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Have dinged wooden yard posts? Janesville siblings’ invention can help

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Kane Carmody, right, prepares a package to ship Post Shields to Ace Hardware with Jennifer Carmody at the Olde Towne Mall in downtown Janesville. Carmody, and his sister, Jennifer Carmody, Janesville residents, invented Post Shields, a PVC plastic product that wraps around the bottom of mailbox, fence and deck posts from being damaged by lawn and garden equipment. The company, which launched a year ago, is poised to fill demand at major home improvement and hardware retailers.

JANESVILLE—Some residents might have already seen an invention that two Janesville siblings designed and produced, and they wouldn’t have had to look farther than their neighbor’s front lawn.

Soon, the product might pop up at a slew of home improvement and hardware stores.

Former IT professional Kane Carmody and his sister Jennifer Carmody say their family invented “Post Shields,” four-sided, 6-inch-tall plastic guards that slide and snap in place around the bases of mailboxes or deck or fence posts, and they are perhaps as simple as an invention can get.

Their function is even simpler: They’re designed to stop string weed trimmers, lawnmowers and other equipment from chewing up the bottoms of posts stuck in yards.

Post Shields were born just one year ago, but the product and the company are already poised to grow in a big way.

Kane Carmody said he and Jennifer developed Post Shields from a design their father, Scott, a Florida resident, developed using 3-D printer technology about two years ago.

The siblings, who worked for their father’s IT company, said they got the product patented and opened up shop this June in Olde Towne Mall in downtown Janesville, about six months after launching Post Shields from home in Janesville.

Almost immediately, they say, they landed a major order with Chicago-based Ace Hardware, whose hardware buyer saw their product at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas in May.

Ace bought a large order—11 pallets—of Post Shields, which Kane Carmody said are now being distributed to dozens of stores in the U.S. Before the Ace deal, Post Shields were sold through various internet-based sellers, the siblings said.

In 2018, lawn-and-garden machinery distributor MTD Products is working to make Post Shields available at other major chain retail stores and websites. Some of the retailers under that deal could include Blain’s Farm Fleet, Mills Fleet Farm, Home Depot and Lowe’s, Kane Carmody said.

It means the square-shaped plastic guards which are shown on Post Shields’ website might soon become a household name. It’s an ascent that happened practically overnight.

The siblings have navigated the process of launching a product, working with a U.S.-based plastics extrusion company on production of their design, and then landing the Ace buy-in and MTD distribution deal all within a year—and all despite the fact neither had never made a corporate pitch before.

“We’re IT people. All we knew was that most people have mailbox and deck posts that get hit up by string weed trimmers,” Kane Carmody said. “This whole retail thing is new to us. So far, it seems to be working out.”

Jennifer Carmody said one home-improvement magazine began promoting Post Shields in product reviews before the company was even fully launched, and online orders took off fast. She said a local business incubator official told her and Kane they were farther along in their launch than they realized.

“It all was a huge confidence builder for two people who’d never run their own business,” she said.

Kane Carmody said the product’s simplicity—no nails, no caulk, no tools needed—is what delivers the forehead-smacking, ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-this’ factor.

“It shows you a problem you didn’t know you even had. Then, one second after you look at the product, the problem is already solved,” he said.

The Carmodys say the Post Shields retail for between $7.99 and $10.99—a price they said saves on people buying new posts or spending “thousands” of dollars lifting backyard decks to repair posts that are already damaged by run-ins with lawn and garden equipment.

Olde Towne Mall’s management helped the Carmodys quickly set up a workspace this summer that allows them to toggle between running the business offices from home and packing and fulfilling orders in a larger space.

There’s even a carpeted room for Kane Carmody’s young children, Sophia and Charlotte, to play, watch TV and even ride around in a pink Barbie car.

Carmody said he’s never field tested whether Post Shields can withstand a direct hit from a plastic Barbie car, but he likes his product’s chances.

“We could find out. We’ve got to put the kids to work sometime,” he said.






