she could not use either the flaps in full extension or the reverse thrust on the good engine.  So she was coming in, as they say, hot.  Without the flaps and reverse thrust she landed her plane praying the whole while that the tires would not blow or the brakes overheated and failed.  After landing she went into the cabin and calmly talked with the passengers.  Now that is one remarkable lady.

Now the most remarkable part of this story is how the media told the story, they had it down just like I have above but more graphic.  But it was how they gushed all over her and said how cool and calm she was.  How she must have had nerves of steel.  The only thing they left out was that she, being a woman, she did not get all emotional and hysterical about the whole thing.  She was cool and knew what to do.  Her hormones did not get in the way as the media thought they would.  “No”, she was trained to do this job, hours and hours behind the stick of a military plane, and many more hours training Navy aviators without letting her  hormones get in the way.  This lady is a real professional.

I just hope and pray that our vision of women starts to change, as to allow women the full measure and equality that men have had for generations.  One thing about the military, women and men receive the same pay for the same work, same grade, and time in service.  We talk about equal opportunity in employment but most of it is just talk.  Until we get serious about it, nothing will change.  As long as employers forbid employees to discuss wages and salaries the problem will continue to exist.  The employer is the greatest stumbling block to progress, let us bring this discussion out of the back rooms and into the light.  Women deserve to be treated better than that.


Special Women in my Life

Recently a friend, Bill, posted on his blog the story of the women in his life, which included his mother, sisters, wife and daughter, and let’s not forget the men along with them. He described his live from early childhood to retirement. Retirement for many of us is still as busy or busier than before we retired. At the end of his blog he asked for comments, here are my comments.

I too grew up in a world where women were expected to stay at home while the man went out to make a living. I was born in January 1949, the first of four children, all born in the Pacific Northwest, as far as I can remember my father worked at three different areas of labor (that’s not to say he worked for only three employers). My first recollection of where he worked was at an ice and cold storage facility, I have vague memories of going with him on a Saturday and running around the ice plant. Next he worked for the railroad, I don’t remember him working there very long, less than a couple of years, since it was shift work there were weeks we did not see him for days at a time. After the railroad he started a series of jobs that spanned the next thirty plus years, he became a salesman. He sold home freezer plans, then furniture and appliances, home delivery of dairy products and back to furniture and appliances. I have met people who knew my dad when he was working and they told me that he could sell ice cubes to native Alaskans in the middle of winter.

Eva Harmon 1986 (2)

All this time my mother stayed at home and did what she was expected to do. Mom did the laundry, cleaned the house, cooked meals and listened to the soap operas on the radio, and later on TV, while ironing. Mom was bored. She didn’t drive for it was not expected of her to drive. If she needed to go somewhere there was the bus or a male friend of the family who would take us if Dad wasn’t available or wait for the weekend or dad’s day off.

It was in my freshman year of high school that mom decided that it was time for her to learn to drive. She had tried several times before with my dad and my uncle, but it always ended up a disaster, of course it was always with a stick shift. Now she asked me to teach her, there was a large parking lot very close to where we lived and it was always empty on the weekend. That is where we would go for her to practice her driving. Later, dad took her out on the roads and highway for her to practice. She passed her drivers exam the first time surprising my dad. It was not long after she took me to get my license.

Now that mom had her driver’s license she no longer wanted to stay home during the day, now she wanted to go shopping without dad, she wanted a Car. Well, dad bought her a used car and on the way home he stopped along the way to have a couple, three, four, you get the picture, drinks. Finally back in the car he proceeds to hit a utility pole and crumpled the right front fender. Mom was so mad she could have spit nails. We got a fender from the salvage yard and mom drove that car with the odd colored fender for several years, she never let my dad get behind the wheel of her car again.

A couple of years later, mom got the itch to work. She went out and got herself a job and quickly rose up to become the lead on the production line. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I went to work at the same place. At work mom was my boss and at home I was her son. During this time mom became pregnant with my sister, I was seventeen and entering my senior year when she was born. Things sure changed at home after the birth, as soon as mom was able and willing to go back to work, she did. It was expected that my brothers and I would do our chores and step up and take care of the baby.

