The Weekly Muse

Wow.  Just wow.

The weather here is simply - breathtakingly beautiful.  Light breeze, bright sun, crisp air.  Temps yesterday never hit 80 and we are in for more of the same today.  This - is my favorite kind of weather.  Bright beautiful days and the nights? Well, they have been crisp and cool, bringing on some of the best sleep of the year.

Isn't the imagery in this video incredible?!

I did something impulsive yesterday (which, frankly isn't all that unusual...) and I joined an online photography contest - GuruShots.  I stumbled across it thru my LinkedIn account and decided - what the heck.

It's free.  There are multiple categories you can submit up to 2 images for each.  I selected a pretty generic one - The Great Outdoors - and submitted one of my Milky Way images and one of the recent sunrises in Vermont.  First prize in this category is $250 - not bad for a free service and the simple act of uploading images.  They will even copyright the images for you.

What makes all this so exciting to me is this: the moderator of the forum is a photographer named Timothy Sutherland.  He's very well-known; published in National Geographic, displays in places like the White House ... you know, not too big of a deal. :-)

Well - Mr. Sutherland commented on BOTH of my photographs and even asked me - ME! - what my settings were on the Milky Way image because he was having trouble getting nothing but a bunch of stars.

In case you didn't chase the link on his name...I'll tell you why this is such a big deal to me.  Mr. Sutherland trained with - Ansel Adams.

Ha!

Only one of the greatest outdoor photographers of all time.  And I was praised for my work...by someone who worked with the great Adams.

I haven't come down from the cloud yet.  I may never.

My boss - continues to be a changed leader for me.  The shift that started 3 months ago appears to be permanent.  He remains engaged, interested - sharing information with me that he's not shared in the past, including me on his observations about meetings, people and projects - even soliciting my opinions.  My regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings have been held as scheduled - no random cancellations, no more blowing me off. And if he's even 5 minutes late - he apologizes to me.  I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop but I can also feel myself settling into my work-harness again - in a good way.  It is amazing what being treated like you have value can do for your commitment to the tasks at hand. 

In fact, it's so good and has been for long enough that I have suspended my search for another position within the company.  Oh I'll keep my ears to the ground for opportunities - I'm not a fool - however I do love the people I work with and while there remain aspects of my position that don't light a fire underneath me, there is something to be said at this stage of my life for consistency and fewer surprises.

We believe we have, finally, halted the invasion of woodchucks.  Yesterday, The Oracle and 2 of his closest buddies spent the majority of the day hacking, sawing and splitting the last wood pile left over from The Hurricane Irene Great Tree Debacle.  This was by far the largest and most difficult pile to dig into.  Much of this wood was from the base of the biggest tree that fell in the hurricane - a giant Oak with a 5 foot diameter base.  Giant logs - some of them 3 feet long.

The Boys worked well together; I worked from home yesterday and had the privilege of hearing them joking and laughing as they worked themselves into some pretty righteous sweats.  I also fed them well with scrumptious sandwiches from a local cafe.  Happy boys mean good work.

In the end, as they rolled away one of the smaller base pieces, the woodchuck burrow entrance was revealed.  Now - these critters have nowhere to hide.  Oh there is still a good portion of the woodpile that remains, needing further attention. But with the bulk of the wood either removed or rolled aside and the burrow entrance fully exposed, we can now stuff netting into the hole and anchor it in place with a large rock.  That's what has been recommended and we plan to do that by the end of the weekend.

And so - we've been busy, we've had some relaxation time too.  This weekend will be the last one with both days free of commitments until the end of September. And that's OK - there is much coming up that will be good for our souls.

In the end - you can't ask for much more than that.

Be Gentle

In the wake of the death of Robin Williams and some things that I’ve read and heard from others, I wanted to say this:

No matter how certain you are, you never really know what another person is going through. You never really know what it is like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. You never really know what is going on in another person’s life. And no matter how well you think you know someone, you can never understand their perspective as clearly as you understand your own.

No matter what another person’s life appears to be to you, we never really know what is going on. “Money, fame, and talent don’t buy happiness,” the cliche goes. But it is true. Just because someone’s life looks perfect to you doesn’t mean it feels perfect to them.

Depression is a scary thing. I’ve been there. Many people have, and deal with it every day. When you are clinically depressed, no matter how good your life might seem to others, it just doesn’t feel good to you. You can’t get there. You can’t sleep. You can’t stop thinking or worrying about this or that. You just can’t shake it, no matter what. And worst of all, most of the time you decide you can’t talk about it or share it with others, because they will never understand, or you assume that the more you talk about it, the worse you will feel.

Depression is a lonely and scary place to be. So lonely and so scary that sometimes the only thing you can see that will stop all this is the permanent solution. I’ve been there too.

Far too many of us spend time criticizing and judging other people.  I hope that the sad lesson we learned yesterday from Robin Williams’ suicide was that we never, ever know what is really going on inside a person. So don’t assume. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. 

Do … be gentle with everyone you encounter because they could be waging an inner-battle that you can’t begin to understand.  Accept that you might not always agree on every single thing. Allow for people's imperfections - because we all have them.

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Church of Baseball

For the first time in my life...I went to a live baseball game this past Friday night. 

