Aesthetician

Watching an infomercial I learned a new word today. One can not be certain where one will gain new knowledge. As an authority on skin care an aestheticism is ranked in this infomercial along side of a dermatologist as proof this was a fine product. My first thought was what does an art aficionado have to do with skin care?

I asked the google of all knowledge.

aes·the·ti·cian/ˌesTHəˈtiSHən/ Learn to pronounce nounnoun: aesthetician; plural noun: aestheticians; noun: esthetician; plural noun: estheticians

  1. a person who is knowledgeable about the nature and appreciation of beauty, especially in art.
  2. (North American) a beautician.

There is a different meaning in the U.S. I did not know that but now I do. So both dermatologist(s) and beauticians agree that this new product which is a combination of an LED flash light and a personal vibrator is essential to your health.

In a blackout one can employ it to find one’s shoes and other enjoyment. It makes one ponder battery life.

Carpe Diem!

Visit with Friends

We had a nice long visit with friends yesterday.

Life long friends.

High school friends — Paul and I met in high school. We met probably in homeroom of our freshman year. My memory is vague on that account. Nevertheless we spent a great deal of time together in class. His surname was one letter off of mine, so often we were seated side by side in the back of class. Occasionally we were seated so that I was behind him in class and in one instance with a teacher whose last name also began with W, we were side by side in the front row. Teachers like alphabetical.

Paul was always nearby. I could touch him if I needed to do that. Sitting behind him in class was a plus. I was tall and grew taller in high school. He was taller than me throughout our high school years. In that one class I could hide if I wanted. It did not last long.

Purcell High School

We were not competitive in high school just good friends. It is rare that a friendship develops and remains throughout two lives in which being apart is as though it was not when those friends meet. Their meeting may be often or seldom but when they meet once more it is as though no separation happened. Our friendship is like that.

Through life our worlds separated and re-connected in a celestial mystical dance. We went to different universities. We got married. Magically our wives like each other. Raised families. Followed our own life paths. Attended our kids marriages. And as the families grew and spread out, we met up every few years to vacation together.

Cheryl’s reaction to an adjustment in her Parkinson’s medication destroyed our last attempt to vacation together. The disease is adding an element of confusion, hallucination and dementia as it progresses within her.

In the fall of 2019 we successfully made a trip to Florida by car to visit with family. After the pandemonium of COVID, I hope to make the trip north to visit Paul and Cathy. Cheryl occasionally talks about that and before I get too old, I suppose we should try.

With wonderful friends we had a wonderful, peaceful visit yesterday. We had long conversations about totally random topics that included children, grand children, the stock market, parents, food, diets and onward. Thinking about it now after the fact, I do not recall each individual topic. Our conversation merely flowed from one thing to the next. Occasionally it stopped. We were comfortable with listening to the cicadas. It was a pleasant afternoon and Cheryl had a peaceful sleep filled night afterward.

There are no cicadas in Minnesota.

Carpe Diem.

Memorial Day 2021

It is the very last day in May this year.

In St. Bernard, Ohio the little town surrounded by a bigger town in which my wife of fifty-plus years grew up and left at an early age, they had a simple recognition ceremony of those who were killed in the two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war and the current excursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a day of remembrance. Sometimes a day of sadness and grief.

Last year the ceremony was non-existent due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This year it was poorly attended. There were perhaps fifty people and half of those were participants.

A DJ played music before the gathering (including the green beret song), the appropriate marches for each branch of the armed forces (the new Space Corps was not included) as the particular flag was raised and “Hang on Sloopy” before the Ohio pennant was raised. “Hang on Sloopy” is the official rock song of Ohio. The Smooth Transitions, a quartet singing group, did a great job singing “Grand Old Flag”, “God Bless America” and “Our Land St. Bernard”. It had the feel of an outdoor religious service.

Wreathes were place by several civic groups to honor the fallen servicemen. The fire chief of St. Bernard read the names of those who died and as he was doing that a small flag was placed for each man at the foot of the small rise that is topped with flag poles and a monument.

