Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 14, 2017

Like I said the last time I posted, it seems that now that I am retired, I have even less time to post.  The last post was over 2 months ago.

Where I seemingly have all the time in the world, I also seem to be busier than ever.  I have not done many actual Star Wars events this year, fact of the matter is that I have only done one event and that was in Oakbrook.  I finally had a day on a weekend where I was not doing a workday for the Forest Preserve District so I did the Special Olympics Polar Plunge in Oakrbrook on 3-4-17.  I didn't plunge this time and was just there to cheer on two members of the Midwest Garrison and all of the other teams that went in.  It was a beautiful day.  Not too cold and not too hot to wear the Hoth Trooper.

The other Star Wars thing that occupied most of February was the construction of the Endor Bunker that Nar Shaddaa Base is to display for this years Joliet Library Star Wars Day in June.  We are supposed to  have the bunker finished and set up by the end of April and it will stay up till June.  As always, it will be part of the NSB display in the lobby of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.  On January 28th and 29th I had two "workdays" on this project and had several members of the Base on hand.  Robert Redden picked up the foam board and delivered that on Saturday morning and it was nothing but cut, sand and paint for the next month.



For a month, just about every room in the house was littered with pieces of this project and it became a bit overwhelming.  I would wake up at 1:00 AM after only a couple hours sleep and start sanding or painting or gluing or whatever.  When all of the pieces were finally painted it was time to see how it all went together and to try to figure out the support system for the piece.






I had a bunch of the NSB members over  on 2-25-17 to gather up all of the pieces and see how things fit together.  I also have been working on some greenery details and other things while Crix builds the support.  This is all supposed to come together in a few weeks.  I have tried to do my best to make it the highest quality one can get out of foamboard and make something that people will truly remember. 




The project is actually starting to look like something and I am pretty excited about seeing it up with all of the "set decoration" that we have planned for it.

I am hoping that it rivals some of the other builds that I have seen on-line and in person.

Now to wait for April and the big "set up".



Since January 1st, I have already put in over 100 hours volunteer time for the Forest Preserve Dist. of Will County.  Lots of regular workdays and going out to do clean up at HCB and also a good deal of work at LaPorte Rd Access.  We finished a really nice project at LRA that removed a vast amount of honeysuckle so that now you could see into the woods again and what it is supposed to look like.


 Much of the work I have done the past couple months is follow up and clean up at HCB.  Those things never end but a lot of the area cleaned up very well so it will be interesting to see how things progress in the new season.



In addition to the workdays I have been able to do a couple of burns with the District and at Lily Cache with the Nelsons.  The time for burns already grows short and I hope to get another one or two in before the season ends.  The burns were fairly easy ones this year.  At HCB the fuel was still a little on the wet side so managing the burn was fairly easy.  The morning of the Lily Cache burn the weather was nasty and there was mist and fog, but we decided to go to lunch and begin the burn later and it worked out well as the site burned pretty well once the humidity went down and the sun came out and warmed things a bit.


The warm weather had jump started a lot of the spring ephemerals but we had a surprise snow storm the last couple of days that buried everything a bit.  I have the annual Garlic Mustard Blitz coming up next week so I hope the snow melts so we can find the garlic mustard. 


I also got a chance to see my friend Cheryl's new house in Beach Park Il.  I went up there on March 5th to do a little chainsawing of some trees that were too close to the house or dead. 

I brought my Stihl saw with me and as usual, it refused to start.  I got fed up with it and Cheryl and I went to the local Home Depot and I purchased a Ryobi saw that I had been looking at for a time.  The Ryobi started very nice and ran great.  I had another friend look at my Stihl saw to see what was going on with it and he did quite a few fixes to it.  I think I will still keep the Ryobi as a back up though as I no longer trust the Stihl to acutally start. 

