March 30, 2020

Making Stuff

Making Stuff
By John  R. Greenwood



The last several weeks have been a strain on everyone. I'd like to express my gratitude and admiration to those whose job puts them on the front lines of the war on COVID-19. I'm fortunate and have little to complain about in comparison. My first priority is in the next room safe and sound. Although spurts of fear and uncertainty have caused some tears and a nightmare or two, my wife and I are trying to remain positive and productive. In that light, I've been spending some time making stuff. This week I made some stuff so I could make more stuff. 

My garage is only large enough for a Toyota, a motorcycle, a bicycle, and a vast assortment of yard tools. A cellar is not the ideal place to build stuff. I'm much happier building stuff out in the fresh air. Not only can I hear the birds, but the view better. It's also easier to clean up the sawdust. For the last forty-plus years, all my building projects have been squeezed in between work and other responsibilities. Now that I have more time to spend on projects, my impatience is more manageable, and the quality of my circular saw cuts are vastly improved. 






I started the week building a work table. I added casters for mobility. I didn't use any specific set of plans, although I did watch hours and hours of workbench building videos on YouTube. I'm not sure if that made the end result any better, but it did kill a lot of time. Watching DIY videos on YouTube also makes your morning coffee taste better. It's a scientific fact.The table came out better than expected. It also used up some scrap material that had been lying around. It's a good thing I added casters because the table weighs more than a Buick. When the weather warms up, I'll add some stain. 






The second project I'd wanted to do is to build a new set of saw horses. I made a set for my son for Christmas. I experimented with a simpler version for those. Although they looked great and were much easier to make, I'm not sure they will hold up as well. For the one pictured here, I dug out an old set of plans I'd used before. This version takes a little longer to make but will last longer. I'd probably still be using the originals if I'd maintained them better. I used pressure-treated lumber and exterior grade fasteners on my new set. If I take better care of them, they should outlast me. I'm planning to repaint my garage this summer. These puppies are strong enough to use for scaffolding. 



Three new pieces will help make my other building projects more enjoyable this summer. Having heavy-duty, portable work surfaces makes any DIY project go smoother. If we're going to be yard-bound this spring, we might as well be building, fixing, cleaning, or improving something while we're at it. 

For all of you who still have to drive a truck, tend to the ill or injured, keep retail afloat, protect us from fire and crime, I can't thank you enough. To stay engaged, I will try to post here more often. I will do my best to keep it light and entertaining. We get enough drama with the morning news to last all day. The best advice I can give right now is to keep moving. Building stuff is a good start. 

Be safe out there. 

Be sure to wear your safety glasses, earplugs, face mask, sunscreen, gloves, steel-toed boots, and hardhat. Don't forget to wash your hands, eat your vegetables, take your vitamins, and drink your juice. Be sure to get plenty of rest. Always warm up and stretch before any strenuous activity. 

Most importantly, "Have Fun!" 


See you on election day! 




This is one of the pair I made as a Christmas gift.
I used a technique called Shou Sugi Ban to finish it 






March 25, 2020

Bare-knuckle Snow-blowing

Bare-knuckle Snow-blowing 
By John R. Greenwood 



It’s a good day when you can snow blow your driveway with bare knuckles. There is a huge discrepancy between snow-blowing on November 24th and snow-blowing on March 24th. Knowing there is green grass in your near future feels good. The attitude gap is immeasurable. If it wasn’t for the half-dozen Amazon packages headed our way I might have left the snow to fend for itself. There is nothing more rewarding than clearing snow when the thermometer is hovering in the forties and the lawn was already raked and fertilized the week before. Knowing its Toro’s last hurrah puts a smile on your face and a skip in your boots. It did give me a chance to thank Old Faithful for getting me through the winter without a hitch. 

In my last post I vowed to stay positive and productive while this virus turns our lives upside down. My wife and I are doing our part to keep ourselves healthy and safe. We’re not ready to be sacrificed to keep stock earnings healthier. 

With that thought I’m going to make an effort to pump a little life into Raining Iguanas. I owe it to all those who have supported the blog and encouraged me to continue writing. Life got real over the last several months and priorities sometimes require recalibration. 

Yesterday while I was pretending to dig out from a pretend blizzard I snapped a few pictures to help get my mojo back. If you haven’t visited here in a while I want to thank you for stopping by. 

ALREADY!



Frozen Tundra 







Dazed and Confused 







Snow Bunnies









Table Talk Pie 








Be Kind.
We're All In This Together






March 24, 2020

Jetson's To The Flintstone's


Jetson's To The Flintstone's
By John R. Greenwood



We've gone from the Jetson's to the Flintstone's in just a few weeks. Life as we have grown accustom, has come to a screeching halt. It was like watching Fred bury his heels in the dirt to avoid t-boning a runaway Brontosaurus. Our lives have gone from sixty to zero overnight. We may have turned the clocks ahead to save daylight, but our lives have been rolled back to save lives. And it's just the beginning. The severity of our predicament came abruptly, and put our Charmin' lives in the outhouse. 

I have always tried to flaunt my optimism. Some might argue that point, but I do my best to lean more Anne Lamott than Denis Leary. That theory was tested the other day when I exercised my social distancing skills by going for a walk down my road. I wrote about that walk in the previous post. My walk turned into a road adoption, and instead of my glass being half full, I came home 45 minutes later with an overflowing bag of empty liquor bottles and a diminished view of my fellow man. I found myself in a pessimistic pickle. 

Jump ahead two days. After reading dozens of stories about people pulling up bootstraps and grabbing tigers by the tail, I decided to see a doctor. I didn't need to make an appointment. I have a physician friend who makes house calls. All it takes to see her is a mouse-click and her expertise will come to your doorstep. Her name is Jen and you can find her blog Pound of Prevention here. I first met Jen as a member of a writing group. We were a small group of like-minded, beginning writers with hopes of learning more about the craft of sharing our thoughts with the rest of the world. Our group turned into something much more than that. It became an oasis of support and positivity. The residual effect has lasted for years and continues today. The piece she had posted was titled "Containing Coronavirus (Fears)." Who better to explain the current situation than a practicing physician with a compassionate heart. She did just that. Her thoughts were personal. Her advice comes from the soul of a physician/mother/wife/citizen/friend/writer. Her opinions and guidance have been mirrored by many across the internet. On the flip-side, there is no shortage of negative, judgmental, and whining commentary. I'm trying to avoid those as much as the virus itself. The best advice I heard came from the governor. He said it's vital that in all this turmoil, we stay, "productive." That can come in many forms and interpretations. That's the point, what's best for you may not be best for me. Find a comfort zone. Know there is light at the end, but we need the support of each other along the way. 

My goal is to stay positive and productive. Ranting about a littered roadside today is neither. I don't want to be Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, I'm more comfortable in Fred Roger's shoes. I was going to delete my trash-rant post from the other day. But on second thought, I think I'll keep it there as a reminder—a sort of Turning Point of the American Revolution of Attitude and Productivity. 

Take a minute to visit the doctor on her website. She gives sound advice. 

Oh, one last thought! 

Who do you think was happier, George Jetson in Orbit City, working at Spacely Space Sprockets? Or, Fred living in Bedrock, working at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company? 

I'll give you a clue.

 "Yabba Dabba..."




March 20, 2020

Trash Talk

Trash Talk 
By John R. Greenwood 




It’s the second day of Spring 2020 and I needed to un-Covid-19 myself. The stress of the last few weeks had grabbed me by the throat and threatened to choke me. Whenever this happens I go running to my mother. Mother Nature has taken the place of mom’s attentive ear. Because mom is now busy tending to dad high above, she sometimes delegates her co-mother to fill in when she knows fresh air and the smell of pine needles is what I need most. So like a good son, I grabbed a hoodie and headed out the backdoor. A walk up the road is always a good starting point. I was just fifty feet from the end of my driveway when I spotted two empty beer cans, a soggy cigarette pack, and McDonald’s soda cup. I turned in my tracks and went back to the garage to grab a large shopping bag to collect road trash in. It was one of those gigantic plastic ones with handles. I thought it would be easier to carry than a trash bag and it would hold plenty. Wrong! I was still close enough to hit my garage with a rock and the bag was already half full. I figured if I did end up filling it I would leave it and pick it up on the return trip. My relaxing hike turned uglier the further I went. By the time I got to a grove of pines halfway down my road I was looking at dozens and dozens of single serve plastic wine bottles strewn as far as I could see. You can read my fall 2018 rant about this issue here: I'll Drive You To Drink

My relaxing walk had turned Covid-like. The vision of someone winging their drinking problem out the window and on to the roadside cranked me up like a BJ’s shopper watching someone buy (2) 32-Pack’s of Charmin during a pandemic. 

WTF! 


I regained my composure and filled my liquor-bag to the brim. By now I was drenched in perspiration and wine fumes, so instead of continuing my walk, I turned around and headed home. I’d gotten my exercise even if Mother Nature ended up getting the better end of the deal. She was a little cleaner. I burned a few calories, more by anger than effort, but in the end I did feel better that my walk wasn’t in vain. I’m sure the wine sommelier that knocks down these bottles of swill has no moral conscience and would consider me the problem with the world. Although my anger will probably fall on deaf ears, I needed to get this off my chest. There’s probably two or three more bags of trash to pick up around my 1.5 mile block. I will attempt another walk tomorrow. Maybe by the time Covid-19 is a fading memory my drunk friend will loose their license and have to start drinking at home. 

Rant over. 





January 22, 2020

Why "Raining Iguanas"

Why "Raining Iguanas" 
By John R. Greenwood


A recent 2020 cold snap in South Florida has resulted in several news articles
regarding the lizard phenomenon called raining iguanas. It also initiated a slew of messages from friends of this blog of the same name. Since there may be new visitors here I thought it would be good to write a fresh explanation and also repost a link to the first piece I wrote about how the name “Raining Iguanas” became the title of my blog. Having never visited Florida in my life and with little affection for lizards, in general, it makes sharing this story even more interesting. The vision of iguanas raining down comes from their inability to survive in frigid temperatures. Because they reside in trees where they can absorb the warmth of the sun when that sun disappears and the mercury drops to the low 30’s they lose their grip and drop to the ground. If the sun and warmer temperatures don’t come quickly enough, the iguanas die. Conversely, if the sun and temperature rise, so do the iguanas. 

I adopted that phenomenon as a metaphor for my life several years ago after my parents had both passed away, and several years of caregiving were now in my rearview mirror. The realization that my life had just made a drastic turn weighed heavily on my ability to function. Job and family obligations would change by default. Grieving and breathing were now intertwined in a confusing cocktail. It was twelve years ago that I sat at my dining room table and read a random article about ashen colored lizards being warmed back to life by the simple rays of the sun when something clicked. It was a crossroad moment where you must make a life-changing decision to take one path or another. Do I choose to mope and feel sorry for myself? Or, do I celebrate the life that my parents provided me and leap forward. I chose the latter. My parents weren’t perfect but they always wanted what was best for me. I was fortunate to have grown up in a rural environment where hard work and solid friendships provided a foundation for what would be a fulfilling and rewarding life. On that day where I connected with the idea of a second wind and a renewed outlook on my life, the name “Raining Iguanas” was born. The name stands for revival and survival. It stands for stepping out and stepping up. It stands for glasses half full and embracing the best life has to offer. It understands there are days when the temperature hovers near freezing and things appear bleak, but it is the “raining iguana’ mantra that there is always something better just around the corner that fuels this author. When you hear “raining iguanas,” think of a new foal circling the field kicking its back legs high and galloping for all he’s worth. Picture a grey-haired retiree neck-deep in local history uncovering old stories that yearn for the light of day. There are days when the chore of mowing the lawn needs a boost of “RI” (Raining Iguana). These are the days when the focus becomes the smell of fresh-cut grass and the memory it evokes. That memory might be the time you caught hell from dad because the lawn wasn't done when he got home, or the day you mowed over a nest of ground bees and had to run for dear life, it’s a gift worth saving and replaying in the years that follow. 

From the day the Raining Iguanas Blog was conceived I have embraced all that is supportive of the positive and accepting of the negative. The knowledge that there is no perfect answer has become clear during the iguana years. Friends and family of differing opinions and varying solutions seem destined to collide. My choice is to weigh with action, not words. “RI” is not about confrontation its about contemplation. You choose your path—I’ll choose mine—no judgment necessary. 

If any of this makes sense, then you will enjoy the ride. If it doesn’t today, it might tomorrow when your hair and tolerance of intolerant people thins. Sometimes you are better off letting the sun warm you back to life in any way you can. That ashen grey look is unbecoming and deadly. 


Here are two links to posts I wrote explaining the name of my blog "Raining Iguanas." 
Click Here: What's in a name"
Click Here: The Name?


Here is another link. This one is to the very first post of this blog. It's a poem I wrote before I had the courage to start this blog and begin sharing my stories with the outside world. 
Click Here: Post Number One: Raining Iguanas Poem


Here’s to the best of days—past, present, and future. 

Raining Iguanas