I. Know. 

 

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A minor league club, the CT Tigers play at the intimate Dodd Stadium...where you need to keep your wits about you as all seats are in foul ball territory.  Our tickets were $6.00 each and included a monster fireworks show at the end of the game.

This was a church outing...organized by The Oracle. It was his dogged determination that this gathering take place and the 50 people who went to the game couldn't thank him enough for organizing it, getting the tickets, marketing it and coordinating distribution of the tickets.

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He looks like the proud and happy man he should be. Everyone had a great time.

We were able to get caught up with friends, see people we don't get to see too often and enjoy a rollicking game. 

The home team won, 5-3.  A talented bunch of children...really some of them looked like they were 12!  In truth this ball club recruits players from high schools and colleges...and we are pretty sure that we saw at least one talent scout sizing up the players. 

Which would be good news to the 2 pitchers we saw from the Tigers.  The first pitched 6 innings and his average pitching speed was 90mph.  The relief pitcher gave a whopping 93mph average with a couple of pitches scoring at 97mph. 

Teach them some control and they could be in the majors on a year or 2. 

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Of course our beloved Fr. Michael was there...visiting with everyone and just being his usual fun self.  He sat with us and that's always...interesting. He's like the little brother I never had...lots of good-natured teasing, lots of laughs and he shared his roasted peanuts with me.  

Yes...I ate all the expected foods at a baseball game...hot dogs (which were really good), peanuts, ice cream. No crackerjack.  

 The highlight of the evening wasn't about the game, the food or the fireworks.

It was the incredible privilege of seeing a surprise military dad homecoming. Three kids were brought on the field, presented as winners of a "contest".  Eventually the kids were prompted to look at the scoreboard where a picture of their dad was shown.  The littlest one - a boy of about 5 - insisted that his daddy was in Virginia.  The MC said "Are you sure?" And then pointed to the dugout...and out pops daddy.  The three kids were beside themselves but the little boy...he couldn't stop jumping up and down.  It was exactly what you'd expect it to be...like every one of these events you've seen on YouTube...and nothing prepares you for the impact in-person.  

Standing ovation from the crowd, people wiping their eyes (ourselves included) and as the dad made his way up thru the stands with his family...people on the aisles shaking his hand, thanking him for his service, 

It was just beautiful, poignant and awe-inspiring. 

The perfect compliment to a wonderful evening spent in the company of dear friends...worshipping at the church of baseball. 

My first live baseball experience was, obviously, a roaring success. In truth, I really didn't want to go. I only went because The Oracle worked so hard on the event.  And I am so very glad that I roused myself to join in the merriment.  

Fenway...look out cuz were coming next year!  

The Weekly Muse

We are a day late, we know.

The muse isn't with us this weekend.  The beginnings of a summer cold have been trying to sink its fangs into me.  At first I thought it was a lack-of-sleep-hangover yesterday - felt down and out all day.  Slept late, then took a 2+ hour nap midday.  Managed to rally for church and a function after church but this morning - same thing.

No energy.  Feel hungover, like everything is moving slightly behind - blurry around the edges with no ability to focus.

I'm taking the necessary precautions - drinking plenty of fluids, using my trusty Neti Pot and allowing myself to just rest, sleep and rest some more.

It's made for a rather quiet and boring weekend...The Oracle has been his usual sweet-self, taking care of me and being willing to just relax alongside my listlessness.

I don't like getting sick at any time of year - but a summer cold?

Sucks.

Seven for #4

Another gathering - the fourth in New England - of Lexicans was planned and executed flawlessly – and much fun was had.

This past Sunday a small group of us gathered at what is now being called the “Shakespeare’s of the East Coast” – the small, dark and always terrific Harp & Hound in Mystic.  Our group included The Oracle and myself, AFSarge and his ever-lovely wife, Padre Harvey in for training from TX and, new this time, Marcus Erroneous and his terrific wife.  Daryle in NY tried to be there but couldn't break away; he was missed.  We carried many more in spirit around our cozy corner table.

We spent a delightful 4-ish hours just relaxing, drinking (Guinness…was well represented) and eating. Standard pub fare (though AFSarge insists the bangers & mash are the best in New England; and I can’t argue with the superb-ness of their black & tan onion rings…) kept us well sated.

The occasion was…well, Padre Harvey’s presence in CT (from TX) was the excuse but in reality – we are finding we need no other excuse then it’s time to get together again.  For it is old friends renewing ties and new acquaintances becoming old friends.

United in our love of the great man himself, Lex, we continue his tradition of making connections.

And I once again find myself flummoxed at how I am in this company.  Sarge = Air Force. Padre = Marines & Army. Marcus = Army Special Forces HALO Jumper. Me = Exec Assistant in corporate America.  As the childhood song goes – which one of these is not like the others.

And yet, my joy at listening to their stories – their shared experiences overseas and throughout their varied and disparate military careers – never diminishes.  Each time I plan one of our gatherings, I look forward to the day with childlike glee.

My heart sings out - we shall be with “the boys”! 

That’s how I refer collectively to all the male Lexicans – “my boys” to be precise. 

