Sixty-two and Senior

I recently read somewhere, and it might have been fiction, that you’re not a senior until you’re 62. I turned 62 in March. How in the world did I ever get here? This river of life my boat has been traversing has been moving at a fearsome speed while I drifted unaware, content to celebrate the spring blooms, to listen to the music of the summer rains, to contemplate the floating leaves as they fall from the fiery trees, and to marvel at the magic and beauty when I discover, upon dawn, a pristine snowfall blanketing the ground and decorating the bare limbs of trees. My life moved on all the while, and I wasn’t paying attention.

Maybe it is fiction.

I’m going to have to change the subtitle of my original blog, “Random Thoughts from Midlife,” to “Senior Moments.” Maybe it will be more lighthearted and humorous. Maybe the last quarter of my life will be more like the first without all the hard work and angst that happened in-between. There will be more good-byes. I know that now. But maybe, like most things in life, it will get easier to say good-bye with experience. Maybe it will be easier to surrender to the inevitability of loss. I don’t know. I can only hope.

All I know is that my boat is still on this river, and it is still moving, carrying me forward. This boat only moves in one direction. Reverse is not an option.

Ohio River




Eagles at Carrillon Park, Dayton,Ohio

Eagle at Carrillon Park

I knew the eagles were there, but I was still pleasantly surprised and a little thrilled when one soared over a building to my right, and flew overhead and up to the nest high in a sycamore tree. It’s white tail feathers flashed in the sun. I regretted that my camera was inaccessible in its case hanging from my shoulder as I meandered down the walkway. I wasn’t expecting to see it so soon.

The presumably male eagle landed on the nest, then flew to a nearby tree shortly after. The only time I’d ever seen eagles in the wild before was during a trip to Alaska in the late 1990s. This nest is a half-hour drive from my house.

I expected a large nest, but was surprised by how large. It’s much larger than the hawks’ nest I’ve been watching in the woods behind our house. I expected a majestic bird, but was enthralled by its majesty.

I hope to return again soon.






Photographing the Hawk Nest

I first saw the hawks last Sunday. For three days in a row (for my daily photo for the 365Project) I took photographs of them working on their nest high up in one of the sycamore trees in the woods behind our house.

Then on Wednesday, they did not show up. I watched on and off all day and no hawks. According to All About Birds, “Red-tailed Hawks may or may not use the same nest from year to year. A pair may have a few nests in the area and may fix up two or more nests for the breeding season before they finally settle down and choose one.”

I believe this may be what they are doing on the days they are not here. And I thought today might be one of those days. Then at 8:01, as I stood looking out the kitchen window towards the nest, one of the hawks glided over the top of our house outside my window and landed in the nest. It was immediately followed by the second.

They are majestic creatures and fascinating to watch. They are also powerful predators. From time to time I see one swoop past our bird-feeders looking for lunch. They also could potentially kill my little 10-pound dog Arthur. Meanwhile they are simply trying to live, make nests, and feed their young. I understand all of this. Life is full of dichotomies.

Tri-pod with camera

The setup I use to photograph the hawks’ nest that you can see as a small spot in the top of the tree through the window.

I believe I am doing the best I can to photograph these birds given the limited equipment I own. If I had a super long pro lens, I could probably do a lot better. I have an Olympus OMD Em1 with an Olympus 14-150mm f/4-5.6 lens and use a trip-pod set up beside my kitchen window.

This is actually a good location because our house sits on a hill. The yard drops down a steep slope to a creek, and then the woods rises up another hill on the other side. The tree is in the woods across the creek. My kitchen window provides the advantage that it sits a few feet higher than the floor of the deck right outside–not to mention it’s been cold outside. So there is that. One of the challenges is getting an angle that minimizes view obstruction from branches.

I shoot at 150mm and then crop in to get the shots I post. I use center-weighted metering and manual, magnification-assisted, focus. Another challenge is lighting. It’s so far away, and mostly backlit, that it’s been difficult to illuminate the birds in or on the nest. Yesterday I realized that 9:00 a.m. on a sunny day, is a good time. The sun is high enough in the sky and off to the left enough to shine a nice light onto the birds. I just have to get the birds to cooperate during that time — another challenge.

Hawk in nest

Shot taken at 9:00 a.m. with the morning light shining into the nest. This is an extreme crop.

