Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

Remembering How Life Happens

February 4th, 2010

Well, it seems I’ve struggled with the written word the past few weeks.   I’ve been trying to catch up in so many other areas and somehow a quote by Allen Saunders comes to mind that,

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Yesterday I was outside in the sun with the boy, and he said it felt like spring already.   I think he’s on to something, even though it’s pretty cold and another storm is around the corner.  I had that first twinge of spring yearning too, and the knowledge that it’s going to come quickly now.  Time to get those seeds ordered that we don’t have, and get some planted for starts.   Soon we can even put potatoes in the ground.    After I clean up the garden that is.   And the shed, the bees, the barn, maybe some chickens, the engines…

Today is a chance to look back a bit though.  It’s the anniversary of my father’s passing five years ago.   So many thoughts come to mind, and it would be nice if I could share some brilliant journalistic form and a few pictures to mark the day.   It was a difficult time though, and he could have come through just fine.  But he didn’t.

In his last years he had several operations for replacing hips, fixing a heart valve and a widening in his aorta.    He grew strong again in those years, enough to enjoy his family, his beloved golf and the ability to work on the property.

I remember talking with him while cooking steaks on the grill, and looking over the pond.  He was 77 years old, and he said more than anything he was so thankful that he could still work around the house and do things that mattered.   He made it to one more birthday a few months later, and a few weeks after that.

He was outside working a bit when he had a pain in his chest, and Mom took him to the hospital where he was transfered to another.  I met him there that afternoon, and he was in good spirits.  I said, “You’re a turkey…”   and he said, “I am a turkey…”  Our little joke for the challenges he was facing again.  We talked and I told him I loved him, and he told me the same.  I saw him again briefly that night while Mom stayed with him in intensive care, getting ready for surgery.

Early the next morning he was on the operating table and actually came though the operation, almost.  When they gave him more blood as the surgeon was finishing up, somehow there was an allergic reaction and they couldn’t correct it.   Mom called me while I was picking up the boy at preschool.   I took him to the park, and we talked about his Bepaw going to heaven.

A couple of weeks later I remember cooking breakfast early one morning while the little boy was getting dressed upstairs for school.  He took a little longer than usual, and I remember calling to him.   “I’m coming…” he yelled back, and shortly came walking down the stairs.  I was surprised as he already had his socks on which was usually a struggle for him at four years of age.

I told him that was great as he sat down to eat, and he said “Well Daddy, guess what?”  I said “I don’t know, what?”   And as simply, and earnestly as could be he said, “Bepaw helped me put my socks on this morning.”    I didn’t really know what to say, but after my heart skipped a beat I smiled and told him “That’s nice…”

I asked him about it once a few years later.  He didn’t really remember, but thought it was neat.   It was, and I can only wonder.

Dad was a good man, a good father… and one of the good guys in so many ways.  I’ll probably share a few stories about his life in the years ahead.


He’s sitting with Justin, our late Basset Hound in the picture above.  They were buddies, and went everywhere together in the little golf cart for a couple years while we were overseas.   This picture was from July 4th in 2004;  Justin was scared because of some fireworks, and snuggled up to Dad to hide.     I figure they’re off somewhere together romping around a bit, probably on a golf course.

Life still happens, just about every day.  I’m trying hard not to miss too much of it, and to remember the things that make it beautiful.

Whether the Weather!

January 6th, 2010

Our deep freeze continues with lows around zero… and highs in the teens at best. And I feel lucky with that, knowing how cold it is further north! We’re getting our first major snow storm tonight and probably a snow day for the kids tomorrow. This winter reminds me of those growing up in the ’70’s and I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to get more snow through the winter.

This morning the clouds in the sky were on fire… I ran to get the camera and it had already faded to a lighter orange color. Red sky at morning… sailors take warning. That bodes true for our coming storm…


We’ve been going through wood like crazy to supplement the heat for the house. Our wood stove insert works overtime and keeps much of the house really toasty.  But it has an enormous appetite and at this rate there’s a lot more wood splitting in the forecast along with that snow. 