It is so fascinating to me that this group – who never really knew each other in-person and for so many years existed together in the ether of the Internet – can connect in meat-space so quickly and establish ties that are so deep.  All those years of “talking” to each other at The Mothership created real relationships that defy logic; indeed they stand in opposition to the very fabric of your life, don’t they.  The deepest and most meaningful relationships in your life are supposed to be the “real” ones (meaning the in-the-flesh encounters) aren’t they.

And yet here we are – a merry band of people whose only thing in common for a decade was the daily reading of a blog written by a most extraordinary man.

That – is Lex’s most powerful legacy.  It’s not just his fighter pilot prowess, his achievements in Naval Aviation, nor even the vast importance of his family and the children who will continue living their lives in his honor.  His legacy can be seen – physically observed by anyone with eyes – in the interactions at these gatherings.

People who gathered on a humble blog to debate & discuss politics, current events, all things military, plane pr0n, and all manner of other things that Lex was interested in – have now become friends in the very real sense.  My life became better for knowing these people in the randomness of the Internet.

My life has been enriched tenfold by continuing our interactions in real-time; they add texture and color to my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Boys, and their wives.  And the Lex Babes of course – we few but strong and mighty Lex Babes.

From left to right:

The Oracle, Me, AFSarge, his wife, Padre Harvey (in front), Marcus Erroneous, his wife

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The Weekly Muse

Relaxation is the word of the weekend.

Started gloriously by a day off yesterday with a sojourn at our favorite place - the beach.  Not a hot day, a little humidity but a gorgeous breeze off the ocean.  Contrary to expectations the beach was not crowded for a lovely summer's day, so we had quite a bit of real estate to ourselves.

We ate a sumptuous picnic of cheese, crackers, spreads, fresh veggies and fruit - topped off by delectable bakery cookies.

It was a day fit for a king.  Or a pair of kings as the case may be.

Today - is rainy.  It's been a soft rain all morning - soft like the notes from this gorgeous trumpet.  The air is crisp - a slight chill for summertime, not much humidity and the silken sounds of the day.  Muffled, muted birdsong.  Seems like most people are staying inside as there hasn't been much automobile noises from the neighborhood.

A new woodchuck has taken up residence where the last one lived;  The Oracle attempted to permanently dispatch him this past Thursday by way of a 9mm pistol whilst working from home.  Physical evidence was lacking as the target was able to run away and hide; The Oracle was unsure of a direct hit.

The woodchuck was seen this morning.  It seems we will never be rid of these pests!

I am - struggling.  Some long-dormant memories are bubbling to the surface. Things I'm seeing in a new light, from a new perspective.

And it's - disturbing.  I'm trying to come to grips with them on my own thru meditation and prayer.  It's working, sort of.  I'm considering possibly going to a new therapist (dislike) or seeking out some alternative therapies (like a little bit more).

The commitment of time for the therapist is daunting.  In a life already pretty filled with activities, adding one more into the mix just fills me with dread. 

The idea that I need to go back into therapy fills me with - disappointment.  Just when you think you are out, something pops up to tell you that maybe, just possibly, you aren't finished yet.

Calgon - take me away.

In Defense of House and Home

So…friends of ours (let’s call them Sue and Don) have been raising chickens and quail on their property in a quiet, rural area of CT.  They’ve been doing this for about 5 years for the fresh eggs and the fresh poultry.  We aren’t talking about a full barnyard here; about 20 chickens and 100 quail.  Don lets the chickens roam the property and it’s interesting – they aren’t very smart but they follow him like faithful little children and as soon as it starts to get to twilight time, they all just head to the coop.  No prompting, no calling.

It’s a quiet property – large enough and heavily wooded enough that they don’t see their neighbors. As you’d expect with that kind of area there are predators - fox, coyotes, bobcat, possibly mountain lion. Other large-scale animals like moose and black bear as well.

Sue and Don tried raising pigs once.  A bobcat took one of the 2 pigs they had before they could fully enclose the pen.  They successfully raised the other one but the effort to keep the predators at-bay was too much so they won’t do that again.

The overall effort to keep the chickens safe took its toll this past weekend.

Don had been noticing that something was trying to get into the chicken coop - evidence of scratching and clawing at the door to the coop, scattered feathers, lots of chicken noises at odd times of day - that sort of thing.  So whenever he’s been outside with them – he’s carried a sidearm as a precaution (he is licensed to carry and owns his firearms legally).  This past Saturday it came to a head with disastrous consequences.

Don saw what he believed to be a coyote in the chicken coop; the chickens were roaming but there were a few inside the coop and he lost track of them.  As soon as Don noticed he called out and the “coyote” took off, chicken in its mouth. So he did what he feared he’d have to do – shot the predator.

Except it wasn’t a coyote; it was a neighbor’s pet Husky.  Which in the heat of the moment, thru the rage of losing his livestock, Don saw as a coyote.

Don thought nothing of it; he killed the coyote, lost one chicken and got all the others safely back into the coop.  It wasn’t until the next day that he learned it was a dog.

The police were called because the neighbors said they heard shots coming from next door the day before and then, finding their own dog dead in the woods with gunshots, made the obvious assumption.  The police thoroughly investigated and found that Don was within his rights to shoot the dog; the state statute indicates a homeowner can legally shoot any animal it deems a threat to their property or livestock.  The fact that it was, in this case, a family pet – doesn’t matter to the law.

