January 25, 2008

Counting Sheep

Category: News — Ira @ 5:27 pm


“….to sleep;–To sleep! perchance to
dream:–ay, there’s the rub….”

—Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

I am a light sleeper. Have been for decades. After retiring to bed, it usually takes me a while to drift off. I toss and turn. Doze, then start suddenly, wide awake, my relaxed brain flooding with the worries and problems of the previous day. Issues from work, some call I forgot to return, or whatever. Often I wake up around 4 or 5 AM, suppos-edly the ideal time for the most productive deep sleep. When that happens, I usually doze fitfully again until the alarm blares at 5:40.

Lack of sound sleep has afflicted me most of my adult life. As a teenager, and later an adult living in my parents’ home, I regularly burned my bedroom oil-flame lamp late into the night, reading whatever I could get my hands on. Lots of trash. Some good stuff, real literature. While such late-night reading was greatly beneficial for my self-education, the price ultimately was steep. An accumulated lack of sleep.

Sleeplessness runs in the family, I think. My father often stayed up until midnight or later, pounding away on his typewriter. He did a great deal of his writing after supper in his little office, the mantle lantern hissing above him. As the rest of us went to bed, the clacking and dinging of his typewriter reverberated faintly through the walls. (What the man could have done with a computer will never be known.) But he was always the first one up, well before sunrise, hollering into our bedrooms at the boys to get up for morning chores.

Sometime around 2001-02, Ellen and I bought a Select Comfort mattress, the kind Rush always brags about on his world renowned, growing-by-leaps-and-bounds radio program. The mattress was a king-sized model. I still use it. It’s probably the best bed I’ve ever owned, although not quite as magical as advertised (by Rush or anyone else).

I never sleep well in hotel beds, either. So when I went to the 4-day Timonium Horse World Expo in Baltimore last week, I expected the usual. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Select in North Baltimore, located about a block from the trade show. The first night, I retired around 10. I stretched out on the king-sized mattress and pulled up the soft comforter. Amazingly, and quite unexpectedly, I fell asleep almost instantly. And slept like a baby all night, without waking up once.

I couldn’t believe it. I briefly examined the bed on Friday morning before heading out for the day. Looked like a regular, cheap motel bed. It did have some kind of pad on top of the mattress. “Oh well,” I thought, “probably a fluke. We’ll see how I sleep tonight.”

I stayed at the Holiday Inn for three nights, and slept better those three nights than I have for many, many years. I stopped at the front desk to inquire about the bed one evening. The dreadlocked, droopy clerk didn’t know and didn’t care. He eyed me suspiciously through his tiny round spectacles. I’d have to ask housekeeping, he said, stifling a yawn. Oh, yeah, housekeeping. If I could only communicate with them. The maids I saw were talking another language.

I raved about the mattress on the trade floor to my neighboring vendors. One lady told me the pad on top of the mattress was called Memory Foam, and that it was available in stores like JC Penney and Boscov’s. Now I was getting somewhere.

I always take a day off after doing a trade show. So on Monday afternoon, after hitting the gym for the first time in six days, I headed to the mall to find a Memory Foam pad. Penney’s didn’t have them. I wandered into Boscov’s next. I walked into the household goods section and approached a matronly sales lady.

“Memory Foam?” she responded pleasantly to my inquiry. “Sure we have it. Right there.” She pointed to a stack of various sizes.

Trying to look as helpless and forlorn as possible, I asked some questions as to what I should buy. Kate, the sales lady, was a quite helpful, and I soon selected a Queen sized, 2-inch thick pad and a cover spread. Kate assured me that I could try it for a few weeks and return it if it was unsatisfactory.

After paying for the items, I realized they were too big to fit in a bag. No problem, Kate claimed, as she taped some chintzy-looking plastic handles on both. I expressed doubt as to whether the handles would hold.

“Why, Mr. Wagler,” Kate scolded, “have I given you any indication that I don’t know what I’m doing?”

I chuckled and confessed that indeed she had not given me any such indication. And apologized for my lack of faith. The chintzy little handles held up well as I trundled from the mall, the boxes banging against my legs.

I wasted no time installing the Memory Foam on my bed when I got home. The verdict after a few nights: A definite improvement, but not quite as good as whatever was on that hotel bed. I may have to try the 4-inch pad.

Some of you may have wondered why no updates were posted on Anne Marie Zook’s brain tumor diagnosis. The tumor results were returned several weeks ago. At the time, Paul and Anne Marie requested that I refrain from mentioning anything publicly until further notice, as they needed a few weeks to gather their thoughts in relative privacy. They have now given me permission to post.

