Easter Decorations

Mary Steinhof Easter decorations 04-18-2014One of the problems / advantages of retirement is that you don’t have to know what day of the week it is. I shot these Easter decorations in Mother’s living room before we embarked on a ramble. Some of them, like the clear plastic tree with the ornaments on it, have been around since I was a kid.

We were bouncing down a road in rural Perry County when I asked, in all innocence, “Do you know what day it is?”

“It’s 2:32,” she replied.

“No, I know what TIME it is. I want to know if today is Saturday.”

One of us is “ready for the home”

Mary Steinhof Easter decorations 04-18-2014

Brother Mark and I keep telling Mother that she’s close to being “ready for the home,” but the glance she gave me clearly indicated that she was pretty sure either I was testing her or I was the one who was ready for the home.

We got to Altenburg and saw our museum buddy, Gerard Fiehler, out mowing his lawn, so I pulled into the driveway and said, “You look like you could use a break. Why don’t you get off that thing and let Mother finish the job for you?”

He said he had read how she was death on dandelions, but he wasn’t ready to turn his mower over to someone with her reputation for hot rodding.

“Do you know what day this is?”

Mary Steinhof Easter decorations 04-18-2014During a lull in the conversation, Mother leaned over me and asked him, “Do you know what day this is?”

He hesitated like he was looking at a mental calendar. “Not the date, but the DAY. What day of the week is it?” I filled in.

Now, he was SURE it was a trick question. “It’s Friday,” he answered, hesitantly.

Mother gave me a smug smile

“I could have sworn it was Saturday and I had this really timely post ready to go up on Easter,” I said.

So, that’s why you are getting this gallery of Mother’s living room Easter decorations on Saturday instead of Sunday. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

Medicare, 2012 and Me

Well, it’s 2012, today’s my birthday and my official Medicare card arrived in the mail. You might remember me telling you this was going to be a Big Year. This was the year that they said I could retire when I went through orientation at The Palm Beach Post in 1973.

I figured that 2012 was a lot like the Second Coming: it might arrive, but I never thought I’d be around to see it. See, Dad and his brothers checked out by age 60, so I had established that as my official Sell-By Date. Here was my post from last year.

I discovered cycling

Some funny things happened along the way. I discovered cycling, which taught me that there was a life outside the office. I still worked long and hard hours, but I also looked forward hopping on the bike and feeling the stress drain away. I told folks that I could get hit by an 18-wheeler tomorrow and cycling would have added more years to my life than it could ever subtract.

The death spiral of newspapers also worked in my favor. It gave me an opportunity to take a buyout in September 2008 and early retirement. I was going to have a chance to enjoy what tomorrows I had left without the fear of being carried out of the office on a stretcher or in handcuffs.

Herding cats and blogging

My boys thought I might like to lead bike tours in retirement, so they set me up with a bike blog. I soon found out that I wasn’t made to herd cats, so leading tours morphed into writing about cycling. The next step was to start digitizing my old photos. That resulted in this blog.

Just jingle the keys

After spending the last 15 years of my newspaper career shoving electrons down phone wires (something that I actually enjoyed), I discovered the magic of journalism again. Telling stories and dredging up old memories is a blast. It’s also given me a chance to have a lot of fun with Mother, who is ready to hop in the car at the jingle of keys. She’s good company and has her own stock of stories (many of which, I’m afraid she’s going to take with her.)

I’ve been blessed with Wife Lila who has put up with my quirks and foibles for way too many years. I warn people that I’m much more personable in print than in person. Unfortunately, that’s often too true at home, too. I don’t tell her enough that I love her. More important, I like her.

Our two boys have turned out better than anybody could ever hope for. They met and married two of the best daughter-in-laws in the universe. Their marriages have produced two extraordinary grandsons for us.

It’s been a good run

So, it’s been a good run. I’ve had five years more than I ever expected. I’m beginning to get optimistic.

I had a chunk of cheek carved off, so I got the Big C ticket punched. I survived a car vs. bike crash last month with only road rash and a cracked rib, so I got that checked off the list. The exams after the crash said I was “normal,” which I thought was a let-down from Mother saying I was “above average” all these years, but still a pretty good grade.

I’ve reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones. Riding Partner Anne stood beside me, literally, as I was bleeding on the ground after the crash. She didn’t get a picture of it, but she’s a writer, not a photographer, so you have to make allowances.

Not gonna tempt fate

I don’t believe in tempting fate, so I’m not going to suggest you run out and buy me a birthday card for next year if you see one one sale, but I’m more optimistic now than I was when I turned 59.

There’s a new Tip Jar

By the way, (how’s that for a segue?) there’s a new little button at the top left of the page that says “Donate.” I have a new advertiser coming on board who wanted to be able to pay by credit card, so Kid Matt set up this link to make it possible. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, but it can also serve as a “tip jar” for anybody who wants to help the boat stay afloat. (That’s not me above. It’s Tom Price, editor of The Ohio University Post, begging for money.)

