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

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