So – no charges will be brought on our friends.  The police said there was ample evidence on the property that the dog took the chicken – evidence that lead into the woods where the dog was, eventually, found.

The dog owner is, as you can imagine, upset.  Enough so that he called the press…interviews took place and newspaper articles were written; there was a report on the local news last night. These reports aren’t entirely unsympathetic to Don but they aren’t exactly singing his praises either. The dog owner is quoted liberally, multiple times, about their beautiful, sweet pet and the horror at how he died.  The police continue to stand by their investigation and the laws despite the fact that the owner insists vociferously that charges should be filed. 

In fact the dog owner is in violation of the law – the dog was not leashed and was roaming freely.

But then again – Sue and Don are in violation of a different law, one they didn’t know about.  You can’t have livestock on property less than 3 acres in size; they live on one acre.

It’s a sticking point that could become problematic.  Don is getting rid of the birds; by the end of this week they will be placed with someone else in another town.  In the meantime, Sue and Don have their heads in the sand about what will likely happen to them.

They believe that because Don acted within the law in the shooting…the dog owner has no legal rights to sue them.

And I believe they are very wrong.

A lawyer will take the case for sure; pain and suffering=dollar signs.  With the atmosphere in CT about guns still on high-alert in the wake of the Sandy Hook School nightmare this is a story ripe for plucking and making an example of an innocent gun owner trying to defend his property against – a dog.

Not a dog off a leash, roaming free and attacking livestock. 

But a sweet, family pet. Accompanied by the requisite pictures of fun family time with the cuddly 2 year old Husky taking center stage.

I worry for our friends. At best it will be a nuisance lawsuit, designed to make their lives miserable and cost them money on their own lawyers that they can ill-afford to waste. At worst - they get just the wrong judge and things could derail swiftly and cost them far more than lawyers’ fees.

It’s a scary and sad situation. They feel awful about the dog, about losing the chickens. They are actually contemplating moving out of the area (something they have only casually discussed in the past few years but are now seriously considering; they are going to a few open houses this weekend) to get away from what will likely be the world’s most hostile neighbors.

I pray for them – for the dog owner to settle down, accept his own culpability in not keeping his beloved pet leashed and just move on.  For Sue and Don, that they are able to return to the quiet life they used to have, with no reporters hounding them, with no one passing swift judgment on them.  For their physical safety as well – for their home address was published in the newspaper articles.

They want it all to just go away.  And I pray for that above all else.

The Weekly Muse

Beautiful.

That is the day today - brilliant blue sky, a few passing puffy clouds.  The air is dry and there is the gentlest of breezes.  It's a good day to do what we plan to do - nothing worthy of note.

We'll relax in our Oasis of outdoor living, reading and watching the birds.

You know - the usual stuff that nurtures us and feeds our souls.

And music such as this will be the day's soundtrack.  Nothing too intrusive, just sweet soft notes that will cause us to pause - and just...be.

I've said it many times and I'll say it again - a quote from a friend - we are human BE-ings, not human DO-ings.  Sometimes we lose sight of that simple fact.

Lately The Oracle and I have been hyper-aware of just...BE-ing.  Our personal calendars have been remarkably quiet of late and looking ahead it seems they will be for at least 2-3 more weeks.

This is rare and we are embracing every quiet moment that we can - coming straight home from work and sitting outside with a cocktail.

It feels so - decadent.  It feels so - delicious.

Followed by a simple meal and perhaps an evening with a good movie or watch a couple of episodes of the latest program we are streaming.

In all cases - it's been marvelously relaxing.  Which we desperately need these days.

Don't we all?

Shaky

I've had a few days now to digest news I got last week...time enough that I can finally share it without my blood pressure rising.

The 2 jobs I was up for...fell through.   

To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.  To say that I am angry about one of them...would also be a vast understatement. 

One of them I didn't get because another executive retired and her admin would have lost her job.  While I wouldn't want to see that happen, and while it does take the sting out a bit, it still sucks.  But hey...at least it's a clear reason that makes total sense and even illustrates some humanity in the decisions made in the Fortune 100. 

 It is the other one that leaves me breathless with anger.  I was put forward for that one; never actually applied for it - I was recommended by 6 people I had met with for the other position.

An extremely senior level executive - and I gave the interviews of my life. Met with him twice in one day, at his request. By the time we were nearing the end of the second meeting, he was saying things like "when you" and "we will"...indicators of a favorable outcome for me (and him, he'd have gotten the executive assistant of his life).  

I met with 2 other people that same day...and they both told him I should be his number one choice.  In fact, by my count based on firsthand information, a total of 9 people suggested that I would be the very best possible choice. That it would be a no-brainer for him.  Hire me, plug me in and let me run. 

Instead...he hired someone from outside the company who supposedly has more experience than me.

Bullshit.

Not only do I have 8 YEARS of internal company experience...I have over 30 years of executive assistant, office management, project management and human resource generalist experience.  

What does this person he hired have? Wings??? 

I am quietly digging around to see if I can find out the truth...because the above is what I called it. Pure, utter bullshit.  

My theory is that it is a "courtesy hire".  Some other executive has a daughter or niece or cousin or friend of a friend...because quite frankly, what else could it be?! Even the executive himself gave me every indication that the job would be mine. 