I need to make a quick run for more birdseed and a few groceries today… it seems to help them.  The other day I counted over twenty Mourning Doves!   Some of the more fearless (or hungry!) doves didn’t fly away when I took their picture…


The pond is really frozen now too.  I’ll try to get some pictures up before the snow because it’s pretty interesting.  The boy and I walked tenatively along the edge, and it’s more than two inches thick in several places. I love looking down through clear ice to see the bottom. If it stays frozen well have to cut a hole for some ice fishing :)   Stay warm and drive safe out there this week!    I don’t know where this came from but…

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather, Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not!”

Growing Forward, Happily

December 31st, 2009

The garden sits bare in the snow… waiting. I remember what has grown there, and what didn’t. The fun of picking vegetables, the frustrations and impatience. Hands in the dirt, mysteries and suprises, butterflies and birds. So many memories through the years. And my imagination looks forward!


The garden waits for all the things I’d like to grow and share, opportunities and change. Somehow the seed and farm catalogs know it. They’ve started coming in the mail already, just in time to whet my appetite for planting and growing something in the spring. Ah, but what’s a winter for if not the chance to dream about warmer, growing seasons?

A day or two of sunshine is just enough to warm the spirit however.


Even though the cold will be a constant for a couple more months, somehow I need that time.  Maybe it’s a time we can look inward, or catch up on a few things at home.  A chance to look behind at the year past, and welcome new things.


It’s the last day of the year… as certain as that is, it still surprises me a little. Where has the time gone?! Some may debate when this decade really ends, but all I can say is “Welcome 2010!” Somehow each year brings hope… a time for change and a renewal.  Perhaps we make vows, or decide that this year it will all be different.  It might.  Where it counts, I hope so.   Sometimes too, things are the same no matter how the years pass, and that is as it should be.


I wish you all a year of great joy and promise, good health, love, friendship and prosperity, and most of all… a Happy New Year!

It Wasn’t So Long Ago

December 7th, 2009

I think winter has finally arrived, perhaps a little early.  A week ago I was working outside in a t-shirt and yesterday I couldn’t pick up a waterlogged sandbag because it was frozen solid! That’s okay, we did pretty well this fall with a long period of warm weather.  I’m thankful to have finished what I could, and lately it has been clean-up time around the property.

Today is Pearl Harbor Day here in America, which for too many people is quickly becoming a forgotten day of remembrance.  It seems like a long time ago however, and our Greatest Generation have been leaving us too quickly in recent years. Still there are stories and a sense of awe when you think of what took place, and how America was thrust into the war so quickly afterward.  

USS Maryland and capsized USS Oklahoma - U.S. Navy photo

USS Maryland and capsized USS Oklahoma - U.S. Navy photo

I’m a Navy man, and will probably always remember this day.  I lived in Japan for several years.  It’s a beautiful country with a proud, wonderful people.  I really enjoyed my time there, as did my wife and son – they lived there while I was deployed, just a few years ago really.   The young boy was there for much of his first three years and even spoke Japanese for a time (he loves sushi to this day).  I worked with the Japanese military first-hand, and grew to respect the people and their nation’s journey- they are great friends and allies.

It wasn’t alway so of course, as with so much of world history.  Looking back, I have to admit that Pearl Harbor didn’t mean much to me while growing up.  It was the past… twenty or thirty years seems like ancient history to a kid.   As I grow older it seems like yesterday.

The navy changed my view of Pearl Harbor, literally, on one particular beautiful, sunny morning.   I was returning from deployment to the Persian Gulf on board USS Nimitz in June of 1993.  We were stopping in Hawaii for a few days enroute home.  I had not been to Hawaii before, and was excited when I realized we would make our way to Pearl.  One of the long traditions the navy shares is that upon arrival at a visiting port, it’s appropriate to render honors of various kinds, and to look shipshape… that was especially true while coming into Pearl Harbor (headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet).  After cleaning and shining things up for what seems like days on end (and throwing fresh gray paint everywhere) one of the sharpest looking things a ship can do is to have the crew “man the rails.”

We fell out that morning in our “tropical whites” or the nice looking white uniforms that sailors wear (and promptly end up getting grease all over).  It doesn’t take the whole crew of more than five thousand on an aircraft carrier to man the rails (or edge of the carrier deck), so the leadership designates who will do so.  Many of us volunteer for the opportunity, considering it a privilege.  I’ve manned the rails many times before, usually pulling in to some exotic port far across the seas with quite a different mindset.  But I never came in to Pearl Harbor standing on the deck of a ship except on that one occasion.

