Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hello Day 67!

I decided to quit smoking in January. Well, decided may be the wrong word for it. I didn't really think about it, it wasn't like I sat around writing up a list of pros and cons and, seeing that the pro side was vastly less populated than the con side, announced "That's it! I shall stop smoking!"

What actually happened was I was sitting in my home office with all the doors closed so the smoke wouldn't get into the rest of the house when it occurred to me that I was just done. I'd been spending way too much time lately burning scented candles and spraying air freshener because the smoke smell was bothering me more than usual. I was smoking around a pack a day and doing so was bugging me. It's expensive ($10+ a pack here in New York State), it stinks up the house, it stinks up my clothes, it stinks up my hair, and ... oh yes, let's not forget this little detail ... it's deadly. The only good thing about smoking for me was the fun factor. I liked it. Or at least, I did like it. All of a sudden the fun factor was getting its ass kicked by all the negatives. All of a sudden, smoking wasn't so much fun anymore.

So I stopped. There in my office I was puffing away when I said out loud, "Oh man, this is just disgusting." I mashed the cigarette out, threw the rest of the pack away, emptied every ashtray in the house, washed them, and packed them away in a cabinet. I've been a smoker, on and off, since the early 1980s, but always insisted to people that I wasn't addicted. The response to that pronouncement was almost always the same: "Yeah, right." Everybody assumed it was the addict in me talking when I said I wasn't physically hooked, but I really wasn't. I was socially hooked in a big way. Loved to smoke when on the phone, or in the car, or after a meal. Sitting down with a friend for a chat and a glass of wine? Out came the cigarettes. Cup of coffee? Oh yes, cigarette required. I was never one for going outside in the freezing cold to huddle against a building for a puff (that's not to say I never did it, but I never liked it and for the most part preferred not smoking to standing around like a delinquent in some alleyway). So on January 9, 2015, around 6 o'clock at night, with no fanfare and with ten or so cigarettes still left in the pack, I just quit.

I have to say it has not been hard. There were a few times when I got this "saliva feeling" in my throat that I think was a physical reaction to wanting to smoke. And yes, there was the altercation I had with the TV remote after I dropped it on the floor. The remote stopped working and I flipped out, screamed and cussed and pounded it on my desk 12 times, then threw it across the room. I know I pounded 12 times because there are now 12 tiny holes in the wood where the little nub on the back of remote punched into my desk top. (Ironically, the remote just needed new batteries.)
On the good side? The house and my clothes and my hair smell wonderful, the very tiny cough I once had is gone, and I wake up every morning without the fuzzy and nagging thought "gottaquit gottaquit gottaquit." Then there's the money! Sixty-seven days (as of today) equals $670. By the end of one year, if indeed I had smoked a pack a day and taking into consideration that I infrequently bought cartons, I will have saved $3,650, much of which I plan to plug into my Maine summer vacation. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a win-win!
What made me stop? Who knows. Sometimes you just hit the wall with things: bad habits, bad choices, bad people. Sometimes you just say "I've had enough" and walk away, feeling so much better -- on every level -- that you did.
So I'm taking a deep breath (an easier thing to do now), enjoying Day 67, and looking forward to Day 68 ... and to all the good smoke-free days to come.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Sherburne Native Invents Temporary Wall System, Launches Kickstarter Campaign

Jim Hoefler, formerly of Sherburne and a graduate of SECS (’73), has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital that will help him bring his latest invention – XoomRooms (pronounced “ZoomRooms”) – to market. XoomRooms is a portable, temporary wall and storage system Hoefler has been working on for the last three years. Kickstarter is a social media site that allows inventors, entrepreneurs, and community activists an opportunity to raise capital for their ventures on the web. You can view Jim’s XoomRooms web site and see a link to his Kickstarter campaign here: http://XoomRooms.com

“Kickstarter is a little bit like the television show ‘Shark Tank’” Hoefler explains, “except you make your pitch on the web, anyone can contribute in any amount desired, and the contribution is a donation rather than an investment.”

The campaign will run for 30 days, from January 20 to February 19, 2015. Jim, son of Sherburne native and current resident Katie Hoefler, started working on XoomRooms in 2012 after helping his daughters create a temporary bedroom to sublet in their Washington, DC, apartment. The temporary walls he created worked fine, and his daughters successfully sublet the bedroom he created for them, but the walls were difficult to assemble and were not able to be reused when his daughters moved. 