The test results, or pathology report, as it’s otherwise known, revealed that Anne Marie has a rare form of cancer that is expected to return. Upon meeting with the surgeon and the radiation oncologists, they learned that because of the tumor’s location, vital parts of the brain would need to be radiated as well. Possible side effects could include loss of all cognitive functions, cataracts, or complete blindness.

Paul and Anne Marie have decided to treat the tumor naturally, with a rigorous herbal program and a diet of raw fruits and vegetables. I respect that decision. And support it. Those of us who have not faced such a dilemma would do well to hold our tongues, if what we have to say is negative criticism.


They are doing well. Amazingly upbeat, actually. Anne Marie’s parents, who had tra-veled from their home in British Columbia for a few weeks during and after the oper-ation, will return next week to be with their daughter and provide support and assist-ance. Whatever the future holds, Paul and Anne Marie will face it together. And I will be there for my friends as they have always been there for me.

The Super Bowl scene shook out last weekend. (Those of you who don’t like to read about football may skip this section.) The evil Patriots. And the Giants. Contrary to popular opinion, I think it will be a close, hard fought game.

I deeply respect the game of football. It resembles life. Or war. Which life seems to resemble sometimes. In the game, the offense keeps plugging away, trying to gain at least ten yards in three plays for the first down. It can keep plugging away all the way down the field until the goal is scored. Or it can go for a deep strike, eating up many ten-yard chunks in one play. It’s never too late to get into the game. Well, almost never. A team may be behind by three or four touchdowns and figure it all out and still win the game. Like war. Like life.

And now I must do a most difficult thing. Acknowledge the greatness of the Patriots. I despise the coach, the quarterback, and all the other players. But they are without a doubt the greatest team ever to play the game. Ever, in the history of the NFL. To do the impossible, as they have done this perfect season, demands respect, if not rever-ence. It will not soon happen again. Just too much parity in the league.

With one more win, Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback of all time. Just a fact, when all the stats are in. Greater than Montana, Bradshaw, Favre, Elway and Marino. And Manning. The guy is a warrior. And a winner. He girds for war. He leads his troops. He gets the ball to where it needs to go. He does what it takes to win. By thirty points or three, it’s still a win. And all counts the same.

Now the Giants. I don’t particularly care for them. Or particularly despise them. Pretty ambivalent, actually. I don’t much like Tom Coughlin, the coach. I thought the Giants were nuts last year to extend his contract by one year. But somehow, he made the right moves, called the right plays and got his players believing. Right now he has the last laugh. I do like and respect Eli Manning. I like both the Manning boys. Southern gentlemen. Mannerly. Nice guys. And they can throw the football.

In the Giants-Packers game, I was interested in only one thing. Which team has a shot at beating the Patriots? It was clear after the first quarter that the Giants were the ones, so I cheered them on. They outplayed the Pack all night and the game should never have gone into overtime. Of all teams, the Giants fear the Patriots the least. They will play them hard. And tough. Until the Patriots lose, they are the unquestioned favorites. But don’t be surprised if the Giants bristle. I expect them to. And they might actually pull it off.

My parents, along with my oldest brother Joseph and his family, moved to Mays Lick, Kentucky this week. Thanks to my sisters Rhoda and Rachel for helping them get packed for the move. And thanks to my sisters Maggie and Naomi for meeting them at their destination and helping them settle in.

Dad and Mom plan to spend a few weeks in Florida soon. I am glad they can go, as traveling to Florida for the winter was forbidden by the church “Ordnung” in the Bloom-field, Iowa community where they formerly resided. Forcibly preventing 80-plus year old people from enjoying the healthy benefits of a warmer climate during the brutal winter months makes no sense, any way you look at it.

It is an oppressive and abusive church policy, implemented decades ago for what may then have been semi-legitimate reasons, whose time has passed. (Old folks shouldn’t go to Florida so the youth aren’t tempted to go too, and be wild and dress “English” and drive cars and such. Which makes little sense from what I’ve seen; the youth who want to go do so regardless.) An outdated relic of a policy, now enforced by a simple raw lust for power and total control over the most mundane aspects of other peoples’ lives. A shameful policy that should be abolished. As it would be if honestly evaluated.




  1. Five winters ago I met up with your parents in Sarasota, along with Naomi Gascho. I think they were on their way to or from some other place.

    I greatly respect Paul & Anne Marie’s choice. It is true, we never know what we will do until we are personally faced with cancer or whatever it may be.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — January 25, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  2. I agree 100% about the Select Comfort bed. We heard Rush raving about it all these years and thought we would give it a try. I wish we would have stayed with our Memory Foam Pad.

    Anne Marie’s attitude is amazing. May God heal her completely if it is His will.

    Comment by Dawn — January 25, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  3. Just popping in to say hi! I think of you often, Ira. Was sorely disappointed I didn’t have time to hook up with you just before Christmas.