The mature part of me understands that this wasn't the right position for me, that there is something better out there that I will connect with at the appropriate time. 

The part of me that needs a change, that needs to do something else...is getting there, very slowly. 

The control freak in me is rebelling with all her might against what I know intellectually to be the truth - that God has this - that it is His will I must acknowledge.

There is a saying that I have had posted at my desk for a couple of years now; it has stood me in good stead during some pretty rough moments:

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I am grateful for so many things.  I just pray for continued strength.

Because in truth - my confidence is getting shaken. This is the 5th time I haven't gotten an internal job for one reason or another.  It's hard at this point not to think that there might be something fundamentally wrong with me...that I'm not seeing.  I continue to request specific feedback each time and only once was it really not about me.  If there is something I'm doing wrong or unintentionally misrepresenting...I need to know.  Else I will continue to go thru this soul-crushing experience. 

Which, to that last, I have no intention of continuing this cruel joke for much longer. Earlier this week I posted for my 6th opportunity since January.  If nothing comes of it I plan to suspend my search for a bit.  Give myself a chance to take a breather, get some perspective, gain distance between me and these disappointments.

I am grateful. I have a good job at a stable company. I am well-respected and valued by my peers. And even His Nibs continues to show signs that after over 3 years he finally sees the power he has in his admin. 

For now I have to hang my hat on that. Which isn't awful...just confusing. 

Hello? Hello?

About 5 weeks ago...a ringing started in my ears. More on the right than on the left. It took me about a week to realize that the ringing hadn't stopped in that time.

In  the midst of planning for that nightmare meeting in June...I just pushed thru the annoyance. I didn't have time to deal with a health issue.

Which brings us to this morning's appointment with my ear, nose and throat specialist. A man I've seen more than a few times in the past decade for polyps on my vocal chords to the epic laryngitis of last year.

First up was the Audiologist. Extensive hearing tests were done and thankfully my hearing is just about perfect. Absolutely nothing there to be concerned about.

No structural abnormalities and, thanks be to God, no tumors.

It is Tinnitus and there is no cure and no real treatment. I just have to learn to cope.

Total silence...is now my enemy.  I will always have to have some kind of noise around me to help distract me from the ringing. 

Which never stops, not even for a moment. It's high pitched; some days it is louder than others. Today it's not so bad, yesterday it was horrific.  So long as I'm busy...I don't notice it so much.  But there are days when I think that even dogs must hear it - the pitch is just so sharp and narrow. 

I am grateful that my hearing is just fine.  I am thankful that, at least for now, it's not affecting my ability to play the piano or listen to music or hear the sound of The Oracle's sweet voice or sing at church or all the other things that hearing loss would steal away from my life.   

It could be worse, I know. It's frustrating and annoying...and non-life-threatening. Of all the things it could have been...I'll deal with this.

The Weekly Muse

The muse today isn't musical.  Today it's all about the weekend getaway we are currently in the middle of.  

A very dear friend purchased a second home in northern Vermont last winter.  Her closest friends get to use it anytime - at no charge.  This weekend is the first opportunity we've had to take advantage of their generosity. 

What. A. Place.  It's a small house - about 900 sq. ft. - with a mudroom, breezeway and 2-car garage. The Oracle observed that the main house is about the size of the garage. 

It's cozy, beautiful and the view is worth a million dollars.  The back deck looks down the sloping lawn, out over a dense forest and in the not-too-far distance is Mount Washington. With several smaller hills and mountains in the foreground.  Like so: 

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That is sunrise on Friday morning...that image is straight off the camera, no editing at all. The colors really did look like that; in fact the entire sky looked like it had been painted.

 The air here is cool, crisp and literally tastes delicious when you take a deep breath.  We really are in God's country here - even now, at 11:00am on Saturday - it is so quiet.  I hear the house creak a bit here and there as the sun warms the siding.  Birds chirp in the distance, flitting around the feeders on the deck.

It is a slice of magic here. 

The night sky is a whole nuther experience.  One of the things I wanted to do while up here was try the next frontier in my photography - night skies.  Specifically, the Milky Way.  And we are in a prime position here with wide open skies, a large yard rimmed with trees and absolutely no light pollution from anywhere. 

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Yes - there are shooting stars in that shot.

I have a new addiction - night photography is simply breathtaking.  Even the simplest pictures, like the one of the Big Dipper below, fill my soul with joy and song.

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The sheer number of stars revealed in images like the Milky Way above - thousands more than our naked eyes can ever see.  I've always been mystified and awe-struck by the vastness of space.  The fact that the light in these images is thousands of years old is almost more than my feeble brain can process.

To capture even a small moment in time like this - each time I take the countless pictures I've taken over the past 2 nights - I cry and laugh in equal measure.  I am humbled by this experience; confirmation yet again that we are not in control of anything. 

372 Months. 1,612 Weeks.

It all started in a grotty college dorm room.  Mattress on the floor, questionable hand-drawn “artwork” on the concrete-block walls; certainly nothing that any student would want a parent to see.  Free flowing alcohol of several varieties. Free flowing illicit substances as well.  It was a smorgasbord of ways to get yourself into trouble.