I have so many things coming up in the next couple of weeks that I both look forward to and some things that I don't look forward to.  I have to go to Silver Cross Hospital for tests...that always sucks.  I am also having the usual teeth issues so there will be trips to the dentist.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 5, 2017

Wow....you would think that since I retired on 11-21-16 from full time work that I would have more time to keep up with my Blog.  Guess that is not so.  Since retiring I have been sorting out a lot of issues with regard to how I will live, healthcare and many other time consuming and mind numbing tasks.  I  have no income right now and am living off of money I had put aside for many years just for this scenario.  I still have to get my 401K issues straightened out.  So, since I have no money coming in right now, I don't get a chance to get out and do much.  I hope that changes soon.  I have done some things during the month of December despite the fact that I did get another bad cold that hit pretty hard.

I had a mad scramble on my last day of work.  I worked till noon on 11-21 my last day and due to some snafu, I had to leave at noon to get some legal paperwork done on putting one of my siblings on the deed to my house.  They had a little send off for me and it just has been so strange not to get up for work each morning and go into Oak Lawn after 38 years.  I hope I have done the right thing.  Some days I am positive about my decision and other days...well..not so much.


11-24-16 was Thanksgiving Day and I had a really nice and full day.  I got up (and still get up) very early that morning to get dressed and head to Forest Park to meet up with the Star Wars folks to head downtown to the City of Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade. 


As always, that was a lot of fun.  The weather was a little on the cold side, but not bad and there was no snow or no rain.  We were just about the last unit in the parade this year so there was a lot of standing around.



After the parade, I went to Joan's for Thanksgiving dinner.  Stef and Meryl were in from Utah and it was so nice to see them and to be able to stay later because I didn't have to get up for work the next day.  The family had a little celebration for my retirement and gave me a gift card for travel on Southwest Airlines.  We played Scrabble and had a great time just getting caught up.  I got a chance to see Stef again before she went home.  I had also put up the Christmas tree that morning.

Since retiring, I have been going out to Hickory Creek Barrens to work on the restoration site quite often.  I will go for 2-3 hours and get some work done.  It is a way to get exercise and get something accomplished with out feeling too overwhelmed.  I have started on "small tasks" that I can accomplish in a couple days and that is better than looking at the whole of what needs to be done.  We have been doing a lot of follow up on areas cut before and it is nice to get back into a lot of those areas and give them a once over.

During December, I did do a number of Star Wars events.  On 12-4-16 I did the Toy Con Charity Toy Show.  This year attendance was down by the public, but as always we had a great turn out of Star Wars costumed members.  I always feel it is our annual Christmas Party. 





Unfortunately, the snow flurries predicted for that day turned out to be a lot more than flurries and travel home during what ended up to be practically a white out was challenging.  But, again, it was great to not have to get up the next morning for work and maneuver the snow to get into Oak Lawn. 











On 12-10 I did a "double header" of events.  They were down on participants for the Toys For Tots event at Cantigny so, I put on my Imperial Gunner costume to go to that around noon.  I had also made plans to attend an event in the evening at Fermilab, so rather than go to the Toys For Tots thing early, I went later in the day and then headed straight from Cantigny to Fermilab. 





I had some time to kill in between, so I just stopped at a Dunkin Donuts on the way to Fermilab and had some coffee.

The event at Fermilab was the premier of a SW fan film I had appeared in.  The filming was back in 2008 and I thought they would never finish it.  Well, they did finish it and held a premier at Fermilab because that was where much of it was filmed.  They also asked that the few of us that were there appear in costume to greet the people coming in.  Where I had not planned to wear the costume in the evening too, I did end up putting it back on.  The movie turned out to be pretty good and had a great ending.  The scenes that I filmed were all in the final movie, so that was pretty cool. 

Unfortunately, another snowstorm hit as I was leaving Cantigny and the snow kept coming down while I was at the movie premier.  The ride home on the expressways was a real "white knuckler" as people always insist on driving like a bat out of hell even when the roads are bad.  Also, the Jeep's heater/defroster is not the greatest in the world and the wiper arms are also worn out and erratic...so the ride home was pretty intense.  Things got better the closer to Will County that I got.

