Friday, December 07, 2018

Libby's Icebreaker Speech

Umatilla, FL
[We're getting more and more plugged into society here. Mostly, outside the RV park.  We are working on a woman's club called Fluently Spoken, and on organizing an Intelligence Squared style debate with a group of men. Necessary that, is knowledge of how Toasmaster's works. So, Libby joined the Toasting Ocala club to learn. She did her first speech last night. I think she did marvelously on the delivery.

p.s. Do you want me to continue blogging about the prisons?

Here's Libby's speech]
Madam toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, and honored guests. Most of my story is intertwined with Dick, my husband of 53 years. His career gave us the opportunity to live many places and to meet many people.


Twice, our family moved to Sweden. We became immigrants, which exposed us to another culture.

We learned how alien local customs can feel. Let me give you a few examples:

  • · reindeer meat on pizza, 
  • · horse meat for cold cuts, 
  • · and when waiting in line, having people invade your personal space. 
I felt frustrated when expressing myself in a foreign language. Idioms and prepositions were the hardest to master. Swearing in Swedish never gave me any real satisfaction. When I taught English as a second Language both in Sweden and in the States, it was easy to emphasize with the students, because I hid experienced the frustration first hand.

I was fortunate that our family never needed a second income. That left me free to pursue my life’s goal of being useful to family, friends, and community. I was involved with Headstart, Parents Anonymous, local libraries, ESL, ARC, a fireman’s auxiliary, and Habitat for Humanity.

When Dick and I retired at age 60, we went sailing. Our home for 12 years was a 32-foot sailboat named Tarwathie. I trusted Dick’s seamanship, and Tarwathie’s seaworthiness. So, I was willing to step aboard as a novice. While learning to sail an ocean-going vessel, I made many errors.
  • · I let her get off course. 
  • · I let the wind out of the sails. 
  • · I got sea sick. 
  • · I ran Tarwathie aground, sometime more than once in the same spot. 
But Dick was patient and eventually, I mastered all those skills so that I knew I could bring Tarwathie back to safe harbor even if Dick had been disabled.

  • I learned some important things while sailing. 
  • · I learned that sailors are helpful friendly people. 
  • · I learned that rowing a dinghy is fun. 
  • · I learned to pay attention to the wind! Too little wind is frustrating, and too much wind is dangerous. 
  • · I learned that schedules are useless. Wind, current, tide, and weather determine where you will be, and when you will get there. 
  • · I learned that at sea, if something is not secured, it will break or be lost overboard. 
  • · And, I learned that that once we hit our 70s, we no longer had the stamina for the sailing life. 
We still miss Tarwathie. She was a member of our family.

Now we have
  • · a winter RV in Florida 
  • · a summer RV in Vermont, 
  • · and a tent for travelling around between times. 
I hope that by being a member of Toasting Ocala I will develop the skills I need to be useful for gavel clubs. Thank you.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Our Life Story Told By Our Cars #20-22

Umatilla, Florida

We moved from Vermont, to West Charlton, NY.  I still had George.   

We went to my father once more (the last time I think) and bought this Plymouth.  It was a pretty nice car.  It lasted until I wrecked it one day in Thomas Corners, Glenville, NY.

Dave was living in Alaska, but he came to visit for Thanksgiving.  He borrowed the blue Plymouth to drive to Vermont to see his friends; and on that trip he went in a ditch.  His return flight to Alaska departed the next morning.  So, in the night Libby and I drove George to Vermont.  I drove Dave back, while Libby got the Plymouth repaired in Vermont.   That was a bad day.

George was approaching end of life, so we needed so we bought this brand new Saturn for Libby. Other than the Saab, this was the only new car we ever bought. 

The Saturn had a stick shift and it was fun to drive.

When we started cruising on Tarwathie. in 2005, we left the Saturn with Jen.  After a year or so of cruising, we asked Jen to get rid of it for us, so she sold it.  Thanks Jen.

After wrecking the blue Plymouth, I needed a car so I bough t this Nissan pickup.   I was a fireman at the time, so owning a pickup was nearly mandatory.

It was a clunker.  Full of mechanical problems.  One day, on the way to work, I got broadsided.  That wrecked the passenger side door, but the truck still ran, so I drove it that way for a year or two without fixing the door.

When we started cruiding on Tarwathie, we gave the truck to Nick.  He junked it.