Conversation began over shots of Jack Daniels.  Wide-ranging talk about classes, professors and weekend plans.  Spring break was upon us in a few days so there was general merriment in the air.  For some an end to classes for the next 10 days would cause a little more imbibing that normal.  Bodies were spilling out into the hallway, into other dorm rooms and the party would continue until the wee hours of the morning.

For 2 of us – eventually all the noise around us would be drowned out by our own connection. As if we were suddenly alone in a tropical paradise.  Eventually we would leave the growing crowd in search of a quiet place.

There would be more such encounters over the next 3 months; more parties in the dorm room, more consumption of Jack Daniels and the illicit substances (hey, college is for experimentation and learning – right?).  More...of everything.

15 months and 2 weeks after that first encounter – there would be a wedding with 2 young people completely unsure about everything in their futures except for one thing – their all-consuming love for each other.

That wedding date was today – July 16, 1983.  I would marry my nerdy boyfriend and he would marry his free-spirited girlfriend.  The odds would be against us from the start; too young, too inexperienced, no money, just a wing and a prayer.

It has stood us in good stead for 31 years – we fly by the seat of our pants most of the time and while each of us might yearn for a more settled existence, we also know that we wouldn’t be happy with anything other than what we have.  Which is pretty darned amazing.

We’ve created enough amazing memories to last us 10 lifetimes; and we will continue to do that until the stars go out and the sun stops shining.

 

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372 Months. 1,612 Weeks.

It all started in a grotty college dorm room.  Mattress on the floor, questionable hand-drawn “artwork” on the concrete-block walls; certainly nothing that any student would want a parent to see.  Free flowing alcohol of several varieties. Free flowing illicit substances as well.  It was a smorgasbord of ways to get yourself into trouble.

Conversation began over shots of Jack Daniels.  Wide-ranging talk about classes, professors and weekend plans.  Spring break was upon us in a few days so there was general merriment in the air.  For some an end to classes for the next 10 days would cause a little more imbibing that normal.  Bodies were spilling out into the hallway, into other dorm rooms and the party would continue until the wee hours of the morning.

For 2 of us – eventually all the noise around us would be drowned out by our own connection. As if we were suddenly alone in a tropical paradise.  Eventually we would leave the growing crowd in search of a quiet place.

There would be more such encounters over the next 3 months; more parties in the dorm room, more consumption of Jack Daniels and the illicit substances (hey, college is for experimentation and learning – right?).  More...of everything.

15 months and 2 weeks after that first encounter – there would be a wedding with 2 young people completely unsure about everything in their futures except for one thing – their all-consuming love for each other.

That wedding date was today – July 16, 1983.  I would marry my nerdy boyfriend and he would marry his free-spirited girlfriend.  The odds would be against us from the start; too young, too inexperienced, no money, just a wing and a prayer.

It has stood us in good stead for 31 years – we fly by the seat of our pants most of the time and while each of us might yearn for a more settled existence, we also know that we wouldn’t be happy with anything other than what we have.  Which is pretty darned amazing.

We’ve created enough amazing memories to last us 10 lifetimes; and we will continue to do that until the stars go out and the sun stops shining.

 

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Wide Eyed

The only hours I didn't see last night were between 2:00am and 5:00am.  It left me so knackered that I decided to give myself a great gift.

I have stayed home.  Slept very late too.

And now I'm ensconced in our media room, indulging in a binge-watch of Downton Abbey.  I even changed a haircut from 5:00pm to 1:00pm.

And I may take a nap when I get home from my haircut.

Tomorrow will be back to the grindstone but only for one day.  For we have a lovely mini-break planned as a 4-day weekend.

Brilliant.

The Weekly Muse

Not to self: if you are going to take a muscle relaxer before you go to bed...take half.

Oof!  I had some back spasms last night just before we shut out the lights - uncomfortable enough for me to reach for the Flexeril.  I forget how potent they are at full strength - I just got up about 45 minutes ago.  And I'm still feeling groggy, like I'm moving slightly behind everything else. 

The Oracle was up early and is now ensconced on one of our outdoor love seats - dozing sweetly.  With this playing in the background it guarantees a peaceful environment. 

The incredible Chris Botti.  Never get bored listening to him.

As I reflect on what I wrote last weekend about my current struggles with not having children and the subsequent dose of humble pie I consumed...I know how blessed I am. 

As suggested by a dear friend, I have returned to a daily Gratitude Journal that I started last winter.  As I re-read the previous entries and begin adding to them, I see that my life is filled with small blessings that all add up to a beautiful life that contains hundreds and hundreds of moments of bliss, beauty and God's grace and mercy.

Some of my friends are at that same point in their lives - reflecting on the past, realizing that more than half of our lives have already been lived.  And as they too ponder their futures a few of them, without any intention or malice, hurt me so deeply that I can hardly breathe. What they say and do aren't about me - quite rightly - yet I can't help but see my own life compared to theirs.

They cry and worry about their own futures - and where the sweet days of their childrens' lives have gone.

Children - grown up and are starting to make a new life for themselves.  Finishing college, looking at where they might want to move, settling into relationships that might well become husbands that will lead to grandchildren.

These are smart, gorgeous women inside and out - filled with a glorious passion for living, incredible business successes; talented, well-educated and the epitome of a modern woman.