I have also started to make preparations for the Frozen Butts workday.  Berkots finally had port butt on sale, so I bought 3 of them and spent a lot of time last weekend preparing the pulled pork for the workday pot luck.  I also am looking over what I have to give as door prizes which will not be as good as previous years because I have no income coming in.  On Christmas Eve several of us went out to HCB to start the brush piles that will be burned for the Frozen Butts Workday.  The weather was really nice that day for this time in December.  There was still snow on the ground, but it was due to be rained away on Christmas Day.


On 12-16, Star Wars Rogue One premiered and I was signed up for a premier showing at Hollywood Blvd Theater.  It was a pretty long day into night and I was definitely not comfortable wearing the RFT costume.  The pants for the RFT are really tight in the waist and the boots are very uncomfortable so by the time my showing of the movie came about, I was just not feeling well. 



I found that I didn't like the movie very much and thought that maybe that was because I was tired and hurting.  I went to see it again on Tuesday and found that I still didn't think that much of it.  I liked it because it was Star Wars...but have to confess that I was not thrilled by the movie. 




On New Years Eve, a bunch of us restoration volunteers went out to work at Hickory Creek, LaPorte Rd Access.  The weather was beautiful.  Sunny and in the 40's by noon.  I brought a little bottle of champagne along and we all had a toast to the New Year.  On New Years Day, I also went out with Mark Bettin and we worked at HCB taking down the last of some very large honeysuckle in one area that I have wanted to get back to for a long time. 

Well, I am sure that I have forgotten a bunch of stuff, but this at least gets me a little up to date on what is going on in my life. 







Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

Retirement...it is at hand.  Tomorrow will be my last day of work at Mancari's - I have been there over 38 years.  Friday will be my last paycheck and then I am on my own till I collect SS in Oct of 2017.  I hope I have made the right decision, but I know that I am tired of working.  I started babysitting at age 12.  By 15 I was working and going to school.  By 16 I was working 2 jobs, 7 days a week and going to high school.  When I bought my first tiny house in Chicago, I worked 2 part time and 1 full time job and did that for many years.  I have always tried to save money and have also tried to live within my means.  I took a 20 year mortgage instead of a 30 year and paid my house off (such as it is) several years back.  So, do I have enough to retire on...I hope so.  The one thing that none of us knows is how long will we live?  Will we outlive what we have saved?  I do know that tomorrow is promised to no one and I want to have some time to just live life at a little more non-hectic pace and have a little time to take some deep breaths.  I plan to really stick close to home the first months, spend as little money as possible and do a massive purge on the house. 

I do have enough hobbies and interests to keep my mind an body "in shape".  I am dogged by some health issues but certainly have no room to complain.

The last few weeks, I have been out actively working on my prairie restoration site and will have additional time to put in there after retirement.  This Saturday is the "Work Off The Turkey" workday and I am looking forward to it.  Linda and I have done prep for it by making some piles to start and areas to work in.  I have pleaded for the areas that we have been working on the last years to get burned this season.  I have about 200 volunteer hours in so far this year.  A few more than last year.

On 11-6-16, I took a day to wander at Morton Arboretum.  It was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to go out and enjoy it.  The fall colors on the trees have not been so spectacular this year and it seems that the trees were out of synch this year.  A lot of the trees had dropped their leaves already, some were in full splendor, and some did not hit peak till just this week. 





I got a very early start and was glad I did because after about 10:30 AM the place was just nuts with people.  I had gotten there before 8 AM and went to one of the further parking lots on the west side and took a few trails.  I, of course, wanted to see Schuylenberg Prairie which I have not visited since the very early days of its' inception and planting.  It, of course, was all brown at this time of year, so I  have to plan a visit in the spring and summer next year.



Yesterday I spent a good part of the day at Navy Pier for ChiTag (Chicago Toy and Game Show) in costume.  I decided to wear the TFA X-Wing Pilot and hoped that it would not be too hot and was surprised that I didn't sweat my butt off all day. 



I stayed behind at the boot while everyone else went to the Star Wars luncheon and I had quite a mob at the booth at times with kids playing with and trying on the helmets and lightsabers that were there to use for photos at the backdrops.  These days I get fairly tired after several hours so I was glad to head home at 2:00 PM. 