Our Life Story Told By Our Cars #17-20

Umatilla Florida

When we moved from Sweden to Vermont, this was our first car. I had always wanted a minivan, so that was the attraction.   It was a Toyota.  It had stick shift.

Jenny said that she learned how to drive on that car.

After a while we began having trouble.  After close inspection, I could see a line of corrosion from the ground up to hip level.  I concluded that it has been flooded in salt water!!!

I complained to the Toyota dealer.  They denied that it was flooded.  However they took it on trade for another car.  I used it to buy a car for Jenny who was just graduating from high school.  I selected a Nissan Ultima, that I thought would be a reliable car for Jen.  She hated it!!! My bad; I should have not tried to surprise her, but brought her to the dealer instead so she could choose herself.

I went back to my father again to help us buy a car.  He came up with one like that, a Chrysler Lebanon.    It was pretty cool, with a big engine, and a turbocharger.   Most fun, it had an audio voice system.  That sounds mundane today, but back then it was innovative.  Because of the voice, we named the car George.  I used to joke.  George would say, "Your door is ajar."  I would reply, "A door is not a jar." or "No, your door is adjar."

When George got old and cranky, in the morning the first time someone touched the door handle, George would recite his entire repertoire of sentences.  It was as if he was lonely, and it encouraged us to think of George as "he."  That's not so different than thinking of Tarwathie as "she."

[Libby said that there was another car she bought before this one, some kind of blue Chrysler.  I don't remember that at all, and I have no picture.]
After some time, I started working in Conneticut while living in Vermont.   Libby needed a car while I was gone, so we bought this one.  I never drove that car, so I don't have much to say.

When Dave got his license, Libby let him borrow that car to go to school.  He wrecked it one morning right around the corner of our house.  

End of that car.

Libby went without a car for the remainder of our time in Vermont.  She said, "I wanted to teach Dave that cars were not disposable things that you can just wreck and replace."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Our Life Story Told By Our Cars #14-16

South Burlington, VT

I don't remember how or why we got this old Dodge. 
It was a pretty beat up car, but it was dependable.  It sat in the garage unused most of the time.  But I do remember two stories about it.
First, I was towing our sailboat to Maine for a family vacation.   While driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike, I felt a breeze.  I looked down and saw that the floor had fallen out and that I was looking down at the pavement.   I just covered the hole with something and drove it for several more years.

Another story had to do with the 2nd oil crisis in 1977 when for the first time, gasoline prices went over $1/gallon.  Horrors!  That seems so quaint now.   I went to fill up the Dodge and it took nearly $20!   I recall saying, "Soon we'll have to bring the Brinks money truck when we go to the gas station."

the Saab died, we needed a family car.  My father once again helped us to find this station wagon.   It was a very nice car.  Everyone in the family liked it. Of course the phony wood on the side was plastic, but we didn't care.  When we left for Sweden the 2nd time in 1982, I think we left this car and the Doge to my sister Nancy, but I'm not sure.

In Sweden
for the 2nd time in the 1980s, we bought this Toyota Corolla wagon.  I don't remember if it was new or used.   But it was a very pleasant, fun, and dependable car.  We liked that car as much as we hated the Volvo wagon we had before.    When we left Sweden in 1987, we sold the Corolla.

One funny story.   Nancy and Karl came to visit us in Sweden.  While they were there, they borrowed this car to get around.  One day they came back looking sheepish.  They admitted that they drove it off the road into a ditch and had to get towed out.   No damage though.

OMG the
stories about this van.  Buying this van was not my proudest moment.  In 1985, we returned to the USA for the summer as a family vacation.  John's girlfriend Helena came with us.   We visited my Dad in upstate NY, and helped him to host a wedding for Nancy and Karl.  Then, we wanted to go to Florida, and also to tow our sailboat there and put it up for sale.  What to do for transportation?

El cheapo me, found a van for sale in Syracuse.  The price was only $300 which suited me fine, because it ran.  I test drove it.  So, off we went, 6 of us in the van, a sailboat behind off toward Florida.

What a piece of junk that turned out to be.  The floor in the back had rusted out and it was covered with and Bricks.  There were also no seats in the back, so the kids had to lay on the floor.  So for the entire trip, they couldn't see out the windows, and they complained of headaches which turned out to be due to carbon monoxide.  OMG, what a bad parent I was.