So Hoefler set out to create a wall system that would be easy to set up and durable enough to be reused in other locations.  "There was nothing on the market that could make creating temporary spaces like this in your home possible” he recalls, “and while my walls served their purpose, I wanted to create something that any Do-It-Yourselfer could use. XoomRooms seems to fit the bill perfectly!” 

Several XoomRooms prototypes are already up and working well in Sherburne, and in his current home town of Carlisle, PA.  “Now it’s time to scale up production capacity so I can bring the product to the masses,” Jim says. “That’s what the Kickstarter campaign is all about."

“Take a look and see what I’ve been up to,” Hoefler says.  “Even if you don’t contribute, if you like what you see, it’s really important that you share the Kickstarter link with all your friends!”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry Christmas to a Remarkable Town

Two really important things happened for The Sherburne Inn in the past couple of weeks. On December 4th we (finally) got the signed contract from New York State for the 2013 grant. What this means in a nutshell is that we can (finally) begin work on the building. It was a long 358 days from the time of the announcement that we got a $500,000 grant to the actual signing of the contract, but the day (finally) came. The grant process is an arduous one, with lots of waiting and paperwork and late nights and government red tape and so on. In the end though, it's worthwhile, and we are tremendously grateful to New York State. Last year the state said they believed in the project, and said so with a promise of major funding. On December 4th they made good on that promise.
To clarify, that we got the contract signed doesn't mean hammers will be heard pounding at the Inn anytime soon. There are other steps to take, bid packages to get approved, planning sessions to be held, and many decisions to be made. Still, things are moving forward. Finally.
The second big thing to happen was that on December 11th New York State granted us yet another half million dollar economic development grant for the project. For those who are counting, that's a million dollars SSIRP is getting from the State of New York to restore and reopen The Sherburne Inn, a million dollars awarded in 12 months to the day. We don't know how long it'll take for the contract on the new grant to be signed, but that's okay. The first half million will get us started on the exterior of the building, and by the time the second contract is signed we'll be just about ready to move to restoration inside. More funds need to be raised, of course, and we'll be launching a corporate fundraising campaign in the spring. SSIRP anticipates that corporate money will start to flow now that we have New York State as our primary project funder.  
Like I said, it's been a long year during which patience has begun to fray, for those of us on the SSIRP board and most certainly for people in our community who have been wondering what's going on as they pass by the building and see no progress. We knew from the beginning this would be a step-by-step process, and while we've been waiting for the state to untangle its red tape we've been laying the foundation to transition this historic building from a dark shell to a thriving hub. Rest assured that every board member of SSIRP -- along with the wonderful volunteers who have come forward to lend a hand -- are dedicated to bringing back The Sherburne Inn. There have been so many volunteers that it's impossible to name them all, but you know who you are, and SSIRP is and will be eternally indebted. This project in late 2012 began with a handful of voices. Today those voices are a choir, and they are everywhere. 
This Christmas, I speak for the entire SSIRP board of directors in extending thanks to everyone in Sherburne, in surrounding communities, and those from far away who have supported us (with particular thanks to the Howard K. Finch Memorial Foundation and The INN-SIDERS). The individual donations, large and small, have brought us to where we are today, celebrating the state grants that will launch this project forward. Without the checks that have arrived by mail over the past two years we would not have been able to continue. Thank you for supporting our fundraising events, for pressing twenty dollar bills into board members' hands, for buying (and selling) INN-SIDERS' books, for touring the Inn to see for yourself the building we love, and for sending letters and emails of encouragement. This is a special town, one I'm glad and proud to call home.
To everyone who has been so generous of time, money, and spirit -- Merry Christmas! It is because of you that we are on our way!!
Oh yes, and mark your calendars for summer 2017 -- no promises yet, but we're shooting for a grand opening on the Inn's 100th birthday!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Small Town Angel

