See books written by Paul Pakusch at https://www.amazon.com/author/paulpakusch

See Paul's Travel Website at https://travel.paulpakusch.com


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

My Final Blog Post and Some Other Goodbyes

It was just about 10 years ago that I was turning 50 and created this blog.  It was meant to be a surrogate for a journalism career that I never fully pursued, as well as a catch-all for random things I felt like writing.  My activity in it has gone though cycles; some months I'd write a lot, other times months would go by that I hadn't written anything.

Now that I'm facing the big 6-0 at the end of the year, plus a renewal of the domain due around the same time, I'm finding that I have less that I want to say publicly on this blog, on Facebook, or anywhere else. Among other things, I've been gradually curtailing how much I speak out on politics.  Oh, I'm still very opinionated, but since most of America would rather shout at each other and not listen or compromise, I have other methods of standing up for humanity.  I'm a lot more at peace with myself when I don't have friends or strangers trying to argue with me. I'm feeling more and more that I just want to be a more private person.

There's a lot of stuff in this blog.  Feel free to browse through it, as it will be gone by the end of August. Also gone will be other sites I have, including radio.paulpakusch.com, speaker.paulpakusch.com, and travel.paulpakusch.com.  None of these get much activity.

I'm weeding out activities in my life that take up more time than they are worth to me. This will allow me to focus more on the things that mean the most to me, such as my wedding officiant business, my drumming, getting out bicycling like I used to, dancing, and finishing up a book of poetry that I'd like to publish.  I have poems going back to my college years.  I'm maintaining my photo site at www.tallphotos.com.  Photography remains a passion, plus I have a huge private section that I created for my immediate and extended family.  Shameless plug: I hope you will consider some of the public photos on my site if you're ever looking for gift ideas or need something to fill some wall space.

I'd like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read some of my blogs or support me in some of my endeavors.  I just have too many things going on; I want to streamline my interests.  

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Jenny

I was inspired to write about Jenny based on the caption I wrote for a picture I posted of Jenny and me on my Facebook page today. The caption read, "We have been through a lot together." Jenny is a grand old lady who came into our lives on January 1, 2005.  That makes her 16 years old, or 112 in dog or cat years.



Shortly before that, we had been without a cat for a couple years when I was helping my sister with a phone line in her house.  I was face down on the floor, doing some wiring, when her cat came up to me and started sniffing my face.  At that point, I knew I  missed having a cat in my house.  So, on New Year's Day, off we went looking for a pet store that was open.

I already knew the name.  Previously, naming a pet was always a family activity, but this time, since I was the one that wanted a cat, the honor went to me.  Being an aviation fanatic, I decided on the name "Jenny" since it was the nickname of a popular World War I training airplane.  All we need to do was find Jenny in the pet store.

Jenny adopted us.  While checking out the different kittens, Jenny was the one who had a hypnotic stare.  She would gaze into our eyes and not look away.  Her spell was successfully cast upon us and we obediently chauffeured her to her new home.

Garnering the interest that a pet always inherits from a new family, Jenny became the frequent subject of our daughters' art and photography pursuits, as well as a new playmate for our rambunctious Chocolate Lab, Fudge.

At full size, she is a small cat.  She is solid gray with a black nose. She has a delicate way of dabbing her nose as she sniffs around. She doesn't show much interest in being held or cuddled, but she will race to the door to see who is there, just as a dog does.  When she sits, she elegantly wraps her tail around her base, as if she were a statue to be idolized.

As I said, Jenny and I have been through a lot together.  In July, 2006, my wife, Mary, unexpectedly collapsed from a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. (A full description is here)  As I was on the phone with 911 and trying desperately to save her life, I have a vivid memory of being aware that Fudge and Jenny were on the other side of the living room, watching the scene.  In the 10 days that followed, not knowing if Mary would survive or be left a vegetable, both Fudge and Jenny were my solace when I came home from visiting her in the hospital.  We lived in a townhouse at the time, so I spent time with Fudge in the dog yard, and Jenny would always hang out in the living room with me or crawl around on my bed.

