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Leaf-Peeping Geezerdom: Official Members

Sunday, October 03, 2010

As a teenager and a young adult, I used to laugh at my parents going out to see the brilliant fall leaves, and in particular mocked ungently their ecstatic rhapsodizing on their return. To me this was definite evidence that they were well advanced into old geezer territory.

At least back then this activity had not yet earned the current and most unattractive sobriquet of "leaf-peeping". Which has a bit of a "Peeping "Tom" connotation to me. You just looked at the leaves full on, with nothing furtive about it. Vocalized loudly. Telephoned friends to recommend an especially colourful route so they could go and look too.

But it wasn't just their descriptions of the vistas they'd viewed which I found annoying. They could also remember quite a number of "autumn poems" (they had both been school teachers). And would be unable to resist reciting them in suitably exalted voices:

Oh the scarlet of the maples
Can shake me like the cry
Of bugles going by
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the purple asters
Like smoke upon the hills.

I'd roll my eyes, groan in agony. (But as you can see, I remember them too).

And then they would follow up with fresh torments: cranking up their LPs (vinyl, of course, back in the day) of bird song, replete with sonorous voiceovers. Like this: "Chirp. Chirpchirpchirp. SKARRRREEEEEE". And now the human voice, solemnly, and with excruciatingly precise enunciation : " RU---FUSS TOE - HEE". Or whatever.

Even then they would not be done: there was a test at the end of each LP, just the birdsongs in rapid succession without the voiceovers. Giving my parents their own opportunity to call out the bird identifiers. With enthusiasm. Each trying to be first, so of necessity speaking rapidly. ("No no no no no , that's NOT the olive-backed warbler, that's the yellow-rumped warbler. Just listen").

Really. They did. Triumphantly. So as not to forget, I expect, before the birds returned north again from their fall migrations. And of course I would leave the room. But you could hear those piercing birdcalls all over the house: there was no escape. (And yes: I still remember most of them as well.)

Alrighty then! Guess DH and I have officially entered advanced geezerdom ourselves since the two of us set out quite deliberately to "view the leaves" this afternoon in gorgeous October sunshine. Munched on fall-juicy apples too. And listened for the blue jays and cardinals and the fall warblers. And checked for woolly bear caterpillars. (Found quite a number, thanks: brought a particularly attractive one home and have made him a cozy residence for now in an old jam jar, with lots of clover.)

Not at all covert. There was no side-long peeping: I really looked. Listened. While trying to keep all self-conscious emoting to the barest possible minimum. But: it was a dazzling dazzling experience.

And I know. The apple did NOT fall far from the tree.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MSSNOWY 10/10/2010 1:18AM

    Ah, yes, geezerdom. Last autumn I took my mother on weekly jaunts in the car to see the leaves. It was the one thing I could get her out of the house to do. Now that I'm seeing them again, I think of her and remember. I was, however, spared the childhood bird call LPs and drives in the country. But then we didn't have fall color where I grew up and traffic was bad, so maybe that was the reason. Still your blog definitely resonated. I'm reminded of Pogo and his: We have met the enemy [or in this case, the parents] and he is us!"

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FROSTIERACES 10/6/2010 5:22PM

    ahha!! The woolybear!! :)

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WALKINGANNIE 10/6/2010 2:55PM

    Great descriptions - and I love the idea of geezerdom! I like 'viewing the leaves' and kicking through crispy dried leaves on autumn walks, although there's not much chance of crispy leaves in rainy England just now. Everything here is soggy and the caterpillar would need oilskins and a sou'wester instead of a woolly jumper!

The photo is great.


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PHEBESS 10/4/2010 7:49PM

    LOL!!!!!! You are so funny in a poetic way! And yes, I think we're in geezerdom - DH and I sit on the porch and rate sunsets each night.

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DBCLARINET 10/4/2010 6:12PM

    Awww, it's CUTE! I haven't had the luxury of seeing a woolly bear yet, but I've been afraid to venture out into the cold fall air. Texas really did make me pathetic...

Now if only it would stop raining, I would do something amazing like pick apples or go to a maple syrup farm or something. Your afternoon sounded way better than many of mine!

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PENNYAN45 10/4/2010 4:09PM

    The autumn leaves seen in New England have been the reason for many of our family car trips throughout the years. It is nature in one of its most beautiful stages.
I'm glad you've joined us in enjoying the beauty!

