Archive for January 2011

SNOWFLAKES

January 31, 2011

“Snowflakes” can be quite charming:

That’s Cooper Kenneth holding his  first Christmas card from  grandma.  (Me)   On the outside it says:  “Know what this is?”    On the inside it says:  “Frosty the Snowman’s baby picture.”

Seemed appropriate for the new baby in our family.  And lots of fun.  Looks like Cooper approved.  

He has developed a cute smile and a knowing look that has us all amazed.     He keeps us wondering, what on earth is he thinking about?!

Here, in the Midwest, we are awaiting quite a few “snowflakes.”    The weatherman predicts more than a foot of them for us, possible quite a bit more.    This will be our first Big Snowstorm of the season;   lots of snow, lots of wind, maybe some big drifts!

I’m a veteran, all prepared for this storm.    Then in  a couple of days we’ll all be out driving our cars again.     I know the children will enjoy this.   I hope the young parents will too.

INSIGHT ACROSS TIME

January 30, 2011

I’ve been uncharacteristically un-tied to calendar and even clock these past few months.    It feels a little like I’m floating over the surface of this earth, only now and then “touching down” and making a connection.    This phase will be ending quickly, as I see more and more events coming up soon that require I be a certain place at a certain time. . . .

Will it matter?    Will it matter that I get my “clock” working again and regulate my life once more according to the hours of the day and the days of the week?

Will it matter that my soul is tuned in to the ebb and flow of seasons in the Liturgical Year?

Well, yes;  it all matters very much.    I’ve managed to get this body into a church every Sunday, I’m quite sure, and so these ears hear the Last Gospel read regularly, a part of which tells us that St. John the Baptist is appointed to give testimony to the Christ, “the True Light which  enlightens every man. ”   

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,  we are told to rise from our sleep;  go “sleepwalking” (or “floating”) no more because Christ is here to enlighten us, and so be very careful how we walk through this life, “not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  (Ephesians 5:16)

Right.   It matters that we walk deliberately and wisely through our life-time here.  Christ, humanity’s only Savior, enlightens anyone who hears and obeys, and will redeem us from out of these evil days.  

So.    No more floating through these days.    I wrote yesterday that it was the Feast Day of my “mentor,”  St. Francis de Sales.     How can he be a mentor since he died a few hundred years ago?    Well, for one thing, he left his writings behind.  We can learn to know him, his mind, his insights from reading the many beautiful things he wrote.   

He was a man full of kindness, gentleness, patience, charity, and a desire to bring his fellowman to a knowledge of the Truth.   He was a beautiful example of a man in love with Our Lord and was known to have a very special devotion to Jesus when He was a Child in the Manger.

I know these are the last days of Christmastide,  so it’s appropriate to follow the gaze of St. Francis as he contemplates the Infant Christ,  lying in the manger, presenting the Beauty of God in the form of innocence,  holiness,  peace,  goodness, obedience, and above all, love for us that made Him willing to take on our humanity to do what must be done.

January 29th!    We will soon be ending the time when we focus on “Christmas” things!      New lessons to come!   New events to meditate on!   New insights on familiar stories that we honor throughout the year!

I’m glad to be waking up again to the Liturgical Year.   I nearly missed this yearly reminder to review the life of St. Francis;    I haven’t even begun to learn what this great man teaches, but I don’t want to miss any more things that are offered to us on the calendar!    Little by little,  I might  learn to “redeem the time”  that I live in.

WINTER SATURDAY

January 30, 2011

I have to take a little time out to give thanks for a nice winter day.

My first view outside our windows this morning:

A beautiful morning with cool, crisp, clean air….

One of my first duties is to see that the birds are fed.   When all the other birds were done,  a newcomer arrived with a rusty brown and light brown body:

Didn’t have time to look him up today, so I still don’t know what he’s called.

I did have a lot of visitors during the night:

Must have been a whole herd, all leaving cloven hoof prints:

It was mostly a quiet, winter day.   I worked hard today, all indoors, and then Son came over after his work was done, and broke the silence in this  house.    I was grateful for his company.   For three hours we studied stock charts, trends, analyses, and past Dow Jones history, correlating it with historic events.      Sighhhhh….it came so easy to Hubbie.

Then Son and I had some “visiting” to do:

Cooper wiggled, squiggled, cooed, fussed, cried, ate, burped, stretched, snuggled, and all around just wore his parents out.   We enjoyed the whole show, via Skype.     

And all day today, in the background of my mind, I was aware that it is the Feast Day of my mentor,  St. Francis de Sales.     His kind, gentle hand on my shoulder smoothed out the day’s  rough spots, the ups and downs, and helped me to remember to strive for The Devout Life.

He deserves a post of his own….

I.O.U.

January 28, 2011

I.O.U.  – and I’m sorry I”m so late.    It’s a self-appointed I.O.U. because someone else should have done this for you, and I understand they didn’t.   