Mary beat the odds of a 5% survival rate, for which she received some media attention over the next few years.  On one such occasion, the Democrat and Chronicle wrote a story in which they wanted a photo of the two of us sitting in our living room.  Unbeknownst to us, Jenny managed to steal the scene by capturing the photographer's attention off to the side.  Imagine our surprise and laughter when we opened up the newspaper to see this picture!



Sadly, Fudged passed away not too long after this, but another daughter's dog, a hyper Rat Terrier named Peanut, came to live with us. The prim and proper Jenny now had a newly charged up bundle of energy to reckon with.

In February of 2008, my daughter, Melissa was home alone with Jenny and Peanut when the townhouse next door caught on fire. (A full description is here)  All three of them were safely moved to the apartment complex's community room while the fire was put out.  I left work early to get home because of this.  I'll never forget seeing Jenny explore the entire community room; she was on the floor, on tables, walking across the kitchen counter, and up on top of the cupboards. Ultimately, the kitchen next door was destroyed and we received only smoke damage, but the lingering smell was horrendous.  It was determined that we needed to temporarily move out.  The first couple of nights were in a nearby hotel.  Jenny and Peanut took to running around the hotel room like a couple of little kids excited about being on vacation.

As I said, Jenny was never a very cuddly cat, but we did notice a change in her demeanor once, after being out of town for a week and a half.  We figure she missed us; she started hanging around us more than usual, and seemed a lot more willing to have us pet her. Peanut and Jenny's address has changed multiple times, as we had gone from one apartment to another over several years.  In 2015, we bought a house again.  Jenny and Peanut, had a much bigger area to play and explore.

In January 2016, big changes happened.  Mary decided to end our marriage, so she moved out. The reasons are between us, but suffice to say, we have three grown daughters, great guys in their lives, a grandchild, a step-grandchild, and another grandchild on the way.  So, even though we are not together anymore, we still get along fine.

But a long-time marriage coming to an end does not happen without a lot of emotions going awry.  For much of 2016 and 2017, I was on the wildest emotional roller coaster ride of my life.  I hit stratospheric heights and ocean-deep lows.  While I was alone in my new house, which I came to dub, "The Lonely House," I had Peanut and Jenny.  The first couple of weeks, I would just get in my car and drive aimlessly with Peanut.  Jenny would hang out in the room with Peanut and me whenever I was home. I bought a guitar and started lessons to give me something to do.  Peanut and Jenny were my audience.

At first, my singular goal was to keep the house and keep the two pets.  As winter became spring, and spring became summer, I took my first tepid steps into dating, something I hadn't done in over 34 years.  Melissa and her family moved in with me, but by early 2017, I had decided I needed to put all responsibility behind me and get a fresh start by selling the house and paying off all my debts.  Sadly, the pets would not come with me.

Melissa found a new place to live and Jenny went with her.  Melissa has always loved Jenny; at least I can still visit Jenny whenever I want.  I still feel very attached to her.  We found a wonderful, loving family for Peanut, who has other canine playmates, and she is very happy these days. I miss her, but she has constant companionship now, so she is better off than being alone a lot.

I think most of my friends know what happened since 2017.  Once I met Stacey, my wild emotional roller coaster ride gradually settled down and we are now happily married.  It was a package deal, though.  I now have Mitten and Oreo in my life, too!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

My Thoughts on the Current Status of Covid 19

My thoughts on the current status of Covid 19.

These are my opinions.  If you're interested in what I have to say, keep reading. If you have a thoughtful response, post it. If you're only here to argue with me, move on.

First of all, everyone in my family appears to be unaffected, so that's good news for us.  I do have some friends who have been diagnosed with Covid 19.  At last report, they appear to be healing.  My prayers are with those who have the virus, and the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.

We are dealing with a virus that, in its current form, has never been around before.  How do you handle it?  How do you keep it from spreading?  There are no easy answers, but everyone has an opinion.  Who should we listen to?  I prefer to listen to the person(s) who have a combination of the most experience in immunology, the best data available, knowledge of previous pandemics, and the ability and authority to set policies.  Are these policies they've come up with the right policies?  Who knows.  But nothing will work if people don't cooperate to give these policies a chance.  It's a previously-unknown virus, and policies will need to be adjusted as we learn more about the virus. People need to be patient.