Hundreds of sailors in bright white uniforms filed up on deck about an hour out of port.  There we were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, as the deep blue sea changed to beautiful aquamarine with white sands and island green looming ahead.  I was standing on the port bow, and as we came in the entrance to the harbor everything was silent.  The massive aircraft carrier, laden with aircraft, men and women, moved quietly through the water at a very slow speed.  There was no conversation among the troops on deck, and I was struck by how narrow the passage was.

I felt like I could throw a baseball to either shoreline from the deck of the carrier- it was that narrow.  And as I looked ahead to how small the harbor and navy shipyard really was, I began to understand how the attack on Pearl Harbor must have been so horrific, and how trying to get some… any… of those ships out through the narrow entrance was a major priority.

As the harbor began to broaden, ahead and to the left I watched as the white memorial to the USS Arizona came into view, just a few hundred yards away, with its flag held high.  I remember the warm breeze, blowing gently across the deck, and the only sound that of small waves splashing against the bow.  It was peaceful and calm.  I wondered about the contrast to so many years before. 

As we approached closer the command “Attention!” came over the 5MC on deck, and then “Hand salute!”

USS Ronald Reagan salute to USS Arizona Memorial, November 17, 2008. - U.S. Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan salute to USS Arizona Memorial, November 17, 2008. - U.S. Navy Photo

We stood at attention for a good minute or two, maybe longer.  It was hard to imagine what took place there, or that 1,102 men of the 1,177 killed just on the USS Arizona that long ago morning still lay inside the ship, beneath the calm blue waters.  It was a solemn, respectful occasion, and an opportunity to better understand what Pearl Harbor meant in our nation’s history.

I didn’t have a picture of that morning, but the one above from the USS Ronald Reagan was taken just over a year ago.  I’m glad to see we still man the rails and render honors to the fallen as ships pass by the USS Arizona.  I’m glad we still remember the events long ago at Pearl Harbor.

Days of Reflections

November 20th, 2009


“Reflection is a flower of the mind, giving out wholesome fragrance;  but revelry is the same flower, when rank and running to seed.” 

                                                                                                                                                                     – Desiderius Erasmus

After the Rainbow

September 22nd, 2009

Saturday afternoon was calm and peaceful, but the sky grew darker to the south. Rain coming I thought, gladly, since we really needed it. And then a rainbow appeared in the east as the sun moved downard through the western sky. It was beautiful, brightening and growing larger until we saw the entire arc across the clouds. The young boy danced and smiled, and wanted so badly to go and chase the end of the rainbow to find the gold. He knows it’s just a story, but that doesn’t change the wonder and amazement of the imagination.


Finally the rainbow faded as sunset came, and we looked west to see the light still upon the sky, between the clouds, with nightfall ahead. The boy raced to get his paint set and sat on the hill shouting for some gray paint. Mix some black and white I yelled back, and he painted for a time, trying to capture the stirrings in his heart and the pretty sky after the rainbow.


And then the rain came.  That’s a first for me… to enjoy a rainbow before the storm instead of after.  It was time for supper too, as the raindrops made splotches on his paper. He didn’t want to come in, but we finally picked things up and came in for the night. He’s still working on his picture. 

As for the rain, it seems that I spoke too soon the other day. I would have gladly shared our dry weather with some of you… instead it appears we got some of your rain. The forecast was around 30% for showers. The rain after the rainbow drizzled on and off throughout the night… almost perfect.

Almost… and then the heavens opened up at first light and we got five inches of rain in less than two hours.  With predictable results… the pond came up over two feet very quickly, rushing out the spillway and the watershed flooded everywhere. Down the road, a drainage pipe was completely lifted and washed out of someone’s drive. Our gravel driveway, which only required raking a couple times this year, was totally washed out toward the dip in the middle, leaving over a ton of crushed and larger rocks washed over the side down the slope.


It doesn’t look too bad in the pictures, but the ruts were 6-8 inches deep and well up the other slope too.  Little car tires can become easily damaged by such terrain.  Where the water is pooled to the left of the drive is a drainage pipe, overwhelmed by the volume of water.  For a few minutes it topped over the driveway, and then gravel washed into that dip, pouring off the driveway. 

