Category Archives: Life

The cat came back! Good luck?

We may have a new member of the Poolman family. It all started early last week when we heard a cat whining. Mrs. Poolman and I searched the house for one of our cats trapped in a closed bedroom or a closet but didn’t find one. But there on the front porch was this black cat crying to be fed.

Mystery Cat

Mystery Cat

Of course we fed the poor thing. We thought the cat must be “Sophia,” a stray that had taken up with our next-door neighbor. (I know this sounds politically incorrect, but let’s face it, one solid, jet black cat looks pretty much like the next one, especially if it isn’t your cat.) The neighbors had vetted her and fed her, but otherwise she was an outside cat. They neighbors were away for the holidays, so we figured we would feed her until they got back. We also placed a beach towel in a plastic box for her to sleep in and stay out of the wind.

Sophia stayed with us even after the neighbors returned which created some joking about us stealing their stray cat. Then the other night, Mr. Neighbor came over.

“Hey Poolman, that cat who is living on your front porch?”

“Yeah, so are you coming to take her home?”

“Ah, I hate to break this to you, but Sophia is asleep in our garage right now. YOUR cat is not OUR cat.”

Great! Just what we need — another cat. Upon closer examination, we also discovered that that cat we thought was “Sophia” was actually “Tom.”  We don’t know if he is lost or was dumped. He is a very nice, friendly feline. He loves attention and will actually come when you call him, especially if he thinks food is involved.

So we are looking for his real family. I have checked and posted “found cat” notices on several local pet sites. I think Mrs. P is going to take her to check on a microchip tomorrow.

If we don’t find his home, I guess we will have a new “outside cat.” He still has his front claws. That rules him out as an inside cat in the Poolman household. (We have donated too many couches and chairs to the scratching pleasure of cats over the years. We are done with that.) However, we won’t just take him to a shelter, since we know, although he is a very sweet, friendly cat, the chances of an adult cat being adopted are very slim.

I didn’t think we had a current job opening for a new cat, but I may have been wrong.

A quiet, but enjoyable Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, as they might say in the UK!

We had a simple and quiet Christmas here at Casa Poolman. I am about half way through a week-and-a-half long holiday break. Within the University System, we bunch several holidays in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and close down the institute for a week. I added a couple of  vacation days to that run, so I will have off from the Saturday before Christmas through New Year’s Day. I love it.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Poolman is not so lucky. This was the year she was scheduled to work 12-hour shifts both Christmas Eve and Christmas. It stinks, but what can you do?

I spent the first half of Tuesday putzin’ around and taking care of last-minute Christmas preps. My CCD class provided the readers for a short Christmas Pageant during the 4 o’clock Mass. Everyone we were expecting showed up, and more-or-less on time. Yea! Last year, we had one child who missed all but one practice, but we agreed to let him participate after his mother called up and practically begged us to do so. Then “mom” failed to deliver him on time. We rearranged the readers to cover his slot, but he came running up just as we were walking into church for the start of Mass. I don’t blame the child, but the mom taught us a lesson we won’t forget.

No such drama this year. Our students all did great. After constant encouragement, they all read loud enough that the congregation could actually here them. Yea again!

Our reader team.

Our reader team.

Mrs. P got home around 8 o’clock and we split a pizza for dinner. Very fancy.

On Christmas morning, I got up and drove about 45 minutes out in the country to my daughter’s in-laws. Brad and Annie are great. It was very nice of them to invite me out for Christmas brunch. Writer Princess is very lucky (and so are we) that she has such a great set of in-laws. They a house on several acres out in the boonies. Annie has taken to raising livestock. She has turkeys, chickens, “runner ducks,” guinea fowl and goats. The highlight of yesterday’s visit were two week-old baby goats.  Very cute!

"Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!

“Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!”

Inquisitive goat.

“So what did you get for me?”

Back home in the early afternoon and started preps for dinner. I planned on a boneless rib-eye roast, twice-baked potatoes, green bean bundles and creamed pearl onions (Mrs. P’s creation ahead of time.) Everything went well, even the green-bean bundles, which were a little more effort than I originally planned.

Mrs. P got home around 7:30 pm and I handed her a vodka and tonic. The rest of our dinner guests included son, girlfriend, daughter, son-in-law, and son-in-law’s brother. I planned to take a picture of the meal, but, frankly, I was so wrapped up in getting it all together when it was time to serve, I just forgot.

Some friends/neighbors walked down as we were finishing dinner. We all gathered in the family room to open presents and visit.

Gathered around

Gathered around

...visiting.

…visiting.

I wish Mrs. P had been around for more of the activities, but given the circumstances, it was a pretty nice holiday.

Runaway baby Jesus

My 5th grade CCD class has been busy since the Thanksgiving break preparing for our Christmas pageant. My class provides the readers for a fairly simple production. They read the Christmas story, while the third grade class acts out the drama, dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and so on. We have had three practices, and so far, while it won’t be a Broadway production, it won’t be a fiasco either. But it did come close.