This Thursday is Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to the annual Chgo Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown and then heading to Joan's for dinner.  Stef and Meryl will be in town and it will be great to see them and the best part is that I will not have to get up for work the next morning. 



Last week I also helped a friend move a large Star Wars display piece to a storage unit.  It was a large U-Wing from the new movie "Rogue One" that was hanging from the ceiling at his WalMart store.  It just barely fit in the Jeep.


I also had a meeting with the folks at the Joliet Area Historical Museum to look at plans for a very large build for the annual Joliet Star Wars Day.  I know that I will begin some of the building of this piece as soon as possible.  We will need to get going if it is to be ready for display by the end of April so that it can stay up at the Museum from "May the Fourth" till about a month after JLSWD which is June 3, 2017.  I know this project will keep me busy.






Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30, 2016

Tomorrow is Halloween and then October is gone too. 

I turned 65 on October 15th and it seems that the last two months have been spent dealing with that.  Medicare, Medicare supplements and trying to retire from full time work seems to take up a lot more time than it should.  Dealing with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for supplemental insurance has turned into a nightmare of epic proportion.  E-mails, phone calls, and a letter have all been virtually ignored. 

Most of September and October were spent cleaning up the garden when I had time to spare.  I decided to really cut back everything this fall to have a nice blank slate this coming spring as I want to move some things around, divide others and nuke others.  I gathered up some free large-ish cobblestones this past spring and want to try to re-do some of the borders this spring and also got rid of most all of the hosta on the east side of the house.  That was a huge undertaking.  The hosta were so crowded and so overgrown that it was mind numbing.  I have also been seed saving this year from my native plants.  The seed is going into LaPorte Rd Access and Hickory Creek Junction as those sites are buffer for the Nature Preserve.  I have some native seed in the fridge and freezer getting cold stratified and hope to start some of my own seedlings in the spring.

I have not been doing much in the way of Star Wars events.  I did do a photoshoot with others on my birthday.  I don't have much in the way of photos to show for it though.  My friend Caroll was in town from Seattle and she came along for the day.  It was good fun to visit with her and we went out for dinner after the photo shoot.  We tried to do the photoshoot at the Joliet Iron Works, but got asked to "move along", so the group went back to Dellwood Park which is more user friendly. 



 The Goji Berry plant I put in this spring has been going like gang busters and has been blooming and even setting a bit of fruit in its' first year.  I do suspect, however, that this plant will be difficult to control once it gets really going.  They say that you can also plant this shrub in a pot and that will limit its' size.  I may have to do that.  I know that the plant roots easily when a part of the stem hits the ground, so I may take a cutting and try to root it for use in a large pot next year.


I have been doing some workdays for the Forest Preserve as always, but the weather is always a crap shoot on if one can get out to work without rain interfering with the spraying.  Linda and I did get out last Saturday and continued spraying a huge area of reed canary grass.  It will be interesting to see the result in another week or so.




Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 9, 2016

Clean up of the garden is in full swing at this time of year.  The endless piles of plants past their prime are being ground up and composted.  Soon it will be time to plant the garlic for next year.  This year was the best my vegetable garden has been in 3 years.  Conditions were really great for a lot of the veggies this year.  Lots of hot weather for peppers, tomatoes and cukes.  Where I was not happy with all the hot weather, the garden sure was.  Also, got plenty of rain this year at all the right times but not the intense flooding of previous years.  I did a whole lot of canning and preserving.  This year I tried hot packing peaches for the first time when one of the Master Gardeners peach tree split right around the time of harvest.  I think the peaches turned out pretty good.

As always, there was a few Star Wars events that I made it to.  Where I don't do as many, I still try to get to a few. 

On 8-4, I marched in the Montgomery Fest Parade.  This was a hot one for sure.  Staging is in a parking lot with no shade and the parade steps off at the heat of the day.  Parking is often a hassle too so I parked a couple blocks away so that was a very hot walk back to the Jeep.  I am still glad I made it to the parade as I don't see some of my costume friends as much as I would like. 