    Comment by RagPicker — January 26, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

  4. My heart goes out to Paul and Ann Marie and their extended family. Though I know them only thru this blog, I support their decision and God bless.

    Maybe I need to try one of those foam pads, too, though I have more trouble getting up in the morning then sleeping at night.

    Glen and Mervin were here last night for supper, complete with Rhoda’s pecan pie and home made ice cream.

    I guess Doddy’s move is now history. Mom stayed at Titus and Ruth’s house the day they loaded. I guess they are settled in, and Alvins left tonight for home. Thus ends that chapter in their lives.

    Comment by rachel — January 26, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  5. Wouldn’t it be sweet to see the great Patriots come this far only to be crushed by one of my favorite teams, the Giants? I think a lot of Patriot acolytes will be sorely dissapointed and lose a lot of money, because they will never cover the 12 point spread.

    Also, congratulations to South Carolina voters for telling the great Hillary where to go.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — January 26, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  6. Ira, I also am a fan of the Select Comfort bed. I’ve been sleeping on one for about 9 years. I still have some back issues, however not as bad as it used to be.

    If you want to check some really comfortable beds, go to Leaman Place Furniture and talk to Jim Mast. He’s got some pillow top beds that are really comfortable.

    Comment by sam — January 27, 2008 @ 1:48 am

  7. Ira, my comment is not related to the current blog, but may be of interest to you. You are obviously a voracious reader. Have you read any of Victor Davis Hanson’s writing? He is not the “curmudgeon” that Fred Reed is, but he is fairly conservative and his articles are usually thoughtful and well written. Many of his essays are available on his website. He has written a number of books as well. Perhaps you have read his material, but if not I hope you might find it worthwhile.

    Comment by Dave Graber — January 27, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  8. The end of an era, the turning of the page. Somehow I never imagined I would see the day Grampa Waglers moved out of Bloomfield. The happy childhood memories of having both sets of Grandparents living in the same community, aunts and uncles living close by. Those are precious memories, and though I know it is impossible, I long to relive those days if only for a moment.

    Comment by Andrew Yutzy — January 28, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  9. I would like to meet your parents while they are in Florida. Will they be visiting Pine Craft? When will they be down?

    I am a dedicated fan! I read your blogs every week. They’re great. (Stoll) Davies County! Go DC. Please let me know ASAP. Thanks a lot.


    Ira’s response: They will be in Pine Craft for most of the month of Feb. I have no idea where they will be staying.

    Comment by Randy Stoll — January 28, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  10. Correction; the real reason for the not going to Florida rule was that we need our elderly at home in church….


    Comment by Anonymous — January 29, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  11. I guess I feel just like Andrew. It’s almost impossible to believe that Daudy Waglers no longer live in Bloomfield. I never got used to them not living in the “Wagler eck”- I wish they could’ve stayed there until they were buried there…

    I think you may be a bit hard on the people who made and keep the “no Florida” rule. There is some bit of truth in their reasoning. Although it may not be totally valid. And the rule is not against all points south- Daudys went to Arizona several times, didn’t they?

    Comment by ella — January 29, 2008 @ 9:39 pm

  12. Anonymous, we are the Church.


    Comment by Elam S Lantz — January 30, 2008 @ 6:59 am

  13. We absolutely love our Select Comfort!

    Comment by Dorothy — January 30, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  14. Hey Ira,

    Sleeping without interruption has never been a privilege for me. Sick children, loud neighbors, noisy Ninja bikes, hot room, fears, worries, anxiety…have all haunted me in my useless endeavors to find rest for my weary bones. Finally, I gave in and made a visit to the doctor who has set me up beautifully with a little chemical help. When I don’t get proper sleep I get depressed. There must be brain chemicals that are restrained from darting around to fulfill a very important job. Finding happiness in life. People pish and posh about medications, but I’m a firm believer. If I had diabetes would I not allow myself insulin? Well, what’s the difference with a severe lack of sleep?
    I used to say it was nurture that created the person, but now I have changed my song. Genes, DNA, heredity, whatever you want to call it, that’s where it all happens. Well, maybe 85%. By the way, did you know there are tests that can be taken to see if Alzheimers is going to be an issue in one’s life? Hint, hint. And that there are medications that can slow the process if you are at early stages of it. And don’t feed me the bologna that if you have it, you have it. Your readers will be furious with you, you know. And I happen to be one of your readers. Grrr!
    Pillow top beds are the best. If you’re ever in the market, take a test dive and I can guarantee you, you will have a bed just like Mama Bears. Soft. And they might even throw in some porridge. HeHe!

    Comment by Francine — August 15, 2013 @ 1:39 am

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