See, if  we have a “news” service, we expect them to give us the news, not hold back on some news and just let us see just certain events but  not  certain OTHERS!    

So without much more comment,  I’ll just show you the photos of the event, because it’s an event Americans can be proud of:

This is “raw footage,” as they say.   From my Friend-With-The-Camera  — the friend whose camera I always envy and the one who sent all those wonderful photos from his year in Rome.

So it’s “raw footage” – un-edited by me.  Un-analyzed.   And also un-counted numbers of people.

They marched down the streets of our nation’s capital city, by the hundreds of thousands this week:

Two photos especially caught my attention.   One is this, with a sign reminding us of St. Anne.    Do you know who she is?   Among other things, she is the patron saint of grandmothers.    She is the grandmother of Our Lord Jesus.     Do not think a grandmother is insignificant in the life of a little child!   Here’s her signs (in blue):

The other one that caught my attention is this one – the Yoopers’ sign:

The Yoopers.   Hubbie prided himself on being a genuine Yooper.    That’s anyone who was born and raised “north of the Bridge.”   The Mackinaw Bridge, of course;  that puts you in the UP of Michigan, otherwise known as The Upper Peninsula.    U.P.   Yooper.

Many Yoopers came to declare the value of all human life, no matter how old or young.  From conception to natural death.     There aren’t many Yoopers, population-wise,   but they were well-represented among the hundreds of thousands … that you never saw on television.

And that’s why I.O.U. some of these photos.   Just so you know.   Just so you can teach each other.   And teach the next generation.

Just.   Stop.  Abortion.

Protest or demonstrate or write letters or teach others or pray and make sacrifice and keep working real hard to rid our country of this abomination.    Perhaps then our good country can once again be a moral beacon to the rest of the world.

Thank you, my Friend-With-The-Camera, for doing all these things, and sharing your photos with us.

ARCH DISCOVERIES

January 24, 2011

And so….”moving on” by looking backwards to a good experience Son and I had on our Christmas journey.     It’s the experience of the St. Louis Gateway Arch which made me think of all of us  with younger children in our families.

The St. Louis Arch was going to be our last tourist stop as our three-week journey ended.  The Arch dominates certain parts of St. Louis, Missouri.

You may have been there already.   Both Son and I had been there before.  I had been there several times.

Son and I walked up the long paved trail through the park, to get to the Arch.    It was a walk filled with memories of last summer when I was there with Hubbie, and when he wasn’t really enjoying being there.   So many memories….And our Son wanted to hear them all.     

And then I gave him back some of his own memories:

I love these steps.  They are at the edge of the Arch park and they lead down to the Mississippi River.    People run up and down them.  A long time ago when our two children were little, they ran up and down them too.   Son didn’t remember that, but he was able to imagine himself as a very little boy, playing on these steps.

That’s a bridge over the Mississippi River.    It was fun to recount for Son why Samuel Clemens took the pen name of Mark Twain, because of this very river.

Then it was time to go into the Arch, starting with the huge museum down below.

That’s what it looks like underneath the Arch.     There are many more things to see, and we especially enjoyed a pioneer store with food and objects that you could buy that the pioneers would have been familiar with.  

Before and after our trip to the top of the Arch we explored the Museum of  Westward Expansion.     This is the absolutely best place to take children of all ages  – all ages! –  to show them the highlights of American history.    They have a huge timeline around the walls which puts everything into perspective as you walk around, reading the major events that formed our nation.

There were many scenes and displays from our history.  Son and I had just driven through much of the historic territory out West, and St. Louis, of course, is the Gateway to the West.     

Time to go UP!    They had this display so people could get used to the idea of the method of transportation.  I put Son in it for a picture:

Probably a good idea, psychologically speaking.   Five people sit inside one of those “capsules” as you’re transported to the top.      You need to think about things like claustrophobia.

Five of us tourists packed ourselves in for the ride.    I was fascinated with watching the inside of the Arch as we whizzed by:

Just fascinated!

If you take your kids there when they’re very young, it’s worth taking them back again when they’re older.    I didn’t remember that the capsule had a window in its door and I was amused to discover that Son did remember….but what he remembered seeing was “garbage bags”  or “garbage containers.”     Why?   Why would a little boy remember that, of all things?      We both needed our memory updated!

(By the way, he was delighted to see some garbage bags along the way up.    It was like a vindication of his childhood memory.)

When you get to the top,  you see very strange window “sills,”  wide and carpeted:

And this is why they’re built that way…

We were there on a school day and in the middle of winter so you don’t see any kids on vacataion, but it’s a perfectly safe place to take little children.   I remember my own little ones lying on their stomachs on those window sills, fascinated with the view.

There’s the Mississippi again, from the top of the Arch,  with the shadow of the Arch lying on the river.