Cheryl was feeling good today so I took her to attend. Afterward we drove around St. Bernard. We drove through St. Mary Cemetery to view her mother and father’s grave sites. Later we drove through Gate of Heaven Cemetery where my parents and Aunt Margaret Dwenger are buried. My mother’s older sister made a career of the Navy and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. She was never married.

It is Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for us all.

Carpe Diem.

We Are Back to Stations

PCF classes involved moving from station to station before COVID. Stations are back today.

Godspeed Parkinson Community Fitness.

The stretching begins in a circle.

Start in a circle

And then move to station exercises. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. Everyone got to get up and move.

PCF is back to almost normal. I had to get up and help.

God bless us all.

On Cicadas

There is a low whirring (whoring?) hum in the air. I had forgotten that part. The birds are excited. I remember that part.

Not our Elm but similar

At our old house when we bought it in 1980, there was a huge American elm in the backyard. It was in the center of a square of yard about eighty-five feet on a side. It did not crowd any buildings or other trees so over time it had developed that beautiful umbrella canopy. We moved into the house in February. I remember thinking, wow that is a neat tree. At the time I was unfamiliar with elms and dutch elm disease.

When spring came it leafed out in a fashion similar to the picture below. The tree was dying from the back as viewed from our kitchen window. We got a couple of tree wizards out to look at it and decide what to do. The only solution was removal. It is sad to remove a tree that size. The tree was about sixty years old. The person who planted it was an optimist and we intended to cut down their legacy.

Summer of a dying elm tree

After the tree was removed we had a stump about four feet in diameter and about chair height that for a few years the kids enjoyed by having tee parties and building ramps to jump bicycles off of. The stump was in a level area at the bottom of a long downhill driveway. I watched from the kitchen one day as our son came flying down the driveway on his bicycle, went up the ramp and failed to stick the landing on the other side in the grass. Certainly a learning experience about Newton’s laws.

There are lots of Newton cartoons. I like this one.

We planted a cherry tree hybrid graft at the end of the driveway after we removed the elm tree. Fruit seemed like a good alternative. I had started a vegetable garden on the far side of the yard and left the center for the kids to play in. It was a grand space for play.

About six years later the cherry tree was perhaps twelve feet tall and producing enough cherries in a season that I was protecting the cherries from the birds with netting. The cicadas came out that year, looked around and said to each other, “what happened to our tree?”. They made the long trek to the maple in the back and the cherry tree at the foot of the drive. From the perspective of the kitchen window, it was as though the grass in the back became liquid and was flowing away from the stump. It was an incredible sight.

The birds showed up for the cherries but ignored the tree fruit. There was a plethora of protein walking around in the grass hunting for any vertical object. Robins ate so many bugs they needed a runway to take off. It was amazing to watch.

The female cicadas did a good job of pruning the small branches that come out where the tree blooms and then fruits. The year of the cicadas was the first year we harvested enough fruit to make pies and jelly. The following year was better. The tree produced even more fruit than previous years. I attribute it to the pruning done by the lady cicada society.

We moved from that house to our little condo about five years ago. From our screened in back patio area I can hear the whirring sound. It is raining a bit and will do so for a couple hours according to my weather app. The bugs have not whipped themselves into a feverish sexual frenzy yet. They will later.

Over time the moles have herded them into just a small area near our back porch. Some climb into our screened in area. I pick them off the screen one by one throw them out the door. Most are not instinctive fliers. About one in three flaps its wings and buzzes off to the trees in the back when I throw them out the door. I shout encouragement to them as I throw them out the door. I explain Newton’s laws but they do not listen. My wife does not like bugs. For a couple weeks I can have the porch to myself.

One got most of the way to the trees but, sadly was snatched out of the air by a hungry bird. Newton did not matter. Its genes will not be passed on.

They are not good fliers but that is not their intent. They are lovers.

Carpe Diem bugs.