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D+H annular brick urumqi garden adorned with local chinese flora

at this year’s china international horticultural exposition, design firm design + hope (D+H) unveiled its urumqi garden project in zhengzhou. with the sudden surge of garden expos in china nowadays, local gardens that represent individual cities tend to be stereotyped into miniature and/or traditional gardens of local landscapes. D + H’s strategy aimed to bring back the core value of horticultural expo. the designers achieved this by implementing fundamental landscape approaches such as space making and planting design.

the designers carefully selected local plants that resembled urumqi’s local species



additionally, D+H successfully expresses the ethnic identity in a contemporary manner. they designed a music-themed tour route which was inspired by the traditional urumqi stringed instrument– rawap. the route is made up of a meandering ‘string’ path, creating a rich spatial experience of rising and descending drama clubbed with both open and closed spaces. the entire route was based on the urumqi maqam rhythm. the climax of the ‘string’ path was a circular pavilion with a perforated brick pattern skin, that representing the core element — the sound of a rawap.

by recreating rose fields, desert land, grape trellis and a green oasis, the designers carefully selected local plants in an attempt to stay true to urumqi’s natural and cultural landscape



the garden pavilion is a semi-open and contemporary landscape building. the combination of the architectural space and each detail element reflects both the modern and traditional architectural features of urumqi. the entire circulation experience of the pavilion is an expression of the outdoor landscape expansion. for example, the rotating ramp brings the outdoor ‘string’ garden into the interior area which blurs the boundary between inside and outside space. the modern corridor and the hidden pillar structures give more possibilities to the overhangs and opening of this brick pavilion.

D + H’s strategy aimed to bring back the core value of horticultural expo



following the ramp, visitors will be able to see the central stage from different angles, where people usually gather and interact. furthermore, the roof and façade of the building are inspired from the urumqi residential type called ‘ayiwang’ and the brick form. those traditional archetypes and the choice of simple materials make visitors feel the ever-changing architectural light and shadow.

the garden’s entrance

the music tour route is made up of a meandering ‘string’ path, creating a rich spatial experience

the roof and façade of the building are inspired from the urumqi residential type called ‘ayiwang’ and the brick form

a small pool is placed adjacent to the pavilion 

an array of various plants and flowers adorn the garden

the modern corridor and the hidden pillar structures give more possibilities to the overhangs and opening of this brick pavilion

the pavilion vividly illuminated at sundown

the circular brick-clad interior

the pavilion uses locally sourced materials



project info:


project name: the urumqi garden –2017 china international horticultural expo
design studio: lab d+h
client: urumqi garden bureau, china
architect in charge: huicheng zhong, jie xu
design team: huicheng zhong, xu jie, feimin song, zhongwei li, bingxing lin, hao lan, qinzan
project location: zhengzhou, china
completion year: 2017
gross built area: 6000 m²
photo credits: xi tang

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Letter: Consider other garden plan

Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to Town Council Chairman John Engel with a copy to the Advertiser. It pertains to the Waveny garden design project that has been approved by the Parks Recreation Commission and Board of Finance, and is headed to the Town Council Wednesday night, Dec. 13, for their consideration.

Good morning John,

The historic design of Frederic Law Olmsted is such a national treasure that it’s preservation is our duty. As being member of the Historical Review Committee we review every historical building with care. The same concerned attention should be given to our historic parks.

I am great admirer of the Garden Club and I am certain that they can do their good work in the context of the Olmsted design. But it needs time to reach agreement between the concerned parties.

This is the reason that I request postponing this discussion about the park for a month.

With your permission I will share this letter with the Advertiser so that the issue can reach larger public attention.

Laszlo Papp

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Gardeners to tell of holiday décor, gifts in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Veteran Master Gardeners Marilynn Elliott and Tanya Unruh will share ideas for holiday décor and gifts for the home garden at noon Thursday.

Their presentation, “Holiday Décor and Gifts from the Garden,” is the next installment of Washington State University Clallam County Extension’s Green Thumb Garden Tips series. It will be in the county commissioners’ meeting room (160) at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St.

Elliott will demonstrate how to transform ordinary gardening items into gifts — not all necessarily holiday-themed — for year-round use.

She also will show how ordinary stones, flower pots and shovels can be repurposed as attractive yard art.

Unruh will illustrate how to use materials from the garden for holiday decorating and for gardening gifts for both the holiday season and year-round.

Specifically, she will share ideas for gifting seeds, seedlings, bulbs, pressed or dried flowers, and garden tools and supplies.

Unruh, a Master Gardener volunteer since 2013, has designed unique artistic, thematic settings for her home garden which was featured during the 2015 Petals Pathways Home Garden Tour.