If you turn the other way, you see westward across the city:

I took many photos, of course,  but I show this one because at the center is an old court house building.   It’s a museum now, holding for us that very location  and moment in time where the Dred Scot decision was made.    Learning about this monumental decision will challenge your ability to distinguish between history as it happened versus  accepting only the politically correct interpretation.     Not that we would have to make the same decision today….but it’s a serious issue.    There are those who are eager to tell you how you should think about things. 

Okay, remember those steps at the bottom of the Arch?  Here they are, looking down on them:

It’s all in the perspective.

So I thought of my children, my grandchild, and all of our children and grandchildren, and our duty to show them the heavens like we saw at the Lowell Observatory, to teach them to look out to the world, and to know our own history.

How fun it is to teach…and to learn!     We learn and relearn and learn more again.    I felt the delight of learning as my own mind grew and revised its memories.  Even better, I was delighted to remember my own children’s experience at the Arch and to see my own Son’s deepening experience as we visited a place that we had already visited.

I wanted to share this with you all.   We’re never too young for a place like this;  and we’re never too old.

BEAR DERAILMENT

January 24, 2011

Sorry for the absence.   I get derailed sometimes nowadays.  

 That’s because I keep trying to get back onto the same set of rails as before.  But  I’m getting myself established on a new set of rails, ready to move forward….

Seems like a few other people got “de-railed” this weekend.   It would have been nice if the Bears Defensive Team would have PLAYED during the first half of the game….

But, season’s over.   We’ll wait until next Fall.     Maybe they’ll be done playing Multiple Choice with the quarterback.

ARCH DELAY

January 21, 2011

Sorry.  I want so much to share those Arch photos with you.   But it was a difficult day today.   The least difficult thing was this:

It’s Triple Witching Day today on the stock market.    Hubbie is gone. but I had to handle his Stock Opotions and make decisions on his Puts and Calls.    I know nothing about it.    Son is a good teacher.

However,  when you start from “nothing”  you don’t make much progress.   Oh,  I’m perfectly capable of learning;  it’s just that my mind is still tangled with even more “difficult” things right now.

If you would, please remember my Dad in Florida in your prayers.   WWII Marine.   Good guy.   Just had part of his right leg amputated.   We are all a bit traumatized.

Tomorrow I’ll relax and tell you what I learned from the St. Louis Arch.

MOTIVATION

January 21, 2011

So, the motivation for my last two postings about passing on wisdom and knowledge and traditions?   

This little guy, on his couch, holding his own pacifier in his mouth, with his whole life ahead of him. 

Cooper Kenneth at five weeks old is my motivation to be the best so I can give him my best.

The neat thing is, if we think about it,  we all have Cooper Kenneths in our lives.     It’s worth it to strive to be our very best because we’ll be passing something on to someone!

“NEVERMORE”

January 21, 2011

Another pause before the Arch photos:   It’s something that happened last night….or didn’t happen…and may happen “nevermore” again.     And it relates, a little bit, to yesterday’s posting here at the Tunnel.

For something like 60 years,  sometime in the middle of the night of January 19   a mysterious, unseen person  places a half filled bottle of  brandy(cognac)  and  red roses on the grave of author Edgar Allen Poe.   

Just briefly, because this is a sad story now, several years ago the task of laying these items on Poe’s grave was given to some descendants of the mysterious stranger  – and they, whoever they may be,  used the occasion to add a little politically correct note, whatever the fad of the moment was:  save the planet or something.   It was a misguided thing to do, selfish and disrespectful to the many admirers of Poe.

And then last year there was no midnight visitor.   And again this year,  the visitor did not come, as reported in many places,like this article.       Is this one tradition that is now over?

Traditions are little data-packets from the past, like informational short-cuts to what was important.    There are reasons why the writings of Edgar Allen Poe are important to us, and the people who carried on the tradition of  these charming annual night visits remind us of the man and his unique writings.

I’ve received a few comments on yesterday’s posting on the way we grow old and what growing old is good for.    One very thoughtful and interesting one is posted in the Comment section after yesterday’s post;  it’s worth reading. 

Another interesting comment came from  Son, after I told him that I had written about how  valuable for the next generation the wisdom and experience of older people is – or could be – depending on how the person lived his life.       He replied very succinctly:   “You can’t cram for something like that.”

Can’t cram for that!    Right!  It takes a lifetime of experience and gathering knowledge and discernment to be in a position to gain wisdom.   And then one needs to have a sense of the seriousness of the task of passing on knowledge and wisdom to the next generation.  

I was thinking all day today about that.     You can’t cram for that!     But we have to get there.    Or else the traditions of life that keep civilization civilized will wither away and humanity could descend into banality and then, finally,  barbarism.   

So how do we “get there”?       How do we get to be a person of dignity and wisdom so that we can help teach the younger adults and their children?  