A Prescription

Many years ago my family doctor gave me this prescription.  “6 weeks on a sunny beach” — He has since retired from private practice.  Looking back to that year from today, there was a lot going on in my life.  Looking at the date on the prescription, June 28, 2006, it was the first year that Cheryl started noticing symptoms of Parkinson’s. There is still much happening in our life.

None of those things is as peaceful as this rose. Thanks to Edie Kynard’s Art I have this wonderful rose to contemplate.

In a couple weeks I will travel to California to be with my sister and others to celebrate my nephew’s marriage.

In one week Ohio is officially open for mask-less escapades to wherever.

Last evening our stock club met in our favorite bar for the third time this year.  (We talked about death stocks.  See previous post.)  The presenter of SCI did not solidly endorse it as a stock for the club to buy at this time. Perhaps the club is not solidly interested in deathly stocks. Kroger is in our portfolio and it was up for revue (yes it is misspelled on purpose). Part of the discussion settled around how much Joe Biden’s $15 minimum wage proposal would affect Kroger’s bottom line. ( I am not sure why it is Joe’s idea but there are many conservative capitalists in our club.) A quick search of the internet of all knowledge turns up the information that the average folk starts at $11.62 at Kroger. If you can wield a knife in the meat department or can read a pharmacy order you can get more. Last year Kroger had about 465k employees. Assuming 10% of those are new employees which seems high but bear with me, 46.5Kx3.38 = $157170.00 per hour increase in base pay or $314,340,000.00 per year assuming 40 hour week and 50 weeks per year or .24% of sales for that same time. A surprisingly small percentage number when you do the math. If they collected an extra penny on all items they could pay the $15 minimum wage and pocket the extra $1G or so. Nice.

Our society is slowly, steadily climbing out of the darkness of the pandemic shutdown but it still goes on in the world. Donald wanted to make America great again.  It already was great.  Here is the chance to make it greater.

There are many things to fix that would make America greater. Overall though, just merely treating others with kindness, patience and dignity will make America greater.

Why is it important for some folks to control others life experience?  Is it simple jealousy or envy? Maybe changing that attitude in those folks would improve life a bit.

Is there societal value to imposing one’s own personal values on another? Look inside and think about how you would react to unsolicited advice about your particular situation or perhaps unreasonable restrictions on your actions and then answer that question. Of course everyone’s situation is different. Income disparity affects health and healthcare choices. Income disparity affects diet.

Perhaps Andrew Yang has the correct approach. It is at least a different approach.

I did not start this post with the thought of chasing the minimum wage or a universal basic income but Carpe Diem.

Lately I’ve Been Reading

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights is a collection of diary entries, stories and journal entries that he has written through life. He is not a hero by any means but he pulled himself up and spent a large portion of his life trying to impress and live up to his perceived view of how his father perceived him. He is doing okay.

He did get me thinking about life and where we go from here. What if there is no here?

Neptune Society

I became tired of reading Matthew, so on a particularly morbid Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I remembered that Cheryl and I had planned to collect information and preplan our funerals. Once in a while Cheryl thinks about this as her PD takes her occasionally down a dark road. She has expressed interest in cremation, so on this Sunday I poked “cremation cost + cincinnati” into Google and the Neptune Society popped up as the first or second hit. So, that sent me down the rabbit hole of death, dying, funeral cost, yada, yada, yada.

I filled out their form thinking I would be buried in email about cemeteries and crematoriums. Not so simple, just like senior living facilities and “aplaceformom” I started getting calls from them. Eventually I mistakenly answered their call and found out some interesting info.

Their parent company is Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI). I am interested in stocks so I used our stock club’s analysis to check them out.

It sounds morbid but death is up. And as Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “No one here gets out alive!” He may have been drunk at the time but truer words were never spoken.

