March Came in Like a Lion

Not sure how the weather is in your parts, but this year, the old saying didn’t hold quite true. March certainly did come in like a lion, but if it went out like a lamb, it was a really chilly, loud and blustery one.  I suppose I should have included updating this site in with my goals, but I think I may have done well, because I’ve always enjoyed when I can update on a blog, and don’t wish to make it a chore.DSC00204

As I mentioned earlier, the first two weeks of March, the high school put on their production of The Little Mermaid. In order to allow the most kids to participate, they actually run two different shows. The main characters in one cast are supporting characters and ensemble in the other, except in cases where there aren’t enough kids. Rebekah is a tenth grader and had a minor role this year. She’s the one to the right, above.

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Grace (above)  was Ariel in one cast, and her friend, Maya was Ariel in the other cast. They’re both excellent singers and performers, though their voices are very different.

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Here’s Grace as Ariel, trying out her new feet for the first time.

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I obviously didn’t take this one, but I was proud to have caught a mermaid!

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The kitchen scene is always a good one, and they didn’t disappoint.

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On another note, my mother is going through thousands of old slides, scanning them into digital files, and she found this, from 1985. There are many stories brought to mind by this one. The plane is a Maule that belonged to South American Mission, based in Pucallpa, Peru. A team of us had spent the summer in Peru’s Gran Pajonal, a mountainous foothill region of the Andes, making an airstrip out of the top of a mountain, using picks, shovels and other hand tools that had been dropped in out of this very airplane.  This was a proud moment, because had we not finished our project in the allotted time, we’d have had to hike eight hours down to the nearest airstrip to leave. There were less than thirty of us, and after a few days to acclimate, we worked like horses and were proud to see the first airplane land on our airfield.

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Driving with my kids one afternoon, I had to stop and grab a photo, when I saw this.  Someone, it looks like he’s named, Rob Glebe, is quite a craftsman.

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The same day I saw the bees, I found this, in a neighboring town. I was disappointed when I got home, to realize I had overexposed and lost a lot of detail, but if you’re not doing something, you never learn, so I’m glad I stopped and caught it anyway.

I’m doing ok with my goals, though I did have to take a hiatus from the guitar playing for a week or so after playing with a cat, poking my finger down from the side of a piece of furniture, then hiding it and repeating in a different spot. The cat anticipated me and got the pad of my finger with her claws, slicing it open in exactly the spot I use to press the strings on the fretboard.

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March 30 would have been Danny’s 20th birthday. I had a few smiles remembering the day he arrived. Those were tough days, but they were happy ones, too. Here’s a shot from a few months later, in Duncanville, TX.

 

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Two Weeks of Musical

I haven’t laid aside my new goals. I have had two weeks where most of my spare time was spent in support of our high school’s musical, but I did squeeze in time to write and shoot and play.

I’ll probably get around to posting for real, tomorrow. The musical was a resounding success. I will share a poorly recorded clip of my daughter singing one of her songs as Ariel. We weren’t allowed to video, so this is the best I could do with my phone.

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Progress?

I find creativity is not a skill that can be set aside, then just picked up at will.  It’s like a knife blade that rusts with disuse, so this goal I set will actually involve work. Yes, I knew that, but picking up the knife and attempting to cut with it has proven it practically.

I have gone through the motions, though, so here’s the result. I came up with no writing that will be shared, but the stuff I did write should be fodder for future posts.

I have more than hit my goal of guitar practice but I still haven’t figured a way to record it well, so that’s a work in progress.

My photography is also less than satisfactory, but as promised, I did take three pictures.

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This is our old cat, Ivy. Most days she just lays up on a bed all day. I think she’s nine or ten years old. At night, she does get up and run around the house like an ornery kitten with too much energy, so I imagine she’ll be with us for a while longer, at least.

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This fellow, a red shouldered hawk, I believe, caught my eye with a dramatic swoop across my yard, then a quick rise to the telephone wire. I ran for the camera and he stuck around for me to get a shot. I don’t see these around often, so I was pleased.

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Finally, this guy was hanging around, below my feeders, acting curious a few days ago, so I grabbed a shot of him, as well.

It hasn’t been a particularly exciting or inspiring week, but every journey begins with a first step, and most of any journey is not exciting, so I will be satisfied with having made a start.

I hope this finds you all well . Tonight we go see a friend in her high school’s musical, then, this Friday begins our local high school’s production of The Little Mermaid. Our daughter, Grace has the leading toll as Ariel, so excitement is building.