In my last post I was griping about the UPS person (among other things) and how he or she completely ignored my note about putting packages on the side porch.
The Universe is such a mysterious and wonderful place.
It's Christmastime and I've been busy ordering gifts. Every other day or so a present seems to arrive. Sometimes I see the UPS truck slow down in front of my house, sometimes I don't. On Thursday I did, so like a kid in footies and snowman-covered pajamas, I dashed through the rooms to see what new item was being delivered. I opened the door as the UPS man was coming up the steps and he introduced himself as the son of someone I know. "Hey!" I said, we exchanged pleasantries, and then Harry came tearing down the hall in typical Harry fashion, barking his head off. I joked about my furry doorbell, we waved goodbye, I took my package, and that was that; or so I thought.
Today another package arrived and this time I didn't see the truck. I checked the porch this afternoon and did indeed find a box, some delivery from Amazon. On top of the box was a dog bone. For Harry.
There are times I regret leaving New York City to journey into another life upstate, to a little town where everybody seems to know your business and where I have to travel 40 miles to find a sushi restaurant. Today was not one of those days.
Santa came early this year, not in a sleigh but driving a big brown truck, reminding me (as the Grinch discovered) that Christmas doesn't come from a store. It comes from the heart.
Thanks Mr. UPS angel. You made my week (not to mention Harry's).


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Strange November ... and Snoooowww

It's been a strange November.

Last week was "one of those weeks" for me. Went to the store and bought a can of paint, dropped it in my driveway and splattered Bright White all over myself and my leaves, which (admittedly) I have not raked. Later I was spooning Chinese noodles onto a plate and the plate inexplicably snapped in my hand, showering noodles all over the kitchen and, ultimately, broken plate pieces all over the floor. The next day I was looking at emails on my phone while walking (bad idea). I slammed into the wall instead of walking through the door. Light bulbs, recently replaced, have been burning out. My wood pile fell over -- just fell over. One day it was nicely stacked and the next day wood was all over the driveway, not far from the paint spill. I left a note for the UPS man on the front door, asking politely that he walk around the porch and leave newly-ordered and arrived Christmas gifts at the kitchen door. Twice he (or she) has left them on the front porch, directly under the note. Can UPS people not read?? Speaking of notes, I've put a note to myself on the back door that says "DOG IS IN" and, on the other side, "DOG IS OUT" because I keep forgetting where Harry is. Of course now I keep forgetting to turn the note over to indicate his location. Usually he barks if he wants to come back inside, but not always, and I don't want to find my dog as a frozen fishstick on the back steps because I can't keep his whereabouts straight.

I suppose it's possible I'm losing my mind, but I think it's the snow, or rather, the threat of snow. Big-eyed, I've been studying the news and Facebook, all of which feature photos of 10-foot-plus snowbanks in Buffalo. I went to school at Brockport, not far from Buffalo, and remember one year after the holidays returning to find 15-foot banks of snow lining the roads. So far here at home the snow has been minimal, but my gut is telling me it's coming this way, and coming soon. No, we don't have the same lake-effect troubles as Buffalo and Syracuse, but we always seem to get the residuals.

In truth, I like snow and this visually pristine -- if freezing -- time of year. But not when it buries the car and mounts up against the doors. I don't like shoveling snow anymore than I like raking leaves. It's fun and peaceful to watch flakes drift outside the family room windows, cozied up beside the fire. It's most certainly not fun to dig out the car every day to go to the post office and witness story-high banks of snow in the street.

Then again, it's the weather ... what are you going to do? I can handle wacky weather patterns because, as New York City people like to say about pretty much everything, it is what it is. And I'm a Central New Yorker. We get snow here, and anybody who constantly complains about it is living in the wrong place. What's harder to handle is my brain on potential snow overload, not to mention the non-brain events (light bulbs, wood piles, UPS man) interfering with my daily life.

As one friend of mine often says, Big Sigh. As another says, Whatever. Winter isn't coming, it's here, just a touch early. Time to hunker down, stop carping, crank up the furnace, and be thankful that I work from home (and that I don't live in Buffalo).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deer Judge Judy: A Tail About Me and Harry

Me and Harry went for a walk the other day. On the walk we seen lots of things. We seen real pretty leaves falling and we seen other dogs and we seen some other people. Then me and Harry came home.

Does anybody out there think this paragraph (not to mention the headline) makes me sound kinda ... stupid??