Well, I’ve heard that who (and what) we are is the sum total of all the days that have led up to our present day.      And what we do today produces what we will be tomorrow.    What we place importance upon today will be important to us tomorrow.     What experience we gain today will be part of our life, tomorrow.     

 What we can learn from the past on this day is what we can pass on, tomorrow, sometimes in the form of little traditions.     I’m sorry to see the tradition of the annual night visits to Poe’s grave end.    I think we’ve lost a little

THE ‘OLD HAG’ PRESENTS THE ARCH

January 19, 2011

I have a theory about growing old.

 

Yeah.   That’s me when I feel I can’t turn the clock back!    

We all have to think about getting old some day.    Or some day soon.  

So, what’s it all about?     Well, it’s not about looking like young movie stars all our lives!   Real “getting old”  is acquiring knowledge, experience, and wisdom —  and then imparting it to the younger adults and to the even younger children, so that they will  know what is important about life.

With movies, television, and all sorts of distorted concepts from the popular culture, we kind of lose sight of what it means to grow old and to be old.   

Our culture gives us this false and very degrading picture of growing old:

We’re supposed to laugh at them when they do and say all sorts of foul and obscene things.      

I like this picture of an old man,  an elder:

It gives me strength,  and a feeling of safety.    I think he has spent his time wisely, and now he has wisdom to impart to us. 

But I also like this one:

Maybe he’s hard to see.    He’s hanging up on my kitchen wall.    He has something to impart to us too:   knowledge;   experience;  wisdom;   and also availability.    He is available to the younger generation.   That takes kindness and patience and many other of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.

I look at these three pictures and think we’re all on the pathway to one or the other of those men   (and women like them too).      Which one do I want to end up like — and what am I doing about it?

Last time I posted about the Lowell Observatory – and Daniel Q. Posen.   I hope some of my enthusiasm for space science – learned as a child! – came through.     I remember a long time ago I wrote about giving your children grown-up adult books to read when they are children.  Adult books about science and the whole world don’t talk down to kids, they just open up the world to kids.   

Oh  –  I forgot about the Arch!   One last adventure to talk about from our journey to California and back.      I meant to write about visiting the Arch in St. Louis and what a good place that is to teach children all about our country. . .I meant it as an example of a wise thing to show our next generation.

Next posting.     Next posting  the “Old Hag” will present the photos……

DANIEL Q. POSEN

January 18, 2011

I want to write about Daniel Q. Posen – and this beauty:

It’s the main telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.    It’s a real beauty.    It was built in 1896 and used by Percival Lowell throughout his esteemed career as an astronomer.  It was also the telescope which “discovered” Pluto and which led to the formulation of the equations which describe the theory of the Expanding Universe.  

The observatory is perched high over the city of Flagstaff:

Son and I were fortunate enough to arrive in Flagstaff about 7:30 in the evening.   His GPS took us straight to Mars Hill, the wonderfully appropriate address of the Lowell Observatory.       Oh – that’s the lights of Flagstaff about 1,500 feet below us.   We’re as close as we wanted to get at the pitch dark edge of the mountain with 45 m.p.h. winds gusting at us – and about 35 degrees!

We had arrived on the night of the eclipse of the full moon.  

Total excitement!   

There was a good museum and gift store which prepared us for going inside the observatory itself.    And then, with a small (and very cold) group of people,  our guide took us in.    We lined up in a circle around the Telescope under the fragrance of the mountain pine wood:

She had “someone from the audience” go down into the pit and work the levers which opened and closed the dome above as she explained how the telescope was built and how they – in 1896 – had to invent their way to a method of positioning the dome just right so that the telescope would be viewing the part of the sky that was to be examined.     

Those circles you see at the bottom go all the way around the dome.    They finally solved the problem of positioning the dome by making it move on a series of truck tires –  they used the tires from 1954 Ford pick-up trucks!    And, yes, we asked:   Occasionally they have to go in and change a flat tire.   Really “high tech” mechanism!

When the formal tour was over, Son and I explored yet another museum where a semi-eager grad student was willing to give us a private and rather late showing on his planetarium:

He was sitting at his brightly colored control panels and that big ball, looking like the inside of a giant umbrella was displaying the universe for us as he talked and we asked numerous questions.   The man took us from earth-and-moon out to the whole solar system and out to about 10 AUs away from our sun and out further and further until we could see our whole Milky Way galaxy and further until our galaxy appeared to be just a shining dot among other dots that formed long strings and possibly the surface of “bubbles”   and on and on to the limits of what astronomers think they can know….

Why the title of this post:    Daniel Q.Posen?     A long time go when television was young (and not the “wasteland”  that Vance Packard observed)  Chicago developed an educational TV station called WTTW – Window To The World.   It  really was my window to the world.   