For those who post random YouTube clips of  "experts" to back up their claims about why the quarantines should be ended, or if they even should have happened: We all want the quarantine to end and for social distancing rules to be relaxed.  But as I said, there are a lot of different factors to consider and the government leaders we currently have in place, along with medical experts that advise them, are the ones who evaluate all the data and set the policies.  Will they work?  I don't know.  Give them a chance.  Having said that, I pray that the government leaders we currently have in place are taking the advice of their advisors and making wise choices.

I have no patience for the people who are out protesting the policies, especially those who are making this about their "rights." What "rights" do they think they are losing?  We are in a crisis situation and the authorities are trying to resolve it.  Besides, it's not just the United States, this is affecting the entire world.  I don't want to hear your government conspiracy theories.

The folks carrying guns around at these demonstrations look like clowns.  I'm sorry; I'm a supporter of the 2nd amendment as it was intended by our forefathers, and I'm usually ambiguous in what I say about gun owners' rights.  But if you're at a social-distancing protest to show off your guns, not only do you look silly, but you're diminishing your own credibility regarding gun owners' rights.

More than anything else, I am bothered by the growing violence by some of those who are protesting the social distance rules.  There have been reports of enforcement personnel being pushed and shot.  There is NO reason to take it out on these people; they are doing the job that was assigned to them.

Kudos to the front line workers.  It shows who are the true "essential" people are in our society and they should be paid accordingly.  I could go on and on about people who make millions in other lines of work, but I'm sure you get my drift.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

How We're Coping

Stacey and I have pretty much been alone together since this quarantine went into effect. That doesn't mean we've been hermits. We've both been keeping quite busy, but at a nice, relaxing pace. Both of us are used to being alone.  In our younger years, we each spent a lot of time by ourselves for various reasons, so we know how to stay occupied now.  Still, it doesn't help the fact that today we are more or less forced to be isolated from physical contact with other people, including family and friends.  We stay in touch through phone calls, Facebook, through Facetime, and through Zoom.
We've been getting a lot of work done around the house.  We bought it last year and are still trying to get our belongings organized.  Two separate near-lifetimes of accumulation adds up to a lot of stuff, even though we both disposed of a lot of stuff before we met.  Our house is small, so we've been creative about how to store what we want to keep.

We've been staying physically active.  It's not only healthy for your body, but also your mental well-being.  Physical activity releases endorphins, which are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress.  They are often called "feel-good" chemicals because they can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster.  This is why runners get a "runner's high" and why dancers enjoy dancing.  Stacey and I often dance in our living room in the evening, we take daily walks, I ride my bike, and we are doing yard work together.

Sitting around is the worst thing you can do, especially if you're watching endless hours of Covid news coverage.  Sitting makes your body tired because it senses you're trying to sleep. The lack of activity makes you bored, and your body isn't releasing any endorphins.  Watching the news makes you stressed out because you can't control what's going on.  The culmination of this is that you get depressed.  

Stacey watches a little bit of news a day just to keep up on what's going on.  Then she turns the TV off or watches something she enjoys.  I haven't watched any news at all; I get my news from Reuters.com, which is a source that the majority of the news outlets in the world use.  I especially don't watch Trump's daily rambles.  He makes me extremely angry. I don't feel I'm going to get any worthwhile information from him anyways, so why let myself get angry?  I read the summaries of what I need to know.  

We do watch TV shows and movies that we enjoy.  We've seen some Netflix series, some movies, some Disney Plus, and Stacey keeps up on her shows.  I've been organizing computer files, pictures and videos.  We take our daily walks, my bike ride, we play board games, we dance in our living room, we sing to YouTube karaoke videos, we've been cleaning together, doing yard work, organizing our stuff, and staying in touch with people.

We're all in this together, and we all need to do what we can to stay healthy.

Friday, April 3, 2020

If I Was A Preacher


If I was a preacher, this would be my sermon today...

Every so often, God sends out signals that something needs to change. In the bible, there are times that He has sent a plague.  Perhaps this is one of those times.

What has been the result of this plague, other than sickness and death?
A considerable number of us are in quarantine.  This has left us alone to slow down the pace of our lives, reconnect with family, and reestablish order among our belongings. People are spending time cloistered with parents, spouses, or their children. Families are staying in touch via social media. People are doing their spring cleaning; I see piles of trash along the roadsides, waiting to be picked up by sanitation workers. Perhaps it is symbolism of cleaning out their lives, given the time to reflect while being motivated to get something done.  Our lives are always busy; many of us so infrequently give time to each other.