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IMAGINE_IT 10/3/2010 11:37PM

    Welcome to "Geezerland". ..... emoticonI love nature ...and often get amazed at all the Beauty our Earth has to offer...it's sad that so many people don't ever stop and really "look" at what is all around them...seems as if everyone is always in a rush...going nowhere!!! I like the way you always describe Nature Ellen...makes me feel as if I'm right there too!! emoticonAnd I'm glad that you and your husband had a great "geezer"day emoticon emoticon

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KALIGIRL 10/3/2010 6:37PM

    Sounds like a grand way to spend a Sunday.
I guess I too am a geezer emoticon

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Squirrels driving me squirrelly . . .

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our old house is surrounded by big old chestnut and walnut trees, and backs onto a small forest of red pines. So, not suprisingly, we also have a large population of grey, black and red squirrels who apparently consider our attic to be the optimal place to store their harvest of nuts and cones.

We have a "squirrel guy" who might just as well be on permanent retainer. He's pretty brave: heights don't bother him at all. But everything he does is strictly by the book.

Squirrels are not classified as "pests" (like mice, cockroaches and the like) so by wildlife protection law they can't be poisoned or trapped. Not that I would want to do that. But the regulations stipuate that they can only be excluded from places you don't want them to be. It's okay to install "one way" exits so that squirrels presently inhabiting attic crannies can go out, and can't come back again. However, it doesn't take the collective squirrel genius very long to find (or create) a whole bunch of new entry points.

They are so cute: especially the tiny red ones, carrying walnuts bigger than their heads.

And they are SOOOOOOO indignant at any ejection. Once squirrel guy goes, it's quite clear that they consider me to be responsible: they will sit and holler at me for minutes on end, glaring fiercely while they rhythmically jerk their tails. Really, they practically choke with rage as they shake their tiny fists!

But: we need to batten down our hatches for the winter, or we'll have a huge crop of baby squirrels joining their parents by spring. I'm thinking I hear some of them entering by one of the chimneys, so we probably need to have those meshed off as well. Meaning: extra long ladders, and probably some additional helpers will be required.

Squirrel guy, expect my call!! Yes, yet again!! And I'm so glad I don't have to do this myself: up so high, swaying in the breeze, Canada geese honking derisively overhead.

If those squirrels could figure out a way so knock over the ladders, do you suppose that they wouldn't do it??

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMAGINE_IT 10/3/2010 5:39PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon Thanks for the Laugh Ellen...i am a little late to your funny blog..so sorry..but you know i am busy getting ready for Germany emoticon plus i am in the middle of a challenge..but i know that is not an excuse!!
I loved this story about your squirrels..i could picture it all..and especially the ones that are shaking their little fists..hahaha..too cute..good luck on trying to chase them all away...i have oa couple that are runnign fiercely back and forth in my backyard..makes me wonder what they is up to...i better go check if my attic..they may have moved in...lol.. emoticon emoticon

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    Stwerls! Goofy, opportunistic, industrial, insidious, maniacal, and cute as a bug... they'd tip your ladder just for the heck of it!

Stwupid Sterls!

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PHEBESS 9/29/2010 8:12PM

    LOL - squirrels are such sneaky little animals! In the SE part of the US, squirrels often chew through electric cables and have been known to cause blackouts!!!!!

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TRAVELGRRL 9/29/2010 7:41PM

    Loved your blog! ;-)

You have to love the ingeniuity of squirrels!

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PENNYAN45 9/29/2010 5:12AM

    About once every fall, while lying in bed, we can hear the swishing sound of feet scurrying across the attic floor. The invasion usually lasts for a week or so, then they are gone as suddenly as they arrived. Our chimneys are both meshed, but they do find their ways in -- and out, thank goodness.

I know squirrels can be pests, but I do love watching them poking their heads in and out of their home in the tree just outside our window. They chase each other up and down the trees, noisily scolding one another. This is their busy season - as they bury their treasures for leaner days. Acorns are everywhere!

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/27/2010 11:25PM

    I love the description of your house nestled in the trees, Ellen.

I'm so glad you have a squirrel guy to help you out in a humane way. Squirrels are really intelligent and the tiny red ones sound very cute, too. Got to keep them in their place, though.

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/27/2010 6:06PM

    Ah, Ellen, I can remember my Uncle having to put some one way doors in when we were visiting Canada.

We don't have squirrels here but possums must be the equivalent with their high wire acts and a decided liking for attics. Like squirrels they are not allowed to be killed so we have a possum guy who comes and puts traps in so that the little critters can be taken to wilder climes. However, it doesn't take outsiders long to discover there is a vacancy so the possum guy is assured of a job for life.

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WALKINGANNIE 9/27/2010 3:00PM

    Nice blog Ellen. Your old house sounds lovely.

I know that squirrels are pests but they are so cute and clever. We have a lot of grey squirrels here and they are very ingenious at stealing food that's intended for birds.