I might try my longer, 75-300mm lens, again. I tried it once and discarded the shots because I thought the 150mm cropped shots were better. But I just googled and read a post about birding lenses from an Olympus user at, and he used the longer lens I have to get some acceptable images. It’s worth another try. The dream lens, a 300mm f/4 pro lens lists at $2500 on Amazon. Then there’s the Olympus 300mm f/2.8 super telephoto lens for Olympus digital SLR cameras (I don’t know if this would work on my OMD-Em1) at $7000. My 75-300mm lens currently lists at about $550. You get what you pay for. Maybe when I get hired by National Geographic . . .

(You might be interested in a video I posted on YouTube where I tried to record the hawks in action. There is no audio and the lighting is not optimal, but you can see the activity of the birds. I actually don’t hear anything when I’m watching them either. I got dinged by a viewer who didn’t approve. You can read my response to him there as well. It appears he removed the 26 dislikes he gave me after reading it.)

Two Hawks and a Nest

I’m back to bird-watching. I haven’t done a bird-watching post since I watched the little hummingbird in June of 2016. It’s not that I decided it was time. It’s just that I noticed the two large hawks flying around the treetops of our woods.

Woods with nest at top of sycamore tree

The red-tailed hawk nest is at the top of the sycamore tree near the middle of the photo. This is a fairly accurate non-magnified portrayal of my view of the nest.

I first noticed the large nest at the top of a sycamore tree visible from my kitchen window last year. I never saw any fledgling hawks and really don’t know if the nest was even productive last year.


The hawks are back. And they’ve been active the last couple of days, sitting on the nest,


flying to the nest,

Red-tailed hawk in flight

flying away from the nest,

Red-tailed hawk in flight

standing on the nest,


and sitting and looking around some more.


Sometimes one will wait nearby,


before it trades places with the other on the nest.


They are fascinating to watch as they fly around the treetops to and from the nest. They’ve been bringing sticks and stringy things to the nest. One of them seems to be more particular than the other about how the sticks are arranged in the nest. She picks them up, moves them around, presses them down, tugs them out of place, and generally fixes things up. I wish I could see up into the nest. For the first time I’ve wished I had a small camera drone, although I probably wouldn’t use it for fear of scaring the hawks away.

I’m shooting these pictures from my kitchen window, using a tri-pod with my Olympus Omd Em1 mirror-less camera and a 14-150mm 4.0-5.6 zoom lens. I have it fully extended. The lighting is challenging. I’m trying to spot-meter the birds, but they move around a lot so I’m not always successful.

I’m doing the 365Project photography challenge this year and am trying to devote this week to pictures of the hawks. I’m having fun watching them. I hope you’re enjoying the pictures.





While we’re not watching

Christine M. Grote

The backyard drops away from where our house sits on the hill. Because of that, our view from our windows is at, if not treetop level, certainly a tree-house level. From the bay windows around our kitchen table, I can watch birds while I eat. Since I spend a fair amount of time doing that on a daily basis, I witness things in the woods I might miss were I not watching.

Like this little hummingbird, for example.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The little humming bird is perched on the sycamore tree in the center of this photo. 

“That little bird really likes to land at that spot,” I said to Mark. “I’ve seen it in that same exact spot several times in the past couple of days.”


I wanted to get it’s picture so I zoomed in with my camera, but the little lady wasn’t there.

I didn’t realize it immediately, but you…

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Many Books – featured author of the day

I’d like to thank for selecting me as the featured author today. They posted a nice article about me complete with pictures, even one of my writing desk (which looks a little chaotic, I might add.) Of course, I took the picture and sent it to them. I wanted it to be mostly realistic. I say mostly, because usually my work area looks more cluttered than this. You can see the photo and read the interview at ManyBooks.

Me and Annie ~1959

Me and Annie, 1959, after Annie’s testing. The staff at the hospital shaved Annie’s hair. My mom cut mine. It looks like she set a bowl on my head, but I think the truth is that she stuck a piece of scotch tape straight across my forehead and cut below it.

The article leads off with this photo of me and Annie taken in 1959. This was after my parents had taken Annie to Columbus Children’s Hospital for testing because she was over a year old and wasn’t yet able to sit up. They shaved her hair to do the test. It was a very difficult test for everyone involved. I describe it in more detail in Dancing in Heaven.