So yesterday included a half day of seat time on the tractor trying to get it back in shape, along with a couple hours of hand raking and shoveling.  Not on the list of things to do, but it needed doing.  If this is the kind of rain you’ve been having further south, then I understand your frustration. Time to get out the paddles…

All part of life right? Hope for the best and prepare for the worst… the saying goes.   Maybe, but I find that a bit defeatist.  Sure we need to be prepared,  but with divine or other providence, as each may believe,  we can try to focus on what makes our lives worth living.  I find it enormously helpful to have an abiding faith and belief that things will work out just fine.  

So prepare for the best, hope for the best, and do your best… enjoy the glad days and the moments of beauty.  Appreciate the rainbows when they come.   Sometimes it’s after the rainbow that our challenges appear. 

And that’s okay too.

The Priceless Harmonica

September 1st, 2009

Collectibles… what is it about our penchant for collecting things? It starts in youth, innocently enough. Like the young boy, we collect rocks or leaves or something found on our adventures. But it doesn’t stop there- we end up collecting things far into adulthood in one form or another. Come on, admit it… you’ve got a secret stash of coins somewhere, or stamps or maybe baseball cards that you were wise enough (or not) to save from childhood? Or maybe a hoard of leftover beanie-babies from the 90’s… Or what about spoons or thimbles that you see in tourist stores all over the country? Hmmm… plates or dishes? Figurines?

My personal favorite… fishing lures- preferably old ones. Hey, don’t laugh- I was given a prized Winchester fishing lure many years ago, previously found sitting on a shelf in an antique shop for a few bucks.  I was surprised to find it’s worth around $300 because the company only made them for a few years in the 1920’s and ’30’s. And antiques? Makes me think of the PBS show… did you see the one about the old carpet worth a half-million dollars?

I’m more of an old book person myself. I’ve got small collection going, with two favorites- a near orginal Self Reliance by Emerson, and a ragged little book from 1825 titled The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin.   They’re not worth much, except for the value I find in them.  


I just love the feel and weight of an old book. The presence it carries from a time no longer with us… the weathered pages, writings by amazing people from history.  I think about their lives when I hold an old book, and imagine the future they were looking at… I find notes in margins and wonder who wrote them.  

From a collecting perspective, most old books are not very good investments, and they take up a lot of space.  Mine will probably be recycled one day to another person who loves old books.  Maybe someone generations from now will turn the same pages and it will fire their imagination too.

It still seems we’re always on the lookout for a great collecting opportunity. Personally I like saving money and end up trying to shop frugally or find a deal somewhere. I end up using Amazon.com quite a bit after comparing prices.

Tonight I found a unique item- a genuine Hohner Marine Band Harmonica hand-signed by none other than Bob Dylan!

Hey, that’s cool really- who wouldn’t want something autographed by Robert Allen Zimmerman? I mean Bob Dylan? Take a look at this beauty:


Cool autograph, huh? And how much could it cost anyway?…. Ah, well…. um… here:


Zowie.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Bob Dylan. Well, sort of anyway.  It wasn’t my generation, and his music is a little different than I’m used to. But honestly some of his stuff is pretty good- strong and heartfelt, and touches something inside of us.  He is after all an American legend… Grammys, Academy Award, Rock and Roll and Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, a Pulitzer, the decades of history…  Wow.  Hey, Mr. Dylan is even going to release a Christmas album this year to benefit charity.  That’s cool.

By the way, only 100 of these harmonicas will be produced and signed by Mr. Dylan.   Quite a limited edition.   Which means that most of us probably will not be collecting this special Harp any time soon.  Although you can get seven of them for $25,000? That’s a savings of $10,000 right there man.   Ah, nope. Even the free shipping won’t make that one work.  Honestly they could be viewed as priceless.

Every now and then the internet gives us some real jewels… pearls of wisdom if you may, and sometimes we come across some really interesting things.   As engaging as this musical masterpiece was to ponder, I enjoyed the review and comments it attracted even more- at least as of today you can read this review:


And the comments (if you can read them) were quite instructional too…


One never knows where you’ll find the next million dollar idea or a real value with collectibles.  Maybe one of these harmonicas will indeed be worth a fortune in years to come.  Personally I think there are better ways to make money.