But it got us to Florida and back.  It even got us to the tops of some mountains in West Virginia.  I recall pulling into a mountain top campground towing that sailboat.  An old mountain man was reclining near the entrance and chewing a blade of grass.  He said, "Who do you think you are, Noah?"

Another story with that van was the most shameful moment of my entire life.  I wrote about it before on this blog --- here.
In Saint Augustine, we anchored for the night just south of the Bridge of Lions. That bridge reminded me of one of the most ignoble and most embarrassing moments in my life. In 1985, we were living in Sweden but on vacation back in the states. We bought an old junker van to use for the vacation, and we drove from New York to Florida. We had a lot of trouble with the van during the trip. One problem was with the fuel line. It leaked. I did a temporary repair with duct tape, but the glue from the tape partially blocked the fuel line. The only way I could prevent the van from stalling at low speeds was to keep my foot full on the throttle.
One day, I crossed the Bridge of Lions in Saint Augustine. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of people walking on the bridge. Some of them were walking on the roadway. I would have slowed or stopped for them, but the van would have stalled. Therefore, instead of stopping I leaned on the horn and made the people jump out of the way to avoid being run over as I barreled through at 40 mph. When we were nearly over the bridge I suddenly realized that the people were doing the Special Olympics. Well, I felt one inch high as I drove away, thoroughly ashamed of myself, but there was nothing I could do to undo the damage or to apologize.
But a second most shameful day was at the end of the summer when we were to return to Sweden.  We needed to fly out of JFK.  How to get there?   I had the idea of donating the van to Nancy and Karl.  We would drive to JFK, sign the van over to them, and leave.  Good plan.   But as we learned later, the van died within 5 miles of the airport, leaving Nancy and Karl stranded in the road waving their fists at the SAS plane flying over their heads taking us away in luxury. Shame on me.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Our Life Story Told By Our Cars #12-13

Continued from cars 1-3, 4-7, 8-10.

The first time we went to Sweden (1973-74),  my friend Kenneth Randen took me shopping for a car.  I bought this Volvo 145 station wagon.   It was the worst car I ever owned.  I hated it because it was so under-powered that it took 50 miles to accelerate to 60mph with the pedal to the metal.  I kept wishing that it would die, so I could get a different car, but the damn thing was reliable.  It never did die.

When we returned from Sweden, we bought a Saab to drive in the USA (see below).  But I didn't sell the Volvo.  I knew I would need a car for trips to Sweden (I had 50 two-week trips to Sweden in the next few years.)  So I loaned to an Englishman with the understanding that he could drive it free while I was away and that he would deliver and pick up the car from the Airport when I came back to Sweden.

Eventually, the Englishman went back to England.  I didn't know where to leave the Volvo, so I drove it to Arlanda Airport, parked it on the sidewalk in front of the entrance, took the licence plates off, abandoned it and got on a plane to the USA.  Ha ha on them.  Tsk tsk for me; that was the second time I abandoned a car.   (After 911 I could never get away with that trick again.)

When we left Sweden in 74, we did something special.  1974 Saab Combi Coupe  as an "export car."   That meant that we took delivery of the car in Sweden, but within 30 days we delivered it to Saab's shipping center in Gothenburg for shipping to the USA.   It was a really fun car to own and to drive.   The kids loved it because on one particular road I used to drive over a hump fast enough to pull air and they had one second of zero G.
We bought a brand new

The bad part was that Saab didn't start marketing that car in the USA until the following year (and they renamed it Saab 99), so I had the one and only car of that model in America.  Not only that, it was the first year for that radical new model, version 1,0.    The Saab mechanics in the USA never saw that model before, nor did they read the service bulletins.  Well, I owned that car for one year.  It burned out 7 clutches in that year.  Some of the clutches burned out before I could drive it 6 miles home from the dealer.   The air intake scoop was installed backward.  A service bulletin in Sweden told the mechanics to turn it around, but the USA mechanics never saw the bulletin.  As a result, I drove through a puddle (2 days after the 1 year warranty expired), the scoop scooped up water and put it in the engine.  All the piston rods got bent like pretzels.

I was disgusted, and I sold that year old Saab for $500.  My friend Ian bought the car, put a new engine in it, and his wife Joan drove it for many years.  Ian told me that he found there were no retaining rings on the piston wrist pins and that those pins were wearing holes in the engine block.  If I had not driven into the puddle, the engine would have exploded some day when I was driving down the highway.  I call this my Saab Story.