Today is Annie’s birthday. She would have been 58, a year younger than me. Her first birthday, after she was gone, we celebrated the day at my parents’ house. Mom had a helium balloon for Annie, because she loved them. In subsequent years, I always made sure to call Mom to acknowledge the day. Now that both of my parents have joined Annie, I decided to acknowledge her birthday this year with a Kindle Countdown deal. Dancing in Heaven  (Kindle version) will be on sale for 99cents today. If you haven’t read it yet, this is a good opportunity to get it at a bargain price.

If you have read it, or do read it, I hope you will let me know by leaving a short review at Amazon and here as a comment on the Dancing in Heaven book page, I will answer any questions you might have if I am able. Feel free to ask in a comment. Or you can contact me at my Facebook page Christine M. Grote.



Using Amazon’s KDP Program to Greatest Advantage

I recently attended the Mad Anthony Writer’s Conference held in Hamilton, Ohio, where award-winning writer Bob Hostetler, and Jane Friedman, renown strategist for authors and publishers, were presenters. Over time I hope to share some of the wisdom about writing and publishing that I learned from them. The following is a tip from Jane Friedman, and what she says many authors do.

If you are in the KDP Select program, run your book for free for 5 days every three months without fail.

Amazon offers the KDP Select program to authors as a tool to promote your Kindle book on a Countdown Deal or as a free promotion for five days every three months. In return, if you enroll in the KDP Select program, you have to remove your e-book from all other sales channels and sell exclusively on Amazon for the three-month period of enrollment.

I began debating whether or not to enroll in this program in January of 2012 a few months after I published my first book, Dancing in Heaven. I debated the issue for a while, but was bothered by the exclusivity. Not because I was going to lose a lot of sales. The vast percentage of book sales came from Amazon. But I had a philosophical, or maybe ethical, problem with participating in what was clearly an effort on Amazon’s part to corner the market of e-books, which they have largely done without my participation, anyway.

This January I decided to try the KDP Select program with my second book, Where Memories Meet-Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. I was having trouble getting the word out about the book, and I wanted to do a Countdown deal on Amazon that I could advertise through various other websites. I actually sold a lot of books on the days the price was reduced and the book was marketed. But I did not realize a lasting increase in my sales, and don’t expect to. I’m planning to take Jane’s advice and put it up for free for five days next month around Father’s Day. And I may cycle it through five free days every three months for a while.

I suspect some, perhaps many, of the customers who download a free book don’t read it. But I also think some will. At least it is a way to generate a little conversation online and get the book out and into readers’ hands. If I’m not really selling a lot of books anyway, I don’t have much to lose.

I have since put Dancing in Heaven on KDP Select and plan a Countdown to run beginning on my sister Annie’s birthday, May 17th, when the book will be priced at $0.99. I’m over the philosophical/ethical dilemma, at least for now. I’m not really supporting a monopoly, when no one was visiting the other sites to buy the book anyway.

I don’t know how long I will stick with the KDP Select program for either book, but for now, thank you Jane Friedman, for the tip.


Inch by Inch

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world. Instant access. “Do you want to meet for dinner tonight,” I text to our son. Within seconds he responds and our plans are set. No more using the phone hanging on the kitchen wall like I did in the 70’s, listening to the ring on the other line and waiting for someone to pick up. No more calling back at intervals until I got a response.

If I want to be entertained in the evening, I can sit down at 6:05, or 7:23, or 8:09, and have instant access to a wide variety of movies, 24-hour news, or my favorite television shows that I recorded. No more watching the clock and waiting until 7:00 on the dot, when my favorite show was aired on one of the three channels I received on my television through its antenna when I was young.

If I’m hungry, I can call out for a pizza and get it delivered within a half an hour. Amazon is working on a drone delivery system from which we may be able to order and receive an item in a matter of hours, or perhaps even minutes.

We’ve reduced waiting dramatically in our 21st century lives, and we become rather annoyed when waiting is required.

New developments are continually being made in our technologies. We buy the latest and greatest cell phones, televisions to stream videos, cars with GPS. We are on a non-ending, ever-accelerating learning curve of selecting and using our devices.

We are living by leaps and bounds. That is, until we are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s. Then our fast-paced life grinds down to a crawl.

