I’m not sure when I discovered I developed vertigo.  It may have been the annual task of cleaning the chimney the wood stove used.  The Chimney was at the end of an addition of an old farm house, my ex-wife now owns. That addition was two stories on one side and three stories on the other.  The chimney was on the three story wall.  The roof slope was too steep to walk up.

The addition  was connected to the main house. The roof lines were offset.  I would climb the extension ladder to the roof of the main part of the house that had a slope could walk up (5/12).  I would climb to the peak then slide down the edge  to the roof peak of the joining room. I would scoot across that peak straddling the peak to the chimney on the far end. I would then stand up to reach the top of the chimney and proceed to clean the chimney as I straddled the steep peak. Not a fun task.   When I was done and back on the ground, I would often find my legs week and shaking. I thought it was due to the tension I of standing is such a fixed spot while I clean the chimney, but realized later that the shaking legs were the onset of vertigo.

The first time I identified it as vertigo was later when my youngest son and I took a day hike up Mt. Osceloa  in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was probably  14 or 15, the young reckless teen years; I was in my 40’s.  The trail started out in woods and was not too steep.  About a mile later, it started going over rocks and near cliffs.  My son would run to the edge of the cliffs and call: “Hey, Dad, look at this!” and I could fee my legs shake and my mind would visualize him going over the edge, crashing in the scrubs and rocks below. 

As my heart rate would return to normal when he retreated from the edge, I realized the true experience of vertigo.

Fast forward 30 some years later, and I still get the same feeling watching my wife on scaffolding 24 feet above the cement floor in our new home finishing the trim on the tongue and grove wood ceiling. Or watching the same son fall on a snow field and slide down a mountain in the Chicago Basin.

My vertigo is somewhat manageable as I get the same feelings on the top of a five foot stepladder today. 

But I prefer both feet planted on earth and not near a cliff.


April 1, 2015 will be my last day as an employee. I will be resigning or retiring from my day job at Keith’s. No more sales calls, no more trying to remember the SKU’s, no more unloading trucks in rain, no more regular pay checks.

I will miss my coworkers.

This is a freeing moment in my life.

No I have to train my brain to think for itself.  Train myself on how to select where and how I spend my time. I will still do technical  consulting, but I get to choose those tasks and when to do them. But, I can choose to not answer the phone. I get to put my energy toward my own goals. My efforts will help or harm me, not somebody who bought my time, talnet, expertise, and energy.

I will say that Keith’s has been good to me. Of all the jobs in my life, this one has not required me to compremise my values to make a paycheck. I attribute that to Dave Keith, the owner. I thank him for that.

Now, I get to start another chapter in my life. It may be the last, but it will be mine.

Helping my daughter and family move

March 11  – 14, 2015

My cell phone rings and from the ring tone I can tell it is from my daughter who lives in Massachusetts.  

She rarely calls.

She sounds hesitant to tell me that she is moving. They got tired of living in a loft apartment in a renovated  tobacco barn. Her last month’s propane bill was $900 and she could not get the temperature above 58 degrees in her daughter’s bedroom.  She had been looking and found that the townhouse she had rented a few years ago in Hatfield was available.  She was moving the upcoming weekend.

So, I decided to drive up to help her move.  This was against my better judgment for I clearly remember moving the piano and honker desk up the stairs just a year and 1/2 ago. I had lost 10 pounds during that move.  However, since I was at my winter heavy weight, maybe it was not such a bad idea after all.

I left the next day to drive the 550 miles.  I got a speeding ticket in New York state.  That one, I may have to protest. But that is another store.

I had made reservations to stay in a Red Roof inn nearby – wanting some private space and not wanting to hinder my daughter to find a place for me to sleep.  We had dinner that evening at a nearby cool restaurant. I ate too much.

The next morning I visited her in her classroom. She teaches grades 4 to 6 in a Montessori School in North Hampton. She was doing a lesson on Pi Day, since Saturday, 03-14-15 was a special “Pi Day’, being the first ten digits of Pi if you consider the date, hour, minutes and seconds in the morning: 3.14 15 9 26 53.  This was one of the best things that I experienced in a while. I may had to write about just this experience.

Fred helping students figure out Pi using the circle in a chair

After that lesson I got back on target regarding the move.  I went to her old apartment, walked the dogs and decided that before I could get my Transit or the U-haul truck in a position that was easy to load, I had to shovel snow.

Shovel I did.