That said, they ate through electrical cables in a friend's attic and cut their power off so they can be a nuisance.

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LUNADRAGON 9/27/2010 1:05PM

    This brought back memories. Close to 30 yrs ago when we were newlyweds, we had a squirrel family in the attic over our apartment. One real grisly looking one had one eye, seemed to be the leader of the troupe, we nick named grump grump. When I first heard them, I thought the house was haunted! We set up a box trap with nuts, caught them one at a time, and let them go at a rest area a few miles away. Then the owners of the house cut down the tree that was their leaping point, and fixed the roof. We caught about 5 this way before they solved the problem.

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TEENY_BIKINI 9/27/2010 1:00PM

    Holy smokes. I never heard of such squirrel-y problems. I love the description of them getting indignant after the squirrel guy leaves. They sounds smart ... yeesh.

The little red ones sound so cute though - but I know from experience in the garden, just because its cute doesn't mean it's not destructive as heck.

Fight the good fight, gorgeous. Good luck this winter and fall [for that matter...]


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KALIGIRL 9/26/2010 7:07PM

    I'm sure they would knock over the ladder if they could.

We don't have the red or black squirrels in our yard, but the greys love to heckle the pointer sisters - our two German shorthairs. (Although the sisters have captured a few of their relatives, so I guess a little heckling is in order...)

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DBCLARINET 9/26/2010 6:57PM

    I completely believe they would knock over the ladder! Just be careful not to give them any ideas!

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ALLERGICONE 9/26/2010 6:44PM

    Let's just hope they don't resort to doing the the car invasion on you. Some friends had their work pickup parked out by one of the pastures, and went to use it to pull the horse trailer. They noticed an odd, high pitched noise, and the dash lights were nuts. So, they pulled over at a gas station, popped the hood, and found the problem - squirrels. They'd been making "I hate you people" noises while chewing bits of truck wiring. So, imagine two middle aged women whacking their engine block with branches, trying to get the squirrels to vacate the engine compartment... Everyone in the place must have thought they'd lost their minds.

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Have to acknowledge: apparently can't run . . .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've come to the reluctant conclusion that at this point I apparently cannot run.

It was so much fun experimenting with the podrunner interval programme plus the POSE technique: and I took huge pleasure in resuming running at the gym last winter, completing the 5k programme and then getting well into the "gateway to 8 k" follow up.

There was a little detour created by the surgically-removed toenail, but although that was ooey-gooey for awhile, no way was it going to stop me permanently: and I did get right back at it as soon as I could.

But: truth is, the right knee and right hip twinges were getting more and more frequent, persistent and finally blew up into really really serious pain . . . both knees, both hips, radiating and shooting . . . even when I wasn't running. All my carefully acquired new technique which had given me so much hope -- short stride, vertical posture, mid foot landing, running as if barefoot, fast cadence hovering like a hummingbird, never running two consecutive days, focusing on stabilizing the joints with strength training -- in the end, I couldn't delude myself any longer. It was not working. Years of 10 k a day every day, extended stride, heel pounding: I'm guessing that the damage was probably done.

Loved "identifying myself" (to myself) as a runner when I ran all the time: and was loving thinking of myself as a runner again. I't not just the running I love (and I do): it's thinking of myself as a runner.

When I found a few weeks agao that I couldn't run -- I stopped going to the gym much at all, without even realizing for a while what was happening. Working hard, short on sleep, just not rolling out of bed to get to the gym. Playing golf instead. Rather than admitting to myself that I wan't going to the gym at least in part because I couldn't run. And although I haven't put on weight, no gym is just not a good decision from a health/fitness/stress management perspective. I'm just one of those people who needs to work out: cardio, weights, abs, stretching: it's key for me.

And so: I'm back on the elliptical cross trainer again. Don't like it nearly as much as running, it doesn't give me that endorphin rush. And giving up running makes me feel about 107 -- But settling for the elliptical or the cross trainer or the rowing machine has to be much much better than getting myself into a state where I won't be able to do any significant cardio fitness at all. Now THAT really really is not happening!!

There it is. Not gonna pout about it, still may trot carefully around the track now and again when I'm not having knee/hip pain: but I can't legitimately be thinking of myself as a "runner" any more (much as I'd like to). Fact is, I have major osteoarthritis in both hands, have had thumb joint repair (not a successful operation, would not recommend it) and there's every reason to believe that I have a tendency towards osteoarthritis in other joints too. No point in hastening that process by wearing them out.