Even from the early stages of Alzheimer’s, being with Dad, helping him, trying to accomplish something with him took not only longer, it took more patience. While he could still walk on his own, I used to take Dad to the grocery store. The act of just getting out of the car required a lot of time. Dad was moving slowly, and he wasn’t always paying attention to the agenda. It reminded me of when I tried to run errands with young children in car seats: getting them in and out of the car, navigating a store with them, prodding and corralling them each step of the way.

While Dad was still fairly mobile, Mom wanted to get a stationary bike for him to use at home. She thought it might help keep his muscles strong and aid in maintaining his mobility. I took them to the sporting goods store where they had scooters for customers to use. As Mom and I talked to the salesperson and tried to make a purchase decision, Dad was all over that store on his scooter. I abandoned Mom with her decision and chased after Dad to prevent him from knocking over end-of-aisle displays, getting lost, or causing some other disaster.

The time it took to accomplish everyday necessary actions ballooned. At first, while Dad was still able to take a shower alone, he would disappear into the bathroom and be gone for well over an hour. I have no idea what he was doing in there. Meals dragged on for over an hour, not just occasionally, but as a matter of course, as we sat watching Dad push food around on his plate, encouraging him to take a bite of food long after we’d finished our own.

With Dad, we weren’t living by leaps and bounds anymore. We were living inch-by-inch. Then later, as Dad became less and less able to function, we were living dot-by-dot until it seemed as if time might stop altogether.

It takes a lot of patience on the part of the caregiver, and quite possibly on the part of the loved one with Alzheimer’s as well, to live inch-by-inch.

I showed up about once a week to help out with Dad. Mom balked if I tried to come more frequently. “You have your own family and your own life to live,” she said. So I came once a week with an extra day thrown in here or there for doctors’ appointments or other special needs. It was easy for me to have patience helping Dad. I was a short-timer. I was there solely to help with Dad. If it took us an entire afternoon to run one errand, so be it. Later, when Dad could no longer feed himself, if it took over an hour to feed him his meal, that was okay.

I wasn’t there morning, noon, and night, day after day, week after week, for all the getting up in the mornings and going to bed at nights, the trips to the bathroom, the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. My mom was. And it took a lot of patience. Maybe more at times than Mom was readily able to muster.

At first Mom managed alone, with occasional help from one of my sisters or me. Then we talked her into getting a home health aide in the morning three days a week. We upped that to seven days a week. Then we added a home health aide in the evenings to help get Dad in bed at night. It was a two-person job.

The basic necessities of life expanded to fill my mother’s days. Mom’s life was reduced to inches. Inch-by-inch, Mom got Dad out of bed and into the bathroom after his afternoon naps, helping steady him as he struggled his walker through the hall, one painfully slow step at a time interrupted by complete halts. Inch-by-inch Mom helped Dad navigate getting the food from his plate to his mouth, then chewed and swallowed.

It didn’t matter that entertainment could be obtained through today’s television at 6:05, or 7:23, or 8:09. Mom was helping Dad in the kitchen, the bathroom, or the bedroom. There wasn’t time to watch the television. By the time dinner was done, the bedroom routine began, and then shortly after Mom got Dad in bed she joined him there. Towards the end of her caring for him at home, she said, “Going back to bed at night is the only thing I look forward to all day.”

I know this is a bleak picture. Those trying to maintain a quality of life for their loved one with Alzheimer’s may be leading a bleak life. Some of them are living an inch-by-inch life. They need our help.




Midwest Book Review

I was thrilled to received this review from the Midwest Book Review. (You may have to scroll down the page if you visit the link.)

Critique: Deftly presented with candor and grace, “Where Memories Meet: Reclaiming My Father After Alzheimer’s” is a poignant and personal story that is an informative and absorbing read from beginning to end. Especially recommended for anyone having to struggle with the medical condition Alzheimer’s for themselves or a loved one, “Where Memories Meet” will prove to be an enduringly valued addition to both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that “Where Memories Meet” is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
Susan Bethany
I’d like to once again thank the editor and reviewers at Midwest Book Review for their kind and generous treatment of me and my two books. I highly recommend them. They do not accept payment for their reviews, but will accept postage stamps to help in their mission as “a major Internet resource for publishers, writers, librarians, booksellers, and book lovers of all ages and interests.” (
On their website, Midwest Book Review also has posted a long list of other reviewers. If you are an author in need of book reviews, you might find this an excellent resource.