Mom worked at menial jobs, not they weren’t important (at least to her), the rest of her life until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. We lost her in April 1989 at the age of 59. There are things that happen in my life today that reminds me of mom. They are not big things, just small things that cause me to pause and smile.

Kathy 3-18-2010

I married my wife, Kathleen, about four years after high school. We had dated our senior year and after, even when I went into the military we stayed in contact and dated when I came home on leave. After my tour in Viet Nam and now stationed in Germany we got married. I knew when we married that Kathy had a mental illness and a lot of it stemmed from her family life. We made it through the first three years with Kathy in and out of the hospital. We were being reassigned from Oakland, California to Boston, Massachusetts when we found that Kathy was pregnant, after our daughter was born Kathy came off all the meds she was taking. She stayed off the meds for many years taking care of us.

There were times she wanted to go out and work. I encouraged her to go out and find something she would like to do. Kathy was resourceful, she found a job at a day care center as a cook and later as a teacher’s helper working with children with mental and physical disabilities. She did this off and on for several years while going to school and getting her AA degree in Social Work. She did all this until I retired from the Army and we moved back to Oregon. Again she tried to find work, but without luck.

I went through the Carpenters Apprentice program, becoming a journeyman carpenter where I made good money and it came to a point where we felt that Kathy did not need to work outside the home. Shortly thereafter Kathy was back in the hospital and where she was correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Has this life of the military, hospital admissions, becoming a carpenter, 9/11, unemployment, working for a health insurance company and retirement, along with a diagnosis for Kathy of Parkinson’s disease been a strain or a hardship on us or our marriage? Well the short answer is yes and no.

After all these years, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our faith has been one our greatest strengths. Yes we are retired and we have one or two illnesses but we stay busy, doing some things together and others apart. She would go crazy with me hanging around every day. She took care of me all those years, now it is my turn to support and take care of her.

We know so many women who work outside the home. Some work in offices, some work in sales, others with advanced degrees work as teachers or in the software industry or are professionals, a couple are in the trades and even one who is an airline pilot. Looking at all these women you will find some that are married, some who are in relationships, some single and others who choose a different lifestyle. Some have children and others do not. What do all of these women have in common? They are happy, well-adjusted and productive assets to our community, our city, state, country and our world.

A Special Person in My Life

A stitched panorama of downtown Portland, OR a...
A stitched panorama of downtown Portland, OR at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kathy, my wife, is a very special person.  Having put up with the Army for 17 years, my working in construction for 15, and back into an office for the last 8, she has endured as much or more as most women.  She did this while raising a daughter, and battling a disabling illness, thankfully now controlled by medication. Through this entire time she has maintained her sense of humor.

Yesterday we spent part of the day celebrating the Fourth of July with neighbors.  All of us were having a good time and began telling stories about ourselves and loved ones.  I told the story about Kathy that showed how gullible she can be.  Her gullibility is one of her most endearing parts of her personality.

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year during the reelection campaign of President Obama, he was doing a swing through the Western states.  After leaving Seattle he made a quick stopped in Portland going to a small restaurant called “The Gateway Breakfast House”.  During this visit, as is his normal procedure, he talked with customers, particularly the veterans.   After his visit he departed for either San Francisco or Los Angeles.  We saw this on the evening news and were surprised that he was so near our home and we were not aware that he would be here.

The next day at work I decided to pull Kathy’s leg and give her a good laugh.  First I sent her a text saying that “The President was returning to Portland and would be going back to the Breakfast House just to meet Kathy Harmon and that I would meet her there”.  I was surprised when my telephone rang and she told me that she was out walking the dog and was now racing home to get her camera and wanted to know what time we needed to be there.  I told her that I was just pulling her leg and that the President was not returning to Portland.  She responded with her normal ‘you got me’ of “Oh you!” followed by a big laugh.

A Fourth of July fireworks display at the Wash...
A Fourth of July fireworks display at the Washington Monument. Location: WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (DC) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was telling this story yesterday she was still laughing and saying that was one of the best jokes I had ever thought of.  She also added details to the story that I didn’t know or had forgotten.  Our neighbors laughed and saw a side of Kathy they had never seen before, all the while telling me that I shouldn’t tease her that way.