As a young child my Dad and I watched their weekly astronomy show hosted by Daniel Q. Posen and featuring the Lowell Observatory and discoveries of Percival Lowell.  We had Lowell’s books in our house.     I read his words and his diagrams and saw the matching photos in these books.

And now, a few weeks ago,  I was standing in his own “work space”!    And viewing his very own handwriting:

Sorry, the lighting was terrible, but that is one of his sketch books and those are his sketches of the patterns he saw on the surface of Mars through the very telescope we had just seen.

I was a child again, looking at the whole universe through the eyes of Percival Lowell, guided by the distinctive voice of Daniel Q. Posen – but this time I was standing in the very places where Percival Lowell had walked.

Hero worship?   Probably.  

He is buried, overlooking Flagstaff, inside a tiny mausoleum built to look like a miniature observatory.   

He is so “not dead.”   He lives on in this observatory and in his books and drawings, and certainly in my imagination where as a child I experienced all the good things that a knowledge of space can give us.

“BENCHMARKS” IN THE TUNNEL

January 17, 2011

Thought I’d look for the Spruce Tunnel again a few days ago:

You can just about see the pathway.

Keep going and the path opens up ahead of you:I didn’t have skis on, I just wanted to walk.   Oddly,   all the other tracks were walking tracks.   No ski trails.

I walked on and on, alone.   I didn’t feel so alone until I came to this bench:It was a bench that Hubbie had to sit down on, when we were here the last time together.

I (We had) kept on walking, until we approached the dark entrance to the Tunnel:I was just walking slowly, as slowly as one can walk and still be walking, because I was passing another…bench.    I thought:  this walk is marked by “benches” that we had to use.     Bench- marks.     

Make progress.   And pause.   Make progress.  And pause.   Make progress. . .  

I made “progress” all the way to the fence that guards against the drop-off, just before the giant White Spruce grow.    Random thoughts started to flow.     I am making progress away from the past and towards the future.  

Living in the present will do that to you.   See the notches in the snow?   I did that.

I was actually “playing.”     My gloves made the first notch, and it looked kind of funny in the otherwise untouched snow covering on the railing.    I made some more and made them at intervals.    What kind of “force of nature ” would create notches like this?    Better yet,  what would people think about the notches?    Random thoughts, playful thoughts, normal thoughts.   

 I made notches along the whole fifty feet or so of the railing.     I’m not sure why, and I’ll never know if anyone else has seen them or what they think.    But the mere randomness – playfulness – of the act was a “benchmark” for me.    My thoughts are loosening up.

I came to the place where the Spruce grow:

And then the place where the Tunnel begins:

The Spruce Tunnel is a real place.   It’s a place to go for peaceful walks, allowing your mind to wander gently, here and there, gathering random thoughts.   

It’s also a metaphor for going deep inside yourself and just…well, gathering random thoughts.  

It was very cold that day.  I kept putting my hands to my face, brushing off “something” annoying.    Then I realized it was the skin on my face, just about freezing in places.  Reality had joined my random thinking, and my random thoughts had entered the reality of “freezing my face off,”  as we say around here.

I walked on out of the Tunnel, passing yet another bench.    I wasn’t thinking too much about Hubbie’s  past need for this bench because the reality of the freezing cold air on my bare skin kept me firmly in the present.

I don’t feel stuck in the past so much anymore.

Another “benchmark,”  so to speak;  metaphorically speaking.

STARTING ‘EM YOUNG IN TAHOE

January 14, 2011

Cooper Kenneth has had his first weekend in Tahoe.   His parents have a house up there, so I’m sure there wll be many more.

That requires his very own SKI PASS !

He might be too small to hold his own Ski Pass, but I”m sure they’ll figure something out.

And après ski,  one has a lot to grin about . . . before sleep takes over:

1-11-11

January 12, 2011

No photos today.   Just a little story.   


It’s something I learned when I was at the bank recently.  

See, I have to shuffle our money from one place to another so that I can send it off to all the different places asking for it, and this particular shuffling required a trip to our small local bank.

While I was at the bank, I overheard two little brothers talking to each other.  It was almost an argument, as only four and six year olds can do it.

The younger brother said something like “You have to have an app for that.”     I thought, wow,  these kids are into technology at a really young age!

“I don’t have any apps.” 

“Then you can’t do it.”

“I can go get some apps.”

“You don’t know how.”

“I can get some anyway. 

(pause)

Mommy!   What’s an app?”

“Mommy!   Mommy!  

Mommy!   I have to know what an app is!!!”

“Mommy!   I need to know apps.”

And where was Mommy?    Busy with the teller at the bank counter.    I thought,  Oh, please, oh, please, lady;  look down at your little boy and explain what an app is…He needs you so much.

The little boy who needed to know wasn’t being a bad kid.  He was just sitting on the floor under the counter with teary eyes and looking very, very sad.   He had reached the limit of his knowledge but he knew that what he needed to know was very, very important.

Then at last!   Mommy was done with the teller.  She had wisely ignored her boys’ interruptions, teaching them patience as well as respect for adult activities.   But then she did a surprising thing.  She got down on the floor with her boys and took out her cell phone.   And then she said such kind words:  “I’ll show you what apps are.”

And she did.


I guess I’d better tell you what that little experience meant to me, and how it’s connected to 1-11-11.

The Mommy in the bank taught her young sons many things that day.  She was there doing things for her family, and she was there for her sons when they needed her help, just like I was there for my own children.    I was “there” for Hubbie when he needed me.   I’m “there” for my family and all my friends, however it is that I can help.  

With God as our Father, we’re all in this family together.

They say we’ve all got a purpose for being here.  

Even when things change and the rug seems pulled out from under you, if you’re still here,  you’re still here for a reason.   Someone could be relying on your for information or help or support or encouragement or any number of things.   We all need each other so much. 

I was busy and preoccupied these past few months with the Ending of things, so I didn’t take much note of “beginnings”:  of  the first day of school and the promise of a whole new schoolyear nor of Rosh Hashanah, nor of a new year given to me at my birthday late in September nor of the first Sunday of Advent nor of New Year’s Day….

 1-11-11.    I always say I don’t believe in signs.    But if I did,  I’d sure start with today’s date.     I’m at the beginning of finding my place in this new world I’m in, without Hubbie but still within a big family of people.

New Normal: JUST SO YOU KNOW

January 10, 2011

“Duties and Distractions”

I know what Normal life was – for forty-two years.   That’s a long time to get used to what’s  “normal.”     Expected.  Reliable.  Comfortable.  Accepted.

And then Son and I had to make the  transition into a New Normal.    Even after we traveled more than four thousand miles, when we returned home, we have to learn the New Normal.   We returned to an empty house with all the duties and responsibilities of the New Normal waiting for us.

Starting here:

“Mail by the tub” –

….A tub full of mail that kept me focused for days on what has just happened in our lives.   I’m not “helping” Hubbie get through it all.  I’m doing it instead of him.   That’s a big difference, and I’m not sure my emotions have made the transition yet.  

Just so you know some of the thoughts that go through the minds of people you know who may be bereaved some day.    Just so you know, their minds are overloaded.    Just so you know. . .it’s okay if you don’t talk to them for a little while.    And just so you know, sometimes they can’t talk to you. . .for a while.

And yet – the comments and writings and emails mean so much, like a healing reminder that there are “normal” people out there, waiting for us.

It’s part of transitioning into our New Normal.

And so is this, not duties, but distractions:

Eating.   Well, not exactly just eating.   A certain kind of eating.  It’s what “vegetables are for”:       green peppers, hot peppers,  cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, tomatoes,  sesame and soy — you can mix them up in a lot of ways to get them ready for their final destination.

And for their final purpose:

Way back there in the background.

The BCS Finals – with two really great football teams,  Oregon and Auburn.    With all sorts of homemade chicken wings to help, accompanied by a little pizza.

This is the part that’s the hardest to understand.  In order for the New Normal to include the word “normal,”  there has to be not only Duties, but also Distractions, as in any normal life.  

We tried to do everything just right after Hubbie passed away.   We did and said what we thought he’d like with all his friends and with all the arrangements and traveling to see his daughter and his grandson, and returning home and taking care of the house — but I think he would also expect us to eventually carry on with the activities of normal life. . . He worked hard and planned for this eventuality.   He anticipated our life would be as normal as possible, without him.    

Full of duties and distractions.

Live and learn.    We’ll live and learn.   Just so you know….our minds are very busy with a number of things.   We’re easing into the New Normal.

THE IDEA OF HOME

January 8, 2011

No, this posting won’t be too philosophical.    Son and I are just home now.  We’ve been thinking of nothing but home for the past week,   ever since our four thousand mile journey seemed to be coming to an end.  Everything we did was for “getting home.”     Everything we stopped to see along the way was time taken away from “getting home.”   

We knew we were getting close when we saw our first snow.   I took goofy, happy pictures of the snow outside our car window.   But I’m sorry for all the people in accidents in Indiana.   One bad one produced a monumental traffic jam:

 

It could have been us – in the accident – in the traffic jam.   But they were coming south.  We were going north.   “Home.”

And the sky seemed to welcome us northward:

And so did the signs.   At last!   There was a sign that means “us.”    Pretty near “home.”


Son and I both knew that the reality of “home”  will be changed now.  The man we both want there so we could tell him all our adventures….will not be there.   It was hard, walking into a dark and very cold home. 

This was the trip to California that Hubbie wanted so much, to see his new grandson, his very first grandchild.   We took the journey for him.   

And now, at home again, we had one more activity to do for him.   While the house warmed up, we needed to find a place to eat.   We thought we’d have Hubbie’s favorite turkey dinner at our local Bob Evans, just for him, because that’s what he would do.    But it was late in the evening, and as we approached the restaurant, and just after we had said there it is!   there’s the sign!  —  the lighted sign turned Off.   Well.   Son and I had been in search of a diner during the entire trip.  You wouldn’t think they’d be hard to find – but we had found only one….and that was closed “for the winter.” 

Until we came home.   Fleetwood Diner.

And a turkey dinner:
Hubbie’s food.    Comfort food.   I’d like to say it was wonderful.   I’d like to say “We ought to call the guy on Diners and Dives on the Food Channel.”     The dinner was okay…nothing to call the Food Channel about.  And we were feeling a little serious now. . .We still had a dark and empty home to go back to.

Give me a moment here.   Then  I’ll tell you how not alone we are.

 

sf – HOME STRETCH

January 5, 2011

We are closer to home than I thought.    Oh, maybe 800 miles or so, but that’s really, really close compared to the last two weeks of traveling.   

I knew it was coming, a return to an “empty” household.   So thoughts that have been kept at bay are returning like a rising tide.  

A little reminder of the household I am returning to:

This little roadside stop in Oklahoma seemed like  a matter of “family honor” —   or at least the family name.     I really did have a ham sandwich there too.   Very good ham.   Family-raised ham, good and meaty.     (Just for the record, this is not our branch of the familiy;  no relatives  in Oklahoma.)

We drove on as night fell into the beautiful countryside of the Missouri Ozarks.

I missed so many pretty photos but finally got this one in my camera.    There are long, long curving rolling hills.   Even when it got dark, Son remarked how nice and peaceful it was here.    I think it was more than just very good road surfaces;   there was a kind of hushed peace in the whole area, a feeling that everything is “right.”  

I thought over all the things we had seen on our journey, and then the sense that rose in our minds that of all the things that we’ve seen, we have some of these very same things  in our own hometown, hometown familiar variations,  but our own home has everything to offer travelers plus, for us, it has our home.

Was it Dorothy from Kansas who learned that there’s no place like home?   

We’ll be home soon, God willing.   Things will happen.   But things can be good.   It’s the “right” place for us.

sf – TEXAS SUNSET TO SUNSET

January 4, 2011

Ever wonder what it would be like to drive through Texas?    Well, if you have a spare week, you might find out.   We want to get home, and we’ve driven through only half of Texas – and after three days, we’re still not out!    (Maybe today.)

Not a “sunset” –

That’s a  Carl’s Jr. star that shone into our motel room all night long, until finally we saw the sunrise, marking the beginning of our journey into Texas and our fascination with Texas skies and endless land.

Texas gave us long hours of this kind of scenery . . .

. . . and interesting experiences, like getting stopped at a Border Guard checkpoint where we had to declare how many people were in the car and whether we were U.S. citizens.    I have no idea how he determined that there was no one hiding under the numerous contents of the back seat and the back of our little  SUV, but I guess we didn’t look like anyone coming up from the southern border.

We also experienced an evening and a morning shopping and eating around a certain big city – and then later noticed that we hadn’t heard more than six words of English – and those were heavily accented and perhaps “rehearsed” so that they could talk to us strange-looking Anglos.    Interesting.   

We were fascinated by mountains made out of big boulders:

And then we stopped at a park to take a closer look at the boulders:

After climbing around a bit I had Son stand in the photo for some perspective.   Texas-size rocks, I’d say.

And everywhere, big sky and vast plains:

At the park we got to see part of the fence which helps the Border Guards:

Eventually, after several more hours of driving, we were treated to a great sunset:

The next day we drove on again, hours and hours, but the scenery changed.  it flattened out, as in totally flat as far as the eye can see, 360 degrees,   for almost the whole day of driving.   My photos just show an endless sky and a thin line of yellowish vegetation.     The pictures weren’t impressive, but the psychological effect was.

But I can’t say nothing ever happens here.   Two things have happened to this flat land.    One was about 50,000 years ago.  A series of meteors struck the earth here and left some craters.  The biggest one is about 100 feet across and 500 feet deep.    You can walk right up to it and through it – I know it doesn’t look too dramatic, but the crater has had 50,000 years to fill up with dust and debris that the wind and water has washed into it.    There is a smaller crater too, made by a smaller piece of meteor that plunged into the earth along with the big one:

In both these photos you can faintly see the rock debris rim that was actually created on impact.     It’s not a “touristy” place, but it is the real thing, and that gave us pause for thought.

The second thing that happened to this flat land around Midland and Odessa is, of course,   miles and miles of this:

That’s an oil “well” at work, keeping the oil pumping.   They move slowly up and down like some giant robot pecking at the earth, and they sometimes make an eerie squealing noise that isn’t quite…mechanical.

We saw the beginnings of our second Texas sunset:

We drove long into the clear, black night and felt the ‘weight’ of the stars above us.  We pulled off the Interstate and turned into a narrow gravel road which was completely dark.  We had to cross an old-fashioned railroad crossing that looked like something out of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the place where Richard Dreyfuss stopped in the night to look at a map. . .  We shut off all the car lights, got out and found our footing in the deep blackness.   Then I looked up and nearly ducked!   The stars bore down on us with a giant 3-dimensional reality that made us glad to be in Texas for a while….. 

A long while.   We’re still in Texas.

1-1-11- !!!!

January 2, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

We found ourselves in the greater Phoenix area on New Year’s Eve!    Home of one of the TopTen Block Parties, voted so by USA Today editors:    It’s the Tempe AZ Fiesta Bowl Block Party .    We didn’t know about it;  it was just luck that Son and I  found ourselves here and at the right time!

Approximately 100,000 people out on the streets with bands and rides and food and entertainment and fireworks and all kinds of wonderful noisy chaos, all ready to greet the New Year!

People everywhere; people in motion!

There were bands of all kinds:  (really, really loud bands.   The streets were pumping with music.  The drumming was absolutely great!)

Here’s what the streets looked like.   That’s a burst of fireworks in the sky:

One of the “entertainments”  was a genuine fire-eater!   –  

Another of the many bands:

We  ate “carnival” food on the curbing of the street.   And then it was about 11:30 at night;  the last half hour of 2010.    I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

I love these things!

What do you do when you’re up on top?   You look down!!!!!

Time was passing…..fifteen minutes to go until midnight.   We were beginning to wonder what would happen at this Fiesta Bowl Block Party at midnight,   and more importantly:  where would we BE???

Looking straight ahead, when you’re in the back of the Ferris wheel:

And then there was seven minutes to go and we spun around and around in the cold night air. . . and then our turn was over and  they were starting to unload people from the Ferris wheel.

Five minutes to go.   We were still on.

Three minutes to go.  We were still on.

Finally we heard the crowd down below counting down the seconds:  Five!  Four! Three!  Two!  One!    And then – Boom!  

Right in front of us, up high on the Ferris wheel, the fireworks started and the confetti machine exploded!

The man working the Ferris wheel must have stopped taking people off.   We enjoyed several minutes up there.

In all my days I thought I enjoyed a quiet, “meaningful,” New Year’s Eve, but that just shows how little I know about myself! This is one celebration I’ll enjoy forever!    So glad I had Son to share it with me – two people having a great experience!

As I write, the Fiesta Bowl is on right now.    In case you’re wondering, I won’t be writing about the Capital One Bowl — or any  college football games for….oh….about nine months or so.       

Can’t have everything!

HAPPY NEW YEAR.   MAY 2011 BRING US BLESSINGS, LOVE, UNDERSTANDING, FAITH, AND PEACE

sf – LAST THINGS IN SAN FRANCISCO

January 1, 2011

Many, many years ago when the Internet was new to us, I discovered a site called The Exploratorium.   It was a science site, full of fun and educational  displays “somewhere” in our country.   I thought, this Internet thing is going to be great!   

Little did I know, the Exploratorium was located in San Francisco.

As we left Daughter’s goofy street for our science adventure, I snapped a picture of the houses across from hers.

We had a wild ride through the city – uh…..her husband drove.  He is used to driving here.    The Exploratorium was just over this drop-off:

If I had been thinking clearly after we parked, I would have – and should have – snapped a picture of the big building itself, and it’s worth taking a look at.    However, it was cold and windy and we had a tiny baby with us and a long walk to get inside.    The building was the great Art Pavilion that was built for the 1915 World’s Fair.

Inside we many, many hands-on science displays.   Fun with sound and sight, movement, water, gravity, physics, technology. . .I liked the “mind games” best – the human perception things.

Here are Daughter and Son-In-Law doing something with their eyes:

Here is Son breaking through the barrier of our preconceived ideas:

Yep;  it’s what you think you see.    So why not drink out of any fountain shape if you know that clean drinking water comes out of it?     (You had to walk under a ladder to get there. . .overcoming our prejudices, you see. . . )

Here is Daughter playing with motion – with Son-in-Law lending a “hand”:

Here are Son and Son-In-Law in a contest involving reaction time.   In this photo they had an equal reaction time:

The whole place challenges your intellect.

Those two promised to come back many, many times as Cooper grows up.

Well, this post is called “Last things in San Francisco.”    Last thing we did was leave the city.  

Our last views of the city of San Francisco:

And again:

We drove southward, long into the dark evening and found a motel.   The next morning we woke up to this view outside our window:

New scenery now as we start our journey home.    God will be with us;  God willing, we will be home in a few days.