Initially, one of the co-teachers volunteered her one-year old son to play the role of the baby Jesus. This was not a great idea. Young Brady was entirely too much into crawling and pulling himself up on anything that was handy. One of the third-graders (who is playing Mary) is disabled and has a motorized wheelchair. Brady pulled himself up onto the front of the chair and grabbed onto the control knobs. The chair took off with Brady hanging on for dear life.

It was very exciting.

For about five feet.

Until they ran into a pew.

Fortunately Brady was not hurt, which is what made the incident hilarious. In any case, the child has been cut from the pageant team in favor of a younger, more docile child. I think Brady was disappointed. If he could talk, I think he wanted to say, “That was fun!  Let’s do it again.”

The fifth grade reader team.

The fifth grade reader team.

The big show will be at 4 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. Looking forward to it.

While we are on a Christmas theme, our friends Sam and Beth stopped by the other day with our “adopted grandchildren” Helen and Brittany. Mrs. Poolman and I got them each an animal-theme throw-blanket. One was a frog and the other a monkey. Too cute!

The monkey and frog.

The monkey and frog.

In a deep and dark December

Mrs. Poolman and I are staying home this Christmas season. Both our children live here in town, so the most important family is right here.

This is Mrs. P’s year to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It takes a lot of the merriment out of her holiday. Unfortunately, they can’t just send those preemies and other sick babies home with their parents and tell them to bring them back on the 26th.  I’ll take care of Christmas dinner and hand her a vodka & tonic when she walks through the door around 7:30 pm Christmas evening. It won’t make up for having to work the holidays, but it will ease the unhappiness slightly.

We did make a trek north to visit some of my family in Pittsburgh earlier in the month. My father lives there, along with my youngest sister. We picked up another sister, Maggie, along the way and my brother, Dave, and his wife drove over from Mechanicsburg for the weekend. So Dad had four of his five children there for the weekend. The missing sister had visited just the week before.

We arrived in Pittsburgh just as the day-long rain was turning to sleet and ice.

This is the front of my Dad's townhouse. Brrrr!

This is the front of my Dad’s townhouse. Brrrr!

My car is not used to snow.

My car is not used to snow.

By Pennsylvania standards, this was not even a minor inconvenience, but Mrs. P and I were reminded of how happy we are to live in coastal Georgia. I am really glad that many of the people who live in the northern states enjoy it there. Otherwise, things would sure get crowded down here.

Love those sappy Christmas commercials!

I am a total sucker for those sappy TV commercials that come on this time of year. Hallmark has always produced some classics. No slap-job :30 second spots for them. Running up to two minutes or more, these are little micro-dramas are fully intended to produce a little warm spot in the coldest of hearts. The Publix grocery store chain has produced some very nice ones lately, mostly with small children. And this year, Apple has joined the crowd with a really excellent effort. Here are a couple of good ones from this year, and one oldie-but-goldie Hallmark spot from years past.

Set my turtle free!

I had the chance to go on a pretty neat science cruise the week after Thanksgiving.

It all started a couple of weeks earlier when I received a call from the director of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. It seemed they had a loggerhead sea turtle that had outgrown her tank. Because of the cool beach water temperature, they wanted to release her into the Gulf Stream and asked if we could help. I explained that we were not in a position to donate a free sea day on our research vessel. The going rate on the R/V Savannah is around $10k/day. However, in the past, we have helped other groups with similar issues when we had room on board an already-scheduled cruise going to the same area.

As luck would have it, we did have a cruise to the Gulf Stream scheduled, and the scientist who “owned” the cruise graciously allowed the Tybee turtle and her entourage to “piggy back” along. As long as we were going, we also invited the team of four interns from the UGA Aquarium here on our campus, just to give them the experience of an overnight science cruise. I got to go along to shoot video, photos and to generally coordinate with the turtle team and the aquarium interns.

We left our dock at a little after 9 am Monday morning and cruised all day, doing some real science along the way, to our launch point, 82 miles off shore, arriving around 7:30 pm. The loggerhead was lowered over the side in a shrimp basket and, once in the water, she took off without as much as a wave good-bye.

Most of us went to bed fairly early while the crew turned the boat around and headed home. The ten-hour trip got us back to our dock around 6 am.

Here is a YouTube video of the release.

Playing tourist here at home

We had a fun time last weekend. My sister, Maggie and her next door neighbors, Mac and Candy drove down from Greenville, S.C. for a “history weekend.” Maggie’s husband has taken a new job in New England, so he was out of the picture for this trip.

My sister is very lucky that she has just great friends living right next door to her. Over the years, we have gotten to know Mac and Cindy fairly well. At one point a few years ago, Mac and I were comparing notes and we discovered we had very similar interests in Civil War and World War II history.

Cindy joined my friends and me on our tour of the Louvre during our first trip to Paris in March 2012.

 And the whole gang of us piled into the car for a history trip to Gettysburg in 2010.

We have been talking about doing a “history weekend” here in Savannah for several years. I’m glad we were able to finally pull it off.

We started with a tour of the National Museum of the Eighth Air Force. This is a cool museum with a focus on the WWII air war over Europe.

Mac and me at the 8th Air Force Museum.

Mac and me at the 8th Air Force Museum.

On Saturday, we did a walking tour of downtown Savannah. I played tour guide, and although I’m not as professional as the experts, everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Maggie, Mrs. P and Cindy waiting for the guys to get back to them.

Maggie, Mrs. P and Cindy waiting for the guys to get back to them.

Myself, Mrs. Poolman and sister Maggie at Colonial Cemetary.

Myself, Mrs. Poolman and sister Maggie at Colonial Cemetary.

After a seafood lunch at Tubby’s on River Street, we dropped Mrs. P and Maggie off at our house. Mac, Cindy and I headed out towards the beach and Fort Pulaski. The fort is run by the National Park Service. They do a great job. We stayed only a fairly short time, since it was late and the weather was starting to look ugly, but it seemed like our guests really enjoyed it.

Mac and Cindy at Ft. Pulasi

Mac and Cindy at Ft. Pulasi

We finished the weekend off with a low country boil at our house. I think everyone had a good time. If they did not, they sure faked it well. We need to start planning our next “history weekend.” Charleston, anyone?

Feeling a little guilty

In some of my past posts, I have mentioned what a good time my co-teacher and I have been having with this year’s 5th grade CCD class (Catholic religion classes for kids who don’t go to the parish school.) Now I’m feeling guilty.

I know there are plenty of kids out there with Asperbergers, autism, out-of-control ADHD, serious family problems and other issues that may make them behavior problems during our short hour together on Wednesday nights. They need love and religious education too. I’m just glad for maybe only the second class in nine years, I don’t have to deal with a whole bunch of them.  I’m feeling guilty because we actually have it pretty easy this year, and my co-teacher and I are enjoying it.

Our class this year is small, only 13 students. Typically our class sizes are closer to 20-25. And for the most part, this is a nice, well-behaved group. I have only one male student who seems to have difficulty sitting at his desk without falling out. As a group, they are not perfect, but they are good natured and manageable.

The best part for both them and us is it allows Mrs. R (co-teacher) and I to do different, and more interesting things when we don’t have to worry about pulling kids off of the light fixtures.

For example, this week we had them break into groups of two or three and brainstorm ways they can continue to serve God and their neighbors after they leave Mass.  With some classes, even doing that much was a recipe for chaos. However, this class handled it. When we asked them what they had come up with, the first group said they wanted to act it out with charades.  Mrs. R was not in favor, but I thought it was worth a shot. As it turned out, every one of our groups acted out their “charade” very well. We ended up going around the class three times. It was a little rowdy, but nothing totally out of control.

The students enjoyed it. Since they actually had to engage in the activity, maybe some of what we did may actually stick with them. One can always hope.

Things that go ‘beep’ at lunch

I saw on Facebook today that one of my good friends finally broke down and got hearing aids. I have used hearing aids myself since roughly 1990. I am on my fourth pair at this point. It is ironic that Len joined the hearing aid club, because he was with me and witnessed one of the more amusing incidents in my hearing aid experience.Hearing aids

Sometime in the early 2000s, I upgraded to the third of my eventual four sets of hearing aids. Unlike my previous two sets, this pair had a warning tone that would go off when the battery was almost dead. My hearing aid specialist had warned me of this. I noted it and then didn’t think about it again…for about a week. I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant having lunch with Len when my first set of hearing aid batteries started to die. The warning sounded exactly like the beep a commercial truck sounds when it goes into reverse. Of course, the wearer can hear it, but no one else can.

When the “beep” went off, I immediately started looking around for the garbage truck that was about to run me down. No surprise – no truck in the restaurant. I didn’t say anything, but Len was looking at me like I had just had a stroke. We went back to eating, when the “beep” sounded again. I asked Len if he had heard it. Of course, he hadn’t and was beginning to think I really had lost my mind. A moment later, one of my hearing aids shut down as the battery died. I finally put two and two together and realized the source of the beeping that apparently only I could hear.

Len was relieved. As an attorney, he was already thinking of what legal steps he could take to protect me from myself. (Think – guys in white jackets.)

So now it’s Len’s turn to learn the ins and outs of hearing aids. Just watch out for those garbage trucks, Len!

Back to the Wednesday night follies

For the ninth straight year, I am back teaching 5th grade religion classes at our parish church. Protestant churches would probably call it Sunday School, but since we are Catholic, it is called CCD and the classes are held on Wednesday evenings. These classes are for the children who attend public and other private schools other than our parish school.

As I have detailed in the past, my experience teaching CCD has had its ups and downs. We have had some really great classes, and we’ve had some that caused me to almost dread showing up on Wednesday evenings. Just two classes into the 2013-14 year, my co-teacher and I are cautiously optimistic that we have a pretty good group. So far they have been polite and respectful, while still participating in the class discussions.

Having a group that is reasonably well behaved and cooperative is better for more than just our sanity. If we have a class that will work with us and work with each other without descending into anarchy, we can make the class much more interesting, for both the students and teachers, through interactive activities and more interesting discussions.

That having been said, we also realize that our students are ten and eleven years old, and our class comes at the end of a long day in school. In adult terms, their CCD class is overtime for them. We don’t expect perfection; we just don’t need it to be a constant struggle.

Here’s hoping the rest of the years goes as well as the first couple of weeks have.