A Master Gardener since 2003, Elliott has spearheaded several Petals and Pathways Home Garden Tours and her garden was featured on the 2013 garden tour.

She is a recipient of the Master Gardener of the Year and Golden Trowel Lifetime Achievement awards.

For more information, call 360-565-2679.

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IN THE GARDEN: Tips on successfully growing poinsettias for the holidays

The poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima) is the most popular and recognizable flowering plant sold in the United States.

The true flowers of these plants (called cyanthia) are the small clusters of yellow blooms in the open centers of the red floral bracts which form the foliage. Through plant breeding, the cyanthia now are less obvious, with the focus on the foliage. Besides classic red, plant breeders have produced cultivars with many other colors and even marbled and speckled leaves.

• Selecting a plant: Look for mature, thoroughly colored foliage. Select plants with foliage all the way down the stem. Leaves should not be drooping. Choose plants with the yellow flower centers that are not quite open.

• How to maintain the plants: Poinsettias prefer a bright location with about six hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. Direct sun will fade the color; sheer curtains or a window shade will help.

Daytime temperatures should not exceed 70 degrees; excess heat or cold will cause leaves to yellow and fall off and the flower bracts will fade. Avoid placing plants near drafts, excess heat or dry air from appliances, fireplaces, or ventilationducts.

• They prefer moderately moist soil: Water when soil is dry to the touch and never let the plant sit in standing water. Do not fertilize a poinsettia when it is in bloom.

• Care after the holidays.

Around March or April, the colorful foliage bracts begin to fade. Prune the plant back to about eight inches in height.

Although it will look bare, new growth eventually will start from the nodes up and down the stem. Keep the plant near a sunny window and continue watering every two to three weeks with a balanced fertilizer. The plants can be brought back for another season, but the process can be demanding. They need a continuous and long dark period each night to form their colorful foliage bracts.

• Poinsettia plants are not considered toxic. Consumption of the foliage, however, can lead to stomach issues. The milky sap of the plant can be a skin irritant and cause a mild rash. Exercise caution with these plants around pets or small children.

For information about this plant, especially if you would like to keep your plant for next season, visit our website at

Rosanne Loparco is a master gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Look for more gardening tips in the Times Telegram or online at

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Garden offers respite for patients, family

Whenever Lindsey Adkison posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

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The formulas and patterns behind floral design


Plant Nite participants gather at Southwest Florida bars and breweries to decorate their take-home plants. Register for an event in Naples, Fort Myers or Cape Coral at

There’s a science behind the elegantly arranged bouquet of hydrangeas, or the bushel of roses with a trail of ivy a bride grasps as she walks down the aisle.

Like many beautiful things, it takes work.

About 150 gardening enthusiasts learned from one of the experts this week in an event hosted by the Naples Garden Club at Naples Botanical Garden. Michael Gaffney, director of the American School for Floral Design and world renowned floral designer, lead a workshop Monday on the patterns and formulas of floral design.

“It’s a science more than anything,” he said.

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About 30 years ago Gaffney was working on Wall Street in New York City. While on vacation, he returned home to Milwaukee and found himself driving the truck for a local florist. He fell in love with the business, and made a major career change.

“I started seeing the patterns and formulas of all great design,” he said. “And it’s very simple once you understand.”

He spent six years learning the craft, and now Gaffney directs 14 floral design schools across the country. He’s published two books, “Design Star” and “Flower Power,” and has appeared on QVC, the Hallmark Channel and NBC’s “TODAY” show.

On Monday, Gaffney demonstrated how to build 10 different floral arrangements influenced by traditional design and today’s current trends. Using elements of math, science and architecture, Gaffney said anyone can do what he does for a living.

He started his talk on the subject of flower longevity. It’s a common misconception, he said, that flowers last three to five days in a vase. But using his five-step process, Gaffney says they can last up to one month:

  1. Buy good flowers
  2. Submerge the flower underwater for 30 to 45 minutes to hydrate the petals
  3. Add a couple drops of bleach to the water to stop the growth of bacteria
  4. Spray flower with wax sealant for lasting freshness; Gaffney uses Crowning Glory, which is available on 
  5. Cut a couple inches off the stem every two to three days

Floral design is a science, Gaffney said, because the most appealing floral designs follow the laws of nature. For example, a large flower in the middle serves as a focal point in most arrangements, just as new growth surrounds old growth in nature.