Had great cardio workout today on the elliptical machine, worked up a huge sweat, burned 475 calories in 35 minutes: and then a thorough upper body weights routine plus abs plus stretching. Then a shower, a whirlpool, a steam room, another shower: what's not to like?? Not a twinge from hip or knee for the rest of the day while I zoomed around and got all my chores done. Which makes me feel about 37: and that's as good as it's gonna get!!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 9/27/2010 1:09PM

    Hugs. I can't run either - mostly due to heart murmur, but then again, the back is not so hot either these days. I hated giving up the idea of getting back on my street bike, but faced that little devil, and enjoy my recumbent bike when I can, and the back allows it.

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KALIGIRL 9/19/2010 7:59PM

    Sorry about your discovery, but BRAVO for attempting to run. I do not like the elliptical and walk outside any time I can, but have found biking wonderfully liberating - maybe you could try?

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PHEBESS 9/19/2010 7:22PM

    So sorry, I know you enjoyed running. Maybe some swimming, biking, and walking? There are all kinds of low impact cardio - doesn't burn as many cals, but easier on our aging joints.

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/19/2010 6:06PM

    Ellen, there is life after running. This is my husband's experience. He does walk and has learned to love other exercises but it is never the same. Some things we just have to accept and you are doing it in an excellent way. All the best. emoticon

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WHOLY_FIT_48 9/19/2010 5:05AM

    Having become a runner myself in the last couple of years, I can relate so well to the endorphin rush. There is no cardio exercise I like better than running. But your thoughtful and honest post about your struggle to run again and accepting that it is not to be reminds me that I must build into my cardio routine cross training whether it be swimming, biking, elliptical, row machine, etc. I've been resistant to doing that because I enjoy running so very much and mentally it's a challenge to do anything else. I read your disappointment and yet you have not allowed that to stop your determination to stay healthy and fit. You are and will continue to find what works in the reality of what your body and mind can or cannot handle. Great example and inspiration to the rest of us. Blessings.

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WALKINGANNIE 9/19/2010 3:41AM

    After all that you have been through and all your determination, I'm very sorry to hear that you have been in pain and are having to make adjustments to your programme as well as to your own self-image. It's obvious that this is a big deal for you Ellen.

Now that you have acknowledged the issue, it's good that you are making plans to adjust and to deal with it. Getting stuck into some cardio and gym sessions seems like a good idea - finding a balance between pushing yourself enough to get some endorphins going but not going too far. You know your own body and will be able to assess what suits.

Accepting the change mentally sounds at least as much of a challenge to you as deciding on the physical options. I know that you will work through this and come to acceptance because you have dealt with so much. I don't know if it would help to think of the spectrum between you running and you at your most ill? You might not be as fleet of foot now but look at what you CAN do. There must have been a stage when your current fitness level seemed unreachable?

I wish that there was something more helpful to suggest. Accepting disappointment is a big test of character - and character is something that you have a lot of.

Thanks, as ever, for your support. You are a very special person.

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GEODAWG 9/18/2010 10:39PM

    I can't run either and never could for long periods. Even in high school I never ran a whole mile. No stamina I guess! Anyway, I can walk fast!

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FIDGIEGIRL 9/18/2010 9:11PM

    Sounds very disappointing. Swimming?

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The Gentian's Bluest Fringes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When I was in about grade six, our itinerant music teacher Miss Guymer started off the school year by teaching us a new song for September. Here are some of the words:

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

The miracle of Google means I now know it was written by Helen Hunt Jackson; here's the link if you'd like to read the whole poem:


I loved the song -- it was sung as a round -- and I never forgot it. But it bothered me that I'd never seen a gentian and wasn't quite sure what they looked like.

As it turned out, it was almost 30 years before I found a blue fringed flower one September in a conservation area when I was out walking with my kids: it was unfamiliar to me, and I remembered the gentian song. When I looked the flower up in my wildflower reference -- there is was: fringed gentian. And such a gorgeous deep mauvy blue

That September when my kids were small there were only a few plants growing in among the goldenrod and the asters at the edge of a pond. Today, more than a decade later, I went back to look again. We've had an exceptionally warm and rainy summer: there is now about a half acre of gentians. The sun was shining, they were all open, and still an amazing blue: I don't know anything else quite the same colour.

Here's another link if you'd like to see a picture for yourself: apparently they are quite quite rare, biennials (living only two years, blooming only in the second year) and quite beloved by better-known poets than Helen Hunt Jackson!


All those gentians plus blue jays and deep pink waterlilies in the pond and the first leaves turning red -- but I was also on a mission for woolly bear caterpillars. None of those today. The width of the russet brown stripe in the middle between the two black stripes is said to forecast the length of the winter, but really I enjoy them because they motor so fast across the country roads. It's as if they're wearing jogging shoes on all of their feet! It's still a bit early for woolly bears: there will be time to find a few, and I'll be looking. They actually hibernate until spring and then form their cocoons: occasionally I've found one in a sheltered spot even in the depths of winter.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 9/27/2010 2:07PM

    Simply lovely. Thank you for sharing this.

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/17/2010 5:22AM

    As always Ellen, you add joy to my day with your wonderful word pictures. Thank you, hugs

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KALIGIRL 9/13/2010 1:13PM

    Your blog conjured up wonderful images of fall...

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PHEBESS 9/13/2010 1:10PM

    I'm smiling remembering my mother painting our cuts and scrapes with gentian violet - remember that purple stuff? It stained our fingers and knees for days!

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WALKINGANNIE 9/13/2010 12:58PM

    You have a keen eye for nature Ellen as well as a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed your blog and your shared memories.

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HAPPYNSMILING 9/13/2010 7:39AM

    I really liked your blog. I looked up the picture of the gentian...how beautiful!!
Thanks so much for sharing!!

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DBCLARINET 9/12/2010 10:42PM

    Awww, this post made me smile!

I love woolly bears, partly because we have an annual woolly bear festival here and during high school I played in the parade. Of course, that wasn't nearly as cool as actually FINDING one! When we were kids, you could be sure the kids on the playground in the immediate vicinity would all come running if someone found a woolly bear. So cute!

Thanks for sharing!

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They call it Labour Day because . . .

Sunday, September 05, 2010

yup, have a lot of work that I've got to get done. The usual laundry/groceries stuff, some dog grooming, a little attention to the garden -- but mostly "work work".

And today I whomped my way through a big whack of that.

With another round scheduled for tomorrow. (Highly time-sensitive deadline lurking, situation that would have to matter to anyone who cares about people at all . .. ).

But: tomorrow I'm committed to knocking off by 4 p.m. or so whether I am finished or not -- and heading to the golf course.

It's supposed to be a beautiful day!


How was it that the "labour movement" somehow bypassed my area of endeavour? No union, no overtime, no benefits: all the joys of self-employment!! And meeting payroll every week!!

Truth is: once had a unionized teaching job, and although I loved to teach, I really did not enjoy the resulting workplace politics. I do prefer being my own boss, doing whatever I need to do to get things done in accordance with my own OCD personality -- and then taking time off freely when pressures lessen. By and large, it suits me most of the time; particularly when I have got it done. Just another example of after-acquired motivation, I guess.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 9/8/2010 7:09AM

    I hope you had a fun time out at the golf course and enjoyed your day! :) You sound very happy with life, work, family, charlie, everything else and you! Have a beautiful day!

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KALIGIRL 9/7/2010 1:55PM

    Glad you took time for golf!

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DREMARGRL 9/7/2010 7:18AM

    Hubs was a teacher for 38 years and loved it most of the time, but spent his time in the gym instead of the teachers' lounge! lol. Worked for him.
I ran our businesses and I agree with you wholeheartedly....I LOVED BEING MY OWN BOSS. Sad to say....I also didn't have all the benefits one is accustomed to when working for someone else, but, hey.....I don't care! I retired myself 13 years ago and have loved every single minute. I sold antiques on Ebay for a few years, which was fun and lucrative.....Now....I just travel, clean, cook, take care of my family and play. It's wonderful and I hope you get to do that, too, one of these years. I'm glad you went golfing. Playing helps a lot! XO MaryAnn emoticon

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/6/2010 6:05PM

    Good idea to have a set time off and get out on the golf course.

Had just finished reading your blog Ellen and then looked at the Huie's motivational sayings for the day so thought I should share them with you:

Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.
- Horace

The end of labor is to gain leisure.
- Aristotle

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
- Anne Frank

They just seemed to fit. Have a wonder filled day.

Comment edited on: 9/6/2010 6:08:26 PM

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WALKINGANNIE 9/6/2010 1:21PM

    Hope you have a productive work day and then really enjoy your time on the golf course.

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TBANMAN 9/6/2010 12:52PM

    Have fun golfing today! It's pouring rain here.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/5/2010 10:38PM

    Wishing you a productive day and lots of fun on the golf course. I'll be thinkin' of you!
Usha xx

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SLENDERELLA61 9/5/2010 9:09PM

    Congrats on being so productive!! That being your own boss stuff is cool, too.

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WINE4GIRL 9/5/2010 8:16PM

    WOW - do you sound like me!!! I feel your pain - gardening, house bits, etc. You're right - if you work for yourself, the work doesn't stop, because we find something else to do!

Hope you get some down time - on your non-Labor day!

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