And they just cry about how their kids don't need them anymore.  Which - is the whole point, isn't it?  You raise your children so that they can grow to be independent, learning from your successes and failures.  And ultimately becoming the people you worked hard to raise them up to be.

While they cry about their kids and the changes that seem to come at them from all sides - I once again see my own future and how different it's going to be.  It's as if this time in my life - when I thought I'd be truly enjoying life's experiences with my friends - I'm left alone.  It's not intentional on anyone's part - of course I understand that; yet...their futures are starting to diverge from mine.

It is a scary time for all of us - uncertain - with all sorts of possibilities in front of us but with some of the biggest changes in our entire lives, yet to come. 

While I would never begrudge my friends the feelings they have I wish there was a way I could help them put them into perspective from my position. But to do that would just hurt them and I have no desire to do that.

And so - we listen like a good friend and bury our own feelings, deep. 

I am currently obsessed with this song; and I hope that the beautiful message sinks deep in my soul, so I can be the ultimate reflection of God's light from within - shining on my frienda and giving them the support they need.

In the meantime...life moves on. 

This weekend will be quiet today, then busy tomorrow.  A nice balance.  Right now I am sitting in our gorgeous outdoor living room, enjoying the things that calm my heart - birds singing, little chipmunks gathering seeds until their pouches threathen to explode.  Shortly I will make myself a second cup of coffee and further enjoy the serenity of our oasis. 

About Face

A few years ago I had an unpleasant encounter with a friend at work; I blogged about it back then but unfortunately the post is from my previous site so I can't link to it here.

To summarize: we had decided to never talk politics because we were on polar opposite sides of the spectrum, with Marilyn calling herself a died in the wool bleeding heart liberal and me being slightly to the left of Genghis Khan. With so many other things to talk about  it was never an issue. Until the day she made it one, flung about some highly charged accusations and questioned my intelligence. We didn't speak for about 3 years then spontaneously...patched things up. 

We see each other occasionally and it's always just a nice relaxed conversation. Until yesterday. 

I'm still trying to process what she said to me. 

She confessed to voting for Obama the first time...she said it like it was a guilty secret she's been keeping all these years.  And went further to say quite emphatically that she did not vote for him the second time. 

Marilyn...has come over to the light.  Now she does hold to some wild conspiracy theories about P.BO and his wife...but she's always been someone who looks at the fringe as a comfy place.

Her views are now, in general, a little right of center.  We spoke about the economy, the current illegal immigrant crisis and a few other current topics. In each case...Marilyn brought it up.  I danced around things each time, being sure I knew what side she would land on before I commented substantively.

And each time...she flabbergasted me with the scope of her political changes of heart. 

It seems...a leopard can indeed change his spots. In this case, I believe the leopard went from shades of brown and black to shocking pink. 

 

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Humility

I got a more than healthy portion of humble pie at church last night...from 2 different people.

One I know very well...our beloved Deacon Tom.   He gave the homily last night and it was about the concept that life...isn't easy. That in fact it will be filled with challenges from birth to death and it is a measure of who we are as to how we handle whatever our own difficulties might be.

And that in the face of our own personal struggles, yoking ourselves to God will be the comfort, solace and easing of our burdens that we seek with desperation. 

And of course he is right. To feel lonely, like I said yesterday, is to turn ones back on God and prayer.  And while it is totally human to do just that...it is good to be reminded, from someone I love, that it's neither healthy nor productive. 

My other dose of humble pie came from someone I don't know and had never seen before. 

A beautiful young family came into church just a few minutes before Mass began.  Mother, father, 3 adorable children and grandparents. Nothing too unusual in that on a Saturday evening. 

It was the dad who stopped me short and caused me to become internally embarrassed at my previous belly-aching and pity party. 

Clearly he'd been in an horrific accident of some kind...and not too long ago.  

The first thing you saw was his head...devoid of hair due to burns. There were patches of dark fuzz but only patches; the majority of the top of his head was red and raw with a few places of healing new skin. 

His face was much the same...no eyebrows, tightened into a grimace of painful healing. 

His right arm was encased in a burn compression bandage; he couldn't straighten the arm and the bandage covered his hand and fingers.  His left arm...was missing above the elbow. What remained also had a compression bandage on.  He walked with difficulty even though he used a cane. 

Yet there he was...at Mass.  He stood for every prayer despite the difficulties and pain it clearly caused him.  I covertly watched him go up to receive Communion; no one asked to have it brought to him, which in his circumstances would have been completely expected.  

No...with determination drawn from someplace deep within, he left his cane at his seat and walked up to receive the Body of Christ.  It must have taken a focus and iron will to make that walk.  A focus on what he was about to receive and the spiritual nourishment it would give him. 

I only watched him for a moment. But it was enough. 

Each of us has our burdens, that's true. They are unique to our own circumstances and we bear them as we can.  And I don't mean to diminish one iota the weight of an individual's struggles. 

But sometimes you experience God's Grace from a different perspective.  It changes the composition of your own picture. It forces you to confront your own self-absorption and navel-gazing...and see it for what it is. 

A pity party that has gone on long past its end time. I'm the last guest at the party and it's time for me to move on.