Measurable Goals

I think I’ll try to accomplish something this year. I enjoy playing music, writing and photography,  and all three have brought me a lot of joy and catharsis. Over the last month or so, since a friend gave me his old guitar, I have made a goal of practicing fifteen minutes, five days a week. I don’t often hit five days, but it’s seldom I pick up the guitar and don’t play longer than just fifteen minutes, so I generally practice more than the hour and fifteen minutes, for which I’m aiming. I’ve decided to add my other two hobbies to my goal. My new goal includes the hour and fifteen minutes of guitar, but also a page of writing and a picture, three times a week.  And here I start.
Many people have complemented my writing, but I see dozens of crappy tries for every one I’m even a little proud of, so I figure, if I write much more profusely, I’ll end up becoming somewhat more proficient at expressing myself in words. The practice of my music and my photography should have similar effects, though I have a lot farther to go with both of those. I’m hoping the combination of all three will spark some creativity, make some new connections in this old brain, maybe help me start to work through and figure out a life that includes only memories of a son.  My goals are vague. I include studying and reading to understand the concepts of music, photography and writing as part of my journey, so some days I may include photographs I have already taken or other people’s photos that inspire me. I may watch a video on music theory or concepts of guitar playing. I think I’ll try to find a way to record some of my playing, so I’ll have something with which to compare my progress. I know from experience, public accountability is a great stimulus to learning. When I was in third or fourth grade, my trombone teacher wasn’t satisfied with my progress, so he told me I’d be part of the orchestra for the week of our church’s family camp. So for a week, I sat up in the orchestra, in front of groups from 200-1,000 people each night and played, sight reading from the score. I think my playing improved more in that week than I ever improved in any other given year, before or after. He insisted I play dynamically, loud or quiet as the score required, so if I made a mistake, everyone heard it. It was huge pressure for a young child, but he knew what he was doing, and it worked. That’s sort of what I’m aiming at here, just a much smaller audience.

I think I’ll start my writing with what influences my writing, why I write and advice that has had an effect on how I write. My photography? I’m not sure. I’m just going to start trying to take purposeful pictures, as if I’m using film and each photo has a cost. We’ll see how that develops. As to guitar, I’m working on several songs as we speak. I’m concentrating mainly on stuff that involves fingerpicking, but again, if I really like a song, I’ll try to find a way to learn it. I sort of know and am perfecting Chet Atkins’ “I Just Can’t Say Goodbye,” a song he wrote about losing his Dad, “House of the Rising Sun, by the Animals, “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, and John Prine’s “Hello In There.” I’m working on “Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress” by the Hollies, “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” by Randy Newman, Willie Nelson’s version of “Stardust”, and Leadbelly’s version of “Lazybones,” actually written by Louis Armstrong.

Yes, these are probably ambitious goals, but I figure three to five pictures a week, three to five pages a week and an hour and fifteen minutes guitar playing can all be done in small enough bites that it’s doable.

I hope you all are having a good week. Wish me luck!

Finally, a few pics I like from last year.

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We receive soy meal on train cars at the mill where I work. here’s a shot from underneath one of the trains on our siding.

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I was out shooting with the kids, and they thought I was crazy, when I saw the sun setting and hoping I could get a shot like this, I took off in the car, parked right in the middle of the empty lot, jumped out and laid on the ground to catch the sun, just as it crossed low and between the two bridges.

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This one’s proof that it doesn’t always have to  be the best shot. It just needs to be captured. This was the first time I saw the girls all having a good time at once, after we lost Danny. I had herded them all into the car and off to the mall, in hopes getting out of the house would help lift their spirits some. When we came out to the car, on top of the parking garage, we were the only ones there, so I laid on the ground in front of the arrow and told them to all run toward me and jump.

The Last Rose Bud

For some reason, almost every year, this particular rose bush leaves one bud, just high enough to see from our dining room window.

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This year has been no exception, and for whatever reason, through all the weather, it has remained beautiful and red, until when this last, bitter cold spell arrived, it began, suddenly to yellow and die.

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I thought I must get out and photograph it before it lost all color, so Wednesday afternoon, I did just that. My kids really must think I’m silly, but to me it has been a symbol of hope, holding out ’til just a month before the weather should begin to warm, and we’ll see next season’s new growth emerge.

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My sister got a slide converter for my Mom for Christmas, so Mom’s going back through old boxes of pictures and converting them to digital files. Above is my late Father with my second daughter, Samantha. She had been complaining, we didn’t have any pictures with just her and Dad, so she was excited to see this show up.

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Here’s an even older one. My sister is the small girl child, I’m in the middle and I’m not sure who the older girl is. The man was one of our neighbors, until we moved when I was three, so this must have been around 1975.

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A few weeks ago, I was taking the girls to school after working late, and the girls commented on how beautiful the sunrise was, so after I dropped them, I went across to the new county building and played around ’til I got a picture I liked.

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When we first got our digital camera, I bought an instructional course and had the older kids take it along with me. Our fourth child, Grace took this of her youngest sister. I really liked this shot. Grace has become very good at shooting portraits.

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My wife and I were actually married twice. The preacher wouldn’t marry us without a license, and because we wouldn’t be in Maryland long enough to get a license when we got married, we were first married in a civil ceremony at a justice of the peace in Texas, where we both lived at the time. This picture was just prior to the first ceremony on June 24, 1996. We would be married by the preacher, in Maryland, a month later, on July 20th.