Two excerpts from Where Memories Meet

Today marks three years since my father’s last birthday, his 80th.

Where Memories Meet is two stories in one book. It is my memoir of losing my father to Alzheimer’s, and Dad’s account of the defining moments of his life. My story begins at the end of Dad’s life and proceeds backwards in time. Dad’s narration begins with his birth and moves forward in time. Eventually the timelines, or the memories meet. 

These two excerpts concern Dad’s birthday. The first is his account in Part 1: “The End (2013) & The Beginning (1933).” The second is from Part 2: “The Last Year (January 2013 to January 2012) & The Early Years (1933 to 1950)”

Jerry with his parents 1933

January 18, 1933

I came in on the 18th day of January 1933, at 715 Manier Avenue, Piqua, Ohio. My Aunt Agnes said that my dad’s mother, my Grandmother Smith, insisted on naming me Jeremiah after my Grandfather Smith. Agnes claimed my Grandmother Wirrig was angry about that. And I might have been named after Jeremiah, but the name on my birth certificate is Jerry Allen Smith. Not Jeremiah.

When my dad was young his father, my Grandfather Smith, was mean to him. My dad was always in trouble and not very controllable. He was in a mental hospital around the age of 17. My mother never knew about that until much later.

My Aunt Agnes said my mother and my father met at a funeral. The first I know about my parents was when they were on top of the Hazell Maria apartments on North Wayne. They had dancing up there. My dad always was a dandy. He liked to dress up. He was a pretty good-looking guy when he was young, and he was quite a good dancer. My mother liked to go to dances on the rooftop. I don’t know if they had a live band, or radio, or what provided the music up there. I didn’t come along until a little bit after that.

My mother was living with her folks on Manier Avenue. They were a devout German Catholic family. And my dad was living with his folks, a devout Irish Catholic family, on Cottage Avenue. In those days the Irish and the German Catholics did not see eye-to-eye. So there was a bit of family discord from the beginning.

My dad wasn’t going to marry my mom, but her father, my Granddad Wirrig, went over and made him, I was told. My granddad, he wasn’t happy about it at all. There was a big fight over there. I caused a lot of trouble. Lots of trouble.

I’m the product of all of that.

My parents got married in September of 1932, and I was born five months later in January. I have no idea if a midwife helped my mother. I was present, but I don’t have a recollection. Uncle Paul said it got a little exciting around the house.

When I was at the age where the likelihood of that happening to me was a real possibility, my Grandmother Smith told me that I shouldn’t be messing with girls. She told me that’s where a guy could get in a lot of trouble—messing with a female.

I didn’t know anything about it when I was just a kid. I had one guy on my paper route call me Shotgun Smith because he knew that my dad had to get married, and he knew whose fault that was. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about when they called me that. I don’t remember how I found out about that. Things happen. You don’t get a time stamped or nothing, you know.


January 18, 2013 – Happy Birthday

Mom was buried the day after her funeral Mass, on the morning of Dad’s 80th birthday. We didn’t take Dad with us to the cemetery. It was too long of a drive back to Piqua, and it was too cold. But we plan to celebrate his birthday this afternoon.

Dad likely wouldn’t have known it was his birthday today, except for the birthday bulletin board in the hall and reminders from the Walnut Creek staff. Dates have been a problem for Dad since the very beginning of this. Even though we are emotionally exhausted, we decide to celebrate his birthday in the afternoon when we return from the cemetery.

It all works out for the best. Dad’s adult grandchildren are still in town from the funeral, so we have a pretty good group to celebrate his birthday. We bring a bowl of vanilla pudding for the birthday candles, instead of cake.

Dad’s sister, my Aunt Marilyn, is with him in his room when we arrive. Dad is reclining in his bed. Aunt Marilyn is excited. “Your dad can read, Happy Birthday,” she says. “He’s said it two or three times.” She holds a small balloon with the words printed on it. “What does this say, Jerry?” she asks.

After a brief pause, haltingly, his voice barely above a whisper, and his words shaky and creaky, my father says, “Happy birthday.” It is the last time I will ever hear his voice.