Many of us are still working, providing "essential services."  The rest of us are gaining an appreciation for the workers who keep our society intact, healthy and mobilized.  We are seeing who is necessary:  Health care workers, food providers, delivery services, transportation, sanitation, infrastructure, and more.  Perhaps this is a sign we need to elevate the status of these people and stop putting them down, or stop paying such low wages.  When you think about it, how much do decision-makers, politicians, executives, stock brokers and more really contribute to our daily well-being?  Sure, they are important, but are they important enough to funnel decent wages away from the hard workers in our society? Is it really right that the person who decides between A and B get paid a much higher wage than the person who toils to accomplish the task?

Perhaps this is a sign that we truly need to come together and create a solution to how we pay for health care in our country.  When a plague ironically causes people to lose their health insurance because they are out of work, you know the system is broken and desperately needs to be fixed.

Perhaps this is a sign that we recognize that our political leaders are human and not free of fault. Politicians are being exposed for their true ideals. The rest of us must open our ears, listen to their message, and respond accordingly. God favors no one over anyone else.  It is us who must determine who our leaders should be and whether they are fit to serve us.

Perhaps this is a sign that simply says we must wash our hands on a regular basis!

This plague shall pass. When it does, we will have an appreciation for those who survive this deadly virus, be thankful if we did not get it, and will hopefully have a deeper and greater appreciation for our families, our neighbors, our low-paid "essential" workers, and our good health.  Nothing and no one can be taken for granted.  May God bless.

Paul Pakusch

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Bored?


by Paul Pakusch

Watching my fellow U.S. citizens deal with shortages and boredom reminds me of the "normal" living conditions I've seen in my travels.  For example, when Stacey and I made a pit stop at a government building during an excursion on our honeymoon to Cuba last year, a state employee charged her 25 centavos for a few squares of toilet paper on her way  into the rest room.  She offered me none, and there was none to be seen in the men's room.  Tourists are often advised to bring their own toilet paper when staying at a hotel in Cuba.  This is the norm.

Then there's this:


No matter what your politics, it's a reminder to us Americans that we take many things for granted. We don't know the true meaning of "desperate."

First and foremost, take care of yourself.  If you're sick, obviously get help.  Otherwise, follow the rules about sanitizing yourself, your family and your environment.

If you're bored and stuck at home during this quarantine era, there are plenty of things you can find for yourself to do.  The obvious is to sit and watch TV, whether it's movies, talk shows, catching up on soaps, or binge-watching your favorite Netflix series.  But you can only take that for so long.  Eventually, sitting on the couch is going to bring you down and you'll feel depressed.

I'm taking this as an opportunity to get projects done around the house.  I've often heard retirees say, "There isn't enough time in the day to be retired."  For so many of them, they've waited years to be rid of the obligation of spending 8+ hours a day at work and get to the tasks and social activities they've always desired.  I feel that way; even though I now have 24 hours a day to do as I wish, I still feel like I don't have enough time to get to all the projects I want to get done around the house.  We bought it a year ago, and while we've come a long way in making it "ours," there's still much to be done.

We are blessed.  The internet is a  modern tool that no other generation in history had to give us news from around the world in seconds.  If lonely, we can easily stay in touch with such programs as Skype, Facebook Time, Google Hangouts, Viber, WebEx, Jami, Talky and WeChat.  Many of these can be set up for multiple users so you can have group conversations.

Here are some more ideas for how to use your time:

Learn a craft; there are thousands of YouTube videos that teach you how to do things.  Same with learning a music instrument; I've seen music teachers offer free lessons via live chat.

Take up drawing or painting.

Find karaoke videos on YouTube and sing along.  No one is around to hear how badly you sing, so sing away!

Rearrange furniture, your cupboards, or your home office files.

Clean out your garage.

Rake your yard; it's spring!

Take a walk; ride your bike.

Write a blog, read other people's blogs.  Write your autobiography!

Organize your photos or computer files.