One of my favorite shows is Judge Judy. I love the way JJ deals with the idiots who are suing each other for things like kids writing in crayon on rental apartment walls and loans that the defendants inevitably insist were gifts. Most fascinating to me, however, is the lack of language skills that permeates the show. It's gotten to the point where I tune in just to hear abominable English, the way rubberneckers slow down to see the gory details of a car accident. For quite some time now I've been wondering how JJ can stand it, and in fact have also been wondering if she even notices anymore.

Well apparently she does. The other night a couple of highschoolers were suing each other over a rumble. Girl "A" hit Girl "B" across the face with a bottle in response to Girl "B" threatening a friend of Girl "A." When Judge Judy asked Girl "B" to explain the circumstances, "B" began with "Me and Amber were at the gas station and I seen Girl "A" coming at me with a bottle and ..." at which point she was interrupted by Judy, who evidently couldn't take it anymore.

"You SAW her," JJ snarled.

Girl "B" blinked, cocking her head like a curious (and stupid) sparrow.

JJ then added, gazing squarely into the camera: "I just want America to know that I'm aware of this shattering of the English language."

The "shattering of the English language." Exactly. And sadly, the Judge Judy show is far from being the only pond containing such poisonous water. The inability of Americans -- particularly young ones -- to utter an intelligent sentence is everywhere. "Me and So-and-So" seems to have become the new normal. I hear it on TV, in movies, on the street, and in the store where I buy my coffee. Is ANYBODY teaching proper English anymore?? Do students write "Me and Somebody" in term papers, and does that get corrected or do teachers just let it slide, intoning the importance of the message and not the details and insisting they don't want to harm the delicate egos of those in their charge?

Parents and teachers and throngs of others have been engaged in relentless carping about the Common Core Curriculum. "It's not right, it's too hard, it's too complicated, it's too politicized." Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The big question, though, is does CC -- or any curriculum -- teach basic English? Is anybody out there telling their students and children that me and Harry didn't go for a walk, that instead Harry and I went for a walk? Here's another favorite: "Bob was so nice to Harry and I." No, Bob wasn't. Bob was so nice to Harry and ME. This was one of the first lessons I learned in grade school ... take out "to Harry and" from the sentence and what you've got, at least in the first example, is Bob was so nice to I. Is that next great wave of our language's evolution? "Gee, Bob fixed my flat tire, he sure was nice to I." Folks are famous for discussing the evolution of the language, how "urban" terms end up in the dictionary, how "lol" and "omg" are now part of the vernacular. I've got no problem with this. What I DO have a problem with is my fellow Americans sounding like they just arrived in their spaceship after a long, drug-induced trip from Remulak.

I don't expect 20- (and 30-) somethings to walk around quoting Shakespeare, but for the love of God, can't they at least speak as though English isn't their second language? It's no wonder people around the world think Americans are morons. Educators are so worked up about being sure school kids are up to snuff in math and science that they seem to have missed the language skills boat. I can only imagine the horror: a grown American scientist, one who went to school in the current decade, finds a cure for cancer and twenty years from now announces publicly, "Me and my team are real happy about it, LOL!. We seen them cancer cells under the microscope and OMG .. zapped 'em!"

Most shattering about the Judge Judy example is that the girls testifying about their rumble were still in high school, allegedly under the guidance of educators, of ENGLISH teachers.

When some slacker takes money from someone else and says he didn't pay it back because (shrug) "It's not my fault, I didn't have the money," JJ is often heard to say, "Well you ARE going to pay it back, you're not getting away with this, not in MY America."

Dear Judge Judy: Ethics, morals, political and individual responsibility, courage of convictions, courage in general, and even something as seemingly insignificant as a simple declarative sentence are becoming ghosts in our culture. People who once said "I did it, it's my fault, I'll accept the consequences" are on the dinosaur track, being replaced by shruggers who steal and scheme and can't even speak intelligently while they're doing it. Dear Judge Judy: unless parents and teachers start walking a different road, unless they stop complaining about political agendas and start teaching the difference between right and wrong (which includes the garbage coming out of their mouths), unless they start teaching kids consequences for their actions and stop giving them everything their little hearts desire, your America, and mine, is on the downhill slide. 

Buckle up.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum