Category Archives: Author: BJ

BJ’s blogs

Root Cause, Sewers, Trees, and Toilets

Whenever there is a change within your community or your home’s infrastructure, there is a ripple effect.  In the case of this posting, I’d like to discuss the impact of landscaping and excavating.

Earlier this year, a new high school was started, which is great for the community!  Unfortunately, it came with a few concerns, one being the need to use dynamite during excavation.  Dynamiting went on for several weeks, even months, and during that time, we (me and the neighbors) could feel the shockwaves.  We wondered if this would cause damage to our homes.  Our glasses tinkled and books shifted, so imagine our concern for the foundations of our homes.  Then, I wondered, what about our water connections?

One thing I noticed during this time, is that the water supply to the commodes slowed, and I heard the water pipes ‘groan and moan’ after every flush.  Professionals call this ‘water hammer’.  This results when the momentum of the water following a flush makes the pipe rattle because there isn’t enough air at the end of the line to buffer the quick change in pressure.  So, how could this happen?

According to the professionals, this typically occurs if the vent pipe, the one over the bathrooms on the roof, is clogged with debris, cutting off the air flow in the DWV (drain, waste and vent) system.  The air buffer can fill with water over time as well, especially in older homes.  This does not exclude a disruption in the water or vent system during major building excavations.  Shockwaves can compromise connections or disrupt shutoff valves, causing the air buffer to fill with water, or set off a cascade of blockages.

So, what do we do?  If ‘water hammer’ gets worse or continues for more than a week (sometimes the clog clears up), call a professional to determine and fix the cause.  I don’t have the skills, equipment, or motivation to undertake such a task, and I am not qualified to advise otherwise.

If the vent is blocked, it is often because there is a tree too close to the house, clogging the vent with leaves and small branches.  This can happen any time throughout the year, during storms and when trees shed their leaves, especially in the fall.  If this is the case, a plumber will have the equipment to clear the blockage.  And while there, have the plumber check your sewer line too.  If a tree is close to the house, especially in older homes, tree roots can find their way into the sewer lines, slowly blocking the drain.  You don’t want sewer problems!  In my humble opinion, it is better to take preventative action rather than restorative action when it comes to sewers.

Plumbing Forum:  Moaning Plumbing | Home Depot

Plumbing Forum: Moaning Sound … | Do It Yourself

How to Clean a Main Line Sewer Blockage | Thumb Nail Ranch (informational purposes only)

Drains Not Draining?  Sewer Line Clog Solutions | Roto Rooter




Plants Get Sunburned Too!

It’s that time of year – high temps, sun and wind make for a scorcher!

My plants benefited from the rain in the spring, so they grew like crazy. Now, in the heat of the summer with no rain in sight, growth is under stress from the heat. Add wind, and the high temps cause major problems with flowering plants especially, including wilt and sun burn!  Over the years I’ve learned by recommendation and experience, that watering and feeding are quite a bit different during the hottest summer months than spring and fall.

When temps exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit on sunny windy days, I water potted plants twice a day.  I soak potted plants in the morning and shower them at night. Ground plants retain moisture better and drain well, so once a day is typically enough for them.

Best times to water during summer months is morning and evening:  AM – sunrise to 9am; PM – after 6 and before sunset.  If plants are wilting during midday, don’t be afraid to water them!  Best to water them at the roots to maximize uptake, but a nice misting on the leaves helps too.  I’ve done this for years to no ill effect.

Cutting back overgrowth in potted plants (below the bottom of the pot) also helps to reduce heat stress due to evaporation, and it encourages more top blooms on flowering plants. Shade helps too.  I locate my plants so they get some shade during the day.  This is why I like a patio, especially one with an overhang or pergola. These offer plants, even a raised vegetable garden, some shade during the worst heat of the day. Every living thing needs a break from the heat.

And one more tip – careful not to overfeed.  Too much fertilizer can add to heat stress, resulting in burned leaves and excessive lanky growth without blossoms (if a flowering plant).  Don’t stop fertilizing, just fertilize according to your plants’ needs and the fertilizer you use.  Every plant is different, so know your plants’ needs.  I recommend fertilizing during the morning, but you can do it in the evening.  Potted plants need food on a regular schedule, typically once a week.

Check online with your favorite gardening society for information about your plants’ preferences. There are some great books out there too.

American Horticultural Society

Container Gardening from HGTV

New York Botanical Gardens

Southern States Summer Gardening Tips


Does Your Vote Really Count?

As U.S. citizens, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about our vote.  Don’t count on one source of information, as all information, even historical data are biased in some way.  Read and educate yourself from many sources.  Compare this with your own experiences.  Education in combination with your own experiences is critical to becoming a well-informed individual.

Now, back to the topic.  The U.S. political system is fraught with confusion for the average American, and understandably so.  Our educational system spends little time on the practical application of politics compared to the amount of time spent on ideology.  The end result is that the average American is unaware of the many entities involved in the U.S. Presidential election and why.  The average American is unaware that the President is elected by electors, not by popular (citizen) vote.

Actually, there are many entities involved in electing a U.S. President, and it is important to understand their impact, including our own.  Electing a President in the U.S. involves more than the direct application of democracy, it is about indirect-democracy, a principle adopted by our founding fathers to address individual and state’s rights while maintaining democratic principles for the nation at large.  They knew it would be not be easy, but it is worth the effort to maintain a great nation.

Who are these ‘entities’ and what is their impact on our vote?  These include citizens, candidates, party leaders, local and state representatives, electors, party delegates, and the House of Representatives.  Of course there are many other behind-the-scenes party affiliates and lobbyists who also work to get their party reps, delegates and electors chosen in anticipation of the final election for President.

Does your head ache just thinking about it?  Mine does!  There is so much information and so many opinions and perspectives regarding our political system, it can be difficult to make sense of it all – but it can be done, one step at a time.  And I found a site that helps. is a “nonprofit nonpartisan public charity that provides well-sourced pro, con, and related research on more than 50 controversial issues …” including information on current national elections.  I came across this site during the 2012 election, but after the election, it was relegated to a link in the depths of my Favorites list – until today.  Take a look, visit other sites (links below), dig out your old history books, keep up with the candidates and how they will deal with your favorite issues, and VOTE.

Why does it matter you may ask, because every vote counts.  Every vote in every local, every state, and every national election adds up and leads up to the Presidential election.

2016 Presidential Election:  The Candidates and Where They Stand on the Issues

2016 Democratic National Convention

2016 Republican National Convention

5 Things You May Not Know About U.S. Political Conventions

Do You Understand the Electoral College?

Electoral College – video

How Do Different States Allocate Their Electoral Votes?

How Political Party Convention Delegates are Chosen

How the Electoral College Works

How to Become the US President: A Step-by-Step Guide and poster

  1. U.S. Citizen announces intention to run for President
  2. Primary Candidate raises campaign funds and campaigns for popular vote and party election
  3. States’ party leaders (typically members of congress) elect Electors at district or state levels or party conventions (varies by state and based on previous local and state elections – individual voter rights)
  4. States run primary elections or caucuses by political party (states’ rights)
  5. Party leaders choose delegates for party conventions (supposed to secure pledges for nominations)
  6. Delegates nominate Presidential candidate at party convention; Presidential candidate announces running mate, the Vice Presidential candidate (supposed to support voting to-date, but delegates may not be required to vote as pledged)
  7. Presidential candidates campaign for Presidential election (unites parties behind a candidate)
  8. U.S. Citizens cast ballots in the Presidential/general election as popular vote by state – this determines party Electors (confirms voters’ preference by state)
  9. Electors cast ballots for President (Electors are not required to vote as pledged, though most of the time they do)
    – IF no candidate receives the majority of electoral votes …
  10. House of Representatives elects President; and the Senate elects the Vice President – each state gets one vote in both cases.

Presidential Election Process

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation: The Constitution Before the Constitution

The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College

The Top 10 Political Conventions That Mattered the Most

U.S.A. Declaration of Independence

Understanding U.S. Political Conventions

Who are the Electors?

Contact your state political party for additional information.

Is YOUR Town the Best Place to Thrive?

You know your town best – is it a great place for someone 50 and up to live a good life?  There are tons of reports on the Internet about the best places to live and retire.  Sites like Sperling, Money magazine, Forbes, Huffington Post, and so on use similar scoring techniques primarily based on health, economy, and access to cultural activities; but is that all we care about?

By the way, I’m not sure why these studies differentiate between LIVE and RETIRE as if once we RETIRE we don’t LIVE anymore.  Personally, I don’t want to survive … I want to thrive!

I think the most important aspect of a place to call home is that it supports our passion for living, our purpose.  I’m not talking about climbing mountains; I’m talking about the things that make us feel ALIVE – feel joy!  Maybe you love pottery; or perhaps your passion is refinishing furniture; or you just like to sit on the porch and read a good book while enjoying a cool summer breeze; or maybe you do like climbing mountains.  Whatever makes you feel ALIVE, the place you live needs to have the resources and geography to support your passion.

Is your hometown a great place to thrive?

Sperling’s America’s Best Cities
Money’s Best Places to Retire
The World’s 12 Best Places to Live or Retire in 2016
Retiring?  Don’t Use a ‘Best Places to Retire’ List to Pick Your New Home
The Best Places to Retire in 2016
America’s 10 Best Cities for Retirement
The Best Place to Retire Isn’t Florida



The Road to Prosperity is Paved in Clichés

Don’t you just love clichés?  Last evening, I was watching Dead Like Me on Amazon prime, and I took special note of episode 9, because the dad’s lecture struck a chord with me.  He said, “When you are suffering, truly suffering, it is the clichés that heal you … They are the things that have stuck to the wall.”  So, I thought back at the first cliché I recall, the one that ‘stuck’ for me, and it is a rhyme.  I continued to recall others, and I realized this would be the topic of today’s blog, beginning with,

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
     – Old English Rhyme, mid 1800s

Many of us remember this rhyme from childhood.  As children, my sisters and I would wield this rhyme like armor against those who’d hurl shame and slander upon our good names!  And we got our fair share of the same back, but bravado didn’t lessen the pain.

Where the rhyme is meant to keep us calm in the face of childish assault, the reality is words hurt more than physical pain.  Where action is concrete and observable, we often don’t know the true intent behind words without action, especially when they don’t match; they are incongruous.  Enter the proverb,

Actions speak louder than words
     – Attributed to Abraham Lincoln, 1856 and
Anecdotally to Mark Twain (unconfirmed), 1834-1910

I remember hearing this little ditty for the first time in my high school English class.  It made sense to me, because we may say we’ll do something, but often do not.  Further, we can ‘see’ and ‘feel’ action, it is knowable.  Words, on the other hand, can easily be changed and avoided, often twisting them to hide intent.  And as many of us know, 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
     – Attributed to Samuel Johnson, 1790, who

referenced St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s earlier
sermon, ‘hell is full of good wishes or desires’, 1150

I can only surmise St. Bernard’s meaning given the context as a sermon, that people can say something that sounds good, but their true intent is evil. We see this often enough in our government and political platforms.  Many pundits and politicians will say anything to get our attention and win elections without any concern for voters.  After they are elected, they forget their promises or succumb to the political machine.  Talk about a road to hell … one can only hope

Where intent goes, action follows.
     – Sanskrit religious concept, Karma

As you can tell, clichés are truly embedded in our culture and our subconscious.  Though professional writers tell us to avoid these overused and ‘trite’ phrases, they persist.  We use them to express ourselves, knowing we will be understood in any context.  Unlike good intentions, clichés leave no doubt about their meaning.

Good deeds speak louder than good intentions;
And a good cliché will never die.
     – BJ, Women’s Guild, 2016

You heard it here first, folks!

Dedicated to my sisters.

Don’t Give Up on the Ones You Love

Every day is a challenge for me, good and bad; this is who I am.  I constantly challenge myself to be a better person, yet it is sometimes difficult to tell if I’ve met my goal.  Some days I’m a good person; others I’d like to forget.

The constant goal in my life is to live up to my expectations, which some say are too high.  One in particular, is to protect those I love.  This includes my pets, of course, but I cannot protect them from life – from the uncontrollable events and choices they make.  Not only must I have the courage to live with my choices and consequences, but the fortitude to live with theirs as well.  And this does take great courage when you love someone.

So today I give myself a bit of advice; don’t give up on those you love.  This includes myself.

Believe in yourself, and thanks for ‘listening’.

Roll Call for your Representative

I’m really liking this service,  It tracks not only your representative’s voting activity, but all votes, details, and summaries of the legislation as it moves through the Legislature.  The details regarding the bills is phenomenal.   Give this a try if you are interested in tracking representatives’ votes and current legislation.

I’d recommend you take the 3-step approach, but you can get what you need in just 1 step.  You will need to sign up for Roll Call to get started.

I’m using H.R. 699 as an example.  The Email Privacy Act is a popular bill which impacts our privacy.  This bill would require government agencies to seek warrants to gain access to communications older than 180 days.  This is a big change as previously they could access this information with only a subpoena.  You can read the latest text version of H.R. 699 on the GovTrack site.

Step 1, Link to the voting record and summary of the legislation – select title of bill in email

Step 2, Check out the history of the legislation from introduction to current status – select legislation – Example:  H.R. 699

Step 3, Read the actual text of the legislation and compare it to changes made as it works through the process

Joshua Tauberer, the creator and self-proclaimed ‘civic hacker’, established as a legislative tracking tool in 2004.  It may have started out as a hobby, but it has become a rallying point for the open government data movement.  He’s also written a book about it, which can be accessed online at Open Government Data (The Book).

About in the Press

Civic Impulse, LLC

Zen of Soaking

One of the things I loved about living overseas was the soaking tub.  There isn’t anything like it, unless it’s a hot spring!

In the U.S., most people are apt to purchase large, balky hot tubs that require regular maintenance and large electric bills.  For me, I’d opt for the luxury of a soaking tub instead.  It requires cleaning and maintenance too, but at a fraction of the cost of a hot tub.  I really like the idea it is clean every time I use it.

Hot tubs have their purpose, especially when entertaining or used for exercise, but a soaking tub is an opportunity to truly experience relaxation.  Young or old, the warmth and comfort of a good soak provides a sense of well-being that is ephemeral.  Aches and pains are soaked away, blood pressure lowers, and your soul is rejuvenated.  With a soaking tub readily available in your own ensuite, this can be enjoyed much more often than a hot tub, making it much more cost effective and beneficial than a hot tub.

By the way, I’m not talking about a tub that just happens to be a couple of inches deeper than a regular tub, so it covers up to your navel instead of your knees.  I’m talking about the Japanese style soaking tub, a.k.a. afuro, that is 22 or more inches deep.  This depth allows you to totally immerse your body up to your chin while sitting.

Unfortunately, a good soaking tub costs a small fortune right now, but I’m hoping as they become more popular, the cost will come down accordingly.  Either way, it is so worth the benefits.

Believe in yourself and thanks for ‘listening’.

Apartment Therapy – Soaking Tubs

Cabuchon Soaking Tub

Dwell – About Japanese Soaking Tubs

Skill Upgrades That Pay You Back

Recently, I read the typical spring article on home upgrades that add value to our homes.  As I read the article, I realized, it depends on the location and the amount of money we spend on the upgrade.  For example, a below ground pool may not be the best add-on for a home in Iowa, but it is a great idea for Florida.  More insulation may be a perfect upgrade for Maine, but not for Southern Alabama.  Same goes for jobs.

The closer we get to retirement, investments in skillsets requires careful consideration.   Not only can training and education be costly compared to the return, they can be extravagant.  Extravagance is not something we can afford in an economy that does not value seasoned employees.  There are a few skills that everyone can use, regardless of age or impending retirement, but where will we get the most value?

My rule of thumb regarding skills is to revisit old skills first.  Keeping up-to-date on skills that serve us well is more important, in my mind.  We need to stay current in our areas of expertise, or get left behind.  Think of it in terms of home repair and must-have upgrades.  If we want to sell ourselves, we need the current upgrades.  It doesn’t mean we have to undergo a complete redesign, just a refresh.

Other skill sets are important, for example communication, but if training budgets are limited, go with your areas of expertise.  We cannot be everything to everybody, and if we try, we will fail to be what we are needed to be most at critical times.  You’d also be a better resale value.  This is not to say avoid training and education in other areas, but consider more cost-friendly options for additional skill sets.

Many public libraries, colleges and universities subscribe to online learning sites like and, and they are free with your membership.  You don’t have to attend a public institution to get a library card in most places.

Believe in yourself, and thanks for ‘listening’.


Take Care of Yourself First: A Conversation

Do you spend more time caring for others than for yourself?  Are you working sunrise to sunset without a break in the day for yourself?  Do you have one or more family members who require your dedicated attention to ensure their medical needs are met on a daily basis?  As a typical caregiver, you prefer to give than receive, and this can result in diminished capacity to continue to give of yourself – you are on the track to burnout.

Bench Under Tree

This is a typical conversation with caregivers.  I know, because I’ve been on both sides:

You’re looking tired these days; are you taking time for yourself?

     Myself?  When do I have the time!  I know, I’ve heard it before – take care of yourself first.  But that is not who I am!  We boomers do what we must to care for our family! 

Admirable, yes, and I love the selflessness behind it, but you could get sick or hurt yourself or your family in the end.  Is that what you want?

     That’s the last thing I want to happen; I’m too busy worrying about my parents and family.  I don’t have time to worry about myself, and it’s just plain selfish if I do.

Selfish?  Depends on how you look at it.  If you want the best for your mom and dad and family, don’t you need to be at your best?  Take a little time for yourself.  Sit and have a cup of tea; or call someone just to chat.  Maybe you could organize a day trip with other caregivers, sharing the caregiving along the way; that could be fun. 

     I want to be a good person, to take care of my family.  This is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  If I stop for myself, who will take care of mom – my dad?  Who will take care of my family?

You’re not alone.  Even if you are the only caregiver, you are not alone.  There are folks out there who care about you and don’t want to see you suffer.  No one is asking you to stop; just asking you to pause every now and then; take a little.   There are groups out there that can help too, especially if you don’t have enough time.

     I don’t need to be greedy; I don’t want to be greedy and pass my responsibilities on to someone else.

You aren’t greedy; you’d be smart.  Taking care of yourself means you can stay healthy, in mind and body!  Don’t you need energy to face this every day?  If you leave it up to fate, hoping you’ll find time for yourself, it won’t happen.  You need to plan events that make you happy; bring yourself a little joy.  Schedule the time to be with yourself or with people you want to be with.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, just ‘you’ time.  Like the time we went to see that movie you like and had dinner.  That was great!

     I had fun too, but I did worry about what was going on back at the house.

That’s ok – normal worry stuff.  You could say it was canceled out by the good time we had.

      Mom did say I was in a good mood the next morning.  She was happy too – for me, I think.

So, I guess you should do this more often.

I think many of us try to make time for ourselves, but we really aren’t committed to it.  We don’t plan events or schedule time that will help us re-energize.  We believe it’s okay, because we are being selfless, but as time goes by, we become drained and tired and sometimes ill.  We get grouchy and resentful.  I’m sure the people we care about don’t want to see that!

How do you take time for yourself?

Are you a caregiver?  Share your story or a photo!

  1. Join other caregivers – here.
  2. Download the handy sign
  3. Post your story-sign here.

Believe in yourself; thanks for ‘listening’.