Whoever buys these things is blowing a lot of cash in the wind so to speak, so I hope it’s worth it.   Or maybe not, but at least that it’s worth it to them.  

Like my old books, at least it might hold a special place in someone’s home and heart and that’s all that really matters I suppose.  

But I think the commenters above put the whole collecting thing in a perspective worth sharing.  It’s really just stuff.

MO Wanderings

July 24th, 2009

Oh goodness… feeling guilty about getting things done while wandering around the state a little too this week…  took advantage of a need to repair a vehicle and being half-way to somewhere, and now we ended up in Branson!  Hanging out a state park a few miles from too much color, sound and general reverie- much nicer to relax at the park, but not much less people. Cool water on a hot day is a grand thing however.  Never really been here before- frankly I’m kind of amazed.  Drove through the area 25 years ago, but now it’s much bigger of course.  People say it’s going through a slow spell with the economy and all.  Sure doesn’t look like it.   Seems like everyone decided to take advantage of lower gas prices and get out and about  a little bit.   Hmm… I wonder where a few of my fellow bloggers live in relation to here- it sure is beautiful country. One of these days I’ll really plan a trip somewhere- but spontanaeity is kinda fun too.  I’d show some pictures, but I broke the smaller lens on my camera- so I haven’t used it as much as I’d like.  This summer I’ve managed to break a bunch of stuff… almost a rib the other day as well, ugh!   An old laptop and free wifi is a handy thing… have a great weekend-

Memories of the Moon in 1969

July 20th, 2009

Do you ever tire of looking up at the moon?  I saw it early yesterday morning, rising above the trees- outlined firmly with a bright crescent slice to one side.   I took a few pictures… too juggly to post, but fun to try.  

I watched a little last night about the 40th anniversay of the moon landing.  What an event that was!  Do you remember where you were?  I was a little guy, no older than my son at eight.  We were living in California for a couple years, and I remember all the family were gathered around a small 13 inch black and white television.  Everyone was talking and laughing and I was trying very hard to listen to the narration… and then conversation drifted away, and we all watched in silence as Neil Armstrong took that Giant Leap off the moon lander. 

A great moon landing celebration from Google- You can even explore the moon in Google Earth.


It’s amazing that we haven’t been back, and to me that a lot of folks still think it was all a ruse.  One of my grandmothers didn’t believe it  for an instant that we traveled all the way to the moon.  “Can you imagine!” I still hear her saying, “They say they went and landed on the moon… bah!”   I laughed inwardly at her convictions, and respected her devotion to them.   But I also didn’t doubt that we did land on the moon for a second however, and maybe that was one of my first encounters with an adult disbelieving something about other adults, and that I thought quite rational and nearly self-evident with a little research. 

Apollo 17 was the last manned spaceflight and exploration of the moon in December, 1972.  The crew explored more than 21 miles of the lunar surface, collecting over 100 pounds of moon rocks and spent more than 22 hours on three surface excursions.  It still boggles my mind to think of what we did over 36 years ago- the dreams, the inspiration, the engineering achievements.  The costs are incredible, but then so are the offshoots to my mind. Ten years from now, we may go back to the moon, and the dreams of other generations will be fired once again. 



My favorite moon photo is the famed NASA shot above of the earth hanging in the lunar “sky”… a distant orb of humanity.  If you put yourself there… and dwell for a few moments on the enormity of it all, it is quite humbling.   What must that have felt like to walk on the moon?!  Puts a lot into perspective about this big ball we live on.

Recipe for Summer Fun

July 6th, 2009

1 medium sized Boy;
1 large Yellow Lab;
1 squirty hose;
Add water;
Stand back!


Imagine the playfulness of that dog in the picture… and then imagine he’s that way no matter where  he is, and that the boy loves  to play with him.  They both have a smile on their faces.  I think watering flowers was the mission, as you can see by the watering can.  But it didn’t work out that way.  It’s like having a 90 pound three year old racing around with an 8-year old boy.  Neither of them listen very well, and both of them are intent on doing something.   Since I’m never quite sure what that is, I usually just direct traffic or try to stay out of the way…  

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