(We used to have a coffee can labeled “TIPS” back in the telephone switchroom where we invited folks back for espresso a couple of times a week. This was a newspaper, remember, so we didn’t get much money, but we got lots of scraps of paper with stuff like, “Look both ways before crossing the street.” scrawled on them.)

This guy is still there

I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and wonder who that old geezer is who stares back at me. It’s strange, because this is the guy who is still hiding behind that reflection.

2012 Was Going to be Big Deal

After working for papers in Missouri, Ohio and North Carolina, I got a job offer from the one newspaper I had been admiring for years – The Palm Beach Post. When I moved out of the Midwest into Gastonia, N.C., I became part of the National Press Photographers Association’ Region Six, which encompasses the southeastern part of the country. Because I slept with a police scanner and worked 18-hour days, I did pretty well in photo contests that were normally swept by the Florida papers, which ran photos well and had some of the best color reproduction in the country. They took notice of this nobody at a nothing newspaper who had suddenly popped up on their radar screen.

I had the chance to meet some of the West Palm Beach staffers at a couple of conferences, and we hit it off. The next thing I knew I was offered a job without even submitting a portfolio. I figured I’d be in a better negotiating position if I actually met the boss in person, so Wife Lila and I made arrangements to drive down to West Palm Beach for the interview. They put us up in a beachfront hotel – nothing fancy, but it WAS on the beach.

I finally agreed to take the job at the same money I was making in North Carolina – $180 a week. (I found out a couple of years later when I became director of photography that was the highest salary on the staff at the time.) Nobody bothered to mention that Florida ain’t as cheap as North Carolina. Our rent in Gastonia was 90 bucks a month. In West Palm Beach, it was double that.

They didn’t exactly pay moving expenses, either: they put you on the payroll two weeks before you actually started working to help defray your costs. As it turned out, my official hire date was 12/31/72, which turned out in my favor. By being hired in 1972, I was elegible for two-week vacation in ’73. If I had been hired one day later, I wouldn’t have had a paid vacation until 1974.

(You can click on any photo to make it larger if you want to see my waistline expand and my hair recede.)

“You have to fill out an application”

The boss caught me when I was coming back from an assignment. “I need you to fill out an employment application,” he said.

“You’re kidding me, right? I’ve been working here for two weeks.” Yep, I had to fill it out.

Still not sure he wasn’t pulling my leg, I sat down and worked my way through the four-page application where I filled in such answers as

  • Type of position – Photographer
  • Married or single – Married
  • Father’s occupation (why they needed to know that, I can’t fathom) – general contractor
  • Are you available to work nights, weekends or any other hours requested – yes
  • Do you use a typewriter – Yes  If so, how fast – Adequate
  • Three persons not related to you to whom reference can be made to your character, habits and ability – the editor and publisher at The Gastonia Gazette and John Blue of The Southeast Missourian.
  • (I left blank the miscellaneous references that might include my minister.)
  • Selective Service Classification – 4F (Thank you, Draft Lottery)

Then, finally, to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant, “I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words: “State experience, talents or training which cause you to feel you are qualified for work sought:”

I typed, “i’m a damn good photographer” and handed the application back to my boss, who, I assumed, would stuff it somewhere in a desk drawer to be forgotten.

There really IS a permanent record

One day I was helping a friend in HR with a computer problem when I asked her if I could see my employee file. “You can’t add anything, change anything or remove anything,” she warned.

“That’s OK. I just want to see if something is in there.” Yes, it was. My original job application was there, carefully cradled between two sheets of manila folder. She turned her back while I made a copy of it.

So, why was 2012 going to be a big deal?

After turning in my employment application, I had to listen to an orientation speech by a nice woman in Personnel (later buzzworded to Human Relations). She explained that I’d be vested in the pension plan after 10 years and she started to explain how this was going to be important to me in 2012, the year I could retire. I held up my hand and said, “Lady, I’ve never lasted at any newspaper longer than three years. I’m NEVER going to see 2012.”

As the years went by, I kept making more and more references to 2012. “I’ll sign a contract with you in 2013,” I’d tell a vendor. When The Voice Report, a trade magazine, asked me on a bio form, for a “Prediction on the Future of Telecom & Telecom Managers,” I responded, “Please, please, please have a future that lasts until at least 2012 or the first Saturday when I can guess more than three lousy numbers right on the Florida Lottery.”

When rumors of buyouts started floating at the paper, my boss told me that I shouldn’t worry: I was “essential” personnel and wouldn’t be offered a buyout. “I WANT the offer,” I told him. “I’m looking to retire as soon as I hit 62; I’ve been here 35 years; I’m making too much money because of my longevity, and I’ve been grooming my replacement for the past two years. Please, get me the deal.” He worked some magic, and I ended up with a year’s pay (and a huge tax hit), a pension, a health package and early retirement.

So, instead of being a Big Deal, New Year’s Day 2012, is going to be just another wonderful day of retirement.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.