Look up Jane Fonda's or Richard Simmons' workout videos and exercise.

Play music and dance like no one is watching.

Play board games with your family.  Especially get those games out that have been collecting dust for years.

Read a book; many can be downloaded for free from the library.

Get your spring cleaning done.

Or the best advice of all:  Read all the posts in my blog!  Ha ha!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Summary of My Life's Travel (so far)

by Paul Pakusch
Travel Writer and Agent
travel.paulpakusch.com


I have always been thrilled by travel.  My mother once told me that, as a toddler and a young child, I would get out of breath, being so excited about travelling somewhere.  My parents loved the Adirondack Mountains, so much of my early life travel was to places such as Lake Placid, Lake George, and the Thousand Islands area.  We visited parks such as Storytown, Land of Make Believe, Gaslight Village, the North Pole, and of course, Santa's Workshop.  As my sisters and I got a little older, our family made visits to some places in Canada, including Lumina Resort in Muskoka, and Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.

A big travel phase of my life was when I was a member of the Greece Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps from 1972-1976.  Every summer, we would be away almost every weekend for Drum and Bugle Corps competitions.  I usually sat in the front seat of our bus, took in the sights as we traveled, and followed along on maps.  Maps were free from gas stations in those days.  Some notable cities and towns I remember competing in were Fulton, Oswego, Watkins Glen, Warren PA, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Marion OH, and Butler PA.

While in high school, I was active in WGMC radio when it was more of a community/student run station than it is now.  I was chosen to be a part of a delegation at the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System on three occasions.  We met in Washington DC, New York City, and Boston.

After I met my first wife, Mary in 1981, we got married in 1984 and honeymooned in Cocoa FL.  We visited Disney World (my first time there) and Kennedy Space Center.  Through our years together, and many with our three daughters, our travels took us to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Seattle, Florida, Vancouver BC for the World's Fair in 1986, Las Vegas, New York City, Philadelphia, and Europe.

For many years, my mother organized weekend trips every Columbus Day to a destination within a day's drive for her adult children and our families.  She paid for the hotel.  All my two sisters and I had to do was get our families there for a weekend of swimming in the hotel's pool and some sightseeing in the area we visited.

I worked in the control room at WHEC TV 10 for 32 years.  I spent about 25 of those years as an officer in NABET-CWA, the union representing control room workers and news photographers at that station and WROC TV 8.  Union business and conventions took me to places around New York State, as well as Florida, Kansas City, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Detroit, and Boston.  While these were work-oriented trips, I always managed to get in some sightseeing at the end of the day.

In 2004, I fell head-over-heels in love with cruising.  So much that I decided to become a part-time home-based travel agent, specializing in cruises. I took an online travel agent course and signed up as an independent contractor with a travel agency.  A year later, I ended my independent contractor status and set up my own agency.  I'd been on hiatus for 8 years when I decided to reactivate my status in 2019.

Until 2015, I sailed with Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, and a Rhine River cruise on Avalon Waterways. Mary and I parted ways in January 2016 and I became a solo traveler for two years.  My life-long goal was to travel the world.  Being newly single, I accelerated my travel activities with multiple cruises each year and added Norwegian Cruise Line to my list.  I did Mexican/Caribbean cruises, a Mediterranean cruise and a Baltic Sea cruise.

Once I was ready for the dating scene again, the one promise I made to myself was that whoever I met needed to either travel with me or not hold me back if she didn't want to go.  I met Stacey in 2017 and she is as avid a traveler as I am! Our first trip together was a month-long land/sea cruise to Europe and the North Sea.  For our honeymoon, we booked two weeks on MSC, a back-to-back cruise that included Havana, Cuba.  To date, we've also been to New York City, Disney World, and a second trip to London because I was sick and in the hospital the first time we were there.

The enthusiasm I had for travel as a young child is just as strong as it always was.  Here are all the countries I've visited in my life so far:  United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Cuba, Curacao, Martinique, St. Kitts, Turks & Caicos, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Norway, Iceland,  Scotland, and the Vatican (yes, it is a country unto itself).

I may edit and revise this post as my travels continue.  You can find further details about some of my trips elsewhere in my blog.

Paul Pakusch
Travel Writer and Agent
travel.paulpakusch.com