After an hour, I had shoveled about 3/4 of the path:

If there is any good news in this, it is the dock at her door. 

You can see the walkway that was shoveled before I arrived. It was only a small path to the steps.  To get my Transit and a U-haul truck, we needed a much wider path. 

But the full record breaking snow that winter had piled up to about 3 feet of compressed snow. Each shovel must have weighed 30 pounds. 100 shovels later is a ton and 1/2. 

This was a good stress test for my back.

There was a two inch base of ice that I was not able to remove.

Below is the finished job, after I backup up the Transit to test it.

The Transit is front wheel drive. My first load was all boxes – many of which were books. Did I tell you my daughter is a teacher and lover of books? So are her two kids and partner.   The first load was the heaviest which took enough weight off the front tires that I had trouble getting traction to get out.

Her 15 year old son helped me carry all the boxes downstairs, load the Transit and unload it at the new place.

The second load was also full and by then, my daughter had arrived from work to help load and unload. However, the base of ice had gotten so slippery that we had to put some dirt under the front tires and  they had to push to get me out.

We unloaded that second load around 5:00 pm. By now, I was bushed, hungry and ready to quit. While unloading the second load, we met one of her new neighbors and discussed dinner plans of Chinese food. After some discussion, debate, and negotiating, we finally ended up having the new neighbors pick up Chinese take-out and we ate at their townhouse.  We took a load of tables to the new place on the way to eat.

I retired to my Red Roof room, with a Dewars and bag of popcorn.  Yea!

The next morning was planning for the big U-haul truck (a 13 footer).  We decided to focus on the big stuff that could not fit into my Transit or their cars.  As helped arrived from my daughter’s school (all woman) and my son arrived from Eastern MA (macho man), we started carrying the 13 book cases down to the dock while her partner went to fetch the truck. 

While freezing rain started to fall, we loaded the first load in the U-haul with bedding from the three bedrooms, most all the book cases, boxes, and other stuff to fill the voids to make it a full load. It took about an hour to load and about 3/4 to unloaded.

I was very impress with the team of woman that my daughter had arranged to help. Where my son made his presence known like a bull in a china shop, each of the woman just kept on working like a colony of ants, quietly making speedy progress, doing what needed done without fanfare or declaration.   We were done unloading around 12:30 and went back to her old place for another load.

After a few slices of pizza that one of the woman magically made appear, we tackled the biggest, most difficult items: the upright piano, a large oak desk, and two oversize stuffed couches.  It was very nice to have men with strong backs and the upper body strength, but I have to give credit to strong woman. They carried their share of weight without the grunting.

As we were moving the piano down stairs and turning a 90 degree corner to get out the door, I mistakenly brushed my left elbow up against my daughter’s best friend’s chest.  Feeling the  recognizable softness of a female breast, I said: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to poke you in the breast there.”  

She returned: “No problem, I have been been felt up in a while.”

My daughter hear our exchange and added: “Groping is not allowed while moving.”

I liked working with strong, independent woman.

At the new place, the new neighbor showed up. He had set himself up for being able to help with the heavy items since he weighed about 300 pounds and had more muscle mass than two of the woman combined.  I rolled the piano off the truck ramp on a dolly and he and my son lifted the piano into the new place by themselves.  Macho men come in handy while moving.  

The freezing rain had turned to just rain, but it was still hovering around 32 degrees. That load was done around 2:00 and we went back to the last load while some of the help left to continue with their own busy lives.

The last load was what I call ‘scrubs’.   ‘Scrubs’ are the things you have left after everything has been moved that you care about.  Small loose items, like you charcoal grill, bicycles, lamps, cloths,food, bags, dog dishes, things you find under the couches, crates, and stuff you wouldn’t miss if you left behind or lost.   It was only about 1/4 of a load.  I loaded three bicycles into the Transit and we all went to the new place for the final unloading.

By now, the new place looked like a trash heap of boxes, unassembled furniture, wet dirty floors, and total disarray.  Such it is, moving.

We returned the U-haul truck and I went back to the Red Roof room for a drink and dinner of snacks.

I left my daughter and her partner and kids to tackle the unpacking and drove to visit my son and his boys about an hour away. 

Moving is something I and my children are well experienced at. It is not an easy task, but experience and getting help make it tolerable. I lost count of the number of times I moved, close to 30 times. 

I believe everyone should move at least, once every five years. If they don’t they accumulate too much stuff and parts of their house never get cleaned.