On 9-1, I did the Make a Wish "Walk For Wishes" 5K at Busse Woods on the north side.  The MAW boy that we did the event for in June reached out to Tim J. and asked if we would join him at the walk.  How can you say no to that!!  The day started out nice and cool, but it warmed up pretty good and was a bit on the hot side by the time we finished the 5K.  A couple of us car pooled and then went for a bite to eat after the event.  Those boots I bought off of E-bay for $20.00 and added a little embellishment to make them Jedi boots are so comfortable that even with my screwed up feet and a 5K walk, I had no issues with pain. 

Well, it is official that I am old.  I got my Medicare card in the mail a week ago.  I have also been doing some more research on additional healthcare.  I meet with the retirement planner on Tuesday and am gathering together all of the statements that I will need.  I will have to be very frugal the next months I am working and put as much money into checking to cover upcoming bills like Medicare Part B, real estate taxes, home and auto insurance etc.  I also went to apply for the Sr. Citizen exemption on my real estate taxes, that will save over $400.00 on my real estate taxes next year.  I don't plan on actually collecting SS until I am 66 - which won't be till Oct 2017, so I will have to live carefully till then.

As always, I have been doing work on all the prairie projects though I have not been out as much as usual.  I have done some seed collecting and we did a huge spray on a portion of HCB's pipeline easement.  It has been very hot this summer so getting out to do additional work has been sparse.  It has been just too hot.






I also finished phase one of the deck repairs.  I had replaced some of the boards this spring and finally gave it a good sanding over the Labor Day weekend as the weather cooperated-no rain.  After sanding it I was able to put 2 coats of preserver on it and that was allowed to dry for several days before we got rain. 






Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August 9, 2016

I seem to start out each entry with a weather report or a realization how fast time is going.  This is both..it has been a pretty hot summer and it is August already.  I knew when I planted the garden that it would seem like no time before it was time to clean up the garden.  Cleaning up the garden has already begun.  I started cutting down some plants and will do more today.  The rains have dried up and things are pretty dry now.  We haven't had any real measurable rain in a couple weeks now so I will have to spend time and water dollars by watering parts of the garden this morning. 

The last two years have been pretty awful as far as the vegetable garden, but this year has been exceptional.  There were no terrible spring floods and the weather has been warm.  This is the best year I can remember in a long time for tomatoes and peppers.  The garlic and onions have been pulled up already. 


The beets have also been pulled up and pickled.  The snow and snap peas vines were dying off so they were removed and the lettuce bolted, so that has been pulled.  There seems to be a lot of open raised beds now which is a good thing, less to water.  I have made cucumbers into not only two kinds of refrigerator pickles, but have also made homemade relish which turned out really good.




Butterfly monitoring is more or less done for the season.  I will likely get out one more time before the season ends.  This year was not a very good year for butterflies.  The Monarch situation is pretty grim also.  Where last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch eggs, cats and chrysalis, this year I have little.  I have raised only 2 adults and right now I have two chrysalis and only one cat.  I search for eggs a couple times a week, but have found little. 



I haven't been out at the prairie doing work much the last couple of weeks as it has been too hot.  I hope to start getting out there a bit more once the weather moderates.  A couple of us did go out this past Saturday morning to collect some seed at Brightway.  The seed that was collected will stay in Hickory Creek Preserve by giving it to Paul, Mark and Bernie for dispersal at their HCP sites. 

I only did one Star Wars event the past couple of weeks and that was the Bolingbrook Library on 8-1-16.  I chose to wear the Episode 7 X-Wing Pilot and found that to be way too hot for summer events.  It was a warm night and I was sweating so hard that I soaked the orange flightsuit which bled orange on to the white flak vest.  When I tried to wash the vest to get out the orange dye, color from the wood inserts in the flak vest bled also into the vest and stained it.  I am now trying to remove that.  I may have to re-do those pieces which will be a real bummer, but at least I have a template to follow this time.  I washed the flak vest again with a bleach to try to get the stains out, but don't know if it will work till its' dry. 