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Finally, a picture of my son with a group of his friends, after they completed a performance of the musical, Annie. Talking with a friend this week, I put into words something that has been tearing me up for the last month or so. I’m beginning to lose my son. His memory is taking on a patina of age and beginning to lose its sharpness. It’s something I should have known was coming, but it’s nonetheless surprising, after just a year. I absolutely love this shot. His smile, the joy of having pulled off a killer performance with lifelong friends. A little more than a year after this shot, the boy second from the right, would be helping carry my son’s casket to the hearse.

Life really is good, but it’s sure uncertain, and it passes so very quickly.

Love ’em while you have ’em.

Take joy in the moment.

While I was preparing the eulogy for Danny’s funeral, my brother in law, Kevin, reminded me of a poem by one of my favorite poets, John Donne.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Polar Vortex

Winter is here. There’s no mistaking it. The second polar vortex has swept down upon us from Canada. There has been some precipitation, mostly freezing rain or a mix of rain and snow, but nothing that has lasted on the ground more than a day, so far. We still have a month left ’til the end of February, though, so there’s no telling what’s coming our way. The clear nights have been simply breathtaking, though, so standing out to unload the truck has not been without its pleasure, even if it feels as if any exposed skin is on the verge of frostbite. I have taken pictures, a couple times, of the frost I find, when I go out from work to warm my car for the trip home. I find the patterns entrancing.IMG_20190126_080228676.jpgIMG_20190129_051922568.jpgIMG_20190126_080255460-02.jpegIMG_20190129_051922568-01.jpegIMG_20190126_080255460-03.jpeg

Otherwise, there’s not a lot of news.

My oldest, Sandra, is recovering well from having had her gall bladder removed two weeks ago.

My wife, Tina, is down in Florida, spending a week relieving my brother in law from nursing and household duties, as my sister has been ill now for a long time, and is for now, completely bedridden. My sister is showing some improvement, though the doctors still aren’t sure what is wrong. She lived for several years in Mozambique, so it could result from something she caught there, or it could be an autoimmune overreaction. My brother in law seemed very relieved to have some help, so I’m glad Tina could go. I do miss her, though, and I’ll be glad when she returns next week.

Grace has picked Tiffany Blue as the color for her car. I think we’re going to try to wrap it with vinyl, as that’s much cheaper than paint. I’ll post a picture of the color another time. It’s the same color as the boxes from the jewelry store Tiffany’s. She also wants a pair of racing stripes, and she hasn’t yet decided if she wants that to be white or pink. This car is certainly going to stand out in the parking lot.

I think I’ll head off to bed soon. It’s approaching 5:30 am. I typically work ’til around 6 and get home a half hour later,  so when I get off early, like this morning, I try to stay up some and maintain my schedule enough that I can sleep most of the morning and be rested for my next evening’s work.

2019? Already?

Where did the year go? Seems like we blinked twice, and it was gone. Odd, though, because it was a year packed particularly full of the good and the bad. Maybe I’ll post a review of the year at some point, but for now, here are a few recent pictures of what’s been keeping us busy. The kids and I, a cousin and some friends drove up to New Jersey and caught the train into Manhattan.

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After a very long walk north from Penn Station, and through Rockefeller Center, where the crowds were pressing and everyone was trying to get their pictures made with the famous Christmas tree, we ended up in Central Park. I had worked through the night previous and the kids forgot to charge the camera, so I was left with only my cell phone to take pictures.

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Grace and her boyfriend, Will wanted their picture made on this huge rock.

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At the train station in New Jersery, there was a man playing Christmas carols on his violin. On the return visit, another man was playing his saxophone beautifully. It was a perfect day for walking. The temps were around 45 F ’til the sun set. We saw a lot, and had a lot of fun.

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Rebekah was working on a watercolor painting over the break. Had she not told me it was still in progress, I would have assumed it was a finished work. She must get her ability from her mother’s side. I sure don’t have it. She has put a lot of time into practicing and perfecting her skills, but I can’t think of any way not to be impressed that this is the work of a 15 year old.IMG_20181207_062418857_HDR.jpg

One morning as I was headed home, the day broke over a perfectly calm pond. I really must begin carrying a camera with me, as I see some beautiful scenery working outside through the night.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was quiet and pleasant, and we’re happy to have simply made it through.

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An old Sunday School teacher looked me up and gave me a beautiful guitar he was no longer using. It’s Gibson’s reproduction of a popular guitar they sold in the 1930s. I absolutely love it. In the background is an electric guitar my brother painted and gave my kids, while he worked for Paul Reed Smith guitars, several years ago.

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He was up from South Carolina, and my nephew and his girlfriend were up from Texas, so we all had dinner out one evening.

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Here, he’s beginning the process of helping Grace replace the weatherstripping on her new project. My best friend Lawrence was getting rid of an old Corvette he no longer had time to work on, and Grace scored it for $500. Most of the work except the paint, had already been done, so she really got a deal, and she’s super excited.

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I have to go to work now. I hope you all are well.