The Weekly Muse

It's been wild couple of days here - weather-wise.  It started Thursday night with some violent thunderstorms - the kind that knock the power out for 8 hours. It's a funny thing - we live in the middle of the woods and we know it.  Of course we do.

Yet when the power goes out at 9:00pm on a stormy night - with the wind howling, the rain driving a beat against the windows - and the only light is from the nearly ceaseless lightning. You realize just how rurally you live; the black is deep and inky.  And all the usual night sounds have retreated in the face of mother nature's fury.

It is - silent.  The kind of silence that makes the hair on your arms tingle and makes you want to be sure you have a loaded handgun within easy reach.

Yesterday we woke to - rain.  Breezy, chilly rain.  In fact the temps dropped during the day as did the humidity.  We woke to 72 degrees and 80% humidity; by the time 2:00pm rolled around it was 65 and dry with a stiff breeze.

Today - is sunny, brilliantly so.  Not a cloud in the sky, the cool stiff breeze lingers keeping temps in the low 60s.

I'll take today.

For the brilliant sun and breeze are not representative of what is going on inside me.

No.

For I am in that bad place - where my sense of self-worth plummets and I want to retreat into a shell that is - dark and silent.

Ironic.  I literally had that on Thursday night and I didn't want it; now I want it and it's about as far away as it could be.

I'm feeling very - lonely.  The reasons for that are so complex that I can't even begin to sort them out.

I've reached that age, I guess, when not having children has become a point of sadness that won't go away.

I see my friends - and their daughters (especially the daughters) - doing all sorts of things together; lots of mom/daughter bonding events.  And as I look on them - and I see their futures as clearly as they do - I see my own in stark contrast.

And it hurts my heart.

I see weddings being planned.  I see their grandchildren milling around them.  I see the last phase of the lives of my friends unfurling - surrounded by children, children-in-law and the next generation growing up right before their eyes.

And I see my own future - and it has none of that.  Oh - friends will tell me I'm a mom to so many, that their kids love me.  And I love them.  But in the end...they aren't my kids.  I'll never have grandchildren of my own. 

And for the very first time since I first learned that we'd never have children - I'm jealous.  And sad.

Very sad.

So sad that I can hardly move.  Every step, each effort at engaging in life - is so beyond exhausting.  I put on a brave, game face each day and by the end of that day - I'm worn out in excess of my emotional capacity.

I some ways...it feels like I'm in mourning for something I've never had and never will have.  How strange is that.

238 Years!

Happy Birthday America!

We owe a debt we can never repay to a group of men - and their families - who were willing to commit sedition & treason - risking their very lives - to secure the freedoms of generations to come.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

 

The Weekly Muse

The morning is - blissful.  I mean seriously and beautifully blissful.  There is the random noise of a car making its way down the street.  The baby birds are chirping their pleas for more food.  The air is cool and soft on the skin.  It smells like summer but feels like late spring.  Big blue sky - enough to make a Dutchman's britches, as my grammy used to say - and a gentle breeze.

It took nearly all week but by last night I finally felt like myself again.  The past 2 weeks plus this week were some of the most stressful I've experienced in a very long time.  I paid for that mid-week; such a pall of exhaustion fell over me that I could barely move.  Somehow I found a way to make it thru the work-week and ended it by leaving a couple of hours early yesterday.

A retreat to our outdoor oasis and by the time darkness fell - I was me.

The Oracle is off to his shooting league this morning; he was literally running to the Jeep to get out of the house.  He hasn't been going nearly as often as he used to and despite my encouragement, he has been content to stay home on Saturday mornings. But I know he misses it and I was very happy to see him going off to do something for himself this morning.

Otherwise this weekend is free of the complications of responsibilities.  Well, we are serving Communion at Mass this evening; which is just pure joy.  But beyond that, nothing worthy of note.  We'll enjoy being in the oasis, perhaps there will be a nap or 2.  Just - quiet.  We are in desperate need of quiet.

The trespassing incident of last weekend has weighed heavily on both of us this week.  I did a little research and discovered that the neighbors actually committed a Class A Misdemeanor by coming onto our property without permission; the vandalism is covered by a separate statute.  The punishment for just the trespassing part?  Up to a year in jail, up to a $2,000 fine - or both.

So - I purchased a small sign: No Trespassing. Private Property.  And hung it on the Lilac Trees, facing the neighbors property.  I just couldn't get past the idea that they thought it was OK to do what they did.

The sign - had its desired effect.  About 90 minutes after it was hung up yesterday, our doorbell rang. It was the neighbor - presuming that the sign was about last weekend, he came over to apologize.  The Oracle handled the encounter with grace and class.  Accepted the apology and suggested that, regardless of the intentions, that the neighbor never again come into our yard to cut, trim or otherwise prune anything growing on our property.  He agreed.  It all ended amicably with general discussion about bluebirds and wildlife.

The sign - will be taken down this weekend.

And yet, no explanation was given as to why they felt it was OK to do what they did.  We'll never get an answer and I've accepted that; but it is still puzzling.

I know this isn't for everyone but I love the peaceful quality of the music. The lyrics really have no meaning; the composer (Karl Jenkins) says he uses layered sounds that are soothing but the words are just - notes expressed by voices.

And this is the soundtrack for the weekend.  Peace, tranquility, no deeper meaning.

Namaste.