Still have to figure out what I am going to do about retirement and health insurance.  I will be signing up for Medicare part A and B and now just have to settle on a supplemental insurance.  I need to update all my financial stuff and go see the retirement planner by next month for sure.






Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12,2016

The dog days of summer have arrived.  There has been a good amount of hot weather but there has also been some days of relief also.  It is much easier to take the 90 degree heat and humidity if you get a break in between.  Also important is a little rain so that the garden does not have to be watered.  The rain is not coming as frequently as I would like sometimes, but at least we do get some from time to time.  There have been a couple more violent storms the last month or so, but so far no power outages or tornadoes in the area. 

The vegetable garden has done better this year than the past 3 years thanks to not so much flooding this spring.  The rabbits are still eating some of not only the vegetable garden, but other flowering plants I have put in this year.  Rabbit damage is still not nearly as bad as it was last year.

Since July 4th fell on a Monday, I had a nice 4 day weekend.  Well, nice in that I was off from work but I had a lot of chores and projects to do around the house.  One of the projects that I had put off for some time was that parts of my back stairs/deck were getting spongy so I knew that there was rotting wood to deal with.  I had to purchase a reciprocating saw just to get some of the old planks off the deck as the people who built it sunk the screws so far in that you could not get them out.  I removed some of the worst planks and did find rotting wood, but for the most part it was just the supports to hold up the mitered corners.  The stringers were still in good shape.  I purchased pressure treated lumber instead of the cedar that the deck was built with and the new lumber was a little bit larger than the original so things didn't line up quite like I would have wanted, but all in all it didn't come out too bad.  I know there are a few more pieces that I will need to address, but I do need to buy more lumber.

On July 3rd I marched in the Bartlett Parade.  Finally, this year the parade was not as hot as the previous 11 years I have done this event.  Normally, the temps are in the upper 80's and 90's for the parade, but this year it was a refreshing 70's in the morning hours and even when the parade stepped off, it was only about 80 with a nice breeze.  Following the parade the wind was a little stronger and that breeze felt great while trying to cool off for the parade.  I still decided to wear my lightest weight costume and it was plenty hot.  I stuck around for 2 beers and had a nice chat with fellow members since I didn't have to get up for work the next morning.  On the 4th, I did more chores and went up to watch part of the Mokena 4th of July parade. 

I also finally got to the Joliet Historical Museum on Friday July 8th to take down and bring home the Rebel Legion display that I had left there following the Joliet Star Wars Day event.  Since I had brought Artoo home a few days before, I had plenty of room in the Jeep to fit everything in for one trip home.  I took my time and folded everything up in the cases so that I would not have to deal with it when I got home.  It was a pretty warm day, so much sweating ensued.

In the late afternoon on July 8th I had the New Lenox Relay For Life event to do in costume.  So, I loaded up Artoo and waited for Blair who was going to change at my house for the event.  Again, plenty warm day near 90 degrees, but the humidity had backed off and by 5:30 PM when it was time to leave for the event, there was again a nice breeze.  It was still hot, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.  We lead off the Survivor's Lap for the Relay and then hung around an hour or so after that. 

Finishing out this past weekend I had butterfly monitoring to do on Saturday and on Sunday was a restoration workday at LaPorte Rd Access.  Again, plenty hot out for both endeavors and it was a sweat-fest especially on Sunday.  My goal for Monday was to not sweat as I think I had sweated out about 5 gallons of water between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. 

Tonight I give a talk to the Joliet Area Garden Club on Monarchs.  Last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch caterpillars to raise, but this year I only have one and feel lucky to have it.  I found 3 eggs and they all hatched, but 2 of the 3 caterpillars just never ate and died.  This last one has made it to instar #4 and looks like it will make it.  I keep looking for more eggs on my milkweed, but have not found any.  Also, while butterfly monitoring there have been no monarchs.  I am guessing that the storm that hit the sanctuaries in Mexico was a lot more devastating than was first thought.