Gaffney also applies basic math with ratios of flowers. His first arrangement was a heap of brilliant white hydrangeas, which he dusts with alum powder (found in the baking aisle at the grocery store) to help encourage water uptake and keep the flower from wilting. He built a bottom layer of seven flowers, then added four in a middle layer and one on the top to complete the ensemble.

Floral design also incorporates architecture, Gaffney said. He arranges in a pentagon shape, with a lower deck, middle deck and a “penthouse.”

There are also more haphazard and unplanned arrangements — the wild and weedy “Napa Valley hot mess,” as Gaffney called it, which is trending right now. Another was a European-style design, one that you might find in a Dutch painting. For those arrangements, he used crotons with splashes of red and deep orange, kale, dusty miller and even branches from a lime tree, fruit and all.

But even in the most wild arrangements, Gaffney applies his techniques of using leading lines to create movement.

“I follow patterns and rules,” he said to the audience. “I’m a craftsman, that’s what I do.”

Other tips and tricks from Michael Gaffney:

  • Buy a rose that’s already open.
  • If you remove thorns on a rose, it creates air holes and it will wilt faster.
  • When adding a flower to a bundle, use a close, wrap and twist movement. Point the stem like a sword into a magician’s box, Gaffney said, and then twist it into formation.
  • Use the “zone and cluster” technique to achieve the wild and weedy look.
  • All things in nature have filler, he said. Add leafy greenery to plug holes between blooms in an arrangement.

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Competition Winning Scheme Weaves Kindergarten and Nature Together

Competition Winning Scheme Weaves Kindergarten and Nature Together, Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Winning the Italian Ministry of Education’s design competition: Scuole Innovative, AS.IN.O is a proposal for a kindergarten and botanical gardens inspired by local materiality and historic context. The team from aut- -aut in Italy, comprised of Gabriele Capobianco, Edoardo Capuzzo Dolcetta, Jonathan Lazar and Damiano Ranaldi, based the layout of the scheme on the typical double courtyard house typology of the Campidano Meridionale area.

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

+ 14

The competition called for a design for one of 51 sites for innovative and sustainable schools dotted around the country. The entries would be judged on their architectural quality; environmental and sustainability considerations; practicality in regards to material selection and programmatic function, handling of teaching needs and the accessibility, usability, and safety of the structure and all its environments. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The Municipality of Selargius requested the design of a nursery school and botanic garden. aut- -aut noted a decline of the urban form in the latest expansions of Selargius and wanted to ensure the project reflect a practice of studying the vernacular and the traditional local typologies of the area.

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The form of the project is generated by a folding, weaving perimeter wall that demarcates the various program, articulating the interior spaces of the school, an agora, and the entry foyer. The kindergarten, acting as the house in the double courtyard typology, splits the plot in half, allocating the larger portion to the garden and the smaller to indoor and outdoor space for the children. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The use of rammed earth for this wall would ground the project in its local context, connecting the building to its place as well as utilizing the low-cost of construction and the thermal and environmental performance of the material. The supporting structures made of timber and glass would rest lightly in comparison, drawing the gardens in.

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The botanical garden is inspired by medieval hortus conclusus – where gardens are connected to a cloister or monastery by a high continuous wall. The wrapping of the perimeter wall generates continuous and connected spaces and evokes the mystery of these medieval gardens from the exterior. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The kindergarten and garden scheme plays with contrasts, the heaviness of the rammed earth against the lightness of the garden and agora, the prospect and refuge of the spaces generated by the winding perimeter wall, and the use of traditional forms and materials for contemporary formal conditions and architectural solutions to teaching practices. The project clearly answers the innovative brief, and would no doubt be an asset to the local and wider community of Selargius.

News via: aut- -aut.

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Pickleball takes over PAC, shows no signs of slowing down

When Pensacola Athletic Center owner Mark Downey took over the exercise business in January, he envisioned making some updates. That included adding some flair and new flavor to the popular west-side facility known mostly for its tennis, swimming and inside gym.

Replacing entrance signs, redoing landscaping and upgrading gym equipment was just the starting point at the new PAC.

He wanted to bring in more clientele, and to do so, he teamed with general manager Max Gutierrez, tennis director Will Morris and others to develop new exercise-friendly ideas.