SCI

Summary: [from Reuters] Service Corporation International is a provider of death-care products and services, with a network of funeral service locations and cemeteries. The Company’s segments include Funeral, Cemetery and Corporate. It conducts both funeral and cemetery operations in the United States and Canada. As of December 31, 2016, it operated 1,502 funeral service locations and 470 cemeteries, including 281 funeral service/cemetery combination locations, which are geographically diversified across 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It offers various brands, such as Dignity Memorial, Dignity Planning, National Cremation Society, Advantage Funeral and Cremation Services, and Funeraria del Angel. Its funeral service and cemetery operations consist of funeral service locations, cemeteries, funeral service/cemetery combination locations, crematoria, and related businesses. It sells cemetery property, and funeral and cemetery merchandise and services.

Various Opinions: CFRA recommends BUY (5/13/2021); Research Team recommends HOLD; Reliable Research – We do not recommend investors buy SCI; Ford Equity Research – We project that SCI will perform in line with the market over the next 6 to 12 months; Barchart Technical Opinion – Strong BUY; Zacks – Add to Portfolio (2-buy)

Few want to think about it but death seems to be an expanding market. Last year was a good one for sales and 2021 continues to be one. Regardless of the pandemic pandemonium and which side of the mask you are on, a lot of people died last year. From SCI’s first quarter guidance announcement:

UPDATED OUTLOOK FOR 2021 – Today we are reporting earnings per share of $1.33 and net cash provided by operating activities of $298 million for the quarter. The $0.88 growth in earnings per share in the quarter was primarily driven by increased comparable preneed cemetery sales production and continued elevated COVID-19 mortality, which resulted in an increase in both funeral services performed and burials in our cemeteries. Comparable preneed cemetery sales production grew $130 million, or 67%, during the quarter driven by an increase in sales velocity, sales averages, and large sales activity. Net cash provided by operating activities grew approximately $118 million over the prior year quarter, primarily due to increased operating profit.

Based on our first quarter results, we are raising the midpoint of our full year adjusted earnings per share guidance fifteen cents to $2.85 and the midpoint of our adjusted operating cash flow guidance to $687.5 million. Our long-term earnings growth framework remains in place, we will maintain focus on our core strategies of growing revenue by remaining relevant to our client families, leveraging our scale, and maximizing our capital deployment opportunities in a disciplined and balanced manner.

That was probably more business information than you intended to read. The stock club analysis reports SCI as a “buy”. Although it will not be a shining winner like a bunch of tech stocks, it will probably double in value over the next 5-ish years and along the way produce a 1.5% dividend per share.

Death is on the rise in America.

But wait there’s more! (morbid thoughts that is) Cremation is less expensive that other forms of disposal. Urns are available on Amazon for less than $50.

Carpe Diem (or at least the afternoon)

Staying Interested in Life (Taking Stock)

What gets you going?

I ask myself this question often and I ask it in different ways. As I approach seventy-two I still wonder about life. What is the meaning of it all. I am not unique in this. Philosophers throughout the ages have wondered these things.

A cute little internet quiz site – QuizDoo – has told me that: You always have the need to know the answers to life’s most difficult questions. You have a great desire to learn about our existence. You have always been puzzled with what humanity is doing here and what the purpose is. You spend a lot of time trying to understand different people and cultures. When you meet new people, you like to get deep into their minds and find out what makes them tick. — I am an Enlightened Existentialist.

Interesting I thought. I do like to try to understand how things work – physical things. In that same vein I am interested in how people come to believe what they believe and what they base those beliefs on.

What keeps you interested in your surroundings?

When I was very young I became interested in the kinds of things that my brother and father were doing in the basement. They were both ham radio fans and spent much time discussing various uses for things like a 6V6 or a 12AX7. Mysterious conversations with which I was unable to participate. I was twelve or so.

These were the heady days of pioneering and experimenting with electronics. Those funny names (to me) were, of course, common to folks building their own radios and transmitters. Sputnik was orbiting the Earth. I often remark to people that I learned most of my engineering from my dad and later went to school to pick up more of the math and theory. (Dad was good at math too.) Throughout my life I have puttered with electronics and later computers and software. It is still an interest.

What gets you up every day?

I get up everyday with the sole purpose of seeing to Cheryl’s well-being. We have been dealing with Parkinson’s for more than a dozen years. Lately Cheryl’s symptoms have worsened. Her mobility is still pretty good although she struggles with balance. She has impaired cognitive function. She has impaired short term memory. Her memory is a larger issue because she becomes anxious about forgetting something which can affect her sleep which can affect other symptoms. It is a vicious circle.

My goal for any day is that she is healthy and content in her surroundings. The current pandemic pandemonium has limited the things we could do. Eventually all will be well but I fear that she has lost touch with her friends. That makes me anxious.

About three years ago she started a support group in our church. She had become aware of the fact that there were several parish members that had either Parkinson’s disease or something similar. She is able to keep up with this with a little help from the rest of us around her.

What are you interested in?

I have been lucky in life. Some would say blessed. I prefer lucky. I met the love of my life early in it. We became comfortable with each other and raised a family. My career as an engineer has always lead to new and interesting control designs for various types of specialized machinery. That alone meant that I had to learn and be familiar with sundry processes.

I have always been interested in how things were made and manufactured. Sadly I am very uninterested in the Kardashians. I am interested in computers and software and how that all works. The stock market interests me. One day I will strike it rich. I hope that happens before I die but I do not know why that would be important. Dead is dead. Its not a better death if you are financially rich. Search “camel + eye of needle + heaven” in Google to find out why it is not.

I have an interest also in medical developments with brain science as it relates to Parkinsonism and mental health. Sadly science knows very little about this complex organ. I have an interest in bicycling. I believe it keeps one healthy but more importantly it gets one outside.

Why do you pursue those things?

A life long interest in learning new things and new technologies has caused me to pursue various interests. Retirement has given me the opportunity and the time to do so.

Is it fulfilling?

Most assuredly so. Life is always fulfilling when one is able to share the journey.

Carpe Diem.

Elevators, Showers and Kiddos

Overnight conversations seem to repeat with Parkinson’s patients. At least it happens in our home.

Yesterday we had an appointment with a dermatology wizard to look at and remove a spot suspected as a basil cell carcinoma. As a result my wife was anxious before going to bed. (I think I am getting used to this anxiety about future events.)

2 AM

Get ups and trips to the bathroom happen at two hour intervals when she is anxious. On the first trip I did not hear any of the usual thumps and bumps of using the toilet, so I got up to see if I could help. She was standing in the middle of the floor looking toward the closet door on the far side of the bath. How are you doing? — I asked. I’m waiting for the elevator. — She responded. I explained that the door was a closet and the toilet was over here, gesturing at the toilet and opening the closet door.

That seemed to knock her off the fence of using the toilet versus waiting for the elevator to go up or down. Afterward she came back to bed.

4 AM

I am going to take a shower so that I am ready to go to the dentist. (I saw no reason to correct dentist v. dermatologist.) pointed out that it was four o’clock in the morning and there was plenty of time to take a shower later. Her appointment was not until quarter ’til ten. She had used the toilet earlier. I convinced her that it was okay to get a couple more hours sleep before taking a shower.

Before going into the bathroom she sat on the edge of the bed and told me that someone was in there so she would wait. I got up to look. As I open the bathroom door I announce – get moving, Cheryl needs to use the toilet. Then I tell her there is no one there.

She usually tells me there were kids in there. Sometimes she tells me that Virginia was in there. (Virginia is our granddaughter. Cheryl sees her as a five year old.)

6 AM (maybe 6:30)

She is up again with a repeat of four AM activities. It is later now so the taking a shower thing is probably a good idea. I got her morning meds that she will take at seven. She took them a few minutes early and prepared for taking a shower. I went back to bed for thirty minutes of shower noise to wait for the extremely loud alarm clock to spew its wrath on the morning rest period.

Good Morning ALL, said the alarm clock. Off we went to the dermatology wizard and the rest of the day.

Carpe Diem.