That’s when the suggestion of the popular game pickleball was introduced.

The PAC team found several members interested in trying the world’s fastest growing sports. After consulting with other pickleball groups in the area, they built two lighted pickleball courts on the grounds, with hopes it would take off.

“We rolled out pickleball toward the end of June … I had reached out to Mildred Hudson who handles the pickleball league over in Gulf Breeze and we wanted to figure out how we could bring pickleball over to the west side of Pensacola,” said Gutierrez, who is more on the business end of PAC than the instructional side, but still gets a kick out of playing. “We also had a gentleman who’s building 56 pickleball courts in Foley, Alabama. He came out and met up with Mark and I, and we just wanted to bring pickelball into an area where it’s not very popular.”

Just as they hoped, both members and non-members were eager to try something new, and took to the courts swinging.

“It was pretty neat,” Gutierrez said. “What we did was find a core group of just four or five members that wanted to help us grow it, and they helped us quite a bit. They invited a lot of their friends, and we’ve really been growing.”

For those unfamiliar with the popular cardio-friendly sport for all ages, it’s similar to tennis, but instead of strung racquets, players use paddles. There is a net, but the courts are much smaller.

“It’s basically tennis, blended with ping-pong with volleyball rules,” Gutierrez said. “Like in volleyball, they play with side-out rules — you’ve got to say who’s serving. It’s pretty tricky, but I think having to say the score repeatedly, that just keeps you more engaged throughout the game.”

 On a weekly basis, PAC has between 20 and 30 people pick up a pickleball game — on a really good day, you may find 30 trying the sport, many for the first time. Surprisingly, they’re not all tennis players.

“They’re a few that are completely the most nonathletic people you’ll ever come across, but hey, they’ve picked up on it pretty quick,” Gutierrez said. “It took them a couple of different times to come on out, but they’ve picked up on the hand-eye coordination thing pretty quick. I think it’s a really easy game to pick up, if you have zero sports experience. It’s a lot of fun, and we just try to keep it entertaining.”

Susan Arner is one member who has embraced pickleball at PAC. She and her husband Don are now both avid players, and they’ve been able to help recruit new ones as well.

“I had been wanting to play for a long time, but there were no courts or groups playing anywhere on the west side,” said Arner, who also plays ladies league tennis. “When PAC put in two courts, I got my husband, and two friends, Benny Taylor and Nancy Lopez, to come learn, and we’ve been playing twice a week ever since and getting more people to come out. Ours is a fun, social group that gets together on Monday and Thursday afternoons for a couple of hours.”

Josh Starbuck also sees pickleball as a fun, physical hobby. He picked up the game for the first time when PAC brought it on board.

“For me, it’s a blast,” said Starbuck, who also plays tennis on Mondays and Wednesdays. “We get together on Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, depending on who is available, and we’ll just go out there and play. With pickleball, I don’t feel that it’s as cardio-intensive as tennis, but the pace is a little bit faster. It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination, and is a pretty fun sport.”

Gutierrez believes the excitement pickleball has brought can only help the sport’s growth in the area.

“I’m very impressed with the growth of pickleball — I didn’t think it was going to grow as quick,” Gutierrez said. “Obviously, we want to get to 200-300 people. I think it’s just going to keep growing, once people find out more and more about it.”

Pickleball courts are available for play during daily staffed hours of 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“Mondays and Thursdays are almost like a designated time to where several groups meet up and just all play with each other,” said Gutierrez, who added most pickleball players aren’t PAC members. “But throughout the week, we still have it open to those who just want to go out and play for fun. The nice part about it is that it’s both men and women, so it’s not just a bunch of guys out there.”

Mac Knefely is a freelance writer for the News Journal.

Want to play?

Group pickleball games at the Pensacola Athletic Center are usually on Mondays and Thursdays. Those 40 and older play at 4 p.m., and those younger than 40 begin at 6 p.m.

The cost for non-members to play is $3.









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Holiday heroics foil reindeer raid – Courier

Ahhh, Christmas. It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.

As soon as the carols start to play, visions of stealing start to dance in a few heads. A Black Friday shopper recently said her purse was stolen while she waited to do her Christmas shopping in Thomaston. And other local residents are reporting holiday packages that were delivered to their front porches had gone missing by the time they went to retrieve them.

The Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees in Waterville was hit by a thief who stole donations including $1,000 in lottery tickets, a kayak, chainsaw, DVD player and more. The festival benefits hospice, needy children and Meals on Wheels. Seriously, how low can people go?

It always leaves me scratching my head. What kind of person has the impulse to take rather than give during this season?

These incidents reminded me of a holiday burglary my dad interrupted years ago. He’s 88 now, but I’d guess he was a spry 73 at the time. He lives in Providence, R.I., and is retired from the Providence Police Department.

So one night he was sitting in his “easy chair,” as he calls it, watching the evening news when he heard a car pull up outside his house. He peered out the window, as he often does, to get what he calls “the scoop.” Both he and my stepmother act as the unofficial Neighborhood Watch on their quiet street. They report on the comings and goings of their neighbors, which usually amounts to who went out to dinner and who had company. But this night, things were different. Real crime was happening, and thank goodness Officer Ferrazza (Ret.) was still on the beat.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, my father heard the car and went onto high alert. He observed what appeared to be three youths in a black vehicle. It stopped in front of his neighbor’s house and the driver killed the headlights. Dad’s police instincts kicked in immediately. He knew they were up to no good.

Sure enough, two shadowy figures got out of the car, and the sedan quietly left the block. My father watched as the daring duo darted across his neighbor’s lawn and snatched two tiny reindeer and a miniature sleigh from the yard right across the street. They reached the sidewalk with their lifted loot just as the getaway car returned with its headlights still off.

Cursing under his breath, my father sprang into action. But instead of throwing up the sash like in “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” he ran straight to his front door and yanked it open.

“Stop right there and drop those deer, you punks!” he boomed into the darkness. “I’ve got your license plate number. Get out of here … now!”

The two thieves froze, then dropped the decorations and jumped into the car, which squealed its tires and sped away.

Despite his heart condition and emphysema, my father bolted down the flagstone walkway in his PJs and slippers, and crossed the street. He retrieved Dasher, Dancer and the sleigh, and carried them to his neighbor’s front door then rang the bell.

“You should have seen me,” Dad said. “I was all out of breath like I just ran a telethon.”

Visions of the Jerry Lewis telethon, a holiday tradition, flashed in my head with my cranky father hosting instead of Jerry. I started to giggle.

“I think you mean a marathon,” I corrected. My dad has a habit of doing this. It’s one of his charms.

He ignored me and continued with his story, reporting the neighbors were “ecstatic” about his late-night reindeer rescue. So appreciative, in fact, that they arrived on his doorstep the next day with a homemade cake to thank him for his bravery.

Sadly, my father is not one for getting too friendly with the neighbors. In fact, he doesn’t even know them, despite the fact they all have lived on that street for decades. He sometimes grouses that these unknown people steal his landscaping ideas and imitate his holiday decorations. The funny thing is, every house on the street looks almost exactly the same, and all of the lawns are the size of a postage stamp.

My stepmother was livid once she heard what he had done. She said his little “stunt” could have ended with his having a heart attack on the front lawn, or everybody’s getting shot. In the future, she said, he should forget the heroics and mind his own business.

He disagreed and told her so.

“The day you bow down to these [expletive deleted], you might as well go back to the old country and live in the hills,” he told her, referring to Italy. “You’ve got to stand up for your rights.”

Feeling proud, I told him the world needed more people like him. But I also warned that next time he might want to think before he sprang into action like one of the Avengers. You never know what people might do these days, I reminded, and he does live in a city.

“OK, honey,” he said, suddenly sounding sad, then signed off. “I’ll let you go now.”

Uh-oh, now I’d done it. Not sure why he was so quiet, I asked what was wrong.

“Oh, nothing,” he said. “I’m just sitting here in my easy chair by the window … waiting to get shot.”

That’s when I realized he truly was afraid.

My poor father. This was no way to live, especially at his age and certainly not at Christmastime. What kind of society did we live in?

“Oh, Dad, I’m sorry. Are you really afraid now?” I said.

He laughed a big, hearty laugh and I knew I’d been had. So during the holidays, enjoy the beauty of the season, but don’t get so caught up in the wonder of it all that you forget to keep one eye out for con men. Trust me, they’re out there, and they may be closer than you think.

And the beat goes on.

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